Exceprt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Unknown Chapter)

The ocean line expands before me, pulsating, tugging at my memories.
Sofi holds my hand, and Gloria stands rigid at my side. She looks over at me.
“I know this place,” she says.
I nod. “This was my favorite beach. We came here when we were girls.”
“Ah, we used to race to see how far we could swim. You were such a good swimmer for being so little.”
Her words feel like a wasp sting to my gut. “My parents brought me here when I was young–every summer–until…” I snap my mouth closed.
“Haize? Why are we here?”
There’s salt water running down my face, then. The stones in my chest multiply, but the pressure built behind my eyes for nearly twenty years rejoices. Relief and heartbreak–how these feelings are so deeply intertwined.
“Teddy’s here.” My voice is barely audible above the crashing waves.
“How do you know?” Sofi asks.
“This is where I left him.”
Gloria doesn’t speak. Sofi unclasps her hand from mine and wraps it tight around my waist. She’s young, but in that moment, I watch her childhood fade. She won’t remember Glass after today–none of us will. I can only pray that we remember each other.

Excerpt: Beyond the Fragile Glass–Unknown Chapter

There was a low murmur in the trees that night. I should have known then she was coming.

The sun had begun to set, and darkness hummed in the east with the wind. Crickets chimed as I stood on my porch, ringing like alarms. The trees in my neighborhood seemed to whisper her name is they danced around me.

Angeline, Angeline, Angeline.

Their warning gave me pause at the front door, tousling my hair, desperate to hail my attention.

But I pretended not to speak their language. “Everything is fine,” I said, slamming the front door behind me.

 

Excerpt: Here She Lies -Chapter One (Rewrite)

CHAPTER ONE–August 2, 2007
November “Milly” Ray crouches underneath the front window of her gray stucco house. Her chest heaves under the sharp California sun.

A man’s deep voice yells from the open window above her, “Where are you?”

Milly covers her mouth to quiet her breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

She doesn’t dare move her feet, even though tall, dead grass pokes at her legs and butt. She slicks sweat away from her forehead and keeps her eyes forward, willing the red Jeep with the curly-haired boy to appear.
The stucco wall to digs into her back. Hurry up, Charlie, she thinks.

A beaded bracelet hangs loosely on her wrist, and Milly clutches one of its beads between her fingertips that are slowly turning white.

Above her, her father, Jonah, mumbles to himself; his voice is hard but the words are strung together like a bracelet, indistinguishable from one to the other.

Milly’s fingers stroke the different textured beads threaded together on her wrist until she feels the bead she’s looking for. Her eyes lock onto a square, blue bead. Inhale. She looks across the street, searching for similar objects—the neighbor’s hose box across. Exhale. A garage door. Inhale. A window. Exhale. She looks down the street, but Charlie’s car is still no where to be seen. Inhale. She sees other houses, all the same two-story, gray-colored stucco as hers. At the far end, ten houses down and a good half mile, the cul-de-sac seems to form around one house that sticks out among the rest: a deep blue, two-story home with horizontal boards and a wrap around porch—Charlie’s house. Exhale.

The front door slams open.

“Crap,” Milly says. She jolts up and starts running down the street. The sun pricks at her skin and beads of sweat bubble from her forehead. The dry air sucks the moisture from her mouth. After passing five houses, Milly’s eyes flick back to her house. But Jonah is nowhere in sight. She slows down, careful to avoid the uneven slabs and cracks in the pavement.

Suddenly, a red Jeep blows through a stop sign at end of the street.

“Finally,” she says and flops onto the grass of a neighboring house, hiding in the shade of a canyon oak tree.

The Jeep slows in front of her until it putters to a stop and a plum of smoke rises from the exhaust.

Milly goes to it and yanks the door open. “You’re late, Charlie. Again,” she says.

Charlie offers her full-tooth smile. “So sorry, princess, practice took forever.” Milly rolls her eyes.

He looks her up and down. “Why were you walking?”

“I just needed some air.”

“It’s 104 degrees.”

She shrugs.

His eyes narrow and gaze in the direction of her house. “Is Jonah home?”

Again, she shrugs. “Move your crap, so I can sit down.”

“Sorry,” Charlie says as he grabs a half-drank gallon of water from the passenger seat and throws it into the back seat. It lands on top of his wrestling bag. Milly plops into the seat, and maneuvers her feet away from the graveyard of Red Bull on the floor. The seatbelt clicks as Charlie slams the engine into gear. Milly cranks the AC, and rests back, listening to the Van Halen CD booming from the Jeep’s speakers.

