“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare (the beginning quote to what I wrote both then and now)
In third grade, standing in line for the next class assignment, I was offered something life changing: a clean white book. Our goal? Make our own story. That was my first experience with writing.
The book was several clean pages, filled with words yet to be written. At the time, I didn’t really realize the impact of what I was about to start… but it started nonetheless. I formed a story about an art set that came to life. I proudly showed off my creation to anyone who would look at it, the front page filled with fairies and art sets. Between the front and back cover were many pages detailing an adventure of a magical land the main character had written into reality. The excitement of everyone reading the book died down… and the excitement of writing it died down for me. I didn’t really think about writing again. Not for two years.
Later, I was in a classroom in fifth grade. I was in a new school the next down over because the education was better. I was only at that school for a year, but the impact that one teacher made on me there was powerful: her name was Mrs. Gaylord. And she brought back that power I had before, way back in third grade. That power came through the form of her sitting me aside one day, cherishing my writing as if it was a gift. She made me believe it was a gift. She told me that while nearly every other student had some kind of criticism for what they had written, but she couldn’t give me any negative feedback. She looked deeply into my eyes and said, “You’re a really talented writer. Don’t stop.” And her words stayed with me. I didn’t take writing seriously, though. Not until middle school.
In our lives, we all go through a variety of adventures. Nearly all of those possible adventures seemed to compress themselves into three small years of middle school. Maybe it was this that separated me from other students in middle school… or maybe it was just what I prefered, and how I coped. While other people were listening to Taylor Swift and a variety of other karaoke-worthy songs on the radio, I was busy listening to some indie radio station with music no one knew. While people had phones they could use to text their friends all the time, I would go to the library and get way too many books. And when they went through something in their life, people coped in a variety of ways. I coped by writing a ninety five thousand word long novel.
Right now, I am in the process of rewriting what I wrote in the eighth grade and creating a newer, better novel. This blog is going to feature the two chapters, one from now and the other from eighth grade, and see what has changed.
In order to prevent the possibility of the plot being stolen, I am going to refrain from stating what the novel is actually about. I will be comparing pieces of writing that don’t really show the plot as much as just sampling my ability to compose dialogue and detail.
Here is my first chapter now:
Glory, to me, represents proud beauty. Relentless power. Golden sunshine and constant bravery. The word is tainted with the flavor of metallic colors and tastes of bitterness… if you’re on the wrong side of it, that is. It tastes evil, actually.
They came in a wave of glory. And it tasted evil.
My mind played with the words I heard around me, tasting them between my lips. Felony. School. Charges. Now.
Everything suddenly had changed in the past hour. The officers. How their car appeared, how their justice-lusting lives intertwined with ours. Even though we didn’t ask. Even though everything was perfect without them. But according to the words I heard that were spit into the air, that was precisely the problem. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t perfect at all.
Fear shakes me. My sister notices. The only other sister that made it to the bathroom, safe from the questions. Des and Sheehan weren’t so lucky.
I hold Phoebe closer.
The words shake me deeply; I still hear them being fired downstairs, like endless ammunition. The doors are locked. The lights are off. I don’t want to see myself in the mirror, I don’t want to let it click. And I feel like the second I look into my own eyes, that’s going to be the moment where I realize… my situation is more screwed up than I realize.
In the dark, I meet my Phoebe’s eyes.
Phoebe. My sister. My best friend.
I hold her.
I feel something wet. Fresh boogers and tears. Everywhere. Her hair. Her face. I choke back a gag, but hold her closer. I hold her closer than ever before.
I look at her deeply. I want to speak. I want to speak so much. But I’m terrified.
Our lives have always existed in a way that parallelled ourselves to the outside world, but never really intertwined. We’ve always been aware that it was there, it was just something we couldn’t go to. It just wasn’t ours. It’s like looking them looking at third world countries: they accept it’s crazy, they accept that it exists, but they hardly do anything about it. They certainly don’t make any moves to exist with them. They don’t want to be in the chaos if they already are in peace. That’s what we had grown to accept. We were aware that nothing would ever change, and that was okay. We liked it. But we didn’t realize we weren’t just indifferent. We were different.
The reason that we had to live like this?
That’s where the lines are blurred.
My fingers entangle with hers. We are two girls, sitting alone in a bathroom, with our life slowly falling apart downstairs. “Hey,” I whisper. “Phoebe.” I almost think she’s asleep. And I almost feel bad. But I feel so alone.
