Granted, the first two didn't go anywhere. I like to think they were my "test" novels. They allowed me to work out some kinks, to try to find my voice and decide what kind of story I'd like to write. I think they both still have potential and have some very good pieces in them, and maybe someday I'll go back and start them over. But for now, it's time to move forward.
My third novel topped out at just over 75,000 words, which was my wordcount goal all along. Funny how that happens- I thought it might end earlier, around 70,000, but in the end, I needed to wrap up a few more things. Before I pass it off to my lovely readers, I have some revisions I know I want to add in first. I'm going to reread the whole thing and make the changes along the way, and then hand it off. I'm not so concerned with grammar and punctuation stuff just yet, though. I just want to make sure the story has all the elements I think it needs.
And so, I leave you with another snippet. I'm not gonna set this one up at all, so just read it and enjoy it. I mean, I hope you enjoy it...
I settle down on the stiff grass in the small graveyard, curling my feet under me. There doesn’t seem to be anything to do but wait for Connor’s appearance. I find myself wishing the sun would come out; it’s not that it’s cold here, but goose bumps spring up along my arms regardless. It’s like the grayness sinks under my skin and chills me from the inside out.I rest my chin on my hand and stare at the blank headstone. Whose name will end up etched into that granite? Shaking my head, I decide it will not be Connor’s. I will not allow that to happen.
My ears feel stuffed with cotton. Why are there no sounds here? True, there is no breeze either, but being so close to these false woods I’d still expect to hear something coming from them. Some sort of rustling in the brush nearby or bird wings flapping above, something. The utter lack of movement makes it feel like the minutes here are dragging by, like time itself has forgotten how to move forward.I wait.
And I wait.
And I wait.To pass the time, I braid and unbraid my hair. I lie down, but I’m afraid to close my eyes in case I should miss Connor’s arrival. I pace, first with my shoes on, then with them removed. The grass beneath my feet should feel sharp and scratchy, but I barely feel it at all. Along with my hearing, I feel my sense of touch also slipping away. I run my hand along the headstone and my fingers are numb; I know I’m touching it but I don’t feel the coolness or the smoothness of the granite. The longer I wait, the more I’m filled with an odd peaceful feeling, like when you first awaken from a good dream.
“Connor,” I whisper, looking up at the purple clouds rolling through the sky. “Where are you?”I can’t explain what happens, but I feel a gap in the silence after I speak. There’s a rift in this place, something unsettled in the stagnant air. I whirl around and see nothing, nothing but the endless gray landscape.
My eyes close in despair and I sink back down into the grass, pulling my legs into my chest and resting my forehead on my knees. Where is he? What if he doesn’t show up before Gabby calls me back? What if I end up trapped here, alone in this timeless, silent place?What if I’m too late? What if, back home, Connor is already dead?
I’m so tired of crying, but I can’t stop an icy tear from slipping from my eye. The thought that Connor might be dead fills me with horror, to think I might be missing any last moments with him because I’m trapped here in the space between.“What are you doing here?”
My head whips up. My ears are ringing from the sudden disturbance in the silence, but I see no one. Did I imagine that voice? That voice I know so well, the voice I hear in my dreams?“I said, what are you doing here?”
I couldn’t have imagined it twice. I get to my feet, shaking as I look around. “Connor?” I say, my voice nothing more than a shrill, tiny squeak.As if conjured by his name, he materializes in front of me, suddenly real and whole and here. He’s wearing his favorite worn-in jeans, the ones I told him only a few weeks ago how much I love the way they hang on his hips, and a charcoal gray t-shirt, the shirt I’ve stolen from his room countless times. No matter how long it’s been since he’s worn it, when I pull it on I feel his warmth and smell his soapy scent as if he’d taken it off five minutes earlier. His feet are bare; Connor loves being barefoot. He would walk around school barefoot in the dead of winter if he was allowed. His hair seems longer, although it’s only been a few days and there is no way his hair could’ve grown in that time.
What strikes me the most are his eyes. Normally a sweet, chocolate brown, here they seem muddy, almost black in color. They are not his eyes.“It’s you,” I breathe, taking a step closer despite the anxious feeling sliding down my spine at his eyes.
He holds his hands up in front of him, backing away. “How did you get here?” he asks, his voice low and husky. And maybe…angry?“Don't worry about that. What’s important is I’m here, and I’m going to bring you back with me,” I explain, trying to ignore his cold stare.
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”I swallow hard. Gabby said he wouldn’t want to leave, that I would have to convince him it was for the best. But the way he’s looking at me right now, almost like he’s filled with disgust at the sight of me, makes me think this is going to be a much harder task than I ever imagined it would be.
“Connor, listen to me,” I plead. “I know what happened, um, was terrible but-““Who are you?” he asks, cutting me off.
I blink in confusion. “It’s me. Janie.”He squints at me, crossing his arms in front of his chest. He shakes his head. “Sorry. I don’t know anyone named Janie.”
My breath gets caught in my throat and I’m paralyzed with fear. Of all the things I was expecting him to say, denying that he even knows who I am was not one of them.“Now if you excuse me, I have things to do,” he says, ice dripping from his voice. “I don’t know how you got here, but I suggest you go back the way you came.”
“Connor!” I cry, panicked. “Wait! Please!” I cannot let him walk away from me.But walk away is exactly what he does, disappearing without a backward glance my way.