Birthdays of a Princess by Helga Zeiner on Tour June 1st – July 31st 2013
Genre: Psychological Thriller Published by: POW WOW Books Publication Date: May/June 2013 Number of Pages: 290 ISBN: 978-0-9868798-7-6 Purchase Links:
Almost from age one, Tiara has been a star of the American Child Beauty Circuit. When she grows too old to win anymore, her mother leaves Texas and returns to Vancouver. Tiara is twelve years old, she refuses to attend school or interact with other children, becoming more and more reclusive. Her relationship with her mother deteriorates and they become estranged.
One morning, three years later, Tiara’s mother is shocked to find her daughter the subject of a big story on the morning news. A violent assault has just occurred at a local coffee shop and it seems Tiara is the perpetrator. The brutal and seemingly unprovoked assault lands her in the Burnaby Secure Youth Centre for a court ordered psychological assessment.
When the police investigate the incident they begin to slowly unravel her confused and dark childhood. They discover her history as a child beauty queen star, managed by her mother and aunt while living in Texas. It also becomes increasingly apparent that explicit photos of Tiara were taken and posted to many internet sites The photos seem to capture Tiara over many years and lead the detectives to wonder whether she is the victim rather than the perpetrator.
Tiara herself cannot provide any insight. She has buried the memories of her childhood deep in her sub-consciousness, and even if she could remember, she is deeply traumatized and unresponsive. Any attempts by the authorities to probe result in more withdrawal and unexplained expressions of grief and anger.
Carefully guided by the adolescent forensic psychiatrist in charge at the Secure Youth Centre, she begins to write a journal, anchoring her memories on her birthdays as she remembers them. At the same time, her mother tries to explain the past from her own perspective, insisting she only wanted the best for her daughter and refusing to acknowledge any responsibility at all for what Tiara has experienced. It becomes very obvious that Tiara has been greatly damaged by her childhood.
Slowly the two story-lines merge until they arrive at the moment when mother and daughter recall the trauma that eventually leads to the attack. Tiara begins to understand the horrific nature of her abnormal childhood. She allows the psychiatrist to read the notes in her journal, subconsciously guiding him toward the truth. But the truth is not clear cut. Tiara is guilty of aggravated assault. Even the detectives can’t find motive to explain her action, which means the judicial system has no choice but to keep her locked up as a dangerous juvenile criminal. Tiara remembers much of her past but she has no idea why she stabbed a strange woman in a coffee shop. Her mental isolation doesn’t allow her to confront this important question. Only the psychiatrist, with the assistance of the detectives who keep digging in the past, might be able to unlock the secret buried in her soul. And they are successful, but in a way they never expected. When Tia remembers all that had happened and what had motivated her to attack another human being, the final answer, the solution to the puzzle, surprises them all.
Read an excerpt:
She wakes up earlier than usual. It’s not even eight yet. The apartment feels empty, but that doesn’t surprise her, because it is empty most mornings. To make sure, she gets out of bed, opens the curtains, waddles down the narrow hallway, stops at the second bedroom and listens briefly. Not a sound. Of course not. She would have heard the flat door open, no matter how late. She is a light sleeper.
The kitchen greets her with familiar comfort. Welcome, my lonely friend. Make yourself a cup of tea. Sit down by the window. Look out, check the weather, think about what to wear for work. Stop listening. Nobody is home but you.
Just another day in the big city.
Vancouver is still sleepy. Yawning and slowly stretching like a lazy lion, rubbing its exhausted eyes, waiting for the helpers to brush the filthy remains of last night’s excitement from the concrete floor of its den.
The water kettle switches itself off and she pours the boiling water over the tea bag and waits one minute, standing in front of the kitchen counter. It has to be exactly one minute, no point in doing anything else but stare at the twirling surface inside her cup. Sixty seconds later–the second dial on her kitchen clock is within her periphery—she discards the bag, heaps three generous spoonfuls of sugar into the cup, followed by so much cream that the tea instantly cools to drinking temperature, and sits down at the kitchen table.
Still thinking it’s just another day.
A gentle traffic hum outside, no sound inside her kitchen. Correction: no sound inside her flat, this two bedroom, one bathroom borderline apartment. Borderline because its location touches a good neighborhood and the Eastside. The street she lives on stops the filthy guts of downtown spilling over into suburbia. Her kitchen window points toward the high-rise monuments of downtown Vancouver. Very pretty at night, not so attractive at daytime when the not-so-high and not-so-modern buildings that envelope the skyscrapers become visible. She doesn’t want to look at the decaying grey buildings any longer that provide a battle ground between city planners who want to sell it to developers and Eastsiders who have occupied them.
Just another day. And it is so quiet.
Melissa turns on the TV, not realizing that it is exactly eight o’clock now. The channel is set on CTV and there is a ‘Breaking News’ banner flashing in bright orange below the female morning anchor. She increases the volume. The excited voice of the lady anchor fills her kitchen. She takes a sip of her sweet, sweet tea and leans back a little.
