About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The first slap stung the most.
"Would you get the hell up?" Ma shouted.
Jamie opened his eyes and scowled at her. His heart heavy, there was no avoiding what waited for him in the kitchen.
His father's nightly heavy drinking had become routine along with the next morning's confrontation. Jamie sighed. It didn't matter how many times he pretended to be elsewhere, the reality hit him hard in his waking moments.
"Your father is going mad down there. Why in God's name did you do it?"
Jamie pulled the covers over his head.
"Jamie McGuiness, get your arse out of bed before I wallop you." She tugged at the duvet.
"Aye, right, Ma." He sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
Sonya rested her hands on her hips.
"Jesus, Ma," Jamie said. He stood and inspected her new war wounds — a blackened right eye and swollen lips. His insides churned as he reached for her.
"Don't you dare." She pushed his hand away. "Not today, I can't be doing with this. Not this day." Her voice broke.
"But Ma, he can't keep getting away with this."
Sonya turned her head, hiding her face from his view. She picked up Jamie's school uniform and threw it at him.
"Get dressed and get down the stairs."
Jamie stared. Her humiliation had turned to anger. He hated Da for turning her into a shadow of the woman she had once been.
Sonya closed the door behind her.
Left alone with his thoughts, Jamie pulled on his trousers and stood in front of the mirror. "Why can't my parents just be normal?"
Normal. Something he'd never be because of Asperger syndrome. But he longed for a family life without all the drama ... the way it used to be. He zipped his trousers and kicked his brother's soft stuffed bunny out of the way.
Noise, coming from downstairs, filtered through the closed door as he buttoned his shirt. Doors banging, the baby screaming, his father bellowing — the floor vibrated beneath his feet.
If he ignored it long enough, the noise would fade, masked by his thoughts. He went through this ritual every morning. For nearly three years, life had become something Jamie hated. It never made a difference how many times he tried to help fix things. Da undid all the good and wallowed in a drunken stupor, drinking himself to death.
Jack McGuiness had become a shell of a man, trapped in a self-destructive rage. He'd changed right before the eyes of his family, becoming a monster none of them recognized.
Jamie never understood how Da had allowed his family to fall below the poverty line. Jack drank the dole money away, backed horses who never won, and continually blamed Sonya in the process, often knocking her about.
Jamie hated it. He despised waking each morning. He often danced around the thought of just ending it all. He was convinced his death would have been easier than ending up a drunken brute like his father. Once the thought came into his head, another followed.
Where would his parents find the money to pay for his funeral?
Nothing was ever simple, not even planning his own death.
* * *
Jamie walked into the small kitchen. He glanced at Ma. She stood by the cooker, holding baby Sarah in her arms, trying to console the child.
Jack banged his fork on the table and glared at Sonya. "Shut the wee fucker up."
"She can't help it. She's cutting a tooth." A tear rolled down Sonya's cheek.
Jamie held out his hands. "Give her to me."
He held her against his chest and rocked her in his arms. The movement helped soothe her, though he earned a look of contempt from his father.
"You're a smart wee bastard, aren't you?" Jack asked. He clenched his fists into tight balls, his knuckles growing white.
"Just leave it, Da," Jamie said.
Jack smashed his fist on the table, causing the beer can to jump. "Leave it? Who are you to tell me what to do in my own home?"
"Jamie, stop it, please," Sonya said, her fingers curling around his shoulder.
The chair scraped along the floor as Jack stood.
The six-year-old twins, Paul and Thomas, stood in the hallway, their little eyes wild with fear.
Thomas wrapped his arm around Paul's shoulder and held him close. "Come on, let's watch some tele," he said.
Her face laced with worry, Sonya turned her head toward the twins.
"You're some wise lad, aren't you?" Jack asked, and walked over to where Jamie stood. "Thinking you can do whatever the feck you want."
"I took the money because Sarah needed nappies and there was nothing for the boys for tea," Jamie replied.
Jack's nostrils flared. "Give your mother the baby."
Jamie's heart thumped hard.
Unable to look at Jamie, Sonya took Sarah into her arms. The fight had long left her. In its place stood a woman broken, about to crumble.
Jamie swallowed hard. "It was only twenty quid, Da." Knots tightened in the pit of his stomach.
"That money was mine, lad. You had no right going through my things."
"But ... the boys would have gone hungry." Tears burned the back of his eyes.
Jack grabbed Jamie by the throat and pushed him against the wall.
Jamie gasped for breath. The crazed look in his father's eyes terrified Jamie as Jack's fingers tightened.
Jamie dug his nails into his father's skin. He had to make Jack loosen his hold, but it was pointless.
"Jack, stop it," Sonya begged. Her pleas echoed Sarah's screams.
Jamie pushed off the wall and twisted his body in a last attempt to break Jack's hold.
Thomas and Paul stood in the doorway, their mouths agape.
Jack drove him back against the wall. Jamie's head hit with enough force, his legs turned to jelly.
