THE STRENGTH WITHIN

Anna hadn’t noticed the time slipping away as she worked in the library. Engrossed in her study of anatomy, books covered every surface of the desk, some lying on top of each other at an angle, others closed with scraps of paper marking various sections.

Suddenly the alarm rang, and a flurry of activity stirred Anna from her studies.

‘Ten minutes until closing everyone. Ten minutes. Please bring any books to the desk if you need to check them out.’ The librarian headed to another room repeating her message.

Where had the three hours gone? Quickly Anna slammed the books shut and dashed around the library returning a couple to the shelves. The remaining three she lifted into the crook of her arm and after putting her papers and ink pen into her satchel she headed for the desk.

‘There you are, dear. Better fasten up your coat, it’s a blustery night out there,’ said the librarian, recognising the diligent student from the past few weeks. ‘You’ll take the tram back, won’t you? Don’t get caught out in the rain.’

Anna nodded briefly, whispered a quiet ‘thank you’ before grabbing her books. She found it hard to talk to strangers and the warmth and kindness of the librarian only made her miss home more. There she never had a moment to herself apart from her brief solitary outings on the rocks, here loneliness engulfed her.

‘Goodbye. Have a good weekend,’ called the librarian.

‘You too,’ replied Anna with clarity and determination. ‘I wish you a lovely weekend too.’ There, she could do it. Everything would be fine.

The librarian had not been exaggerating about the weather as outside the wind whipped around Anna, sweeping her coat around her legs and rain spiked at her face. Undecided she stopped at the corner. To the left was the tram stop but she barely had any money and perhaps the girls might invite her out to a cafe with them tomorrow afternoon. She didn’t want to back out through lack of funds. To her right lay the shortcut to the school; only a kilometre, all along the streets. With a determined spin Anna turned and marched off down the road.

The lights were further apart than she recalled and as the temperature dropped mist formed on the ground and drifted around her ankles as she walked. Her feet scuffed the pavement and with a stumble she corrected herself, the books precariously balanced in her arms.

‘Not long now,’ Anna said to herself as she started to hum one of her mother’s lullabies. The fog became denser, the lights from the lamps dissipating until only distant balls of yellow hung ominously in the air. Where was everyone? Shouldn’t they all be going out to the cafes and bars? Of course, she realised, that was the opposite direction. Here there were only a few houses in the distance and to the left a park; she’d forgotten about that. She tried to peer through the murk into the park, to the lake she knew lay in the middle but saw nothing. Just blackness.

Anna walked faster, her shoes trilling along on the pavement, her breathing faster. Behind her she heard some steps. Loud and heavy. No, this was silly, she was imagining it. The steps sounded closer now and with a shock she started to run, the books flying in her wake, her satchel dropped to the ground.

Suddenly an arm violently grabbed her around the waist and started to pull her towards the park. Anna screamed and instinctively reached out to the black iron wrought railings at the park entrance. She must never let go.

The man had both arms around her waist, tugging, squeezing hard as he tried to drag her from the railings. Anna screamed and screamed. She couldn’t stop. Her shrieks pierced the air. His hands were over one of hers, trying to prise her fingers from their grip. She held on – just. All the time screeching for help. A feral animalistic wordless cry of sheer terror.

His fingers clawed at her fingertips and with another scream she finally let go. Her other hand remained clutched to the railing. The man released his hold for a fraction, Anna hoped for a second, he would leave her. In vain as she saw his arm rise and he threw a sharp punch in her stomach. Silence collapsed around them. Anna fell forward, her head slumping onto her knees, the man’s arms quickly around her and lifting her up. Like a rag doll she hung for a moment in his grasp. Limp. Lost.

‘What’s going on here? Let her go!’ The voice came from across the street and more shouts joined this first one. Footsteps echoed in the silence of the fog. ‘Let her go! Let her GO!’ On their command Anna was dropped to the ground like discarded rubbish and with a thud she hit the ground, landing on her side and rolling into a ball.

‘Are you alright?’ Tightly curled up, she lay unmoving.

‘Is she hurt?’

‘Where did he go?’

‘I’ll go and call the police, you stay with her.’

The disembodied voices hung around her. Anna felt a lady sit on the ground next to her, talking, saying something; the words remote and distant. Indecipherable. A jacket was bunched as a pillow beneath her head.         

‘Mamma, Mamma,’ moaned Anna inaudibly.

’She’s trying to speak. I can’t make it out. Can anyone give me their coats? Any blankets, anything. She’s shaking terribly. God, look, this is bad, I can’t stop her shaking.’

‘I’ve found her bag. And some books were scattered just a bit away from here.’

‘What’s your name? Where do you live? Listen, we need to call someone.’

The voice was becoming more emphatic, increasingly desperate.

‘I recognise the uniform. It’s Hellsson School – I’ll give them a call. I’ll be back in a moment.’

Hellsson School? Why did that sound familiar, wondered Anna. She was sure she’d heard of it before. Who were all these strangers and why wasn’t she lying in bed? With that thought she closed her eyes and found welcome oblivion.

