Hey, all. I’ve been working on some content changes for my coming-of-age young adult novel, A Story Unwritten. This has been a work in progress for a good chunk, and am exciting to respond to content changes and get this thing ready for it’s next leg of the journey in the publishing process.
I’m excited, and I felt like sharing the first chapter of this current draft.
Thoughts are of course always appreciated, especially if they are compliments.
Thanks for reading!
“Hey Samantha, do you have a second?” My dad stood in the doorjamb that linked my room with the rest of our apartment. A series of dark clouds hung over his. “It’s about Mom,” He adds.
Of course, it is.
It had been five days since she bought hundreds of candles and four gallons of milk. It had been five days since she took off with plans to save the movie stars in Hollywood. I saw her disappearance coming, just like I saw that this time her sickness flared up was different. She wasn’t low or dark; she was upbeat and fast moving. But, it wasn’t cheerfulness, and it was never nice. I told my dad her pill bottles weren’t touched, but he didn’t listen. He didn’t want to see it. I got that. I did. Just like I understood when I was nine, and my dad brought my mom home from the hospital after she attempted to commit suicide for the second time, instead of pushing her to stay longer than seventy-two hours. Where hospitals got that timeframe, I didn’t know. It made me crazy how the doctors would wrap up what was going on with my mom in simple, cold sentences. My dad took each one to the chin. I wanted to scream every time. I didn’t understand why everyone didn’t see that she was in clear need of help she wasn’t getting. My mom needed help; she had my whole life. But, I was just a kid and calling out and telling people my mom needed to handle just made people look at me and wonder if it was me that needed the handling. It was weird, and didn’t make sense to me, but I had accepted that was just how it was.
I set the stack of envelopes to the side and braced myself for whatever is about to hit me by straightening my spine into a tight line. “I have an hour till I meet up with Stevie, I’m just getting my college applications together. We are sending them out today.” My words come out, but every single one rolls down the side of his face.
My stomach began reacting before my dad opened his mouth. I can’t be certain because looking back on an event always contains a comprised opinion, but I feel like I knew what he was going to say before he said it. I felt my mom’s absence suddenly more at that moment than before he spoke, but I could also tell, somehow, she was alive.
“It seems your mother has robbed a convenience store south of Tacoma, and when an attendant tried to stop her, she stabbed him. The police arrested her a couple of blocks away from the store with a bunch of stolen goods.” His voice came out even and detached. His words floated above my head just out of reach.
“She’s in jail?” I ask feeling both lost and stupid.
“Yes.” My dad’s face contains hundreds of tiny creases—something entirely different than wrinkles. Wrinkles are signs of aging. Tiny creases are signs of exhaustion. My dad is never someone I would describe as cherry or jolly, or anything even close to the realm. But, the sad holes in the center of his eyes were the darkest I’ve ever seen them. He swipes one of his hands through his gray-speckled black hair. “The man she stabbed died in the hospital a couple of hours after she was picked up.”
The finality and foreign nature of his sentences lingered between us like rotting garbage. My lungs started to become wet and uncomfortable in my chest. This happened, when certain things overwhelmed me, my world seemed to speed up around me as every noise gets louder.
Eventually, I find my voice, which surprised me at the time. “Mom’s in jail for murder?”
I looked down at my feet as the weight of his words buried me. My finger drew tiny circles very quickly on my jeans. The sensation of the denim on my fingertip slowly calmed my breathing.“I’ve contacted the family lawyer.” His voice pleased to announce that this step was taken care of.
I wasn’t sure how this was supposed to make me feel, or what he was hoping my reaction would be, so I said. “Our family has a lawyer?”
His thick black and gray eyebrows point down in a deep frown, “Of course we do Samantha, I am an accountant.”
Again, I have no idea what his words mean. They bounce off of me. I repeated “my mom killed someone,” in my mind, over and over again. The words felt strange the first few times they circled around, by about the forth or so time the words started to stick. My anger for the last horrible thing she said to me disputed into the background as it always did. I was worried about her, and I hated it.
