Posted this on Tumblr. It’s only fair to repost here.

Earlier today, I posted this snippet from a YA contemporary I’m currently writing. It’s from a book I really like, but I’m less than 1/4 of the way through a first draft and I still have some pretty big things to figure out plot-wise. Mostly, though, what I love about this book is how my two MCs interact with each other in the beginning. There’s such a great play between their personalities!

The section below is from the first chapter of this book, a book that you’ll hopefully see out in the world one day. If I ever finish it. 😉

Let me know what you think!!

Fire Escapes of New York (c) Gregory Runyan

Fire Escapes of New York (c) Gregory Runyan

“You’re not a thief, are you?”

The smile on my lips is impossible to keep away. I glance over my shoulder to find him standing with his hands in his pockets, watching me carefully. “If I was, would I tell you?”

“No,” he says, his lips curving up into a smile. “You’d probably say something just like that.”

I nod and shrug at the same time before turning and continuing to walk away.

“Where you going, Cat?”

This time I turn around completely. “Cat?” And then it clicks and I grin. “As in burglar? Cute.” I laugh and walk a few more steps—backward this time. “I’m going to finish a project.”

“Thought you were escaping.”

I shrug again, an idea taking hold. I slide one hand into my messenger bag and start digging for my camera. “Turns out I didn’t need to.”

He blinks and looks back up at the building as I find my camera and turn it on. “Really? What did you think you were you escaping from?”

“You.” Wiggling my fingers in a girlish approximation of a wave, I pull the camera out of my bag, let the auto-focus take over, click a quick shot, and turn around. Mostly to make sure I’m not about to trip over a curb and fall into traffic. Getting my head crushed by a cab would not be the way to end my day.

“Hey! Wait, wait, wait.” I hear the quick thuds of Converses hitting concrete as he runs to catch up with me. “What do you mean, me? Do I know you?”

He comes up beside me as I turn east toward the subway stop so I shake my head—I still can’t shake my grin. “Nope. Never seen you before in my life.”

“Yet you felt the need to escape from me?” he asks, one black brow disappearing under the brim of his hat. “And why did you take a picture of me?”

“Well, I wasn’t running from you specifically,” I say, quickening my pace and completely ignoring his second question. “Just the person who lived in the bedroom attached to that particular fire escape.”

He’s silent, but only for about two footsteps. “Thanks. That explanation cleared everything right up.”

“People get touchy when you borrow things without asking.”

“So you are a thief?”

“The fire escape is still attached to your building, isn’t it?” He gives me a funny look, but nods. “Then I’m not a thief.”

“You were borrowing the fire escape?” Two more footsteps of silence. “Why?”

“I told you,” I say as I swing into the subway terminal and slide my metro card. “I have a project to finish.”

“What kind of project involves borrowing a fire escape?” he calls through the gate as I walk down the grimy, graffiti covered staircase.

I laugh. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

 

That’s all for now! Happy Tuesday everyone!

I found this while digging through my archives.

I wrote this in college for one of my short story classes. It’s short and very odd, but I thought I’d share because, honestly, I don’t have enough brain power to come up with an original post. But after two twelve hour work days and the annoyance of having my eyelid twitching randomly for over forty-eight hours, can you really blame me?

So, for your enjoyment, here’s something that I probably shouldn’t post online because it needs to be rewritten and edited and I don’t even know what. But I’ll share anyway.

Angel Rent in Stone (c) Emma Charles
Funerals

My mother goes to funerals. Not only the ones of people she knew, but random funerals. Ones listed in the obituary section of the newspaper. This particular Sunday I had just sat through the two-hour long service of an eighty-nine year old woman who had died doing her laundry.

“It was a beautiful service,” she said as we walked from the church.

“It was,” I responded. I put my hat back on—a gray fedora with a wide black band that I had no other occasion to wear—and take her hand to help her down the stairs.

“The flowers were beautiful. Very colorful.” She always commented on the decorations. Were there enough flowers? Were there pictures anywhere? Were there candles?

“They were.” I agreed as I helped her into the car, closed the door and moved to the driver’s side.

“There’s another one tomorrow,” she said once I got in the car.

“But tomorrow’s Monday,” I said. I loved my mother, she’d done more for me than was required of any parent, but I didn’t understand why she felt the need to mourn for people she’d never met.

“I thought it was an odd day, too.”

She seemed to have missed my hint. I’d have to try the more direct approach.

“You know I work during the week, Mom.”