©Annika Perry, July 2019

The above piece is a short snippet from my draft novel Island Girl. I know, it’s a long time coming and I wanted to share a little of it with you.

The weeks are flying past and owing to various commitments I am not able to be present on WP as much as I would like but this will change soon. Whenever possible I look forward to checking in with you all.

82 thoughts on “THE STRENGTH WITHIN

    • Annika Perry says:

      Yeah! 😀 Julie, I’m so happy you’re hooked by this extract and the cliffhanger is most deliberate! A page turner, I hope! Thank you so much for your great comment! 😀❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Glynis! 😀 I do like descriptive writing but have to ensure it doesn’t detract from the pace and characters of the book … so glad you picked out this element of the extract.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Carol, thank you so much for your positive comment … I’m smiling away and this is such a boost! 😀 Many thanks for your best wishes for my writing – that means a lot to me. Hope all is well with you and cutest Bau of course!

  1. roughwighting says:

    Well, you certainly caught our interest! But I’m feeling really badly for Anna. You can’t leave us in suspense for too long. Scary episode here – I was holding my breath ’til the end.
    Take care, take deep breaths, keep writing and enjoy the summer! xo

    • Annika Perry says:

      Pam, I hope you read quickly and didn’t have to hold your breath too long! 😀 This is such a wonderful reaction to the extract and just the one I hoped to evoke … thank you so much for your great comment!

      Thank you, I’m having a great summer, a bit different from usual but that’s good too! Hope you’re having a lovely summer! Hugs xx

      • roughwighting says:

        Summer ALWAYS flashes by too fast. I love this season of sun and thunderstorms, of sandy beaches and lazy walks in the green green woods. However, let’s hope both you and I find plenty of time in the summer to WRITE also. 🙂

  2. quirkywritingcorner says:

    I loved it and was sorry that was all! You kept my interest and it had a good pace. The only place I had to re-read was the first sentence in the 9th paragraph. I think I would have made that two sentences. It slowed the pace just as tad as I tried to figure out what the weather was doing.
    ‘The librarian had not been exaggerating about the weather. The cold wind whipped around Anna, sweeping her coat around her legs as the icy rain pelted her face.’ You might want different adjectives or none at all.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jan, thank you so much for your wonderful comment … all writers hope to pull their readers straight into the story and I’m glad you were with this short extract.

  3. Mike says:

    Well this had me hooked from beginning to end. Even though this was a chapter from your book it still reads like a stand alone short story. If this is the standard of your book please publish it as soon as possible!!

    Great read Annika

    Mike

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mike, I’m smiling at your exuberant comment and love that this had you hooked right from the start. 😀 Whilst most chapters wouldn’t read as stand alone, I too felt that this worked well on its own and hence decided to give a taster of the book. Oh, I’m aiming for Island Girl to be as compelling and well written as this extract!

  4. radhikasreflection says:

    What a great imagery your words have drawn Annika, creating a perfect picture of suspense. I am now so intrigued to find out Anna’s story. You are really so good that it. Best wishes 💕

  5. Sharon Bonin-Pratt says:

    Outstanding, Annika! You put me right into this scene, setting it up beautifully and frighteningly, making me eager to turn the page to see what happens next. But wait – there’s no page to turn! Anna is a sympathetic character. I think that’s an important quality to establish. Hurry up and write, please.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Shari, your wonderful comment sent flutters of joy to my heart! I love how you find Anna sympathetic and agree it is so important for a reader to quickly identify and relate to a character, one they care for immediately. I’m smiling at how you want more … one very happy writer here! 😀 Thank you for your kind thoughts about this piece and I promise to edit more quickly – your response has given me a real boost!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jina, this is one of the more dramatic scenes in the book but I believe the whole story is gripping in many different ways. Ahhh … I love how you wanted more – this piece is half a chapter but stood well on its own too, I felt. Hope you are well and your writing flowing! 😀

  6. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    A wonderful snippet and teaser, Annika. A promising read to look forward to. Don’t worry much about not being present on WP. We your readers, we’ll always wait. 😀 Summer season is always full of other things to do and enjoy, and also quite short this side. So, I blog at my comfortable pace. Enjoy your creative time, other projects and summer! xo

    • Annika Perry says:

      Khaya, how true that summer seems short and always to speed by … particularly when it’s as grey and cool as we’re having in the UK. I’m busy on many fronts at the moment but always miss blogging, particularly when reading your lovely comment of support. Your words reassure me however and I know things will change soon. I wish you a magical joyful summer too … Happy Writing & Photographing! 😀😀

      Also, meant to say thank you so much for your encouraging comment about this extract and the potential of the book overall. It means a lot to me. Hugs xx

  7. Mabel Kwong says:

    This was a lovely teaser, Annika. Very vivid descriptions to get the narrative going. Didn’t see that ending coming. Maybe it was a dream all long…or a dream within a dream. This excerpt got me feeling mysterious and haunting vibes. Good luck with the rest of it 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mabel, heartfelt thanks for your amazing comment. Your feelings on reading the extract and comment on the style has me beaming away. I love writing descriptions and so happy you enjoyed this element. As for haunting – yes!! From Anna’s very real concrete world I wanted to edge into a dream/nightmare one as the footsteps approach, the attack occurs. By the end she has to enter a dreamlike world to survive mentally and emotionally. Many thanks for your best wishes. 😀

