There were fireworks on the bay that night. Christian contemplated the surreal evening as he watched the glittery embers drift and fizzle toward the ghostly city outlined on the horizon. He was so blindsided by everything that was happening that he was having trouble sorting through it. He couldn’t figure out if he was overwhelmed with extreme happiness or if he was gasping for air in the middle of a train wreck. Continue reading
She didn’t let go.
She didn’t want to look at him because she was afraid of what she might see. She was afraid of what he might see. Annie had been rattled all afternoon, no matter how hard she tried to pull it together. It was better for her not to look, but she knew didn’t want to let go of those fingers. They felt like a lifeline, although she had never thought of herself as someone who needed to be saved. It was so strange. Her entire life had been an exercise of self-sufficiency and she never felt like she was even close to coming apart until now. Continue reading
Start here to start at the beginning…
The paddle board session was epic. They wrapped it up around sunset and then walked to a nearby Thai place. Neither of them had ever eaten Thai food, but somehow it fit into Annie’s idea of a fancy dinner spot. They pretended like they knew what they were ordering, and when the food came they laughed at it. It was a good thing they were both the adventurous type. The eclectic dishes were surprisingly delicious, and as they ate Christian talked Annie out of going dancing. “We’re all sandy and sticky,” he lamented, “anyone who tries to dance with us will be scared away by the smell! Besides, the deal was I would dance with you if you surfed with me, which you somehow dodged.” Continue reading
Start HERE to find the beginning of the rabbit hole…
They ended up paddle boarding on Mission Bay. The guy at the rental shop talked them out of renting surfboards when he realized they didn’t know what they were doing. Apparently there was a hurricane off the coast of Baja, and that made for some pretty big waves in San Diego. The bay was sheltered enough that the surf couldn’t really come through, and he promised them that paddle boarding would be a fun alternative. Christian was a little disappointed, but Annie secretly felt relieved (though she’d never admit it.)
Figuring out how to balance on the lofty foam boards wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine, and soon they were paddling with determination across the glassy surface. With no destination in mind, they wove in and out of buoys, racing along until Annie thought her arms might fall off. “Christian, hold up!” she hollered, slowly lowering herself to straddle the hefty board. Continue reading
Her errands took a significant chunk of the day, and she finally was able to make it over to Christian’s house in the early afternoon. She heard muffled yelling as she approached the door and realized it was Christian reprimanding one of his brothers. Just as she pivoted her heel to leave (she’d come back, she just wanted to buy him some more time,) the door flew open and his brother Jon stormed past her. Jon was 13 and was quickly turning from a quiet kid into a troubled teenager. Annie had only known him for a really short time, but she could see the anger and confusion that bubbled just under the still cherub-cheeked surface. She was sure Christian saw it, too, and her heart caught in her throat when she thought of how difficult these upcoming years were going to be for him. Continue reading
Christian woke up in a bad mood. He wouldn’t admit to anyone that Annie’s imminent departure affected him in any way, but he knew he was moping. It was just that life here was hard. And redundant. He knew that it was important for him to set a solid example and that his mom deserved a break after working so hard for them. He knew that he couldn’t just spread his wings and fly away like she could; there was too much here holding him back. It wasn’t quite jealousy – no, he didn’t think he would leave if he could. He was lucky to have his family here. It was hard, but he had grown up with a lot of love and support and it was in his nature to want to step up and provide for his family here. He liked San Diego okay. The weather was always good, the beach was an amazing asset and TJ was close enough that he could regularly visit his dad and eat decent tacos. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he was moping because she was leaving. He had grown accustomed to thinking there was only room in his heart, his head and his life for his immediate family, but over the course of the last two weeks she had slowly started to prove him wrong. He’d lived his day-to-day fine for the past eighteen years without her, but he’d only just started to feel alive. Continue reading
She woke up the next morning with a hangover. Annie had never been drunk before. In fact, Annie had never really done anything that could amount to any kind of trouble. She had seen the unfortunate long-term effects that came with an affinity for alcohol in her grandmother. Hard drugs weren’t something anyone in her family did, exactly, but crack was something that was sold now and again when they were really hard up for money. The crack heads that came around during those times were very nice, but crazy enough that Annie was sure her auntie’s timing of these sales correlated to everyone being home from school on purpose.
But, man, that hangover was worth it! Thus far in life Annie had kept her head down and her grades up. She picked up extra shifts whenever she could, not because she wanted more money but because she didn’t know what else to do with herself. She’d been singularly focused on this almost tangible, sparkling orb of freedom shining brightly just out of reach, waiting for her to grab it with both arms and hang on if only she could make it over the hill that was high school. Now it was finally here, and she was ready to spread her wings!
She’d had so much fun with Christian. If last night was any indication of what she’d been missing, she was glad she hadn’t been distracted with boys and other questionable substances thus far. The rest of her life had arrived. It was finally time to make a break for it, and then decide what, exactly, to do with it.