“I can’t go by myself,” she said. “You know they won’t let me drive anymore.”

‘They’ being the government. Her license had been taken away after she’d had her third accident in a month. I was just glad they did it before I had to.

“I know, Mom.

“And I don’t have long.”

“Mom, don’t say that.”

“And all I want is to be able to—”

“I know, Mom,” I sighed.

“Is it really so much to ask?”

I shook my head. She’d worked three jobs to put me through medical school, just so I would have the time to study. She never held it over me, but I still felt like I owed her.

“No, it’s not too much to ask.”

“So you’ll come with me, then?”

“I’ll go with you,” I said, suppressing a resigned sigh.

The next morning, I picked her up from nursing home at eight. She smiled as I opened the car door for her; but, as I drove, I couldn’t put myself into my usual, indifferent mindset. I don’t know what got to me. Perhaps it was the fact that it was a weekday. Maybe it was the thought of seeing more old women–strangers–weeping. Whatever the cause, I finally had to ask: “What do you get out of this, Mom? Why do you think this is something you need to do?”

She folded her hands over her purse and stared out the window.

“Mom?”

She sighed and adjusted the veil on her pillbox hat, a present from my father over thirty years ago. Her thoughts seemed to go in the same direction.

“Your father died a long time ago.”

“I know, Mom.”

“Well, I don’t think I ever told you how hard it was for me to plan his funeral. We were young, then. We hadn’t even thought about it. He left me to plan it and pay for it and all I wanted to do was grieve. Your father left me with no will and no plans and no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to raise you and your sister.

“All I really want is to be able to be with you at my funeral. I know it sounds crazy, but I wish I could be there to help you through it, to comfort you. But I can’t. The best I can do is to make sure that you don’t have to do a thing after I finally go.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, confused. My hands shook. I thought of all the times I had spoken of death casually—isn’t that the inevitable as a doctor?—but it sounded wrong coming from her lips, talking about her own death. I forced myself to calm down; she must be telling me this for a reason. What did she want me to understand?

“The only thing you’ll have to do is pick a day, my dear,” she sighed. “Once I’m gone all you’ll have to do is pick a day. Everything else is taken care of.”

“But then, why go to all these funerals?” I didn’t understand. It didn’t make sense. Why would she put herself through this if everything was already done? But she just looked at me and smiled.

“It’s not like I’ll get to go to my own, dear.”

Stories: To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

I don’t know why Shakespeare popped into my head this morning, but it did. So, I went with it. And the story below is where it took me. A note. This is a first draft written straight into site. I tried to check for typos, but probably missed some. It’s a little darker than the other short stories I’ve posted here, but I hope you like it anyway. 

[to see the beautiful picture by DanMorgan1 originally posted on this page, click here.]

Stepping on the stones got me across the river’s icy flow, but once I stood on the opposite bank I didn’t know where to go. This is where my instructions ended. Walk West out of town until you hit a fork in the road. Leave the road and walk north into the woods. When you get to the river, cross using the nearest stepping stones. You’ll know what you’re looking for when you find it.

The message had been intriguingly cryptic, but now I doubted my sanity. Who follows a note they found in their locker? Seriously. Only crazy people. And me, apparently. Casting one last glance over my shoulder, I wonder how long it will take someone to realize I’m missing. Not long, but I couldn’t even see the road anymore, so the chances of anyone finding me were miniscule.

“If you’re going to get in trouble anyway, you might as well make it worth the hassle,” my older brother Jim always said. Maybe his dubious words of wisdom sunk deeper than I’d realized. It was a little disheartening to realize, especially since I’d spent so many years trying to fly well under the radar.

This late in the year, it got dark early. The gray sky is darkening fast and I knew that pretty soon I’d have a hard time finding my way home again, but I’d brought a flashlight and my phone had GPS. If worse came to worse, I should be okay. I hoped. The more cautious side of my mind wanted to bring out the flashlight immediately, but something stopped me. It’s not time. If I use it now, I might not find what I’m looking for.

I started forward again, walking straight ahead because the directions hadn’t told me to turn. My gaze swung left to right and back again with each step, but I didn’t see anything out of place. The dead leaves and dried twigs crackled under my feet, the sound impossibly loud in the silence of the forest. Whether I found anything worth looking for or not, there would be hell to pay at home when I finally got back. If I ever made it out of this forest alive, anyway.

