Jennifer Vaughn: “When The Demons Come” (novel, WIP)

AUTHOR: Jennifer Vaughn

TITLE: “When the Demons Come” (WIP)

GENRE: Mainstream commercial fiction

SYNOPSIS/LOGLINE: Lyla Chandler is pregnant. But when the doctor tells her there’s something very unique about her pregnancy, it becomes the perfect way to escape a nightmare.

When the Demons Come

by Jennifer Vaughn


            I do not believe in excuses.  I am here because I put myself here.  No one dragged me by my ponytail or tied me to the bedpost.   I came willingly, and for that, I have had to adapt. 

I have become very adept at avoiding a direct hit.  I can bend backwards at the waist to escape the palm moving at lightning speed toward my cheekbone, or genuflect to either side to avoid the knuckles that are rigid with rage and on course for a collision with my temple.  This evening, however, I am too slow.  My growing girth won’t let me bend as far back as I normally can, and my side to side range of motion has been drastically reduced to infinitesimal proportions.  I am stuck in the middle, which means the direct hits are inevitable, and goddamn it, they really hurt!

            My cheek takes the brunt.  I feel it start to swell, pushing the boundary of my taut skin to its ripping point.  The palm struck just close enough to my ear to induce that ringing sensation that is a potent mix of noise and pain.  My brain delivers a quick flash of white light before I replace it with a wince that slams my eyes shut and thrusts me into total darkness.  I stay there for a few seconds.  I let the blackness cover the red-hot hurt.  I breathe in through my nose, thankful it did not catch a stray finger and bust open a faucet of blood.  I exhale through my mouth as I encourage my heart to stop slamming itself against my ribs and sending angry torrents of pain through my head with each beat. 

            I hear him.  He’s huffing with exertion and pacing on the frayed edges of the expensive Oriental carpet he’d had cleaned just last week when the stains became too obvious to ignore.  Blood stains.  My blood stains.  He won’t speak to me yet, he’s still too far gone, lost to the demons that arrive so stealthily I never see them coming until it’s too late.  I risk opening one eye.  I see his polished black shoe, as shiny, handsome and unblemished as he is, gloating at me from below.  There is nary a wayward mud splat to be found, his shoes are military academy perfect, as is the cuff in the Brooks Brothers dress slacks I picked up from the dry cleaners last week.  My gaze travels to the neat Armani belt, and further upward to the pale blue button down shirt.  The chest is heaving beneath the open first button, the knot of the silk tie pulled open and away from the base of his neck. 

            More is still to come.  It never ends with one blow.  We will soon enter phase two of the demon dance.  His initial rush of fury will be replaced by a simmering madness that I’ve learned can be even more fearsome.  When his breath evens and he recovers enough self-control to speak through the vehemence, the words will be laced with hatred and venom and they’ll burn me deeper than an open flame.  My body always heals, but my heart remains in ashes.

            “Lyla,” he utters on a moan thick with bitterness and disappointment.  

            I straighten slowly back up, putting one arm by my side while using the other to shield my abdomen.  I don’t respond to my name.  It’s best not to speak until he has fully explained to me exactly how I’ve failed him.  I wonder if it’s last night’s filet that displayed a grill imprint too close to charred for his liking, or the oil change for his Mercedes that I scheduled one day past the date on the sticker staring at him from the upper left of the windshield.  Or it could be something I never even knew I did wrong. 

            He clears his throat, but the pacing stops.  I don’t know what will come next- an explanation of my shortcoming or a slam to my front teeth.  Just in case, I awkwardly try to wrap my tongue around the bottoms, where the bonding is probably still fragile from the last time my teeth took a hit for whatever I had done that was so terribly wrong.

            His iPhone buzzes on the ornate coffee table he commissioned an Italian designer to craft for him last year.  I hate the thing; its legs remind me of those nasty, evil-looking gargoyles perched over entrances of city buildings. 

            Saved by the buzz. 

Like a veil being lifted, the voice that speaks into the square box is entirely controlled, sympathetic even, as it gives clear, concise instructions to the frenzied, high- pitched squeal on the other end.

