Monday, July 27, 2009

Here we go.

So...I figured after a few months it'd be alright for me to post an excerpt of the book I'm writing. Don't worry, it's pretty short. I know I don't like to read long excerpts--my attention span isn't all that impressive really. So, I've erred on theside of caution.

This is the first chapter of Halo. Constructive criticism, advice, feedback are very welcome.


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Chapter 1
Louisiana 1943

There was nothing like a Louisiana summer.
The air on that cramped bus was so stifling that one could scarcely breathe without feeling as if they were inhaling pure fire.
Clothes clung to bodies and old women fanned hot air around the bus, adding to the general feeling of irritability and discomfort.
Charlie was as hot as the rest of them; her flower print dress felt like a second skin against her flesh and her carefully applied make up had all but melted down the side of her face. Tendrils of dark hair stuck to the side of her neck and she could have sworn that she could smell herself cooking.
But to her, it was a small thing to bare. She could have stood in the mouth of Hell with Lucifer himself driving that damned bus and her joy wouldn't have faded one little bit. And nothing could take that from her. Not the heat, not the fact that she had been standing up on that bus for nearly an hour, not even the fact that she lost her last five dollars two stops back.

She was going home.

Three days ago exactly, she'd stood in the dark interior of the Negro Dance Troupe studio and claimed her independence from a life and a love that no longer suited her. It had taken less than two sentences for her to realize that she had fallen out of love with him and the life she thought she was destined to have. She wasn't sure when it began to feel foreign to her. Perhaps when the letter had come to her from Mema stating that Elliot returned home from the war in a 'terrible state'. Perhaps it had just been plain old women's intuition letting her know that it was time to go home.
Charlie ignored it for as long as she could, not wanting her Mema's parting words to have any other meaning aside from the usual superstitious nonsense she grew up with. She was a grown woman now, more than capable of making her own decisions--and yet, she was grown enough to know that if she used the good sense God gave her, she would have listened.
"The city ain't no place for a colored girl from the country, Charlemagne. Everything moves too fast and pretty soon you forget which way you intended to go." The old woman had whispered it against her ear in that final embrace right before her train left some six years ago now.
Charlie couldn't remember what her response had been to her grandmother then, but she was certain it was full of youthful naivety that came with being eighteen years old.



"Maybe dancing isn't for you anymore." Michel told her three nights ago in that studio as she iced a sore ankle. Oh for a moment how she hated him and his words! But she didn't say anything. She never said anything. It was his look of bored indifference that solidified the decision that she had been wrestling with for weeks.
"I'm going home Michel." Charlie had said into the silence. A feeling of utter relief spread through her like a cool glass of Mema's sun tea on a hot day. He didn't say anything. She didn't imagine that he would.

Oh, a year ago, his coldness would have hurt. A year ago she was still in love with the idea of being with a French painter--she was still in love with the idea of being his muse. And hell, if nothing else, he had been fun. His sort usually was. There were endless rounds of parties after her dance recitals or after one of his or a friend's successful showing at a local art gallery. Those nights were filled with drinking, dancing and laughter. And at the height of it, Charlie couldn't imagine a more fulfilling existence. She was far away from home and the pain that waited for her there. She was far away from that damned war that seemed to want to put a damper on her happiness and her good times.

But eventually, reality asserted itself into her life. With the sacrifices that everyone was forced to make, the parties became less frequent because things like art and music became less necessary. And soon enough, she and Michel ran out of things to talk about.

He'd said, "I thought you said there was nothing left for you there, cherie." It was spoken as if by some sense of requirement, not because he was particularly concerned that she was leaving.
" There's even less for me here."
" Maybe." And then, almost as an after thought he said, "I think I shall miss you Charlie."
"Oh, but you won't. Not you Michel. You aren't that sort. No regrets, remember? No, you'll miss going to those ridiculous parties we used to drag each other to. You'll miss getting drunk on cheap wine at three in the morning with me. But I think that stopped being enough for us a long time ago."

He had laughed then. Not a her words, but of the memories that her words conjured. Those were easier times for the both of them. They had both been full of youthful optimism and while neither of them had been older than twenty-five, the city had a way of hardening even the most benign of saints. And Charlie needed to leave before it was too late--before she no longer recognized herself.

In the end, they had parted as friends and Michel understood without her having to explain. There were promises made to visit...to stay in touch. But that was all.

And three days later, here she was--sweating in the back of some bus wanting nothing more in the whole world than to see home again.

5 comments:

Tess said...

I love how you have the dichotomy of the miserable bus and happy Charlie going home -- how nothing can dampen her spirits. I can feel the heat and her joy at the same time. Well written.

tiny typo I noticed: you wrote she could 'bare' anything (like naked) but you meant 'bear' (like endure).

I really enjoyed this scene :D

Sun Up said...

You know, I had it bear at first and then changed it to bare. I knew I should have gone with my first instinct! Thanks alot and I'm glad you enjoyed it

Tess said...

In my ms, I wrote that Jucyfruit gum was lifting from his every poor. My beta caught it and I changed it to pore.

I still laugh at that one!

And, I enjoyed it very much.

I am not the ninja you were looking for said...

Alicia,

I absolutely loved it. The ONLY part I thought read a bit iffy to me was this:

"Oh, but you won't. Not you Michel. You aren't that sort. No regrets, remember? No, you'll miss going to those ridiculous parties we used to drag each other to. You'll miss getting drunk on cheap wine at three in the morning with me. But I think that stopped being enough for us a long time ago."


I think maybe I would have expected her response to be shorter, something of a "No you won't Michael, that's not who you are, but it's very polite of you to say" (The weight of this moment, the sadness of her realizing that he won't miss her and that what she is saying is true would ideally linger, but not be so wordy).

Then maybe on the bus she could "think back" to their goodbye and how all he would miss was "Insert the rest of it here". It would fill some time on the bus, not seem like she overpowered him in the goodbye with a speech, and let the sadness of their goodbye (Not in the saying goodbye, but more as I say- the sadness of not being sad at all)..

I'm babbling.

Your package ships on Wednesday!

Sun Up said...

You are brilliant...

Last night I was writing and I kept looking over it and I just...wasn't feeling it. I was going to change it and I couldn't figure out exactly--what to do with it, so I circled it and decided to come back to it.

I love how you explained that to me.

Now I know what to do with it!!

And--YAY!!!!!!