My ribs burned with each breath as my lungs pressed against the bruised bones. One of them might have been broken, but I didn’t care. I’d dealt with broken bones before. What made this trek almost impossible though was the pain in my knee that sharpened with every step. I think my mother had been trying to break my leg this time, but I’d moved out of the way in time to escape with only a glancing blow. Still, I might need to thank her. The injuries she gave me helped me escape the far more painful attention my father would have bestowed at night.

Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and tried to let the icy air numb everything. I knew why Jim had to escape this life, but every night I wished he hadn’t escaped without me.

With my eyes closed, I didn’t see the exposed root that brought me crashing to my knees. My gloves saved the palms of my hands from being skinned raw, but my already injured knee protested strongly to the impact. I hissed in pain and shifted until I could lean against the trunk of the tree.

Taking one more look around, the truth finally sunk in. There wasn’t anything out here. I was chasing phantoms and only getting myself in more trouble at home. This was probably someone’s idea of a practical joke. Let’s get the weird rich girl lost in the woods. Well, it worked.

Maybe I should stay here and let the cold numb the pain forever. I wondered how long that would take, to die of exposure. Even if it took days, it would still be better than dying inch by inch as the people who were supposed to love me stole little bits of my soul every day. Maybe I could go back to the river and let the icy flow swallow me whole. I’d be the town’s golden child as everyone mourned the tragic loss of my life in the flower of my youth. My parents would be the center of attention as they coped with their grief in the most public ways possible and everyone offered their support in this trying time.

I wondered if Jim would come back for my funeral or if he would know why I couldn’t go on anymore and stay away, hiding from the truth in whatever way he’d found to dull the pain. I wondered if maybe he’d taken the permanent way out too. Four years and not a word from him. I had to fear the worst even if I hoped he’d finally built a life for himself somewhere else. Without me.

The tears started falling before I even realized I was crying. I hate crying. It’s a weakness that only got me more punishment. After all these years I still couldn’t tell if my parents liked my tears or hated them, all I knew was that the pain was worse when I cried.

I pushed to my feet, giving up on chasing ghosts and determined to become one instead. Each step toward the rushing river lightened my heart. I’d never have to see my mother smiling at her friends and pretending that she loved me. I’d never see my father in the front row at my piano recitals pretending that he cared. I’d never lie awake at night listening for the sounds that meant I wasn’t alone. I’d never stand outside my front door too terrified to step inside. I’d never fear for my life again.

The water was in sight when I heard something behind me. Steps, quick steps crunching through underbrush. Ignoring the pain in my chest and my knee, I picked up the pace. Maybe my mother had come looking for me. Maybe it was someone else entirely, but it didn’t matter. They’d only return me to hell and this time I refused to go. Whoever it was must have seen where I was headed because they cursed and started running, their feet pounding against the dried earth.

“No, Janie! Stop!”

It couldn’t be. I skidded to a halt, but couldn’t bring myself to turn around and prove myself wrong. What was he doing here? But then he was standing before me, older and more beautiful than I remembered, but enough the same that there was no mistaking him for anyone else.

“Jim?”

Without another word, my brother dragged me into his arms and held me tight. I wanted to press myself against his chest and breathe in the scent of hope, of life, but I couldn’t stop the gasp of pain as his grip hit the bruised bones in my chest. He loosened his hold instantly, not needing to be told what was wrong. His brown eyes were dark with fury and his eyebrows pulled together as his gaze scanned my face. I watched him carefully, too scared this wasn’t real to even breathe.

“I’m so sorry it took me so long to come get you,” he finally whispered. “I wanted to get in touch with you, but I knew they’d be watching everything.”

I nod. My parents have full access to my cell phone, my email accounts, and every website I have an account on. For my safety, they said. For their safety, they meant.

“Where were you going, Jane?” he asked. His hands still rested on my shoulders, but I glance past him to the edge of the river. I didn’t know what to say. It had seemed like a good plan at the time. Jim followed my glance and shuddered when he realized my intention.

“Give me your jacket, your backpack, and your phone.”

I quickly handed over the requested items, not even minding the additional bite of the wind. Jim had a plan and I was willing to do anything if it meant leaving this place with him today.

“Give me your hand.” I placed my hand in his and met his eyes as he took off my glove. “This will hurt.”

In the next instant, he dragged a penknife along my palm. I didn’t even flinch. We smear my blood on the backpack and the jacket, place the phone in one of the jacket pockets and arrange the whole thing to look like I’d been injured and tumbled headlong into the river.

“Will it be enough?” I asked him as he gave me his jacket and turned me toward the woods.

