This week’s Young Adult Indie Carnival assignment required us to put up the first paragraph of a piece we were currently working on. Originally, my plan was to put the first chapter of my newest book, Callum & Harper up for this week’s Indie Carnival but working it out and preparing it for publication on the blog made me feel uncomfortable. I toggled back and forth, wishing that I could edit it perfectly but it just felt like I was rushing it and the book deserves more than that. It isn’t ready to see the light of day, yet.
So, after much dallying and nail chewing, I’ve decided on a consolation.
The Wonderboom is my short story from The Glassheart Chronicles and for those of you who are curious as to where and why I chose the name, you can read why here. For those of you wondering how The Wonderboom ties into The Leaving Series, read this article on the dissection of the titles it possesses on Jenny’s blog at the Supernatural Snark. (p.s. Thanks, Jenny!)
Done your preliminary reading? No? Don’t fret. You won’t lose anything from the story.
Without further ado, here are a few paragraphs of my short story, The Wonderboom from The Glassheart Chronicles. (Um, p.s., WordPress doesn’t allow tabs. Uh, either that or I am a goofball. So, quotations won’t look like they normally do. Oh, well. LOL)
Bramwell, West Virginia
Just breathe, Sawyer. Breathe. Take your phone from your pocket. Good.
Now, dial nine-one-one.
I dialed the numbers and as my thumb trembled over the send button, I let out a shaky breath.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?”
I recognized the voice. I grew up with that voice. That voice sat behind me in almost all my history classes for some reason.
“Casey, it’s Sawyer.”
“Something wrong, Sawyer?”
“You could say that. I think I may have just found the missing head to that tourist.” I also think I just threw up in my mouth a little.
“Jeez Sawyer, you’ve only been back in town two weeks and you’re already causing trouble?”
“Casey, just get Danny down here,” I said, impatiently.
“Alright, where are you?” she asked.
“I’m on County, about three miles from the center of town. Tell Danny, when I see his lights, I’ll signal him.”
“Alright,” she laughed, “Uh, want me to stay on the line with you until he gets there?”
“Casey,” I said through gritted teeth.
“I was just askin’! Jeez Sawyer! Don’t get your undies in a twist,” she said, before pausing. “Are you sure? Because, if you’re scared, I wouldn’t mind…”
“Alright, alright. He’s on his way. Sit tight,” she said before hanging up.
As if I could do anything else.
This is how the second week of my returning back to Bramwell, West Virginia ended. Just peachy, right? Sawyer Tuttle, ex-assistant district attorney for Suffolk County in Boston, Massachusetts, now unemployed finder of body parts.
Unfortunately, my recently retired father suffered a stroke, leaving him paralyzed on the left side of his body. He’s a tough old goat though and had made significant progress the first week he’d been released from the hospital, regaining much of his speech, but it was his body that wouldn’t bounce back as quickly, forcing me to quit the job of a lifetime. A job I was positive I could never get back, regardless of my sterling records and alma mater, not after having only been there six months, quitting with hardly any notice anyway. Cities usually frown upon that type of behavior, despite the fact you’re doing it for family.
When Danny’s flashing lights approached me from a hundred feet or so, I waved my hands over my head, alerting him to where I was. His cruiser popped and crunched the gravel as it slid to a stop on the shoulder. He stepped from his vehicle, checking behind him
for oncoming traffic and affixing his hat tightly onto his head. His badge gleamed in the headlights of a passing truck as he drew near me.
“Sawyer,” he said, reaching out his hand.
I shook it firmly and nodded. “Sheriff.”
“Hoped to see you again after all this time under better circumstances,” he said, “but I suppose this’ll do. Show me what you’ve found.”
I led him to the patch of brush where I discovered the head. Danny flashed his heavy light dragging it across the grass, giving me an extra gruesome dose of what I’d tripped over while jogging home along County.
I saw these very same images in Boston on a daily basis as a criminal prosecutor but witnessing it in person just didn’t hold the same effect. Apparently, pictures downplay the smells of their rotting subjects. I coughed into the sleeve of my t-shirt.
“Awful, right?” Danny commented.
Danny stood and spoke into the transmitter at his sleeve, “Casey, can you have Deputy Carson meet me at mile marker one-seventy-five? Tell him to tell the Johnsons that their weekly domestic dispute will have to wait until tomorrow as we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Also, wake the coroner.”
