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The Storyteller

Book Blurb:

You can sleep through the world, but not through yourself.

A childhood incident she can’t recollect…
A haunting nightmare that jolts her out of sleep…
For Zara, knowing is suffering.
Cocooned in the shell she has built around herself, life is all about bare survival
until one day she gets an email from The Storyteller…
Zara is hooked by his words and hungry for more. But, to her horror, she learns he
knows more about her than she thought.
When her step-cousin Zachariah lands after eight years, reviving bittersweet
memories, Zara must face her worst demons.
Who is The Storyteller? What does he want from her? What is she afraid of?
And why didn’t her mother protect her from the devastating truth about herself?
The Storyteller is a poignant narrative, exploring childhood trauma and the battle
of a young woman caught between PTSD and high-functioning normalcy,
intertwined with a tale of love, loss, grief, betrayal, pain and survival.


Sample Chapters:

CHAPTER 1
Zara

A petrifying sense of déjà vu. I have been there before.
But during the daytime.
In the dark, it looked different. The trees ghastly, the alley walls closing in,
crushing me. The shadows shaped like women.
And then… the unstoppable, rapid footsteps.
Faster than my own. Quick enough to catch up with me.
I had to hurry. My heart flailed all around my rib cage. I was being followed. If I
had been here before, I should know a safe place. But I couldn\'t recollect one.
I saw him, a few metres from me. The sad grey eyes looked at me screaming
some unknown suffering. Almost as if he needed my help.
The footsteps stopped. I came to a halt. His eyes flitted to something behind me,
widening for a moment.
Darkness descended. There were no more footsteps. No more shadows.
No more sad, grey eyes.
There was fear. Raw, implacable fear.
And a cul-de-sac.

*



I gasped loud enough to wake myself up. Outside, the rain was unrelenting against
the window pane and the roof.
The dream was recurring. Almost punctual and persistent and I wake up with a
parched mouth and throat every time it came, sweat peppering my forehead.
But, it was a while since I had it. Roughly three months.
I don’t remember how it stopped. But then, it wasn’t in my hands. I didn’t
remote-control dreams.
There should be a reason why it recurred after such a long time. I had no clue. I
was a lost cause myself. A thin blue line –I have always felt it that way – stretched
between my life and death.
The first third of my life, I didn’t know what was going on.
The second third was spent trying to end it. Ignorance was innocence and bliss. I
lost it quite early.
The rest of my life lingers on this thin blue line.
I must add that the first and second thirds of my life, so far, are not of equal
lengths.
I shuffled under the covers and curled up on my side, taking deep breaths. Last
night, after a long time, I took a pill to sleep. Nikita had invited me to a wild party.
I wanted to erase it from my cerebral cortex.
Apparently, I couldn’t.
The darkness of the alley didn’t lighten up even in the sun streaming into the
room when the rain took a break. I clenched my lids shut. Those sad grey eyes –
they were silvery and the saddest I had ever seen.
Those disembodied eyes.
Everything else was a blur.



*

My phone beeped at a notification.
I jumped to my feet and scanned the room but it was not in sight. My messy bed
bounced at me, screaming to be made and I thought I might as well tend to it to
pass time. I tripped on the pile of clothes I had shed last night at the foot of my
bed. The phone beeped a second time from the pocket of my black jeans and I
fished it out.
There were two WhatsApp messages from Nikita, asking if I was all right after
last night, reminding me that I had taken a few swigs of beer for the first time in
my life and thrown up shortly after, swearing I wouldn’t try that again.
She had lots of friends, mainly boys. I wasn’t interested in their kind of fun. I
had gone for the sake of a pretend-friendship. I hung out with her expecting
nothing. It was probably not the same for her. I hadn’t trusted her with any of my
burns though we have been together since high school and her parents knew my
mom and Adam. I needed someone to get away with, without having to account
for. But no way would I go to an unruly party teeming with boys.
My medicine box got refilled every month. I flush them down the latrine
regularly. Last night, I had flushed it down my burning throat. I wasn’t myself after
escaping when one of her ‘friends’ made a pass at me.
She had followed me and apologized profusely when I stormed outside into the
dark. It wasn’t her fault though. It was mine. She agreed to drop me at my home,
when I threw up.
Tonight I had an excuse. Ryan’s homecoming was inescapable even for him. I
sent a polite reply.
I’m fine. But I can’t join you tonight. Ryan will be home.