“Probably not, but it’ll lead them in the wrong direction,” he said. He’s learned a lot in the past few years and carefully hides our trail as we walk away from the river along a different path than the one we’d taken toward it. Eventually, long after the light has faded, we come across an old pickup truck hidden in the trees. He opened the passenger door and helped me in before walking around to the other side.

“Is there anything from their house you have to have?” he asked. He hoped the answer is no, I can tell, but he’d go back there if I asked him to. For the first time I let myself believe this might be real.

“I don’t want a thing from them. They’re dead to me now.”

My brother smiled, cranked the engine, and started driving us into our new life. “That’s my girl.”

Storytime: More Inspired by Rory’s Storycubes

A note: This is a first draft and unedited except to look for typos. The inspiration came from four Story Cubes, which are pictured here. What took shape surprised me both in length and the level of back-story that came with it. I like it, but be prepared! It’s a little long…

Okay. It’s more than a little long. Hopefully, you like it anyway. 🙂

Delayed

Switching applications on my phone, I check the timer again. Sixteen hours, thirty-seven minutes, and fifteen seconds. As frustrating as the snow delays were at the beginning, now I’m nearly delirious from lack of sleep and it’s almost funny. Maybe I should make it into a game. How long can the weather keep a couple thousand northeastern passengers grounded and locked inside airport terminals? Turning my head to make sure my luggage is still undisturbed, I thank my mother for her fear of lost luggage. Except for food, I have everything I need to survive here for a few days. Hopefully, it won’t be necessary.

I sit up, adjusting my position against the pillar that had one of the few open outlets and wishing I had a pillow to sit on. The carpet isn’t much of a cushion over what feels like a concrete floor. Stretching my legs out in front of me to ease the cramps out of my back, I fold forward and rest my head on my knees. The position is surprisingly comfortable and I feel myself start to drift into a semi-conscious doze when something hard slams against my ankle.

“Damnit!” I hear someone shout.

Jerking upright, I open my eyes in time to see two books go tumbling just past my feet and a laptop still in midair. Lunging forward, I stretch my arms out and barely make contact with the corner of the computer. It’s not enough to stop it from hitting the floor, but it does slow it enough to minimize the damage. A guy with curly brown hair and a black leather jacket hits his knees just after his laptop hits the floor and grumbles something I can’t understand. He looks vaguely familiar, but I’m not thinking clearly right now and I can’t seem to place him.

Shaking his head, he straightens up and I catch sight of his face.

“I’m so sorry,” he says. “But that was a nice catch.”

I don’t hear him if he says anything else because I’m laughing too hard. If I wasn’t sleep deprived, this situation would be anything but funny, but what are the odds that sixteen hours into a massive airport delay the boy who broke up with me for no reason six months ago would literally fall at my feet.

“Lyla?” he asks. Even though I can’t see him through my watery eyes, I can almost hear the color draining from his face. “I–umm, I mean I just…”

He trails off, but it takes a minute for me to get myself under control. Nathan Bradley broke my heart and the last thing I want is for him to know that. I wipe my eyes and blink to clear my vision, locking my smile on my face.

“Still can’t help falling for me, can you, Nate?” 

He goes from pale to flushed in the blink of an eye.

“I–umm… How long have you been here?”

I smirk, but let him change the subject. Switching to the timer app on my phone, I tell him. “Sixteen hours, forty-three minutes, and thirty-six seconds. Thirty-seven seconds. Thirty-eight seconds.”

Nate smiles. “Literal as always.”

Shrugging, I drop my phone to my lap and look up into his warm amber eyes. It hits me again, how much I miss him. I try not to let that show on my face as I ask, “What are you doing here?”

He flushes again and looks away to finish gathering the books he dropped. I expect him to make some excuse and walk away, but he doesn’t. Instead he drops his backpack and his books into a pile next to my luggage and sits next to me on the hard floor. He still won’t meet my eyes, but he hasn’t run away.

Nathan and I met at school in North Carolina where he was a graduate student and I was working on my undergrad degree, but we’re in New York now and he’s not from New York. His family lives in Texas and California. There is no reason for him to be prowling LaGuardia.

Unless he’s here looking for you, one pathetic voice in my head suggests. I push that hope away because ideas like that will only lead to heartbreak. Again.

“I met some friends in the City for New Years,” he says after a minute.

Even though I expected a reason that had nothing to do with me, the pain of being right still sucks.

I nod and wish he hadn’t sat down next to me. Leave, I tell him silently. You’re good at it, so just go already.