The thing buzzed with static before Casey answered, “‘’Kay. Did Tuttle spill his guts all over the pavement yet or…”
“Casey, we talked about this.”
“Alright, son. Tell me how you discovered the head.”
I cleared my throat. “Well, I was jogging home…”
“And why would you jog so late at night on a dark road?”
“I’m just used to working out late at night. In Boston, I wouldn’t get back from the office until late so it was the only time I had to do it. Guess it became a pattern.”
“Alright,” Danny said, jotting down information on a pad of paper. “Then what?”
“I was jogging on the shoulder against the flow of traffic when a car approached. I forgot to wear any reflectors so I decided, to be safe, I’d jog deeper into the grass line until the car passed. That’s when I tripped over something. It felt a little too soft and bulky to be a natural part of the landscape, so I passed my key flashlight over the area and the light reflected off the eyes. Freaked me out, Danny.”
“Can you think of anything else? See anything else that felt strange?”
“Okay Sawyer,” he sighed. “Number still the same?”
“Of course. Has anyone in this little town changed their number in the past thirty years?” I asked sarcastically.
“Yes,” he said, thoughtfully, “Little Katie Shannon’s parents had to change their number because she was handing it out willy-nilly at a bar in Charleston and a couple of chaps wouldn’t leave her be.”
Katie always was a bit of a goof.
“I get ya. You’re just doin’ your job.”
He smiled. “Need a ride home son?”
“That would be great actually, thank you.”
Finishing my jog home was out of the question. There was something about not wanting to risk tripping over a second bloody head that night that left a bad taste in my mouth, best to leave that to the next jogging sucker.
“Alright, as soon as Carson gets here, I’ll have him swing you home.”
Danny went back to his cruiser and popped open his trunk. He began digging around and instead of bothering him, I opted to watch the black International Scout that was barreling towards us at what seemed to be a hundred miles an hour. Good gracious, they’ve got to be going at least eighty.
When the driver didn’t seem to be slowing down, I stepped back a bit to avoid any possible gravel that could kick up from their tires and peg me in the face, because that would have been my luck. When the driver came to a screeching halt on the shoulder opposite my side of the road, I stifled the urge to cross and punch the guy out. I couldn’t see very well when the driver stepped from the Scout but I recognized the clickety-clack of a woman’s heels. It was the same noise I remembered the women at the court house would make when walking with purpose on the marble hallways.
When the woman’s thin black high heels emerged under the lights of Sheriff Danny’s cruiser, my heart stopped dead in its tracks. My cheeks heated to an unnatural warmth as I stared at the strap around her slender ankle. The most gorgeous woman I’d ever laid eyes on became engulfed by the light from the car. I followed those black heels up long, willowy legs and met the hem of a knee-length pencil skirt.
Now, the only reason I even knew what those were was because my ancient secretary tried to explain to me the appropriate types of skirts women should wear in the court room and that I needed to tell fellow prosecutor Mary Kingsford that she was dressing ‘inadequately’. I didn’t, by the way, tell Mary Kingsford because I thought Mary’s skirts added a little interest to my day.
In my opinion, the pencil skirt is one of those elusive pieces of clothing that women believe are modest and truly, they are. But what women miss, or maybe they don’t miss at all, is the fact that the pencil skirt does something to a woman’s shape. Hips are curvier, calves are more pronounced, hips are better lined. There is nothing sexier to a man than a woman in a pencil skirt. Its appeal is the mystery and boy, do I love a good mystery.
As my eyes followed the woman’s shapely hips, they continued up until they met the face of a literal Botticelli painting. She was devastatingly handsome with dark brown wavy hair that fell at her elbows and eyes that pierced through me. I couldn’t get the color but I was determined to remedy that very soon. She was probably five foot five and no older than twenty-one. Too young for you, old man. I eyed her carefully. She looked strangely familiar.
At twenty-eight, there was no way such a young beauty would have anything to do with me but that didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate her.
“Thanks for calling me, Danny!” she yelled acerbically, breaking me from my thoughts.
Danny looked up. “Oh Lord! Get out of here, girl! We haven’t even started investigating yet and you can’t be this close to the scene! Go on! Get! You can call me tomorrow for the details.” She didn’t turn around. “I’m serious as a heart attack! Get your butt back in that jeep or I’ll call your mama!”
