I thought I’d share this unedited, unchanged, subject to be ripped apart and rewritten first chapter of Destroyed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Too much backstory? Not intriguing enough? Let me know.
DESTROYED. Release 24th Feb 2014
Copyright, unedited, yada yada
I didn’t believe her when she said she was complicated.
She didn’t believe me when I said I had secrets.
I didn’t understand the truth, even when she let me glimpse behind her mask.
She didn’t understand that I couldn’t live with the consequences.
I thought she was a saint.
She thought I was a sinner.
Too bad we didn’t try to find the truth.
We both paid the price.
We destroyed each other.
If I knew now what I suspected then, I’d like to think I would’ve done things differently. I would’ve planned better, worked harder, stressed out on more important things. But I was young, naïve, and woefully unprepared for the big scary world of life.
Now, I looked back on the past with a strange fondness. While I lived it, it seemed hard, but now it seemed so incredibly easy. Now, the present seems completely impossible and the future dire and bleak.
That is…until I met him.
Then it got worse.
“I don’t think this is a good idea, Clue.” The gothic mansion rose from the gravel and soil like a beacon of doom. Gargoyles decorated plinths and overhangs; huge pillars soared to at least six stories high. I didn’t know anything like this existed in Sydney, let alone in the rich and exclusive Eastern Suburbs.
Alarm bells hadn’t stopped clanging in my head ever since we stepped off the bus and headed toward a residential suburb instead of the party district in town.
Losing ourselves in a rabbit warren of streets, my heart never settled sensing this might be one experience that would end up killing us.
“Stop being such a worrier. You said you’d come. I need my wing woman,” Clue said, her gentle voice turning slightly stern.
My mouth hung open, gawking at the intricate stonework, trying to see past the grandeur to reveal the tricks of such a place. It couldn’t be real? Could it?
It seemed misplaced—as if it’d been transplanted from a long past century.
Huge double doors before us opened with a creak. Thick wood with wrought iron accents in the shape of a fox on a wintry night, revealed a black-suited bouncer with oil-slicked hair. His body looked like a mountain while his face looked like a cross between a bulldog and a biker.
But it was his eyes that froze me to the spot. He captured both of us with just one look.
“You better have the password; otherwise you’ll wish you never set foot on this stoop.” His gaze swept to the concrete stoop beneath us. A motto had been engraved painstakingly with a chisel. It looked hand done and rudimentary but held a certain threat all the same.
Was that Russian? I couldn’t make out the verse, but I inched to the side in my stupid kitten heels to avoid standing in the groove of letters.
“We were invited by Corkscrew. He gave us a one night pass.” For the millionth time since I’d showered, donned this ridiculous gold and silver dress and coaxed by thick chocolate hair into some resemblence of curls and waves, I wanted to throttle Clue.
She was my dearest friend, closest confident, flatmate, babysitter, and non-blood sister, but I wanted to kill her in that moment.
Clue and I had history. We were linked by shared dreams and hopes. We wouldn’t let the other fail. And that was the only reason why I hadn’t knocked her out and dragged her unconscious body back home.
She knew all I wanted to do was return to our crappy two bedroom apartment. She also knew I’d suffered so much in the past few weeks that I’d hit rock bottom and I had no energy left to fight. She’d taken advantage of my weakened state and in true friend fashion was sick of me moping. She wanted me to get up, bandage the road-rash, and keep going. Problem was, this time, I had nothing left.
Life had effectively pulled the rug, the flooring, and the fucking planet from under my feet. I didn’t want to be here.
But as I grumbled and shed a tear or two on the couch, hugging my very reason for existence, she swore and cursed me.
She reminded me that I may be in a bad place, but she needed me. That life goes on, solutions come, and tragedies happen. I couldn’t change the future either moping on the settee, or dressing up like a hooker and coming out with her.
So, as much as I wished I had a hacksaw in my cleavage so I could threaten her to take me home to Clara, I didn’t.
“Corkscrew, huh? What discipline?” The bouncer crossed his arms, raking his eyes over me. I’d lost weight from the stress of the last few weeks, but I felt like a stuffed sausage in this slinky dress.