Another minute passes and he’s still sitting there next to me. I can feel the heat of his presence radiating off of him. One of the things I loved about Nate was even when he’s sitting there doing nothing, I couldn’t ignore him. Something about his presence drew me like a magnet and I was hooked before I even knew who he was. It took three months for me to get up the courage to talk to him, four more months to work up the nerve to ask him out, and then I lived in a strange state of bliss for the next nine months until one day he told me he couldn’t see me anymore and walked out of my life. He never explained why and I never got the chance to ask him. The coward transferred schools.

“You mind if I stay here?” he finally says. “My phone is about to die and I haven’t seen any other open plugs.”

A petty desire to shake my head and banish him from my presence grows, but I squash it down. I will be the grown-up here even if it kills me.

Nate opens one of the pouches on his backpack and pulls out a long, tangled cord. It takes him a minute to unravel the knots, but eventually he gets his phone plugged in and leans back against the pillar. Much too close for comfort. I scoot away and try to ignore him, concentrating on my book, but it’s no use. I never have been able to ignore Nathan Bradley and I never will.

We sit in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes before he starts digging through his backpack again. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a familiar package.

“Want some? he asks, holding out a bag of my favorite trail mix. I’d meant to get some before I got to the airport, but ran out of time. Glancing up at Nate, I raise an eyebrow. He blushes again–I always loved how easily he blushed–but doesn’t look away this time.

“You kind of got me hooked,” he explains.

“You couldn’t stand the stuff when…” I trail off, but I can see he knows the rest of the sentence. When we were together.

He shrugs and looks away. “It grew on me.”

I take the bag from his still outstretched hand and try not to turn his words over in my head. Even the week he broke up with me, he protested my choice in snacks. If this trail mix grew on him, it could only have done it after he’d run out of my life. Pouring out a handful, I give him the bag back, trying not to spaz when his fingers brush mine and sparks I’d almost forgotten existed shoot through my arm.

God, I missed that feeling. It was one thing I didn’t expect from Nathan, the way a single stroke of his hand could drive me crazy. Closing my eyes, I let my head drop back against the pillar and try not to remember the first night we spent together. My first night with anyone, though I’m still not sure if he knows that. He was so gentle, almost as though he was afraid I’d break or vanish before his eyes. I adored how he treated me like something precious and fragile without making me feel incompetent or ridiculously girly. If anything, when I was with Nathan, I felt like I could accomplish anything I set my mind to because he had complete faith in me. Or, at least, I thought he did. Now I’m not so sure.

“You’re heading back to school?” he asks, breaking into my memories.

I nod, but don’t open my eyes.

He asks a couple more questions about people we both know, but each word out of his mouth peels away a layer of the skin I’d finally managed to grow over the wound he created and after a while I can’t take it anymore.

“Look, I don’t know what it’s like with your other ex-girlfriends, but I can’t do this.” I push to my feet and start collecting my things. Another plug will open up at some point. It doesn’t matter as long as I get away from him before I start to cry. My chest burns and my eyes are filling quickly. I don’t have much time left. “It was nice to see you and all. Bye.”

I don’t even get two steps before he pulls my suitcase out of my hand, grabs my wrist, and pulls me back to our spot.

“Lyla, please,” he whispers, his lips so close to my ear I can feel his breath dance across my skin. “I need–I need to say something. Please don’t leave. Let me say what I need to say and if you still want me to leave, I’ll go.”

Taking a deep breath, I risk looking up into his eyes. His skin is pale, his eyes are wide, and he’s biting the inside of his cheek the way he always does when he’s nervous. All that is enough to sway me, but when completely does me in is the way he sucks in a shuddering breath and whispers, “Please?”

Without meaning to, I nod. My willpower has completely deserted me and I don’t fight when he takes my purse and pulls me back to the floor. I don’t care that’s we’re in the middle of a crowded terminal or that giving him a chance to talk will probably only cause me to fall back into the black hole of depression I barely clawed my way out of, but I can’t help it. This guy has been my weak spot since the first time I saw him sleeping in the library after pulling an all-nighter.

Even after we’re sitting down, he doesn’t let go of my left hand. My skin tingles where his thumb rubs along the back of my hand and I can’t seem to keep tears from slowly escaping the corners of my eyes. He sees this and lifts his other hand, gently wiping my cheeks dry and leaving a trail of fire behind. I can feel my skin flushing, but I can’t look away from his eyes.

