Ok guys, I’m putting this out there. The first chapter of the novel I’m trying to write. I need feedback, opinions etc on whether it’s readable, relatable and entertaining enough to keep going with the story.
The book is about 2 different women, one a stay-at-home mum with 4 children (in a healthy but strained marriage) and the other, a timid woman in a toxic marriage who’s suffering depression and anxiety. Both women are unhappy with their present situations and seek a place to just forget the world and be themselves for a while. They stumble upon a place together where they can be who they want to be and do whatever they want to do. At first this gives them the peace and identity they’ve been lacking and makes them happier, but there’s a price to be paid for this new freedom. They ultimately have to make a choice between the place they have discovered and the lives they live in the real world.
It’s kind of a combination between a drama and a fantasy with humour and wit. It’s about finding a way to balance the chaos of life with being a strong, healthy independent woman who knows her identity.
Anyway, here it is, the first chapter of ‘My Place’. Feel free to comment in the section below the story.
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Krysta rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. Running them down to the bridge of her nose, she applied pressure to the well-defined cartilage. Her meagre efforts to ease the throbbing headache that threatened to reduce her to a sobbing mess, were futile. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, hoping the extra oxygen would at the very least prevent her from launching into what could only be compared to a giant lizard stomping through the city, smashing buildings with its oversized tail. She despised herself when she lost control. When she let her frustrations take her by the shoulders and shake her into submission.
She was envious of the fictitious Godzilla, who would be terminated and lying at the bottom of the ocean by the conclusion of the film he infamously starred in. He deserved his fate, but no doubt welcomed it, for his affliction would be over and his frustrations would be at an end. Krysta on the other hand had to continue living in the aftermath of her rampage and not only apologise for her blatant disregard for others property and feelings but face the humiliating clean-up of the debris, lying scattered all over the city streets.
She obhored this state of mind but found herself raising the little white flag to it more and more often these days. She didn’t want to be this person. She was a Mother and Mothers were supposed to be composed and full of grace and wisdom, blah blah blah. At least that’s the impression she got from the ladies meeting she so diligently attended at the local church every fortnight. To be completely truthful however, her motivation for attending these meetings was not so much the insightful advice and mature fellowship, but rather the one and a half hours of blissful silence she revelled in, while her 3 small children were held captive at the free childcare service they so generously provided. This of course made her feel like an entire shipping container of steaming hot guilt had been dumped on her head.
Krysta felt like the stuffed owl on the bookshelf in her Husband’s study had more wisdom than she’d ever have and remembering to say “quiet please” instead of “shut up” was about all the Grace she could muster these days. She always tried to be kind and polite. Manners had always been of supreme importance to her, but since her oldest child hit preteens and evolved into a verbal flesh-eating parasite with fangs, her 4 year old decided that since she’d be entering Kindergarten soon, she was now too old and wise to need any help with anything from her over-the-hill mother, and her two placid darling twin babies went to bed one night as adorable little bunnies, with fluffy tails and all, and awoke the next day as terror toddlers that could rival the animated Tasmanian Devil known as ‘Taz’, kindness and politeness seemed to be even tougher to manage than a day trip with the family to the over-priced theme park just 2 hours away. 125 pit stops later.
“Right” she shouted, slamming her hands down on the kitchen bench for emphasis. All three kids stopped their rivalry for a moment to look at their overwhelmed mother. Krysta was sure she resembled something that should be hunted down on a snowy alpine mountainside, hairy legs and all (who had time to shave), but her kids didn’t seem to notice. Her long auburn hair was tied up haphazardly with tiny tufts that stuck out at right angles around her face. Her toddlers were nearly 2 and a half and her hair still hadn’t fully recovered from the glorious postnatal shedding. It was noon and she was still in her pyjamas which were speckled with peanut butter from the mornings toast throwing contest and smelt suspiciously of vomit even though she hadn’t actually seen anyone throw up…recently…with her own eyes.
“No more fighting or mummy will put you all to bed.” Her two blond-haired little boys glared at her, cheeky smiles dancing at the corners of their mouths. They’d not taken a daytime nap for at least a month now and even though they had no real idea what Krysta was talking about, their mischievous grins proved they all-but suspected mummy was bluffing.
Miss 4 brushed some of the stray dark strands of her cleopatra-style hairdo, away from her pale round face. Her level fringe was overgrown to the point where she was practically blind folded by it, but that didn’t stop her from climbing everything in sight and unfortunately falling off, including one of the 6 wooden chairs in the adjoining dining room. Que more steaming hot mum guilt. One, For the momentary lapse in constant adult supervision (twin 2 needed a barbie doll shoe removed from his left nostril) and two, for not having the time or money to get her hair trimmed. Krysta thought she could cut it herself but figured there was no point, as it would end up costing just as much, given the amount of paper bags they’d go through covering it up until it grew back to a less embarrassing length.
