This is a snippet taken from the prequel to a novel I'm working on. The prequel, FALLING FROM GRACE, is about a young girl named Sarah and her family. It details the events prior to (obviously) what happens in the novel, and was a writing exercise for me so I could understand Sarah's character a little better. It's a very early draft so be kind!
*(1) Check out my voice in this diddy. To me, a good chapter is constructed in pieces and then woven together like a quilt - like pieces of the same puzzle. Even though this is a very rough draft of the prequel, you can see how I pulled several pieces of the puzzle together. At the beginning, you can see how Sarah is very much concerned with her mother. She almost looks down on herself because she looks up to her mother so much. Being so young, she needs a mother, though Sarah doesn't understand exactly why. She gets what she needs from her brother, Logan, but even he plants ideas in her head when he reads her the story. I also used very easy and light vocabulary because Sarah is so young.
(2) Even though this is a very early draft and still rough in places, you can see that Sarah is an emotional little girl. Still, she is strong, and I tried to show that when she opened the window at the beginning of this snippet. She wants to face things, like the cold, but at times she doesn't know how. She wants to talk to her mother, to be more for her and for herself, but she doesn't know how to get that chance. As a character, Sarah is trying to figure out who she is, but has no idea how to do so.
*see previous post
I sit up on my bed and turn toward the window. Outside I can see a dusting of snow on the ground. I know the air will be cold, but for some reason I want to feel it. Quickly, before I think twice, I unlock the window and push it open. A biting breeze blows back my hair. I imagine it looks like fire, red flames billowing out. I can’t help but close my eyes again, but I don’t keep them shut for long. My face feels as though it has a layer of frost on it, so I close the window and the fire dies.
I turn and see the only photo I have in my room, framed in pieces of dead oak, sitting on my nightstand. Everyone is there dressed in red and green; Dad, Mom, Logan, Adam, and me. Even our terrier Bach is in the corner, his head resting on Adam’s lap, drool cascading from his pink tongue. All of us are smiling, so I can’t help but grin.
My eyes find Logan and in a second I forget the picture completely. It’s as though the clouds have parted and the sun beams down on me. This memory of Logan makes me smile. I remember it as if it were today.
“Have you seen my black tie?” Dad’s voice is steady, a walking bass line even when he shouts. I find that if I talk at the exactly same time he does, my voice warbles as though I’m speaking in to a fan in the heat of summer.
“Check the second shelf in the closet!” Mom shouts back as she walks into my room. Her lips are painted a deep crimson and her eyes look like two dark secrets. She’s wearing her simple, black symphony dress. The one that looks like she keeps a thousand splendid secrets. “Sarah, does this look okay?”
She twirls. Instantly, her dress becomes waves of black smoke. Tendrils of the fabric deny gravity and then give in as they slowly fall and billow around her legs. Winks of the dress look almost purple, blinking at the light in the room.
I’m six. The only thing I know about fashion is that I can hardly breathe because Mom is so pretty like this.
“You look like a movie star,” I say.
She smiles. “Thanks, little girl,” she says as she touches my chin, and then turns to look in my mirror.
I scoot forward on my bed and hug my knees to my chest. “Are you and Dad going to be all night?”
“We’ll be late,” she says. She reaches for a necklace on my dresser, the silver one she got me after Grandma died. “I’m playing with the Boston Symphony tonight so you know how that goes. We should be back before midnight, but Logan and Adam will be here to get you to bed.”
She turns to face me. Her eyes, green like Adam’s, Logan’s, and mine, sparkle. I hope one day my smile will be as bright as hers.
“Honey, we’re late!” Dad calls from downstairs. “I put your coat and scarf by the door.” I hear the front door open and close. Outside, an engine grumbles to life.
Mom leans forward and kisses my forehead. “Have a good night, Sarah. Love you.”
“Love you,” I say as she closes my door.
I hear the quick clicks of her shoes as she goes down the stairs, the slam of the front door closing with a wooden bang and the metallic clang of the cars. I hear the sigh of the car as it pulls out of the driveway and leaves me behind.
Minutes pass like hours. I hug my stuffed bear, Valentine, to my chest and open a book Mom left on my bed the night before. My eyebrows slant in and my eyes shrink. Words run across the pages, but I struggle to catch them. I know there’s a story there somewhere, but for now it’s lost.
A knock on my door.
One high, one low.
Three as fast as you can.
Logan. He used our secret knock, and I smile because he hasn’t done that in years. I didn’t think he even remembered.
“Come in!” I say, maybe a little too loudly.
The door opens a crack and I see Logan’s dark, curly head of hair poke through it. He squints through his classes and his lips tilt up on one side. “How’s Valentine?”
I look to my bear. “He’s okay. Kinda sad, I guess.”
Logan comes all the way in now. His walk is much like Dad’s, powerful yet subdued in a way that makes me think I never know what will happen next. Logan is tall and lean, filled with a mystery I want so badly to figure out. Or maybe I just want a mystery of my own.
I wonder if I’ll ever be like that.
Logan sits on my bed, and I rise a few inches from his weight. He smiles wide. His face is riddled with scruff, and his eyes look tired. In this light, just before true dark, he looks older than twenty.
“Why is he sad?” Logan says. He reaches to pat Valentine on the head. “Why are you sad, little Valentine?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I guess he’s sad because he has to tuck himself in tonight.”
Logan’s smile grows wider, but for some reason his eyes seem much more sad than they were. I don’t ask why.
His voice has grown soft, deep and quiet like the end of something that once was loud. He looks at Valentine. “No you don’t, little bear. I’ll tuck you in tonight.”
He turns to me. “Would it be okay if I read Valentine a story? Just for a little while until he falls asleep.”
I hug Valentine tight. I pretend to whisper in his ear. I know my bear can’t hear or talk, but it will make Logan happy. “I guess. He’d probably like that.”
Logan takes the book I was trying to read, makes himself comfortable next to me so that our heads are side by side, and adjusts Valentine so he is between us.
“Ready, little Valentine?”
Logan smiles and begins, “There once was a little boy who never wanted to grow up...”
The music stops and is replaced by footsteps. They are a crescendo of staccato beats coming closer. A knock on my door and Mom walks in. Her hair is up in a loose twist with a pencil cutting straight through. There are two flour handprints on her old college shirt.
“Happy birthday, little girl! Your birthday pancakes are almost done so I’m going to get Adam up, okay? Hurry up because you know they’ll be gone if he finds them first.”
She walks to my bed and gives me a quick hug. “You’re getting so big. Pretty soon you won’t need me anymore.”
I smile and hug her back. “I need to put pants on and then I’ll come downstairs.”
She runs a hand through my hair. “Okay.”
When the door closes behind her I am frozen in fear. I can’t imagine a world in which I wouldn’t need my Mom, but she seems to think the time is coming quickly.
I turn to my window and look out, hoping to find a star to wish upon. A north star, like in the story - the second star to the right.
But it’s morning, and so there are no stars.
Time is moving forward and I can’t stop it.