Charlie, Milly’s best friend since childhood, is tall and lean—built for wrestling. He has brown eyes and milk chocolate skin. His face is oval-shaped with sharp cheekbones and a smile that could melt the hardest heart—he’s easily one of the more attractive guys at their high school, but to Milly, he’s like a little brother.

Charlie speeds out of the neighborhood past a blur of cream houses and trees and brown yards, slowing the Jeep only enough to roll through stop signs before speeding past other houses. They drive out of the track-home neighborhoods and near the half-million dollar homes where Charlie slows a little, so Milly can drool a little over her dream houses, until they reach a small strip of land and then a trailer home park. He slams back on the accelerator. Eventually, they reach more track-homes that are newer than Milly’s house and those homes unfold onto a small shopping center with a Chinese food restaurant, an ice cream parlor—Milly’s favorite, Stater Bros. Grocery store, and a small liquor market—Jonah’s favorite.

As she and Charlie drive past Beaumont High School, Milly’s stomach flips. She takes a deep breath, only exhaling when they turn onto Cherry Valley Blvd and the school is out of sight. Cherry Valley Blvd slices through rolling hills of yellow grass that seemingly go on for miles.

Eventually, Charlie turns the radio down, and Van Halen fades away. He looks over at Milly but can’t catch her eye.

“Thanks for coming to get me,” she says.

“Of course. If he was that bad, you should have called me,” he asks.

Milly shakes her head. “Like you’d answer?” she teases.

“I would have!”

“You don’t let anything get in the way of practice.”

“You are more important than wrestling.”

Milly smiles. “It’s not that big of deal. I’ve avoided him most of the morning.”

After a while Charlie asks, “Are you okay?”

Milly plays with the bracelet on her wrist, rolling a circular bead over and over again, counting under her breath. One tire, two tires, three, four, five. “I already know what you’re thinking. I’m fine.”

“You always say that.”

“Because it’s always true, Charlie. I’ve lasted this long. Another year isn’t going to kill me.”

Charlie takes a deep breath. “You sure?”

“Yes.” Her eyes fixate on the road, away from Charlie’s gaze.

Charlie’s mouth opens to say something else, but he quickly shuts it again. Milly straightens her back and puts on a smile. “Would you just calm down? Stop worrying about me.”

“I won’t let this go.”

“Just give it a rest. I can’t handle another lecture this summer.”

Charlie focuses back on the road, taking a deep breath. It doesn’t matter how much this bothers her. Eventually, she’ll listen, he thinks.

“Maybe if you moved with your aunt, you’ll have to go to another school. But at least that way you won’t have to face everyone after last year…”

“Drop it, Charlie. I’m not moving, and I’m not running away from anything or anyone. Last year is no one’s business: including yours. You promised.”

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“No one’ll remember what happened last year anyway,” she says. The pitch of her voice rises. “I’m sure a lot of things happened over the summer for everyone; they won’t even care about me anymore.”

The car is silent. They pull off the freeway. Palm trees spring up every few blocks, and front yard after front yard sports brown lawns.

It feels like a boulder sits in Charlie’s stomach—he shouldn’t have pushed it. Everything changed last year, even Milly and Charlie’s friendship. She won’t admit it, but Charlie knows she thinks about last year a lot. She shifts in her chair and plays with that stupid bracelet, rubbing it like a genie that can fix all her problems. He slows at a red light. The only noise comes from the traffic of the overpass and the incessant click-click-click of his blinker. He can’t stand it anymore.

“There’s got to be somewhere—someone—better.”

“We’ve been over this a thousand times; there is no one else who wants me and no one I want. I know it doesn’t make sense to you, but that’s home to me—”

“God knows why,” he says while rolling his eyes. She glares at him. “Sorry,” he says quickly as he pulls off the freeway.
“This is my senior year, and I’m not going anywhere. I feel really good about it, and nothing that happened last year is going to stop me from having a good year. Just drop it, okay?”

“All right, all right,” he says.

The car slows to a stop. There’s a long cement gate that encloses a green park, filled with tall cypress trees that cast shadows across the entire park.

There’s an oxidized metal sign hanging from the gate: Hillside Memorial Park. Open six AM to dusk. Milly takes a few deep breaths and exits the car.

