4. Claire [3]

The first thing that struck Claire as she entered the cool interior of Bill’s was the smell of bread. The bakery section was very near the door, and it made her realize just how ravenous she was. Her belly rumbled as she walked over the woman behind the counter of the bakery section. She stood and watched the woman for a moment; she was kneading dough. Claire was impressed. Can’t believe the neighborhood shop bakes its own bread, she thought. The smell was so good that she felt faint.

“Excuse me?” she spoke up, shyly.

“Yes, dear?” the woman behind the counter raised her head and smiled.

“How much is one of those rolls?”

“These? The whole-grain ones? They’re a buck each. Or a dozen for ten.”

“Okay, I’ll take a dozen please.”

The woman took her hands out of the dough and picked up a flat piece of cardboard which she deftly folded into a box. She then took the long metal tongs and took twelve of the warm rolls out of the glass display, put them into the box, closed it, and handed it to Claire.

“Thanks,” Claire smiled.

“Sure, sugar,” and she put her hands back into the dough in front of her and continued kneading fiercely.

Claire, having gotten a trolley, walked up and down the aisles of the store, getting the items her father had written down. She munched on one of the rolls as she walked, and found it delicious. It was so good that she promptly began another one upon finishing the first. It was hungry business, this grocery shopping. Still, she pondered, I like it. I like doing this alone. This is a good thing, Dad making us move here.

She brought her items to one of the unoccupied cashiers, marveling again at the possibility of there not being a line at a store – this would never happen in New York – and paid. The bag-packer was quick and efficient and looked like he was about eighteen years old. Claire eyed him as she thanked him, and thought that the lock of hair flopping into his eye was simply adorable. Her good mood was ruined, however, when she glanced at a big neighborhood noticeboard that was by the exit door. She saw various posters and fliers on it, but the one that seemed to bring a dark cloud over her was a big poster for a pep-rally that had taken place a few nights ago for the local high-school’s football team.

School, she scowled. I do NOT want to start a new school.

Lewis Carrol’s Birthday

According to a writing prompt I found online, today is Mr. Carrol’s birthday. The writing prompt suggested that I write about my favorite character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I thought that this was a marvelous idea, especially because during my semester at school, I had to read it for a project which I won’t, alas, be doing.

I bought myself a beautiful copy of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It has all the original illustrations in it, as well as a beautiful, colorful cover. I felt immense joy at carrying the book around and just thumbing through its pages. A book’s physical presence can be so helpful to the experience of reading it. This is why I don’t want a Kindle or a Nook or any of the other electronic readers. I’m straying off topic, so let’s get back to little Alice.

I think my favorite character in Adventures, apart from Alice herself, is little Bill, the lizard. Poor old Bill is always the one who gets picked on throughout the book – first he’s forced to approach Alice in her gigantic form and receives a kick for his troubles; next, mischievous Alice steals his pencil and he keeps writing with his fingers without making any marks on the page, to his great perplexity.

In Through the Looking Glass, I’d like to say that my favorite characters are the kittens – but that’s just because I cannot for the life of me resist kittens. In truth, though, I suppose my favorite character is that of the clumsy knight. The knight is said to be Lewis Carrol himself, in all his chivalrous silliness, and the way he’s described is so very touching. It’s as if Lewis Carrol wants so badly to be a white knight for little Alice, but knows that he is much too bumbling and awkward to be of any help.

[Note: I know there’s lots of controversy about Lewis Carrol and Alice, but as far as this post is concerned, I’m treating it as the innocence it’s portrayed to be by Lewis Carrol himself.]

4. Marty and Claire [1]

Marty looked around the box-filled apartment. He breathed in deeply and smelled fresh paint and dust. He never thought such an unpleasant smell could be so sweet to his senses, but as he choked a little on the swirling dust he smiled, feeling the new beginning that this apartment represented.