            “Monica, listen carefully.  I know this is overwhelming, but remember what I explained?  If you’re unsure about the level of insulin, no…no…don’t interrupt, I know you’re trying your best, but we have to be very careful here as you learn to regulate him.  Listen, why don’t you just bring Alex straight to the emergency room.   I’ll meet you in the waiting room and we’ll check him right in.”

            I listen carefully, giving silent thanks to Monica-whoever-she-is, for sounding the bell to end round one.  At least I can retreat to my own corner for a while before the fight resumes.  Once he is dispatched to the ER, especially for a newly diagnosed child, he’s as good as gone for several hours.

            He clicks off, returns the phone to the gargoyle’s lair and stalks off to the master bedroom.  He exchanges his shiny shoes for the old Nikes he wears around the hospital, and a pair of Banana Republic khakis I had just finished ironing before he stormed through the front door full of piss and vinegar.  The button-down shirt remains, but the tie is now gone.  He grabs the phone, stuffs it into a pocket, and stops about six feet away from where I’m still standing.

            “You can wait,” he tells me.  “I’ve got a kid who’s barreling toward ketoacidosis and he needs me.  His mother needs me.”

            Normally, I wouldn’t say a word, but he’s still here, his rubber soled Nikes planted in front of me.  I don’t know what he’s waiting for.

            “Okay,” I say softly.

            “You’ve got a week, Lyla,” he tells me, careful to maintain the calm he’ll need now that duty has called.  “One week to find a way to squeeze yourself into that dress I bought you.”

            So that’s it!

            That stupid dress is what this entire fist-fest is all about?

            “Natalie Bourque told me it was perfectly logical to expect you to fit into a size-6 dress when you’re only five months pregnant.  The fact that you can’t zip up the back…is…” deep, annoyed sigh, “…unacceptable to me.  Figure it out, Lyla.  If you have to apply a handful of Crisco to your torso, that dress had better fit.  You’re too fucking fat. Fix it!”

            I don’t look up until I hear the heavy wooden door pull closed behind him.

            Thanks a lot, Natalie!  The Queen of Spin Class has spoken, and apparently, pregnancy should never trump the demands of high fashion. 

            I stumble over to the window that overlooks the sidewalk next to our Beacon Hill brownstone and see my husband climbing into a Mercedes that is so highly waxed it looks almost electric under the bright light of the streetlamp.  

            Next week, we will appear at a dinner in his honor.  I am expected to be not only gracious in my role, but also sleek and beautiful in my red satin size-six Versace slip dress he presented to me a few days ago.  When I told him it didn’t fit, he didn’t react at all.  Obviously, he was simply waiting for the right time to pounce.  I will play the doting wife, the proud spouse brought to soft, dignified tears as he is honored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for his breakthrough work to create an artificial pancreas.  We will hear from his colleagues, mentors, and admirers that he is changing lives, and how, to dozens of families around New England, my husband is a pioneer, a doctor with a heart of gold, a hero.

They don’t know what I know.

            They might not even believe me if I told them the truth. 

Dr. Nathan Chandler is a fucking monster.

Even though I don’t believe in excuses, I sure as hell pray for second chances.


“I’ll take a Chivas on the rocks, and she’ll have tonic water with a slice of lemon.” Nathan is beaming, his golden skin as shiny as the star on top of the Christmas tree as he accepts one handshake after another.  One muscled forearm is wrapped around the small of my back, as he leans slightly on the wooden bar to accept his drink and pass me mine.  “Here,” he says quietly.  “This will settle your stomach.”

“Thank you,” I reply, taking a napkin from the fancy dispenser near a black bar stool.  I bring the liquid to my lips and take a small sip just as a body brushes by me too closely and nudges my back.

“Hey, watch it!” Nathan pushes away some guy who’s clearly using every moment of cocktail hour for that purpose, as a sad memory flashes in my head of the days when that would be endearing to me.  He quickly reminds me why those days are so far gone.  “She’s pregnant here, can’t you tell?  She is huge, after all.”

“Hardly! She’s beautiful, Nathan.  And don’t let her forget it.”