Her eyes meet mine. “I was so close to falling asleep. You ruined it.” She smiles a bit.
“You actually can manage to sleep?”
“Yeah.” A little bit of light peaks through the window we had barricaded with toilet paper and desperation. The irises that lay in their shade are alight with a muddle of browns and blacks and everything in between, all from the little twinkle of golden hour. “What’s up?”
Related distractions. That’s what saves her. That’s what saves me. Most of the time.
I smile. “I want you to tell me our story.”
She moves a little bit. “What do you mean?”
“Our story. What’s our story?”
Hesitation grabs her. “Like, our entire story?” I nod. She relaxes in the confirmation, the absolute fact that she can’t possibly misunderstand what I’m asking. She doesn’t like not knowing. “Why now?
My face falls. “I… I don’t know, it’s stupid, nevermind.”
“No.” Phoebe grabs my face. “No, you need to get better at this. Say what you’re thinking. Talk to me, okay? It’s just us.” She pulls me closer. “It’s just us. It’s not stupid.”
I start to smile, and I imagine it must have looked sad to her. A sad smile. A sad reason.
I want to know if she thinks what my mom did was right.
I want to know if my mind is strayed from everyone else.
I want to know if she remembers that night.
“Well… like, you want me to begin at the beginning?” She kisses my forehead. I nod. “Okay… um, this is new. I’ve never been asked this question. I don’t know where to begin.”
“The complete beginning?”
I start to feel stupid again for asking. I start to say nevermind. But something stops me. I have to know. I have to know if that night is part of that story. I have to know how she sees my mom. I just simply say, “Yes.” Yes, Phoebe. The beginning. The middle. But most importantly, the end.
“Well. I… wow, this is harder than I expected to begin. She starts rambling. “Well, I have three sisters. My name is Phoebe. I’m the fourth sister, so, you know… that means we have four sisters, obviously. If you do the math right. Heh.” Her mind blanks. “Heh, well… I don’t know, this is hard, Maverick.” Her lip starts to quiver. Guilt makes my heart drop a thousand sets of stairs. “I just… feel wrong saying all these happy things right now, ignoring what’s happening downstairs. Something is happening. I can’t just ignore it. Not again.”
I start to ask what she means, but my question is lost in the new words that bubble from her lips. The sick grievances that she, we, can speak about for hours. The disgusting questions we can ask. “Do you ever feel like our childhood got taken away? I don’t know, it’s something I’ve been thinking about. The lack of balance between what we should have gotten and what we didn’t.”
I shrug. “Do we even know what we should have gotten?”
“Yes,” she whispers, small. Tiny.
“Well.” Her eyes grace the little spot in the window, the little patch of light. “We deserved school. We deserved to be able to not just watch the world pass by on the TV, to know everything… and know that we couldn’t go out. We deserved to at least know why we couldn’t. We at least deserved that.” A noise slips from my throat. Grief. “But… we did deserve each other.”
Hope tugs at the sadness. “You think so?”
My gaze traces hers. This is the person I’ve seen every day for sixteen years, never a day apart. This is the person I can remember every freckle about, every little change, every new scar. Phoebe doesn’t get scars often, though. Only once.
I haven’t forgotten.
But judging by her lack of mention in our story, maybe she has.
I close my eyes, praying for the right answer when I ask this question. I ask it quickly. “You think we should have done something about it?” She stares deeply at me, chewing and tasting the thought. She thinks for too long. She doesn’t know. I give it one last chance. “Phoebe?”
“Yeah. I do, Maverick.” She touches the broken rocks. “I do.”
I blurt it out. I can’t stop it. “Do you remember?”
“Maverick, I remember.” Her heart is racing, I can feel it.
“Did… you ever tell anyone else?”
She shakes her head. “Not a soul.”
“So we can both agree it wasn’t a dream.”
She hesitates before answering, “Yeah. It wasn’t.”
I look deep into her eyes. I mourned for weeks that twinkle she had lost within them; the fear and frustration had taken over weeks after the event happened. She was left tired, broken, and done. And I mourned what I have lost. And I finally had gotten her back. So long after, I finally had that twinkle. But here we are again, alone in a bathroom with people screaming downstairs, and she is lost again.
I will find her.
My fingers graze my nearly empty pockets. “Here,” I mutter, my voice feigning hope. Chocolate. Rich with sugar and cocoa. The tantalizing scent makes her hair spring to life. Her eyes begin to gleam. There is a bit of hope here, with us two lonely girls at the top of the stairs in the bathroom to the right. There is a bit of hope here, in the loud silence. There is a bit of hope.