But she just shook her head and laughed.
“Nope,” she said succinctly, before turning and stopping short two feet in front of me. “Well, well, well. What do we have here?” she asks, her eyes raking me up and down. “Let me guess, you were the one who found it?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, unprepared for the nervous lilt in my tone. I cleared my throat and answered more surely, dropping a pathetic octave lower than my genuine voice. ”Yes, ma’am.”
You’re an idiot, Sawyer. She made me feel like a little kid at school, answering to an intimidating school teacher which floored me because I was a criminal prosecutor for the city of Boston. I’d run across some of the most imposing people that walked this earth but I’d never had a reaction like this to anyone.
She turned to face Danny once more, asking him a question but it was as if she spoke too slowly for me to catch on, I was so enthralled. Her hair blew in my face and my head swarmed as I breathed in her intoxicating scent.
“What happened?” she asked, snapping her fingers in my face, searching her bag for what I assumed was a pen. She pulled one out and clicked the end, the sound reverberating in the air as if in slow motion.
Before I could stop myself, the words came spilling out of me of their own volition. It was as if even words bent prostrate before this incredible woman and I couldn’t stop until I’d told her everything, down to how many breaths I’d taken before she’d arrived, it seemed. She buried her eyes into her notebook, feverishly writing everything I was revealing to her. As I approached the end, having nothing more to say, I panicked, desperately needing to tell her more. This woman asked me for information and my body voluntarily willed itself to continue talking, to continue speaking until she commanded me to stop.
Then, she brought her eyes to mine for the first time since she’d arrived.
Our gazes collided in a spectacular explosion, wind lashed through my ears, tunneling out all other sound. Silence whipped around us, cocooning us together like we were the last two people on God’s green earth.
And it hit us like an atom bomb.
My breath hitched in my throat and I felt an inexplicable need to place her hands in mine, to cull her body into mine, to press her front with mine and protect her from the world. Hers to mine.
A sudden, frantic urge overtook me and I would have given every possession I owned, every cent in my custody to hear her whisper my name in that same instant. I expected the only relief I could possibly feel from the ache forming in my chest would be to crush my lips to that stranger’s baffling mouth, a mouth whose lips grew heavy and parted in anticipation, sending a secret thrill through my skin.
Our breaths sped beneath our chests and I heard a faint pant pass through that velvet mouth, her eyes searched my face, searched for a reason, for the something that could explain her necessity to have the same as I needed to have from her. Her unimaginable blue-grey stare made my heart beat so boldly that my body shook, afraid she’d perceive its deafening sounds. It beat this stranger’s unfamiliar name with such intensity, I could do nothing more than to succumb to her unconscious summons.
My hands slowly lifted to touch her face.
“You’ve asked your questions. Now get.” Danny’s voice interrupted like a sonic boom, breaking us from our trance.
I thanked God I wasn’t the only one to act disoriented. We both stumbled over ourselves, examining the world around us as if we were witnessing it for the first time.
“I’ve…I’ve got to go,” she whispered to me.
“Wait!” I say, reaching for her hand again but she shrugs from it before I can grab her. “Aren’t you even curious as to who I am?”
A faint curve met the side of her mouth and she narrowed her eyes. “Sawyer Tuttle, don’t be ridiculous. How could I ever forget you?”
And with that, she bolted for her Scout and sped from the scene, leaving me slack mouthed and dumbfounded as to what just happened between the two of us.
I turned to the Sheriff, “Who was that, Danny?”
Danny eyed me strangely, furrowing his brow. “Hit your head boy? That’s my niece. That’s Maddy. Didn’t you recognize her?” He went back to removing plastic markers from a plastic kit. “She’s a reporter now for The Bramwell Tribune, graduated last year in fact. Everyone’s mighty proud of her.” His chest puffed a little.
I brought both hands to my temples, rubbing furiously. That was Madeleine Gray? Madeleine. Gray. My hands began to shake and I fisted them into my hair to steady them. Why? Why her?
I knew, despite it being so late and my awful luck with his family, that Elliott Gray would be receiving a call from me that very night.
“Ready?” Carson asks.
“More than,” I say.