“I lied.” I blink and he clears his throat before clarifying. “About why I came up here. I didn’t come here with friends. I came because even if I couldn’t spend the holidays with you I wanted to be nearby.”

My heart stops. I am jelly in his hands already and all I can do is silently beg, Don’t say nice things and break my heart again. I can’t survive losing you twice.

“I finally worked up the nerve to go see you yesterday, but I was too late. You’d already left for the airport.”

He squeezes my hand tighter and cups my cheek in his other hand. The contact sends me reeling and I have to close my eyes to keep from lunging forward and locking my arms around his neck. Once I do that I know I’m never letting go again. I can’t let him overpower me this fast. I don’t even know where he’s going with this yet.

“You don’t know why I left.”

That’s just unfair. I open my eyes and glare into his. “You never gave me the chance to ask.”

His hand drops away from my face and I feel the loss like a blow to my chest. “Because I couldn’t explain it then. I didn’t even understand it.”

“Is this supposed to be making me feel better?”

I try to pull my hand out of his grasp, but Nate won’t let go. “Let me get through this, Lyla, all right?”

“I don’t owe you anything,” I hiss, trying to pull my hand away and failing again.

“No, you don’t. But I owe you.”

I can’t argue with that, so I don’t try. Instead, I bite my tongue and try not to break down.

Nathan stares into my eyes, his gaze steady and strong even though his skin still looks too pale and his hand is shaking in mine. “No one I’ve ever dated has dug into my life as deep or as fast as you did. You were outspoken and strong and fearless and gorgeous and you scared the shit out of me. I love you so much it terrifies me, Lyla.”

My mouth drops open, but I no words escape. I seem to have forgotten how to speak. He loves me? He’s never told me he loves me. Did he really just tell me he loves me?

He swallows and clears his throat, his gorgeous eyes dropping from mine to rest on my lips and then down at my hand. His caresses start again, this time running along my knuckles.

“I felt like all of a sudden my entire life had been decided for me, like I didn’t have a choice anymore. Should’ve just gone with it, but I did what I always do when I can’t face reality–I ran away from it.”

Nate looks up and his stare is so intense I can feel it burning through me. It always felt like he should be able to read my thoughts if he wanted to, but he never seemed to be able to.

“I am so sorry I hurt you, Lyla,” he whispers, leaning closer. His free hand dips into his jacket pocket and he pulls something out, but it’s hidden in the palm of his hand. “I’ve always been an idiot when it comes to you, but cutting you out of my life was like trying to live without my lungs. I can’t do it anymore. And I’m really hoping I won’t have to.”

My breath catches as he opens his hand and flips open a ring box with his thumb. Inside, instead of a diamond solitaire is a flower made of gemstones with a brilliant blue center stone surrounded by diamond and emerald studded leaves and an etched white gold band.

“Lyla Lillian Saunders, will you please let me spend the rest of my life trying to make up for not seeing you were the best thing that ever happened to me?” 

Shock locks me in place and before I can say a thing he pulls the ring out of the box and slides it into place on my hand. It’s a perfect fit and it looks like it’s always been there. My hand curls into a fist just in case he suddenly changes his mind and tries to take it off again.

I tear my eyes away from the ring and look up at Nathan. He’s watching me closely, holding his breath, and waiting for my answer.

“Are you sure, Nate? Really sure? Because I can’t live through watching you walk away twice. I don’t have it in me.”

His eyes brighten and his cheeks flush. “I am absolutely certain. I love you and I’m not letting go this time.”

I stare into his eyes and see none of the doubts and dark corners that plagued him before. He’s sure. He loves me.

In the next second I throw myself into his lap, press my lips against his, and lock my arms around his neck. His hands come around my waist and he groans softly, that rumbly noise that always makes me smile. His touch sends lightning through my veins and fills my head with a rainbow of lights. I never want it to end. I’m only vaguely aware that people around us are laughing and cheering, that our supposedly private conversation wasn’t quite quiet enough to escape the attention of the surrounding crowd, but I couldn’t care less. I’m back in the arms of the only man I’ve ever loved and this time, I’m never letting go.

This Week: I Might Be A Little Sporadic

Today through Monday, work is taking over my life more than usual. I will try to post, but I guarantee nothing.My days will be long, my drives will be longer, and by the time I get home at the end of each day I’m going to be exhausted. But it’s inescapable. I must go.

To apologize for my extremely sporadic posting schedule recently, here’s is some entertainment. This is a short story I wrote in college. I haven’t looked at it in years and after reading it it still needs some work, but it’ll do. Hope you like!

