Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mine to Avenge by Kerry Letheby: Guest Post and Excerpt



Kerry Letheby


The origins of my writing are deeply rooted in my childhood years. I had little in common with my peers and was a loner by nature, but never lonely. I lived in the school library and found most of my friends within the pages of books.

Books were my way of escape. They gave me an opportunity to be brave as I lived the lives of other characters. I eventually began creating my own imaginary worlds and writing my stories down. I developed a particular love for historical fiction, and I also loved stories in which the characters demonstrated inspirational courage.

When I left school, I badly wanted to be an artist or writer, but my well-meaning father told me that these choices weren’t real career choices and wouldn’t pay my rent. He encouraged me to become a teacher instead. I taught for some years in both the public and private sectors, having my three sons during this time.

I then took on the role of home-schooling mother for four years, followed by a stint as a pastoral care worker, a lengthy career phase in mental health and then a short term contract in aged care in the respite sector. I now work full-time as Case Manager in a Parenting After Separation program.

I am devoting more time to the creative pursuits that have been on the backburner for many years, such as calligraphy, and also my writing. I am currently working on the sequel/companion volume to Mine to Avenge.



When Alcandor is blamed for the tragic death of his friend’s sister in Greece in 1940, little does he know of the repercussions this will have for him and his family for the next seventy years. Unable to forgive himself, and wanting to give his young family a new start, Alcandor leaves Greece and brings his family to settle in the Riverland of South Australia in 1948. Although Greece and his past are far behind him, Alcandor harbours a terrible secret and he remains a fearful man.
Alcandor subdues his fear, and he and his family adapt to an idyllic life of freedom and opportunity. However, eighteen years after leaving Greece, Alcandor learns that his past has caught up with him. His family needs to know the truth, but circumstances tragically intervene before he can warn them.
Years later, Alcandor’s sons show signs of odd behaviour hinting at possible mental instability, before disappearing without a trace. And in the next generation, Alcandor’s grandson exhibits the same strange behaviour not long before he is killed in the tragedy of September 11, 2001. It is not until 2010 that Alcandor’s great- granddaughter, Alethea, discovers that there is far more behind her family’s tragic history than mental illness, and little does she know that the threat against her family is much closer than she realises, and very far from over. 

