Since writing Disenchanted, I decided to follow the theme of Suicide through to focus on a different strand of the same theme. While Disenchanted focuses on the shock of an estranged brother, All At Once very much deals with those left before to handle the hurt and rebuild their lives.
Here is the first draft of my synopsis and the first chapter:
** When I finally create a book cover I’ll update the feature photo **
When James Fletcher committed suicide everything changed. The shattered remains of their family left invisible scars for his wife and son. Holly Fletcher mourns the loss of her husband of twenty three years while Joey ‘Fletch’ Fletcher mourns more than the loss of his father.
As life becomes struggle, Fletch builds a wall – with his mother firmly on the other side. Will they recover? Will they find a middle ground or will what is left of their relationship fall to pieces right before their eyes?
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Joey Fletcher nibbled his fingernail as he leaned against his locketr, bag slung over his shoulder as the flood of student hurried past him; the accumulating noise built until the world became a blur, fading into an incomprehensible murmur. Nothing in the world could steal his attention; the freedom that came with free period often left him beyond idle, beyond the undesirable state of boredom.
What was that? A quiet murmur caught his attention, gradually forming words until the voice brought a mental image to mind. Shaggy blonde hair and a patchy line of stubble tainted the bastard’s jawline. Oh, fuck off.
Joey made the conscious choice to ignore the taunts and focused on his empty thoughts.
Something hard smacked against his head and he snapped around, staring into Darren Beckett’s beady, blue eyes. ‘What the fuck do you want?’
‘You should listen when somebody is talking to you. Don’t be rude, you arrogant little shit.’
Joey smirked. ‘Sorry, I don’t talk to retards.`
Darren’s cheeks were bright red; shot down instantly and without a single come back, Joey took advantage of the disbelief. He raised a brow and waited.
‘How dare you talk to me like that.’
Joey stepped closer towards Darren, peering down at him with an expression so cold that something strong than fear, but weaker than respect flashed about Beckett’s face. ‘Get out of my fucking face before I pound it in.’
As Joey walked away, the words that left Darren’s mouth stopped his rational thinking. He stopped suddenly. ‘What the fuck did you say?’
Beckett spoke with conviction, confidence in his sharp tone. ‘What are you deaf now? I said no wonder your Dad fucking killed himself with a cunt of a son like you. Shit, I’d rather hang from a rope than see your ugly mug–‘
Beckett groaned, falling to the floor with a thud. Crimson trickled from his nostril as he cried in agony.
‘Say it again. Think you’re hard, do you? Say it again. Say it to my fucking face.’ Joey dropped his backpack to the floor and released the built up anger that spiraled out of control. Before he knew it, his Biology teacher pulled him away from the quivering lump on the ground that was Beckett. With a thud, Joey was forced against the lockers, fighting against Mr Lowsley’s grip.
‘Jesus Christ, Fletch, what’s gotten into you?’ Lowsley eased his grip on Fletch’s shirt as the rage settled. ‘I’m sick and tired of dealing with your shit every week. Head Teacher’s office, immediately.’
As Fletch strolled passed the bloody lump on the ground he heard the mumbles clearer than Beckett had intended. ‘Fucking weirdo.’ Fletch turned towards Beckett and lifted his fist. In a single second Lowsley held him back, Beckett cowered in the arms of the young, blonde with breasts bulging from her shirt. Fletch shrugged Lowsley away and made his usual stroll towards the office he had frequented more in the past two months than ever before.
Paraded like a criminal as the blood trickled from his sore knuckles, Fletch ignored every glare and whisper apart from one – Sasha, Sasha Swann. Her natural ginger hair flowed around her shoulders, her bare face wore an expression of disappointment laced with worry; no doubt he would soon face the same treatment from his mother. If hitting Beckett with a hockey stick wasn’t bad enough, this time he’d gone a step further. A broken nose severed the final thread that kept him on thin ice. It shattered beneath him and icy cold punishments would soon follow.