Lost
I walked through the café slowly, each step exactly a foot apart. The smells of coffee and freshly baked bread invited me to sit at one of their rose-colored, glass-top tables…but I was just passing through. And, besides, I’d eaten here not too long ago.
Clinking glasses and the mumble of dozens of simultaneous conversations filled my ears, blocking out the sound I was looking for. The small eatery was nearly full, making my search more difficult.
I knew it was here somewhere, hiding in between the black cushions of the bench seats or cowering behind the leg of one of the faux-wrought iron chairs. I clenched my hand around the one that I was holding, a near perfect replica of mine, but not my own.
Black-clad servers hastily brushed past me, my slow pace obviously irritating them. I apologized each time—I’m so sorry—but I don’t think they heard. I made another pass, my third, before moving out of the café.
Taking the same even, measured steps, I retraced my path. I had to find it. Leaving it here, there, wherever it had ended up, was not an option. I walked past crowds of people—businessmen and women dressed in far too many layers for the sweltering heat of the day, bike messengers flying past on their way to their next drop off, bums whose stench was both baked in and made worse by the heat of the sun—but none of them could help.
I ran my hand along the brick face of the building I passed, its rough surface just as it had been an hour ago. My eyes swept the dirt-stained gray sidewalk, peering into each corner and crevice and hoping that this would be the one I would find it in.
No such luck.
I turned the corner and saw him leaning against my car. He looked up when he saw me, raising his eyebrow, but I shook my head. He rolled his eyes and looked away. I needed to find it. For his sake more than mine.
I continued walking, each step bringing me closer to a new hiding place, a new spot it could be. I passed boutiques with colorful cotton dresses hanging in the window—overpriced versions of the mimics in Target and Wal-Mart—and restaurants and delis tucked into niches that didn’t even seem like they could fit a single person let alone a slew of them.
Still, I didn’t see it.
I walked up the steps to the library, its white stone façade as impressive as always. I touched the stone railing, warmed by the heat of the sun, and carefully gazed over the edge of the main floor, down into the landscaping below. Had it fallen?
No. I didn’t see it.
I gripped the one that didn’t belong to me tighter, flipping it open. Two clicks and I was checking again. I listened, but I couldn’t hear anything.
He’d told me I couldn’t lose this one. I’m not going to buy you another one, he’d said. Better go see if you can find it. So I scampered off, looking for a thing I’d only gotten because he felt like I couldn’t keep track of myself without one.
Not quite the case. I had a harder time keeping track of it.
But the damn thing had become indispensable. Convenient. I couldn’t argue that. I didn’t know how to get through a day without one.
I walked into the library, the rush of conditioned air refreshing me like rain after a drought. I ignored the goose bumps from the sudden temperature change and took a deep breath of the rich smell of books. It was a distinct smell that tickled my nose, almost making me sneeze.
I flipped my replica open again and pressed the green button twice. Calling Hannah, the display said.
Finally, I heard the sound I’d been waiting for—the annoying rattling of a cell phone against a wood table.
I picked up my pace, rushing through the tables, when I heard someone comment loudly, Vibrate doesn’t make the phone silent.
I blushed and clicked end, quieting my obviously annoying phone. I finally reached the table I had used that morning and grabbed the small silver phone. It’s casing felt cold against my skin, but I smiled to feel it in my hand again. I hated the completeness I felt with it, but I couldn’t give it up.
I hurried back through the crowded streets to the waiting car.
Found it? he asked. I nodded and slid into the car.
Good, he said. I’m not buying you another one.

Writing: Doing What Scares You

I don’t know who said it originally, but whoever it was is right: “You should do the thing that scares you.” Or something close to that, anyway.

Now this doesn’t mean that if you’re afraid of poisonous spiders you should go buy one for a pet (some fears are survival-based, after all), but it does mean that you shouldn’t let thinking you can’t or shouldn’t do something keep you from ever trying it.

As writers this could mean many things. Maybe tackling a particular genre, or subject, or style, or narrative voice. Maybe someone told you men can’t write believable female voices. Maybe you think no one will read a book written in the second person. Maybe you think you suck at memoirs. Maybe you’re right about all these things, but are you right because you tried and failed or because you’re too scared to make the attempt?

Poetry is not my thing. Never has been. I like reading some–The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, for example, is great–but writing it has always seemed too hard. I have this in my head despite the fact that my AP high school English teacher–a woman who was notoriously stingy with compliments–told me that the poem I turned in as a response to Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women was one of the best things she’d ever seen at a high school level. If interested, you can read an excerpt of the poem here (the original, not mine) and I found this awesome comic strip here.