Short Story: The House on Sutherland Lane (Part 2)

If you missed part one, catch it here. Otherwise, here you go:

“Leave that poor woman alone.”

“As president of the HOA, it is my job to care about our neighbors.” “That’s just your excuse to be nosey.”

“Bite your tongue. I just want to help.”

Emily made a rather large and embarrassing scene last year when Tristan left her for the local school teacher, who was twenty-two. She threw his stuff everywhere, screaming and cursing left and right. She kept saying something about how she never should have come here and how she hated him and wished she never left California and how she would never make this mistake again. They were only married for six years. Eric and I have been married for twenty- three, and sometimes I wish he’d leave me for another woman.

Eric doesn’t say anything else, and I don’t wait for him to speak. I already have my coat and gloves on. I open the door and step into the sharp air. It’s getting so cold, breathing hurts. I wrap my scarf around my nose to warm the air.  I clutch my arms to my chest, trying to keep out the cold. As the light fades and the street lights turn on, each passing minute seems to drive the temperature further south. I reach the curb before Emily’s house and stop a few feet before her garden.

I watch her focused eyes and steady arm move quickly between weed and plant. I watch the way she deftly clips, pulls, and hacks at the garden’s plants. The result is stunning. The garden starts at the curb and goes back six feet into the yard. Every few feet, a new plant erupts from ground. A stone path separates the two sections evenly and leads to the house. The front row of flowers is a maze of marigolds and the next row is full of small pink and red roses.  White lilies line the stone path and end a few feet before the house.

“Your garden is beautiful,” I finally say.

She jumps with a start. Her eyes meet mine and narrow. Her lips form a flat line. She looks back at the ground, and her arm whacks the weeds harder.  I wonder if it’s me she imagines in the dirt.

“Thank you,” she says, so quiet I almost miss it.

“You’re welcome. How do you keep them in bloom so long?”

“Meticulous pruning,” she says, and her eyes flick up. She snips the head off of a small rose bud.

“Oh,” I say. A cold breeze slithers up my coat. I move my back foot closer to the house and wrap myself tighter in my coat. “It’s so cold outside. Aren’t you freezing?”

“No.”

She wears a long sleeve shirt covered in mud and small moth holes. Her pants are worn and muddy, as well. Her skin is red and small patches look nearly frost bitten. “You look it,” I say.

“I’m not.”

“You know, Mrs. Robins down the street uses these plastic bags to keep her flowers from dying in the cold. You put this bag thingy over the flowers. It works like a miniature,” I pause. “You know I can never quite remember the name,” I laugh, but it sounds forced. I hope Emily doesn’t notice.

“Greenhouse,” she says.

“Oh, yeah! That’s the one. Well, anyway, I’m sure if you talk to her, she’ll show you how to keep those beautiful plants alive all winter long.”

“I won’t be here much longer.”

“Oh? What do you mean?” I try to stifle the excitement in my voice, but it’s hard.

“I mean, I won’t be here during the winter. I’m going back to California. I couldn’t care less to live through another winter here.”

I don’t say anything, but the knot in my stomach loosens slightly. I repress a sigh of relief.

“I’m just getting the yard ready to sell,” she says.

I look at the garden, but my eyes wander to the house behind it. The brown paint is peeling slightly. The panel walls are loose in areas and completely missing in others. Not to mention, there are several small holes in the roof. “What about the rest of it?”

She glares at me, and my face turns pink and hot.

“I don’t have time to fix the rest of it. I don’t care about it much either. We bought it as a fixer upper, so I don’t mind selling it that way.” She doesn’t say her husband’s name, but we both know that’s who she means when she says “we.”

“Oh,” is all I can say. I wait a few more seconds, but she stops looking at me and resumes the work on her garden. “I’m sorry to see you go. I know we’ll all miss—“

Short Story: The House on Sutherland Lane (Part 1)

I stand at the kitchen sink, elbow deep in soapy water. I mindlessly caress the water for any signs of leftover dishes from dinner. It’s still early, though. In the west, the sun shines just above purple mountain peaks. Usually, I like to have dinner made and finished before the sun sets, so I can sit on the porch and enjoy tea and cookies.

