Okay -for those of you who gave me tips on my opening to my new WIP, here’s a quick attempt at revision. It’s a long excerpt from my VERY ROUGH first draft, but let’s see if you like this better (to figure out the ‘before’ just go back to the last post) Layering and editing will have to take place before this baby is ready for more – but for now I’m just trying to work on the beginning.
What do you think?
“You’ve done what?” Paige Emerson barely controlled the rise of her voice. She hugged her cell between her shoulder and chin as she moved the last box of books from her parents’ house into the back of her car.
“Oh Paige, this is the nudge you need to finish emptying that house. The longer you hold onto it, the harder it’s going to be.”
Paige rolled her eyes to the ceiling and took another long breath. Her crazy aunt-over-zealous-realtor cared about her. “Marcie, I haven’t even gone through Mama’s jewlrey, let along Daddy’s desk. And you’ve told the new owners I’ll be out of the house in two days? I was supposed to have two more weeks. Are you mad at Uncle Arnold again? Is that why you’re extra pushy?”
“Don’t you bring my stiff-necked husband into this, Paige.” Ah, obviously Uncle Arnold was in the doghouse. “I could have given you four more months and you wouldn’t have finished cleaning out that house. Admit it. They’ve been gone over a year and you still haven’t.” Silence softened her aunt’s words. “I miss them too. Heaven knows I do, but it’s time to let go of this house. You can’t keep paying for your apartment and this home’s maintenance on a teacher’s salary and you know it. It’s time, Paige.”
Paige stepped through the threshold of the house and let the screen door slam behind her. The living room stood barren except for her father’s leather recliner in the corner. How could she erase a million memories by the weekend? She’d worked so hard for months on the house, repainting walls marked with years of height measurements and childhood art experiments. She’d carefully packed old photos in storage and scrubbed the carpets until her mother’s rose-scent barely tinted the air. But the hollowed out place in her heart only grew with each piece of furniture she sold. Each trinket tagged with a memory she held to like history facts for her high schoolers – and now, finally, the one thing she held to most was slipping from her hands.
Just like her parents.
Just like the pedestal on which she’d always placed them.
She squeezed her eyes closed at the gentle prodding of her aunt, urging her down a path she’d been fighting since the last time she’d closed her parents’ bedroom door – ten months before.
“If you want me to come help you, I can be there−”
“No thanks, Marcie.” Paige corrected the tinge of harshness to her voice. “Really, thank you. But I need to do this myself.”
And she knew it. The entire family knew it.
“I love you, girlie. If you need me, just call.”
Paige clipped the phone closed and the loneliness closed in with rapid speed. It was always worse here – but her parents’ deaths didn’t feel as permanent when she stood in this house. For months, she’d tricked her heart into believing her parents were just on one of the England trips and would be back soon. It made it easier to convince herself of the lie since they had died overseas. Even against the massive number of insurance calls and funeral expenses, she numbed to the idea of them suddenly being gone.
It seemed too impossible. They couldn’t have died – not with the last memories of them together being those of heartbreak and betrayal. It had to end better than this. She had always been a prince-charming-girl…until now.
Her aunt was right. It was time to let go – of her parents’ house, of her ridiculous notion that their marriage wasn’t in shambles, of the thought that happily-ever-after existed at all.
The hallway down which her parents’ bedroom stood loomed before her. Instead of being a path of comfort from scary monsters or broken hearts like it had years ago, the oak-floored hallway whispered of betrayal and faded promises. Of loneliness and lies. Of a life she’d never known belonged to her parents until a week before their trip to England.
She fisted her hands at her sides and forced away the fear chilling her pulse. Whatever truth or secret lay behind those walls, she had to face it. God, please help me.
The doorknob twisted cold and unfeeling in her hands. Dust swirled about the room at her disturbance. All the fears she expected to crush her, never came. She’d removed the bedroom furniture a month after the funeral, carefully placing it in her overcrowded apartment for safe-keeping. The only pieces remaining were her mother’s small jewelry table, tucked in one far corner of the room, and her father’s family desk at the other. Sadly synonymous of her parents’ relationship at the end.
There really wasn’t much to do about the jewlry except keep it all, eah piece an heirloom or memorable in its own way.
Then she sat down at her father’s desk. It still smelled of him – hints of English leather and shoe polish. She’d shoved unneeded mail in the corner and addressed the urgent messages – stuffing unfamiliar handwritten envelopes in the top drawer. What if one of the letters was from her? Paige didn’t want to discover the woman who came between her mother and father. Ever.
Her aunt’s words came back to mind and she steadied her shallow breaths. This was no time for a coward. She graded thousands of papers a year. Stacks of paper were a part of her life. She could take on a bunch of paper, right?
The first stack of landed in the trash, junkmail and credit card statements. The second stack was condolence letters she shoved into a small box to review later. Then she saw it. Hidden behind a pile of newspaper clippings and outdated magazines – a package with enough stamps on it to ensure it didn’t come from the U.S.
Her breath sped up to match the thumping in her chest. An unopened package from England? She flipped the package over to look for a date. A gasp slipped out. Two weeks after her parents’ death? A cool feeling slid down her neck and back, a sense of inexplicable knowing. This was meant for her.
The doorbell’s sudden gong broke through the tension. Paige sucked in a quick breath, stood, and flipped the package over. Bakewell? Her mouth went dry. The place the accident happened. The place they’d spent their last evening together. The place where they took their last breaths.
She pinched her eyes closed, but the doorbell shook them open again, reminder her of the reason she’d stood from the desk. She stepped from the room, package tucked beneath her arm, and met the child-like face of Anthony Harmon through the screen door. Nestled within his hands was a beautiful bouquet of assorted flowers, esquisite and delicate.
It was time for her flowers already? The thirteenth?
Whether the bouquet was from a secret admirer, anonymous family member, or stalker with excellent taste, the flowers always curbed the loneliness of the day. She expected them now – on the thirteenth of every month, and here they were, just in the nick of time to comfort her.
“No problem, Ms. E.” He touched the tip of his ballcap in salute. “I saw your car so I thought I’d drop ‘em off here instead of your place.”
Paige touched the frail petal of a yellow tulip. “That was very thoughtful of you.”
The teenager grinned and shuffled his feet in embarrassed way.
She was such a softy for sweet kids, and Tony was one of the sweetest. She leaned in close, ignoring the prick of curiosity at the package beneath her arm. “Any news on your investigation?”
Tony took of his cap and gave his head a shake. “No, ma’am. Whoever is sending these flowers don’t want ot be found.”
“Doesn’t want to be found, you mean.”
“Nope, he doesn’t,” he corrected. “Dad tried all his usual sources and came up with nothin’.”
Paige pulled the bouquet close for a tantalizing refreshment to her senses. “No names? No places at all?”
“Nothin’. It seems like your secret admirer wants to remain a secret, Ms. E.”
“It’s seems so,” Paige whispered into the flowers and then offered Tony a smile along with a small tip. “You’re a doll, Tony. Thanks for checking on this for me.”
“No problem, Ms. E. See you in school tomorrow.”
Paige closed the door and retreated to her father’s recliner, flowers snug in one arm and package in the other. Someone she didn’t feel so alone with the bouquet near. At least someone was thinking of her right at that moment – and always did on the thirteenth. Her fingers trembled as she ripped through the tape around teh package and slid its contents into her lap. The first thing she saw was her mother’s handwriting.
I have an adventure for you….