The Flower and The Serpent will be released on 4th December 2019 and it’s currently available for pre-order.
Galley readers have described The Flower and The Serpent as…
“Creepy and wonderful” L.A
“Elements of #StrangerThings” Pete
“Darkly seductive tale of revenge, regret & ultimately redemption”Jon black
To whet your appetite, here is an extract of Chapter 1 of The Flower and The Serpent.
I hope you enjoy.
Monday 18th June 1992
whole body hummed with leftover audition nerves.
a dead cert,’ she said.
was the first to climb aboard the empty number 458 bus but Holly and Lila were
close behind. They followed the muddy footprints past the chubby lady bus
driver as the wipers shrieked across the windshield and the rain slapped the
windows. Violet wrinkled her nose. The bus reeked of soggy wool.
can’t wait until tomorrow,’ Violet said as she slid into her regular seat
halfway up the aisle. ‘When my name is on top of the list.’
a shoo-in.’ Lila flopped into the seat in front of her. She turned and draped
her skinny arm over the metal bar. ‘He’d be stupid not to cast you.’
doors wheezed shut and the bus pulled out of the school and onto Beacon Hill
Road. The midwinter sun had already disappeared behind Mount Wellington.
was alright, too.’ Holly squashed in next to Lila and sat backwards. ‘And the
one with the curls. Rowan?’
snorted and tossed her mousy hair. ‘Out. Out. Damned spot,’ she groaned in a
monotone and snatched the last chip from the packet in Holly’s hand.
pressed her lips together.
giggled. ‘Maybe we’ll be cast as the witches. There’s three of them and three
of us.’ She bounced in her seat. ‘We could get some props from your aunty, hey,
Holly? Real witch supplies?’
crushed the empty chip packet in her fist and turned away. But the late Hobart
afternoon was as black as night and Violet could see Holly’s square-jawed scowl
reflected in the window. Holly seemed to sulk a lot these days.
No way,’ Violet scoffed. ‘It’s Lady Macbeth or nothing.’
course, I’m an idiot. You’ll get the part for sure.’ Lila chewed her cuticles
and shrugged. ‘I just thought it’d be fun. Us three. Together.’
said nothing and neither did Holly.
Lila playfully nudged Holly’s arm. ‘I didn’t mean it. The witch thing.’
turned back to them with a sigh. ‘It’s not you.’ She squeezed the bridge of her
nose. ‘This headache—’
were you girls doing at the school?’ the curly-headed bus driver hollered.
and her friends flinched. A pair of murky green eyes looked back at them
through the rear vision mirror.
program,’ Lila called back.
alone in that place during holidays?’ The bus driver raised an eyebrow. ‘They
should never have built a school on that land. Or anything for that matter.
Should have left it be.’
rolled her eyes. ‘Everyone knows they purified it first, lady.’
surety of youth,’ the bus driver chuckled. ‘I was once like you.’ Her voice was
strange and lilting, she spoke with a musical accent Violet couldn’t place.
‘Life is not as it seems.’
rotated a finger next to her temple and Lila stifled a giggle. Holly dipped her
head to hide her eyes under her fringe.
three are best friends?’
Lila grinned. ‘Ever since Grade Seven.’
stared at her black eight-hole Doc Martens and chewed her lip. She noticed
Holly didn’t say anything, either.
need to band together. Especially you three. You must look out for each other.’
do you mean?’ Lila said. ‘Especially us?’
three have challenges up ahead,’ the driver said.
glanced at Holly and then Violet. ‘What does she mean?’
probably means life stuff.’ Holly twirled a strand of dark brown hair around
her finger. ‘Exams. Finishing school. Getting off this stupid island. I can’t
bus driver went quiet. The tyres squelched on the wet road as the bus veered
around the infamous hairpin bend and damp grey-green eucalyptus slapped on
three girls slid across the seats around the bend.
few years ago in the late 1980s, a bus exactly like this one misjudged the turn
and six lives were wiped out in a single mistake. Violet’s stomach clenched
twice a day, five times a week, every time she passed the stone memorial on the
way to school. The black and white photo of the bent wreckage was still vivid
in her mind.
challenges?’ asked Lila. She clutched at the metal bar until her knuckles were
bus driver said nothing.
rubbed her duffle coat sleeve against the fogged-up window and peered outside
as the bus passed the small strip of local shops. First was The Three Torches,
a cafe-bookshop run by Holly’s aunt. Then Terri’s Bakehouse where Violet worked
Saturdays selling congealed yellow vanilla slices and the whitest of white
bread. Then the dry cleaners and the shaman hairdressers with his
multi-coloured Tibetan prayer flags and incense fluttering in the breeze, and
finally the milk bar takeaway. Even through the glass, Violet could smell the
old chip oil, the spicy Nag Champa and the astringent dry-cleaning fumes.
figure in a raincoat with the hood pulled up stood at the kerb in the rain.
