Of course, this is just the first round...I'll be interested to see what my readers think needs changed/added/removed, too. I feel like I'm forgetting to add some stuff or something. So feedback will be very, very necessary.
Anyway, to celebrate the fact that the first round of revisions is finally ALMOST DONE, I thought I would post another lil' tease for your reading enjoyment. At least, I hope you enjoy it...
A little set up: This scene happens right after Ella gets somewhat attacked by bad guy Max. She and Riley are back at his house, trying to relax after a crazy night. Riley slips into a flashback, which he often does around Ella, and then Anna's ghost shows up for a moment. So yea, so much for relaxing. Oh, and it's from Riley's perspective this time- the story flip flops from Ella's to his throughout the story (I think I've mentioned that before). This is rated PG-13, kids, by the way.
Ella smiled at me. “That’s such a pretty song. The Beatles, right?”
“Yes. My mother used to sing it to me. Of course, it’s been said that it’s actually about an affair John Lennon was having, so probably not really too appropriate to sing to a child. But my mother never really cared about being appropriate.”
“Tell me about your mom. Is she beautiful?”
I pictured my mother, with her flowing, wavy, auburn hair and dark blue eyes, just like mine. “Yes. She’s very beautiful. But she’s more than that. To hear her sing...” I hesitated, trying to decide how to best describe my mother’s singing. “She sings like…like the world is about to end and her voice can save it.”
Ella cocked her head slightly to the side. “I would love to hear her sometime. I bet the two of you sound absolutely amazing together.”
I shrugged, setting down my guitar. “Well, I wouldn’t know. The last time I sang with her I was twelve, and my voice hadn’t changed yet. It was pretty terrible, actually.”
Ella reached out for me, beckoning me to her. “Someday we’ll go find her on the road. Together. And then you can join her band and I can be the groupie and we never have to come back to stupid Valley Springs.”
I eased down across from her on the bed, sliding my arms around her inside the comforter. As though we were in a cocoon, she immediately snuggled in to me, sitting on my lap facing me, her legs wrapped around my waist. That shimmering feeling began to work its way through my body as it always did when she was so near. She hugged me close, so close, and we fit together as though we were making a mold, her heart pounding fiercely against my own. “That sounds like a nice plan,” I said, nuzzling my lips against her ear.
“Riley,” she whispered, shivering, her mouth on my neck. “I-“
I didn’t hear her finish.
Her skin is warm against mine, her hair tickling my cheek as she lay quietly next to me, her head on my shoulder. I stroke the inside of her wrist with my thumb, marveling at how smooth her flesh is there, her pulse beating erratically. She is trembling and I pull her even closer, pressing my lips against her temple.
“What is the matter, Anna?”
She is silent for a moment, gathering her thoughts. “I just wish we could stay like this forever. I wish this were our reality.”
We are in the storage room under the barn, lying amongst the sacks of flour, a rough blanket over us. There is a chill in the air but I do not take notice of it; we have each other for warmth. A lantern is dimly lit on a shelf, making shadows dance on the walls. I am mesmerized by them until Anna speaks again, reminding me we cannot stay here much longer.
I pull her on top of me, my hands running down her back. Her dark hair cascades around us like a waterfall. “I am not ready to let you go yet,” I murmur, kissing her on each cheek.
“I do not want to go, my sweet Charlie. But my absence will be noticed soon.”
“Soon, but not quite yet,” I say, my kisses trailing slowly to her neck, up behind her ear and back again. “I love you so, Anna.”
“I love you so much I cannot bear it,” she replies, taking my face in her hands. Her eyes search mine desperately, as if I hold the answers, as if there were something I could do to allow us more than just a few stolen moments like this. My heart hurts and I cling to her, wrapping my arms tightly around her, even though we are already as close as we can possibly be.
Suddenly, there are footsteps above; heavy, thudding, angry steps.
“Anna! Where are you, girl?”
We both freeze, afraid to breathe, even though the trap door is sealed tightly above us. No one could possibly know we are here.
The voice above curses and Anna lets out a tiny cry, clamping her hand over her mouth. It is him. We know that voice anywhere.
“I swear I saw her come this way, sir.”
“Was she with Watson?”
“No, sir. She was alone. Perhaps she only stopped in to check on her horse.”
The voice cursed again. “Well, she is not here now, is she? Find her! And do not return until you do so.”
Anna and I remain frozen until the footsteps disappear and we are certain he is gone. Silently, she begins to untangle herself from me and reaches for her blue dress, crumpled in a heap next to her and-
“Riley! Let go of me! Riley!”
My eyes focused slowly on Ella’s face, struggling to come back to the present tense. Her features swam in and out of focus as I blinked hard, swirling from her face to Anna’s and back.
“Ease up, Riley. You’re crushing all the air from my lungs,” she gasps, wriggling to get out of my grasp.
Realizing my arms were locked around her waist, gripping her tightly, I quickly let go and scooted backwards on the bed to allow some space in between us. I still felt confused, my thoughts muddled and grainy.
She took a deep breath in through her mouth and let it out through her nose as she stared at me curiously. She almost looked…annoyed. No, she looked extremely annoyed. Her expression was also that of disappointment and a bit of sadness, with a dash of anger thrown in for good measure.
“I am so sorry,” I said, raking my hand through my hair.
“What did you see?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning back against my pillows.
“I-I-was with Anna.” My cheeks burned furiously as I recalled what Anna and I- I mean, Anna and Charlie- had been doing. “Someone interrupted us. Ernest.”
Ella picked at her fingernail. “Yeah, it was pretty obvious whatever was going on went from good to bad.”
“Did I-what did I say to you? Did I-touch you?” I looked down at my hands, ashamed.
“I’m okay, Riley. I know this comes with the territory. It’s just-” she paused, biting her bottom lip. She almost looked like she might cry. “I just needed you tonight. Just you.”
I moved across the bed and gathered her gently back into my arms. She did not embrace me back. “I am so sorry, Ella. I did not mean for it to happen.” I felt horrible, absolutely wretched. She’d already had an awful night with what happened with Max, and I couldn’t even provide her comfort for a full twenty minutes.
“I know you didn’t,” she said softly, her forehead against my chest. She laughed then, although the laugh had a tinge of bitterness to it. “Is it sad that I’m jealous of a freaking ghost?”
At that precise moment, that familiar heaviness filled the air, sucking my breath from my lungs. I looked up sharply, hoping Ella didn’t feel it as well. Where was she?
“Tell me what I can do,” I said to her, my hand smoothing her hair as I tried to inconspicuously glance around the room. There. A dim, flickering light filled the corner behind my dresser, Ella’s back to it. Anna slowly came in and out of focus, a sad look on her face. She shook her head and placed her finger on her lips, then disappeared. I still felt her presence lingering; she was not completely gone yet.