It was on the top floor of a building in Old Town in Hartscreek. Marty had chosen the neighborhood because it wasn’t too far from Downtown, but was still safe and fairly quiet. Claire’s school was walking distance away, just a few blocks over, and he knew that this meant that Claire’s new classmates would be kids in the neighborhood, and she wouldn’t need to travel far in order to meet friends. Well, if she’d make friends…

Marty banished the gloomy thoughts from his mind and began to move boxes with a vigor he hadn’t felt in three years. Sweat ran down his face and his back as he fit together two new bookcases he’d purchased, heaved furniture around and started to methodically unpack boxes and put away nick-knacks and clothing.

Around noon, Claire emerged from her bedroom with sleepy eyes and tangled hair. She and Marty had arrived in Hartscreek with the U-Haul they’d rented the night before, had unloaded the boxes and furniture in a feverish rush and had driven quickly down to the nearest drop-off point to leave the van in order not to need to pay for it for an extra night. Claire had stayed up until four in the morning on her mattress on the floor of her new and still empty room, listening to music and trying to sleep. Marty, who’d woken up bright and early, hadn’t had the heart to wake her up.

“G’morning,” Claire mumbled sleepily, yawning as she walked through the rooms trying to find her father.

Marty, whose head was stuck deep in a kitchen cabinet where he was attempting to assemble pans in some sort of order that wouldn’t cause them to topple over with a loud noise every time the door was opened, hollered back that the kettle and the toaster were both already set up.

“Thanks,” Claire said as she strode into the kitchen. “Want some coffee too?”

“Ah,” he pulled his head out of the cabinet. “That’s the problem. We have absolutely no groceries yet. Feel like walking down to the store and getting us some essentials?”

Claire had just turned fourteen in July, and she’d thought for the longest time that she should have the right to be on her own more often. In Manhattan, though, her father had been overprotective and they both knew it. He’d told her, in a fit of exasperated honesty about a year before they moved, that he knew he was being ridiculous but no, she couldn’t go alone to Union Square on the subway, that he’d go with her over the weekend, and that if she absolutely, positively had to buy the CD she wanted that day, then she could go with a friend. This had led to Claire bursting into tears and screaming that he was blind and didn’t notice that she didn’t have any friends, before running to her room and slamming the door.

And now here was Marty not only allowing but actually offering Claire to go out on her own, in a new place that she wasn’t familiar with. She thought she knew what this was about. Old Town was safe and almost suburban, despite it being made up mostly of classic old apartment buildings. What could possibly happen to her between their building and Bill’s Food Stuffs, the quaint neighborhood grocery store? Nothing interesting, that was for sure, Claire thought. Still, it was nice to know that her dad was finally trying to give her some space.

“Sure, Dad,” she said, after mulling it all over for a moment. “Let me get dressed quickly and-” she continued, raising her voice as she walked back to her bedroom- “write me a list of what to get, okay?”

Another Excerpt

Here is another scene in the story I’m working on. It is the beginning of the first chapter, and follows a prologue, which I may or may not post here eventually. For those who may not have realized it yet, I wanted to explain the nature of this story. It’s a fantasy story, based in a kingdom where class and nobility matter.

