Due to amazing reader response Charlotte Harding has agreed to let In the Woods Publishing publish the complete first chapter of her upcoming novel A Long Way Down. We will be releasing excerpts over the next several weeks.
We hope you enjoy reading as much as we have.
Charlotte chronicles the story of Annie Laveau a college student with unknown connections to the powerful world of voodoo. We present to you part two in A Long Way Down by Charlotte Harding. Follow Charlotte on Twitter @CharlieHardAuth
A Long Way Down
By Charlotte Harding
The giant oaks, brightly colored flower beds and meticulously manicured hedges lined all of the major buildings on the University grounds. LSU was quite the sprawling campus. I never really noticed it until today, when I had to race from one end to the other to make it to my American History class. The huge brick building dating back to the college’s inception in 1860 had just received a lovely new coat of white paint. It gleamed at me in the morning sunlight. I adjusted my messenger bag on my shoulder and took the concrete steps two at a time. I noticed as I entered the building that some of the windows were propped open to let the morning air in. Damn. The air conditioning must be out again. I pounded up the stair case to the third floor towards Mr. Pratchett’s lecture room, 318. When I got just outside the door I stopped to catch my breath. I heard the professor’s voice filling the class room inside. He had his back to the door as I gently turned the knob. I cracked the door open slowly sneaking inside. I paid no attention to some of the gawking stares of class mates as I tip-toed to the nearest empty seat.
“Ah, Ms. Laveau. So nice of you to finally join us.” He said not even bothering to turn around. Well so much for sneaking in. “I hope it won’t be any trouble for you to find an open seat.” I kept moving towards the nearest desk even though the entire classroom had their eyes on me now. I managed an awkward smile and took a seat.
“Now as I was saying…” I dropped my bag to the floor and began digging through it for my book and some paper. Mr. Pratchett turned to face the class. He adjusted his gold-rimmed glasses on his slender pointed nose. He was still sporting his typical navy-blue bow-tie. What a nerd. “Would anyone care to bring Ms. Laveau up to speed?” He said stepping towards the front of the class. I let out a nervous laugh. I glanced around the room to see if there were any takers and cringed when the beefy Asian with meticulously spiked hair raised his hand. Perfect, just perfect. Grant, my best friend’s boyfriend gets to fill me in.
“You were just recapping all the important dates that will be covered in essay length on the final, Professor.” He said it without looking over at me. It wasn’t the first time Grant had bailed me out from a professor’s wrath. He had explained to me once before that he felt obligated to from time to time seeing as I was the best friend of his girlfriend. He was really the sentimental type. I guess.
“Thank you Mr. Aoki. Hopefully Ms. Laveau was bothering to pay attention.” The professor turned towards me sharply. I forced a clenched smile and nodded. What a jerk. Did he really have to do all this just to make a point to me? Mr. Pratchett scanned his icey blue eyes over the class. He turned pointing to a bunch of scribbles on the chalk board. “Remember to support each of your points with local examples. I will not accept half answers. I want to make sure that this semester has really sunken in for each of you.” He said looking dead at me. “I went out of my way to cover this city from top to bottom from the earliest settlers to the important figures that helped restore Baton Rouge after the Civil War.” Geez! I got the message loud and clear. I paid attention in his class. I had even written my mid-term paper on the local French Creole. All the feedback I seemed to get from him was that it was “good enough”, but he seemed to relish in pointing out where I should have given him more. Where my support was weak. Where I should have used a semicolon instead of a comma. Jackass. His class took the most out of me mentally and yet there was still no pleasing him.
Mr. Pratchett opened his mouth to continue when he noticed the clock. He dismissed the class with a reminder to “finish hard” on the final. Everyone packed up their bags chatting amongst themselves. I caught a glimpse of Grant pushing his way towards me through a cluster of admiring sophomore girls. With a nonchalant shrug he deflected them with the ease. I blanched a little at the the look on his face. Poor guy I could tell the semester had worn on him as well. We were both communication majors. The major that says, “I have no fucking clue what I want to do with my life, but I need a degree to get a job.” Luckily, for him, he had football to carry him on through past graduation. Word was he was being scouted. I had squat.
“Please don’t tell Melissa.” I blurted out embarrassed that it happened again. Without fail, every time I stepped a foot into Mr. Pratchett’s class he made a point to tear me down in front of everyone. Melissa was my best friend since the first grade, but she had made it clear months ago that I should be fighting my own battles with the administrative staff that “seemed” to have it out for me. She would give me so much hell if she found out her boyfriend had bailed me out again. The smug smile smeared across his face earned him a swift punch in his meaty arm.
“I won’t tell Lissa, but you know she has a knack for finding stuff out. She’s going to hear about this from somebody. You know how she likes to dig around in people’s heads.” He said, poking a finger against his forehead. I dumped my text book into my bag, shrugging it off. Melissa was a Psych major. Everybody knew it and everybody hated it. She had internship prospects at some of the largest practices in town.
“Please, it’s just another rumor. If she gets uppity, I’ll deal with it later. I honestly don’t think I could handle a lecture from her today Grant.” His brow furrowed slightly, I thought for sure concern had crept across his tight face. A massive belch ripped through the class room. I was wrong. I waved my hand in front of my face.
“Charming, just charming. I totally see why she likes you.” I grabbed. What students were left in the classroom laughed as they filed out. Mr. Pratchett remained alone at the front, clicking on his computer, oblivious to the rude gesture that had filled his lecture hall.
“Come on, you’re impressed.”
“Disgusted is more like it.”
“Look, I’ll catch up with you later.” I said, moving towards the Professor’s desk cautiously.
“Good luck!” Grant scoffed at me as he strutted out the door. Mr. Pratchett glanced up from his computer as I neared his desk. He scanned the room behind me, then smiled. Weird.
“Can I help you?” The tone in his voice was distinctly different from class, a little softer? He turned his icy blue eyes up at me. I noticed his sandy blonde hair, cut short and yet messy for a professor, like he’d just rolled out of bed. I’ll admit, if he wasn’t such an ass, he would have been mildly attractive. I gulped down my pride.
If you enjoyed this issue of Fantasticalities here is Issue 6 featuring the first part of Chapter 1 in Charlotte Harding’s novel A Long Way Down.
Thanks for reading
F.B. & Joy Wood