This week I thought I would share the first chapter of one of my favourite books with you. Anita wrote The Scarlet Ribbon in 1995 and yes, I edited it, but the fact that it stays at the top of my best-read list is proof enough of its excellence. At least I think so. Please feel free to comment, I would love to know what you think.
The Scarlet Ribbon… by Anita Dawes
I can still remember the icy touch of that cold September rain against my face and my husband Jack screaming, ‘Maggie, watch out! Run Maggie, run!
The sound of panic in his voice should have made me move, but instead, I turned to him, just in time to see a dirty blue car mount the wet pavement and come hurtling towards me. Everything seemed to slow down. I tried to move out of the way, make my legs carry me to safety, but it was as if time itself was gradually stopping. Biting shards of pain sheared through my body as the car smashed into me and carried me along the pavement.
The sound of breaking glass as I crashed through the supermarket window seemed to be happening somewhere way off in the distance. There was a sudden flash of noise and colour as people ran screaming in all directions, looking for cover. As I lay on the cold, ceramic tiled floor, I remember thinking, I have seen this film. The heroine wakes up in a clean hospital bed, her make-up hardly smudged and hair still neatly in place. There will be a handsome hero by the bedside, holding her hand and gazing adoringly into her eyes.
But it wasn’t a film star lying on that shop floor, it was me, and my Jack was holding me, his hands shaking, telling me that everything was going to be all right. I couldn’t tell him that I’d seen the film and knew they lived happily ever after, because just then someone turned out all the lights, leaving me in total darkness. Everything vanished, the blinding strips of fluorescent lighting, the chilly, rain spattered floor-tiles, and mercifully, all the pain.
The faces that had been looking down at me had gone, but I could still hear Jack’s voice, a long way off, saying my name over and over again. Someone else was talking now. A man was telling Jack that it was all right, ‘We’ll take care of her now, mate. Stand back and let us do our job.’
I felt my body being lifted and the pain returned in a blinding rush, tearing its way through my body. I screamed, and the darkness dragged me away to where there were no thoughts or memories, just a warm feeling of peace. In the darkness, time ceased to exist and I was in no hurry to find a way out, back to the pain.
I realised I had reached a place of safety. A place where there was nothing at all, no pain or hunger and I don’t just mean for food. That awful longing for something you can never put a name to, but know exists. Here in the dark, somehow I knew I was in the place where everything began, and this time I wouldn’t let them throw me back into the pain and the light. I wanted to stay, but the darkness was changing, fading, turning grey and growing paler. Like someone slowly washing the dirt from a window so you can see through it. I didn’t want to look; I knew what was out there. Pain, misery and hunger, even in a stranger’s eyes if you cared to look.
The light was getting stronger. Washing the last dirty marks from the window until I could think clearly again and the memories came flooding back. I’d been hit by a car, smashed through a plate glass window, but I wasn’t dead. Thoughts began to run through my brain like the rush hour at Waterloo Station. Why didn’t I feel any pain? Why couldn’t I see Jack? The darkness seemed to be gone, but I couldn’t see anything at all. There was a clean, empty sound and I could feel Jack’s hand on mine. He was talking to someone.
‘Look, there are tears on her face, Nurse, she must have heard me… it’s a good sign, isn’t it?’
His voice was all shaky and excited. I heard a young female voice answer him.
‘Mrs. Haynes is my first coma patient. I’d like to believe it’s a sign, but we just don’t know enough to be sure.’
Jack gripped my hand harder and whispered, more to himself than anyone else, ‘It has to be a sign.’
The word ‘coma’ flashed like bright neon lights in my brain. Was that what was wrong with me? How long had I been like this? Why didn’t someone say how long? If I can think and hear, why can’t I speak? If only I could open my eyes, Jack would know I was still here. It was like trying to fight my way out of thick, sticky syrup. My body had gone on strike and refused to obey any orders I gave it to speak or move.
There had to be a way to let them know I was listening, that I was coming back. I’d read too many books and seen too many films where they pronounced you brain dead, turned off the machines and the sad relatives are led away; all because their stupid machines weren’t clever enough to pick us up from where we were. They just didn’t understand. The young nurse had said it all and she was right. A sudden rush of panic threw me back into the darkness as if I’d been hit by the car a second time. It felt different now, not quite so safe and protective. I supposed it was because my mind was my own this time. I knew I had to beat this thing, find a way out, a way back to my life…
That was the first chapter and I hope you enjoy it. As I said, any comments would be appreciated, so feel free!
The Scarlet Ribbon has five star reviews and been downloaded over 400 times on Smashwords.