Introducing a dazzling new literary voicea wholly original novel as groundbreaking as the works of Eimear McBride and Max Porter.
Something has happened to Peach. Staggering around the town streets in the aftermath of an assault, Peach feels a trickle of blood down her legs, a lingering smell of her anonymous attacker on her skin. It hurts to walk, but she manages to make her way to her home, where she stumbles into another oddly nightmarish reality: Her parents can't seem to comprehend that anything has happened to their daughter.
The next morning, Peach tries to return to the routines of her ordinary life, going to classes, spending time with her boyfriend, Green, trying to find comfort in the thought of her upcoming departure for college. And yet, as Peach struggles through the next few days, she is stalked by the memories of her unacknowledged trauma. Sleeping is hard when she is haunted by the glimpses of that stranger's gaping mouth. Working is hard when her assailant's rancid smell still fills her nostrils. Eating is impossible when her stomach is swollen tight as a drum. Though she tries to close her eyes to what has happened, Peach at last begins to understand the drastic, gruesome action she must take.
In this astonishing debut, Emma Glass articulates the unspeakable with breathtaking verve. Intensely physical, with rhythmic, visceral prose, Peach marks the arrival of a visionary new voice.
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Emma Glass was born in Swansea. She studied English literature and creative writing at the University of Kent, then decided to become a nurse and went back to study children's nursing at Swansea University. She lives in South London and is a research nurse specialist at Evelina London Children's Hospital.
Read an Excerpt
Thick stick sticky sticking wet ragged wool winding round the wounds, stitching the sliced skin together as I walk, scraping my mittened hand against the wall. Rough red bricks ripping the wool. Ripping the skin. Rough red skin. Rough red head. I pull the fuzzy mitten from my fingers, wincing as the torn threads grip the grazes on my knuckles. It is dark. The blood is black. Dry. Crack crackly crackling. The smell of burnt fat clogs my nostrils. I put my fingers to my face and wipe the grease away. It clings to my tongue, crawls in my mouth, sliding over my teeth, my cheeks, dripping down my throat. I am sick. The sick is pink in the moonlight. Fleshy. Fatty. I lean against the wall and close my eyes. I swallow hard. I taste flesh. Meat. I am sick again. My eyes flicker. Flashes of pink. Back to black. My body buzzes against the bricks. I see black. Thick black. Fat. My eyelids are fat. Swollen. Swollen black from the slap. Smothered in grease from his slippery slimy sausage fingers. His commands crackle in my ears. Close your eyes. Close them tight. Tight like your – close them. Close them. Close them.
I see black. His black mouth. A slit in his skin. Open. Gaping. Burnt black. Burnt flesh. And his heavy charcoal breath clinging to my skin. Suffocating. The tears slide over the grease and off my face. My body buzzes. I need to go home but it hurts when I walk. I put my hand between my legs and feel the blood and grease. I am sick. I wipe my mouth on my sleeve, put my mitten in my mouth and grind the wool between my teeth. I run. Not far. Not fast. It hurts too much. I grind the wool harder. I wish it was steel. I look back. Sick runs in ribbons after me. Shimmering pink rivers. I hope it rains.
I slip inside. I don't open the door wide. It still squeaks. They will hear. They will corner me in the hall. They will ask me questions. He won't ask about the blood. She won't ask about the rips in my clothes. She will say the rose in my cheeks looks pretty. He will kiss my head and say dinner is at seven. I swallow a mouthful of sick and slip silently up the stairs still chewing my mitten.
In the bathroom I switch on the shower and stand under it. I don't take off my clothes. The warm water stings. Tingles my skin. I grip my lip with my teeth. My clothes cling to my skin and it sting sting stings as I strip. I fling them. Fat fabric. Saturated with blood and grease and water. They flap against the bath and flop to the floor. The water runs red. Black and red. Mostly red. I wash slowly. With my fingers. Lots of soap. So much soap. I rub. It hurts. Through the suds I watch my tears drown, fall down the drain. I want to follow and fall with them. Drown. Slip down. In the warm. In the dark. I sit in the tub. Put in the plug. I close my eyes.
I open my eyes when the water fills my nostrils. I wrap my toes around the chain and tug until the plug pops and stops stopping the water from filling the tub to the top. I watch the pools of grease floating on the water. White. Whirling. Floating. Slowly. Unashamedly. Enjoying the water. My water. I allow my aching face to smile slightly when they get sucked suddenly down the hole. Not my hole.