“Thank you, Maverick,” she whispers so softly. I would give her a thousand chocolates to hear her that vulnerable and… hopeful. Her needy fingers unravel the golden chocolate bunny. Her lips caress the sweet juicy chocolate. The delicious sound of her teeth sinking into the chocolate fills the room, and my mouth salivates. She gently nibbles the ears. Only the ears.
And then she gives the rest to me.
I’m confused. “Why do you do that?”
And Phoebe begins a story as to why this is obviously what has to be done to the lifeless chocolate bunny. “You can take a chunk of his ear, and he still will be able to hear. If you bite the legs, it can’t walk. If you bite the face, it can’t see, eat, or smell. I want to cause things less pain than they need.”
A little giggle escapes me. She’s so ridiculous. “That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. What? Do you expect it to pop to life one night?”
“I don’t expect it to pop to life one night if it can’t eat, walk, or see.”
Our eyes met within the dark.
“God, Phoebe. What are you?”
No one knows. No one knows how angels, how people like her, grace this earth. No one knows what she is, except that she doesn’t belong here. No one this perfect belongs here. And no one this perfect belongs out there.
It’s hard to think that they could undo it all.
Because she is not them. She is not what’s included. She doesn’t love the same as them. She has veins of other’s blood. She has kindness in every last cockle of her heart, and so do the rest of my sisters. We all do. Because we are different. We are pure. We have nowhere to go but down, down, down to the depths of what we see and salvage on TV. We have nowhere to go but less than what we are now.
My eyes well up. I feel as if I have already lost her. As if I have already lost myself.
“Come here,” I whisper, taking the chocolate from her. Screw the boogers. Forget the unusual chocolate eating habits. I hold her close, closer than ever before. And even though I’m not religious at all, I pray.
Here is the first chapter I wrote in eighth grade:
He came in a wave of glory.
He came in a way I wouldn’t have expected. He came with blue. And blonde. And pockets jingling with riches. He came with popping colors. He came with a show, even if he was silent. Even if his lips were sealed. Even if he was perfectly silent, barely crunching at the rocks below him. Even if he didn’t answer my questions when he first spoke.
My mind had pondered over the flash of events that had happened in the past hour. The officers. How their car appeared, how their justice-lusting lives intertwined theirs with ours. Even though we didn’t ask. Even though everything was perfect without them.
The first thing I did was run into the bathroom.
I’d been outside. That’s all I could remember. I’d been outside, and the cars were outside. And they shone with light. And they had people inside that looked at me as if I was what they wanted. And now I was inside. Away from their dogs. Away from their fear. Away from everything and anything they could possibly change, because no one showed up here. No one came. We were secluded and separate, it was our little world.
I guess I thought it was normal for it to be that way.
I locked the door. Lights off. I didn’t want to see myself in the mirror. I didn’t want to know I was the reason for all of this.
Because I knew I was.
You could tell, the way that the moment the officials saw me, they tried to get to us. Get to us violently, as if their justice-lusting lives depended on it. They started pounding even harder on the door, trying to get to us, but Mom wouldn’t let them through. The officers shouted, clawing and kicking their way to an attempted justice, while Mom whispered and hissed to them as she attempted to quiet them.
That’s when I ran.
My door was shut tight. It just took a moment for it to all settle in. For the evil regrets that I left behind my sisters. For the relaxing calm of being safe after a surge of adrenaline.
Dogs barking below. Somehow, I knew they were trying to get to us. But I could hear how mom was pleading. Somehow, I could hear it all. Through my breath and my heartbeats.
They just wanted to get us to go to a place. They just wanted to solve this in a way that no one was hurt, so she agreed. They had only one demand, and that was all it took. If she went through, we stayed. If she didn’t, we would be taken. And through sobs, her agreement was made.
And with that, they made a deal.
And with that, everything changed.
“You’re going to school,” Mom said that night, trying not to create a big emphasis on the word ‘school.’ Trying to make the word as quiet as possible, as if it was just another word. Just another phrase.
But no matter how quiet she could’ve said it, I would’ve hated it. I would’ve hated how the word came out of her lips. The way she tore it out of her lips with every inch of her soul, as if the word was a curse. The way she looked back upon the word with hatred in her words and fear in her eyes. She said it the way the word was supposed to sound, besides the softness. No disguises. No sugar coating.