“We have a developing story of a brutal attack on a customer at Starbucks coffee shop on Robson Street. Apparently a young woman has stabbed another woman inside Starbucks. Our reporter Emily Jackson is on location. Emily, what can you tell us…?”
The upper body of a reporter, holding a microphone in one hand and fighting her wind-swept hair with the other, comes into the picture. Melissa hadn’t noticed that it is quite windy outside. Well, it’s October, at least it’s not raining. Behind the reporter a yellow band is restricting access to the crime scene. She sounds overly excited. “From what we have learned, a young woman has suddenly attacked a woman inside the coffee shop you see right behind me. We don’t know yet if the customer was already seated or still standing in line to place her order. We also don’t know the identity of the attacker or of the victim yet or have any information about the motive. Apparently the attacker suddenly produced a knife and threw herself at the woman, yelling obscenities on top of her voice. As you can see behind me, police have cordoned off the area and are processing the scene.”
The anchor interrupts her. “Do we have any information about the condition of the victim? Is she badly hurt? Or…”
An autumn gust blows hair over the reporter’s face. She nearly loses her microphone, trying to control the strands with both hands, but fumbles it back into position when she realizes that the camera is focused on her again. One side of her pretty face is completely covered with hair. It looks ridiculous and Melissa catches herself thinking the reporter would look a lot prettier if she had a different hairstyle.
“The ambulance has transported the victim to the emergency ward of St Paul’s…”
The reporter’s voice travels along Melissa’s attention span and loses its grip. Background noise quality. She likes that. And God, her tea is good.
Another developing story news-flash banner demands her attention again. The anchor sounds triumphant: “We have just received a video-clip from one of our viewers. We would like to warn you that some viewers may find the content of this video-clip offensive in nature…”
The clip starts. The picture is shaky, the filmmaker hassling for a good position between other coffee-shop customers who have jumped up to look what is going on in the middle of the room. The back of shoulders and heads pop in and out, screams of horror and confusion can be heard. Their unedited sound quality provides an unnerving authenticity to the unfolding drama.
An arm rises up in the air and down again, in kind of a wood chopping motion. Up and down, in one swift move, no hesitation whatsoever. In fact, the chopping goes on. Up and down, up and down—accompanied by ‘Oh my God’s’ and ‘Oh no, oh no’s’. The filmmaker edges closer, seems to get up on a chair, because he is above the scene now, holding his iPhone or whatever device he’s got, high above the center of the customer-circle that inched away from the dangerous situation. The victim of the attack is on the floor now, mercifully blurred by the rapid movements of the inexperienced cameraman, or maybe by CTV’s editing. The attacker, the young woman, wearing a black hoodie, is over her and chops into her with such vengeance that Melissa can feel the force of her hatred, furious and powerful. The victim is trying to protect her face and chest with crossed hands. The mad attacker continues to stab her wherever she can—face, arms, torso, it is impossible to make out exactly in the shaky clip where her knife slices into.
Bodies pop in and out of the picture and mercifully block most of what is going on. Several of them finally muster enough courage to intervene. The picture goes even more shaky and blurry. Then the anchor speaks again.
“We have word from the police that the victim you have just seen being attacked inside Starbucks on Robson about an hour ago is in critical condition. The young woman has been overpowered by three heroic young men…”
and now it happens, it’s not ‘just another day’ any longer
“they were performing a citizen’s arrest and held her captive until the police arrived…”
the anchor’s voice fades, just like the reporter’s before, because all of Melissa’s focus concentrates on what she sees on the screen. Meanwhile the filmmaker has managed to muscle himself closer to the group of guys who have pulled the young women off her victim and have now pinned her to the ground. Her face appears. The filmmaker zooms in. She smiles victoriously straight into his camera, as if she has achieved a very special feat.
Melissa is standing now, holding on to her cup of tea, frowning with the exhausting task of connecting what she sees on the screen with the reality of her life. It can not be. It can not be. But it is.
The tea cup slips from her weak hands, falls to the floor, spills its content on the cheap vinyl kitchen floor before rolling under the table.
It is. It is.
It is…her daughter.
Born and educated in Germany, Helga left her home country when she was 18 to travel the world and experience the magic of life she was passionately reading about. She spent the next 15 years in exotic places like India, Thailand, Australia and Hong Kong, where she worked her way up into excellent managerial positions in large international companies. To achieve this she had to further her education and enrolled at night classes at the ‘Chinese University of Hong Kong’ for her Diploma in Management Studies. Love eluded her for many years. She was nearly 40 when she finally met her dream man and settled in Canada, where she now lives, neatly tucked away in the wilderness. She has previously written several suspense novels which have been published in Germany. Her first novel written and published in English is called. ‘Section 132”. A thrilling fact-based page-turner about a young girl forced into a polygamous marriage that has received countless 5-star reviews. Birthdays of a Princess’ is her second novel and will be published in June 2013.
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