Sweet old Mrs. Darden wraps her overly perfumed cleavage around me, making me nearly gag on the smell.  Perfumes are like rotten fish to me right now, just another tantalizing side effect from my body cooking up enough hormones to power the occupants of an entire sorority house. 

Dr. Darden, thankfully, presents a more pleasing Old Spice scent as he follows his wife with a strong hug.  “You are a vision, Lyla.  You could be as stout as me and you’d still light up this room like a Big Papi clutch homer in the bottom of the 9th.”

“Or, when a Tim Wakefield knuckle ball catches Jeter off guard in any inning.”

“Ah, yes!  You would light up this room like Wakefield’s slow dipper hitting Varitek’s leather as Jeter’s bat makes the final loop to Loser-ville!”

For a physician pushing eighty years old, Dr. Darden reminds me more of a little league all-star with wide eyes and dreams taller than he is.  I wrap my arms around his tuxedo-clad back and breath in the cologne that makes me feel like my dad has come home again.

I linger in his arms a beat too long, because hugging my dad feels so good right now.

“How’re you feeling, my dear?” the Darden’s ask me finally, almost in unison.  They are the proud parents of six, grandparents of fourteen, great-grandparents of too many to count. 

“Pretty good.  I’m still a little sensitive to certain smells, and foods-“

“Ha!” Nathan chokes on a sip of his scotch.  “I don’t think anyone is buying that one anymore, Lyla.  You’re obviously not having any trouble with food right now.” He nudges Dr. Darden, a wink-wink kind of understanding among men, apparently, that the little woman is treading a tad too close to the trough. 

“Give her a break, Nathan.  She looks fantastic, for God’s sake.  She’s supposed to grow, you know, and she’ll be right back where she started in no time.” The old doctor gives me a grin and steers his wife by the elbow to the cheese and cracker tray hoisted in their direction by a slim, young woman in a barely there tank top and black pants that appear painted on.  I wait for Nathan to notice her.  I don’t have to wait long.

His eyes narrow, and travel the length of this poor girl, who is probably barely out of high school.  His arm is back around my waist, but now it’s pinching the skin that’s tumbling over my girdle.  That’s right, my girdle.  The only way I could fit into his ridiculous size-six mosquito net of a dress.

That is what a woman is supposed to look like.  This…” sharp pinch as his fingers squish my fat roll together… “is pathetic.”

The poison pours out of him on purposefully hushed tones so that no one else will hear it.  No one ever does; he’s the perfect sociopath.  His lies fit seamlessly over the jagged edges of his flaws.  Only I see the churning depravity that lies just beneath.  Only I feel the rancor, the malevolence, and the wrath of his damaged psyche.  It is mine to absorb.  For now.  It won’t be for much longer. 

I edge away from the pinch of Nathan’s fingers, toward the ladies room, and an all-too-brief escape from the binding burden of my girdle.  My stubbornly forward thinking abdomen resents the hell out of me for trying to halt its outward progress, even for these few hours tonight.  I apologize to my fetus before I shove it back toward my spine as I pull the stiff fabric over its comfortably spacious living quarters.  It is fighting back, kicking me in protest.  I take what feels like a tiny heel to the ribcage, and utter quietly, “I’m sorry, little one.  Just a few more hours and I’ll let you out.  I promise.”

I don’t hear the four-inch heels gliding across the marble floor until it’s too late.  Natalie Bourque’s dipped-in-honey voice alerts me of her presence before her body does.  I prepare myself for its flawless presentation.  She doesn’t disappoint.  My lips pull into a tight grin as my eyes do a quick sweep.  Golden hair is softly tucked back into a low bun, with delicate wisps gently lying next to peachy cheekbones.  Thin straps taper over bony shoulders down to a fitted bodice that tells you not a single morsel of processed food is ever allowed to go there.  A soft flair hits around the hips before the dainty material flows down toned and tanned legs that seem to last forever.  The sandals are mere wisps of flesh-colored strips that fool your eye into thinking her shoes are just extensions of her feet.  She wears them like she was born in them.  There are no awkward movements, no stumbles, and, I think wryly, there will be no blisters left behind when she finally slides them off after she dances the night away with the grace and fluidity of a hundred-dollar-an-hour professional samba instructor at a five-star Caribbean resort.

