The form of things unkno.., p.1
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       The Form of Things Unknown, p.1

           Robin Bridges
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The Form of Things Unknown

  Also by Robin Bridges

  Dreaming of Antigone

  Published by Kensington Publishing Corp.


  Robin Bridges


  All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

  Table of Contents

  Also by

  Title Page

  Copyright Page































  To the extent that the image or images on the cover of this book depict a person or persons, such person or persons are merely models, and are not intended to portray any character or characters featured in the book.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  KENSINGTON BOOKS are published by

  Kensington Publishing Corp.

  119 West 40th Street

  New York, NY 10018

  Copyright © 2016 by Robin Bridges

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

  Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

  eISBN-13: 978-1-4967-0357-6

  eISBN-10: 1-4967-0357-X

  First Kensington Electronic Edition: September 2016

  ISBN: 978-1-4967-0356-9

  ISBN-10: 1-4967-0356-1

  For Parham


  Most heartfelt thanks to my amazing agent, Ethan, for his never-ending support for this book. To Alicia Condon, my wonderful editor, to Jane Nutter, marketing maven, to the eternally patient Paula Reedy, to Kristine Mills for my gorgeous Kensington covers, and to the rest of the phenomenal people at Kensington, you all have my undying gratitude.

  This is probably the most difficult book I’ve ever written. What began as a typical ghost story grew into something more frightening when I realized the things Natalie thought she saw weren’t really there. According to the latest numbers from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five teenagers have or will have a serious mental illness. Which means we’re all in this together. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t be afraid to ask if someone needs help. Love and thanks to you all from the very bottom of this grateful writer’s heart.

  The lunatic, the lover and the poet

  Are of imagination all compact:

  One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,

  That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,

  Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:

  The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,

  Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;

  And as imagination bodies forth

  The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

  Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing

  A local habitation and a name.

  —Theseus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, act 5, scene 1


  The course of true love never did run smooth.

  —A Midsummer Night’s Dream, act 1, scene 1

  My grandmother is listening to the Beatles again. Loudly. She refuses to use earbuds because she says bugs can crawl out of the tiny speakers and into your brain that way. John Lennon’s voice travels up the stairs and under the doors and through the thin walls of this smelly old house. Lennon’s lyrics reach me all the way up here in the attic, where my parents have cleared a space for my mattress and a small bookshelf for my sketch pads. Your castle in the sky, my mother joked. I’m the madwoman in the attic, I joked back.

  Mom didn’t laugh.

  Grandma particularly loves “Strawberry Fields.” She says the angels talk to her through this song. And I worry that the longer I lie here and listen, I’m going to hear the angels talking to me, too.

  My brother doesn’t think I’m crazy. At least he doesn’t treat me like a crazy person and I’m grateful for that. Ever since I was discharged from Winter Oaks, rated the best adolescent psych unit in eastern Georgia, Mom and Dad have hovered over me, watching me like a ticking time bomb.

  They make sure I take my pills, and ask me a million times a day if I’m feeling all right. How should I feel? I’m curled up in my bed under my quilt, even though the attic is hot and stuffy, and I wonder if I can even describe the sensations I’m feeling. I can’t call them emotions. At least not right now. There are only a million thoughts. Emotionless thoughts buzzing around in my head like insects.

  Thankfully, my parents now have Grandma to worry about. Maybe they’ll forget to worry about me. Until I do something terrible. Something crazy.

  “Hey, Hippie.” David tromps up the stairs and knocks on the door as he’s pushing it open.

  “What’s up, Hick?” I don’t bother to raise my head from the pillow.

  He plops himself down next to me. Grandma’s ancient calico cat has been cuddled up against me all morning. Now she hisses at David and jumps down. “Nat, I need a favor.”

  “From moi? I have no money.”

  I’ve been meaning to look for a summer job, but Dad hasn’t pushed the issue, so I really haven’t looked that hard.

  My brother picks up the nearest stuffed animal, the phallic-looking naked mole rat from Kim Possible, and starts tossing it up in the air, catching it like a football. “Do you know anything about the theater workshop they’re doing this summer downtown?”

  I try to grab Rufus away from him, but David keeps the naked mole rat out of my reach. “Um, I think they’re doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

  “I was thinking about trying out. Want to come with me?”

  I stare at my brother, with his backward baseball cap. “Are you feeling okay?”

  “I’m just looking for something to do this summer. I figured you knew all about that hippie drama stuff, so . . .” I think he is actually blushing.

  Now I sit straight up as I continue to stare him down. “Since when are you into hippie drama stuff?” My brother is not really a hick. Far from it, actually. But he dresses like one and drives a monster truck that I tease him about mercilessly.

