What a great problem I have: not being able to count on all my fingers and toes the people who have asked for a second book from yours truly.
You’ve far more confidence in my writing capabilities than I.
Today’s prompt would make me feel guilty if I wrote about just one person. I have several women whom I consider my ‘best friend’, not to mention my relationship with Jesus and of course my husband.
So, I thought I’d give you a tease and give you an excerpt from a very unedited draft of my second, yet-untitled, novel. The overall first draft is finished. I’m currently on my first round of editing, which includes adding at least 35,000 words. Yes, that many zeroes.
I really like it so far. Better than ‘Making Room’. But every novel has a different feel to it, so it’s kind of like comparing pomegranates and bananas.
Comments and criticism welcome, though keep in mind this is the very first draft. 😉
Adam was seven years old when his parents moved their family from their house on the coast of California to the Western New York suburb of Abilene, New York. He and his sister Mackenzie, two years younger but two years ahead in her attitude, fought the move every step of the way, almost every one of the 3,000 mile, five day drive.
Adam asked question after question, questions like, “Why did we have to move?” and “Couldn’t I have stayed with Grandma and Grandpa? What about my friends? I don’t want new friends. What about our names carved in the tree outside our front door?” and on and on. He didn’t get anywhere, but they gave him credit for trying.
When Adam’s family pulled up to their new house, the first thing he noticed was two kids about his age playing in front of their own house. A glimmer of hope – maybe they’d be friends.
Before his parents put their suburban in park, Adam asked if he could go play with the neighbors. It was three in the afternoon and his parents were exhausted, so of course they said ‘yes’ and Adam was off. It was a cul-de-sac, so there was no street crossing to worry about.
Once he reached the boy and girl, he made quick friends just like he’d hoped.
“Hi, I’m Adam. We just moved in over there,” he pointed to his new house, which at the moment he thought was pretty ugly with its white and maroon theme.
The girl spoke first. “Cool. Hi, Adam. I’m Sarah. This is my little—”
“Well you are! My little brother Jake. What grade are you in?”
“I’m gonna be in second grade.”
Sarah answered again: “Cool! Me too. Wanna play?”
And that was that. It’s always easy as kids, as the basic requirement for being eligible to play with someone was if one wanted to.
He cleared his throat twice, shaking his head so slightly she wasn’t sure what she was seeing. But it took her only a half of a second to know something wasn’t right. Probably his parents again, she thought.
“It’s just that … I need to tell you something. Something big.”
“Okayyyyyy…” She drew out the ‘ay’ but waited patiently. Adam was so sensitive as a teenager; he always made a bigger deal out of his feelings than she did.
“Okay, Sarah, here’s the thing. I … I kind of, um, I like you.” He looked up, even though he didn’t want to know her reaction. Her eyebrows were into her hair, but he kept talking. “I don’t think you feel the same way, but I needed to tell you. Because I can’t take it anymore. I can barely be around you anymore without wanting to … well, you know. So, I need to take a break.”
“A break? From what, exactly?”
“You. I need to step back for a little while, give myself time to chill out.”
“Are you kidding me with this?” She wasn’t sure how she intended for the words to come out, but they came out in anger. Surprised, frustrated anger.
“I really wish I was, Sarah.”
“I don’t get a say?”
“Do you feel the same way?”
“It won’t be forever, just … give me some space, okay?” Gosh, she hated that line. Every time it came up in movies she commented on how lame it was. And here was her best friend, using it. On her. Adam’s body bounced slightly, as though every fiber of his being was just waiting to be removed from this situation.
All Sarah could do was swallow twice before nodding, imperceptibly, and walking away, locker still open and all.
Adam hung his head, in sadness mainly, but also because he didn’t want anyone to see the tear that had escaped to slide down his cheek and off his chin. One single tear, representing almost ten years of friendship he hoped wasn’t lost for good.
The Great Divide went on for about four weeks, which might as well be forever to seventeen year olds who had seen each other every day for the last previous years. It would have been much tougher, had Sarah not gotten sick. She was diagnosed with pneumonia ten days after Adam’s confession, keeping her home for three full weeks. In the beginning of the third week, Adam stopped by Sarah’s house to drop off some homework. Over the past two-and-a-half weeks, Sarah had only two conversations with Jake about Adam, and they both were short, Jake giving mainly one-word answers.