"I'll kill you," Jack said. "No one steals from me. I fecking tell you, no one."
Jamie's head grew light. He let out one last desperate breath.
Jack loosened his grip and released Jamie from his clutches. Jack's breath was labored as he breathed into Jamie's face like a menacing beast.
"Next time, I'll put you six feet under." He walked away, taking his can of beer with him.
Sonya cried, holding Sarah close to her chest.
The two little boys in the hallway wailed.
Jamie touched his neck, rubbing the spot where it hurt the most. He choked back the tears, but his pride was crushed and he wanted nothing more than to run.
"Jamie," Sonya said through several sobs.
He ignored his mother, grabbed his school bag, and left the house through the back door. Red-faced, Jamie sucked in a deep breath. He struggled to control the swirling emotions threatening to consume him. Sometimes, there wasn't much else to do other than to walk away.
* * *
The wind blew in his face as he walked along the path leading to the old lighthouse. He kicked at stones, staring at the horizon. The salty scent of the water always filled him with a sense of hope that something better lay across the Irish Sea.
Jamie jumped from the path and made his way across the beach. He headed straight for the causeway, seeking refuge in his favorite place.
Jamie didn't care about it being the last day of the school year. He needed time to clear his head — to think. He would go in when he felt like it. He had to decide where he was going once the summer ended. To make choices which not only affected him, but his mother and siblings.
Jamie threw his backpack onto the rocks. He slid down and rested his back against the old stone of the tower. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind. No matter how much he willed the bad feelings away, they remained embedded deep within his soul.
Gulls flew overhead, their cries pulling him from his thoughts. Jamie squinted at them, wondering what it would feel like to be free, to come and go as he pleased.
"Not in this bloody life."
His throat ached as he mumbled the words. He drew his knees up and rested his arms on them whilst watching a ferry sail past.
Jamie visited the lighthouse daily — it was his release. A place where he gathered his thoughts and laid emphasis on the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
School and all its stupid playground politics wasn't something he believed in or wanted to be a part of. He had no intention of becoming a carbon copy of the other boys in the fifth year. The majority were intent on going out, getting wasted, and shagging the first girl who paid them any attention.
Jamie wasn't interested. His duty was to make sure the children were fed, especially on dole day. Wasting his time at school wasn't going to fix the shit going on at home.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and scrolled down to find he had four missed calls and three text messages from Lenny. "Bloody hell."
Jamie rolled his eyes and switched the phone off. He slipped it back into his blazer pocket. He didn't want nor need Lenny's crap — not this early in the day.
Surrounded by silence, Jamie watched the ships glide over the water — smooth and effortless. It served as therapy. Staring out at the horizon, he found it easy to become lost in his thoughts. Anything was better than having to deal with the present.
He thought about his mother's swollen eyes, Sarah's cries, the looks on the twins' faces. Guilt ate away at him deep within. He shook his head, his eyes filled with tears. He wanted to cry so badly, but refused to give in to the swarming emotions playing havoc with his soul. He hated the dull ache, which never seemed to leave his stomach. There had to be a way of escaping it, but no matter how hard he tried, brick walls met him at every turn.
The feeling of being completely lost was killing him slowly. Somehow, some day, it would win and he'd never recover. Jamie accepted his miserable, lonely existence. No one seemed to care enough to step in to help rectify things. Resting back against the cold stone, he turned his head and caught sight of a girl standing on the beach.
Her eyes didn't shift from him.
"Weirdo," he muttered.
Jamie rolled his eyes before looking away from her. Then, he glanced at her from the corner of his eye.
She stood much closer to the lighthouse, not moving.
He sat up straight and his brow furrowed. How had she moved so quickly?
The wind gently blew her black hair across her face.
Jamie grabbed his bag and stood. He had only taken his eyes off her for a split second, but as he gazed back at the beach, she had disappeared.
"What the ...?"
Walking across the causeway, he looked up and down the beach, across the road, and back at the lighthouse.
Jamie ran a hand through his hair, trying to make sense of what he'd seen. He reached into his blazer pocket and pulled out his phone. He switched it on and found another message from Lenny. Sighing, he dialed his number.
"'Bout you, lad?" he said.
"Jesus, you're a hard man to find. Are you coming in today?" Lenny asked.
"Aye, on me way now." Jamie looked back across the causeway, stretching his neck to catch sight of the girl.
He stepped back up onto the small ledge of rocks. "Naw, nothing, just the usual shite."
"Are you sure?"
"Aye," Jamie lied.
"Then get your arse here. I'm dying a double death without someone decent to talk to."
"Dead on," Jamie replied. "See you shortly."
Jamie took one last look back at the causeway. He shook his head and smirked.
"It's all in your head, lad," he whispered, and headed for school.
The wind whistled behind him. The noise sounded like a sad melody lost in the breeze.CHAPTER 2
Lenny slouched against the brick wall, smoking the last of his cigarette as Jamie arrived. He smirked when he saw Jamie's disheveled appearance before he noticed the marks on his friend's neck. His face grew serious.
