Good morning, friends!
Today I want to share some segments of my novel as I’ve spent the larger part of the morning writing before I head out with some friends.
Brother and Sister. THEY ARRIVED AT THE apartment, and Jeremy knew neither he nor Cheryl would sleep. They mightn’t even pretend to. Cheryl looked around the room, a faint smile on her face. “Somehow I always thought I’d end up here. I didn’t know how. I definitely didn’t think it would be like this.”
He wondered whether there wasn’t something they could do to pass the time in which the world was at rest but they weren’t, without thinking about the obvious.
“I like it, Jeremy. I’m proud of you.”
He didn’t really believe her, but that word, proud… it sent that rare feeling, that warm type of shiver through his veins. “Thanks,” he whispered.
There was silence for a moment. A car passed this building that felt like summer and candles that looked better on other people than on him. “I was thinking… cuz I was thinking about what you might be thinking and I thought… do you want to make a pie or something?” Cheryl liked baking. He was happy when she smiled. “Yeah, I do. Do you have apples?”
Following Her Heart. She walked to his apartment, but quickly just had to run.
Climbed the stairs, two at a time, to his floor.
Please be here.
She turned down his hallway.
Please don’t be here, because I’m terrified.
She rapped on his door.
He thinks I’m crazy.
She swallowed a large ball of disappointment and embarrassment at the back of her throat.
He’s just a boy.
But somehow, this person was more than that.
She turned to leave. Why she had thought this was the start and not the end, she had no clue.
But God was telling her, with His golden light shining upon her face, not to give up.
Maybe it was the pain of Eric’s leaving, or the freedom she felt when she was with this boy she barely knew, and not with her clingy crowd that was more interested in partying than living, but she decided not to.
Memory. His face was this image of childhood and sidewalks with chalk that didn’t turn out as artistically as the artist may have hoped.
She remembered the slanted walls with glass panels, because she had pulled on her father’s pants and asked, “Dad, why are the windows tipping? What if they fall on top of me?”
Her dad had chuckled. “They’re not going to fall on you, Amy. It’s just the way the place was built.” The tone of his laugh, the condescending look of his wrinkled mouth stuck with her for longer than he could have imagined. She turned back to the windows, watched the watery morning sunlight slip through, sweet as sugar and as priceless as love, and then watched as people clattered by without even glancing in the direction of the unforgettable sunrise that blinded her eyes
Police Station. The sight of his sister, sharing breakfast with him in his new home and sporting a rather undeniable bedhead, somehow lessened the painful thoughts of the day’s events.
They both gobbled two pieces of pie and left most of the oatmeal untouched, but were friendly to the addition of whipped cream. They were quickly, and quite silently, off, back to Camrose. Cheryl called Detective Richard’s cell phone, which he had provided, and notified him that they were on their way.
Upon arrival at the station, brother and sister were whisked into the detective’s office at the back of the building.
“It’s good to meet the two of you,” Detective Richard gaffed, “and sorry for the circumstance. I’d just like to take some notes before we continue, okay?
“Mr. Sullert is your stepfather?”
“Yes,” Cheryl responded.
“Married to your mother?”
“So… he’s no longer your stepfather?”
“No, he is. Our mother passed.”
“Thank-you.” Cheryl was doing all the talking.
“How long ago did your mother pass?”
“Less than a year and a half ago,” Cheryl said quietly, “She and Jared were living at the opposite end of Camrose… supposedly. Our mother wasn’t exactly… er, the type to ‘stay in’. Neither was Jared. They’d be out all the time, and Mom barely ever remembered when we’d be coming to visit. We lived with our dad, you see, but she’d call a few days in advance when she wanted to see us. Dad would usually drive us to an empty house. Jared turned her into this unstoppable party girl– at least, that was our assumption. She usually alluded to parties in her apologies to Jeremy and me.”
Detective Richard nodded his sympathy. “What did Jared do when your mother passed?”
“He stayed in that house. He still lives there. We didn’t see him, though.”