Sarah asked, “Jake, what’s the deal with Adam? Did you know about this?”
“Did he tell you we talked?”
With Sarah’s mom, though, it was the other way around: Sarah was the monosyllabic one.
“I haven’t seen Adam around in a few days. Everything okay?”
Or, “I saw Adam at the store today. He seemed sad. Any idea what it could be?”
But God bless her mother, she always knew something was going on but never probed more than a question or two if she sensed her children really didn’t want to talk about something.
But now, here Adam was, coming into Sarah’s house. She could hear her mom and Adam from her room.
“Hi, honey. I haven’t seen you in awhile.”
“Hi, Mrs. Hollie. Nice to see you. I just wanted to bring some homework for Sarah.”
“That’s very nice, sweetie. Why don’t you bring it up to her?”
“Oh, she’s probably resting. I’ll just leave it here with you.”
“She’s probably awake. Go on up.” That was that, Sarah could tell. Adam was too respectful to say ‘No’ to an adult.
And the next thing Sarah knew, she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Thank God I showered this morning, she thought to herself, just as Adam was coming around the door.
He looked so shy, not his usual confident self. She had been wondering what their first interaction would be like, and she was about to find out.
“Hey,” she said with a smile. A tentative smile, but one that let him know she was ready for their friendship to resume.
Adam took a moment before responding. He took half a deep breath, then said simply, “Hey.”
“Thanks for bringing my homework.”
“Usually Jake does.”
“He’s on that soccer retreat. Our teachers pretty much gave me no choice in bringing it home to you.”
“Well, I appreciate it. I should be back Monday.”
“Good. You’re feeling better?”
“About ninety percent. Mom says, anyway.”
“Good.” Adam was halfway between stoic and relaxed, Sarah noticed. He had put her homework on her desk, but now had one hand around the doorknob. He barely met her eyes as he gave his short responses, looking almost anywhere else.
This is ridiculous, she thought. We are best friends.
“Stay for a while. Watch a movie with me?”
He barely shook his head and barely met her eyes as he said, “I don’t know, Sarah. I have a lot of homework.”
Sarah could tell that even Adam didn’t buy his own excuse.
“C’mon, Adam. Please.” She could feel tears rising, ready to pour out for the friend she missed dearly, who was standing seven feet from her and yet felt so far away.
It seemed to be an eternity before he finally answered her. “Okay.” He took a deep breath and said again, “Okay.”
Finally, she thought.
Sarah and Adam sat and watched one of their favorite movies, laughing at all the same times, quoting lines. They kept a normal distance – nothing different or special than before Adam confessed his feelings. Sarah stayed laying in her bed. Adam sat comfortably on her computer chair. The entire time it was normal, they were best friends, like always. That day, and every day following Sarah and Adam were the same as they’d always been: together with the Jake, the three of them, rarely without each other. Friends.
Until Spring Break. This year, Spring Break came the third week of April. Adam and Sarah’s families decided to go on a cruise together. The families had traveled together a dozen times before, so this time would be no different.
Sarah had been holding her breath since February, wondering if Adam was going to decide to disappear again. But by the time the Hollies and Carys were boarding their cruise ship in Miami, those worries were long gone. The palm trees and pools were enough to distract her.
After a full day of traveling, everyone wanted to shower and change before dinner. Sarah was the last to shower out of her family, and their impatience was getting on her nerves. She told them to go ahead, she would meet them in the dining room. She was putting the finishing touches on her hair when she heard a “Knock, knock, you almost ready?” She thought it was her brother, so Sarah flung the door open and flared, “Just a min—”
Her words fell flat when she saw it was Adam, a very handsome Adam in khaki shorts and a white collared t-shirt. His eyes danced as he teased her for two things: one, being so snappy, and two, “being such a girl, taking seven hours to get ready for dinner. It’s not even formal night.” And normally Sarah would have ping-ponged Adam’s banter, but this time she struggled to tease him back. Her attraction to him hit her like an unannounced splash of water. And for whatever reason, she went with it.
“Hey. You look good.” Four simple words, but combined with the gleam in her eye and smile on her face, they held great meaning. And Adam could tell. His smile grew wider – if that was even possible – as he thanked her.
And just like that she was nervous around him: sweaty palms, quickened heartbeat as they walked to dinner.