__________________________________________

At fourteen, when everything changed for me, I was a beautiful girl. I had been a beautiful child as well. I knew this. I was the noble daughter of Duke Pietro der-Milt and his Lady Dermira. How ever could I not be beautiful? I was taught that the noble houses held the most beautiful people in the land, the most gifted thinkers, the greatest of artists and the kindest of spirits. So my governess told me during my childhood, using my parents as the best examples.
“Look at your pretty mother, little Miya! see what a beauty she is?” Pirima would say. She’d point at my mother, sitting in our great drawing room or in my father’s study or in the corner of my nursery. She was a beauty indeed. My mother always knew how to look beautiful and delicate. She could embroider, read, write letters, instruct servants, talk with my father, survey the accounts – all while looking as pretty as a picture, without a hair out of place or wrinkle in her dress. Pirima often whispered to me that she wished she could look like my mother, and her lips would twist in a sad little frown. I didn’t understand the nature of jealousy or envy when I was young; I merely thought it natural that everyone would want to look like Mama, who was, I was sure, the most beautiful woman in the world.
There were plenty of mirrors in our home, so I learned early on that I was a beautiful child. My skin was smooth and healthy, a few shades darker than my mother’s milky-white complexion. My hair, which was black as coal, thick and wavy, hung down my back when I was a little girl, kept away from my face by a neat little bow which Pirima would tie into it every morning. My eyes were grey, and Pirima always said they reminded her of the stormy sea because when I was angry or sad they turned dark blue. My black eyebrows were delicate and thin, and my nose was small and rather flat, accentuating the fullness of my red lips. My body was that of a healthy little girl – rounded with the healthy fat that children possess, my limbs strong with activity.
One day, when I was about six or seven, I stood looking into the tall, gilded mirror that stood in one of the corridors. As I stood there, admiring myself, I watched my mother come up behind me. She laid one white hand on my shoulder and smiled at me in the mirror. My eyes widened.
“I look like you, Mama!” I cried with delight.
“You do, my dove. You look like your papa as well. You have his hair and his nose,” she touched my hair and my nose as she said this, then knelt down behind me in a rare motherly gesture and hugged me tight, arms encircling my stomach. She usually didn’t touch me much. My joy at seeing we were alike, though, seemed to make her emotional. I had no cynicism at that age, and I didn’t see her emotion for what it was – a kind of vanity. I was happy to be in her arms, happy that she smiled at me, happy that I looked like her and like Papa.
“Now, Miyara, let’s go visit your papa in his study, hmm?” she took me by the hand and we spent a quiet afternoon in the study with Papa, who was in a good mood as well. I remember that day as one of the happiest of my childhood. It wasn’t often that my parents made any effort to spend time with me. We usually met only during meals. The rest of the time I spent with Pirima, who was my only other company for a long time.

A Painting of Marie

The painting was by an artist whose name I don’t remember. I never looked at the name of the painting. I don’t remember what gallery it was in, nor what country the gallery was in. I don’t even remember how old I was when I saw it, only that it had to have been in the last few years. Still, despite all this, the painting is clear in my mind’s eye as if it were hanging in my room.

In the painting sits a girl. She looks like she’s in her early teens, just blossoming into womanhood. She is sitting on a nondescript and unimpressive wooden chair, and the backdrop behind her is just a gloomy sort of brown. It’s unclear where she is, nor why she is sitting down. I named her Marie.

Marie has skin the color of milk chocolate- dark, but not very. Her hair, black as coal but looking a little matted, is tumbling around her shoulders, though I get the impression that it’s normally pinned in a quick bun and has only just tumbled down. Her lips are red and full, and she’s not really smiling, nor is she frowning. She’s simply gazing into space, not focused on the viewer of the painting but rather seems to be looking right over your shoulder, at someone behind you. Her eyes are a wonderful dark brown and seem intelligent but tired.

She’s wearing a blue dress with a white apron over it. She looks like she could be a maid, or perhaps a shop-girl sometime in the 1700s in the United States. For some reason, I feel like she’s a dweller of New Orleans, and I can picture her running barefoot through the dusty streets, maneuvering herself between pirates, privateers, salesmen and prostitutes.

Her hands are folded on her lap, and it looks like they’re not used to being idle in this manner. They look rough and work-weary, just like her.

When I saw Marie, I sat before her for maybe an hour, maybe more, just looking at her. I wanted to speak to her, hear her thoughts and dreams, laugh with her, walk down the streets of her life with her. But she stayed in her painting, caught forever by an artist in this one moment of repose.

Anna Again

Anna is the voice in her head. Anna is the demon who has fixed her claws deep in her heart and even deeper in her mind, brimming with intelligence and yet unable to distance itself from those cruel, sharp, gold tinted claws. Anna is the angel face smiling down at her when life seems out of control. Anna is a constant companion, forever nagging and soothing, lifting spirits only to crush them back down again with a stiletto heel.

Anna promises never to leave, in a tantalizing whisper that sends shivers down her back – whether of fear or delight, it’s impossible to tell. Anna is the one behind the scenes, directing her life, damaging her soul, compromising her very personality and changing it. Anna is the fairy giving her a smile, a pat on the back, a motherly grin, all while hiding her pointed teeth that forever drip with malice and contempt.