“Mummy” she said sweetly “we can’t go to bed now, the sun is still awake.”
“Well the sun can stay awake as long as it wants, it hasn’t been naughty like the 3 of you.” Krysta pointed to the three dishevelled little people standing in the middle of the kitchen, a pile of choc chips on the floor at their feet. The plastic packet were the tiny brown buttons previously resided was sitting, torn and upside-down on the peak of the miniature choc chip mountain.
“I was not bad mummy, it was Davey, he took the chocnut cheeps out of the panty.” If Krysta had not been so frustrated by the mornings events she would have had a little giggle at the cuteness and unintentional impropriety of her daughter’s comment, but as she had been dealing with 3 overactive lion cubs playfully biting and scratching at one another for the last 5 hours, her patience was as thin as one of those face masks you peel off once its dried and made your face look like a mannequin’s rear end.
“Ok firstly its chocolate chips, not choc nut cheeps and pantry not panty. Panties are the special clothes that no one sees and you wear under your normal clothes that people do see. Second, I know he took them out of the panty…ahhh…I mean pantry, but you snatched them off him and tore the bag which led to them ending up all over the floor.”
Davey, the second born twin, born just 2 minutes after his brother Dylan, started kicking at the pile, sending the little chocolate buttons dancing all over the kitchen floor. Dylan, seeing the look of glee on his twin’s face and not wanting to miss out on all the fun, starting stomping on the little buttons as they whizzed by, in his socks no less. “Davey! Dylan! Stop” Krysta shouted, running over to the two boys and grabbing each one by the arm.
Krysta frantically searched her exhausted mind for the best solution to this drama. She could take off their socks (remembering to peel off what would now be sticky chocolate discs) before throwing them in the wash and lead them through the maze of tempting stomping targets into the loungeroom to watch ’The wiggles’ before sweeping up the mess, or she could turn this into a lesson and give them the dustpan and broom to clean it up themselves. She would have to go over it again of course as the pile would most likely end up covering a much larger radius than it already did. The second option seemed the most likely to win the parent of the year award for constructive, astute parenting but the first option would mean less stress and anxiety for mummy. Oh, come on, who was she kidding? There was only one option she would be likely to take on a day like this. “Chloe, go put the Wiggles on Netflix please.”
She bent down to take Dylan’s socks off as Chloe scurried into the living room as speedily as her little legs could carry her. Dylan squealed at the top of his lungs as Krysta attempted to remove his chocolate coated tootsie coverings, stomping his feet in a defiant rendition of ‘river dance’, sending more choc chips flying in all directions. Of course, she had to let go of Davey’s arm to take care of Dylan’s socks, so Davey immediately bent down to pick up several choc chips and put them in his mouth. Krysta ignored him, thinking a few wouldn’t hurt as it would keep him occupied while she sorted out the sock situation.
As Krysta pulled off the second sock she heard Chloe yell from the living room. “Muuuummyyy! I can’t find the mote”
“Look on the couch Chloe”
“What about under the couch?”
“Ahhh, just push the buttons on the TV”
“What one makes the channel be dif-a-runt?”
Krysta sighed, lifted Dylan (still kicking) to her side, wincing as her back twinged. It was that old familiar sciatic nerve that hadn’t been right since her first pregnancy. It seemed her lower back was always aching from the endless bending over to either pick up a child or clean up the trail of chaos they left behind them everywhere they went, but every now and then a shooting pain was added to the discomfort that she’d learned to soldier through. She hurried into the living room, placed toddler one on the couch and frantically searched the entire living room for the TV remote, keeping in mind that the longer it took to find, the more likely toddler one would climb off the couch and return to the kitchen and toddler two would be doing goodness knows what with his unsupervised freedom.
“Uh huh” Krysta yanked the remote from the crowded toy box in the corner of the room along with a half-eaten LCM bar. Krysta sighed once more as she felt the stickiness of her fingers, matching only that of the TV remote. She took a mental note of needing to clean it later in the day and handed it to Chloe just as Dylan slid off the couch and ran in the direction of the kitchen. She returned said toddler to the couch as “toot toot chugga chugga big red car” filled the room in melodious tones and the two children in the living room became entranced to the hypnotizing sounds and images on the screen.
Returning to the kitchen with trepidatious concern at what she might find, she was pleasantly surprised to see Davey still in the middle of the room eating choc chips from a tiny pile in his hand. There was chocolate covering both his little paws but on the positive side there was abundantly fewer chocolate chips on the floor to clean up. Once she’d wiped clean Davey’s hands and face (despite his violent protesting), as well as changed his entire chocolate stained outfit, Krysta deposited toddler two in the living room with both her other mesmerised offspring.
