Here be the beginning of the first chapter. Oh, and it's long, so feel free to skip.
What the Crow Buried Six Feet Deep
She should have died.
Standing at the graveside, watching as daffodils tumbled down onto the walnut box, Sydney Hart realised they were burying the wrong sister. Her hand fluttered to her chest. She waited for the earth to recognise its mistake, for it to cave and swallow her. If it did, nobody would flinch. She suspected her parents, Florence and David, would extend a hand to the girl who climbed out in her place. After all, they'd told her countless times, they'd rather Naomi had survived the accident.
The wind tugged at the slices of fake grass laid around the grave edge. Sydney dug a half-bitten fingernail into her scar, tracing it from the corner of her lip to the tip of her left ear. It didn't hurt. It never hurt. The day before, a district nurse had removed the stitches—prettying her up for the funeral (the nurse's words)—but had left behind the urge to unpick them. Sydney stilled her fingers. Tendrils of breath slid from her lips, offering the world a gasp. At times, she felt insubstantial, a nothing. Proving she may no longer walk amongst them, her parents looked straight through her.
Dressed in starched black suits, her parents clung to each other at the edge of the open grave. Even though they swayed back and forth, there was stillness to them. Twin black ravens pecking at their souls until their shells were hollow. One slight nudge and they would tumble down. Beside them, Sydney's grandpa leaned on his walking stick, his head too heavy for his emaciated body to hold up. Grey trousers sagged around his knees. On impact, Naomi’s soul had rushed out of her dying body to gather up her family’s spirits and now they too lay at rest, almost buried. No wonder Sydney’s mouth tasted like soil and blood, she was swallowing dirt alongside them.
Sydney ran her hand under her dry eyes. She'd forgotten how to cry or feel. If she died, would Florence and David shed tears for her? Perhaps, her death would prove the proverbial lifting of weight and they'd shake off their grief.
Yes, she should have died, and Naomi should have lived.
She looked down at the shiny heels she'd stolen from Naomi's side of the wardrobe. No wonder she felt like a monster’s bride. Metal ripping through her cheek mid accident had proven less debilitating than the pointy-toe shoes her twin had favoured. Sydney pressed a finger into the ridge that had long ago settled between her eyebrows. Determined to squeeze by her eyeballs or out through her nostrils, her brain pressed against her skull.
Knock, knock, knock – is anybody out there, can anybody hear me. Yes, slice her open and let the grieving end.
Her sigh disturbed the air, catching the wings of a passing blackbird. Its feathers beat above the grave. For a moment, she thought it would plummet. Did you taste my soul? Do you know where I belong? Cry, damn you.
The bird squawked.
A man rested against his digger a respectable distance from the funeral party. His tobacco stained fingers twitched. Somehow, she knew he wanted to pull the packet of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, that he didn’t care his lungs were packing in beneath the weight of tar. Noting her stare, the gravedigger sniffed and turned around. Someone else watched them both. A few yards behind the man, a boy drew on a cigarette.
Though his distance from them suggested the boy wanted to remain unnoticed, his continued stare stated otherwise. He stepped from the shade of the trees. As the boy’s hand moved away from his mouth, Sydney gasped. Scars ran from the corners of his mouth to his earlobes. The silver stud in his left ear winked at her. Sydney touched her own scar with its raw edges. The boy stubbed his cigarette out beneath his boot and offered her a wave. Sydney hesitated. Instinct warned her not to acknowledge him. Truth was it was already too late.