Fletch opened the door of the office and flopped onto into an uncomfortable chair, his bag hit the floor with a thud and he crossed his eyes. The short Korean receptionist didn’t need to ask. ‘Fighting again?’
‘I’ll call your mother …’ she picked up the white received and dialed the number she knew by heart. ‘Mrs Fletcher, its Miss Soo. I’m afraid we’ll need to come to pick up Joey again. I’m sorry for the inconvenience but you should really be here today, the police have been called.’
Perhaps that should have been the clue, the final push for Fletch to recoil into the quiet little shell that he used to be, but it wasn’t quite enough. ‘Fucking stupid,’ he mumbled beneath his breath.
‘No, I’ll tell you what’s fucking stupid … after everything you’re still putting everything on the line. It’s not just you Fletch, but your actions impact your mother’s reputation. Trust me, I know how you feel.’
Fletch snapped around towards Lowsley, eyes narrowed and his voice sharp enough to pierce his helpful advances. ‘How can you say that? How can you know how I feel? Did you come home to find your Dad swinging from a rope? Look me in the eye and tell me how you can know how any of that feels?’
Lowsley was silent.
‘Don’t you ever tell me that you know how this feels because you have no fucking clue.’
Lowsley raised his hands. Without a word, he disappeared from the small reception. Fletch waited for the hurried breaths and high pitched ‘Joey!’ the second she walked through the door. He counted every second until she appeared, cheeks bright red and eyes wide with horror.
‘Mrs Fletcher, Joey, Miss Wilson is waiting for you.’
Fletch didn’t wait for his mother to trail behind. He flopped into a padded chair and rested his chin against his knuckles. Before his mother could sit down he had already shut off. As if he needed to hear a repeat from last month, broken hockey stick as evidence. He stared at the wall behind Miss Wilson, watching her lips move, but the words meant very little to him. His gaze shifted from the wall to his father’s watch on his wrist.
The last time they sat in the same chairs, having the same conversation, it lasted precisely thirty-two minutes and twenty-nine seconds. Today it lasted almost twice as long. Everything became a blur until Fletch heard those magic words, ‘I don’t want to see you in my office again, do you understand?’
‘Can I go now?’
Miss Wilson finally surrendered her patronizing lecture and gestured for him to leave. He didn’t wait for his mother to stand before he passed the doorframe.
‘I’m sorry about this, Holly. I wish things were easier for you. That boy needs …’ the stubborn voice faded as Fletch stepped into the quiet hallway. The bloodstains on the floor and the locker had been cleaned, returned to its natural state The only trace of Beckett’s broken nose was the evidence in the A&E and Fletch’s throbbing knuckles.
Holly’s footsteps approached behind him. When she called out his name, his steps quickened, rushing through the abandoned hallway towards his father’s old car – coincidentally, his mother’s new one. When he saved enough for his own car, apartment, he would move out as soon as possible.
‘Joey, we need to have a serious talk about this.’ She unlocked the white BMW. ‘I can’t fight your corner anymore. You –‘
‘Okay, I get it.’ Fletch opened the passenger door and flopped into the seat. He rested his cheek to his palm and nestled against the warmth. He knew better than to believe his mother would keep her mouth shut. She never could resist.
Joey, you got another C, you’ll never to university if you don’t work harder. Joey, you can’t keep fighting, you’ll get a reputation. Joey, you can’t keep misbehaving – you’re eighteen not eight.
Almost on cue she returned to her typical complaints. ‘Why can’t you just stop fighting with that boy? You know it puts me in a difficult situation. I’ve been friends with his mother for fifteen years but you boys can’t seem to get along.’
‘Because he’s an arsehole.’ Fletch blinked.
‘Watch your language.’
‘What is your problem? I’m eighteen not five. I’ll talk however I want to. Got a problem with that?’
She didn’t respond.
‘Glad we understand each other.’
‘You know what? Since your father died I can hardly recognise you.’
Joey laughed. ‘Died? He killed himself. And you know what? I hate him for leaving me alone.’
Holly indicated right, waiting for a red Nissan Micra to pass, then rolled the roundabout. ‘You’re not alone, you’re with me.’