Her message popped up instantly: Ok. :(
Idly, I closed the chat and there was another beep. I sighed. I had yet to make up
excuses for other potential nights of parties.
But it was an email.
I rarely got emails. Most of them were from feeds of blogs I skimmed through
and accidentally subscribed to. Some from literary blogs I had subscribed to for my
studies. A few were book recommendations from Amazon after a recent book
search.
I hoarded books. From source unknown, I caught a bug for literature and
decided to pursue it for my degree and now my master’s, much to my mother’s
disappointment. She thought it was a waste of time and a crazy thing to base your
life on.
If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought she had been bad at the subject
and hated it. But she had her own little library. I have no idea why it pissed her off.
This email was from an individual. Not my usual mailers. There was no full
name, just two initials.
Z. R.
My breath grew shallow as I read it. It was not a random email.







CHAPTER 2
Zara

"Ten is late," Mom pointed out, sipping her late morning cup of coffee.
“One in the morning is, too.” As if my sleeping in was her sin. Her mouth was a
tight, disapproving line, the best I could harvest from her expressions. “The
medications are too heavy,” I added.
I went to fix my coffee. I scooped sugar into my coffee, stirred the pretty strong
concoction and walked to the French windows overlooking the groomed lawns
bordered with orchids and bonsais on raised platforms.
Adam had everything near perfect. I couldn’t find a single thing under or
overdone. He reconstructed his ancestral home dating back to the colonial times, to
suit his legacy and also jell with the laid-back modernity of Fort Kochi.
The luscious, dappled and yellow gardens in bloom were meant to be
tranquilizing but not to me. The thickly wound up nerves wouldn’t loosen up.
When people think you are weird and troubled when you are not, it is difficult. It
is just as difficult, or perhaps worse, when people think you are perfectly all right
when you know deep down that you are not.
Mom cleared her throat for attention. I remained in blatant disregard.
“Ryan is coming over for the weekend in a while,” she said. “I want you to be
nice.”
I turned to her. “Nice?”
“Yes, you know what I mean.”
“No! Hang on! I don’t know what you mean!” I snapped. “When haven’t I been


nice to him?”
“Shut up. You absolutely know what I mean.”
The unfairness shot a volcano of loath inside, surprising me. I glared at my
mother across the luxuriously designed den, enraged at how easy it was for her to
let me down.
I slid open the French window and stomped out, the coffee in my mug sloshing
in protest, to my favourite corner in the compound. An old mango tree covered the
sky and a weather beaten log bench was tucked underneath its spreading branches.
Adam had it made when the garden was taking shape, his late wife’s – mom’s
predecessor - favourite reading place. After her demise, seventeen years back, he
seldom went out there. That is quite some grieving if you ask me, considering the
fact he had remarried less than a year later.
Adam was nice, as nice as a step-father could be. He was seldom around and I
avoided him whenever he was in, if I could.
Ryan was another story. He tried to bond. I couldn’t steer clear of him as often
as I wanted to. He was four years older and had become a pretty good model for
mom to compare her not-good-enough daughter with, by the time we had moved in
with them.
At school, he used to boss around like a protective brother, which pissed me off
more than anything. I was relieved when he finally left for Bengaluru to pursue his
Commerce degree and MBA, to join his father in business. But Adam wouldn’t let
him come home before he grabbed some work experience and internship outside
the family business.
The rain-washed air was still a little chilly. I sat down on the log bench, cradling
the coffee mug in my palms, warming them and staring down at my bare feet,
almost numb to the moist green grass underneath them, the mud soggy under my
feet.
For all that mattered, I wanted to disappear. It had become a lifelong dream by
now. I don’t know why I was afraid to. Part of me believed that mom would not


