The Indie Ink Writing Challenge comes at me this week from Steffani, who asks me about moving unexpectedly. I am challenging Kat.
As luck would have it, the novel (a sequel to my first book, conveniently available for sale on the sidebar) I have just begun involves someone who moves suddenly for reasons somewhat beyond his control. Here is an excerpt, called "Moving On". It might make a little more sense if you read the entry previous to this one, a response to Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds Challenge. It might make even more sense than that if you read the novel.
But it might not, too.
Emmeline came down from the deck and walked back across the grass towards me. She stepped delicately, like the ground was studded with land mines, her shoes making perfect, tiny U shaped impressions in the lush grass under the hot sun. She wore heels a lot, because years of dance made flat shoes impossible for her. But today's shoes were modest, gentle sloping curves of a very light, dusty pink.
"Are you sure you don't want a beer?" she asked.
"Nope," I said, and drained the bottled water I had been working on. I didn't drink, but that was more out of fear than anything. I was afraid I'd like it. I was afraid I'd love it, honestly.
I watched several women sliding out of coverups and into the pool, as the gaggle of 3 and 4 year olds clambered in. There were more than enough adults nearby, but I kept my eye peeled until I saw Angela slide into the water, hovering around Kate protectively. She had been through a lot, but their bond was strong, as irritating as a little one could sometimes be.
Emmeline was standing with me again, her body angled to mine. The gentle, hot breeze ruffled the hem of her dress. It was one of those moments, when whatever I said was probably going to be wrong. I didn't say anything. She looked vaguely intimidating behind dark sunglasses in John Lennon frames. I watched Kate splash and grin in the pool with Angela.
Em was the first person I met up here. After Kate's sudden, tragedy tinged emergence into our world, we had barely reached equilibrium again when Mom Mom's sudden transfer into the Pacific Northwest resulted in a second crisis. She, Angela and the baby had to go- the opportunity was too great, and the upside too large, to turn down. But the question was me- having no ties, really, to any of them, could I tear up what few ties, references and connections I had left?
With a baby in your life, reflection is a virtue you seldom have, and in the end, it wasn't any decision at all. Whether I was loving a ghost or not, Kate became part of my life. I began to expect the sleepless nights, the constant cries for food and water and diapers and other forms of distress. I couldn't not continue to be in her life. Moving was simpler than I thought- I closed up shop at the university, giving my students to others to watch over their work, handing in my research for someone else to continue. I had no close friends, although my ex Nicole gamely insisted I would be back because I couldn't resist her. My guitar students, other than the one who was coming with me, found other homes, and my boss, while he would miss watching Kate for me, was understanding of what I needed to do. So I sold what I couldn't carry, and we were gone, trooping to the northwest together. It was either a sign that I had few strings attached any more, or a sign I had trouble letting go. It was a sign, certainly.
Em was working behind the counter at a stationery store. I had unpacked my few possessions into graduate student housing, and I went out in search of some writing paper and notebooks. Em was seated, working with some sort of program on a PC. From what I could gather, she was laying out some sort of fancy invitation, for a wedding perhaps. Once I had made my purchases, she stood up, elegant and cool in a pretty, though not fancy dress, and made the sale.
"I don't see many men in here," she offered.
"Well, I'm kind of a pen geek," I said. "I love pens. Can't get enough of them."
"Oh, me too. Fountain?"
"No,no," I said. "I'm too chicken. But I'll write with Cross forever."
It wasn't my intention, but phone calls became letters which became more phone calls. A relationship bloomed almost without my knowing it, and Em's roots in the art crowd, became my entree into a world of cool people. Before long, she was another worshipper at the Temple of Kate, loving her as we all did, and our weird foursome became a fivesome. As the old song goes, I became accustomed to her face.
I was watching her watching the chaotic scene. Finally, I couldn't stand the silence.
"Are you OK?"
"No," she said firmly. "We have to talk. Not here, not now. But we have to talk."
"OK," I said warily. "Is this about Kate?"
"Everything is," she said, her voice getting soft. "You know I'm nuts about her. You're nuts about her. That's not the problem. I love you, and I'm pretty sure you love me. That's not the problem either."
"Well, at least we know what the problem isn't."
"Shut up. I said not now. But since you won't stop giving me the puppy dog eyes, the problem, in short, is when do I get you. All of you, not just the parts Kate doesn't want. And when you're going to stop mourning a girl you barely knew. And don't answer any of that, because you can't, and I don't want to talk about it right now."
Kate had emerged, trailed by Angela, who bent low to wrap the little one in a towel with Tinkerbell on it. Kate padded quickly over to us.
Emmeline bent down, crouching like a catcher. "Yes, darling?"
"I swimmed, Em, I swimmed!"
"Yes you did, baby girl. Yes, you did." Emmeline scooped up the wriggling parcel, holding her close. Mom mom came up, still in her elegant, casual dress, to stand with us. Her eyes shone.
"We all ready?"
"Yup," the girls chorused, and we said our goodbyes, packed up our things, and got into the car. After Kate was settled, I reached back, being the designated driver, to hand back a storybook.
"Give it to Em," Kate said firmly. "Em reads better."
"She certainly does," I agreed, and started the car to bring us home.