‘I’ve been alone since Dad died.’
Holly finally sighed in defeat. The silence suited him perfectly. Peace and quiet was exactly what he needed. He rested his palm against his cheek and watched the world pass outside the window; everyone’s lives went on, as if nothing had happened, the world hardly noticed the tragedy. In the blink on an eye, it was gone. Physical beings would disappear without a trace but they traces they left behind were etched into memories, obstructing any chance of recovery.
The drive came to be an end when Holly pulled onto the drive. Fletch unbuckled his seat belt when the car’s engine died, and he got out as quickly as he could. He tugged his keys from his pocket. He ignored the footsteps behind him. When he pushed the large door open after turning the key and when he stared at the large staircase before him, all he could see were the feet inches from the ground, an expression of serenity on his father’s face. No sign of struggle. No sign of pain. Just peace.
Fletch shook his head and climbed the stairs. He gripped the strap of his backpack.
‘I’ll have dinner ready by seven,’ Holly called out.
‘You have to eat something.’
‘Don’t care.’ Fletch reached the landing.
‘Joey, please.’ The desperation in her voice earned his attention, however brief it was. He turned to face her, waiting for her next words. ‘I would like to have dinner with you tonight.’
‘I told you I’m not hungry. Can I go now?’
Holly looked down at her hands and nodded. She still wore her wedding ring, it seemed out of place on her skinny finger. When she lifted her gaze, tears threatened to explode. She nodded once.
Fletch turned towards his bedroom door and kept walking. When he opened the door he dropped his backpack to the floor and stepped over yesterday’s clothes, nudged his phone charger aside and flopped on the bed. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. His knuckles throbbed. He winced. ‘Fuck.’
After ten minutes of silence, his phone buzzed in his pocket. He dug his phone out and checked his messages. As usual, Sasha sent an essay of a text.
Fletch, I know things aren’t easy right now but you can’t keep getting in trouble, not when you know Darren is just provoking you. I’m coming over to visit you tonight and I don’t care if you don’t want to talk about it, I want to be there for you so you can shut up and deal with it. I care about you, we all do, but you can’t keep pushing us all away. Please respond to this, even if it’s to tell me to go away. I can’t stand worrying about you like this. It breaks my heart.
Fletch stared at his phone and hit reply. He couldn’t find any words to send. When the screen went black, he found the courage to send a response.
I appreciate that you care but I’m not in the mood to talk about. I’ll see you tomorrow. I just want to be alone tonight. Don’t worry about me, I can take care of myself. Be a good girl and get some rest tonight. You’ve got your big game tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll be the best volleyball player in the game. I’ll be watching.
He dropped his phone to the bed and rolled over, burying his face into his pillow. With each shallow breath that he took, the frustration built inside him. He gripped the sheets as tightly as he could. He wanted to scream. Pound the bed until every ounce of anger disappeared. But it wouldn’t work. It lived within him; it had found a home deep inside of him and it wasn’t going away.
A gentle knock on the door stole his attention.
‘I have something for you.’ Holly’s voice was quiet, as if she’d exhausted herself.
‘What is it?’
She opened the door and left a brown box on the desk, after she’d cleared his scattered papers and belongings he never returned to their place. ‘These belonged to your father. I thought you might be interested in them.’
Fletch grunted. ‘Okay.’
‘Are you sure you’re not hungry? I can fix you up a sandwich.’ Holly stroked his hair but he pulled away, increasing the empty space between them.
‘I’m fine.’ Fletch hugged the pillow to his chest. ‘I’ve got a headache. I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave me alone.’
She nodded then turned towards the floor. She mumbled under her breath but he focused on the brown box on the desk. His chest felt heavy with every breath. He tugged his shirt off and threw it onto the box, covering it with his clothes. Stripped to boxers, he crawled beneath the covers, seeking comfort in the fetal position.
Away from Holly, away from Beckett, away from Dad – Fletch yearned for empty dreams, full of nothing but darkness.