Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chapter One (The Bait)



You've waited for it. Here is the first chapter of my book, pretty much as it should appear in the final version. I know it doesn't give a whole lot away (first chapters never do), but I wanted to share, see if I could get you hooked.This is for young adults, in case you can't tell from the writing style.
 
 

Star-Crossed


Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

-Catullus 85

I hate him. And I love him.
Why, you ask? I don't know.
I just do, and the feeling
tortures me.


Chapter 1. Déjà vu



I set the empty plastic container on the edge of the sink. I stare at it for a moment, a little surprised that I’d actually done it.

I inspect my reflection in the bathroom mirror, cracked in one corner from Jordan’s fist. I twist my head so the light shines directly on my right cheek. The bruise is still there, but if I pull a few locks of hair just right, I can cover it.  I want to look perfect for this.

I look around me nervously, wondering what to do next. I straighten the towels and turn off the lights. In the bedroom, I fluff pillows and make sure nothing is out of place. Journey is in the CD player, on repeat. Finally satisfied that everything is ready, I settle myself on the bed to wait.

I wait.

Nothing.

The drugs have to take effect soon.

I roll to one side, then back; I try crossing my hands over my chest, then lay them by my sides. And wait.

Hands crossed - that definitely feels more peaceful.

How long is this supposed to take? Jordan will be home soon.  He’s supposed to find me already gone, or maybe just in time to cradle me in his arms and whisper he loves me as I slip away. The end is supposed to be as perfect as the beginning.

I stare at the ceiling and let myself slip into memories as I wait. I remember meeting Jordan and that inexplicable connection I'd felt had always been between us. I’d never known eyes could be so infinitely dark without being black. He was strong and lived life impulsively; I was much more timid and reserved. We were so opposite, yet so perfect for each other. It was if he'd brought me to life - everything was new and vibrant when I was with him.

Scenes begin to play in my head, vivid as if I were living them again: seeing the beach for the first time; feeling the grit of sand on my skin as we made love; watching the sunset in each other’s arms. The first night Jordan hit me; the stunned look that so quickly dispelled his anger; I was so frightened of him that I fled, barefoot, into the snow.

The memory makes me shiver and I try to roll over to wrap my arms around myself. But I can’t move.

I peel my eyelids open—I hadn’t even known they’d closed—and look down at myself.

I can’t feel my body. I focus on my hand, trying to raise it up off my chest; it only twitches.

This is the end! I’m dying! I feel panic rise in me, but I fight back my fear and hold on to the crucial thought: it’s over. I never have to feel this way again.

Clinging to that thought, I relax and let myself go.

Never.  Never again…

“Rose?”

I hear him call and something deep inside me revives. How could I not respond to that voice?

The bedroom door crashes open. Everything looks and feels hazy, as if a fog has settled over my senses. I’m vaguely aware of light flooding the room.

“What the hell is this?” Jordan hurls the empty prescription bottle at me accusingly. It bounces off the body I’m no longer connected to.

Frustrated by my silence, Jordan raises his voice. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he screams. His anger hurts, cutting through the numbing fog. I wasn’t supposed to feel this again.

Helpless, I close my eyes and succumb to the peace the drugs offer.

Something pulls me back. Jordan yanks me up by my shoulders and begins shaking me.

“Don’t do this,” he pleads. “Please, Rose, look at me!”

I oblige him, lifting my lead-weighted eyes to his. And it’s perfect—the last thing I want to see: my soul mate’s eyes looking at me with… love. I’m surprised by the tenderness in him; I haven’t seen that in so long.

And suddenly I want it. I want him! Oh God! I don't want to die! I want to stay with Jordan.

"Stay with me, Rose," he says softly.

Stay…

My head jerks to the side. There's no sting, but enough sensation to realize Jordan has slapped me. "Don't you do that," he growls. "Don't you dare leave me."

"Sorry," I mumble, not sure if my mouth even forms the word. It's all I can do. The only thing I'm aware of as I drift away is the aching of my broken heart. When every other sensation is gone, that pain lingers on.

At least now it will end.



It was a dream. I knew it was. I had the sensation of being on the verge of waking up, knowing what I was seeing wasn’t real, yet unable to pull myself out of sleep.

If only that annoying ambulance would silence its siren. Jordan must have called for it, but it was too late to save me.

Fighting off grogginess, I realized the siren was actually my alarm. I grabbed my cell phone and paused to listen to its beeping. It sounded nothing like an ambulance. I turned it off and covered my face with my hands, heaving a sigh.

