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The Narcissus Complex by Jared Peterson Book

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The Narcissus Complex by Jared Peterson Book Read Online And Epub File Download


Overview: Gearing up for Classics studies at Oxford, Bennett Driscoll is staying with his botanist parents in their new home, just outside of Mill Bay, British Columbia. It’s temporary. A way to save enough money to travel to Greece for the remainder of his gap year. But then he meets Mira.

When Bennett’s car won’t start one cold morning, Mira is kind enough to offer a ride—and in return, Bennett gives her a gift: A daffodil, sometimes referred to as the narcissus.

That’s when their world turns inside out.

Strange, violent vines ravage the neighborhood, and a look-alike Mira begins haunting empty reflections. Bennett and Mira decide to work together to unravel the connection between these events and the unassuming daffodil. But when her look-alike forces Mira to attempt suicide, Bennett must help her examine the true nature of the flower’s effects, and to summon the courage to face, not just Narcissus, but herself—before they lose their lives. 


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The Narcissus Complex by Jared Peterson Book Read Online Chapter One


2 WEEKS EARLIER

When the electric door, all oiled and silent, opens fully, a cool breeze stirs up the concrete floor. Even after months of living here, this is still perhaps the oddest garage I’ve ever been in; garages are meant to smell of dust and old toys, not paint thinner.


I grind my teeth and hope my car will cooperate this morning. It’s been having trouble the last week—on its last leg, I suppose. And that bicycle rusting against the wall would have a hard time making it out of the neighborhood, much less to Victoria.


I almost have enough to spend the next six months of my gap year in Greece—and I have waited too long to see the Parthenon to let a spotty car delay it.


The garage’s mouth sets a rectangular frame over other homes with heavy wood beams for entryways and paneling instead of brick or stone. Past the neighborhood, towering evergreens stand sentry over the street. Mill Bay is diminutive, though its nature isn’t.


One of the neighbors from up the street is walking in my direction, both her hands stuffed in the pockets of her purple jumper. I’ve seen her take this route every morning, but we’ve never talked. Fine by me, honestly.


I open the Subaru’s driver-side door, plop my bag with my gardening shears, CSA footwear, lunch (Mum’s cinnamon-raisin Welsh cakes) and The Odyssey onto the passenger seat, settling in. I turn over the engine.


Or, rather, I try to turn over the engine. Instead, all I get is a low grinding noise, and some clicking, and then, you know… smoke coming out of the gomping hood.


The girl from up the street stops, knitting her dark brows. I lock eyes with her—she’s standing awkwardly in the middle of my driveway—then try turning over the engine again. And one more time, just in case.


At this point, I’m more frustrated than embarrassed, and after several unsuccessful attempts to start the car, whatever has gone wrong finally fails with full force. The last time I turn the key, I hear a mechanical click as some sort of switch is thrown. Through the maw of the garage, I see a car whiz up the steep street. Lucky bastard. They’ll get to work today.


How much is this going to cost me? Maybe a day’s wages, plus parts and labor hours. I should become a mechanic; they seem to be doing fine.


Half smiling, the girl walks toward me. As she takes her hands out of her pockets, I catch a glimpse of what looks like a dog leash sticking out of one of them. She girl knocks on my window, and I roll it down. At least the battery works… Good God, the last thing I want to do is talk right now.


“I think it’s safe to say she’s a goner,” the girl says.


My hands rest on the steering wheel’s ten and two o’clock positions. I reckon she can read my fake tone when I say, “Yep, a goner.”


She cocks her head. It’s the usual reaction the first time anyone not British hears my voice. Or Mum’s or Da’s. Since moving to Canada, I’ve sort of grown accustomed to it, but I am not in the mood. Before she can ask, I say, “I’m from Wales.”


“Oh…” Her eyes light up, and she clears her throat. “Where’re you headed?”


“Work,” I say. “Trying to, anyway.”


“Oof. Sorry about that.”


“Yeah, well—” I give her my best smile, then break out the Welsh, hoping to scare her off. “Paid a chodi pais wedi pisio.”


“Sorry?”


“Don’t lift your petticoat after you’ve peed. It’s… never mind.”


Instead of skipping off, she leans forward, grinning, and inspects every inch of the Subaru. I notice she’s wearing a small silver dolphin at her neck, a pendant of sorts. My geeky brain flashes to Poseidon and cosmically-sized sea serpents.


“Do you want me to go get someone?” she asks.


“No,” I say. “That’s alright.”


She looks to the garage door leading into the house, seems to recognize that mine is the only car here—though there are two drip pans on the concrete.


