Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Black Wings by Megan Hart with an excerpt from the book itself.
My thanks to Anne Cater for the tour invite, Flame Tree Press and Megan Hart.
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: FLAME TREE PRESS; New edition (14 Feb. 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1787581152
- ISBN-13: 978-1787581159
- Amazon UK
Briella Blake has always been wicked smart. When she’s invited to attend a special school for gifted students, she finally has the chance to focus on a project that begins to consume her – the ability to recreate and save copies of a person’s entire set of memories. Her friendship with a raven that’s as smart as she is leads to conflict with her mother Marian, who is no longer able to deny that there’s something wrong with her child.
Black Wings Book Excerpt.
There hadn’t always been something wrong with her.
As a baby, Briella had been the most beautiful thing Marian had ever seen. Premature by a few weeks, but nothing the doctors had been concerned about. No stay in the NICU or anything like that. She’d been too small for all of the clothes Marian had been given for her baby shower, even the newborn sizes. Tiny, but beautiful and perfect. A little living doll. Ten teensy perfect fingers and toes. With her father’s pale gray eyes and her mother’s dark, spiraling curls, her skin the color of sea-wet sand, Briella had always been a perfect blend of Marian and Tommy. There’d never been a second’s doubt that the kid had inherited the best features from both her parents, even if she’d been an “oops”.
A late night, too many visits from the tequila bottle. Marian and Tommy had been thinking about reconciling, stalling the divorce each had threatened at one time or another. High school sweethearts, eight or nine years together, on and off, neither of them willing to give each other up. A baby was the worst way for them to make things work, but who thinks about that when you’re young and made stupid by love?
The pregnancy had seemed like a miracle, after all the trouble Marian had had keeping one before that, the babies they had tried for. Seemed like a sign they ought to try to work it out one more time. Young. Stupid. In love, or what had passed for love between them, at least.
Not that she would have chosen anything different, even if anyone could have convinced her then how hard it was going to end up being. How beautiful babies become recalcitrant, tantrum-throwing toddlers, who grow into elementary school kids with attitude, who morph into pre-teens who think they ought to rule the world.
She and Tommy had stayed together long enough for Briella to be born, and after that Marian had kicked Tommy out for the final time. It had been rough at first. Tommy as her husband had been prone to unreliability. Tommy as not-her-husband felt even less obligation. They got along okay now, for the sake of their daughter. There were still times when Marian could look at him and remember how much she’d loved him, and there were plenty of times when she had no trouble remembering why she didn’t anymore.
From the start, Briella had focused on the world around her in a way that Marian hadn’t realized was unusual in a newborn until the pediatrician had commented on it, suggesting they check the baby’s vision. Briella had been able to see perfectly fine. She just paid more attention to the world than other infants her age.
Briella had been born tiny and had stayed small. Maybe that was part of the problem. Always a little bit behind the other, bigger kids, never able to catch up in some ways, but so far beyond them in others. She’d been sorted into a series of supplemental gifted programs since kindergarten, when the teacher realized Briella was falling behind on her reading work because she was spending too much time devouring the copy of Gone with the Wind she’d begged Marian to buy her after they’d watched the movie together. The shortest kid in her class, but the smartest.
It had never seemed to matter until the last year or so, when they started sorting the kids into classes according to ability level, when they all started to get taller as they headed toward puberty, when friendships that had been in place since preschool started to shift and change right along with them.
In her own elementary school days, Marian had been best friends with two girls in her class. Jody Evans and Angela Heller had lived next door to each other since birth, more like sisters than simply besties. Marian had become their third, happily a bridge between the two strong personalities. Sometimes closer with one, the next week with the other, Marian had been devastated the summer after middle school, when they all moved into the new high school building, to discover Jody and Angela had been placed in a different set of classes than Marian. Their friendship had drifted apart after that, although Marian still bumped into Jody sometimes in town. They always promised to get together, but they never managed to find the time. She’d made other friends since, some even better, but there’d never been any who were quite the same.
