Losing Adam

Losing Adam

by Adrienne Clarke


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What happens when the person you love most in the world suddenly becomes a stranger?

Adam and Jenny's world is falling apart. Their dream of attending college together away from home quickly becomes a nightmare when Adam begins hearing the voice of the Snow Queen. Adam's startling transformation from popular drama student into a withdrawn, suspicious stranger leaves Jenny frightened and confused. How can the person she loves most in the world suddenly become someone she doesn't recognize? As Adam drifts farther and farther away into the Snow Queen's mysterious world of ice and snow, Jenny believes she must fight to bring him back or risk losing him forever.

Vividly narrated by Adam and Jenny, the struggle to understand the impact of Adam's mental illness, forces both characters on a journey of self-discovery that leads to understanding about life's uncertainty, the power of first love, and the pain of letting go. Drawing on elements of The Snow Queen fairy tale, Losing Adam is a unique combination of drama and romance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781977658838
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.47(d)

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Christmas Eve, 1994

"Go to the window." The Snow Queen's voice brushes over me like a gentle caress; the words so soft and delicate they barely disturb the air.

"Go away," I say quietly. A text book is open on the table in front of me. Grey's Introduction to Psychology, Chapter Six: Pavlov's Theory of Response. I read the same paragraph over and over. The sentences keep breaking apart and rearranging themselves into tiny kaleidoscope patterns. I bend my head closer to the page to try to make them out, but the ink on the page is too black. I turn my head to stop my eyes from going blurry.

Listen," the Snow Queen whispers again. "You won't be safe unless you do what I tell you." I don't want to listen, but it's getting harder and harder to shut her out. "Go to the window, Adam" Her voice in my head sounds pointed and sharp, like the icicles hanging from the trees outside. "I need you, Adam," she says. "If you come with me, I'll take care of you forever. I won't let the others hurt you."

"No," I say. "I don't want to go with you." My voice is so weak the Snow Queen could brush it away with a single sweep of her white=gloved hand.

Adam, you must do what I say. You can't go back to school - no one wants you there. The first chance they get your parents will send you away."

"Jenny," I say, my voice growing stronger. "Jenny won't let them send me away."

Jenny doesn't love you Don't you remember how she tried to hurt you?

You must get away before it's too late. No one loves you like I do, Adam. Come away with me to my palace in the north, and I'll make you the King of Everything."

"No," I say again. But the Snow Queen has reminded me of something, something about Jenny. I close my eyes and try to remember, but all I see are the aurora borealis. Flashes of orange, pink, and electric blue explode behind my eyes. Did Jenny try to hurt me? I'm not sure ... not sure. Someone is stealing from me – that's why I can't remember. Someone is stealing my memories and replacing them with someone else's.

The voice falls silent and I am alone again. Are you there, Adam? Is that you? So long as it's quiet I can keep hold of my thoughts. I look for the remote control to turn on the TV. If the Snow Queen comes back the sound will drown out her voice. But when I reach for the remote, my hand feels funny, like something is stuck to it. I lift my palm to my face; the skin is so thin I can see squiggles of bluish green veins beneath the surface. Is this really my hand? The veins feel me watching them. They begin to lengthen and swell until my whole hand is bulging with tiny green snakes. A searing pain starts in my fingers and works its way down both of my arms. My hands are on fire. Flickering blue flames encircle my wrists like sapphire gauntlets. I hold them out in front of me to stop the flames from spreading.

Go to the window, Adam"

The Snow Queen is much closer this time – so close I can hear her breathing. I don't want to do what she says, but I can't help looking out the window. Snowflakes swirl delicately against the night sky. I go to the window thinking it will feel good to press my hot hands against the cool glass. My skin touches the frosted pane and relief explodes inside of me like a million tiny stars, but moments later, I feel my skin growing hot again.

Open the window and come to me, Adam."

She is watching me from the other side of the window. A snow flake falls against the glass but does not melt. It gets bigger and bigger, until finally, it takes on the shape of a woman's body. The Snow Queen is made of ice, glittering dazzling ice, and her face is round and pale like the moon. She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.

Come away with me, Adam. Come away with me and I will make you happy forever and ever."

For a moment I'm confused. The voice has changed; it has become softer, sweeter, less insistent than before. And I realize it isn't the Snow Queen speaking to me but Jenny. "Jenny," I say, relieved. "Can you make the pain in my hands go away?"

Open the window and come to me. I'll take care of everything, Adam, I promise"

There's nothing to be afraid of. The Snow Queen is Jenny and Jenny is the Snow Queen. Their faces look different from the outside, but inside they are just the same. The Snow Queen wants me to come away with her just like Jenny and I always wanted.

I lift the window latch carefully, so as not to hurt my damaged hands. The window springs open and I feel a rush of cold air on my face. The icy wind makes my eyes burn and my hair blows back from my forehead. I open my arms to the Snow Queen and to Jenny. Their cool hands caress my hot cheek. Snowflakes kiss my skin and slide down my face and neck.

You're almost there," the Snow Queen whispers, her voice close against my ear. "I promise never to leave you."

"Will it hurt?" I ask. "I don't want it to hurt."

