June 15, 2018 at 4:31 am #347033
Hello, everyone! I’m sorry for just tacking this up here the way I did. I have been meaning to come back to this site for a long time but kept botching the password and resetting it…and repeating the cycle. Thankfully, I am in and will be much more active from now on. I finished my first manuscript (and edited to death) my first novel and prepping it for submissions. This is my second project and I’m just trying to get a sense of it rings true with present day teens. I spent years on the first one, which is set in the summer of 1964, I felt super rusty and wanted to get feedback. Did it capture your interest/intrigue?
Daylight: Chapter 1
“Hey.” Tina whispers across the library table.
I do not want to take the bait.
I really don’t.
That said, I know the curiosity will eventually eat me alive. From there, I descend into the rabbit hole of whatever scheme she cooks up and any attempts to study meets the same fate.
My only option?
“What?” I ask, not bothering to look up.
“He’s staring at you again.”
“Who? Ben Corelli? “
“Don’t think he’s dumped that ego of his yet.”
“I’m stumped. Who?”
“The new guy, of course. Have you been hiding under a rock?”
“No, I’ve been…busy.”
“Your mom grinding your wheels again about Arizona University?”
“That, work, scholarship deadlines, teachers who live to give tons of writing assignments for homework… my dad’s anniversary?”
“Oh, my word. Please forgive me, Elle.”
“How did it go? Are you guys ok?”
“Umm, it went all right. Dad’s colleagues met up with Mom and me at Red Rock last Monday…”
“Which happened to fall on the first day of this semester.” Tina finished, nodding in awareness when I glanced over at her. “I’m so sorry, Elle. I must be the most insensitive person on the planet to you right now.”
“I won’t hold it against you. At least, this time.” I say, cocking my eyebrow up at her in jest. The subject matter sobers me. I glance down at my homework in an extreme effort to subdue my emotions. For once, I am so grateful to have a mountain of school work and obligations. To further preoccupy my mind and cheer up my bestie, I take the bait.
“Okay, Tina. Who’s the fresh bait?”
Immediately, she switches gears.
“Here’s what I got. His name’s Pete Brighton. He’s a senior and a serious brainiac, according to my sources. You know…now that I think about it, he got here first day of the semester, too. That bites for him, I bet. Graduating at a completely different school? I would totally disown my folks. Did I mention el chico es muy caliente?”
“Thanks for the update, Tina.”
She smiles triumphantly. I just shake my head and laugh.
“Speaking of the devil, he’s still staring over this way.”
“Where?” I start to turn my head but Tina’a eyes mirrors the size of flying saucers.
“What?” I ask in exasperation and turn back towards her.
“You can’t just do that! He’s like two rows to your left, behind you.” She says in all seriousness. I almost laugh but think better of it. Instead, I decide to return to scribbling away in my notebook.
“Wow. Didn’t figure you had coordinates on his location, too.”
“I’m nothing if not thorough.”
“Ha. Ha- Ah, crap. Miss Tulley’s giving us the evil librarian eye.” I whisper, wishing we are anywhere but in study hall at the school library.
“She’ll get over it.”
“She needs to get out more, go on a date or something. We should hook her up, you know like in the movie ‘Clueless’?”
“You do know that was just a movie, right?”
“Doesn’t mean it didn’t bring up some great ideas, like a makeover which really couldn’t hurt. I mean, no one’s hair should ever be that shade of red. Ever.”
I bury my face into the crook of my arm to keep from laughing out loud.
“I’m just sayin’.” Tina says, checking her phone instead of nose-deep in her Trig homework.
Normally, I am up for anything, but I need to get my head back in the game.
I didn’t do as well as I wanted on my final exam in Calc last semester but my teacher, Mrs. Antonio said it didn’t sink my overall grade. I am ever so grateful that she hooked me up (at my request on day two of the school year) with one of her best students, a girl named Kaci Rogers, my very own Calculus Whisperer. I can’t say enough great things about the girl. Still, I want to put forth effort of my own to finish whatever I manage to retain in class before it goes away.