I won’t be sitting on the porch tonight, though. Across the street, my neighbor, Emily Hale, hunches over rose shrubs and marigolds in her yard. Her head bobs among the different plants, inspecting and analyzing each before she hacks away at weeds and unruly vines. Occasionally, she gets up and stands behind the shrubs, which still have some blossoms despite the coming winter, to admire or criticize her work; then, it’s back to hacking. I creep down a little at the sink when she stands up, so she won’t see me watching her.

I can’t take my eyes off her. I have never seen a face as strange as hers. She has a long, pointed nose and black eyes surrounded by the wrinkles of crow’s feet. Emily’s jet-black hair once fell to the middle of her back, which made her pale face appear striking. A few weeks ago, though, she hacked her hair to pieces and left only an inch or two that now look like mangy feathers. There’s a furrow so deep in her brow line that even across the street, I can visibly see it. She’s ten years younger than I am. She looks so much older than thirty-three.

There aren’t any laugh lines around her mouth. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen her smile.

My fingers brush past the edge of one of my favorite porcelain plates. “Gotcha,” I say to myself. I clean the last dish and drain the sink water.

I reach the living room and lean on the door frame. My husband watches the local evening news on his 52 inch flat screen television. He sits on my favorite plush blue sofa. Under each elbow is a pink and white embroidered pillow. I narrow my eyes at him.

“Eric, elbows off my pillows,” I say.

His forehead wrinkles and his lip puckers. “Jesus, Maggie. What’s the point of having these things if I can’t ever use ‘em?” My nose crinkles at him, and I waddle over to the couch and pluck one of the pillows from under his arms.

He glares at me and puts all of his body weight on the remaining pillow. “Please,” I beg. “You know how important they are to me.”

Everything is important to you.” His lip snarls, and he refocuses his attention on the news.

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

He doesn’t look at me. His reply comes from the side of his mouth as if answering my question isn’t worth all of his effort. “I’m tired of not being able to touch anything in my house.”

I roll my eyes and sit on the couch. I think of Emily across the street. “She’s lucky her husband isn’t around to ruin all her prized possessions,” I mumble.

He turns the TV off and looks at me. “What was that, darling?” He says with a sarcastic scowl.

“Nothing. I was just thinking about Emily. You can keep watching television if you want.”

“Thank you for the permission, but if you’re sitting here, I know you’re gonna interrupt it anyway. What were you sayin’?”

“I was just thinking about our neighbor. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her smile. I just wonder about her, especially after she hacked off all her beautiful hair.”

“It looks sexy.”

My eyes widen. “Well, I think it looks atrocious.” I say it like a challenge, daring him to argue with me.

“She’s in shock.”

“She’s losing it,” I say.

“Give her a break. She’s had a hard year, Margaret.”

“I know. The ladies in town are concerned.”

“I’m sure you’re all very concerned.” His eyes roll.

I ignore his comment. “It’s been a year since Tristan left her. She’s had plenty of time to move on and get on with her life. Now is not the time to hack your hair to bits and be rolling in dirt all evening. She should be meeting other men, falling in love again.”

Eric laughs, and it takes me off guard. “What?” I ask.

“If I dragged ya away from your home and all the people you love and then left ya for a younger woman, it would take ya years to recover.”

“So you do listen to the neighborhood gossip,” I say and smile. He shakes his head.

“I talked to her.”

“When?” My eyes go wide again.

“Last month.”

I don’t say anything.

“She didn’t even get to go to her daddy’s funeral a couple years ago because Tristen said they couldn’t afford it.”

“I heard she didn’t get along with her father.”

“If ya asked, you’d know she loved her father. His death crushed her.”

“She didn’t act crushed. She just pouted all around the neighborhood.”

“Probably ‘cause she couldn’t go to California. She doesn’t have anyone left.”

“No one?” I ask.

He nods. “Ya may want her to leave, but she’s got nowhere to go.”

Again, I don’t respond. I call my mother every week, even to this day. I still see my big sister a few times a year. I can’t imagine not having anyone.

I straighten myself. “I know it’s been hard for her, but that’s still no excuse for her behavior lately. Just last week, someone saw her in the grocery store and tried to say hi, and she didn’t respond. Who does that? And someone else saw her yelling on the phone, swearing up a storm. She’s very rude.”

Eric shakes his head and turns the television back on.

