Ok, so this is me being EXTREMELY brave. My palms are sweating and I feel like I am naked in front of a crowd. I have this secret. I have this dream. I want to write a book. Wow. I cannot believe I am saying this out loud. It makes everything seem so official. What your about to read is a sneak peak of a book I have been working on for a little over a year. I want your honest feedback. Is this something you would want to read more of? Should I stop and move on? Is it ok but could be better? I know how I feel about it but I would love your opinions…just keep in mind it is still a rough draft.
Thanks All! It means a lot that you taking the time to help me out.
I guess in a way I am on my own now.
I have lived on my own since my eighteenth birthday even though my old boss, Tessa, from the diner I worked for, said I could live with her until I graduated, but there was no way I was staying in her house any longer then I had to. I moved in for a couple weeks after my mom died but once I turned eighteen I left and found my own place. Not that it was bad or anything but her twenty something daughter was newly married and had a two-year-old son. I felt like a live in nanny but without the extra pay.
Back home I worked at a tiny fifties style diner, home of 151 hamburgers, true story. The town was so small that if you blinked you would miss it, where you have to leave an hour early for work because cows block the roads when the cowboys herd the cattle to different pastures. Hall had a whopping population of 358 and most of that population consisted of ranch hands. I technically worked in Drummond, because hall was sandwiched between two ‘bigger’ towns. Hall had a church, a k-12 school, a gas station, and cop always on the prowl to speed trap the people who didn’t slow down to 25 from 75 for the two minutes they passed through town.
One town over was Phillipsburg and that was the home of a sapphire gallery and a very famous candy shop, needless to say the towns surrounding P-burg survived based on the tourists that came through. I would be filthy rich if I had been given a dollar every time a customer at the dinner showed me a sapphire they ‘mined’. The truth, however, was that the sapphires had been mined long ago and were re-hidden is various sandboxes placed in the back of the shop. City folks were clueless.
Even when I moved into my own place the town was small enough that everyone took care of me in there own ways. Gary owned a huge ranch and always offered me fresh milk and beef, Suzie gave me discounts at the general store, and Max let me rent out is barn-converted-guest-house for dirt-cheap. I think that everyone in Hall and the towns that surrounded Hall felt bad for me after what happened so they tried to free themselves from there guilt and worry by helping me. I only had one year of high school left and I counted down every day until I graduated because that meant freedom. It made no sense to me to drop out of high school and leave. Graduating meant better options in the future; nobody hired a high school drop out. Nobody. I considered getting a G.E.D but knew waiting and working for year would make it easier to leave after graduated.
But now, here I am on an island thousands of miles away from my comfortable little town. I was standing in the foyer of a large renaissance style castle that was bigger then Drummond, Hall, and P-Burg combined. I felt so venerable and alone.
I stared in the oval mirror across the black and white themed room. I hated what I saw. And how could I not? I am a ghost of my former self. If I was beautiful once, I took it for granted. My thick raven hair used to sway freely beside my hips but now it hung limp just below my ears. I touched my face. The scar felt like it had a life of it’s own, thick and merciless.
I turned, startled and embarrassed. To my left was a bald man who looked as if he was in his late sixties. Classic. He looked like every butler stereotype written in the history of man. Okay, I may be exaggerating but his white-gloved hand was holding a silver tray while the other hand was bent behind his back. He stood tall with his nose in the air making his black and white penguin-style suit extremely pronounced. If it weren’t for his dark skin he would have blended in with the drab undecorated room.
I stifled in my chuckle. Hicksville was slowly becoming my past life.
“Thanks.” I said, taking a seat on the flat modern looking white couch. He placed the tray on top on the long rectangular black coffee table in front of me. I reached out to take off the lid but his gloved hand beat me to punch. I smiled at the food. In front of me was a generous portion of biscuits and gravy with a tall glass of grapefruit juice. My favorite. The butler left the room just as I shoved the first bite into my mouth. I was about to inhale another bite when I heard the sound of glass breaking. I looked up to see three girls in a doorway that led to a classy looking room with a huge grand piano in it.
All three of their mouths hung open and their unblinking eyes were fixated on me. On the floor beside the girl in the middle were the remains of a glass that, by the looks of it, contained orange juice. I looked down at my food and tried to avoid there staring.