Bah! I just finished re-reading the story thus far and it’s terrible! This is the thing I hate most about writing. It is so difficult to finish stories because the desire to go back and fix and re-write is so, so high. That’s why I really want to do it this way, actually. If it’s out there and people are reading it and waiting for the next piece, I can’t go back and fix what’s already out there. I just have to keep moving forward! I can’t wait to get to the end to be able to go back to the beginning and fix grammar and inconsistencies 🙂 Let’s get the skeleton finished, then beef it up into a real story. For anyone new, start here to start at the beginning… Here goes nothing!
When Christian got home that night he did his best to wash the smell of cigarettes off of his fingers. He scrubbed his teeth until his gums began to bleed and then proceeded to strip down to his boxers, effectively peeling the last bit of evidence of the night’s transgressions away. Silently, ever so silently, he tiptoed into the room he shared with his brothers, but this time, rather than squeeze in between them, he opted for the carpet right next to the mattress. It was getting too tight in that damn bed, anyway, and the floor was good for his back.
Christian couldn’t sleep. He didn’t think he was gay. He didn’t think he was anything. Was there such a thing as that? It wasn’t that he thought of other boys in a way that he should be thinking about girls, it was just that he didn’t think about girls that way, either. He had too much on his plate to think about girls; he had seen first-hand the drama that they could cause. He didn’t want to think about having another mouth to feed, and girls were a straight path to exactly that. Christian’s older cousin lived close by, and he had visibly witnessed the weight of his primos’s heina settle onto his shoulders. It etched lines of worry into that space between George’s eyebrows and around the edges of his mouth, and that was before the baby was even born. Not to mention Christian’s own little brothers, the ones he had essentially raised from the time they were 3 and 5. Nah, he knew what girls led to and thus far it made him a little sick to his stomach to think about getting too close. They recently learned about asexual organisms in biology, and he felt like he could relate. Not gay, not straight – just not needing anyone else in his life for any of that. Yup, he was asexual alright.
Things with Annie were different. It wasn’t that she was female – she was just… cool. He could think of so many good adjectives to describe Annie. She was refreshing, a tiny tropical island that he could escape to whenever he wanted to get away from his reality. He’d always known Annie and liked her, but from the time they’d really started talking almost two weeks ago it was like they’d known each other forever. It was just easy with her like that. Pinche hell. He’d never thought of kissing her! Why’d she have to say that? It was like a picture that had never been drawn before that point. An idea that he hadn’t known existed until someone told him about it, and now he couldn’t get it out of his head. Well, it didn’t matter anyway. He was asexual, and he was never going to let a girl put those lines between his eyebrows.
So, I have an idea! But first I must digress. I took a break for a while, obviously. What can I say? My kids (and spouse – he’s a teacher) got out of school in mid-May and it’s been a whirlwind summer. I’ve got tons of new family travel adventures and staycations under my belt now that need to be posted over at my fourspoke.com website. It’s been fun times!
Back to my idea. As we wrap up this summer season, the gravitational pull of the fiction world is slowly gathering me back into its orbit. I’ve been thinking a lot about finishing this story of Christian and Annie that I never fully got to explore. I was scared away by the fast pace and inevitable reader judgement that was sure to come from hammering out something so quickly, but I also realize that I really do finish projects better under pressure. I think I would like to finish it, and I would like to finish it publicly. I am going to use this space to write it in chunks like I did for the beginning of the A to Z challenge, but I have decided on a few rules:
1) I am not going to worry about doing it alphabetically.
2) I am going to use this space as an un-edited, purely artistic space to get my story written. This means that it will be rough and will have typos and other editing issues, but I am going to try really hard not to care. No word processors – just dumping my words right into the posting window!
3) I am going to finish the rough draft by the end of the year.
4) Once it’s all finished via blog posts, I am going to collect all of the pieces and actually edit/rewrite it.
5) I will release a final version in the end. I’d really like to explore e-book options and see what’s out there.
I know I had a few people following me in the beginning and I would love you to stay on the journey with me! I can’t promise that the final, edited story will be the same as the one that’s going up first – in fact, I’m sure it’ll be quite different in the end. I think this will be a fun project, though, and I am looking forward to moving it along. Thanks for bearing with me.
I am currently taking part of the April A to Z Challenge! During this month, I am writing a single story, building each day off of the previous one. To get the story from the beginning, start here and work on up…
Annie and Christian each invested $15 so Annie’s aunt could pick them up a decent bottle of whiskey. They went to the store beforehand and stocked up on their favorite snacks to share – Sour Patch Kids, Almond Joys and Spicy Cheetos, and Christian picked up a celebratory pack of cigarettes even though neither of them smoked. It was a day to splurge.