“I mean,” she says, “I’d hotwire it for you, but I don’t think that’d really solve the problem.”


I raise an eyebrow. “You can hotwire?”


She smiles sheepishly, “It’s a skill…”


“What would you even need that for?”


“A heist, I guess…? It’s one of those YouTube holes I fell down. You know?” She pushes a strand of hair behind her ear, switching tacks. “Where do you work?”


“Butchart Gardens. In Victoria.” I jam out a quiet rhythm on the steering wheel. What could I say to break the iced-over conversation? I look around the garage, note my work supplies in the passenger seat next to me, the rusty bicycle.


Her eyes fall on the dusty bike. “You’d never even make it to the ferry on that thing… Well, look, I work at the aquarium, so… you know, I could give you a lift until you figure something out?”


“Thanks,” I say, “but I don’t want—”


“It’s no biggie. I don’t have be at the aquarium for a couple hours, but I don’t mind going early. If it makes you feel better, you can pay for the ferry man.”


I ignore the double-entendre.


“Sure,” I say.


“Okay, cool. Just give me a few minutes to change?”


I should be grateful. Why don’t I feel grateful?


“That’s fine,” I say, grabbing my bag and pulling the keys out of the ignition. “Thanks.”


She holds out her hand when I’m out of the car. Again, I notice the dog leash in her jumper pocket—but I’ve never seen her out with a dog.


I take her hand. “Sorry, what’s your name?”


“Mira Jackson. I live just up the road, with my mom. You?”


“Bennett. Thanks, again.” I slam the car door shut.


She mimics the Queen’s English as she says, “Pleasure.”


 

* * *


On our way to Victoria, Mira assured me that she’s willing to give me a lift for as long as it takes to fix my car. But I feel like a gomping burden.


Now in a minute I’ll have to do something for Mira. I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t shown up. Even with her help, I’d still arrived at my usual time: about fifteen minutes past. One of the many things I’m grateful my supervisor, Jacqueline, always seems to turn a blind eye to.


I all but sprint down the path next to one of the Butchart’s greenhouses—which itself is a forest-green cottage. The morning smells like sweet alyssum, and on either side of the fishbone-patterned brick walkway are flowers in white, blue and purple, still lit by the lamps that maintenance has yet to turn off.


There’s a man up ahead on the path. Odd, though. The garden’s not open yet, and I’ve never seen him before.


“You are Bennett, yes?” The man’s Canadian French accent makes him over pronounce the “t”. He’s small for a guy, and with ridiculous amounts of sleek, ink-black hair that makes him look younger than he probably is.


Who is this guy?


I stop in front of him, work bag slung over my right shoulder. The sheers and spade clink inside the canvas as I try to keep the embarrassment to myself. I’m sure it shows up anyway. “Sorry I’m—”


“Bennett. Driscoll, yes? —” the use of my surname reminds me why I have a job here in the first place— “Rhys and Efa’s kid. Them I know from work in Montreal… I am your new supervisor, Sean Murphey.”


Squirming, now panicking, from my tardiness, I ask, “Where’s Jacqueline?”


Sean crosses his arms over his chest. “Maternity.”


“My car broke down,” I say.


“Yes—Jacqueline has told me you might be late. Though not for this reason. She has said that you have an odd taste in literature. Er, how to say—les anciens grecs?”


My cheeks blaze, hot sun only making it worse. Maybe, if I speak to him in French, I can get on his good list? Using my best Quebecoise (not great, really), I say, “It won’t happen again. I’m very sorry.”


He shakes his head and smiles, continuing—to my relief—in French. “Nothing to worry about. I love Greece, been there several times. If you’re ever up for chatting…” he spreads his arms wide.


I let out a breath. Sean isn’t really mad about my being late, thank God. I think maybe he feels it’s his duty as new supervisor to reprimand—even if his reproach is as bland as boiled Irish potatoes.


“Get that car fixed, though,” Sean says. “And clock in. I want you in the Italian garden today—Sarah (I think that’s her name? —yeah, that’s it) needs some help. Ouais?”


“Ouais,” I reply, giving him my thumbs up. Botanist parents or no botanist parents, this new supervisor is too nice for his own good.


 

* * *


At lunch, I call a mechanic and work with my insurance to have the car towed. By the end of the day, I have a sickeningly high quote for the repairs—this thing called a starter is broken, I guess? I know my parents won’t pay for it.


I’ll have to delay seeing the Parthenon a couple weeks to make up the difference. Fine. That’s not the worst thing that can happen.

 



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