“Who are you talking to, Lyla?” she asks me, turning to the side to run a hand over the concave indent of the space between her boobs and her belly button.  I know she’s doing it on purpose, just to show me how sadly misshapen I have suddenly become.  “Don’t tell me besides puffing you out all over, pregnancy makes you talk to yourself in public bathrooms, too.” She turns to face me, and even though she’s smiling to take the burn out of her zing, she wants me to feel the heat. 

I ignore her kidding remark, but make sure I compliment her fully just to stroke the ego that is as mighty as her muscles.     

“Oh, this old thing?” she drones on about her lovely dress that probably cost as much as the rent on my old fourth floor Boylston Street apartment.  “It’s vintage but it fits like a glove.  You look, um…good, Lyla.  Is that the dress Nathan was asking me about last week?  The one he thought for sure you wouldn’t be able to squeeze yourself into?” 

She is snarky, and bitchy, and as mean as a snake.  She is married to an oncologist, holds a degree in physiology, and runs the gym inside the hospital that is frequented by its staff.  I know for a fact that Natalie Bourque has offered to spot my husband on more than one occasion and she probably had every intention of carrying that far beyond the confines of the weight bench he was using at the time. 

“Nathan is worried about you, Lyla,” she says, as I notice a muscle that’s been paralyzed by Botox try unsuccessfully to furrow just above her right eyebrow.  “He’s concerned about the stress you’re putting on your body by gaining too much weight.” One hand finds her hip, while the other reaches for my forearm. Her long fingers wrap around my elbow.  “He’s such a caring man. What he does for these kids, and yet he still made time to come talk to me about you. You’re so lucky, Lyla. Most husbands sit by and feed their wives Big Macs and Ben and Jerry’s until their arteries close, just because they think it’s cute to feed the pregnant mommy. Nathan knows better than to do that to you.”

I should be stunned, outraged, disgusted.  I’m not.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  I have no interest in arguing with crazy or stupid.  So I don’t.  I pull my elbow back and politely agree.  I swallow everything I could say, and take the easy way out.  I smile sweetly as I tell this overly-aerobicized nitwit that I do indeed realize that I am supremely lucky to have a husband who loves me too much to let me become an obese sloth.

Natalie reaches into her square evening bag for a container of lip-gloss. I’m not really listening anymore as I head for the door just as she starts mumbling something about a boot camp she runs for freshly-delivered new mothers.

Sure, I think, getting a flash of paunchy, overtired, breastfeeding women trying to keep their boobs from springing a leak, or their uteruses from falling out during a rigorous set of jumping jacks. Sure, Natalie, I’ll get right on that boot camp of yours. Right after I pluck out my eyeballs with my salad fork.

I rest for a second just outside the ladies room door. I stretch backwards to relieve the ache that’s settled at the base of my spine. I can’t take a deep breath with this ridiculous dress zipped up, so I close my eyes and do a few short puffs to regain focus. I let the bathroom conversation drift away. I pat my stomach, give my growing child a mental hug, and slowly walk back over to where I see my husband talking animatedly to a group of his colleagues. I almost smile. But I don’t. That last little part of me that once loved this man is dead. It may have lingered on life support for too long, but now the plug has been pulled and I can barely remember what it felt like to long for his arms around me, or his lips on mine, or his body wrapping itself around me at night.

Physically, he is unchanged. Scratch that. He’s actually better than ever. Age has a funny way of becoming a man’s secret admirer. It delivers to him a smile that seems more genuine, a body that has become strong yet sophisticated, and an appeal that is worldly, experienced and prepared. The aging man knows how to converse, how to compliment, how to play coy and how to leave an impression. Nathan is, and always will be, unmarred by the years that pass. But I don’t hate him just because he is beautiful. It was, after all, one of the traits that first lured me in. That beguiling grin that triggers an adorable indent next to his full upper lip made my heart skip. My heart is restful now. It does not skip for Nathan anymore.