Anna is a horror. Anna is a savior. Anna cannot be banished. Anna craves to leave.

Anna.

Three Ladies at Peet’s

Three ladies sat outside Peet’s Coffee in Santa Monica. There were many little tables outside the coffee-shop: one was inhabited by a trendy man in his early twenties, wearing a brown hat and reading a design book; one other table was occupied by a balding man with glasses perched precariously on his nose who was proofreading a paper as he sipped his coffee and occasionally looked up at the people going by; the third table was surrounded by three ladies.

The three ladies were of varying ages. Two were in their early fifties and looked like sisters – both had similar features and they had that sort of friendly and easy manner with each other that comes from a good sisterly relationship. The third was obviously a family member as well – the daughter of the one and the niece of the other. These ladies were surrounded by lots of baggage – a purse, a backpack, four pounds of Peet’s coffee blends, another shoulder bag, and, of course, three large cups of coffee, a cinnamon roll and a small box of chocolates.

The conversation between the ladies was fast and carefree: gossip about family members and family events, chit-chat about the merits of good coffee, small talk about travel plans. Somehow, in all the chatter, the subject of ostrich meat, an option that had been on a menu of a restaurant where the ladies had been the night before, came up. There was some discussion over the general aversion to the very idea of ostrich meat, and then with a casual remark from one of the ladies about how it tasted like roast beef, the table exploded. The ladies all burst out laughing as one of them spit out her coffee, overcome with laughter, and the other two followed suit while trying to control themselves and the flow of coffee spilling over their baggage.

Eventually, the three got themselves under control, though still giggling, and got up to leave. As they were walking down the sidewalk, the young hip man called out with a smile that he enjoyed their laughter and liked to see that they were having fun. He wasn’t mocking – he was sincere. He had enjoyed the sight of three ladies laughing at a table in the Los Angeles sunlight. Only the young lady had noticed that the other man, the quiet one with the glasses, had smiled to himself as well as the three had been laughing hysterically.

The youngest lady walked away from the whole encounter feeling that the world was a good place if people could enjoy the enjoyment of others.

Teenager Sarah – Chapter 3 [Part I]

Hannah gets here, and tells Mathew and me that Steve isn’t coming. We grumble a bit and then the doors of The Slob open and we wait for the first rush of people to go in before we do. It’s not a band that we know, so it’s not important to us to be up front, and if we won’t like them, it’ll be easier to get out if we’re already at the back of the crowd.

We wait for a few minutes, and then a pretty black haired girl comes up to the microphone and tells the crowd that she’s proud to present Dragon Blood. Three guys walk onto the stage- they’re all dressed in a sort of eighties glam style with open glittery shirts and tights. One of them kisses the girl and then pushes past her to the microphone.

“Hello, we’re Dragon Blood, and we’re gonna blow your minds,” he announces.

The three of us groan.

“I hate when the bands are all ‘oh, we’re so awesome’ like that. Haven’t these people ever heard of modesty?” Hannah says as the band starts playing. They’re ok-ish, very eighties hair-metal, but nothing to gush about. The singer’s a bit off-key, and the bass is a little too loud. I look over at the guys after a couple songs and see that Mathew looks bored and Hannah’s still got an annoyed look on her face.

“Feel like going, guys?” I say loudly to them. They both nod, and we edge our way to the doors and step out into the cool night air.

“Ugh, I hate bands like that!” Hannah says again.

“I do too. And they weren’t that good. And what’s the deal with their drummer? I mean, he couldn’t keep a steady beat!” Mathew rants on in this vein for a couple minutes until I yawn and he gets the point and shuts up.

“So what now?” I ask. “Do you guys want to hang out somewhere or should we just split up and go home?”

“I’m hungry. You guys want to go to Freeway?” Mathew suggests. Hannah and I agree, so we start walking to the bus stop that’ll take us to the edge of the city where Freeway is at a gas-station on its name-sake.