At home, I rummage through my old room, skirting packed boxes from my apartment back in Boston, searching for the one box that held Elliott’s cell phone number, praying it was still good. The number was in an old address book, tattered and torn but priceless all the same because this book held answers. I followed the wood floor hallway and sat at my father’s desk in his old office. Glancing over his shelves, I noticed dust collecting over his beloved novels. Need to ask Genie to dust these. I was stalling. My cell phone lay cold in my hand. It’s just Elliott, Sawyer.
Three rings later, he picks up.
“Hello?” A groggy Elliott Gray answers.
“Elliott,” I barely say. “It’s Sawyer Tuttle.”
“Tut?” Great, high school all over again.
“Yeah, Tut,” I hurriedly confirm. “Hey, I know it’s late and it’s been, what, I don’t know, ten years or so.”
He laughs, a genuine laugh. Good sign.
“All true, still good to hear from you though.” He pauses. “I heard about your father,” he adds softly.
“Yeah, he’s doing remarkably well though, just struggling with some physical stuff. He’ll be right as rain in a couple of months, his therapists say.”
“That’s amazing news, Sawyer. I’ll never forget what he did for me. I’m glad to hear it.”
“I know,” I said. It was critical that I avoid that topic.
“Listen, I’m calling…Well, I’m calling because I, uh, ran into your sister tonight, under some, uh, strange circumstances.”
“What happened?” He asked, more alert than I think I’d ever heard him. I always enjoyed making that guy uneasy.
“Well, long story short, I stumbled upon the missing head of that tourist whose body had been discovered last week. Familiar with the story?”
“I am. Go on,” he said tersely, nervous about his sister, no doubt.
“Well, after your Uncle Danny interviewed me, your sister showed up for an interview of her own.”
“And, well, we had this moment.”
He quickly jumps in with, “If you’re calling for my permission to ask out my little sister, you’ve got terrible timing, Tuttle. It’s two in the morning here, not exactly the best time to convince me what a responsible guy you’ve become.”
“No, you don’t understand. We had a moment,” I said, emphasizing the word, trying to lead him to the correct conclusion without actually having to say out loud what I had always considered ridiculous. Saying it out loud would be the same as admitting it.
Absolute silence followed for a good five minutes.
He sighs. “Have you touched her?”
“No, no. I’ve barely looked at her.”
“That’s disgusting and no, you idiot, I mean, have you physically touched her yet?”
“I tried but she shrugged away from me,” I admitted.
“Listen,” I say, “I know it’s late but I could really use some advice.”
“As much as I hate to say this, you need to touch her, to know for sure, you have to touch her.”
“How do I do that?” I ask.
“You’re asking me, Maddy’s brother, to give you, Sawyer Tuttle, advice on how to put your hands on her?
“You’re already on my shit list for this two a.m. call, not to mention the moves you pulled on Jules in high school.” I shrug into my shoulders at that embarrassing comment. “Do you really expect me, after I’ve already given you the solution, to also give you further advice on how to go about touching her? You’re walking on thin ice, bro.”
“Alright, alright,” I concede.
“Call me when you do,” he says. “And Tut?”
“It’s good to hear from you, ya’ dirty rat.”
I smile as I hear the click of his phone. I spin in one fast circle in my dad’s swiveling office chair, feeling for all the world like a teenager once again.
The next morning, I wake early to call The Tribune, to get a hold of one Miss Madeleine Gray. As I prepare myself to make the call, I run my hand over my mouth, my hands trembled in anticipation. I couldn’t believe how one girl could make me that much of a mess. Girl, I repeat inside my head. Six or seven years are quite a distance, Sawyer.
But Maddy was no longer that little girl. She certainly didn’t look like one and she sure as heck didn’t dress like one either. I thought of her in her lovely, feminine skirt and that’s when I decided I didn’t care and that made me laugh out loud. I was certainly going to be rattling the bear cage when I finally caught hold of her and I was going to catch her. The city of Bramwell was going to hate my guts because little Maddy Gray was officially set in my sights.
I rang the newspaper only to discover she’d called in sick. Of course. I lean my back against the wall in the kitchen, trying to get a grip on the supreme disappointment of not knowing where she is, a hollow wanting seeped into my heart. Find her.
I ran past my mom, kissing her cheek in greeting and headed for the shower, knowing I wasn’t going to stop that day until I touched Maddy and had seen for myself that this reaction wasn’t what I knew deep down it really was.