The middle girl walked right toward the couch and stopped once she was directly above me. The moment I looked up at her I wished I hadn’t. Her bug-like eyes were squinting down at me and her lush pencil-thin lips had the nastiest of smirks. She started to laugh, reached over and grabbed my grapefruit juice, and then slowly began to pour the liquid all over my face. The worst part was that I didn’t do anything about it; I just stared up at her and let her pour the sticky juice all over me. I briefly wondered if she was going to stain the white couch but then decided a stained couch was the least of my worries. Somewhere in the background I heard the other girls giggling.
Once the glass was empty she calmly placed the cup back on the tray and sneered, “It was nice to meet you. Really! But next time I wouldn’t leave your room.” Her sandals made a flapping noise again the black tiled floor as she and her posy tittered themselves right out of the room.
Seriously? What was that? I grabbed the white cloth napkin that was placed on the tray for me and begin to wipe off my sticky face.
“I see you met Amber.” Sang a male voice. I was hesitant to remove the napkin from my face because I didn’t want a another unpleasant encounter at my new “summer home for the ‘gifted’.” Whatever that meant. So I stood up and turned my back from where the noise had come from.
“Yeah I guess so. Does she treat everybody like that?” I asked.
“You could say that. She isn’t what I would call pleasant. Amber doesn’t let anyone push her around. She likes to mark her territory, so to speak,” The soft yet deep male voice answered.
“Lucky me.” Sarcasm has always been a friend of mine.
“What did you say to cause such a welcome greeting?” He asked. I heard him grab my fork and then through a mouth full of food say, “Sausage gravy is the best! I hope you don’t mind, you looked like you were done eating and they don’t believe in snacks around here.”
I did mind. I was so hungry I felt like I could have eaten a farm but I didn’t want to turn around and make this boy decide to throw the rest of my food in my face the moment he saw the scar. I started to walk out the room when he practically sprang towards me.
“Lincoln.” He said matter-of-factly. I could see his tanned muscled hand extended in my peripheral vision.
“Rose.” I said and walked away. Walked out of the foyer, into the marbled hallway, up the long spiral stair case, into my dorm room, turned on the hot water, sat down on the bottom of the claw foot bathtub, and let the shower water drown out my sobs.
I was usually stronger then this. I could usually handle anything, but this? This was out of my grasp and out of my measure of understanding.
I began to rock back and forth holding my knees tight. The red summer dress I was wearing was now plastered to my pale skin. I had no idea how I was going to face the day, much less this summer. I turned the dial further on the hot water so I could feel the red hot burn on my skin as I stood back up. I sighed with heavy relief as I pealed off my dress and let it fall lifeless to the bottom of the tub. Looking at the red cloth puddle I could hear my mother’s voice saying how clothes weren’t meant for water and that is why I have a swimming suit. I smiled at her memory and rubbed my hands over my face. She was always a stickler on the proper ways to wear clothes. I remember falling asleep in my jeans once and waking up to them folded on my dresser with a note saying “I bought you PJ bottoms for a reason, dear.” Oh how I missed her.
Once the steam filled up my bathroom I walked out of the shower. I grabbed the lush blue robe that hung limp off of a bronze hook in the wall and let it swallow me whole. I grabbed my iPhone off the marbled green bathroom countertop and paired the Bluetooth with my dorm’s fancy built-into-the-wall speakers and let The Duprees steal away the silence. Somehow music from the sixties has always calmed me.
The room I was now living in was large enough to fit ten California king beds. The floor was a creamy marble with huge swanky red area rugs and the furniture was all made of a dark cherry wood. When you entered through the giant round red door you immediately caught a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean through the massive bay windows that overtook ninety percent of the back wall. I starred at the ocean now and let myself feel the heartache. I grabbed at the locket around my neck. It was a classic golden oval with my mother’s picture quietly tucked inside. Needing to feel the ocean breeze I opened the window and swayed back to my bed singing along with the music. The transparent netting that was placed on the large canopy bed seemed to want to romance the ocean by the way the wind kept pulling the cloth towards the window. I lay down on my side counting the waves as they came and crash-landed on the sand. I kept one hand on the locket, sliding the gold oval up and down the small fragile chain.