Even a single sentence can change your life irrevocably. Every word you’ve written down in the story of your life can cease to mean anything. It’s all deleted.
Just one word, and everything is erased.
That day, I suppose the words put everything in an entire different light. Not only do words change our lives, but also they change our perspectives.
And in a way, can’t that have even more of an impact?
I don’t want the world to see me. Because I don’t think that they’d understand.
Phoebe, my closest sister, she started a fight. She began standing up, getting all wild. Fighting for the fact that we’d never been anywhere but home, and that Mom hadn’t prepared us. And eventually, the two of them went upstairs together. Des’s apple had knuckle-shaped bruises in the sides, a single bite taken out of it. The succulent, foaming juices swimming between her bared teeth. Sheenan’s smile wasn’t as bright anymore.
It changed us.
And the tension was too much. And the sunset was beginning to bloom outside. And it was all dark and suspenseful inside, so why not go back outside? Where it’s a world of color and bright?
Why not go towards the bright place?
So there I was.
Sitting on the special rock I never dared sit anywhere else on. The one that was cracked so in the middle, there was a piece missing. Right in the middle. It was cracked into four sections, but the middle was empty. If it was filled up, then it’d have five.
Some kind of metaphor of missing puzzle pieces kept me to it. It made me sit at this rock, compared to the bland other ones.
So there I was.
The man’s blaze of glory kept my mouth shut and my eyes wide. The way the colors screamed off of him. The way he seemed so ethereal and different and… Shaggy gray hair. Arched back.
He said my name simply. As if he had nothing to hide when he said it. As if it was just another name, as if this didn’t occur as abnormal to him.
I didn’t know what to say.
No one ever showed up at my house like this. At our house. No people. People were bad, and we had to tell Mom the moment they showed up.
“I’d like to speak to Ms. Jace,” he stated. A fishing pole over his shoulder. Grasped in his old, wizened hands. Gold rings.
He came in a wave of glory.
He came in a way that made me think that he was just a normal man. That he wasn’t all he was. That he wouldn’t come, and so much would change. He came with vibrant, blue eyes. He came with wavy blonde hair.
He came as the unknown.
His eyes made his way around the house. Bricks and glass and shutters all colliding at just the right places to form a house. A beautiful, solitary house.
He looked at it as if it was trash.
“Your mother,” he pointed out.
“Oh… I’ll go get her.” I began standing up, trying to understand what he could possibly want. What anyone could ever want from my mother. She had nothing to give, nothing to take.
I turned around. Thinking. Watching him, hoping he wouldn’t look back. But he was. His eyes never left mine.
But I got her.
When I told her a man was outside, her mouth was stuck in a silent scream. When I told her a man was outside, she rushed to her shoes and ran as fast as she could.
When I told her a man was outside, she was scared.
And Mom is never scared.
But after all that’s happened, and what happened with the cops, I’m starting to think she has something to be scared about.
When I decided to return to the writing project again for the novel, I expected the worse. I thought that the draft I had previously created would be awful and useless. However, when reading back on what I had created in eighth grade, I was talented. I wasn’t the best at avoiding cliches and more of a childish voice, but I was good at detail and coming up with unique ideas. I see a lot in what I had written before that I can use now.
I believe I have improved in my dialogue and how the characters show the meaning behind the conversation. In my chapter I wrote recently, I feature a conversation that shows why and how the individuals are now in this situation. My writing is a bit more concrete with the dialogue, but still remains a bit abstract. This is evidenced by the conversation difference between the unrealistic occurance of the ‘Man’ in my old chapter and Phoebe within the new chapter. However, with descriptions, I believe I am more creatively abstract. This can be evidenced by my two portrayals of glory.
While I have a lot of differences, I believe a lot has also remained the same. If I was to look at both chapters, I would have a possibility of recognizing them to be the same author. My ability to formulate new, creative ideas on perspective has remained about the same. Something else that stayed the same that I didn’t talk about in this blog was the plot: my plot is going to be nearly the same as my original, completed novel.
Looking at these two chapters now have made me realize how much I have improved, and has made me wonder again how much I want writing to be a part of my future. Recently, I have questioned my college plans and pondered over whether or not I should completely stop writing in my college career. However, starting up this project again, I realize that writing is a part of me that I don’t want to stop or give up. I really don’t want to give writing up. Not now. Not ever.