My life depended on three seconds. I glared at the computer screen, cursing my scores from today’s runs. Soon, Coach Hellen would knock on my bedroom door whilst making her rounds to every athlete for individual feedback — mine always being the same: eat more protein and stay out of trouble. Being best at the Surrey Rock Boarding school at the 200-metre sprint didn’t mean anything in the big picture of getting-the-hell-out-of-England, and with Coach Hellen’s vague feedback, I’d never shave three seconds and qualify for USA scholarships.
Having turned seventeen and edging close to graduation in one year, I had to get my shit together. England was a big place but not big enough to feel safe.
There was one guaranteed way to shave several seconds off my sprints and it had nothing to do with meat consumption. I opened the drawer on my desk and picked up tablet strips — Lamictal and Seroquel. Mood stabiliser and anti-psychotic medication. The former made me jiggly at the hips, and the latter, tired as a mo fo.
A banner notification popped up my phone. Speak of the devil. Reminder to take said drugs and become fat zombie.
I dismissed it and went to the next notification — a text from Poppy appeared with a link and the words: “Don’t kill me.”
I fetched a small bottle of tequila from the hidden drawer in the nightstand, and sat on the bed, phone in hand. Drinking on a weekday was rare but Poppy’s don’t-kill-me moments usually required a calming agent.
I drank a mouthful straight from the bottle. The liquid burned and threatened to come back up. I breathed deeply and then downed another couple of mouthfuls. My body quivered at the aftertaste — tequila definitely tasted better with salt and lime.
Okay, let’s see the damage…
I clenched the bottle between my thighs, and pressed the link. The screen opened to her blog with my face splotched in the centre, beaming over my latest Track and Field medal. My grin showed too many teeth and my red face shone with sweat. The article was titled “Melanie Bell and her magic legs” and read as a flattering reference letter in the third person.
Why did I think it was a good idea to ask Poppy for advice? Asking for her help on my college application was to relinquish the reins on a wild horse — she was going to run at it however she wanted.
I texted her back: “Take it down NOW.”
Time distilled — concurrently moving fast and slow, my mouth open and dry. Comments were rolling in. They varied from click-baits to compliments to internet trolls.
My phone’s screen lit up with her response: “No.”
I hit the call button, and for each unanswered ring, my shoulders inched up.
I knew it was a lot to ask of a social media butterfly, influencer-wanna-be, but she promised she wouldn’t share a picture of me online. I even opted out of the yearbook and our school’s magazine for God’s sake. The blurry face amongst the masses — that was me. I didn’t do pixels.
My eyes glazed over when a biblical citation was posted by a genderless, pictureless, followerless profile. “Bad company corrupts good character.”
A simple sentence, but the words stood out from the slush-pile of slang and emojis. I read it over and over, my heart beating faster and a chill snaking its way across my body. The quote enveloped me like a blanket of snow and all I wanted to do was stand up and shake it off, but I couldn’t.
Bad company corrupts good character.
Those were the words uttered by Jacob before my life changed ten years ago. His eyes had been round and unblinking, and his voice melodic, as he continued, Come with me. Let me show you what happens when you let evil into your life.
If you’re an agent/publisher/editor and want read the rest of chapter 1, please contact me. Combining elements of suspense, romance, and mental health, DARK DEPTHS OF WATER is a young adult thriller, complete at 80,000 words. Please note trigger warnings of suicidal ideation, violence (not sexual), and cursing.