I stand up, and as I stomp back to the window to resume watching Emily, the wood flooring whimpers under my weight. The skyline lingers in orange, pink, and the lightest of blues. I try to take it all in, but Emily is hard to ignore. Her angry scowl distracts me from the beautiful Midwest sunset. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for thirty-eight years, and I won’t let some bitter woman ruin this place for me. If I can talk some sense into her, maybe she can learn to act normal. I march towards the front door.

“Maggie, where are you going?” My husband calls. The television volume turns down. “I’m just going to talk to Emily. I’m worried,” I yell to the living room.

“You aren’t worried.”

“No, I really am!” I am worried, I tell myself. The better she’s doing, the better the neighborhood does. I’m sure I can help out. She just needs someone to listen.

Short Story: Eight (Part Two)

If you missed part one, go here.

She smiles again. Jaime’s phone starts ringing in his pocket.
“It looks like I need to get going.” He thrusts Arra through the door. She hits Binglie with a thud, but the small woman doesn’t move an inch. Arra turns back toward Jaime, but Binglie wraps an arm around Arra’s waist while the other hand grasps the file. Jaime gestures toward Binglie’s arms. “Do whatever you want with that.” It isn’t clear if he means the file or Arra. He throws Arra’s trash bag past Binglie and into the house.
“See you soon, Jaime.” Arra looks up.
Jaime laughs. “If you’re so certain, I suppose I will.” He starts to descend the stairs.
A small black blur crosses his neck and hides behind his collar.
“Jaime!” Arra’s voice is high-pitched but hoarse, like she hasn’t spoken in months.
He turns on his heel and glares at her.
“Eight,” Arra says.
He takes the stairs two at a time and wraps a massive hand around Arra’s throat. “What did you say to me?”
Her face begins to swell slightly, but her only response is a small smile. Jaime lets her go. Jaime and Binglie’s eyes meet. “I hope to see you soon… With this one obedient.”
Binglie nods.
“Drive safe,” Arra says.
He makes a deep guttural growl. He turns away, as Binglie yanks Arra inside and slams the door.
“I wanted to watch him leave,” she says.
“How does it feel to want, my dear?” Binglie pushes Arra through the living room. There’s a thin layer of dust on the top levels of cabinets and bookshelves and the prints of paintings lining the walls, otherwise, the house is spotless. Fresh lines of a vacuum mark the floors and arch around the furniture. The colors on the couch shine bright and crisp and unused. Arra scans the room harder. Spider webs hide in the cracks between some of the furniture. There’s a fire place in the center of the farthest wall, but ash doesn’t line the bottom like Arra’s previous parents’ home.
I come from my hiding spot and latch a thin, almost transparent rope to Arra’s back. She notices my appearance behind her and smiles.
“This place is so neat, Binglie” she says.
“When I speak to you, call me Mrs. Choice. Otherwise, don’t speak.”
“I don’t like it here. I’m glad my friends came.”
Binglie chuckles. “You have no friends here.”
Binglie leads Arra through the living room to the study in the back of the house. Bookshelves line the wall, but cob webs and dust cover nearly every shelf. A gold lamp illuminates the room in a dull yellow. A middle-aged man sits behind the desk, studying paperwork. He looks up when Binglie raps at the door. “Bron,” she says.
“Who’s this?”
“New girl.”
Bron rolls his eyes. “Thank you, dear. I can see that. What is her name?”
“Arra,” says Arra.
Bron stands and walks over to Arra. His eyes scan the little girl up and down. The left corner of his mouth pulls up. “She’s a confident little thing, isn’t she?”
Arra nods. Bron kneels down, so his eyes are level with hers. His fingers wrap around her mouth and dig into her cheeks.
“Don’t be.” He looks at Binglie. “How long until she’s eighteen?
“Nine years,” she says.
He sighs. “That won’t do.”
“I won’t be here that long,” Arra says.
Bron moans. “Make her stop.”
Binglie nods. She grabs the back of Arra’s shirt and pulls up, catching under her armpits. Suddenly, she’s two feet off the ground. She tries kicking Mrs. Choice, but her new mother just moves her out of kicking reach. Arra gives up and just hangs there, staring at Binglie.
“She’s our last,” he says.
“I know. We’ll take care of it before then.”
“Then why take her in?”
“Her story’s incredibly interesting.”
Bron raises an eyebrow. “What is her story, then?”
“All of her last foster families have died of things like heart attacks, organ failure, blood clots–seemingly normal, but when you add the multitude of dead.”
His voice rises like a child asking for candy. “That’s a lot of death surrounding one little girl. All of them, you say?” He’s smile widens.
“Yes,” Arra pipes up.