In the shower, I lowered my head under the fall of water, letting it cascade down my back. My brief moment with Maddy heightened my senses, making me aware of each rivulet of water as it sluiced down my back and shoulders. Madeleine Gray, what are you to me? I know what I wanted her to be. I would have climbed Everest twice in one day for her to be what I wanted her to be.
After dressing, I helped my dad use the restroom and my mom dress his sarcastic ass. “Good to see your mouth hasn’t lost its bite,” I’d teased, then placed him in his chair. I practically ran to the old pickup I used to drive in college. I sat inside the cab and the leather protested beneath me.
“Easy, girl. Just like old times,” I wooed her, running my hands along the dash.
I placed the key in the ignition and turned. Click, click, click. Nothing.
“Damn it, Annie! Start for me, girl.”
I tried again but got nothing.
“Fine, have it your way. You know I hate doing this,” I mumbled underneath my breath.
I stepped from the driver’s seat and slammed the door. I paced in front of Annie three times before kicking the grill with everything I had in me. Before the kick had lost its strength I hauled to the cab once more, stabbed my keys in the ignition and turned. Nothing.
“Listen, I know you’re pissed. I can sense it but I’ve got a very important person to meet right now and I don’t have the patience for this.” I walked to the front of the truck once more. “Here we go,” I whispered, before slamming my foot into the grill once more and running for the cab, turning the key again. She whimpered in response that time. “That’s it Annie,” I said, coaxing her, turning the keys once more, then again, and again, each time brought more of a response from her and with one final push, the truck rumbled to sweet life.
“Ha, ha, hahaaa!” I shouted in triumph, jumping from my seat and landing on the grass beneath me. I whooped and hollered before turning to Annie and kissing her on the hood.
That’s when I heard a faint sarcastic clapping coming from behind me. I froze in terror, dropping my head to my chest.
It was. I lifted my eyes toward the heavens, a sense of humor indeed.
“Hello, Maddy,” I say coyly.
She stands from her relaxed position, having leaned her striking body against the bottom banister of my parent’s porch and started walking my direction. God, you look beautiful, I thought. She wore tattered, faded jeans that fit her like a glove, a pair of olive green Tom’s, her black shoe liners peeked out at the sides of her shoes, the worn hems of her jeans encased the heel of them. She wore an indigo fitted t-shirt that read ‘Team Einstein’ in white and her hair was down, the soft waves flowing with the wind. Her blue-grey eyes were engaging and glinted in the afternoon sun. Her lips were full and red, practically demanding me to kiss them.
“Hello, Sawyer Tuttle,” she teased with those begging lips.
“Playin’ hooky today, kid?” I said, stupidly emphasizing our age difference.
“Checking up on me, Tut?” She countered, letting me know she wasn’t going to be treated like the title I’d just called her. Touché’ Gray.
“I might be,” I confessed, digging my hands in my pockets for safe-keeping.
She narrowed her eyes as she came to a stop too close for my own comfort, for my own sanity. Step back, Gray or I won’t be responsible for my actions. As if she could read my thoughts, she rounded my body and approached my finally running Annie. She ran her right hand along the hood.
“I’ve always loved this truck,” she threw over her shoulder at me.
I crossed my arms over my chest as if in protection. Like an arrow to the heart, that girl.
“Oh, really? And why’s that, Maddy?”
“Because it belonged to you,” she said, shocking me.
My mouth dropped open and I almost had to force it shut with my own hands.
“Speak plainly, Madeleine Gray,” I said thickly, not believing this was happening.
She leaned her back against the side of my truck, placing her elbows on the hood and her left foot on the tire. “How much more plainly could I speak, Sawyer?” she dared.
I gulped down my anticipation.
“Wh…when?” I asked.
“My sophomore year at Bluefield, when you were in law school, you’d come home on the weekends, sending all the girls around here into a tizzy, including yours truly. Except, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut, biding my time.”
My breath sped up. I crossed the little bit of yard until my arms surrounded her, my hands on the hood on either side of her tiny frame, inches from the touch I had been seeking.
“Biding your time until when, Madeleine?” I scarcely asked.
She brought her big eyes up, her breaths matched mine. “Until you noticed me on your own,” she murmured.
We stood there for seconds, minutes, maybe an hour, I couldn’t be sure, just staring each other down, daring the other.