It was just a dream, Rheanne. I reassured myself, massaging my temples. Just a dream. I hated stress dreams. I never slept well before an exam.

I slipped my feet out of bed, flinching at the cold morning air. My roommate and I had agreed not to turn up the heat until it snowed, but we'd made it halfway through November in Colorado without a single snowflake. With a grunt of effort, I pushed myself off the bed, grabbed my towel, and headed for the bathroom.

The relaxing heat and steam of the shower erased any lingering memories of my dream. I dried my hair and inspected myself in the mirror. My restless night had left me looking a little haggard, but I doubted anyone would notice. I was pretty, but not uncommonly so. My hair was a plain, light brown—not quite blond, but not dark enough to look exotic against my fair skin and blue eyes. I had long ago accepted the fact that I was nothing special—just another ordinary girl.

In the kitchen of my tiny apartment, I pulled some cereal out of a cupboard and sat down to breakfast with my books. I already knew the material on today’s exam. This review was unnecessary, but it made me feel better all the same.

I was draining the last bit of milk from my cereal bowl when my roommate Kerry shuffled in, sleepy-eyed and bunny-slippered. “Good morning,” I said as brightly as I could, stifling a laugh when I saw the tangle of multi-colored hair on her head.

Kerry scowled. “What’s good about it? Stupid cliché… Total oxymoron…” She stumbled to the toaster.

Kerry was not a morning person, but that was possibly the only trait she had in common with the majority of society. She was gorgeous and blond, but Kerry Malone was not a stereotypical pretty, blond girl—a fact she liked to emphasize by highlighting her perfectly platinum hair with bright shades of pink. She was into things like Renaissance fairs, comic books, four-wheeling, obscure religions, and anything else that struck her fancy. Kerry was just odd. She was bubbly and strange and inexplicably popular. She was different, and I liked it.

Well, not so bubbly in the morning, I thought as she cursed under her breath at a burnt piece of toast.

Knowing Kerry wouldn’t be much for conversation, I packed up my things and called a good-bye as I tugged on my coat and stepped out the door. Clouds covered the sky, dampening the sunlight. On cold days like this I almost wished I'd chosen to live in the dorms; but then I would have been surrounded by freshmen who cared more about partying than studying, and I never would have found a friend like Kerry. Wondering momentarily if it might finally snow today, I pulled up my hood and trudged to CSU campus.

I saw Kerry later for lunch. Usually I liked to eat in peace - secluded and alone - but Kerry insisted friends didn't let friends eat alone, so we met up at the food court on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The line we were waiting in was at a standstill. My stomach growled unhappily at the people in front of us. But Kerry, her usual, chipper self now that it was mid-day, was bouncing on the balls of her feet.

"How'd your exam go?” she asked. Did you ace it?"

 I grinned in reply.

"I knew it. You worry too much. But, as long as your studying doesn't interfere with your cleaning compulsion, I guess I can tolerate it. I like having such a tidy apartment."

"Gee, thanks, Kerry. That's awfully generous of you."

"Oh, I know." Kerry smiled. In my peripheral vision I could see a table of guys staring at her. Her smile had a way of leaving men star-struck. Standing next to Kerry, an ordinary girl like me would never get attention. And that was fine by me. Actually, it was pretty convenient. Guys left me alone and I could concentrate on more important things.

When we finally reached the counter, I ordered half of the menu. I didn't eat much when I was stressed, so I tended to overcompensate once my anxiety levels dropped back to normal. Kerry eyed me skeptically as I paid for my mountain of food.

"What?” I demanded. “I'm hungry."

Kerry rolled her eyes. "I wasn't saying anything."

"Yeah, but you were thinking it."

"Whatever you say, Rhe."

I pulled a face at my nickname. People had been calling me Rhe since I was a kid. I never really liked it; it sounded like "Ray," a boy's name. My mother had only lived long enough to name me and I wanted to keep my name the way she’d designed it. But no matter how I complained, the nickname stuck.

We walked away from the register, carrying our trays towards our usual spot, meandering around little clumps of students who used the food court as a social club.

"It really is funny to see such a little person carrying so much food.” Kerry taunted me as we walked. “Honestly, Rhe, I don't know how you can fit all that into your tiny little body. If I tried to eat that much…"

Her voice faded into the background, the rest of her lecture about losing girlish figures lost on me. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew she was still talking, but I couldn't bring myself to listen. I had just looked straight into a pair of hauntingly familiar brown eyes.