To be continued…

 

Excerpt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Part 2)

By request, here’s the next little segment of the story I posted last week.

“You’ve been struggling lately, and I think I can help,” she says from across the room in sing-song voice.

I cross my arms, pushing my wrists deep into my armpits. “Oh.”

I chance a glance at the girl. From this far away, she almost looks normal. She’s wearing a tight spaghetti strap shirt and a pair of baggy khaki-like pants, like an outfit that’d be popular in Europe or something. Certain parts of her don’t fit—her hair and death lips, for example. It’s like when I used to play video games: the characters looked real, spoke real, acted real, yet there was always something that felt off.

She walks over and tries brushing her hand against my face, but I pull away. All of this is weird and wrong and why is this stranger acting like she’s known me forever? My mouth twists to the side, while I glare the brown and black and purple stains caked into the carpet. I dig my toes into a purple stain that came from a poor attempt at dying my hair—that faded within the week. I look back up at the red-haired girl before me and try to not be jealous of her dye-job.

“There’s a world behind your mirror.”

A chill prickles down my spine, jolting my shoulders. I stand and pace around the room. “I’ve officially lost it.”

There’s a trashcan in the corner, over flowing with paper, crumpled tissues, clothes I decided I hated and cheap jewelry I didn’t need and books I knew I’d never read and letters and cards that family gave me and other shit. I’ve been on a trash-binge lately, I guess. There’s a pile of clothing on my bed that’s probably been there for the better end of a week. I’ve kind of just been sleeping on it. My room is never this messy. I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately. Okay, maybe she’s right. I haven’t been doing so well, but why am I hallucinating? I turn on my heel and glare at her, hoping some explanation might form into tangible words in the air, but nothing happens. I get that same sense again that I’m looking at a video game character. It’s that part of her that doesn’t feel right, that seems off, but that keeps me from running the hell out of my room screaming. Why haven’t I run the fuck out of here? I don’t believe in auras or any of that other shit, but the feeling I get from her tells me that something incredible will happen. She feels like adventure, and I have no idea how else to explain that. Weird as she might be, I want to play along. Curiosity killed the cat, I suppose.

“Okay imaginary human, what are doing here?”

“I’m not imaginary,” she sits next to me on the bed, tucking her feet under her ass. The bed holds her weight as if she weren’t even there, there’s not even a fold or molding. It’s like she’s floating on top. “I want you to come with me to Glass,” she says.

I look up at her. “Glass?”

“That’s what we call the world that lies beyond your mirror.”

“You’re trying to tell me that my mirror acts like some portal to a world far, far away?”

She nods. “But not just your mirror: every mirror.” Her eyes soften, and those pale lips spread, revealing teeth nearly the same color. I think she’s trying to be reassuring, but the attempt gets lost as my mind begins to whirl.

A flash of memories passes before my eyes: bad solos, naked dancing, awkward sexual encounters, tears, speeches dedicated to myself, and a whole slew of embarrassing and personal things I’ve done—all in front of mirrors. My secrets. My deepest, most private moments, all done in front of this mirror. Jesus Christ.

My mouth gapes open.

“Don’t worry. I don’t watch you all day long, all though, I do enjoy your singing.”

I feel hot, and my head does that thing where it gets all light-weight and my chest starts heaving. I think I’m dying. I might actually be dying of shame.

“For fuck’s sake. What a creep,” I almost yell. “You must know me pretty well by now, as well as everyone else who lives there.”

“Only I watch.”

“Huh, oh great. I feel much better.” I roll my eyes. I really wonder if you can die of embarrassment. I snarl and pull myself off the bed. I stomp toward the corner of the room like a stubborn little kid.

“I promise it’s not a big deal, Haize. I was drawn to you, like everyone where I’m from. We’re each drawn to only one person.”

I cross my arms, hoping that maybe I can keep my lungs from exploding. “This isn’t okay. You can’t just watch people.”

She nods. “I know. I wanted to tell you before, but it wasn’t the right time. I’m sorry.” She looks down, and pulls her mouth to the side. My back releases some of its tension.

“What’s so special about this place?” I whisper.

“Come with me and find out,” she says.

