WIP – I think I’ve GOT IT!

by | May 8, 2012 | Writing Tips | 2 comments

For those of you who have suffered through my previous two emails, I think I’ve finally created a first chapter like I want it. It still have some errors here and there, but the setup is what I have in mind.

Also one of the wonderful things about the research for this new novel is the language of flowers…so I’m going to share a few of those meanings over the next few weeks. The main flower for today is the purple hyacinth – which is the color and flower that says “I’m sorry” or “forgive me” 🙂

If you want, let me know what you think of my revisions so far?

“Two days?” Paige Emerson fought for control of her rising frustration. 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. “Please tell me you didn’t say two days, Aunt Marcie?”

“Now honey, it’s for your own good.”

Her aunt’s thick southern drawl tried to make the words sound nicer, but Paige knew the truth. Her aunt was being downright bossy, in the nicest possible way.

“The longer you hold onto this house, the harder it is to let it go. You needed this nudge to finishing emptying the place.”

Paige rolled her eyes to the ceiling and took another long breath. Her zealot realtor-aunt cared about her, even if she chose to show it in strange ways. “Marcie, I haven’t even gone through Mama’s jewelry, 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. You just have that one room left, Paige.” 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. Let it go, darlin’.”

Paige stepped through the threshold of the house and allowed the screen door to slam behind her. The living room stood barren except for her father’s leather recliner in the corner, a symbol so much of him she couldn’t seem to remove it from its spot. How on earth was  she going to erase a million memories by the weekend?

She’d worked so hard for months, repainting walls marked with years of height measurements and childhood art experiments. Diving into the renovations with every ounce of free time kept her mind busy and her heartache under amicable control. She’d carefully packed old photos in storage with a series of emotional outbursts for each one, and scrubbed the carpets until her mother’s rose-scent barely tinted the air.

All of the work in an effort to remain numb, 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 last large piece of her parents’ lives 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 shut. Silence swelled around her – loud and unnerving, with loneliness following close behind. She’d come to expect it, the everpresent hole at their memory, but its presence loomed larger when she stood in her childhood home.

She’d run from the truth for months – tricking her heart into believing her parents were on one of the England trips and would be back soon. 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.

Her breaths whispered into the emptiness and she looked up to the ceiling. “Lord, I know you are with me always, but sometimes…” Thick emotion fought to eclipse her words. “Sometimes, I’d really like someone with hands and feet.”

The silence grew, almost taunting her with its comfortless emptiness. Her heart fought against the solitude with the same mantra she kept repeating over and over. Her parents were not gone forever. But those thoughts refused to settle the unrest of questions within her. Could she  and  wa

The doorbell peeled through the room pulling her out of her sea of doubt. She pushed her thoughts back into their hiding place along with those rebel emotions. And wlaked ot the door.

Tony Harmon from fourth period English Lit peered through the screen door, his ballcap turned affectionately sideways to taunt her. She’d never get used to staring up at kids who, only a year before, were at least two inches shorter than her. She reigned in her grin, but lost control of it when her gaze dropped to the bouquet in his hands. Was it the thirteenth already? As if in answer the usual purple hyacinth paired with two white tulips rose above the rest of the assorted bouquet. They were always a part of the arrangement. The other flowers might change, but the hyacinth and paired tulips remained the central part of each mystery spray.

On every thirteenth.

Warmth spilled through her, like the touch of sunlight after a storm. Someone was thinking of her on this day every month. Someone hadn’t quite moved on with his life and forgotten that the foundation of her world had been ripped out from underneath her over a year ago. Someone thought she was worth an extra moment of time and effort.

Whether the bouquet was from a secret admirer, anonymous family member, or stalker with excellent taste, the flowers always curbed the loneliness and reminded her someone else remembered.

She squelched the tingle of tears and offered the teen her brightest smile. “Tony, your hat’s on crooked.”

His eye twinkled at her reference to their usual repartee. “Nah, Ms. E. Just showin’ the world that I am comfortable with my way.”