  “All right,” he says, setting the naked mole rat down. “You know Colton, who works at that coffee shop, the Pirate House?”

  My jaw drops. “You’ve got to be kidding. You two are like night and day! He’s like a goth queen!”

  David has been trying to get me out of my room this summer, dragging me to his favorite coffeehouse in the city. I know I should be grateful to have a big brother who isn’t afraid to let his little sister tag along with him, and I do like to sit and people-watch at the Pirate House. And it’s next door to a wonderfully seedy looking comic book store. One day I’m going to get the nerve up to go in there.

He sat in front of me in Composition last semester,” David says. “He’d draw these funny little pictures on my notebooks.”

  “Is that why you failed that course? Are you saying it was the Queen of the Night’s fault?” David just barely squeaked by his freshman year at the Savannah College of Art and Design, affectionately known as SCAD. My brother is majoring in architecture.

  “No, but that’s why I need your help. My English professor is directing the play. She’ll kick me out of the theater for sure unless you come to tryouts with me.”

  “Me? Just because you got a bad grade in Comp One doesn’t mean she won’t let you work on the play. Besides, why would I want to go to play tryouts? I’m the antisocial one, remember?”

  “Because you love your brother more than anyone else in the world.” David sighs and fidgets with his cap. “I need you to come with me so I won’t look like a theater dork. I’ll just be there for my little hippie sister who can’t drive yet.”

  He ducks as I throw Rufus at his head. “It’s not like you have anything else to do this summer besides hide from the sun and sew weird clothes. Here’s your chance to wear weird clothes on stage. If you don’t want to try out for a part, maybe you could just work on costumes.”

  “Ooh, fairy dresses.” I could have fun with this. Possibly. Except I really can’t sew that well yet.

  “And you don’t want me to tell Dad about you climbing out your window and sneaking off to that bonfire with your weird friends.”

  I sit straight up in my bed. “How do you know about that? You weren’t even in Athens at the time.” If I hadn’t snuck out that night with Caleb, I probably wouldn’t have ended up in Winter Oaks.

  David rolls his eyes. “I’m the big brother. I know more about sneaking out than you. So, are you coming?”

  He does not know everything about my bonfire story. If he did, he’d know what Caleb did that night, and David wouldn’t ask me to help set him up with anyone like Colton. Straight or otherwise, bad boys really can be bad for you.

  Still, the theater workshop sounds interesting. And even though I’ve never been in a play before, I do love Shakespeare. Even madwomen have to leave their attics sometimes.

  “When are tryouts?” I finally ask.

  My brother grins. He knows he’s got me. “Tomorrow at three.”

  “Tomorrow?” What am I going to wear? My stomach starts hurting already.

  “You’ll do great, I know it.” David pats me on the knee, then jumps up before I can hit him with the naked mole rat again.

  I flop back on my bed, listening to him stomp down the stairs and out the door, back to his dorm. I missed him so much when he left for college last year, and we still lived in Athens. But Mom and Dad and I had to move to Savannah last month to be here with Grandma after Grandpa died. She refuses to take her psych meds anymore, and before Grandpa was even buried, the cops had already called Dad, when they found Grandma trying to set the house on fire.

  She claims she was cold and thought she was lighting the fireplace. Why she thought she needed a fire in the middle of May, I can’t understand. It’s extra-hot up here in the attic, and even though Dad promises to get me a small window-unit air conditioner, it’s not on the top of his list of priorities right now.

  My parents are under way too much stress this summer. Dealing with Grandpa’s death, and Grandma’s craziness, and all of this happening right after my misadventure.

  I pull my damp hair off the back of my neck and stare up at the ceiling. George Harrison is singing now. A slow, sad song about his weeping guitar. Grandma prefers the later Beatles albums to their earlier work. The long-haired, hippie years. Dad is constantly throwing away her incense so she won’t set the house on fire again.

  I know it’s too hot up here to light any incense, but it would certainly help to disguise the cat litter smell that permeates the whole house.

  No, I can’t hide up here in this attic all summer long. I have to get out and do something. If I have to try out for a play in front of a bunch of strangers, that’s okay. David will be there. And maybe I can help him win the love of his life.


  The old Savannah Theater is in one of the revitalized areas of downtown. Built back in the 1800s according to Mrs. Green, it was closed for almost fifty years, until a community arts group begged some money from local businesses and got some state grants last year. The dragon lady, as David calls her, introduces herself and welcomes us to the Savannah Theater Summer Workshop. She is a tiny woman, dressed in a dark purple sundress, with short spiky silvery hair. She gestures grandly with elegant long arms as she tells us about the historical theater.