That being said, I started writing a book about two musicians and knew going into it that I would need to come up with song lyrics. I think that somewhere in the back of my head I had the vague idea of asking someone else to do it for me, but how realistic is that? And do I really want to rely on someone else’s vision for something as important as this? Nope. I don’t. I shut off my inner editor and started writing–I mean, it’s a first draft, right? Things can always be changed down the road.

I surprised myself. This writing form that I’d kept away from so long is suddenly consuming me. I’m writing more songs than I can possibly squeeze into the book (and I’m squeezing them in anyway, hoping most of them will make it through the editing process) and I’m actually liking them! I’m going to take a chance and post the song I wrote this morning. Keep in mind it’s a first draft, but feel free to tell me what you think!


Staring out my window
Dreaming of the sky 
Locked here in this tower 
Tho no one else knows why 
You appear then out of nowhere 
And try to help me fly 
And stare uncomprehending 
When I shake my head and sigh 
Your white horse don’t belong here 
But then, of course, if you’re sincere 
Won’t force this rescue till you here 
Why my tower’s worth fighting for, dear 
Cause what you didn’t see 
When you came barging through the door 
Is that the lock you broke through 
The one now lying on the floor 
Was done up on the inside 
And then, of course, what’s more 
Your horse stomped through my roses 
And I’m left with the chore 
Of picking up the pieces 
Of my once strong oak wood door 
Your white horse don’t belong here 
But then, of course, if you’re sincere 
Won’t force this rescue till you here 
Why my tower’s worth fighting for, dear 
Cause they may call me Cinderella 
But I’d much rather be 
The girl who stands up by your side 
Cause fallin’ behind ain’t me 
So take your horse and ride off 
Come back when you can see 
The truth behind my tower 
How the walls aren’t what they seem 
You think they’re meant to keep me in 
But in actuality 
That strong red brick I built by hand 
Wasn’t meant for me 
Wanted to keep the world out 
But now that I’m set free 
How ‘bout you and your horse 
Come fix these walls for me?

Critiques: Getting Good Feedback And Using It

Author Janice Hardy.

First, sorry I’ve been gone for a couple of days! Thursday was very busy and I woke up Friday feeling like death. I’m better now, though, so onto the post!

I’ve already mentioned Janice Hardy in my post Writers Who Write About Writing, but I only vaguely mentioned a newer section of her blog where she critiques a short section (approx 250 words) of your work in progress or finished manuscript. I submitted the first 250 words of Sing, Sweet Nightingale to her in December and this morning she posted her critique. Her answers are so detailed and helpful I was blown away! You should definitely stop by the site and read through this and all past critique posts, but I am also going to post my 250 words here.
As it stands now, this is the opening to my novel Sing, Sweet Nightingale. I hope you enjoy!

Mariella
Sleeping is the best part of my day. Everything goes slowly downhill from there. Waking up, searching for new music, faking my way through school, studying useless information for hours, suffering through dinner. The only thing I look forward is the buildup of anticipation before it’s finally time to go to sleep.

Can you imagine living like that? What kind of life that would be? I can tell you right now.

It’s no life at all.

That’s why I’m trying so hard to make sure I spend the rest of my life asleep. Who wouldn’t if they had a choice between paradise and Swallow’s Grove?

Hudson
I saw my mom at the grocery store this morning. In most people’s lives, this wouldn’t be a story that goes beyond that sentence. That’s it. I saw my mom at the grocery store this morning. The End. That, however, is not my life.

In my life, this event is much, much more complicated.

Horace forgot that we were almost out of food, so he asked me to make a run for necessities. I don’t think twice about this because A) I don’t really have the right to refuse Horace such a simple request and B) it’s the grocery store. What can happen? I grab a cart at the door and start coasting through the aisles, automatically pulling our usual staples off the shelves as I pass. The normality of it, the routine of the actions, lulls me into complacence; I don’t see the danger until it’s too late.

It’s the hair-raising tingle that alerts me first. My head snaps up and some inner sense I’ve always had immediately locks on to the watcher. I almost drop the glass jar of spaghetti sauce in my hand when my gaze meets my mom’s. 

Hudson’s chapter continues for another ten pages, but this is the section I sent to Janice Hardy, so this is all I’m posting here. Hope you like it! And please feel free to leave critiques in the comments section.