Math is my immortal enemy, but it’s a required part of the astronomy degree criteria for college next fall.
Calc and I must obtain some level of civility.
If I have anything approaching less than a B, I have to deal with Mom.
And I make it a point never to have to deal with Mom.
When it comes to academics.
“What in the world am I gonna do with you, Mills?” I say.
“Elle, we’re so outta here in a few months. I’ve gotta get you in some type of shenanigans with me, lighten your load a bit.” Tina says, leafing listlessly through her Trig textbook in sheer boredom.
I look up at her and frown.
She keeps on leafing. I expect as much and dive back into my own mathematical nightmare. For a few blissful minutes, silence rules our little corner of the library.
Suddenly, I hear her snap her book shut and giggle.
Well, this didn’t last long.
“I was checking out this fabulous little word problem and happened to glance up and there he is at it again. He just needs to quit the nonsense and just come over here and just talk to you.”
“The new dude?”
“This is sliding towards creepsville.” I mutter, rolling my eyes.
Yet, I feel my fingers drum the pen to some imaginary beat on my notebook. A massive itch of curiosity worms its way up my arm and into my shoulder. It feels like an invisible hand takes me by the chin, as I cast a nonchalant glance over in the area Tina mentioned. Or what I hope to be, anyway.
My eyes run dead smack into his in a crazy sort of visual collision course. His eyes radiate an intense ice-blue, somewhat terrifying and strangely beautiful to watch for too long. Yet, it seems almost as if those eyes can lay your soul bare. I freak out, enough for me to jerk my elbow. Before I can even dream of catching them, my stuff flies off the table with the library lamp along for the ride.
And now, I have the unwanted attention of the whole library.
Tina scoots out of her chair, her clear intention to help. She freezes in place a moment before sinking back into her chair with her saucer eyes again.
“I think you dropped these, Ellenor.” A boy’s calm tenor voice says seemingly to the top of my head from my left, my stuff already back onto the table- runaway lamp included.
With an odd sense of dread, I take my time to look up at him. Again, his eyes radiate an intensity I fail to adequately describe. He stands before me, his backpack hanging on his shoulders. A hint of a smile tucks dimples into the side of his mouth. I hear an audible intake of air hitch in his throat, as if somebody strolling by karate-chops him in his Adam’s apple.
Suddenly, “Lost in My Mind” by The Head and the Heart blares into my head in surround sound. The world screeches to a halt, then picks back up again in slo-mo with everything and everyone coming into crystal clear focus. Like some of the freshman kids across the hall planning to crash (and effectively get kicked out of) an upper classman’s birthday bash this weekend. Or the Homecoming King and Queen making googly eyes at one another while maintaining death grips on their hands. Or the head librarian Miss Tulley, of flaming red hair and eternal sour disposition, glaring daggers our way.
Thankfully, the slo-mo goes the quick fadeaway route and returns the library to its mundane existence.
“Uh, Elle? Your mom’s like Miss Manner’s intern. Aren’t you forgetting to say-?”
“Really, Tina? Sorry about that. Thanks-”
“It’s Pete, Pete Brighton.” He says, an oddly endearing smile stretches across his face. It calms me until I glance down at my arms to find goosebumps.
“I’m Ellenor. This is my friend Tina.”
“Hello to you both. Hopefully, I’ll see you around.” He says the last, looks directly at me. I blink a long moment and open my eyes to find him already close to the library exit without a backwards glance. I stare after him, puzzling over why I’m spazzing over this dude.
“Uh, oh.” I hear Tina say.
Not a moment sooner, a shadow looms over us.
“Miss Mills and Miss Skye, I have to say I’m a bit disappointed. You’ve been quite disruptive and Miss Skye—I would assume with you being head of the student body that you would conduct yourself more accordingly.“
“Sorry, Miss Tulley.” I blurt out, feeling my face flush a little, unsure if it has anything to do with the librarian or with the new boy.