I knew those eyes. They were his eyes: infinitely dark but not black. I felt lost in them, as if I’d looked too deeply, fallen in, and never stopped falling. I felt exhilarated and afraid at the same time, light-headed and a little sick. I felt like I was on a speeding roller coaster and my insides had been left at the top of the ride. There was nothing in my chest—no lungs, no heart—only emptiness. Terrifying, time-stopping emptiness.

"Earth to Rheanne!" Kerry's voice called me back to reality. It felt like I was coming a great distance, like I had actually been away from this world. 
His brown eyes turned away, releasing me, and I was suddenly acutely aware of everything: myself, Kerry, the crowds in the room. It was too much, all at once. My hands trembled, my food tray shaking visibly. I forced myself to look at Kerry. Her expression was fading from a joking smirk to one of real concern. "Hey, are you okay?"

"S-Sorry," I spluttered, finding my lungs again. "I'm fine. It was just…" What was it? "Déjà vu or something."

Kerry looked past me to where I’d been staring a moment before. "What, you mean over Jaden?" She shrugged. "Well, maybe you knew him in a previous life or something. Come on." She grabbed my arm and steered me to a table. "I think you should sit down."

"More like a hundred lives," I whispered to myself.

I peeked sideways at Jaden, careful to avoid eye contact this time. He was laughing with his friends, probably joking about how I'd been gawking at him. Dropping my head in embarrassment, I slid into a chair and set my tray down. I felt sick, nauseated - like my stomach was still falling. I had no attention for food; I just wanted to know more about Jaden. I'd never seen him before, I was sure of it, but something about him felt familiar. Something had passed between us in the moment our eyes met—something strong, very strong.

"Hey, Kerry, do you really believe in reincarnation?" I picked up the conversation hesitantly, not sure if Kerry had been serious when she suggested I'd known Jaden in another life.

It took Kerry a second to register that I was talking to her. She'd started in on her salad and was staring off into nothingness, lost in her own thoughts. When she realized I'd asked her a question, she swallowed and said without hesitation, "Oh, yeah! I was totally a nicotine addict in another life."

"What?"

"Yeah, see, sometimes I get cravings for cigarettes. Well, actually I just crave the feel of the smoke in my lungs.” She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply, savoring the imagined feeling. Then she looked at me solemnly. “I've never smoked a day in my life. I figure I must have been a pretty serious smoker or something in my last life. Some characteristics must carry over. It explains a lot."

Uh huh. Maybe in Kerry’s warped view of the world. I sighed. Like most of Kerry’s theories, it was too far-fetched to consider seriously. There had to be a better explanation for what had happened. I just couldn't think of any. It was the weirdest case of déjà vu I'd ever experienced.

I poked at my food for a couple of minutes, then surreptitiously looked over to where Jaden was again. He was with one of those groups that annoyed me so much. They had pushed several tables together and were sprawled around them like lions around a watering hole. A couple of girls were perched on top of the tables. Jaden seemed to be the gravitational center of the pack.

I could tell I wasn't the only one awestruck by him. One girl with black hair so perfect she belonged in a shampoo commercial was swooning over him. Did he have the same hypnotic power over her? Jaden was undoubtedly the most attractive guy in the room. Probably the most attractive guy on campus. Tall and muscular, his dirty-blond hair was almost a perfect match to his browned skin; with a dazzling smile, thick, defining brows, and of course those dark eyes, it was no wonder the room centered around him.

There was something else about him that interested me though, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Frustrated, I returned my eyes back to my own table.

"Kerry, how do you know Jaden?" There was no use pretending to sound casual; she'd already seen me staring at him.

"Who doesn't know him? He's only the coolest player on our football team."

Well, that explained it. I didn't exactly follow sports. I couldn't even name any positions on a football team, let alone recognize the players themselves.

"He's actually pretty nice," she mused. "I know you think most football players are divas that live to bask in their own glory, but Jaden's not like that. We had a chemistry lab together last year. He's surprisingly down to earth." She leaned across the table as if she were sharing a secret. "I almost got him to go to a Star Trek convention with me, but I think he had a date or something."

"A Star Trek convention?" I asked incredulously.

"Oh yeah, they're totally awesome. I don't believe Star Trek is real or anything, but the people who go to those things have such enthusiasm—they come in costumes, and…"

"Kerry, I don't care about the convention."

"Oh, right. Sorry. I got carried away." She grinned sheepishly.

