Victoria Lee has a new book coming out this week. The Electric Heir, Victoria's highly-anticipated sequel to last year's breakout thriller The Fever King, will hit shelves in just two days. In the meantime, we asked Victoria if she had any long-lost writing she could share with us, and she dug up this gem from an untitled novel she started in high school. She wrote it as a sixteen-year-old trying to come to terms with her diagnosis of "psychotic disorder NOS," a diagnosis that would change to psychotic depression once Victoria was able to see a better psychiatrist.
"Apparently, I didn't know how to use conjunctions," Victoria says, looking back at this piece now.
This psychological thriller wasn't the only thing that Victoria wrote while in high school, but that doesn't mean she's planning on sharing the rest of her pieces with us. "Everything else I could find from my teen years was grotesquely gory and violent," she says.
Enjoy this exclusive excerpt of Victoria's unpublished high school genius, and don't forget to pre-order The Electric Heir!
We—Violet and I—are writing a story.
It is, as I have said unabashedly on several different occasions, a staggeringly poetic masterpiece. The plot? How dare you ask! To tell you would compromise our creative integrity.
Well, what genre?
And that effectively quells any further interest whatsoever on most people’s part.
Class is as good as over. The bell has not officially rung yet, but everyone is packing their bags and chatting in small groups knit tight around individual desks. I stand next to Violet, reading over her shoulder as she writes. I know it throws her off and makes her self-conscious, but I cannot resist. We do not communicate much about the specifics of what will happen in each of our characters’ respective chapters, only on the current plot arc in general. Reading what she writes—seeing my own character with her quirks and carefully crafted personality traits, through the eyes of another—is refreshing.
“I can’t think with you doing that, Alasdair,” she says, not looking up from the page and her pen scratching word after word between the thin blue lines. “It’s distracting.”
“Sorry,” I say, taking a couple of steps back. I would be more sympathetic were it not for the fact that she does exactly the same thing to me. And this is our only class together—I tested out of seventh grade history, English, and science, and by a stroke of luck, my schedule gave Violet and me this period together.
The bell rings—a hollow, ear-splitting sound—and everyone interrupts the thread of their conversations to stream out the door all at once. Even Violet has stopped writing mid-sentence and tucked her black and white marble notebook into her bag. I am, for a brief moment, annoyed. I do not understand how she can turn off her stream of thought so easily. When I start writing, it is near impossible for me to stop prematurely. I have to get every last word that is in my mind onto the page, as if, should I wait too long, they might wither away and disappear.
I belatedly pack my own bag and hurry after Violet, the clasp on my purse undone, letting the flap of the front pocket slap irritatingly against the fake leather. “Hold on, wait up!”
Violet turns to glance over her shoulder and steps to the side of the hall, leaning against the row of lockers, for me to catch up. I decide quickly that I am going to pretend that she did not go ahead without me. I always wait for her, but perhaps that is not normal behavior. I am not sure what is considered excessive, friendship-wise, in middle school. I did not have many friends last year, before Violet transferred in. We have known each other since we were nine years old—she does not care if I am a complete social loser.
“Sorry,” I say, though I am not quite sure what I am supposed to be apologizing for. I cover for it, fast. “Are you free this weekend? I was wondering if you wanted to hang out.”
Violet shrugs. “I have no idea. I think I’m free. If I’m not, I’ll get free.” She grins. “What were you wanting to do?”
“Anything,” I say. “I just don’t want to spend the whole weekend with just Savannah and her annoying little friends for company.”
“Hey, your sister really isn’t all that bad.”
“You don’t have to live with her.”
“True. But I like my sister.”
“That’s because Ellen is smart. And fun. And has good taste. Savannah just…doesn’t.” My sister is the most popular girl in her class. When I was in third grade, I was still wearing the clothes our mother had sewn herself.
We round a corner and I grab Violet’s arm, pulling her back, pressing us both against the wall. “Ssh!” I hiss, even though there is no way that he can hear us over the other students in the hall. “It’s Mr. Hackett! All right. Try to look normal.”
Violet takes in a slow, deep breath, and we both situate ourselves. Mr. Hackett is new to Miller as of this year, and we both know why. It is because he does not want the two of us to be together. Together, our power is too strong. We could destroy him and everything that he stands for.
I know he senses our presence and is angered by it, even though he disguises it with a smile and a nod as he walks past. I can see through that façade. He knows that we know the truth. One of his hands, even, is resting on the strap of the camera that hangs around his neck. As yearbook advisor, he is ideally placed to tear apart the souls of the human body, the essence of a human being, gone with a snap and a brief flash. Violet and I are two of the few who have thus far managed to avoid having the images of our faces captured on his film. If we are not careful, though, it is only a matter of time before he catches us off-guard.
We watch his retreating back in tense silence, and it is not until he is a good ten seconds gone that we relax the muscles in our necks and shoulders, giggling quietly as if at our own folly,
though the laugh is as good as forced.
Later, we will “grow out of” this paranoia regarding Mr. Hackett. At least, Violet will. I will pretend that it was all a game, though secretly I will maintain that I did the right thing, that he got what he deserved. These thoughts will not really go away until I start medication.
Years later, looking back on Violet and our long and complexly woven relationship, I will wonder if she actually did think that it was a thrilling inside game, or if she merely knew that I was crazy all along.