“We’re gonna be late for our last class, Miss Tulley. We’ll make sure to write notes next time.” Tina deadpans with a straight face, scoops up our books in one hand and my arm in the other as she drags me out with her towards the library exit.
“Why I never-!” I hear the ticked librarian exclaim.
A moment later, free of her and the dull buzz of the library, we scurry down the hall towards the last classes of the day.
A massive urge to skip my last class assaults me and I am not at all surprised as to why.
I am starving, plain and simple.
Still, Tina’s “gentle” prods for us to just bail and hightail it to Bling O’ Burger fail to get me to do it. My last class is the lone, cheery spot of my entire schedule for the semester. The rest of my schedule appeases everyone else, especially Mom. My Astronomy class is a Godsend. Wonder if Dad would be psyched to know I seem to be taking after him.
Which in a completely unrelated way reminded me…
“Tina, you just landed me in hot water with that woman.” I say, crossing my arms under my chest.
She brandishes her trademark pout. “Well, not as much as you and Brighton did.”
“O-kayy, sure.” I mutter, shoving my books into my knapsack.
“Wasn’t he Mr. Knight-in-Shining-Armor today? Only been here a hot second and he’s already serving most of these goons up on a platter.”
“I didn’t realize he knew who you were, let alone your name. You sure you guys haven’t met before?”
“No. Believe me, I think I’d remember.” I shrugged, letting my thoughts swirl about in my head for now.
“Okay, okay. I’m a big enough person to admit it. I deserve some of that ‘tude you’re serving up.” Tina says, a sheepish grin spreading across her face.
I smile back. “Yeah. You do.”
“Cut me some slack, would ya? You know my family. Obnoxiousness runs deep in my gene pool.”
“I’ve dealt with your brothers, especially jerky Kevin.”
“Can’t argue with you on that.”
“Isn’t he away at college somewhere out East?”
“Yeah, he’s acting like some reality show extra in training. Dad’s already had ‘the talk’ with him. He’d better start flying right or he’ll start flying solo with tuition.”
We park just outside my Astronomy class.
“Meet you after class. Bling O’ Burger trip on me!” I grin, clapping her on the shoulder and duck into class just as the bell rings. I glance over my shoulder and catch her pump her fist in the air before hightailing it to her Trig class.
“Class, please join me in a rousing round of applause. Miss Skye has decided to grace us with her presence two minutes past the bell.” He announces, clapping his hands like a frantic ferret.
Loud hoots and cheers erupt as I apparently take the “Walk of Shame” towards my newly assigned lab table and have a seat. Day three of this class and I already hit my limit with him. Normally, it takes a lot to get me to such a point.
Maybe my newfound irritability is hunger based. As if in answer, my stomach gurgles. I want to believe it goes largely unnoticed. Maybe I should’ve ditched class, after all. Tina and I would be at Bling O’ Burger right now, me demolishing their double guacamole turkey burgers with sundried tomatoes and feta cheese. In full daydream mode, I fish my textbook and notepad out of my backpack.
“Earth to Ellenor. Come in Ellenor.”
It is more of who the voice belongs to that effectively kicks me out of my burger fantasy.
I shut my eyes for a second or two, daring myself not to look over at my new seatmate.
“Hey. It’s Pete, right?”
“As you are Elle?”
“It’s Ellenor, thanks.” Inside, I smart. Only my close peeps call me that. “So, where’s Kace?”
“My actual seatmate. Where’d she bail off to?”
“Kaci Rogers asked me during fourth period English to switch seats. She mentioned something about wanting to be near Neil.”
“Are you serious?” I ask, scanning the room until I locate her. Sure enough, she stations herself over at the far corner of the room, giggling something into Neil Jessup’s ear. On second thought, maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t eaten yet.
“Perhaps she doesn’t see him often?” Pete offers.
“She sees him practically every day. They work at The Arcade together.”