My stomach twisted as I plucked the loaned attire that clung to me like scales. A web of lace covered my shoulders, but it couldn’t hide the sulttiness. My entire figure was on show, complete with perky nipples from the chill in the evening air.
Damn Clue and her fetishes for blingy, completely impractical clothing. I always seemed to be forced to wear the worst one.
She said I was too serious. Too focused. Too obsessed with creating a future where nothing bad from the past could find us.
And she was right.
Where she was a rainbow, I was the cloud. I never meant to turn into a weeping, rain-filled cloud. Life browbeat me into it until I gave up on colour and sacrificed happiness for survival.
Tears pricked the back of my eyes again and I swallowed hard.
“Muay Thai,” Clue answered, her black almond eyes flashing with pride. Her latest accusation, who I’d only met once, had successfully swept my commitment-phobic friend off her feet.
I didn’t even know his real name. And Corkscrew, what the hell title was that?
“Ah, great sport.” The bouncer relaxed a little, looking part gargoyle himself. “What’s the password then, sugar tits?”
My mouth pursed. I couldn’t stop the flash of fire; protective instincts rose to swell firmly in my chest. I’d always looked after everyone I came into contact with. I couldn’t decide if it was a curse or a blessing to feel compassion and suffer such courage to defend another, but now the familiar fight built in me to protect Clue.
“Did you just call her sugar tits?” I’d never been one to stand by while another was ridiculed, embarrassed, or taken advantage of. I liked to think it was a strong character trait, but life had made it into yet another flaw.
He chuckled. “Well she has nice tits and she looks as sweet as sugar, so yeah. I did.” His eyes narrowed. “You got a problem with that?”
Don’t do it, Zel.
Clue patted my forearm and I forced the retaliation from my tongue. My hands clenched but I stayed silent. Giving him a verbal lashing wouldn’t help us get into this illegal club for Clue to see her man candy.
Dismissing me, the bouncer looked back at Clue. “Spit out the code or leave. I don’t have time for this.”
Clue cocked her hip, accenting the fluidity of her amazing figure. Once again, I had a small flash of awe, taking in Clue’s perfection. Dressed in an equally slutty dress she sparkled with red sequins. Looking part Geisha, part ninja warrior, Clue was one word: stunning.
She’d been the result of an illicit affair between a Chinese diplomat and a Thai prostitute. Born out of wedlock, she’d been thrown away like rubbish when she was just two weeks old.
We hadn’t met until three years ago when I saved her from being raped and mutilated in a rural Sydney suburb. She knew my beginnings weren’t as perfect as I told people, but she didn’t know the whole truth either.
No one did.
“Thou may draw blood but never draw life,” Clue whispered, layering her husky voice with a heavy dose of allure.
Even if the password had been completely wrong, the bouncer was so spellbound he would’ve let us in. Clue had magical powers over men.
“Well, what do you know? You’re in.” He swung the door wide, spilling warm light into the darkness of the night. “Head down to the end, then to the left. The main arena is there. Don’t go into the other rooms unless invited.”
Clue smiled and brushed past him, deliberately letting him gawk down her cleavage. “Thanks so much.”
He nodded dumbly, letting me sneak past without fanfare.
My heart raced, taking in the ridiculous wide corridor. The heavy doors latched behind us and all I wanted to do was run home to her.
You left her alone. With strangers. For this.
For this? This decadence, this richness, this mockery of everything that I needed in order to save her life. Instead of tears, anger filled me.
Whoever owned this monstrosity had so much more than they deserved. If only life had been kind enough to give me a way out. Give me a way to save her.
“Clue. I’ve had enough. I’m sorry, but I’m leaving.”
Clue spun again, grabbing my hands. “You’re not, Zel. And I’ll tell you why.”
My temper rose further. It wasn’t often that I got angry but when I did… not even an atomic bomb could match me.
Her thumb caressed my knuckles, trying to calm me but riling me up even more. “You’re not going home. Mrs. Berry will take great care of her. You need to see that life hasn’t ended outside our apartment. You need to remember why you fought so hard to get to where you are.” Her voice softened. “I’m not only losing someone I care deeply for but my bestfriend, too. You can’t die with her, Zelly. I won’t let you.”