Beside them, a muscular pointy-eared black dog strained at his leash. The
person lifted a finger and pointed directly at the bus, directly through the
window, directly at Violet. The face was a black shadow, no real face at all
but somehow the hidden eyes bored straight into her, the gaze like an
a gasp, she tore her gaze away from the window, her heart thumping.
Violet muttered but when she turned back, the person was still there on the
kerb, and still pointing. She shuddered. ‘Another loony.’
travelled a few more blocks in silence, then the Beacon Hill Road straightened
out after the weatherboard Scout Hall, the place for senior aerobics and Morris
dancing. Her heartbeat settled as the man in the raincoat disappeared from
challenges for three friends,’ the bus driver continued. ‘I can see it
girls leaned forward in their seats.
are you? Some kind of fortune teller?’ Lila said. ‘A psychic?’
shoved Holly. ‘You know about all that stuff. Witchy poo.’
poked out her tongue.
of you will shine like a star,’ the bus driver proclaimed.
shimmied in her seat. It was obviously her.
driver went on. ‘One of you will invite darkness into her breast.’
That’d be you.’ Holly raised a dark eyebrow and prodded Violet in the boob.
Violet swiped away her finger with a glare.
Lila grimaced. ‘What do you mean? What does she mean?’
of you will depart forever,’ the driver concluded.
forever?’ Lila clawed at the metal bar between the seats. ‘That’s not good.
That can’t be good.’
me, Miss.’ Holly raised her hand. ‘I don’t think this is appropriate—’
Is she saying one of us is going to die?’ Lila wheezed.
are you saying, lady?’ Violet squinted, projecting her voice up the empty bus.
She loved how the power rippled up from her diaphragm when she used her breath
in the right way. ‘Are you trying to scare us? Cos it’s not working.’
me if you like, girls,’ the bus driver said. ’It is your choice to listen. But
you have been warned.’
of us is going to die?’ Lila said with a crack in her voice. ‘How? When?’
are powers in this world we cannot comprehend. You must beware.’
Do we need to be careful today?’
bus driver shifted her focus back to the road. Her face closed like a shutter.
have to give us more information than that. You can’t just —’
the woman behind the wheel didn’t respond. She didn’t even look their way. It
was as though she’d never said a word.
me,’ Lila said and waved her arm. ‘Tell us more. Please.’
bus driver kept her eyes on the road.
won’t she tell us?’ Lila chewed her finger, her eyes glazed.
it,’ Violet snorted. ‘She’s just another nutbag.’
wondered why Lila was so fazed, she’d lived around Beacon Hill her whole life
and knew all the weird stories off by heart. She should be used to strange
people by now.
bus moaned to a stop. The back doors hissed open and a sharp slap of cold wind
have to tell us more.’ Lila scrambled up the aisle towards the driver’s seat,
her canvas school bag clutched to her chest. ‘Who? Which one of us?’
grabbed her by the elbow. ‘Leave it.’
can’t just tell us someone is going to die and then say nothing else. She said
beware. But what of?’ Lila raked her fingers through her home-dyed burgundy
hair. ‘Do you think she cursed us?’
on. Let’s go.’ Violet headed towards the door.
tugged at Lila’s sleeve. ‘Don’t get worked up about it. You know what you’re
like. We’ll call the bus company tomorrow. Make a complaint.’
sighed and followed Holly out into the wet air. Misty droplets dribbled down
the graffiti-etched bus shelter.
Violet yelled out as the bus driver closed the concertina doors and the bus
rumbled away. Violet pulled up her duffle coat hood as the red tail lights bled
onto the wet road.
if she’s right? One of us could die,’ Lila said. Raindrops brimmed on her
eyelashes and she didn’t wipe them away.
about it,’ Violet said. ‘Right, Holly?’
I think we should tell someone,’ Holly said. ‘But maybe you’re right. Don’t
think about it, Lila. It’s just some stupid joke. Nothing’s going to happen.’
not very funny,’ Lila huffed. ‘And I have this strange —’
I’m off. Lines to learn,’ Violet said with a smirk. ‘Lady Macbeth lines. See
bells on,’ Lila said but her smile didn’t reach her eyes.
witness the grand unveiling of my name up on the board tomorrow,’ Violet said.
‘Violet Black as Lady Macbeth.’
a wave, the three friends went their separate ways into the gloom. Violet
wrapped her arms around herself as she trudged down Melaleuca Avenue, through
the shadows and puddles, past the rows of empty brown brick-and-tile houses
with double garages. There wasn’t another soul around.
couldn’t wait until Friday night when she stepped out onto her stage and shone
like a star.
there was some truth to the crazy bus driver’s words.