I am in a huff and with good reason. I’m counting on her for anything requiring mathematical prowess for this class. She tutors me, for crying out loud. She must know how unfair this all is.
I finally notice the silence from Pete, despite the noise from everyone else. It does more to settle me down than anything else. Ok, so maybe veering too far off the deep end didn’t really help matters.
I glance over at him to apologize for my mini-rant and find myself stammering.
“So-s-sorry a-a-about th-aat.”
“Penny for your thoughts?” His voice remains even. The look on his face indicates he thinks I’m Looney Tunes.
I cannot make heads or tails over why but the moment he smiles, it lights up his entire face.
He radiates like some strange-
“Hmmm.” I mutter to myself and shake my head. Maybe me and the Sci-Fi channel need a break. I glance back up at the front of the classroom to find Mr. Shaver wheeling in the most prehistoric looking projector I’ve ever laid eyes on. His refusal to utilize one from the 21st century mystifies me to no end. More importantly, it means it’s slides day! At once, I pack up my stuff.
“Stars.” I breathe.
“I meant, ‘cool stars’. I mean, we’re gonna check out some constellations for class today.”
The floor should just do me a favor and open-sesame right now.
Suddenly, Pete’s face goes blank.
“It’s no biggie, Pete.”
“No biggie.” He repeats, as if on autopilot.
I give him a curious look, but he is no longer giving me the time of day. His attentions are now focused on Mr. Shaver, the projector and the light switch.
The temperature in the classroom soars like twenty or thirty degrees, despite the icebox air conditioning. On the regular, nobody in their right mind complains over the near arctic climate in the school. Everyone knows better, aware of the blistering heat lying in wait for us the second we step foot outside. After all, the weather in Arizona is the stuff of legends.
I shrug out of my light sweater jacket.
It hits me like a brick in the face where the source of all of this seems to be emanating from. I crane my neck around to peek at my new seatmate.
He sits perfectly still with posture only my Aunt Dinah can appreciate. His folded hands lay on top of the table. I notice my other classmates peel off an extra layer of clothing. Steam drifts from his mouth each time he exhales, like a vapor. In fact, it seems to radiate from his very being. His focus remains fixated on Mr. Shaver’s progress with the projector, more than the rest of us busy running our mouths.
Or playing amateur Columbo, regarding new seatmates…
Without warning, the lab tabletop grows as hot as a stove top in less than five seconds. I snatch my arms off and hug them to me in mute surprise. Mr. Shaver appears satisfied with whatever progress he believes accomplished by his doing, making a beeline towards the light switch. He barks at some annoying boy named Travis Kilney to zip it and take a seat. Mr. Shaver flicks the light switch off.
He tries again, to no avail. The idling projector beams red hot, sparks and crackles like a firecracker on steroids before it dies.
“Sweet! Some light show, Mr. Shaver!” I hear Travis yell from somewhere in the back of the classroom. Laughter follows suit, but I sense a distinct trace of unease in there somewhere.
“This is not the time, Mr. Kilney unless you’re eager to begin the new semester in detention.” Mr. Shaver grunts the last, not even bothering to give the kid another steely glare like he did earlier. Instead, his energies are stubbornly focused on getting the lights to go off. A small sea of thin smoke surrounds the projector. Most of the class pretty much vacates their seats by now.
I remain glued to my seat, unable to look away.
Mr. Shaver approaches the projector again, this time with a fire extinguisher and a scowl full of determination. The smoke dissolves to reveal the projector a strangely twisted and inoperable thing. He stares at it a moment before using the extinguisher anyway. All attempts at getting the class under control fly out the window.
Most of the students rush the front of the classroom, bombarding our teacher with questions he can’t possibly know the answers to. Instead of barking for them to kindly take their seats, this guy squares his shoulders and begins fielding questions as if conducting a press conference! The whole class is abuzz with some weird sense of excitement.