It takes a long time for me to stand. My swollen legs won't bend. I hold on to the side of the tub and ease my body out of the water. My bones crunch. I scrunch my face, squeeze my eyes shut, press my lips together so the screams don't escape. I stand under the shower and start to scrub. The water is cold now. I don't care. I need to be clean. I need to rub the red from my skin. Scrub the grease away. The soap slips off. Cold. The drips prick my skin, push through, rush through, collide with my bones. Red blood runs to blue. Buzzing bones stand still. Cold. Numb. I switch off the shower. Reach for the towel. Step out of the shower. The towel doesn't feel fluffy against my skin. Doesn't feel warm. Doesn't feel. I don't feel.
I walk along the hall silently. Open the door to my room silently. Close the door to my room silently. But it's too late. They hear. They storm up the stairs. Trample each other. Twist around the banister. There is no lock on the door. I lean against it. They hurl their bodies against the frame. The door flicks open and I fly. Hit the wall. The towel drops. Four eyes. Big. Blue. Glassy. Open. Wide. Staring. Mam pushes Dad out of the room. Shuts the door. He coughs. Sorry, Peach, he says. You should have said. Go downstairs please, Dad, says Mam. We hear him step softly down the stairs. I pull the towel round me and sit on the bed. Mam sits down next to me. You snuck upstairs sneakily, says Mam. We didn't even hear you come in. Her eyes are big and glassy and I can see my puny bare shoulders reflected in her pulsating pupils. her eyes are rolling over my face and my body and she is smiling. Her smile is pink and takes up most of her face. I came in quietly because I didn't want to wake up Baby. I thought he might have been sleeping, I say. Oh you're a good girl, Peach, she says. He's only just fallen asleep. Good girl. She strokes my wet hair. What do you want for dinner? she says. I'm not hungry, Mam, I say, looking down. Oh don't be silly. I was going to do pasta and meatballs for me and Dad. Shall I do you the same and put vegetables in the sauce instead? I've got some lovely baby sweetcorns there. She smacks her lips and nods and her eyes bounce around in her head. I'm all right, Mam, honest. I look up to see if she has noticed the puddle of red between my legs that is saturating the towel. Splat. Splattering on the carpet. She blinks in sync with the drips. Right, well I'll do it for you just in case you're hungry after. She kisses the top of my head. You're looking a bit peaky, Peach. She pinches my cheeks with her beaky fingers. She stands up and scuttles out of the room. She turns back and smiles at me before she shuts the door. Her lips look like the meat I threw up earlier.
I take the mirror from the shelf. I spread the towel on the floor and sit with my back against the door. I part my legs slowly and slot the mirror between my thighs. I put my hand over my mouth to stop the sick. I use my other hand to touch. The skin is split. Slit. Sliced. With two trembling fingers I touch the split skin, hold the slit together. Blood dribbles delicately. I look closely into the mirror. Fluid streams from my eyes, trickles over my tummy, runs into the red. Little rivers. Little ribbons. Slithers of silk. Torn skin. Stained scarlet. I need to stop the bleeding. I lean forward and wrap my hands around the leg of the desk in front of me and pull myself up. I pull a tissue from the box on the desk and place it between my legs. I put on my dressing gown. Slip on my slippers. Slide down the stairs. Mam is in the kitchen. cooking. I smell the meat. Beef. Burning. His breath is in my nostrils. Sharp smoke. Suffocating. I swallow.
Aren't you dressed yet? says Mam. No. I have to sew up a hole in my jeans, I say. That scabby pair? Just chuck them in the bin, Peach. We'll go into town and get you some new ones this week. She pinches my bum as I move past her. I open the cupboard under the sink and take out the sewing basket. I've got some other things to sew too, I say. She makes a clicking noise with her tongue, licks the sauce off the spoon. I slide past and run up the stairs. I forgot the ice. I scramble back down the stairs. I fumble in the freezer, find the ice tray. Too much movement. Blood dribbles down my leg. Mam doesn't see. Sid stalks in. The padding of his paws on the floor silences the splattering. he winds his body around my legs. His fur feels soft. His fur stains red. I untangle my legs from his fuzzy body and leave him lapping up the splatters.