What was happening to Briella seemed a lot more deliberate. Kids who’d been her lunch buddies for years were sitting at different tables. The ones in her gifted classes stopped inviting her to their birthday parties. Briella had told Marian it was because they didn’t like her anymore, but she wouldn’t say why. When Marian wanted to know if Briella was being bullied, the school guidance counselor had assured her that she was not.
“Some children simply aren’t popular,” the counselor had said. “Not being liked isn’t the same thing as being bullied.”
“Briella…Bean…are you doing something to make them not like you? If you are, why don’t you stop doing it?” Marian had asked later.
Briella’s answer to that had been a shrug. “Why should I be a different person just to make people like me? You can’t make people like you if they don’t, Mama.”
Wise words from a little girl, words that Marian knew were true and yet…something about them had seemed off. She’d spent hours sobbing into her own mother’s arms about the loss of her friendships. If Marian had raised Briella to have enough self-esteem that she didn’t worry about the judgment of her classmates, that was supposed to be a good thing, right? Why, then, did it seem to bother Marian so much more than it did her daughter?
Briella didn’t get into trouble at school. Her grades were above and beyond anything Marian could have asked for, academically. At home, Briella was her usual bright and talkative self, except for an occasional rise of temper that showed itself in ways that Marian wondered might have something to do with the other kids’ opinions of her. Nobody liked to be reminded they weren’t as smart as someone else, and Briella’s go-to insult when she was frustrated about something usually ended up using the words “stupid” or “dummy”, no matter how many times Marian scolded her for it.
The kid had inherited that trait from her dad. Tommy had always been at the head of the class and not afraid to point that out. Teachers had loved him despite his smart-ass attitude, so at school he’d gotten away with a lot of crap nobody else could. At home, he’d been and remained his parents’ golden child, unable to do any wrong – except when it came to Marian, of course. His mother had hated her from the start for “taking her baby away,” an attitude that had not improved with the addition of a grandchild Nancy Gallagher had once called “an embarrassment.”
Unlike Briella, Tommy had always been able to make and keep friends. Even if he was an arrogant son of a bitch, he worked that clichéd Irish charm in ways Marian had to admit that their daughter had not inherited.
Tommy traveled a lot, and when he was gone it mostly seemed like Briella was out of sight, out of mind. He couldn’t be counted on to send a regular check, but when he came home he threw his money around like he’d printed it. He’d promised Briella he would take her to Disney World for her birthday, but instead he’d taken her to the Disney Store and gaslit her into believing that was what he’d originally said. The kid had come home with a stuffed Pluto dog that was bigger than she was. Briella always acted like her daddy could do no wrong, so if she was resentful about the obvious bait-and-switch, she never said a word about it.
Still, didn’t that have to be at least part of the reason why Briella had started acting out so much more frequently? An absentee dad with feast- or-famine affections was bound to mess with a kid’s well-being, even if she had an amazing step-father like Marian’s husband, Dean. But then so could anything else, Marian thought, knowing it was easier to blame Tommy for not being around than it would be to take a good hard look at herself and how bad she might be screwing up.
She did the best she could, Marian told herself now, watching her daughter bent over a large, battered notebook at the computer desk. Marian had picked up the five-subject monster at the thrift store back when she’d considered keeping a journal again. Two entries into it, Marian had realized she was never going to do anything or even think anything important enough to write about. She’d torn away the used pages and tucked the book itself into the drawer where she put things she didn’t know what to do with. A year later, Briella had found it there and taken it for her own.
The best she could. What more could anyone expect out of a mother?
About Megan Hart.
Megan Hart is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty novels, novellas, and short stories.
Some of them use a lot of bad words, but most of the other words are okay.
Her work has been published in almost every genre, including contemporary fiction, horror, romantic suspense, and erotica.
She can’t live without music, the Internet, or the ocean, but she and soda have achieved an amicable uncoupling.
About the publisher.
FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.
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