“There you are,” he breaks away from the crowd to pull me over. “Where the hell did you go?” he mutters once he gets a hand on me. He is clearly annoyed that I have not been by his side as the cavalcade of adulation began. If anyone should be present to feel the love, he wants it to be me. The slaps on the back, the warm handshakes, the toasts-all of it will be ammunition when the demons come again and he will remind me how magnificent he is, how respected and adored, and how dead wrong I am to have done whatever it will be at that particular moment.

Ordinarily, I might mutter something sarcastic under my breath. Before the baby, I might have fought back, maybe even threatened to expose his miserable Satan-esque alter ego just as he clasps his bronze plague tonight and reaches for the check with so many zeroes on it you’ll wonder how many third world countries it could easily elevate from poverty status.

Before the baby, things were different.  Still bad, of course, but different.

“Just going to the bathroom, Nathan.”

“I don’t recall you telling me. You know I don’t like it when you just drift away from me. Especially on a night like this. You need to be right next to me. Jesus Christ, Lyla, you should be overjoyed by this,” familiar heavy sigh.  “Just one more reason why you let me down on a regular basis.”

The fingers pinch my waist again. Nathan’s body begins to tense with rage, but he reels it in quickly. By the time we rejoin his posse of admirers he is all smiles. He even leans in for a soft kiss on my cheek, and says, “Isn’t she beautiful? Lyla’s obviously taking good care of our baby,” chuckle, wink, pat on my stomach. “It’s growing so quickly in there.”

Ooh’s and ahh’s poor out, some of the wives wear that familiar yet weird expression they get when pregnant women suddenly become as irresistible as freakish carnival attractions.

I let them touch me. I pretend I enjoy their company.  I fully represent the lie my life has become.  I feel relief when we are finally ushered by more scantily clad cocktail waitresses toward the grand ballroom, where the official accolades will be soundly delivered to JDRF’s Man of the Year.  Parents begin to cry as a professionally prepared video rolls, showing kids in various stages of disease being treated by Dr. Nathan Chandler and his caring staff. As our lobster bisque arrives, I feel his hand reach for mine. I don’t allow its soft grip to fool me. I look down into my lap, at our entwined fingers, and I force a smile to subdue the grimace that his touch now induces.

“Proud?” he asks, smugly.

“Of course, darling.  I am so very proud.” The lie brings a choke of emotion that ripples up behind my throat. Nathan takes a corner of his elegantly folded napkin and pats his mouth as he rises and pushes the cushioned chair back in. His long legs take him from his seat at the head table to the side of the stage where he deftly climbs the stairs and embraces the woman who just invited him to join her. The crowd erupts in cheers and roars to its feet.

When the doctor’s wife to my right asks me why I’m crying, I lie again.


“Come on in, Mrs. Chandler,” the nurse holding my square chart leads me back to an exam room.  “How have you been feeling?” she asks as she leads me toward the scale.

“Fine, until now,” I tell her, shedding my sneakers and shooting her a look that confirms this is my least favorite part of being here.  “This scale and I, we are no longer friends.  It does not have my back anymore,” I take off my Red Sox baseball hat, too, throwing it on top of the chair next to the door.  As the young, skinny nurse chuckles at me, I tell her that I need all the help I can get.  Clearly, some of Nathan’s fat jokes are beginning to stick.  I explain to her that I feel like I have inflated like a hot air balloon in the month since I was last here.

“Nonsense,” she says firmly.  “You look beautiful.  All of this…” she pauses, as she bumps up the little metal hinge on top of the scale to the next ten pound mark.  “…All of this will melt right off you.”

“From your lips to God’s ears,” I quip, as I look out the window instead of at the number the scale stopped wobbling on.  “Don’t tell me, okay?” It is my ritual here, not to ever know exactly how much I weigh. 

“Okay,” she says, but I see her make a notation on my chart and I don’t like the look of the straight line her mouth has fallen into. 

“Is everything all right?” I ask, beginning to feel jumpy alarm build in my stomach.

A beat goes by, then another.  I count slowly to five before she answers me.

“I’m sure everything’s good, just have a seat and Dr. Marsden will be right in.