Her hand reaches for mine, stalled in mid air, waiting for me to lace my fingers with her. But I don’t. I stare at her hand and the long delicate fingers, calloused at the tips. She doesn’t wear any rings—or any jewelry for that matter—but on her wrist hangs a bracelet made of wound leaves and twigs.

“Trust me,” she says, and her mouth pulls loosely on one side. Her glistening eyes stare deep into mine.

 

Excerpt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Part 1)

This is a new novel I’m working on–incomplete save a few chapters. This is a little snippet of the beginning (foul language involved).

When a hand jutted through my bedroom mirror, I was a little taken aback—okay, a lot taken aback. If I said my underwear was completely dry, I’d probably be lying.

My first thoughts when she completely came through the mirror resembled something like, shit, I should have cleaned my room and oh my god, my dirty underpants and bra are on the floor and my mom would kill me if she knew I had someone in my room when it looked like this and I wish I had brushed my hair and god, I really want to change my underwear, but quickly followed by the reality that this human came through my mirror, so it doesn’t actually matter that my room is messy or that my appearance is less than favorable because the uninvited, magical creature-human-thing walked through the fucking mirror.

“My name is Hana” is how she announced herself after she came through—her smile wide and welcoming, almost like everything was normal. It’s been a good five or so minutes of me just gaping at her, not speaking. She’s been gracious enough while I try to figure her out.

Her bright red hair—like red, not orange—falls along her hair line in a low ponytail that hides behind her shoulders and neck. She’s got some sharp-ass cheek bones and ice-silver eyes, but the weirdest part of her must be her lips—almost completely white. Even her olive-tone skin is darker, like olive undertone, but these lips are death embroidered in a living corpse. I’m pretty sure she isn’t a zombie, though, since she doesn’t have pale white skin and all her body parts seem to be intact and functioning. Her teeth aren’t pointy for cutting through flesh or sucking blood, so I can rule out vampire as well.

My tongue keeps wagging behind my mouth, but it’s not working to form actual words.

“Wha…what are you doing here?” I finally blurt out.

“I want to show you something,” she says.

I pinch the bridge of my nose. My voice makes some unnatural cracking noise, like a dinosaur or something. My brain already hurts, and my eyes feel heavy.

“And you couldn’t knock on the front door like everyone else?”

She chuckles, “Not really.”

This is a little much for one day. I think I’ll just take a nap. Maybe I’m already napping, and this is a bad dream. That’s probably the case.

“You’re not dreaming.” I look back at her. I hadn’t even realized I’d be staring at my unmade mess of a bed.  “This is the only way I could come. I’m not from around here,” says Hana.

“Well fucking obviously.” I roll my eyes and flop on my bed, making more inhuman grunting noises on my way down. The pile of clothes jumps a bit when I land on top of the mattress and a yellow and black flannel shirt tumbles to the ground. I grumble a few curse words and grab the shirt and throw it back on the bed, and plunk my butt right next to it. A steady stream of water dances on the roof and hits the edge of the window. Fog forms around the outside of my window sill. I inhale deeply, imaging the smell of wet concrete and moist air that will bless my nose. The tightness in my chest loosens a bit.

Excerpt: Here She Lies–Novel

In honor of the first Sunday of August, I’m posting a little except from my novel. The book is finished at 76,000 words, but I’m currently in the grueling editing process of this seven year project. Nonetheless, I’d like the chance to share a snippet of the beginning. Without further delay:

Chapter One–August 2, 2007

It’s hard to know exactly where November “Milly” Ray’s story begins, but it probably starts somewhere on Delatorre Drive on a hot summer afternoon in California or in a parked truck in the mountains of San Bernardino or perhaps in a hospital room in a nearby town—although chances are that’s where this one ends—but it could also begin on that same street ten years before at the bottom of a bottle of Black Velvet or the end of a piece of paper covered in the most elegant handwriting.

Whatever the case, today, her story starts on a porch before summer’s end and Milly’s final year of High School begins.

Delatorre Drive situates itself at the base of the San Gorgonio mountains where the valley accumulates the hottest wind and the driest summers. Milly’s tan skin glistens, causing her brown bangs to stick to her forehead. She slicks the sweat away and keeps her eyes forward, waiting for a red Jeep to pull up in front of her house and the boy with curly black hair to emerge from inside.

In the open window above her head, she can hear the loud swearing and slurred words of drunken man. She fidgets on the porch, causing the cement steps to dig into her thighs.