look for me. But the smarter part told me she would drag me back to this place –
her palace, my dungeon.
I couldn’t wait for the weekend to end. I could get out. Ryan hadn’t visited for
over a month. I knew he wasn’t coming for just the weekend.
“Much to her dismay, he reached early,” a male voice drawled from behind me,
almost close to my ear.
I stiffened.
Already? And he knew about the dismay part?
I looked up incredulously at the younger version of my stepfather. He was smart,
I must say, but he was also my step-brother, always a step ahead of me, always
better than me and I envied him for the friendship he shared with my mother. He
had nailed it. The art of getting her thumbs up. I envied him for who he was,
though I would never want to be anyone else other than myself.
“You haven’t changed a bit, baby sista,” he grinned, dropping his backpack on
the bench and coming around to the front. He opened his arms. “Care to give me a
hug?”
A hug? I could use one. But not from someone who made me feel like a pretty
little exotic insect.
“Hi, so you’re home.”
“Yep!” Ryan shrugged, dropping his arms. “Guess I still don’t get the hug. Like
I said, you haven’t changed.”
“What change were you expecting anyway?”
“I was friendlier at twenty three than I was at eighteen,” he explained. “It sort of
goes that way. People warm up. People try to understand other people. Especially
when they see after months.”
“Well, I guess I’m not people.”


“But of course you’re funny,” he laughed.
“Thanks.” I sipped my coffee that was already cold and spat it out on the
ground.
I stood up and smoothed my dress. He studied me like I was an admirable thing
but too weird to accept. I couldn’t overlook how it sped my heart, insecurity
wrapping around me like barbwire.
“What are you doing today?” he asked.
“The celebratory luncheon of your homecoming like every time,” I tried to dose
in some sarcasm.
“Ditch that, sis.”
“What? Thought only you could use the medicine cabinet?”
He frowned, confused. That was unusual and I felt triumphant. I had a box full
of shit. Like phrases that packed certain amounts of sarcasm along with my low
self-esteem. My own collection of precious verbal weapons. Rarely used though.
“Ditch the luncheon. Why the hell am I welcomed to my own home?”
“Ask your dad.”
“Ask your mom, too.”
“I have to be nice to you, so I can’t tell her.”
He raised a brow. “Are you okay?”
“God, yes – no – just don’t try to play therapist with me, Ryan,” I pushed down
my surfacing vulnerabilities. “I’ve had enough of that.”
I poured out the cold coffee before storming off. He was spoilt, nurtured. I
longed to be all that. But what I was wouldn’t change. I was a broken flotsam in a
turbulent ocean, too scattered to become whole.





Short Synopsis:

Some stories are told, others are lived.


Sana Rose

About the Author:

Sana Rose was shortlisted for ARL Literary Award 2018 for Best Author for
her debut women’s fiction novel Sandcastles (2018) soon after publication. Her
first stint as an author was with a collection of poetry in 2011 when she was a
medical student. Her poetry has since then appeared in anthologies featuring
worldwide poets and in Indian and International online journals like The
Sketchbook Journal, The Galway Review, Rat\\\'s Ass Review, Ithalukal and
Ashvamegh International Journal of English Literature.
She also writes on diverse topics like writing, creativity, mental health, personal
development, relationships and parenting. When not writing, Sana is a
Homoeopathic physician, mental health counsellor, freelance writer, art-dabbler
and mom. She lives in Kadalundi, a seaside town in Calicut, Kerala, with her
husband and daughter. The Storyteller is her second novel.
Read her works at www.sanarose.com.
Connect with her:
Instagram: @sanahrose
Twitter: @sanahrose
Facebook: http://facebook.com/SanaRoseOfficial