I nod, but my head feels fuzzy.  My palms start to itch and nervous sweat builds along my hairline.  I twine my fingers together, cross then uncross my legs, and discover nothing will expend all this ferocious energy coursing through my body.  I feel my little friend do some back flips in my abdomen, obviously reacting to the sudden surge of adrenaline.  I talk softly to my baby, hoping the scientific evidence suggesting fetuses can recognize the sound of their mother’s voice is right on.

“Don’t you worry now, little one,” I say.  “You keep doing what you’re doing, and Mommy will take care of the rest.”

A rush of worry overwhelms me as I feel panic plant itself on my doorstep.  For five months now, I have allowed myself to feel love again.  The affirmation of joy and human goodness has renewed me.  I have spent so much time buried under regret and shame, trying to be something I am not, and now I’m about to be punished for that, too.  How dare I put my entire life on the shoulders of this tiny being?  It needs me, and I’ve taken too much from it already.  I feel blackness begin to close in along my periphery.  A dull ache builds behind my eyes as I prepare for the dire news Dr. Marsden will undoubtedly deliver once he reads whatever the nurse scribbled down onto my chart.  Either my rocketing weight has signaled the baby is swimming in a suddenly toxic stew of amniotic fluid, or my tiny cup of pee revealed some other physical calamity that will lead me straight to disaster.  In any case, something isn’t right.  Even a moron with a bad case of near-sightedness could have picked that up from the pained look on that nurse’s face. 

All the hope I had allowed to build for a future full of loose teeth and school pictures, muddy handprints and butterfly kisses, seeps back into the cracks of my shattered life.  This baby was the one chance I had to do something right.  To restore what I used to have.  To glue back together the fractured pieces of my heart.

The tears fall on the stiff white paper on the exam table.  I watch them come together to form a dark circle next to my hip.  I hear noises like I’m underwater, the door opening, then a question from a voice that doesn’t sound sad at all. 

“What’s this all about?” Dr. Marsden’s beefy hand lands on my shoulder.  “Lyla,” he peers into my red, tear-streaked face.  “What the heck is wrong?  Are you sick?  Don’t even tell me you’re this upset over a few extra pounds?”

A few extra pounds?  No, that doesn’t make any sense.  A few extra pounds would not send that nurse scurrying out of this room like she had just seen Bigfoot walk through the parking lot.

“No, I don’t even know about the extra pounds.  I don’t look at the scale.  I just assumed…when the nurse went to get you so quickly, that something, uh, something had gone really wrong…” I lose the last bit on another swallow of fresh tears. 

His hand reaches for my elbow to help me move off the table. 

“Come with me, my dear.  We need to check something out, and blow your nose for God’s sake, you’re dripping on me!”

Dr. Marsden leads me down the narrow hallway that is lined with pictures of the newborns he’s delivered during his many decades in practice.  I put my foot down when Nathan tried to scoot me into the sterile high-rise that housed the city’s most prominent OB-GYN practice, insisting instead on the kind, grandfatherly doctor who still answered his own phone and didn’t really care if you had a Cadillac insurance plan, or not a penny to your name. 

We round the corner to the room that houses the ultrasound gear.  I’ve already done this once, when I was about twelve weeks in and the baby popped up on the screen in all its black and white glory, looking more like a kernel of corn than a life form.

“Why are we here again?” I ask, thinking that in normal pregnancies you only get that one ultra-sound.  “I knew it.  You think the baby…died…don’t you?”  

Dr. Marsden settles into the chair next to the technician.  “Calm down, lie back.  I’ve got to check something out, but stop it with the drama.” He tries to sound stern, but he takes my hand and gives it a squeeze.  “Do you want me to call your husband for you?”

“No!” The retort is quick.  Too quick.  Dr. Marsden’s eyes squint, but he nods to the tech to begin.  I slowly lower myself back on the table, and get a squirt of warm gel over my stomach.  Dr. Marsden mumbles something to the tech, who then nods back silently, but seems to understand exactly what he wants her to do. 

A slow smile spreads across the wrinkled old face. 

“See, here?” he says, reaching over again to pat my hand.  “Your baby’s doing just fine.”

Through another veil of tears, I see the little tadpole, moving away from the rude intrusion of the paddle pushing down on it.  It is much more defined this time. I can see fingers, legs, and even eye sockets.  I hiccup back relieved giggles as a wide grin warms me from the inside out.