"Ah, for feck sake, lad," he said, shaking his head. "Your oul man needs a good lamping."
"Tell me about it," Jamie replied. "I'm sick of this shite."
"Is your ma all right?"
Jamie shook his head, his cheeks growing warm. "He beat the shite out of her last night."
"Jesus Christ." Lenny stared at Jamie. "You need to get the feck away from there."
Jamie stood with his back against the wall and sighed. "I know. I just worry about the wee 'uns."
Lenny nodded. "Aye. It doesn't stop me from wanting to beat the crap out of your oul man."
Jamie knew Lenny hated what was happening behind closed doors. He trusted him with every fiber of his being. Despite what took place at home, Jamie wasn't the kind of person to walk away, not when his mother needed him.
"So, what's the craic here?" Jamie asked, changing the subject.
The two of them stared at the bustling crowd out in the schoolyard.
Everyone was hyper, excited it was the last day of term. All of them were eager for their summer holidays. Some were ready to begin their next phase in life, while others pondered over turning another year older.
Jamie dreaded all of it.
"A few of us are heading to a house party tonight," Lenny said. "You should come."
Jamie shrugged, resting his arms on the wall. "I'll see. Not sure if I've any money."
"Feck the money, lad. I'll shout you a can or two."
Jamie glanced at Lenny and smiled. "You're a dose."
"Aye, I am, but feck it, I can't be going to an end of year shindig without me old mucker."
The two of them walked through the gates and headed for the main door, waiting for the bell to ring. Like clockwork, the bell rang, ending morning break.
"Was I marked absent?"
"Who gives a shite? Not you, surely?" Lenny teased.
"Feck off, you dose."
Jamie shoved Lenny playfully on the arm. Walking into the main corridor, Jamie nodded at a few lads, ignored the charms of two girls, and headed straight for his form classroom.
"See that?" Lenny asked, nudging his arm.
"Claire gave you the eyes." Lenny smirked, nodding at a group of girls who stood next to their lockers.
"Feck off," Jamie said, and snuck a glance behind him.
Claire smiled and waved at him.
Jamie nodded and looked away. He shrugged, pretending he wasn't interested.
"You've got to get with her." Lenny winked.
"Women are the last thing on me mind."
"That's the problem with you, McGuiness. Too much junk up there and not enough going on down here," Lenny said, grabbing his crotch.
Jamie laughed, shaking his head at Lenny.
"I'm serious, lad. You need to ... I don't know, buck the bones of Claire back there and just live a little."
"I'll leave the shagging to you, Lenny."
"Ach, you're no fun when you're all emotional."
"Walk a day in my shoes and then you will know a thing or two."
"Listen, lad," Lenny said. "Jamie Junior down there needs to see some action before you're ninety."
"Jamie Junior is doing just fine." Jamie pushed Lenny into the wall and laughed.
The two of them walked into their form room. The day's schedule was different. It was more relaxed.
"What about you, lad?" another boy asked.
Jamie sat down beside him. "Not too bad, Damian."
"You on for tonight?"
"Doubt it," Jamie said, and shrugged.
"Of course he is," Lenny piped in. "He's just being a twat."
"Feck off," Jamie said.
Lenny rubbed his hands together and winked at Damian. "He's in serious need of a good buckin'."
Jamie slid down in his chair, mortified by his friend's determination to cure his sex life. "You're both shits," he said.
Lenny and Damian laughed, watching their friend squirm.
* * *
The day's lessons were far from educational. The whole day had been a mass of overwhelming activity making it easy for Jamie to disappear to the solitude of the library, instead of standing around making chitchat with his peers.
Jamie walked down the last aisle and slumped to the ground. He sighed in relief and let the quiet surround him. At least he could finally think.
Cold crept up his spine and he shivered. He glanced at his phone. He hadn't been there for more than fifteen minutes. Goose pimples prickled to the surface. He rubbed his arms. A warm day outside, it had felt cool walking into the library, but nothing like this.
The cold hurt. It gripped his chest and tightened his lungs. Someone must have played with the thermostat. But ... he couldn't hear the hum of the air conditioner. Another shiver ran through him and he released a pent-up breath. Small crystalline snowflakes hovered in the air in front of him.
On the shelves in front of him, dark eyes stared back at him.
"What ... the ...?"
He scrambled to his feet and raced around to the other side of the bookcase, ready to knock the lights out of the person trying to spook him. No one stood nearby. Rows and rows of books surrounded him. He scratched his head. Running his hand down over his face, he sighed. The chill had gone.
He didn't believe in the paranormal. No matter how much he searched for a reasonable explanation, however, he came up with nothing. He'd had enough of school, he grabbed his bag and left.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Beneath the Lighthouse"
Copyright © 2018 Julieanne Lynch.
Excerpted by permission of Vesuvian Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.