I was tempted to post a photo of a large pile of laundry because that’s what I should be working on. Here, instead, is a little peek at the first draft of a Young Adult novel I was calling SWEEPING CHANGES.
I say was calling because it seems that name is taken. I didn’t like it anyway. (Yeah. Right.) Don’t know what I’ll call it now. I’ve got to figure out some way to put the word Vampire or Angels in the title without in anyway implying that there are vampires or angels in the book. Harder than it sounds. Hopefully, something will come to me before the book’s Fall 2011 publication date.
Anyway, here it is – the uncut, unedited Chapter One of the mega blockbuster hit, The Angel Something Something of the Vampire Whatever.
We’ve decided on a title. My new novel will be called: BETSY WICKWIRE’S DIRTY SECRET. Look for it in bookstores this fall.
Here’s the excerpt:
Ava was leaning against the fridge. Her hands were behind her back and her hair was swept over to one side. She was looking up at Nick.
He was going to kiss her.
Betsy understood that immediately. It yanked her to a stop. She stood in the kitchen doorway like a cardboard cut-out of herself – flat, motionless, feeling absolutely nothing except the roots of her hair which tingled like thousands of tiny, fresh bruises.
She closed her eyes. No way. This couldn’t be true. She was just thinking crazy things.
She opened her eyes and formed her mouth into a smile. Her teeth were so dry they caught on her lips. She hoped it wouldn’t give her away.
“Oh, hi,” she said, reaching for her apron.
Ava and Nick’s heads both jerked toward her. Ava’s hand flew up to her mouth. Nick leapt back.
Betsy dropped her apron and ran.
She ran with that painful fake smile still quivering on her face.
She ran out of the kitchen, through the coffee shop, onto the street. She didn’t stop to get her purse or to pick up the tray of blueberry scones she’d sent flying or to tell the manager, who was just coming in himself, that she wouldn’t be at work that morning after all. Betsy didn’t think to do any of that. She couldn’t think. All she could do was run.
Betsy played basketball in the winter and soccer in the summer. Normally, she was a pretty good runner but now she was out of control. She looked like she’d caught her toe on something a few steps back and hadn’t quite managed to get her balance again. She was pitched forward at the waist and doing that frantic outstretched-arm thing that people do before a face plant.
At another time, had she seen a video of herself running like that, she would have laughed. She would have posted it on Facebook, sent it to all her friends, made jokes about it. That was one of the reasons Betsy was so popular. It wasn’t just that she was pretty. She was a good sport too.
She wasn’t laughing now though. In fact, she wouldn’t even have been aware of how ridiculous she looked if a man walking his dog hadn’t put out his arm and said, “Are you all right?”
She stumbled to a stop. She had no idea what he meant. She stood there panting and confused, staring at him. Why was he looking at her like that? Who was he? Why was he even talking to her?
He put a hand on her shoulder and looked directly into her eyes. “Do you need help, honey?”
Betsy more or less understood the words but somehow the sentence didn’t quite make sense. She wasn’t totally out of it. She realized this was weird. Still, it seemed to bother the man more than it bothered her. Betsy could see from his forehead just how concerned he was.
“Can I call someone for you?”
He spoke very slowly now but he didn’t have to. Call – that one word – was all it took. Everything became horribly clear.
Tell someone what happened?
Betsy pulled herself up straight, brushed the tears off her face, tried to sound reasonable. “I’m fine,” she said. “I’m fine. I’m. I’m just out for a jog.”
The man looked at her face. He looked at her flip-flops. He rubbed the corner of his mouth with his thumb then he said, “Well, okay. If you’re sure.”
She nodded until he took his dog and walked away.
Despite everything else going on in her head right then, Betsy couldn’t help feeling a little stab of indignation. She didn’t think of herself as the type of person who’d lie. Why did he assume she was lying? It was six thirty in the morning. Lots of people were out jogging.
As if to prove her point, Betsy started jogging – rhythmically, not too fast, at what her old gym teacher used to call ‘a nice easy trot’. She sensed that she looked fine or, if not fine, at least normal. No one was going to stop her again to see if she was all right.
That calmed her for a second. She realized that all she needed to do was blend in for a while until she could find someplace to…
She kept jogging but her heart had burst out into a sprint.
The truth erupted from her in a big honking sob.
It was the only thing that would work. She needed to die. She wanted to die.
She found herself running again. She couldn’t see for the tears but everything else was in sharp focus. She knew she’d lost a flip-flop. She knew her mascara was all over her face. She was even aware enough at some level to realize her howling sounded a lot like the animatronic dinosaur she’d seen on a Grade Seven class trip to the Museum of Natural History.
Betsy recognized she was making a scene. She just didn’t care. Her life was over. Why should she care?
She ran and ran until she was finally on her street, at her house, up the stairs, down the hall, in her bathroom. She slammed the lock into place then threw herself face down on the cold, dewy floor.
In seconds, the whole family was up, scrambling for their glasses, their dressing gowns, calling to her, banging on the door, rattling the handle. What? What’s the matter? Is she crying or laughing? Bets! Open up! Did you hurt yourself? Is that blood on the stairs or dirt? Does anyone know what happened? Betsy, sweetheart, please! Talk to her, Mike. Tell her to come out. Betsy!
Betsy closed her eyes, covered her ears and bit down on the bath mat to keep herself from sobbing.
The last thing she heard was her mother saying, “Someone call Nick. Call Ava. Find out what’s going on!”