Detective Richard took a moment to record something in a small notepad.
“How many times has Mr. Sullert intruded upon your home?”
“You are never to tell anyone or you will regret it. You will regret it because I will do whatever it takes to you. I will not fail to do whatever it takes to you and Cheryl, you unworthy, heartless…”
“I never liked you kids.”
“Your mother would hate to see what you’ve become.”
“Why can’t you be more the way your mother was?”
“I’ll hurt you like I hurt your mother.”
“They were more than intrusions,” Jeremy blurted, surprising all three of them by talking for the first time since they’d entered the room, “they have taken over my life thus far.”
Detective Richard asked him to elaborate.
And elaborate he did.
Good-Bye to Big Brother and Best Friend. Amy approached her big brother, and hugged him, long and tight and tearful. As they parted, coming into a slightly awkward handshake brought about by Eric, Eric scrunched something into Amy’s palm. Her confused eyes didn’t leave his mysterious ones as he waved all the way down the driveway, promising he’d call as soon as he arrived. One moment he was there. His whole life, he was there.
It was funny, how quickly he just wasn’t.
First Kiss Outta Nowhere. Amy smiled to herself. “That’s good, I guess. Because I really like talking to you. It feels so natural.”
“Yeah. I feel that way with you, too.”
“Oh, good. I don’t know what it is, really, Jeremy, but…”
She couldn’t talk anymore, because he was kissing her, so fast and before she could say anything else. He was kissing her, and he smelled like faded cologne and tasted like night– fresh, but with a stale undertone. He breathed hard at a break point, nervous. “I’m… sorry.” He stammered.
But she wasn’t. She smiled lightly, struck with the idea of what could come next and the events themselves of the day. Somehow, that was all a bit stressful, too, so she greedily reached for his face again, kissed his lips and cupped his face tightly. Maybe because the mysterious boy in the old apartment who ate potatoes didn’t prove himself to be a very permanent person. His hands reached for her waist, which he touched gently, but with longing. Holding her, tasting her, even being with her, she knew, was against something inside of Jeremy, but her head told her that this broken boy could be fixed, and her heart was beginning to believe so, too.
It was like receiving a gift she never would have chosen for herself. Just like when Eric had given her a bulletin board for her bedroom. It had seemed random, but he showed her how to craft with it, and it became a real hobby.
Somehow, she hadn’t realized that she’d had an attraction to Jeremy– if she had– or at least fully come to terms with it. It felt strange and exciting and sort of fun. After all, it was only her second kiss.
Well, sort of first.
The “first” one had been in second grade gym class. They were playing Capture the Flag, which Amy hated, but her competitive personality mandated her need to try. Davey Opentine ran from his team’s quarter to hers, and “accidentally smacked his lips to hers due to the intense speed at which he was running.” Of course, his explanation was less wordy. Amy countered that she didn’t know an accidental kiss could last so long, or be so squirmy, but Davey was adamant.
No, she thought now, That definitely didn’t count.
Kissing Jeremy was racy and compelling. When they broke apart, he touched her nose, lightly. “I’ve always liked your freckles,” he murmured. She couldn’t quite hold onto the feeling, the idea of it all. “Thanks,” she whispered, which was a horrible reply.
She was in a place too far away to say anything smart.
After that, Jeremy started talking about his sister. Nothing changed in his demeanor or his eyes, and Amy wondered whether that kiss had meant anything to him. Now, talking seemed slow and soupy.
Letter from A Little Sister. Remember going in that air balloon for that radio station, and playing its music? We played all the cool music. That is one of my favourite memories of you. It was the first time you ever let me come along. And I miss them, your friends. There were only one or two, but they made me feel like I belonged. I thought about going to ask them to play one day, but I realized that it wouldn’t be the same without you. It was all you. You put everything together. If you’re there, tell me, because I want to tell you I’m sorry. I know it’s my fault. I’m sorry.
