I’m notoriously bad at working on multiple projects at once. At this moment, I have three documents open on my laptop, plus this blog post, and the dishwasher is running, and there are cookies in the oven, and STUFF SO MUCH STUFF TO DO I’M GOING TO DIE BENEATH A PILE OF ALL THIS STUFF AND ALL THIS JUNK MAIL I REFUSE TO SORT THROUGH.
And I do it to myself, of course. And secretly (well, not so secretly anymore since this is a blog and I’m typing these words for all seven of the people who will read this) I do it because I want to. Because I enjoy having thirty-nine irons in the fire and also my house is on fire because I’m too busy trying to find a word that means “nonchalant” but isn’t “nonchalant.”
So. Today I’m going to talk about Daughters of Men. It’s a project I’ve been toodling with on and off for about ten years or so (much more off than on, obviously) but it’s finally making its way to the forefront of my brain and so also garnering the majority of my attention.
Brother and sister, they were raised in fear, told to keep to the shadows cast by the walls slowly crumbling down around them.
Kai and Isak Vadra have lived their entire lives in London, scratching out a living in the shadows of the city’s filthy slums. While their mother struggles to keep them safe from the everyday threats of hunger and crime, a new danger presents itself, one beyond the reaches of politics and police.
Their mother does everything within her power to prevent this new danger from tearing their world apart. But instead of safety, it threatens to bring to light her worst fear, that a secret their family has kept for generations will finally be revealed.
I’m going to try to update fairly regularly about progress (I’d LOVE to see this one finished and fine-tuned and published sometime in the first half of next year, but I refuse to make any promises) and I’ll be generous and leave a little snippet from the first chapter here (before I run off to grab those cookies out of the oven.)
Her bowl sat on the floor in beside her, forgotten after only a few bites. Instead, she concentrated on the small tin lamp, her hands clasped loosely in front of her, elbows resting on her knees. Isak watched her, the steadiness of her gaze causing him to hold his breath. The flame flickered once and was still.
“Kai.” Her name was a hiss between his teeth. He glanced at his mother to make sure her back was turned towards them.
His sister’s dark blue eyes met his.
“Stop it,” he mouthed, and shook his head in warning.
Her cheekbones pushed upward, turning her eyes into slits as she smiled. A second later, another flicker of light, brighter this time, shot halfway up the lamp’s narrow glass chimney.
He wanted to say something, wanted to bark an order at her to quit, but their mother was right there, her shoulders hunched forward as she scrubbed at the inside of the soup pot, her sleeves rolled up to her elbows.
Unable to think of another option, Isak kept his head down, picked up his spoon and stirred what was left of his dinner. “Please,” he whispered again, but the flame continued to dance at the tip of the wick, strange shadows cast outside the small circle of light.
The blast made less noise than he imagined it would. The glass went everywhere, a few larger chunks littering the floor between them, while needle-sharp slivers had flown in all directions, some disappearing into the last of his soup.
Kai laughed, then gasped before clapping her hands over her mouth. There was the sound of rummaging above them, and then a match flamed to life and a candle was lit. Their mother stood over the two of them, the sharp lines and hollows of her face exaggerated by the candle’s twitching flame. Her eyes glittered as she surveyed the mess on the floor. She said nothing. Then, she bent down and struck Kai across the cheek.
Isak winced at the sound but failed to look away.
“Here.” His mother threw a cloth at her daughter and nodded to the lump of distorted metal that had been a functioning lamp only minutes before. “Clean it up, every piece.”
“Say another word, Kai. Go on, then.”
Kai picked up the cloth and ran the stained edges of it between her fingers. Her bottom lip quivered as if she was about to speak, or about to burst into tears. Slowly, with a hand that trembled, she reached out and picked up a shard of glass from in front of her knee.
Isak picked up his bowl and stacked it on top of his sister’s.
“Go to bed,” his mother told him. Her voice was calm, quiet, as if she was reluctant to disturb the hush that had descended since the lamp went out.
“What about…?” He glanced at Kai, the cloth spread out in front of her, a small pile of glass and bits of metal accumulating in the center of the fabric.
“She’ll be along when she’s done. She has to do this. She has to learn.”