During what Sarah felt to be The Dinner That Wouldn’t End, Sarah struggled to focus on the conversation buzzing around her. Twice her mom had to ask her if she was feeling okay. The first time Sarah snapped right back, but the second time she said it must be the boat, she feels a little off.
“You know what, your breath is kind of shallow, sweetie. Maybe you should go lie down.”
Stopping just short – but not by much – of rolling her eyes, she told her mom, “Mom, it is not that serious.”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Adam scratch his eyebrow in a thinly veiled attempt to hid his smirk.
Shoot. He knows.
Her brain seemed to be on pause for another moment until she thought, Crap.
Now, Sarah felt at a loss. Her attraction was undeniable, but their friendship was not something she wanted to mess with. And suddenly she felt incredibly overwhelmed. It must have been evident on her face because her mom insisted she go back to the stateroom.
“Jake, take your sister back to the room.”
“She’s a big girl.”
“Mom, it’s okay. I’ll just go back by myself. We already ate, anyway. Maybe I just need some fresh air.”
Just when she thought she’d be able to go on her own, sort out her feelings, get Adam out of her head – which at this moment seemed impossible, given the all-consuming way it had been invading her mind for the last two hours – Adam’s mom insisted Adam go with her.
He hesitated for half a second then stood up, as if nothing different or unusual had transpired between them. To the naked eye, it hadn’t. But to Adam and Sarah, the looks they gave each other before dinner and the few accidental-on-purpose hand brushes spoke volumes. Sarah was ready. She was attracted to her best friend, and his smile convinced her to be okay with whatever would follow.
Adam held his arm in front of him as if to say, “After you.” So, she went.
The pair walked tentatively through the dining room, but stopped all together once they reached outside the double doors. Sarah turned toward Adam. He was standing in front of her, hands in his pocket. She looked right in the eye. When Adam didn’t look away from her, she shrugged her shoulders. He stood there for a full five seconds before cleaning his throat and suggesting a walk on the track two decks up.
The sun was just starting to set when Sarah and Adam started a walk around the track. They circled twice before Sarah’s periodic deep breaths prompted Adam to start the inevitable conversation.
He stopped walking, so she did, too. They walked over to the railing of the deck, leaning against it, standing next to each other, looking at out absolutely nothing but the deep blue, almost charcoal gray, of the Atlantic. They watched the waves like their life depended on it, completely scared of looking at each other. Because when one has a chance to approach a life-changing moment, sometimes it’s the longest walk one will ever take. Sometimes it’s better to just let the life change fall into your lap, with no choice in the matter. This particular life change had come as a surprise, but moving forward with it was a choice on Adam and Sarah’s part. Until they looked into each other’s eyes. Then their resolves fell away, their attraction roared, and their desire to be together was amplified.
From the side, they peered at each other. They had been leaning toward the water, taking in the scents and sounds of a cruise: the salt water, the random couples, groups of teenagers playing on their phones and yelling at each other, workers running every which way making sure every need of every guest was being met. Then, at once, Adam stood up from his leaned stature. His hands were still in his pockets as he walked to stand behind Sarah, except she turned around so now they faced each other. And they were standing much, much closer than they usually stood. Their eyes were on each other, their breathing fairly shallow. Adam looked away, toward the water, for about five seconds. When his eyes came back to Sarah’s, he had his decision-face on.
And in one swift motion, Adam’s arms were out of his pockets and corralled around Sarah and the two met in a fireworks kiss, one that for the pair of best friends was the most perfect first kiss, ever.
I chose these two portions because a) they might very well change, so you’ll still have something to look forward to; and b) this novel centers on a boy and girl turned man and woman who have that deep-down soul connection as best friends first, lovers second. In my observations and experiences, this kind of soul mate is incredibly rare. Sarah and Adam are best friends, but there is a separation that spans many years. What Sarah – nor her creator – can figure out is, do she and Adam land back together when it’s all said and done? Are she and Adam so interwoven that keeping them apart means each of them losing a fragile part of themselves?
We just can’t seem to get it together. And yes, by ‘we’, I mean myself and Sarah. 🙂 Authors become one with their characters, or at the very least, authors live in the characters’ worlds, interacting with them sometimes outside of writing sessions.
We’re not crazy. Our mothers had us tested.
That is likely the only excerpt you will get for a very long time. But I’ve been known to eat my words on several occasions, so stick around!