Still Still Still. Her feet had taken her to that tree, that favourite tree, after dinner that night. Watery snowflakes fell in small segments, the November night sky crisp and royal blue. Amy’s breath was whispery, visible puffs as she watched the stars, washed up in a pang of guilt. It had been weeks since she’d last said a prayer about Sky. Oh, she’d prayed extensively about many other things, but not Sky. She supposed that was because she had been neglectful of the Lord, wrapped up in the world the past few days… oh, but doesn’t the world clutch us all, she thought. God was patient with her, and so her loved ones should be. Still Selfish, a begrudging little voice in the chambers of her mind still whispered.
She clasped her hands together. Precious Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned. She silently spewed a pile of the week’s sins, knowing that a literal million had been unnoted. Then, taking a peek around the white field, somehow embarrassed (yet another sin she noted), Amy began to speak aloud. “I’m sorry I haven’t talked about Sky lately. Does she understand, Lord?” Her voice sounded shaky, an outcast in this peaceful little haven. Sinful, she thought, the last person my voice should be shaky with is Jesus. “Wherever she is, can she hear me? Should I be angry with her? I know I shouldn’t, but I am. Does she not realize what we’ve been doing? Reiley hasn’t been able to work, you know, and we’ve been helping ‘em out, Bella and her. Reiley blames herself. You know, she used to dress so nicely. She can barely get out of bed anymore, but I did see her at the store once, and she was wearing sweat pants. And she’s lost at least ten pounds. I can’t help but think Sky’s so, so selfish, but… then I start to miss her.” She paused, feeling the tears threaten. Silence sounded—tasted– strange, now. “It’s so crazy how much I can hear her voice, like school is tainted with it. You know, the syrupy sort of sound, really pretty, not ditzy. I did this thing, where I’d tell myself that, for as long as I continued to smell the remains of that long-lasting perfume she always wore by her locker, she’d be safe. And I can’t smell it anymore, not for real. I think I kid myself into it sometimes. You know how I never saw the resemblance between her and Bella? Well, I don’t know, but I do now. It’s like she’s a little piece of her that I have left.
“Anyway. Tell her that I love her, I love her so much, and that I’m sorry.” Hush. Staccato crickets. The murmuring river. Amy’s fingers, drumming miscellaneously against the bark. Living and dying, time, rush and hubbub, the scary place we call home, now silent, unmoving, and unchanging, for a fracture of a moment. Come with me, the earth and dirt and grass threaten, tinted with lace and serendipity, saccharine and forlorn, to the world that I cannot leave.
The unmistakable crunch of boots on snow drew nearer, more threatening– or, perhaps, promising– by each moment. Amy held her breath until the easy-to-identify mussed hair and brood features came into sight, just as Amy found herself drawing a finger through the stick-girl. His expression encompassed all things smiley– it was all there, each muscle close, but not quite giving in.
They stood in silence for a moment, Jeremy’s arm taut against the tree and Amy’s dangling feet inches above. Snowflakes wet their hair like freefalling hairspray. She remembered the heat of their bodies, the closeness, and wanted longingly for him to voice his thoughts.
Without a word, then, Jeremy hooked himself onto the tree, sat beside her, as if he had done this many times before.
Quiet seemed so right, so true after a fair five minutes, and Amy began to realize that she really could read his thoughts. They were in sync, really. They both thought of each other, of the field in front of them, of life and promises, of change, of the known and the unknown. Jeremy was teaching her his way and perception without uttering a single word, and it was in those fractured moments that Amy came to believe that this boy was nothing short of a genius, a master. She found her brain whirring with stress and worries and regrets at first, but eventually settled into a calamity that can only be described as her first real taste of what it is to simply live. After, oh, forty-five minutes, Amy really couldn’t help but be pleased with herself. The whole experience was overwhelming and difficult to process. Another fifteen minutes gave her back the peace, and she no longer wondered whether she should say something, whether anyone would ever say something. Another fifteen, and Jeremy flashed her the most widespread, content and pure smile she felt she’d ever seen on any creature, slowly slid down the tree, and puttered away inside a bubble that Amy now knew could never, ever pop.
