A couple weeks ago I started on a new project after finishing the rough draft of Errand Girl of the Undead. I find I need to start something new so I don’t immediately rush in to edits, giving me some space from the project which seems to be helpful in the overall editing process.
The new project is a contemporary YA (shocker!) romance, more along the lines of Heavyweight than Tears of a Clown meaning more seriousness, less comedy/bathroom humor.
It’s tentatively titled Driven and is about an 18 year old homeless girl who’s been living on the streets, trying to sell her art to survive. When she comes to the aid of a little old lady who has fallen off the curb, she finds herself with many unexpected opportunities to get her life back on track, but her past haunts her she doesn’t believe herself worthy of the good things that are being offered.
This is the first chapter, completely unedited. I do have a habit of rewriting the first one or two chapters before finishing a rough draft, so this may be completely different by the time the story is done, but I figured readers and other writers might be interested to see where a story starts and what it ends up as in the end.
Let me know what you think!
“Help, I’ve fallen!”
“And you can’t get up?” The thought flitted through her mind before turning towards the sound of distress. There in the dirty gutter laid the crumpled figure of a little old blue-hair. Bright red bloomed through the woman’s tan pants. Dirt and grime was smudged on her adorably wrinkled face.
“Are you just going to stand there while I lay here, bleeding to death, or are you going to help an old lady up?”
Olivia looked over her shoulder to see who the snippy old bat was talking to, and saw there was no one else there.
“Girly, you look like you’ve been rolling in mud. Do you have dirt in your ears? I’m talking to you.”
“Me?” Olivia pointed to herself to make sure the lady, who may have hit her head on the way down, was truly speaking to her.
“Yes you! Do you see anyone else? Quit dawdling and come help me up.” Her frail arm waiver in the air, reaching towards Olivia’s frozen form.
“O…kay,” the younger woman finally said, uprooting her feet from the pavement. In a few long strides, she was grasping the cool papery hand in her own, bending to wrap her other arm around the lady’s tiny frame. It wasn’t much of a struggle to help the petite woman to her feet. They to a nearby park bench which the woman sank down on with a long drawn out sigh. Unsure what to do next, Olivia just stood there, towering over her.
“Um, are you alright? Do you live near here?” Olivia kept looking from the woman back to her pile of meager belongings she had left behind when she came to assist.
“I’m not far,” the woman said looking down at her knee, tsking about cleaning out the blood under her breath.
“Do you…uhh, do you think you could make it? Or do you need help?”
“Oh! Help would be lovely dear, if you wouldn’t mind.”
Olivia knew she couldn’t leave the woman to hobble back by herself. Her father would be terribly disappointed in her if she did that. Holding back a sigh, she motioned that she’d be a minute before turning to jog back to her pack. Slinging it over her shoulder, she took her time walking back, studying the woman as she went.
Even though the frame was small, the woman seemed to radiate a kind of power. Well dressed, short of the bloody knee, she screamed money: coifed hair, pearls around her neck and rings on her fingers. Laugh lines radiated from the corners of two still bright blue eyes. While her tongue was sharp, the many wrinkles gave her a friendly appearance, like one of those shar pei dogs.
When she saw Olivia approaching, she got to her feet, listing to one side. Olivia sped up to get to her, where she wrapped an arm around the frail back to steady the woman who was doing a fine impression of a wobbly top winding down.
“Woah there.” Olivia adjusted her stance to help keep the woman on her feet. “Are you sure you’ll be okay to walk?”
The woman waved her off. “Of course I’m sure. I’m old but hardly helpless.”
Olivia raised a brow but said nothing as they started off down the sidewalk.
It was slow going, but after a couple of blocks, a quaint Victorian came into view. It was white with bright purple trim that should have looked garish but ended up giving the home a welcoming kind of charm. There were flower boxes at each window, a riot of bright blooming colors. A waist high black wrought-iron fence surrounded the lush lawn and disappeared behind the back of the house. The wrap-around porch was graced with wooden rockers painted in vibrant blues and greens and yellows.
Olivia thought it looked like it came out of a fairytale, the kind of place where wishes would be granted and comfort could be found for the night. A sharp pang sparked in her chest at the thought of a night of comfort and safety. She shook her head slightly to get the thoughts out. It wouldn’t do her any good to think of things that couldn’t be.
They reached the gate and the woman gestured for Olivia to open it. It swung away from them with silent grace, no rusted squeaking to announce their arrival. As they made their way up the cobblestone walk, the front door opened and Olivia found herself staring at a mirror image of the woman clinging to her arm. They were practically identical down to the orthopedic shoes they wore, the only difference being in the color of their outfits. The styles were the same but the woman at the door wore pastels rather than the neutral tones her sister donned.
“Oh Tude! What happened to you?”
“Tude?” Olivia questioned, looking down at the woman she was still supporting.
“It’s actually Gertrude, but that’s such a mouthful, don’t you think?” The woman patted Olivia’s arm and let go, walking up the stairs with a surprising amount of spring in her step.
Olivia’s eyes narrowed as she began to realize the woman had played her. She watched the pastel lady fawn over her not-so-injured sister, unsure of what to do next. When they turned for the door, Olivia was surprised by the wave of disappointment that washed over her. While she wasn’t expecting any kind of compensation for helping, a thank you would have been nice. Her head hung as she moved to head back towards the park. It was almost 5pm, maybe she could catch some commuters on their way home to buy some of her pieces so she could get something to eat.
“Aren’t you coming in, dearie?”
The voice caught Olivia off guard and she nearly tripped over her own feet to turn to face the speaker. Pastel lady was holding the door open, waving her inside. Gertrude was nowhere to be seen.
“Why?” Olivia asked, suddenly suspicious.
The woman’s eyes widened. “Why, for dinner of course. It’s near time and it’s the least we can do for helping poor Tude get home.”
“I’m not sure she really needed my help…”
“Oh, of course she did dear. We’re just a couple of frail old spinsters who need assistance with a multitude of things, like finishing all the food I cooked for dinner. Please, come join us.” The woman’s warm voice and smiling eyes chipped away at Olivia’s wary nature. Her growling stomach sealed the deal. She couldn’t remember the last time she had a home cooked meal.
“I guess I could…”
“Of course you can dear, now come inside and get washed up. We don’t allow for dirty hands at the dinner table.”
Olivia climbed the steps and tried to peer inside the dark interior before stepping over the threshold. She couldn’t see much, but the wafting scents of cooked meats set her mouth to watering. She followed her nose, no longer caring that she had been tricked. Food won out over pride.