Excerpt from the novel Who Saw the Deep
by Christine Klocek-Lim
When Noah moves back home after grad school, he doesn’t expect a simple handyman job to turn deadly. Amelia seems like a sweet old lady with a run-down house, but appearances can be deceptive. When an alien ship lands in her woods, Noah discovers that everything he believed about Earth and human civilization is wrong.
Amelia already gave her heart to one man—does she really want to let another one inside? Even though Noah is everything she ever wanted, can she really trust him? He seems like a good person, but her family’s genetic legacy is more important than romance.
When all their secrets are laid bare, Noah and Amelia discover that the survival of their species may be more dependent on love than either could have imagined. Civilization endures because of anonymous acts executed by ordinary individuals. And love, especially in the face of betrayal, is worth everything.)
Noah leaned further over her shoulder and blinked. The album had fallen open to a photo of a very young Amelia, holding the reins of a horse. She wore tight pants and knee-high boots with a thick jean jacket buttoned up to her neck. Her hair was long, dark, and loose. She was gorgeous. Noah wished the photo was in color, but the sepia was still crisp enough to show all the detail.
“Is that you?” he asked, reaching a finger down to smooth over the curling edges of the photo.
“Oh yeah, that’s me,” she replied, then flipped the page. “Here’s Hugh.”
Noah looked at the man in the photo. He was ordinary, but had a very kind smile. He was young too, standing on the front porch of the house, holding a soft hat in his hands. Noah couldn’t tell for sure from the black and white photo, but he thought the door was red back then, too. “Your husband?”
“Yes. That photo was taken right after we were married.” She smiled sadly, trailing her fingers down the page. “I forgot these were here.”
“How long?” Noah asked.
Amelia twisted around. “How long what?”
“How long were you married?” Noah hated himself. The look on his dad’s face when he’d described what happened to his brother haunted him. How old was Amelia, really? He hoped she didn’t catch on to what he really wanted to know.
“Oh, a long time.” She avoided his question, turning the page and Noah didn’t bring it up again. They sat together for a few minutes, both of them quiet. When the wind picked up outside, the back of Noah’s neck prickled. He glanced out the small window at the far end of the attic. He pursed his lips. Nothing but blue sky out there. He turned back to Amelia. She was looking down at the book, a small frown creasing her forehead.
“Do you miss him?” Noah asked quietly. He watched her turn the pages. Most of the pictures were still intact, little triangular photo corners holding them securely against the black paper. Here and there one was missing, or askew. She ran her fingers over the blank spots and carefully fit the loose photos back into place. He watched her, not pressing for an answer as she picked up yet another stray picture, wiggling it back into its spot. In it she was still young, sitting on the stairs in the living room, her chin in her hands, grinning into the camera. Noah wondered who’d taken that picture.
Finally she sighed. “Yes, sometimes I miss him. We were happy together and when he died I was alone. Leah had already moved to California and she had the girls to keep her occupied. They were so little it just wasn’t practical for them to visit too often. Even when my son-in-law, Tom, died four years ago, Leah didn’t come back. I missed my granddaughters more when Hugh died, probably because I didn’t really get to see them much and Hugh wasn’t around to keep me company anymore. They’re fourteen now.”
“I’m sorry,” Noah offered.
Amelia closed the album and shook herself. “No sense dwelling on the past. Hugh wouldn’t want me to pine for him. We had a good life and he made me very happy but that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy now.” She looked at Noah. “Happiness comes from within, not from someone else. It doesn’t matter how much Hugh loved me. If I hadn’t allowed myself to be happy, we would’ve been miserable together.”
Noah frowned. “You’re saying that no one else can make you happy?” He reached down and lifted the album off her lap, thinking of his dad. His mom had been lost after Uncle Tony died, after his dad shut himself down in the basement. He wondered if that’s why she’d left. Except if what Amelia said was true, his dad wasn’t responsible for his mother’s unhappiness. “Seems to me that other people can make you pretty miserable.”
She smiled and shrugged. “Oh sure, if you live with someone and they treat you like crap, that can affect how you feel. But if want to be happy, it’s up to you to stay and accept what can’t be changed, or leave and make another life for yourself.” She wrinkled her nose. “Sounds selfish, I know, but it’s true. And if you’re happy because of what you’ve done for yourself, you have more to give to those you love.”
Noah looked at her. She was serious. “I don’t know how to do that,” he said, voice low. He worried he’d end up like his father: alone and bitter.
She looked down into the box. “You have to figure it out for yourself. That’s how life works.”
“Shit happens, though. War, famine, depression. You can’t control that,” Noah pointed out as she pulled a small leather box from the larger cardboard one and put it on her lap.
“That’s true. But even though sometimes you can’t fix what’s happening around you, you can still make choices in your life. I should go visit Leah instead of complaining that she never comes here.” She rubbed her nose, leaving a streak of dust along her cheek. Noah wanted to wipe it away, but Amelia kept talking. “You can choose to meet whatever happens head on, or run and hide, or ignore it all.”
“Running sounds cowardly.”
Amelia sneezed. Noah pulled a tissue from his pocket and handed it to her. Her eyes were watering, making her blue irises even more vivid in the dim light. “No, not necessarily. It’s not that simple.” She wiped at her eyes, smearing the dust more. Noah took the tissue from her and gently wiped it away.
She smiled, letting him turn her face so he could get to a spot under her ear. “Sometimes running is the courageous option. You may want to fight some evil, but what if you have children? Isn’t your first responsibility to them?”
Noah hadn’t thought of that. “Protect the offspring.” He stuffed the tissue back in his pocket.
“Yes, exactly. And sometimes you have to fight anyway because your children would die later if you didn’t. You can’t make broad statements about what’s right and wrong. Context is everything.”
* * * * *
Who Saw the Deep was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) 2012 Semi-Finalist Winner and is classified as Romance, Suspense, Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Christine Klocek-Lim won the 2009 Ellen La Forge Memorial Prize in poetry. When she's not reading poetry for Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, she writes novels (Disintegrate, Who Saw the Deep) and is an acquiring editor for Evernight Teen and Evernight Publishing