The fucking tears that seemed to be a constant companion these days shot up my spine in a tingling wake. I squeezed my eyes to stop them from spilling.
Clue gathered me into her arms, whispering in my ear. “You’ll find a way. I swear. I know in my bones you’ll save her. Just like you saved me. But you have to get out into the world to find a solution. You won’t find it hidden in the cereal box in a dingy flat you haven’t left in weeks.”
I shoved her back. “I couldn’t care less about the world. It took everything from me. And now it’s taking Clara, too.”
Clue tensed. “Remember who you are. You’re a fighter. You didn’t overcome your past to give up now.”
“My daughter is dying and you think I’m giving up?” My voice wobbled and I stormed forward. I couldn’t have this conversation anymore. Clue had valid points which just made me hate my self-pity and sadness all the more.
I couldn’t rewind to the old Hazel. The twenty-four year old woman who’d been on the cusp of happiness. I’d had a great job—legal and law-abiding. I’d been healthy and content. And I’d had a daughter who I’d poured all my love and joy into; who made me a better human being.
You have a daughter. Not past tense. Not yet.
But Clue was right. I’d overcome so much already. I couldn’t give up. I wouldn’t lie down and let my daughter leave me—I had to find a cure and to do that I had to face the world and keep fighting till the end.
Bottling everything deep inside, I called over my shoulder. “You win, Clue. Let’s go.”
Her heels clicked on the stone work of the corridor, catching me up. Linking her fingers with mine, she murmured, “Tonight will give you the boost that you need. You’ll see.” Adding some bounce into her step, she added, “After all, we’re going to watch men beat each other bloody. If that doesn’t inspire you to get revenge and punch the world in its fucking face then I don’t know what will.”
I forced a small laugh, but she was right. In so many ways.
The corridor went on for ages, past huge swathes of material and massive nonsensical artwork of blizzards and forests, of darkness and wolfs, of a violent world. Sculptures made of bronze and iron guided us like centennials. A mix of modern art and intricate lifelike animals. All large, imposing, and entirely too real.
Grunting and panting came from behind one large door as we passed.
“I wonder what goes on in the private zones? More fighting, or do you think the victor steals a woman from the crowd and makes mad passionate love to her?” Clue’s voice turned dreamy. “He’d be hot and sweaty and slippery with blood, but his kiss would make the girl forget. She’d let herself be consumed by the man who proved he was strong enough to protect her.”
This time I laughed with my heart and not just out of requirement. “You’re way too much of a romantic for these times, Clue. You should’ve been born six hundred years ago if you want men who kill and women who swoon.”
She grinned, showing perfect pearly teeth. “I was born six hundred years ago. That’s why I hanker after it so much.”
I rolled my eyes. Clue had two fascinations in life: men and past lives. She swore she’d lived countless times before, and as much as I liked to joke and pluck holes in her tales, I couldn’t ignore the fact that she knew things. Things she shouldn’t know for a thrown away child with no education.
“You’re an old soul too, Zel. I can tell. I haven’t figured out where you’re from, but I will.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was wrong. I acted old beyond my years because I’d had enough bad fortune to last me forever.
I squeezed her hand as we turned left at the end of the corridor and promptly slammed to a halt. “Holy mother of God where have you brought me?” Dropping her fingers, I moved forward, almost in a trance.
The double doors had been crafted from metal. One side depicted a fairy-tale. A young man, with his face away from the viewer, stood surrounded by piles of coins, sunshine, and young children. Fantastical turrets of a castle rested in the distance.
My heart hurt as I looked at the next door. If the other had been heaven, this would be hell.
The young man now faced the doors but his features were blank. No nose or eyes or mouth, just a smooth oval. Behind him wolves fought while lightning and storm clouds brewed. But what killed me was the children who’d been laughing in the other portrait were now in pieces, scattered on the ground in melting snow.
“Whoa, that’s a bit morbid,” Clue said, reaching out to touch a severed leg.
I snatched her hand back and pressed the other door to open it. I wanted away from this scene. It came too close to home.
Don’t think of your troubles. Tonight, pretend to forget.