Except my very new, very odd seatmate-who only mere moments ago was as close to radiant as a guy can get without glowing like a Christmas tree.
He is just normal or whatever passes for normal. He blinks once, and pushes away from the table with an audible gasp. A sense of fear plays hopscotch down my spine. It is nothing compared to my overwhelming curiosity to touch the lab table again. Immediately, I tap the table and snatch my hand back expecting to feel that blistering wave of heat again.
But I feel…nothing.
Nothing at all, except the unexpected coolness of the black top. I make a second go of it, this time letting my hands linger much longer. It yields the same results. By this point, I consider myself officially freaking out. My new seatmate makes up a ginormous portion of such assessment. I shut my eyes and force myself to count to three slowly before glancing back over at him.
Pete Brighton already has his gaze fixed on me.
Immediately, he snatches up his backpack, shoving his book and notepad in. His face is kind of ruddy looking. How could I have ever believed his face was glowing earlier? That train of logic sure sounds swell. Only thing is, I know I’m not a pancake short of a stack on this one. I’m not making this stuff up.
As if to convince myself, I reach over towards his turned back and plink him with my thumb and forefinger.
His back is seriously warm, hot even.
The look on his face when he spun around is in one word: priceless.
I think it hovers somewhere between incredulity, irritation…and something else. If I didn’t know any better, it almost seems as if he is amazed I have the gall to touch him without screaming at the top of my lungs whatever it is I suspect of him. Truthfully, the urge to bolt out of class and send a massive text to the Pentagon does cross my mind. Yet, the more I sit here next to this boy (or what I still hope is a boy) and gaze into his eyes to find fear, defensiveness and more than a touch of defiance; the more the urge to bust him wanes.
He isn’t completely off the hook by any means. I still want to know what happened, why it happened and who…or what exactly he is. I certainly am not going to get anywhere if I don’t give him reason enough to trust me.
“Pete?” I ask, keeping my voice even.
“Ellenor?” He answers, shrugging into his backpack.
“You kidding? This place is a zoo.”
“But it’s your second week here!” I blurted out.
He pauses, probably surprised by my doggedness. I can’t blame him for it. Dude wants out of here and I’m the roadblock. Sure, my curiosity is piqued. Still, I didn’t even know he existed until this afternoon.
I wonder where he’s from. Does he feel like an outsider? It’s something I cannot really imagine, despite how desperate I am to leave this place behind after graduation. I know everyone here, for better or worse. I’ve grown up here all my life.
“Why do you care, Ellenor? You don’t even know me.” He adds the last with a guarded expression.
“You’re right. I don’t. But I know kindness when I see it. What you did for me earlier proves-”
“Anyone could’ve done what I did. Picking up dropped books proves nothing.”
“My point is that you chose to help me. You didn’t really have to. Tina was right there when you showed up. I mean, it’s not as if you know me either.”
“That is the weakest argument I’ve ever heard in my existence.”
“Well, tough cake. Look, I know you wanna take off and I know why.” I add, feeling my face flush.
“Do you?” He says, dropping his voice a full octave. He looks serious, the lethal kind of serious. I wonder if he might casually reach his hand out and cup the side of my face only to melt it off. My head is afloat in an absolute cornucopia of absurd ideas from every horror or sci-fi movie I’ve ever laid eyes on. Finding the “off switch” for such ideas is proving elusive.
“Pete, I don’t even know whether I’m one hundred percent on whatever it is I think I know. But if you think I’m gonna rat you out, don’t hold your breath. I’m not.”
He gazes into my eyes a minute or two longer before cutting his eyes away in what I can only imagine as satisfactory relief. A moment later, he is out of his seat and already to the classroom door.
“Mr. Brightley, where do you believe you’re off to? Class is not over yet.” Mr. Shaver demands, already shooing away his audience.
“I’m on my way to drop your class. Later.”
Pete hands over his Astronomy textbook to a stunned Mr. Shaver and strides out the door, leaving me without a seatmate or answers to a sea of questions.
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