I could feel the need to open my eyes and break free but I couldn’t. I was trapped inside myself as unfamiliar memories plagued my dreamful mind. I was screaming at the top of my lungs begging him to stop. I kept jumping towards them but the chains around my wrists only grew tighter and the tighter they got the more I felt the blood from chains cutting into my wrists leak down my arms. My mom told me to close my eyes and not watch the horror that was going on in front of me, but I couldn’t tare my eyes away. While I screamed for him to stop my mother screamed in protest and tried squirm herself free.
Abruptly my view changes from watching my mother to being locked in my room with unforgiving gray smoke feeling my lungs. I tried to escape but the window wouldn’t budge. I lay down on the floor in an attempt to stay calm and cover my mouth and nose with my shirt. I turned to my side and I see my blood making a puddle before my eyes and I hear my mothers sweat angelic hum and the snapping of scissors. Piles of my long black hair join the puddle of blood. I started to scream not understanding why my mother was doing this and struggling to understand what was happening.
“Wake up, baby girl, wake up.” From somewhere in the distance I hear a soft feminine voice. My body starting to shake and there is a sudden coolness on my face. “Come on, wake up, sweetie, wake up.”
A scream comes from my lips and my eyes open wide to a blinding yellow hue cast from the antique chandelier lighting up my room. I take a moment for my eyes to adjust but once they do I process the scene around me. The large grandfather clock to my left says 7:26 and based on the sun going down outside my window I figure the clock means pm. I am sitting up in my bed with my robe loosely covering my body, my hands clutching a thick gold colored comforter, and I am covered in sweat. Before me is Mel, the women who brought me here. Her red curls hang limply just below her shoulders, her body is short and semi-plump, she has pale skin covered in freckles, her thin baby pink lips are frowning, and her rich hazel eyes stare at me with concern. She reaches up and wipes my face with a cool rag and then engulfs me in her arms. I rest my head on her shoulder and take deep breathes trying hard to calm my raging heart.
“What are you doing in here?” I ask, barely audible, as I release myself from her embrace. If she hadn’t caught me at such a vulnerable moment I know that I wouldn’t have let her hug me.
“Some students informed me that there were screams coming from the east wing so I came to investigate.” She replies softly.
“How did you get in?” Knowing full well that I locked the door.
She laughed and held up a master key and asked, “Want to tell me what that was about?”
“No.” I say flatly.
She lets out a soft sigh, “Was it about your mom?”
I just looked at her and shrugged unwilling to say the words aloud. Her eyes looked sad as she stared at me. After what seemed like forever she stood up and walked towards my door.
“You missed all of your meals today. I’ll send something up, any preferences?”
“No, whatever is fine.”
Mel walked back towards me and kissed the top of my head. She walked out of the room without saying another word. I looked towards the door nerved by her loving nature. I haven’t met Mel more than a couple of times and each time she acted as if she had known me my whole life. Normally I would shrug her off but something about her makes me want to be taken care of.
I met Mel a couple of days ago at my high school graduation. If you could call it a graduation, my class of six gathered together in the school gym while the teachers who taught us since kindergarten said a few words. The whole ceremony took about thirty-five minutes. When the ceremony ended and I said goodbye to a few of my teachers but I didn’t take too long because I was ready to head straight back to my Honda and drive away never looking back. I packed up my few belongings that morning and left Max a note that I shoved between his screen door and the slider door on his back porch. I had just thrown my diploma on the passenger seat when I heard someone say my name.
I turned around to a beautiful middle-aged woman with the kindest face I have ever seen. “Yes?” I answered, the confusion in my voice clearly audible.
She reaches out her delicate over-ringed hand, “Mel Holbrooke.” She smiles as I shake her hand. A moment passes without saying anything. I wasn’t sure what to do or say so I looked around and counted the people as they passed. Fifteen total, practically my whole town. “I talked to a few of your teachers and they told me your beyond exceptional.” She finally says.
“Ok.” I answer taking off my graduation robe and throwing it along with my cap and purse into the passenger seat. I shut the door and walked around to the driver’s side ready for the uncomfortable greeting to end.
I was just about to dismiss myself when Mel continued, “I am sorry about your mother. I know what happened.”
