Peer Review by sherry171 (Canada)

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Awakening--Part 1

By: Ibex


FREE WRITING

Chapter 1
Adder comes back to her on the day she discovers she doesn’t have enough money to pay her monthly rent. She stands with her back to the shop’s wooden door, bills in hand, biting her nails. Her eyes are bloodshot, her hair is frazzled, and her face is pale. She looks like a ghost against the neat rows of colorful fabrics.

Ticking menacingly, the clock barely reads eight in the morning. The store is quiet this time of day, with fewer customers coming in to buy silks and linens, so she takes the silence to drown herself in her fears. The papers tremble in her fluttering hands.

The little, gold bell above the door rings as someone enters. Half to herself, half to the customer, she recites, “Cotton is half-off this week. Ask if you need help with anything.”

Adder studies her. She’s different from when he last saw her: she’s pulled her hair back, and she wears an apron now. Maybe she’s a little bolder now and a little less scared of him, but, really, she’s not all that different after all. He can work with this, he decides; he’s seen much worse.

“This is a nice little place you’ve made,” he remarks.

She stiffens. Although her spine straightens, she seems to curl into herself. She turns, looks him in the eye, and stammers, “You… You don’t own me anymore.”

Adder rolls his eyes, “Did he tell you that?”

Her knuckles go white as she balls her hands into fists and grits her teeth. He smiles knowing how much she hates him. She nods sullenly, “Yes. Yes, he did.”

“And do you really think that changes anything?” Adder asks grimly. He watches her struggle with herself. He knows these things are not set in stone in her soul, as much as she wants them to be true; she is vulnerable. “You are still the same as you were before he came. He has changed nothing for you.”

She gathers her courage, slams her hand down on the table in front of her, “He defeated you once. He’ll defeat you again.”

He steps back, surprised. This is not like her, to defy him like this. Maybe she has changed, he thinks, more than he realized. But still, merely raising his eyebrows, he is not phased. He knows how to deal with this.

“Oh… Oh,” he shakes his head mournfully. “I see now how much he has poisoned your mind. He has not defeated anyone, he has not set you free. He has instead bound you himself, by telling you that he is your rescuer. Do not listen to him.”

“He said the same thing about you,” she hisses. “He has always treated me with kindness. He told me he will always be my friend. He promised to watch over me. All I have to do is remain faithful. When did you ever care about me?”

He senses a staggering in her voice, a brief hesitation before every word, a lack of confidence. This is his chance, “I know you need money.”

Her words stumble over her tongue, “Who told you that?”

He smiles warmly at her, “You’re holding the bills in your hands, darling.”

She looks down at the paper and blushes, wondering how she could have been so stupid, “Right… But… What does that have to do with anything?”

“Has he come to you with the money you need?”

“No…”

Triumphantly, he says to her, “Exactly! If he cares so much for you, won’t he at least provide for your rent?”

Her face tells him he has struck deep. Her eyes drift downward to the numbers on the page, the impossibly large numbers… She sighs, and places her head in her hands, “He said…”

“It doesn’t matter what he said!” Adder knows he is close, so close, to winning her over. “You don’t even know if he cares about you as much as he says he does, much less if he’ll help you find money to pay your rent.”

“What does this have to do with you?”

“I can help you now.”

“How?”

“I have a job for you.”

She shudders at the word “job”, knowing that this can only lead to trouble. Jobs for Adder are dangerous; she has seen this over the many years of her life, during which she worked for him day in and day out, running for him but going nowhere. Is this not the very life her rescuer freed her from not so long ago?

But she needs the money badly, and she knows that, as much as her rescuer says he cares about her, he can never help her to pay her rent, not now. Only Adder can help her. She looks into those stone cold eyes, those eyes she was once glad to flee from, and shivers, as if an icy wind has blown upon her back. She cannot believe herself, cannot understand why she is about to agree to Adder’s proposition, but she knows she cannot bring herself to refuse.

She brushes her hair back behind her ears and looks down at her feet, “Alright, sir. What do you want me to do?”


Message to Readers

SO... here's the first chapter of book that includes the message box quote from my profile. I published it a while ago, but figured I would republish since some of you seem interested.


Peer Review

I love the mystery that the piece draws the reader into, through the lack of a name for the main female character, and the hints about the past that the two characters went through! I also find the development of Adder's character well done; as I was spooked yet intrigued by his manipulative persona and the goals that he wanted to accomplish. I'm looking forward to seeing the next chapters!


I think some of the dialogue in the middle of the story could be a little bit more specific to the characters to deepen their development and the reader's understanding of their relationship. Although I understand that you want to leave suspense for the reader for later chapters with more vague dialogue, I think a few more details about the past relationship between the two characters (ex. what were some of the things the girl did for Adder in her jobs? What was the girl doing when her saviour first rescued her?) could be really helpful in building suspense even more!


Reviewer Comments

An interesting start to an intriguing plot! I'd love to see where this story takes you, and I'm excited to read the following chapters!