We wait for the bus forever, obviously. We could have walked to Freeway and finished our meal by the time the bus finally gets here. When it actually does get here, we all traipse onto it, digging our crumpled bus passes out of our pockets. I think I have about four different bus passes in my various jeans-jacket-and-sweatshirt pockets, all conveniently handy for whenever I need to take one of the dinky old buses that count as public transportation in this place.

Hannah and I, sisterly as always, choose a double seat for ourselves and let Mathew sit behind us. Bad idea – he immediately begins blowing into Hannah’s ear. He ends up being swatted by her long-nailed right hand, of course, and finally desists.

As we ride, Hannah and I, oblivious as always to Mathew’s presence at such times, start talking about the cuties on the bus.

“Mm, look at that one, Hanners,” I say, nodding towards the back of a blonde head two seats in front of us.

“Urgh, no, Sarah look – when he turns his head you’ll see.” Sure enough, the guy turns his head and reveals himself to be in possession of a hooked nose and quite a few more wrinkles than his bouncy blonde hair would suggest. Not that Hannah and I have anything against older guys as a rule – we’re both the first to admit that Hugh Laurie pushes our buttons.

I can hear Mathew sigh and take out his Ipod as Hannah and I continue with our nonsense. I know there are more important things in the world than boys – much more important things. But when I’m with Hannah, it’s as if we’re possessed by the spirit of Ditz. We just have to talk about guys, fashion and gossip. I don’t know why we do that really.

Finally, the bus hunkers down – with much groaning and squeaking – at the Freeway stop. Mathew, finally pulling his earphones out of his ears, slings one arm around Hannah’s shoulders and the other around mine.

“Well, girls, I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

Lucy’s Diary, May 30th

May 30th, about 1AM, Windowsill in my room

Dear Diary,

I have just returned from the library, where it seems I will be spending most of the next few days. Not that I mind in the least, of course. For who do you think will be spending that time poring over books and old newspapers with me? If only you could see my blush in the darkness, you’d know the answer right away. R, of course!

Yes, he is out of the hospital – and quite a dramatic leave-taking that was. After having been told by his doctors that he was basically cured, he decided it would be a good idea to punch the doctor in the face – in front of me no less! – then take me by the hand and pull me out of the hospital with a triumphant shout of “RUN!” Diary, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in my life.

I know that we’re extremely far from being out of the woods – the Parazelli are after us, R agrees with me on that, and we know they’re not going to like our alliance and the fact that we can now pool our knowledge together about them. Still, things are looking up – R is out of the hospital and is actually staying at Pratt and Smith’s guest house, as a relation of mine would be entitled to.

Thank goodness Clarisse doesn’t know too much about the family to really know if he’s related to me or not. The P&S teachers have been suspicious about R, but they can’t exactly kick him out, especially when he puts on his charming-the-officials-face and becomes all smooth and suave and intellectual.

P&S is a girls’ school, as I’ve told you before, so of course every single one of the upper-class women here are now drooling over my “relative” as if he were the embodiment of a male Venus on earth. The obnoxious thing is that I can’t even be annoyed with them. I’m “related” to him, so he’s fair game for every flipping-her-hair-and-giggling female in this place.

Do you sense a slight change in me? I do too, Diary. I feel like I’m a bit more alive than I was. The fact that I have an ally and that we’re going to go after the psychopaths that killed my parents makes me feel like I have a purpose in life. I feel every nerve in my body singing with a vengeful longing for action – I feel like the Parazelli have finally met their match. Which is perfectly ridiculous, of course. What can R and me, a couple of normal people – and me only a teenager – do to an ancient cult?

R says that he is supposed to be meeting a contact here, and that it might be a teacher at the school. That has to be our best lead for now, and I hope R manages to follow up on that during the next few days.

As for me? Well, putting my hormones to the side for now, I’m going to try my damndest to find out if this school has or has ever had any sort of connection with either my parents or the Parazelli.