I could never forget about them. They were a noose around my neck. A guillotine waiting to fall.
The instant the door cracked open, noise assaulted us. A potent mix of fists hitting flesh, grunts of pain, lilts of feminine laughter, shouts of encouragement, and the smooth beats of music.
We entered a cavernous black room. Either a converted ballroom or a specially designed arena, it welcomed us with thick black velvet on the four story high walls. Lining the perimeter, a grandstand sort of placement held black couches, la-Z-boys, and recliners. Each one had its own podium with side table and small lamp. Looking like fireflies in the dark.
“Oh, my,” Clue murmured as we stopped scanning the side of the room and focused on the main event.
Every apparatus of fighting existed in this space. A Mixed Marital Arts Cage, a boxing ring, a Muay Thai ring, mats for close combat, and bare floor for other barbaric blood sports. Each space was crowded with men either bloodied from a fight or bouncing on their feet ready to meet a new opponent. Water stations and medic booths rested between each arena.
A huge banner hung from the ceiling directly above all five fighting rings.
Fight with honour, fight with discipline, fight with vengeance.
“I think I died and went to man heaven,” Clue whispered, her almond eyes the widest I’d ever seen. Her cheeks flushed with colour as a man in the MMA cage took a hit to the jaw by a fighter glistening with sweat and blood.
The atmosphere in the room wasn’t feral or violent, though. It had an old-world class about it. An exclusivity. A richness.
There were so many fighters I had no idea how Clue would find the man she’d come to see.
The music changed tracks from sultry to pulsing. Not so loud to distract the fighters, but it added yet another element to this strange illegal club.
Arms suddenly slinked around Clue, dislodging me from her side. I blinked as a tall man with cropped black hair and ebony skin gathered her close. “You remembered the address and password. I’m impressed.” He nuzzled her throat, sending Clue into a flurry of lusty giggles.
My heart fluttered for her. I loved seeing her smile. I didn’t think I’d seen her so infatuated before. My eyes flickered between the two. Where Clue was an Asian beauty, this man was an African Adonis. If they ever made it to procreation, their children would be spectacular.
The thought of children just sent me wheeling back to Clara. Her pretty, eight year old face filled my mind. Her long hair, so similar to my own, and her dark brown eyes, made my heart weep knowing our time together was running out.
She looked nothing like her father which I thanked the universe for every day. She was mine. All mine.
Not for much longer.
The memory shattered me and I stumbled a little.
Clue’s man grabbed my forearm, steading me with a warm, strong grip. “You okay?”
Clue untangled herself from his embrace to support my other side. I felt like a waste of space, an invalid and an unfit human being. I needed to find my backbone again and stop wallowing in depression.
I couldn’t ruin Clue’s fun. I had no right. Not after everything.
“I’m fine. Sorry.” Forcing life back into my voice, I asked, “So, you’re Corkscrew?”
He laughed. “That’s my fighting name, but yes. Tonight, I’m corkscrew.” His dark eyes twinkled as he leaned closer. “My real name is Ben.”
The normalcy of his name helped settle me a little and I smiled. “I like that. Two identities.”
Just like me.
Up until recently, I’d had two personas. I’d spun tales and weaved stories as effortlessly as if it was the truth. It started as a game. An avenue to survive my past and paint a childhood I was proud of. To delete the wrongness and conjure an entirely new girl. I went from a gutter rat that bounced from foster home to foster home, never going to school, to a woman with style and poise. Someone with high school diplomas and career possibilities. I wrote my own story with a magical pen called lies.
And it worked.
I climbed from the mud and dreariness into sunlight and hope. I survived.
And now? Now, I was about to lose everything.
Clue interrupted my spiral into depression with a simple question, “What’s this club called. I couldn’t see any name on the building.”
My interest spiked and my damn heart flurried. Something about this place gave me equal measures of unhappiness and hope. I hated the wealth dripping from every statue but at the same time never wanted to leave. I wanted to steal all the positive energy and strength that existed from the men and bottle it—create an elixir where my daughter would survive.
Ben smiled. “This is the best place on earth.” Spanning his arms, taking in the club as if it was his own, he added, “Welcome to Obsidian.”