  Mrs. Green is particularly proud of the new lighting system they installed in March. What they need next, I think, as I look around the dingy theater, are some new stage curtains. The burgundy velvet drapes are looking pretty grim.

  Still, I love the ornate molding that decorates the walls and frames the stage. I can imagine this was a beautiful place back in its day. I glance around at the various clusters of kids sitting in the rows of seats. A group of little girls sit in the very front, chatting and flipping their ponytails back and forth. Their leader blows bubbles with her gum and looks very bored.

  Up on the stage, a group of silly boys are practicing stage falls. Not that anyone would need to be doing stage falls in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A pretty brunette is laughing at them and practicing her English accent. “I say! Thou art too funny, y’all!”

  Over by the little girls, I notice a baseball cap. Someone is wearing a baseball cap INSIDE THE THEATER. And Mrs. Green is saying nothing about it. Even David has taken off his cap. The boy sits reading, oblivious to everything going on around him. And I realize I know Baseball Cap Boy. It’s Lucas . . . Something. Crap, did I know he lived in Savannah? I can’t remember.

  Lucas was a patient at Winter Oaks while I was there. We had a few group circles together. He’s quiet and, from what I remember, a preacher’s son. Lucas Grant. He was battling depression. And . . . a suicide attempt, I think.

  “Hippie,” David says, pinching my arm. “Let’s sit over there.” He nods toward the middle of the auditorium, where Colton and two girls are sitting. One of them has long black hair streaked with deep blue. She is intimidatingly beautiful. She glances up at us when Colton waves, and looks right back down at her phone.

  I wave to the other girl, recognizing her from the counter at the Pirate House. Her pale blond hair has purple streaks. Starla smiles and waves back at me. Good. I won’t be too scared to sit with this group.

  I miss my friends in Athens terribly. But I don’t miss Caleb. And I don’t think I could go back to high school there, where everyone knows what happened to me. So in a way, I’m kind of glad Grandma had her psychotic episode and we had to move to Savannah. Thank you, Grandma.

  From the other side of the aisle, Lucas glances my way, frowns, and turns back to his book.

  Fine. I can pretend I don’t know you either, Asshat.

  “David!” Colton squeals. “What’s up, baby?” We drop into the seats right behind them.

  To his credit, my brother doesn’t bat an eyelash. “I had no idea you guys would be here. This is great.”

  To my credit, I don’t snort at this blatant lie. At least, I try not to. Blue-hair Girl looks at me as I try to choke back a giggle. “Are you David’s sister?” she asks. “Are you trying out for the play? I think you’d make a great fairy queen. Your hair is gorgeous.”

  I can’t help but blush. I’ve always hated my red curls. They never behave like I want them to, no matter what beauty products I buy or which salon I go to. I have hopeless hair. Not gorgeous hair.

  “Raine, this is Natalie,” Starla says, introducing us. I give her a grateful smile. “She’s right, Nat. You could be Titania!”

  I think I blush again. “I don’t know if I could handle a big part like that. I’m really more interested in working on the costumes.”

  Starla rolls her eye
s. “You’re too nice, honey. If you want to be an actress, you’re going to have to be much more aggressive.”

  Do I want to be an actress? I haven’t given it much thought beyond this summer play thing. Starla seems dead-serious in her ambition. She is looking up at the ceiling, inspecting the new lighting system. “My pale skin tends to look better under warm-colored gels. I hope they don’t use the blue lights on me.”

  “You just need to get out into the sun more,” Raine says. She is inspecting the ceiling, too. A plaster medallion decorated with frolicking cherubs floats precariously above our heads. “I heard this theater is haunted,” she says. “I wonder if we’ll see any ghosts.”

  Before I can ask what she means by this, Mrs. Green walks onto the stage with a clipboard and makes some announcements about the summer production. “Cell phones off, children. For the first group, let’s get Colton Green, Starla Hayes, and Natalie Roman up here,” Mrs. Green says. “Let’s see what you’ve got, people. Start on page five. And remember to speak loudly and clearly!”

  But wait, I didn’t put my name down for the auditions. Did I? I open my mouth to protest, to say that’s not why I’m here. But I’m paralyzed.

  David pats me on the knee. “Just go ahead and try it. You’ll do great.”

  Starla smiles at me as she stands up, but it’s not a friendly smile. “We’re up!”

  I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I don’t smile back as I stand up. I’m too nervous.

  I pray my stomach will unknot itself by the time I walk to the front of the auditorium. I pray that I won’t do anything stupid like trip up the stairs.

  I haven’t been on a stage since kindergarten, when our class performed The Food Pyramid. (I was the celery.) The stage lights aren’t on, so I can see everyone’s faces in the audience. David sticks his tongue out at me.

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