She exaggerated her eye roll and opened the door for him. “As if anyone ever questioned that, Tony.”

His white grin stretched the width of his face. “I saw your car so I thought I’d drop these off here instead of your place.”

Paige collected the massive arrangement and buried her face in them. “That was thoughtful of you. Who’d have thought with your  a crooked cap like that?”

“Anything to keep above the curve with finals coming up.”

“You know, it’s amazing how many of my guys suddenly transform into these complimentary and helpful gentlemen around finals week. I should have exams more often if they bring out the best in you.”

“Ms. E.” Tony laughed through his mock-shock.

“So,” she leaned in closer to him and lowered her voice.  “Any news on your little investigation?”

Tony took off his cap and gave his head a shake, black dreds spilled down each side of his face. “No, ma’am. Whoever is sending these flowers don’t want to be found.”

“Doesn’t want to be found, you mean.”

“He don’t and he doesn’t,” he corrected with a wink. “Dad tried all his usual sources and came up with nothin’.”

Paige stared down at the flowers, another month of uncertainty and unanswered questions about these mystery flowers. “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 opened the small card nestled within the floral folds. Two typed words blackened the paper: Take Courage.

Take courage? A slight chill spread down her neck and spine. Another note that fit her life much too well. Who could this generous benefactor be? It has to be someone who knew about her parents death, especially since the bouquet always came on the date of their deaths. The thirteenth. And she guessed the two white tulips were representative of her parents, because they remained constant in each arrangement.

Take courage? She looked toward her parents’ bedroom.

Yes, it was something else among a long list of things she had to do by herself. Alone.

The hyacinth scent reminded her. She wasn’t alone. Someone, somewhere thought of her and she’d take that strength along with her as she unearthed whatever memories lay inside her father’s desk. Once the path of comfort from scary monsters or broken hearts, the oak-floored hallway whispered of many more frightening and painful things now. An empty house. A tragedy. Broken promises and marriage vows. Would she find her letters in her father’s things?

Dust swirled in the late afternoon sunlight as she opened the door into the undisturbed room. 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.  Or was it? Had their trip to England confirmed her worst fears or was their love strong enough to overcome betrayal? She’d never know –and that uncertainty ate away at her.

Few marriages survived unfaithfulness.

Her father’s desk lay buried under a mound of scattered papers and miscellaneous cards. 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. Take courage.  She looked to her flowers and touched a dark red flower-type she’d never seen before.  Its scarlet petals framed a center of muted gold, like a crown in the middle.

The first stack of landed in the trash, junk mail 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.

Paige sucked in a quick breath 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.

Who could have sent this? Would she find out what happened to her parents the night they died? Her fingers trembled as the tape fastening the package together finally tore loose. Paige slid its contents into her lap. The first thing she saw was her mother’s handwriting.

Dearest Paige,

I have an adventure for you….

Take courage? She looked toward her parents’ bedroom.

Yes, it was something else among a long list of things she had to do by herself. Alone.

The hyacinth scent reminded her. She wasn’t alone. Someone, somewhere thought of her and she’d take that strength along with her as she unearthed whatever memories lay inside her father’s desk. Once the path of comfort from scary monsters or broken hearts, the oak-floored hallway whispered of many more frightening and painful things now. An empty house. A tragedy. Broken promises and marriage vows. Would she find letters from her in her father’s things?


  1. Julia Reffner

    By GEORGE she’s got it! (Sorry, I just can’t resist a good musical!)

    I love the way you’ve used flowers, beautiful. BTW, my first WIP uses flowers too but I guess that’s not too shocking since my title is A Lily Among Brambles.

    Your stories keep getting better and better…keep at it, my friend. God is already using your words to touch people’s hearts so much!

  2. Susan Mason

    Awesome writing, Pepper! Don’t ever let anyone tell you you aren’t talented!! Now I want to read the book! Get writing, girl!



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