“Hurry up, Charlie,” she says under her breath. Milly looks at the bracelet on her wrist containing a variety of different beads strung together with a bright green thread. She holds a circular, translucent bead between her fingers, rolling it over and over again. Beside that bead, there’s a cheap plastic purple heart, a green, iridescent circle, a bright blue square with corners worn from time, and a white square with a black letter “N” carved out of it—its ink similarly faded—followed by more beads of varying shapes and colors all tied with a square knot, hanging loosely from Milly’s wrist. It was a necklace once, but over time, it grew too small and so became a bracelet.

From upstairs, Jonah, Milly’s dad, calls her name over and over again. Milly jolts up, her fingers still pinching the clear bead on her wrist. She skips the steps down the porch and stands against the cream stucco wall of her house, his window above her head.
Her fingers stroke the different textures of her bracelet until she feels the edges of the blue bead. Her eyes flick down at it before rising to search for similar objects—the neighbor’s hose box across the street, the garage door, a window. She looks down the street, but Charlie’s car is still no where to be seen. She sees other houses, all the same two-story, cream colored stucco as hers. At the far end, ten houses down and a good half mile, the cul-de-sac seems to form around one house that sticks out among the rest: a deep blue, two story home with horizontal boards and a wrap around porch—Charlie’s house.

The door to Jonah’s bedroom slams.

“Crap,” Milly says under her breath. She peels herself off the wall and starts down the street. Milly steps carefully down the road, avoiding uneven slabs and cracks overgrown with weeds.

The sun’s heat pricks at her skin and beads of sweat bubble from her forehead. The dry air sucks the moisture form her mouth. After passing the first couple houses, she already regrets walking, but there’s no turning back now. Suddenly, at the end of the street, Charlie’s garage door opens. Milly flops onto the sidewalk, which burns into her skin, so she gets up and takes cover under a small tree front of a neighbor’s yard.

The Jeep slows in front of her until it putters to a stop and a plum of smoke rises from the exhaust. Charlie, Milly’s best friend since childhood, is tall and lean—built for wrestling. He has brown eyes and milk chocolate skin. His face is oval shaped with sharp cheekbones and a smile that could melt the hardest heart—he’s easily one of the more attractive guys at their high school. But Milly looks at him and sees someone like her little brother and has since they were young children.

“I told you I’d come pick you up,” Charlie calls out to her.

“Well, I felt like walking.”

“It’s 104 degrees, Nova. You’re sweating like crazy.”

She shrugs. “You were taking too long.”

His eyes narrow and gaze in the direction of her house. “Is Jonah home?”

Again, she shrugs. “Let’s get going, yeah?” She yanks the door of the Jeep open.

“Sorry,” Charlie says as he grabs a half-drank gallon of water from the passenger seat and throws it into the back seat. It lands on top of his wrestling bag. Milly plops into the seat, and maneuvers her feet away from the graveyard of Red Bull on the floor. The seatbelt clicks as Charlie slams the engine into gear. Milly cranks the AC, and rests back, listening to the Van Halen CD booming from the Jeep’s speakers.

Charlie speeds out of the neighborhood past a blur of cream houses and trees and brown yards, slowing the Jeep only enough to roll through stop signs before speeding past other houses. They drive out of the track-home neighborhoods and near the half-million dollar homes where Charlie slows a little, so Milly can drool a little over her dream houses, until they reach a small strip of land and then a trailer home park. Charlie slams back on the accelerator. Eventually, they reach more trackhomes that are newer than Milly’s house and those homes unfold onto a small shopping center with a Chinese food restaraunt, an ice cream parlor—Milly’s favorite, Stater Bros. Grocery store, and a small liquor market—Jonah’s favorite.

As she and Charlie drive past Beaumont High School, Milly’s stomach flips. She takes a deep breath, only exhahling when they turn onto Cherry Valley Blvd and the school is out of sight and a long stretch of road lies before them.

Cherry Valley Blvd slices through rolling hills of yellow grass that’s freckled with resilient green bushels. The sky is a bright enough to blind her, but she keeps looking anyone. The hills seem to go on for miles, contrasting the congested neighborhoods of Beaumont.

She and Charlie remain in silence as the turn onto the I-10 Freeway, past the cities of Beaumont and Calimesa and Yucaipa, toward Redlands and their final destination: Hillside Memorial Park.