“Thank you, God,” I whisper.

Dr. Marsden plops his rear down on a sliver of exam table to reach over to the screen, using his pointer finger to identify various fetal body parts.

“Here’s the spine,” he says, drawing a short line from neck to hip as the little being jumps around.  “The heart is right here, see it fill up, release, fill up, release again.”

Yes, I do see that magnificent dark circle, doing exactly what it’s made to do.  Life is being sustained inside of me, and it’s the most glorious feeling I’ve ever had.  My joy bubbles so loudly inside my head, I laugh on a flood of relief.

“And if this shows what I think it will, you’re going to need that sense of humor, my dear.”

My eyes slide from the screen to Dr. Marsden’s grin.  It looks mischievous, almost.


“Lyla, look here,” he advises, as his finger motions back to the screen.  My eyes narrow, trying to follow where he’s taking me.  The field of vision on the screen is rounded around the edges as the tech pumps up the magnification.  The tiny heart becomes larger, pulsing at the center of the screen, but my eyes are pulled just off to the right, by a second tiny dark orb that seems to be doing the same thing.  And then off to the left, a third little bulb that is palpitating even faster.  

One.  Two.  Three. 

Three little hearts. 

Three little hearts? 

No.  It can’t be.

Three little hearts equals three little babies.

I gasp.  Then I laugh.  I laugh until I can’t breathe.  Dr. Marsden pulls me into a tight hug.  The tech is crying, too.  She holds up three fingers, and confirms the happy news.

“Congratulations, Lyla.  You’re carrying triplets!”

I’m carrying triplets?

As those three words sank in, my world shifted.  A switch turned on somewhere deep inside, taking me from darkness to light.  Suddenly, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

So I did it.

7 Responses to Jennifer Vaughn: “When The Demons Come” (novel, WIP)

  1. Another winner, Jennifer. Beautiful.
    Just a comment about the scene at the bar. Nathan shoves a man away, but the first words we get are from, presumably Mrs. Darsden – not clear. Then the baseball conversation – not clear who is speaking for several lines.
    But other than that, characterization is great – characters we love to hate.

  2. I really enjoy your descriptive writing. Not overdone, though you should be careful your antagonists don’t get too stereotypically evil. Might not be a bad idea to at least give them one redeeming characteristic so the reader gets to feel for them a bit. Not so cut & dry.

    Anyway, my one editing question – he’s obviously a serial wife beater – how is she hiding all the cuts and bruises?

  3. Absolutely love it Jennifer! Cannot wait until it’s finished so that I can read more!!!!

  4. Jason Reed

    Very nice! I loved it! Had a little trouble following the talk about baseball, but maybe that is just because I’m not a fan. Also, nathan’s fat jokes seem a bit forced. I had not even thought about how Lyla hides the cuts and bruises until Genevieve mentioned it, but now i’m wondering as well.
    I’m amazed at the power of first person naration. Keep up the good work!

  5. I agree with Genevieve Graham. Don’t make them TOO evil, borders on stereotypical… though I really like Natalie. I KNOW women just like that. Overall, your story is the best I’ve read from Story Fix’s email this week. I truly enjoyed it! Made me realize I’ve got A LOT of work to do on my own stuff 🙂 Have you submitted this anywhere? Look forward to reading more.

  6. Maria Holt

    Great job! I have to agree with the above bits of critique but they’re all so easy to fix if you’ve a mind to. One thing, though. I don’t think you use contractions enough. It’s how people talk. A suggestion was made to me a while back. Read your chapter out loud, to see how it sounds. I think that’s the best advice I ever got. What sounded fine to me in my head sounded completely different when I read it to myself.
    In any case, this is the only one I’ve read all the way through. And for sure, give the SOB husband at least one good trait. And then have her plan on how to run him over with her car!

  7. Evonne M. Biggins

    Jennifer, wow, this is great! Here are my two concerns: I think that the tone-switch from chapter one and chapter two is confusing; I wasn’t sure that it was the same character. Was Dr Darden Lyla’s father? That was a bit confusing, too.

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