Just open your arms and fly – it's easy – as easy as holding your breath. We'll fly away from here and you'll be safe. No one will hurt you ever again."

Both my arms rest on the ledge. I push myself forward slightly, just an inch or so at first, and then another and another, until my shoulders and torso are gliding through the window like they too are made of glass. And still the snow falls. I am so tired of snow. Should I ask the Snow Queen to make it stop? I'm standing on the narrow ledge looking out into the night.

The Snow Queen calls to me, "Adam, Adam."

I open my arms and let myself fall.



August, 1994

Another night of staring at the ceiling. The clock radio beside my bed said 3:30 am. In a few hours, Mom and I would on our way to Ithaca. First year college meant freedom. Cornell's campus was a beautiful two hours away from my parents.

My eyes ached. I put a pillow over my head but sleep wasn't going to happen. My mind raced like a car without breaks, going faster and faster until – crash! Thoughts scattered like debris in all directions. I spent the last two nights in the family room downstairs, watching TV until my eyes closed from exhaustion.

Living at home was so over. Once I was on my own, I'd be able to audition for all the plays I wanted, without having to listen to Dad tell me I was wasting my time. Occasionally, Mom tried to tell him about one of my reviews, but most of the time she just hovered in the background, wearing that tiny nervous smile. Dad didn't get the theatre at all, or any kind of artistic expression, for that matter. Art was too uncontrolled, messy. He liked everything to be as neat and orderly as the rectangular hedges on our front lawn. Maybe he worried that if he let himself be vulnerable, even for a second, he'd lose his place in the world.

I never wanted to be like him. I'd rather have twenty minutes of crazy happiness than a lifetime of nothing special. I wanted to feel everything and make other people feel it too. After every performance, I waited backstage for the house lights to come up, so I could see the faces in the audience. This one time, I saw a woman in the third row crying her eyes out. Tears ran down her face, totally wrecking her mascara, but she didn't try to hide them or wipe them away. It was like she was happy to cry – like it was a relief to feel something. She wasn't beautiful, or even pretty, but that night her face glowed like uranium. When she got up to leave I wanted to run after her and say, "I felt it too."

Sometimes, I wished Mom would cry, instead of acting like everything was fine, which it wasn't. I only pretended on stage. In my real life, I wanted to tell the truth and have people tell me the truth. That's what I loved about Jenny; there was nothing fake about her. I could tell her anything. She understood about my parents, about my wanting to be an actor, about everything.

I wanted to call Jenny right now, but her mom and dad would be pissed. I could hold out for one more night. After tomorrow, Jenny and I would be together all the time. Right now, the TV was my friend. I got out of bed and headed downstairs. A couple of hours of infomercials, and then I'd watch the sun come up. But when I opened the door to the family room, Mom was lying on the sofa. The TV hummed furiously. Whatever she was watching had gone off the air.

Mom jerked herself up. "Adam, what are you doing?"

"I can't sleep."

"Try. Tomorrow's going to be a long day for you."

I stared at the hem of her nightgown. Tiny blue flowers strangled by leafy green vines. Why was she here?

"Adam, did you hear what I said?"

"I think I'm going to go for a run."

"Now? It's the middle of the night."

"It'll help me sleep."

"Adam, I really don't think that's a good idea." She handed me the TV remote. "Here, watch whatever you want. I'm going upstairs."

I took the remote, but she just stood there looking at me. "Adam."


Mom lifted her hand towards my hair, as though to brush it away from my face. I jumped backwards before she could touch me. Her hand dropped to her side. "See you in the morning."

I took Mom's place on the sofa and started clicking through the channels, but the walls felt too close. My body was sinking into the sofa cushions, drowning me in a sea of cream and beige. I wanted to be underneath the black sky – feel cool air on my skin.

I put on my runners and opened the front door. The low beep, beep of the house alarm tore through the morning's stillness. We didn't need an alarm system. The only crime on the tree-lined streets of our neighborhood, studded with Koi ponds and tasteful garden statues, was an unnatural passion for grass. The alarm was a constant reminder of my dad's need to control everything – even the sound of the doors opening and closing.

Outside I was free. I couldn't run fast enough or far enough. My legs pounded across the pavement like they were made of steel. So what if I couldn't sleep? Everything was good now, amazing even. I ran until my breath came in tiny wheezing gasps and my head felt like it was floating. I lay down on the green, green grass and felt the ground embrace me. The silence was deep and thick – not even a cricket chirped. I stretched my arms above my head in a welcoming V.

The sky was too beautiful for words: bright flames of red, orange, and hot pink licked their way across the sky to make way for the glowing yellow sun at its center. The whole scene was too much to take in. I closed my eyes, but bright pinpricks of color still burned against my lids. How could I have slept through so many sunrises? The sun's slow assent in the sky seemed like it had been choreographed just for me. I was part of the whole – at one with everything. This morning was the perfect opening scene, a fore-shadowing of great things to come, and I was ready.



Adam and I met in grade nine during our high school's production of Our Town. Adam played the lead role of Stage Manager, and I worked backstage on costumes. Every night of rehearsal, after I'd zipped and buttoned the actors into their clothes, I stood in the wings to watch the performance.