Foolishly she anticipated at least 5 minutes of uninterrupted time to clean up the mess in the kitchen. She emerged from the laundry room, broom in hand to find Davey, now on a sugar high, dancing around the kitchen, kicking chocolate chips in his fresh clean socks. It was at this point she wished she’d been born an octopus, with eight hands to handle all the work motherhood threw her way on a daily basis.
She wanted to cry, surely it wasn’t meant to be this hard, how did other mums do it? How did the other mums at the ladies meeting always look so together, so organised and well-groomed like they’d actually managed to get more than 60 seconds in the bathroom alone? Krysta seriously felt like a total failure as a mum. She was sure that by the time her kids grew up they would end up either meeting her weekly from the other side of a bullet proof plastic screen, their only form of communication being the telephones on either side, or they’d all be full-time managers at various fast food chains around the country, only coming home to borrow cash for their out of control comfort-eating habits.
Her head started throbbing once more as she realised two hours had already passed since the chocolate chip incident had begun and she was now 5 minutes late in picking up her 11-year-old daughter, Mia from school. So, began the frantic endeavour to wrangle 3 children into the car and away from their various life-threateningly important activities. Several painful minutes and a dozen bribery biscuits later, Krysta finally had three kids in the car and was on her way to the school to pick up her pre-teen who would more than likely be sulking at the parent pick up bay because she had to spend 20 boring minutes waiting alone, without her friends or a phone, like all her friends had, to keep her occupied.
The end of the day couldn’t come soon enough. Unfortunately, there was still a good 4 hours at least until her day ended and she’d have a chance to sit down and breathe. It was now 5.30pm and Krysta’s husband Peter arrived home just as she was finally sweeping up the last of the chocolate chips from the kitchen floor. She’d managed to stop and do the grocery shopping, help Mia with her homework, change the twins nappies (twice, as they both had a habit of saving no. 2’s for fresh clean Huggies) pay 3 bills online and hang out a load of washing since doing the school run, but still hadn’t managed to get the dishes done, clean the kitchen or get dinner in the oven.
Peter dumped his laptop bag, keys and wallet on the dining table Krysta had cleared off just 10 minutes earlier and walked over for a kiss. Krysta gave him a quick peck and returned to the sweeping, trying to push down the frustration at his lack of consideration at how hard it was to get time to clear the table for dinner let alone doing it twice in the space of half an hour. “How was your day?” She asked in good wife 101 fashion.
“Yeah not bad, we had to rewrite a whole section of the magazine due to computer problems, so I had to work through my lunch break and eat at my desk, but otherwise it was just the same, same.”
Krysta realised that she’d completely forgotten to have lunch. She glanced over at the island bench where two pieces of bread sat on the well-used chopping board that she’d taken out to prepare a sandwich on, after making sure the kids were all fed. That was when the chocolate chip incident had begun. She’d been ignoring the grumbly sickly feeling in her stomach all afternoon, thinking it was stress and it would go away once she had a chance to rest. It then occurred to her that the headache she’d had all day wasn’t just tension but most likely dehydration since she’d had all of half a cup of water all day.
“At least you had lunch” she said in an exasperated tone, bending down to sweep the pile of dirt and chocolate buttons into the dustpan with the little brush. The same little brush she’d rescued from the toilet not two days earlier and washed, sterilized and dried before putting it back in the laundry where it belonged. She was still annoyed that Peter has used it to clean up the broken glass on the back patio from the beer bottle he dropped and then just left it out there for the twins to find on their morning adventures.
He walked over to the fridge and opened the door casually asking “what’s for dinner? I’m starving!”
“Again? Didn’t we have that the other night?” He shut the fridge and leaned against the counter, crossing his arms over his broad chest. His dusty blonde hair, still as thick as the day he and Krysta had met, fell ever so slightly across his right eye. Once upon a time Krysta had found his luscious locks extremely sexy and alluring. Now she just felt annoyed that 4 kids later he still had all his hair while a great deal of hers was now occupying every shower and sink drain in the house, not to mention the floor of the bathroom and her pillowcase. It was a good thing she was facing the kitchen cupboards, putting away the dustpan and brush or he would have seen the volatile look of absolute irritation on her face. If her expression even half matched how she was feeling, he would have seriously reconsidered his unbelief in the existence of the devil.
“It’s cheap and quick to make so yeah, we are having it again!” Krysta was exercising all her patience and strength not to blow like a gently nudged cork in a champagne bottle.
Peter didn’t seem to notice how exhausted and frustrated Krysta was. He surveyed the room, hands in pockets, a smile on his face and exclaimed “what have you been doing all day? This place is a mess.”
That was it. The final nudge, Krysta could feel her cheeks burning with rage and she spun around, glaring at him with a fiery gaze that could melt the gold-plating off the watch he’d been given by his father on Uni graduation day. “What have I been doing?” she snapped through clenched teeth. Peter looked like a Roo trapped in headlights and gulped as he knew all too well what was coming.
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