We sat in silence for a minute. Not awkward silence. Kerry didn’t mind me telling her to stop talking. We both knew she was an oddball. How could such a beauty be so eccentric? No wonder Jaden had turned her down. But then again, every guy I knew would jump at a chance to do anything with Kerry, no matter how strange. If Kerry couldn't pry Jaden away from a girl, then I didn't stand a chance. Not like I’ll be trying, I scolded myself.

I picked at my lunch, leaving most of it untouched, trying hard not to keep looking over at Jaden and flushing scarlet when he walked by us on his way out of the food court. The rest of the afternoon dragged on forever. I tried to shake off my mood and focus in class, but without success. My usually copious notes were replaced with distracted doodles and sketches of dark eyes.

My thoughts kept going back to the moment I'd locked eyes with Jaden. I couldn’t decide if the feeling I’d had when I looked at him had been good or bad. It felt like both. Part of me felt a connection, a pull towards him that I didn’t want to resist. Part of me wished I had never seen him, like looking into his eyes had awakened some long-dormant fate. Whether that fate was blissful or tragic, I couldn’t be sure, only that it was decided and too late to escape now.

I hardly noticed when Dr. Gates addressed a question to me.

“Miss Hart?”

“Hmmm?” I murmured dreamily.

“Would you care to answer?”

I looked up from my doodling. Dr. Gates didn’t look happy. I glanced quickly around at the other students. Everyone was staring. What was the question? I couldn’t even remember what we were supposed to be discussing today.

I blushed deeply and looked down at my lack of notes. I had no answer for Dr. Gates. Wincing, I confessed, “I don’t know the answer."

I could sense Dr. Gates’ glare of disapproval even though I refused to look up from my notebook. “Alright, then. Would someone else like to answer the question? Prove you were paying more attention than Miss Hart? This will be on the final, you know.”

A girl to my right raised her hand. “Othello's jealousy drove him to kill Desdemona, but he still loved her.”

“Exactly. Othello was conflicted. ‘Put out the light, and then put out the light,’” Dr. Gates quoted. “How does this simple line amplify the tragedy of the story?”

Normally, I would have been interested in this discussion. Shakespeare tragedies were some of my favorites, but I didn’t want to think about Shakespeare right now. I wanted to think about Jaden.

 My pensive mood continued over the next several days and through the weekend. The snow never came and the clouds disappeared, but even the sun couldn’t brighten my mood. Kerry took my brooding as a sign of too much stress and dragged me shopping with her on Saturday. I smiled and made a show of having a good time, but I caught Kerry eyeing me with a knowing look. She wasn’t fooled.

On Tuesday, Kerry and I ate at the food court again. I tried to be discreet as I looked over to the place where I'd last seen Jaden. The same group was there. It was obvious now that most were football players: they were huge. But I didn't see Jaden with them. I didn't need to look long—he would have stood out, not because he was bigger than the rest, but because he had a sort of glow about him, a magnetic pull. Or maybe that was just my imagination getting carried away.

Not surprisingly, when Kerry and I reached our table she immediately asked, "Looking for Jaden?"

"What? No!" I denied a little too hastily.

Kerry rolled her eyes. "Admit it, Rhe. You were looking for him."

I blushed, mumbled something about it being none of her business, and started in on my food.

"Maybe not, but your mood is just plain depressing. We've got to do something about it."

"What makes you think my mood has anything to do with Jaden?" I accused.

"Only the fact that you've been moping around since you saw him last week."

She was right; I'd been pretty obvious about it.

"Are you depressed because you think he's out of your league or something?" Kerry was prying now. "I told you he's cool. I bet you'd even have a shot with him if you took a chance."

"I don't want a shot with him. It's not like I've fallen hopelessly in love with him or anything." I said it with as much force as possible, but somehow it sounded false.

"Then what?” Kerry persisted. “You’re upset about something. Did he offend you somehow?"

"No. It's… complicated."

"Uh huh." She made a pretense of dropping the subject, but I knew she wasn't through with me. I'd have to sate her interest somehow.

"I'm just curious about him, that's all," I defended lamely.

Kerry smiled conspiratorially. "You know, if you want to see him again you can go to the football game this weekend."

A football game? Me? Yeah, right. But then, it would afford me the chance to see Jaden without looking like a gawking freak. The view from the student section might not be the best, but there was no way he'd be able to pick me out in the stands. Not like he'd even be looking, I reminded myself.

I'd decided to go to the game long before I told Kerry on Wednesday night. She casually offered to get me a ticket and didn't say another word about it. For some reason, that made me nervous.


(Follow along with some roughly-written chapters 2-4 here.)





If there were a theme song for this story, it would be this one. Perfect.