  8. Janice says:

    Your writing drew me and kept me in the story… so glad that people came to the rescue! Looking forward to more news about your novel. Congrats!🌷

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, that’s fantastic! 😀 I’m so happy to hear that … as for being ready (loving your eager question marks), not for a while yet alas. I’ve been working on another project. Once it’s ready I’ll be shouting it out!!😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, that’s fantastic! 😀 I’m so happy to hear that … as for being ready (loving your eager question marks), not for a while yet alas. I’ve been working on another project! 😀 More about that soon!

  9. maryannniemczura says:

    Annika – go for it! This was packed with intrigue. The saving grace were those helpful souls who gave her a coat, found her satchel and books and phoned the police. Poor Anna. I hope she doesn’t walk alone in deserted places. Keep me posted with new segments. You have been busy! I have missed you on WP. Soon. Happy reading and writing.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mary Ann, bless you for your wonderful comment. I’ve also missed being here on WP, reading posts, commenting, seeing what everyone is up to … I hope to be back to usual soon!

      Wow!😀 I’m over the moon how caught up you are with Anna and her ordeal – that’s just the reaction any writer longs to hear! Oh, I doubt Anna would walk alone in deserted places and the shock I’m sure would stay with her for life, although well-hidden.

      I hadn’t thought of posting more segments from the book but this is a great idea … definitely a possibility. Happy Reading & Writing to you too … and of course, wishing you lots of enjoyment with your choir and upcoming tour. xx

      • maryannniemczura says:

        Annika, I appreciate the time out of your schedule to comment. Soon and very soon, life will be back to normal or at least the new normal. I felt exactly what Anna felt and those footsteps were very real. The wait will be all the more worth it for your book. Best to you this week as you read, write and enjoy what nature has to offer. We are busy with our upcoming tour. Blessings and hugs. oxox

    • Annika Perry says:

      Barbara, how wonderful that you are keen to learn more about Anna … as this extract comes in the middle there is plenty of back story as well as what happens next in the book. Thank you so much for reading and your lovely comment. Happy Sunday! 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Sadly this seems to be the case, Roy. I grew up in Yorkshire and when still young the Yorkshire Ripper attacks were taking place – frightening. Gread to know you’re keen to read the book! 😀

  10. restlessjo says:

    It’s always great to have you drop by, and you always have nice things to say, Annika. The novel’s going to be a gripper so don’t feel you have to stop work for your WordPress friends. We’ll all still be here. 🙂 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jo, bless you for your wonderful comment and support – that means so much to me. I’m so happy you find this snippet gripping – I’m beaming away! Have a lovely Sunday, my friend! 😀

  11. delphini510 says:

    Wow, Annika, you have me both in suspense and in tears as I read your excerpt from your book. I can sense that danger is lurking already from your image and then Anna being late, weather so rainy and dark.
    As I want to tell Anna to … please, take the tram! I knew she wouldn’t. You need time for family right now, that is fine. Do know though that I am eagerly awaiting to read this book.
    It promises depth and drama and love. Be well Annika.

    Miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Miriam, thank you so much!! 😀😀 Your wonderfully enthusiastic and in-depth comment means so much to me. I love how you as a reader immediately identify with Anna, wanting to warn her, how you feel the imminent danger within the darkness. Your words and support are a huge source of encouragement. Great to know you’re eager to read the book … and I’m sure all the elements of depth, drama and love are in the novel (I now have ideas for my blurb!!) 😀😀

      Thank you also for your understanding of my recent absence from WP, this happens to all of us now and then as you say!

      Wishing you a magical summer filled with joy, peace and harmony! Xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      So happy you enjoyed this extract, Robbie! 😀 Thank you, we are all well just unusually busy at the moment but things should settle soon. My husband & I did manage to squeeze in a few days for our 20th Wedding Anniversary in Jersey last week which was special. Happy Summer to you and your family! 😀 xo

      • robbiesinspiration says:

        It is winter here in the Southern hemisphere and I am sitting toasting my feet in front of the fire. I am glad you had a nice wedding anniversary. It is my 19th wedding anniversary next year, I can’t believe it.

        • Annika Perry says:

          Of course it’s your winter … silly me! Sitting in front of the fire is the idyllic cold weather activity – enjoy. Hope you’re got a hot cuppa drink and some of your delicious cake to hand! 😀 Have a lovely 19th Anniversary next year and I feel the same, unbelievable that so many years passed so quickly! 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jill, I love your reaction! 😀 Here is one very happy writer! 😀 It’s wonderful to know you’re eager for more … probably not as soon as you would like though! We are well just very busy on the home front – I haven’t known such crazy busy months as these last few ones. All should settle down latest Autumn! Wishing you a wonderful summer, my friend. Hope all is well with you – I keep popping over to your blog to see if you’ve written. hugs xx

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