Emma Glass reads an excerpt from her debut novel, Peach, forthcoming from Bloomsbury in January.
Bloodletting. Let in blood. I’d give you mine but I’ve lost a lot too. I think back to Mr Custard’s class on blood components, I try to remember how long the human body takes to regenerate blood cells. I shut my eyes and see black and red and white spots and soon I’m zooming off on a red spot, a red cell, an erythrocyte, sailing, surfing on a red sea. Circling the pool. Skimming the shore, reaching with my arms stretched wide, touching the sides. Transparent. Apparently a plastic bag. Thick plastic. I steady myself on the cell, not losing speed. I suck my last breath in. Shut my eyes and. Sink. Into the thick. Viscous. Smooth. Like paint, like oil. Smells like metal in the rain. I sink, I slip through. Feet first and belly tucked to be thin. Through the tube, for inches, for minutes. Slip and drip. And drip. And drip. Through the skinny plastic straw penetrating your skin. Into your vein. I see my red-cell friend through to the end. Touch him with thanks for his help and his hope and say I hope to see you soon in the glow of Green’s cheeks and then he will have a kiss.
When I get back from my transfusion trip, Green’s eyes are open and his voice is lower than a grave and sounds like crunching gravel.
I hold both his hands. Sitting in the chair by his bed, I have to shift and shove my bulge out of the way to reach him. His arms are bandaged and he can’t stretch. My stomach is solid and sore but I don’t care. I bury my head deep in his blankets, try to burrow into him. He is softer than usual. Like a sapling, or a pile of wet leaves and soft sticks. He holds my hand but his grip has gone and I feel like I am holding and he is held. I don’t want to cry now. I want him to see me strong. I bring my head close to his. Peach, he says, slow and slurred. I’m here, I say. Try not to talk. I reach to touch his grey cheek.
We stay silent and soft. Green falls back into a deep sleep. I am glad at this and loosen up a little. I relax my shoulders and bend slowly to place my face in his lap, but as I tilt my head I am startled to see someone slip into the room. Someone. Something. The room is lit by a single lamp, a single slip of light on Green’s face. The rest of the room is covered with sheets of shadow. I can’t see. I squint into the dark. My thoughts rush to the alley in the dark and his sickening slick shadow. I don’t want to think about him. I grip Green’s hands hard and then let go. Rage runs razors through my veins, rips them open, rips me open, shows red, screams red, I drip red rage on to crisp white sheets. How could he slip in here unnoticed? But then I remember his stealth. His sly sneaking, his sickening power. And I don’t have a weapon. I don’t have defence. I search the darkness for a needle, syringe, something. Nothing. All I have is fear, rage, dread and a halfdead boyfriend.
I am vibrating with tension and tiredness. I remain still, silent and staring. And then I see.
Silver silent spectres sail. Silent as they dance, slow and shy. Faces facing down to the floor. Moving in soft waves, silent, soft flourishes. Silvery silhouettes silhouetted by the glowing green lights of gory medical machinery. Glimmering, shivering like silver fishes in oily streams. Shy and silent, but subtly surveying. Seeing everything. Softly sashaying around the room. Seeing me sit, sigh, cry. Silently soothing me with their soft presence. I see now in the glowering light their slight movements, slipping new sheets on the bed, sliding off old bandages, winding new ones around wet wounds, twisting new fluid bags on to long plastic lifelines. All in swift silent motion. I strain my eyes to see clearly but they dance away into the darkness and I realise that I am half dumb half numb have been asleep and awake and two days have passed I have not stood or walked or talked until the doctor comes in and then I am automatic, nodding, smiling, picking up the phone and dialing Dad. Green is discharged.
Excerpted from Peach by Emma Glass. Copyright © Emma Glass, 2018. Used by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.