I close the door to my room and lean against it. I look around. I don't know what I'm looking for. I pick the towel up and spread it again in the same spot. I take the soggy tissue from between my legs and put it in the bin. I search the sewing box for pink- or peach-coloured thread. I don't find any. I use white. I thread it through a needle. It takes a long time. My fingers are still shaking. I knot twice. Three times. Four. That is enough. I hit the ice tray against the desk. Hard. The cubes bounce out. Three fit in my mouth. I sit on the towel. Open my legs. Position the mirror. Oh. I take a cube of ice and press it to my skin. Oh. Cold. Oh. I slide it down over my – cold. So oh cold. I push the ice against the slice. Hold it there. Water drips off my fingers. The cold is soothing. I wait till the ice is melted. The ice is still solid in my mouth. In the mirror my lips look swollen and blue. Puffed up. Rock hard. They look like they will fall off my face. I look down. Oh. The slit is smaller. Still split. I take the needle. I hold the cold skin together with two fingers. Tug the thread. Suck the ice. Point the needle. Push it in. Stop. Scratch. Scratching. Cat. Not now. Scratch. Not now, Sid. Scratching. I want him to go away. Scratching stops. I wait. He has gone. I start. Slip the pin through the skin. Start stitching. It doesn't sting. It does bleed. White thread turns red. Red string. Going in. Going out. I pull. Tug. Tug the pin. In. Out. Out. Out. Blackout.
Peach! The screech forces my eyes open. Peach! Dinner is ready! come down please. Mam is standing at the bottom of the stairs. I hear Dad scuttle into the kitchen, scraping his chair on the tiles, sitting down. I reach for scissors. Snip. The bleeding has stopped. I look around the room. I am looking for clothes. I find pyjamas. They will ask why, I will say I am sleepy. I fold up the towel and stuff it in the bin. I will put the sewing basket back later.
I open the kitchen door and peer in. They grin manically at me. Big eyes. Big. Staring. I struggle to smile. I sit down next to Dad. On the plate, in front of me, vegetables. Green and yellow. Pasta. Light yellow. Colours. Not pink. I am hungry. Looks good, I say to Mam. She smiles. She watches. She wants to see me eat. So I eat. Slowly. I cut up the corn. cut up the beans. Twist the pasta around the fork. Twirling. And in. I chew. Dad shovels the spaghetti into his smile. I can't smell their meat. We eat. I am full. I drink water. I can feel it lay flat on the food in my tummy. It swishes and swirls in my stomach when I stand up and move to the other room. Baby is asleep, says Mam. Be quiet. I open the door quietly, gently. The lights are low, they glow. Warm yellow. The cot is in the corner. Baby is sitting up. Smiling at me. Big smile. Bigger than Mam and Dad's. He holds on to the bars with wobbly arms. He giggles, his skin wiggles as I move closer, smiling. I feel my face with my fingers. Curved lips. Smile. I am smiling. I stretch out my arms to Baby. He tries to pull himself up but he has jelly legs. He wobbles and topples over. His cry flies through the air and pricks open my heart. I scoop him up out of the cot, hold him close to my chest. Kiss his head. Lick the icing sugar off my lips. His red face looks redder in the low light. I sway slowly side to side until his cries subside. I tickle his wiggling cheeks. His open mouth closes and slips back into a smile. I move with him to the sofa and sit. It is warm in front of the fire. He glows. Hi Baby, I say, soothingly. His back sticks to my skin where the icing sugar has rubbed away. His body vibrates in my arms. Wiggling skin. Sticky. Jelly. Jelly Baby. Baby. He gurgles. I tickle his jelly tummy. I can see my arm through his transparent body. I shift his weight. Remove my arm from his back. Lay him on my lap. My arm feels warm. I rub the red gum from it. Baby is melting. I am such an idiot. I pick him up and take him to the table. I sit him on the mat, put pillows behind his back, reach for the icing-sugar shaker. The mat sticks to his back when I try to turn him over. I peel him from the plastic. His lips wobble. he is going to cry. Shush, Baby, shush. Shush, Baby, I say. I smooth his back. Shape the jelly. Sprinkle him with sugar. Shush. Peach is silly, I say, isn't she? Isn't Peach silly? he giggles and gurgles. I am still smiling. I still sprinkle. I lift him up off the mat and watch the excess sugar slip off him. I swing him around and he giggles. Good as new. Mam and Dad swing the door open. They stand and stare. Their smiles grow