“How long will she be in jail for?” My question felt weak and under executed.
My dad stared at me for a minute, unsure of what to say. As he stood there in my room, that suddenly felt way too small, deciding how to word what he had to say, I saw glimmers of my dad in his eyes. I saw his love and thought of me in glimpses of his eyes, and sentences I had to catch as they flew by on rare occasion, but they were the treasures that kept me hoping that my dad would help me and my mom one day. One day, he would make things better. I knew he could do it. He just didn’t know it yet.
“Well, we don’t know yet. They will hold her until her trial. Once we meet with our lawyer, we will know more. We are gong to try and get the courts to understand that your mother is sick, and she needs help.” His words fall apart at the end. Not because of tears, but because the more he talked, the lower, and more mumble his voice got. I barely understood the last two words he said. But, still they hit my one at a time like daggers in my flesh.
Anger simmer in my feet without permission. I hated when I got angry at my dad because it made my often feel hopeless. I didn’t like being fed up with both of my parents, but I really wished he’d wake up and see what I could. She’s needed help.
He loved her. I got it.
Another thing I understood.
I had no idea how I was supposed I feel, or what I should think. My mother killed someone. She had been trying to kill herself for years, and all of the sudden she took someone else’s life. I didn’t understand. To hear my dad say mom needed helped at that moment felt like he stabbed me in the chest with a pen. Yes, a pen. Nothing that would kill me, just some more holes to add to my oddness.
The only thing I can manage to say is, “When?”
“I don’t know. Never mind.” My finger is slowly drawing the invisible circles now. I really wished I could have a guide book right then. I felt like I needed a list to go by in order to even begin dealing with what’s just dropped at my feet.
“Why aren’t you making sense?” My dad’s brow continues to point down even further, which was just strange. I don’t know he did it. When my dad’s eyebrows over reacct when he’s frustrated reminds of when Gandalf in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ grows taller when he’s angry.
“I dunno Dad, I’m trying to piece myself together, here. How is one suppose to react when finding out their mother killed someone?” I cross my arms, not because I wanted to appear tough or like I was making a stand in any way. No, I was hoping if I wrapped my arms tight enough around myself I could have a hope of keeping myself put together.
“It will work out,” my dad nodded, “Do you have any plans tonight?”—my dad’s signature move. A blanket, “everything won’t be shit forever” statement, backed by a quick reminder he doesn’t often hear me when I speak. My dad needed to talk more. I often worried about how much he kept inside. There were moments he looked like he was going to explode. It made me nervous and uneasy to think about. So, I often took turns to avoid that area of thought.
I tap my fingers on the stack of college applications, packaged, and ready to send off. “Stevie and I are sending out our college applications tonight, then grabbing coffee.”
“Are you sleeping there?” His voice is distant. Clearly his mind wasn’t on me. It’s fine. I got it, and definitely used to it. Being a second thought had its advantages.
“I’m good dad, don’t worry about me.” I wave my hand to the side as if to say it’s nothing. “Keep me posted,” I said, something I’ve said to him concerning some uncomfortable conversation we had about mom many times prior.
“Will do, kid.” My dad said, stalling for a moment, and then reached over and gave me a short hug with one arm. “Hang in there,” he tacked on before leaving the door jam empty.
Both of my hands hung at my sides. The quiet room became to pulse with nonexistent sounds as I pieced together that mom wouldn’t be coming home. A good chance, it’s a forever change. In sudden panic and flash of lack of confidence, I glanced down at the carefully constructed pleas to college for a chance to start something incredible. Something only mine. A small hint of a thought near the left corner of my brain wondered if knowing mom isn’t coming home changes my overwhelming desire to leave.
The center of the envelope addressed to New York University stares back at me with as much allure as it did before my dad walked in the room. I may end up coming back, but I knew I needed to leave.
I cast my eyes around the room, my room, my second less comforting version of something that was once near and dear to me. I wrote one invisible letter at a time on my upper thigh, slowly and carefully spelling the words; You got this Sam.