A steely gray water tower sat prominently at the very edge of town and Annie had always wanted to climb it. She could imagine herself up there, the world a soft quilt spread below, a patchwork of houses and hills stitched together by rambling charcoal highways. She loved heights. They ascended the ladder, Annie in the lead because she couldn’t contain her excitement, and Christian determinedly behind her because he wouldn’t possibly let her do it on her own.
As they reached the top, Annie walked gingerly to the far rim and looked out across her city. It was everything she’d imagined, and it was here that reality finally hit her. These streets would no longer be hers in two days’ time. She had finally arrived at all she’d been working toward. Her Greyhound route was mapped and almost finalized. The money from 2 years worth of working was in an envelope at the bottom of her backpack in her aunts house, and her last days of school and work were finally finished. Tomorrow would be a day of tying up loose ends, purchasing that ticket, and packing her meager bags. It was really time to start the next leg of her journey, and the entire world was spread before her. This world, the world directly in front of her. It was liberating and daunting at the same time, and a small piece of her felt a little empty at the thought of leaving it all behind, although she would never admit as much. She wondered if that emptiness would have been there just a couple of weeks ago. She felt a rustle at her shoulder, and turned her head to gaze into the eyes of a smiling Christian.
“Okay, dreamer. Let’s get this party started! What do you want first, whiskey or Cheetos?”
“Cheetos, duh,” she smiled as she grabbed the liquor bottle and twisted the top, “never drink on an empty stomach.” She took a small sip and grimaced, then passed the bottle.
Christian ripped open the Cheetos and handed them off. “This stuff is awful,” he croaked as he took a swig of the bottle. “I don’t know why anyone would drink it unless they just wanted to get wasted.”
“I think that’s the point. And it’s not that bad. C’mon! It’s Grad Night! We’re here to celebrate, don’t make me regret bringing you, you square!” Annie took a healthy swig and motioned for him to take the bottle and do the same. She made her way to the center of the tower and lay down, arms and legs splayed wide as if she were going to make a snow angel.
He took another deep swig, then followed her lead. As he eased his body down next to hers and gazed straight up, he was not prepared for what he saw. Billions upon billions of stars seemed to fill the night sky – more than he though possible. Just moments before they had been looking out over the indigo horizon and the stars hadn’t even registered on his radar, how could he have missed something this brilliant? It was gorgeous. He had never noticed how many layers were in the sky, how far away and intangible some of the stars seemed to be while some seemed so close. It was a metaphor for his life in many ways. So many layers, so many complexities and unknowns. So much beauty, but just out of reach. It made him just a little sad.
Long, deliberate silences where one of the things that he loved about Annie. They could be in their own worlds together, the need for words unnecessary. In the two weeks they’d been hanging out, he felt she understood him better than anyone had. She didn’t have expectations. She didn’t ask him for anything except his presence and his confidence, and he gave her his trust, too.
In the silence, Annie wondered what Christian was thinking about. She appreciated their silences together, and felt that these were some of the times when they understood each other the most. She loved that he seemed to value her whims and her occasional rants. She loved that he was game for almost anything, and that he seemed to respect her voice and her thoughts when she wanted to share them. He was someone she could share with, for there hadn’t been many given to her in life.
“What do you think?” She asked.
“Thank you for coming with me.”
He scooted just a little closer, and wrapped an arm around her head. “Thank you for spending it with me…Annie?”
“I’m going to miss you.”
She wondered what he meant by it. Her heart hurt thinking about leaving this, her only friend ever. She hoped that was all he meant, too. Her stomach flipped at the thought of him trying to kiss her. The thought had never crossed her mind until this moment, and she was afraid it might ruin everything. But maybe it would make it easier leave town and leave him behind. She sighed.
“I’m really going to miss you, too, Christian,” but she couldn’t leave the thought behind. “You aren’t going to try to kiss me now, are you?”
He stiffened. “No, why? Do you think we should?” Christian hadn’t thought of this. In fact, he hadn’t thought of kissing anyone, ever. He knew it was abnormal behavior for a young man his age, but he’d had an abnormal upbringing. With Annie, he had found an unlikely eleventh-hour ally, one he was afraid to lose, but not because he wanted to get in her pants. He would just miss this random easy friendship.
Annie felt stupid. “Christian?”
“Yeah…” He was afraid of what she would ask next.
“Are you gay?”
“No. I don’t know. Maybe?”
“Because I still like you, even if you don’t want to kiss me and you like boys. Especially if you don’t want to kiss me.”
“Gee. Thanks for the confidence boost, Annie. Where are those damn cigarettes? And pass me that bottle!”
Annie wrapped her arms around him as he sat up, and laughed heartily. They stayed up until dawn, bantering as they had for the past 10 days, passing the bottle back and forth and smoking a few cigarettes for good measure.