Excerpt: Beyond the Fragile Glass (Part 4)

If you need to catch up, click for the first part. And this is the second. And here’s the third.

 I roll onto my back with heaving breaths.

Hana stands up, but doesn’t take her eyes off me. “I’ve never seen anyone react like that to the glass before.”

“I was drowning. You’ve never seen anyone drown in water?” I pull my knees toward my chest and lean up to hug them, coughing as I do. She looks away from me, and a pink flush grazes her cheek.

“Am I the first person you’ve ever brought into your world?” My voice is hushed at first, but she doesn’t respond. Her eyes seem occupied by some other bullshit somewhere else. “Jesus Christ, you could have killed me!” I stand up and put my hand up to my head, ready to attack the sopping wet mane, but my hair isn’t wet. “Why isn’t my hair wet?”

“Because the glass isn’t water. It’s still glass, but it’s a faster moving liquid than normal glass, so it doesn’t make our hair wet. I can still breathe in it, but I function differently than you do. I thought you’d be fine.”

I probably should have been fine, like a totally normal person would have been fine, but these panic attacks just kind of come from nowhere. I’m not sure if I should tell Hana that, though, so I just shrug instead. I look back to where we just made our entrance into this world. I thought I’d see the same ancient mirror, but instead, it’s a smooth flowing waterfall, but not like Victoria Falls or anything. There’s a small river above it, but the water that comes down drops to nowhere it seems.

“Weird.” I touch the water gently, hoping not to jam my fingers again, but it acts just like I expect water to. “Why can I touch it when we’re here?”

“You don’t need a guide to leave the world,” she says. My eye brows raise.

“Interesting.”

“But you can’t get into your mirror without me,” she says quickly.

“Oh, okay.” I turn back around to see the new place we are in. Mostly, there are trees. Just like a shit-ton of trees and green except for a dirt path that cuts right down the middle from the portal we just walked through. “Are we in Washington?”

She shakes her head. “No, this is the first step to enter into Glass.” Her hands wave over the ground above us, like a welcoming gesture. I’m still unimpressed. I mean, we’ve got trees in my world.

“All right, show me what’s so special about this place.”

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.

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.