simultaneously. They scamper in and sit down, side by side. They hold hands. I hold Baby close to my chest and bounce his body gently. His jelly body jiggles. See? says Dad. He just takes some getting used to, that's all. We know he came as a bit of a surprise to you, Peach, says Mam. But a baby brother will be good for you. I bounce Baby. I look at Mam. Her eyes are so big. So blue. Her tummy pokes out over her trousers. Just a bit. She is losing her pregnancy weight. She has been having sex. She sees me looking, pulls her sweater down. Sticks her tongue out at me. Dad grins. It'll be good practice, he says. For what? I can feel my forehead crease. For when you and Green have babies. For when we what? I say. I stop bouncing Baby. Now, Peach, we know what is going on. We are your parents. We weren't born yesterday. We know you two have been – you know, says Dad. Baby wriggles in my arms. I hand him to Mam. No, Dad. I don't think I do know. I'm too young to have babies, I say, slouching in the chair by the fire. But Baby will have someone to play with! Mam jumps forward, nearly dropping Baby. Dad's head bobs up and down excitedly. Go on, says Mam. Green is a lovely boy. You make such a cute couple. And the sex sounds amazing, says Dad. My face flickers red like Baby's. I can't see it. But I feel hot. I turn my face to the fire. I burn with it. Mam giggles and pinches Dad's cheek. It's okay, Peach. Sex is a good thing. Me and Mam do it all the time. We just did it now on the kitchen table. It's human nature, Peach, don't be embarrassed. Green is a lucky guy. Most girls won't put out until they are married. But not our Peach. And we're proud of you. It is good to get experience, and well, if you get blessed with a baby, that's even better. I cover my face with my hands. I want to cry. That Green looks like he's a big boy. I bet you have a brilliant time, says Mam. Her tongue is still hanging out of her mouth when I look at her through parted fingers. She turns her head and sticks it in Dad's mouth. I can't watch this. I take Baby from Mam, kiss him on the head and put him back in his cot. He sits there wriggling and giggling, watching Mam and Dad roll around on the sofa. Kissing. Biting. Eyes wide. Mam gives me a little wave. I can't watch this. I leave the room quickly. Quietly. Up the stairs. Close the door to my room. Flop down on the bed. Exhausted.
I lie with my hand on my stomach. It feels swollen. Full. I close my eyes and think of Green. My gorgeous Green. I wish he was here. Lying next to me. With his hand on my stomach. His lips on my neck. I feel full. So full. I ate too much. Must have eaten too much. I think of the food as a foetus. What would I do? Peach and Green. With a baby. Mam and Dad would be ecstatic. Baby would have someone to play with. Baby will have someone to play with anyway if Mam and Dad don't stop sexing every six seconds. I'm too young to have a baby. Green would leave me. No he wouldn't. But he would be scared. I would be scared. I nearly melted my brother. If my baby was jelly too it wouldn't stand a chance.
I like this full feeling. I rub my tummy. Full. Firm. I open the buttons of my shirt, flip back the flannel. Lines of orange light lie on my skin from the street lamp. I follow the lines with my fingers. Strange shadows break the lines of light. Swinging over my skin. Orange. Broken with black. Swings back to orange. I sit up. Orange flashes around the room. I walk to the window. I have to hold on to the sill to steady myself when I see him swinging from the street light. holding on to the lamp with his slimy sausage fingers. Swinging. Sausages dangling. I have to close my eyes. I have to open my eyes. his long, thick body bobbing back and forth. Back. And. Forth. Swing. Swinging sausages. Swinging cylinder arms. I have to blink hard. Thick. Fat. His mouth is open. I can see the smoke spilling from the slit in his skin. In his face. his face. He doesn't have a face. Holes pricked in the skin of the top end of his body, sort of body, where his face should be. Deep holes. Black. And a bit further down a smouldering slit. I have to grip the windowsill. I am scared. I rub my eyes. I see him. He is swinging from the street light. He is waving to me with his sausage arm. Wiggling his sausage fingers. Greasy glistening skin in the orange light. Long sausage legs slipping over the pavement. Thick. Fat. Swing. Swinging. Swing. Ing.
Excerpted from "Peach"
Copyright © 2018 Emma Glass.
Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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