Caterina tried to visit Constantine before the funeral, but he didn’t come to the door. She knew he was inside. She could smell tobacco smoke seeking to escape the morbidity of the house through any crevice it could find. ‘Please, Con. Open the door. We’re worried about you.’ There was no response.
She tried her best to console Alcandor who blamed himself and who couldn’t find the courage to face his friend. If only he hadn’t wanted to go hunting that day. If only he had listened to Constantine’s objections and let him make up his own mind. If only they had come back earlier ... if only ... if only ... if only.
Caterina gently urged Alcandor to come with her to the funeral. He didn’t want to go, but he hadn’t seen Constantine since Helena was attacked. Going to the funeral might be a good thing. It meant that they would see each other. Maybe, in time, Constantine would want to speak to him again, but as he thought about this, Alcandor had no idea what to say to his friend when the time came.
He didn’t go with Caterina to view Helena’s body at the house. He couldn’t face going to Constantine’s house again. Every night when he closed his eyes, he saw the flimsy curtain fluttering from Helena’s window. He saw Constantine drop to his knees, his fists clenched and his agonised face turned skywards. He always woke retching with the memory of Helena lying under the window, her nightdress torn from her bloodied and beaten body, her life’s blood drained from her, and then he remembered the cry from Constantine’s lips. Every time he recalled that cry, his body broke out into a burning, drenching sweat.
He didn’t want to go to Constantine’s house to relive this horror. He didn’t want to hear the voices of the women singing the ritual lamentations. He didn’t want to look upon the pale face in the casket. He didn’t want to kiss the cross around the pale white throat. He didn’t want to look into the eyes of his friend who, according to custom, would have sat up all night watching over the body of his beloved sister, doing what he should have done that final, dreadful day, rather than go hunting with Alcandor.
Alcandor knew that his friend blamed him for Helena’s death as much as he blamed himself. He was guilty. It was just as much his fault as it was that of the unknown assailant who had violated and slain her.
On the day of the funeral when he heard the church bells pealing to summon the village to Constantine’s house for the funeral procession, he almost changed his mind about going, but the children were restless that morning and he thought that Caterina would need his help managing them during the proceedings.
With a deep sigh of resignation, he went to the pump at the back of the house, ran the water and splashed his face, then straightened his hair. He decided to go to the funeral to support his wife as best he could.
Alcandor, Caterina, the children and all the other villagers arrived at Constantine’s house and joined the procession. Behind them came the priest and the bier, with Constantine following alone at the rear, the only family member in the procession. Alcandor was thankful for the distance between them.
He remembered the procession, but nothing of the service at the church. The next thing he remembered was the procession at the graveside, where each mourner was given a small white flower to place on the casket. He was to remember every second of this part of the funeral for the rest of his life. Alcandor wanted to avoid the procession, but was caught in the middle of a tight bunch of villagers and couldn’t escape. The bunch thinned out to a line, and Alcandor was in the queue holding his daughter’s hand, while Caterina was immediately in front of him with Stepan. The queue moved slowly, but for Alcandor it was moving too fast. He hadn’t seen Constantine yet, but he knew that the moment was coming and his heart began to pound.
He wanted to slip out of the queue and move to the end of the line again. His mouth was dry and his body shook with apprehension. Damaris looked up at her father, sensing his disquiet. He smiled at her to try to reassure her. He wanted to do anything to escape the moment that was fast approaching—the moment when he knew that, even if he didn’t see Constantine, his friend would see him. He knew that Constantine was standing by the graveside next to the priest, watching the rest of the mourners file by.
As the gaping hole of the grave loomed ahead, he thought that the earth was going to suck him in and devour him. He hoped it would, if it meant avoiding the next few moments.
Caterina and Stepan dropped their flowers and moved to Alcandor’s left. With her fist inside her father’s right hand, Damaris stepped forward, drawing her father to the front of the queue.
For a fraction of a second Alcandor saw Constantine and the priest over Caterina’s shoulder, directly ahead. He felt as if his pounding heart would burst through his chest.
He leaned forward to the grave to release his white flower, noticing a welcoming, sweet-scented, white floral cushion, beckoning him inwards for refreshing, uninterrupted rest. But then he glimpsed the casket between the petals, and remembered what lay buried beneath. He was overcome by a wave of nausea and he felt as if some invisible hand was slowly knotting his gut.
Suddenly, Alcandor felt warmth, comfort and strength flowing from his daughter’s tiny hand, clasped within his own. Damaris was only a little girl, but he was glad for the strength of her hand.
However, the reassuring warmth suddenly became a consuming heat. The blood rose like a boiling tide from his churning stomach, washing up over his neck and into his head. He thought he was about to suffocate. The sudden rush of heat speared like a javelin into a focal point in his skull, and he knew that Constantine’s eyes were upon him.
The sudden awareness of Constantine watching him caused him to release his grip on the anaemic white flower. He watched it twirl and spin on invisible currents of air, until it settled atop the flowers that had gone before. He thought of the eternal rest awaiting it, and envied it intensely.
He stood upright and his eyes met Constantine’s. The blood that had rushed to his head a moment ago, drained rapidly away to the soles of his feet, and he shivered. The gaze lingered no longer than a second. Neither of them spoke.
As Alcandor turned away, he knew that as long as he lived, he would remember that look in Constantine’s eyes, just as well as he remembered that blood-curdling cry the week before.
What was it about Constantine’s eyes that he would remember? He realised quickly what it was. The deep black eyes were vacant pools of nothingness. It was as if Constantine had never seen Alcandor in his life before.
But Alcandor knew that the experience of searing heat in his skull a moment ago meant the exact opposite. It was an unmistakable response of recognition. Constantine did see Alcandor, and recognised him, as he looked into the grave. It was Constantine who set the fire to the point of the javelin and aimed it at Alcandor’s head.
Alcandor knew that, if Constantine had recognised him when he looked into the grave, then he must have chosen not to acknowledge him when he raised his head. The lack of response was a deliberate, calculated choice to ignore him.
Alcandor made his excuses to Caterina and said that he didn’t want to return to Constantine’s house for the after-burial dinner. Caterina said that she was feeling tired too, and would come home with him. She didn’t want to be away from him for long. She feared for his state of mind.




kerry said...

Hi Laurie. Thanks so much for hosting me.

PutiPato said...

A fantastic book by a lovely author. I can't wait to read more of Kerry's work!