The sound of Adam's voice captured me in the space of a sentence. When he was on stage my body leaned forward so I wouldn't miss a word. If I could give Adam's voice a color, it would be deep rich burgundy, shot through with threads of gold. The other members of the cast delivered their lines without messing up, a few of them were even pretty good, but none of them compared to Adam. The stage lights played over his face, revealing every beat of his character's emotions. I wanted to step out of the wings, move into Adam's light, and let myself be transformed by his brightness. That's how it felt being with Adam – like everything was illuminated.

And then one night the impossible happened. I was standing in front of the prop table, arranging Emily's wedding veil for Act Two, when I felt someone come up behind me.

"You're doing a great job on costumes."

I turned around and there was Adam, his black hair cascading over his widow's peak, free from the sticky gel he used to slick it back for the show. "I like helping out backstage. I never get tired of watching the performance, especially you. When I hear your voice it's like I'm really there – in Grover's Corners I mean." As soon as the words were out I felt almost giddy. I'd barely spoken to anyone since rehearsals started, and here I was having an actual conversation with Adam Kane, the school's drama star.

"Thanks. I really want to be an actor someday."

"That's great. You already know what you want. The only thing I know for sure about myself is that I like reading novels and staring out the window."

Adam laughed. "I like those things too. What do you read?"

"Lots of things. I like poetry ... and fairy tales."

Adam raised one eyebrow in a mock dramatic gesture. "Fairy tales huh? What's your favorite? Please don't say Cinderella."

"Definitely not. Cinderella's way too passive. The Snow Queen's my favorite. It's the one where the girl rescues the boy. You can learn a lot from fairy tales," I added.

"I believe you. Will you lend it to me sometime? I think I could get seriously into fairy tales."

"Really?" I said.


Adam and I started hanging out every night after the show. Sometimes we'd go to the Dunkin' Donuts across the street, but most of the time we stayed backstage in our school's auditorium that doubled as a theatre. After the rest of the cast and crew went home we had the place to ourselves. Alone with Adam in the semi-darkness, he peeled away my shyness like it was a costume, instead of something I'd carried inside me my whole life. We talked about everything. I told him things I'd never told anyone before, like how it was living at my house, my parents either fighting or hiding from one another. Most of the time my dad lived in the basement. The only time I'd seen my mother go down there was to collect the empty beer bottles and stick them in the recycle bin.

"Things can get pretty weird at my house too, believe me," Adam said. "Together, me, my mom and my dad are like actors in some absurdist play. We go through the motions but nothing we say or do makes any sense. Our costumes and make-up are just right – we look the part of the perfect family. But when the curtain comes down," Adam made a dramatic gesture with his hands, "the truth is revealed." He was silent for a moment. "I read The Snow Queen by the way."

"What did you think?"

Adam smiled. "Definite girl power. Gerda risks everything to save Kay."

"Kay's her true love. Without him she has nothing."

Adam laced his fingers through mine. "Not true. Gerda's the strong one; she just doesn't know it. Her search for Kay is just as much a search for herself."

I looked down at our intertwined hands, my heart beating fast. "You're right. I guess I never thought of it like that."

"The Snow Queen's an interesting character too. I know she's meant to be the villain of the story, but I kind of felt sorry for her."

"Why?" I asked, surprised.

"She's so lonely. Her winter palace is like a metaphor for isolation. I think she steals Kay because she can't bear to live alone in that great vast emptiness."

"The Snow Queen chooses her isolation."

Adam shrugged. "She surrounds herself with walls of ice, and an army of snow soldiers to protect herself from getting hurt. It's easier to be alone then to risk disappointing people."

I looked at Adam, his dark hair falling across his forehead, and I thought maybe everything wasn't so easy for him after all. Maybe, but then you'll never know what it's like to be with someone who doesn't care if you're perfect. They just want to be with you."

Adam smiled. "I think you're perfect, Jenny."

On stage, Adam radiated confidence. Every gesture appeared natural and deliberate. His flawlessness made you think his whole life must be like that. Kids at school talked about how talented he was, even the teachers. We didn't have captions underneath people's yearbook pictures at our school, but if we did, Adam's would say: 'Most likely to become a movie star.'

"Have your parents been to the show yet?" I asked him one night.

"My mom, not my dad. He never comes. He hasn't been to a single play that I've been in."

"That's terrible."

"Yeah well, my dad's not into theatre. He's not into much of anything except squash, TSN, and financial consulting, in that order."

"Still, he could come to support you."

"It's O.K. I've gotten used to it. But sometimes, I have this fantasy that one night I'll look out and see him in the audience. He'll see me on stage and finally understand there's something I'm really good at. One night, that would be enough."

Adam kissed me for the first time on closing night. Alone backstage, we stood so close together I could smell the gel in his hair. Faint sounds of laughter emanated from the dressing room. The rest of the cast were getting the food ready for our 'strike party.' In a couple of hours, Grover's Corners would be a heap of wood and painted mural paper.


Excerpted from "Losing Adam"
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Copyright © 2017 Ms Adrienne Clarke.
Excerpted by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
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