“How do you know about my mother?” I had been living on my own since October but nobody but the police knew what happened. Aside from what I had told the police I kept the details to myself. Of course being in a small town there was gossip, rumors, and assumptions, but nobody knew.
“Did your mother ever tell you about her past or were she came from?”
“No. How do you know about my mother?” I repeated pulling down my short red dress I bought for graduation, not that anyone cared what I was wearing, but I knew that my mother would have wanted me to dress up for the occasion.
“She never once told you who you are?” Mel asked. She looked sad at my short replies but she wasn’t giving me anything either. Who is this woman?
“I know who I am. What I don’t know is who you are.”
She smiled. “I am sorry I haven’t explained. I am, just, so delighted to finally meet you. I knew your mother very well. Graceland was an extraordinary woman. I am here to take you to the place you belong. I am so sorry I didn’t find you sooner. After Graceland made her choice and left Holbrooke Island, she made it impossible to find you. You see, she left shortly after she found out she was pregnant with you. I have cried for eighteen years! Wanting so badly to know you. Hiding you in Hall was clever. We checked all the major cities and their suburbs but never thought of coming to a one horse town in the middle of Montana.” Mel, let out a light laugh.
“Umm…right, like you said I am eighteen so I can go where I please. I don’t know you and if my mother left you and never looked back, why on earth would I go with you anywhere. And…Holbrooke Island? I have never heard of it and that is probably because you made it up considering Holbrooke is your last name. And, honestly, who has an island named after them? I mean no disrespect but you come out of nowhere and I don’t know you from Adam and there are so many holes in your story that I couldn’t possibly believe a word your saying. So…if you’ll excuse me.” I got into the drivers seat and closed the door. I just buckled my seatbelt and started my engine when Mel started pounding my window. Now what? What did this lady want from me? I debated just driving away but some force inside me chose to roll down my window and give her the time of day.
“Thank you. Before you make up your mind I want you to see this.” She handed me an old photograph and I couldn’t hold my gasp. In my hands I held the only photograph I have ever seen of my family. It is the first time I have ever seen what my father must have looked like. He was standing in a vast blue ocean, jeans rolled up to his calves, and a black t-shirt that barely held in his muscled frame. His arms were covered in tattoos and his left ear supported a tiny diamond stud. He was holding a chubby baby wearing a fluffy pink dress, with huge green eyes and tiny bits of black hair. He has the same black hair and green eyes and was kissing the baby’s cheek. My mother stood laughing beside him. Her blonde hair caught in the wind her violet eyes gleaming with joy. She had her hand on her stomach hiding the tiniest of baby bumps.
“Is that my father?” I asked.
“Is my mother pregnant with me?”
“Is my father still alive and who is that baby?” So many questions fogged my mind. Did I have a sister? I had my mothers violet eyes but other then that the baby my father was holding could have been me.
“No, he isn’t and neither is your sister. There was an accident and that is why your mother left.”
“There has to be more to the story then that.” I said, swallowing back the tears. For a brief moment I had hope. For one spilt second I had a family, a father and a sister, but just as quickly they were taken away again. My mother never once mentioned her past or who my father was. I used to beg her for answers but after one tries and fails so many times you eventually give up and come to terms that some things you will never know. And here I was, talking to this strange woman, who came out of nowhere, and I was talking about some of the biggest holes that my soul bared.
“There is, but know is not the time or the place.” The expression in her eyes told me to trust her now and the details would come later.
“Where are they?” I asked referring to the photograph.
“Holbrooke Island,” Mel said clearly relieved that she was getting somewhere with me. “Your parents met at the Holbrooke Academy for the gifted and that is where I would like to take you. I promise I will answer all of your questions if you come with me.”
“In case you didn’t notice but I literally just graduated and college is not for me. Besides I never had a learning disorder or anything so clearly,” I made air quotes with my fingers, “ ‘a School for the Gifted’ isn’t for me.”
“This isn’t an ordinary school.” Mel said.
I looked at the photo in my hands.
“Trust me I will answer all of your questions.” Mel pleaded.
My family, my mothers past was always a mystery to me. I have always wanted answers… and my father is an even bigger mystery. And this woman was offering me the keys to the kingdom.
“Come on, what do you have to loose?” Mel asks.
Nothing. I had nothing to loose. Absolutely nothing.