Wish me luck, both with my research and with keeping my hands to myself,

I am your faithful,

Lucy

Lucy’s Diary, May 25th

To be able to understand much of what is in here, you might want to, or need to, read the installment that precedes it in Alex’s blog. Here is the link: http://crystalgeek.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/journal-part-v/

May 25th, sometime after midnight, Pratt and Smith, under the covers in my room

Dearest Diary,

If my handwriting seems shaky, it’s because you’re currently nestled on my knees, which are also trying to hold the flashlight steady under the covers as I write. The girls yelled at me for having the light on when I came in here, hours after curfew of course [but the school understands and accepts this because of my needing to stay at the hospital every day]. As the library is closed, I have no choice but to huddle under my blankets and write in this most uncomfortable of situations. Forgive me for the discomfort I’m causing you, dear friend.

I’m oddly calm. I shouldn’t be calm, but I am. I suppose you’d like to know why I shouldn’t be calm, and I will indeed confide in you, but I don’t know how much I should, or can, or am allowed to write about this subjects that have recently been exposed to me.

Firstly, Micheal’s name isn’t Micheal. I’m not sure what his real name is, but he has told me to refer to him as R. and so I shall call him from now on. So R. is on the mend – he’s feeling much better, his bruises are slowly fading, and he should be released from the hospital in a day or two, a circumstance which will be difficult for me, because I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to see of him after he’s released. Miss Flynn believes that he really is a relative of mine, so I suppose she’ll let him visit me after study hours, and perhaps on our mornings off on Sundays I’ll be able to visit him wherever he’s staying right now.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m sure you want to know why I’m so certain that I have to keep seeing him. Well, let me share a bit of the secret then. I suppose, though, that I should start much farther back than what R. has told me tonight. I haven’t told him what I’m about to confide in you, Diary, and I’m not sure I should confide this in him, but I’ll think about it and see.

My parents died four years ago. Gruesomely, you may say. It was a car crash, and the media made out that Dad had been drunk and went off road, but it’s not true. The police told me right at first – before changing their story – that there had been a big truck coming towards them very fast [they could tell by the skid marks apparently] and that it seemed as if Dad had swerved so as to avoid the truck. There was a huge pool of oil right there, and the car slid and Mom and Dad went flying over the railing with the car into the field below where the car crashed upside down. You may wonder at my writing all this down this way. I haven’t repeated or talked of how they died for four years – at first, I tried convincing everyone that this was the true story, and I had to repeat it over and over and over again to get people to believe that Dad wasn’t drunk, but it was no use. The papers said it was a drunk-driving accident, and I gave up trying to tell people it wasn’t true. Since then, I’ve never talked about it.

Mom’s cousin, Clarisse, took me in. She’s the witch, the monster, the utter abomination of the human soul who is my legal guardian and it is she who sent me here, to Pratt and Smith. It is she to whom I now owe many thanks, though she’ll never hear me utter them.

If Clarisse hadn’t sent me here, I never would have met R. If I’d never have met R, I never would have found out that someone else besides my parents knew about the Parazelli, or suspected the existence of this group anyway. And now that I have met R, now that I know someone who has suffered a loss like mine at the hands of this foul group – because I know that Dad never drank when he drove, and I know that he and Mom had been dragging me around from college town to college town all of my childhood because they were trying to research and prove the existence of this most evil of cults, the Parazelli, who believe in bloodshed and evil as others believe in angels and beauty – now that I’ve met R and know he believes in them too, I finally have a way to avenge my parents. I finally have a way to continue their research, continue their work, and make them proud of me, their only, rather unruly, daughter.

Forgive me for getting your pages wet, my dearest confidante, my Diary, but I can’t help it. I don’t know whether it’s fear or relief I’m feeling right now, but I do know that I cannot part with R now – I mustn’t let him get too far away, and I have to get him to let me help, in whatever way I can.

Diary, my eyes are itching with the combination of my tears and tiredness. I shall leave you to your thoughts now, and hope you will not disapprove of my risking everything for this silly thing we humans call revenge.

I must speak with R. tomorrow. I simply must.

Good night, Diary, I hope your pages rest easily even with the heavy burden of knowledge I have put down in them tonight.

Yours, as ever,

Lucy