Waking Up. “Look… okay, you know that trip we took when we were little kids? With Mom and Jared?”
“Ever since then… I’ve wanted to get away so badly. I feel like… you know, it’s impossible to understand the world if I can’t see it. So, I just feel like… like, maybe if I search myself, I’ll be able to find something worth having, something that God wants me to have.”
Cheryl made a face. “I didn’t even know you believed in God.”
“You know, Dad used to go to church all the time, when he was little. Mom didn’t.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Amy does, too. Her faith is everything to her, she says it’s all there is. Maybe that’s why I like her so much.”
“What’s up with you?” The quiet that followed was poignant, sad.
Mornin, Sunshine. He linked his hand with hers and whispered, “I want to show you something.”
He led her out into the hall, and she followed him up three flights of stairs. They stopped at a door that led to a narrower, shorter staircase, at the top of which was another door. The way was lit only by a tinged yellow glow from a single bulb at the top of the stairs. Jeremy wrenched that door open with a squeak, and they were engulfed in night air that whooped without sound.
“I know it’s not very high,” Jeremy said, “But, I bet you’ve never seen the city from this side.” He pointed to his left. He was right. From that section of the roof, she could see a lake in the distance—Cambert Lake—which shimmered under a sliver of silver moon, quaking like velvet. Forest surrounded the water, dark and full and earthy. It was the only area in sight that was scattered with cottages and petite houses rather than suburban city buildings. The only sounds were of smooth and sliced passing cars, the slow and shivering movement of silent people. Amy closed her eyes and tasted air rich with coolness and vibrancy. Jeremy stepped forward and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and she felt warmer instantly. “It’s so beautiful,” She exhaled, and she didn’t even worry about her cheeks that were too red, or her freckles that were always more noticeable in the dark, or her hair that could never look as kept as any of her friends’. She just was.
She turned toward his lips and touched them greedily to her own, resting her neck in that groove on his collarbone that appeared to have been made for her. Jeremy gestured to the ground and they sat.
And Jeremy started talking about something silly, and Amy fascinated herself by watching him, watching the way his words worked and formed, and slipped much more easily than she’d ever heard them come from him. She rested her cheek on his shoulder and talked, too. She talked about Eric, and her friends, and God, and stresses, and she cried and laughed and inhaled too sharply, but she knew that he didn’t care.
She didn’t know when, but at some point, she must have fallen asleep, and he, too, because she woke up in watery, morning sunlight lying on her back, with her head on his chest. She watched his breaths for a moment, the peaceful way that his chest rose and fell, and then forced herself to stand, move over to the edge of the roof. A pale yellow sun looked upon a pastel sweet morning, full of promise and romance. Everything looked brighter, felt better. After quite some time, Amy turned and ran down the stairs, thoughts of sugar and clouds and magic swirling in her head. She left the apartment through a back entrance and jogged to the Teaopia down the road, greeting each peculiar and clambering person she passed.
The teashop was bright and warm, and the smells were so special and poignant, and she inhaled so sharply that the happiness stung her nose and then eyes and tears pricked their corners. Amy shuffled around, helping herself to samples, trying to decide which tea she and Jeremy would like most. When she settled on two giant cups of orange spice with two sugars, and brought them to the front counter, the bright, pudgy lady running the cashier asked, “What’s happened to you?” with a knowing expression.
”What do you mean?” Amy asked.
The woman accepted Amy’s cash and grinned. “Honey, when you’ve worked at a place like this as long as I have, you see a lot of different faces. You—“ she shook her head, smiling—“you’ve got the face and demeanor of a bird at the end of a rainy day. Hon, whatever’s making you so happy… don’t let go of it.”
Amy accepted the cups of tea with her gloved hand and smiled wider. She backed up and headed back to the apartment, her mouth so split, her cheeks swelled.