Note: this is an excerpt from the NaNoWriMo writer’s challenge that I have decided to participate in. I have never tried to write a novel. I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I will finish the challenge of 50K words in 30 days, but I am going to try. It’s a little scary to put it out there–because this is a writing genre where I don’t have a lot of confidence, and “popping off” about certain 650 word topics is a lot different from making up a story that is good and then telling it. So forgive me now for all the bad writing mistakes I will probably make in the next 30 days. I am going to post a few excerpts from time to time and welcome all comments and most especially support for this undertaking! Here you go:
The Angel Twin
By: Stephanie Raffelock
“You don’t have to do this, you know.”
Christine had taken Sami’s shoulders and was looking directly into her eyes.
“You don’t have to do this.,” she said with all the firmness she could muster. “I can have you into the car and outta here in two minutes.”
Sami pushed Christine hands away and turned to face the mirror where she adjusted her veil. “I make a pretty good lookin’ bride,” she said.
The Hotel Bel-Air had not been Sami’s first choice for a wedding. It was so rubber chicken and green beans almandine. But the place in the canyon had fallen through and wouldn’t have seated a hundred guests anyway. The bride’s changing room was elegantly appointed with nicely draped floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto the lush Bel-Air grounds, and floral print chairs where a few family and friends now loitered, waiting for what was next. Sami had already had several pictures taken: some with her mother, who had surprisingly shown up for the wedding and was acting as if she and her daughter had always been oh-so-close; acting as if her daughter in the pure white gown hadn’t run away from home and moved in with a rock n’ roll musician when she was seventeen. No, mom was just being good ol’ normal mom, adjusting Sami’s veil and smoothing the train of her dress. All photo worthy. There were some pictures with Christine, her maid of honor today, but forever-best friend on other days, and some by herself, sitting poised in front of the window, gazing demurely at her bouquet of white Stefania and pinkish Alstroemeria.
It’s a beautiful place for a train wreck, Christine sighed. “Do you want this?” Her open palm and extended arm was offering a blue 10mg Valium.
“No, I don’t really need that,” Sami said practicing her soft voice. “Okay, maybe half.” Then, “Okay gimme me the other half.”
The little voice in her head that had only a day earlier resolved to not take drugs on your wedding day was quickly usurped by a stronger, more familiar voice that said “what the fuck, let’s party.”
The truth about this wedding, about this very respectful and nicely appointed place, Hotel Bel-Air, was that there was nothing about it that reflected the complexities and reality of who Sami King was. Sami was the girl who took the pill being offered at the party and inquired later as to what it was that she had just taken. Sami was the girl who not only stayed up all night drinking with the boys in the band, but often stayed up for days at a time with a little help from stimulants that came in the form of tiny white pills, or white powder. She was bawdy, loud and funny. She was confident and assertive and it seemed like she wasn’t afraid of anything at all—and yet, here she was on here wedding day, already afraid and knowing that she had made, or was about to make a terrible mistake and that in the grand scheme of things, she would leave another body in her wake and heartache enough to go around.
The wedding is as good a place as any to begin the story. So much happened leading up to this point and I am the most qualified to comment and bring you up to date, because even though Christine is Sami’s best friend, I have been with Sami since the womb. I am her angel. Her twin. I carry the common sense. I’d like to help Sami, but I am here to bear witness to her life, not to interfere with it. Complications kept me from being born– some cosmic last-minute change that put Sami out into the world on her own. Karma. Whatever. Anyway, she has never really been on her own. I’ve always been with her, hoping that at some point she might come to know me. But I digress. Here is how this whole thing unfolded:
When Sami was 19, she woke up late one night with bad, cramping pain. She called a doctor that she found in the phone book and he agreed to meet her at his office. Then she convinced her alcoholic, this is all about me and should never be about you, boyfriend to drive her to the doctor’s office. He complained all the way there, accusing her of being a hypochondriac and a drama queen. He asked her for gas money. He whined that he had better things to do with his time. Unfortunately this was not an isolated description of the kind of guys Sami chose to be with.
The doctor’s exam concluded that Sami had a fairly large ovarian cyst and he made arrangements to have her checked her into Cedars Hospital. On the drive to the hospital, boyfriend kept his mouth shut. Settled into a non-private room with three other young women, Sami got comfortable in the requisite issued white and blue gown that didn’t close in the back and a shot of Demerol that was most pleasant. The very next morning she went into surgery, where both an ovary and a cyst were removed.
Bedside, a few hours later, the doctor explained that the cyst was a “dermoid” ovarian cyst and that there had been little pieces of bone and tissue in the cyst. This was a very creepy story for a very edgy girl. When questioned as to “what the fu…” doc replied, “some say it is your unborn twin. You should have been a twin.” When he left the room, Sami sat with that odd story and the odd sensation of a twin, something she would chew on over years. So, that is I. I am the twin. That is how I came to be, came to know her since the womb, and came to follow her around as an angel bearing witness to her life. Having never been born, I was never given a name. I am just the angel twin.
When the string quartet started to play, Christine arranged parents, bridesmaids and herself at the starting gate and made sure everyone launched down the aisle with Sami following behind on the arm of her older brother. One hundred guests were standing on the well-manicured lawn of the Hotel Bel-Aire, in front of the white, wooden folding chairs that you would expect at a wedding. Next to them was a lake, that for just a moment, Sami pictured running to and jumping off the picturesque arching bridge that went from side to side. “Bride Jumps Into Lake At Own Wedding,” the headline would read.
Walking down the aisle, she looked at her guests and smiled a smile that was really more of a grimace. A face that betrayed what would normally be a day of celebration and happiness, she wasn’t happy. She thought this wedding might make her happy, might instate her as an upstanding citizen in her community—might actually make her normal.
Normal was something that Sami longed for, craved, even felt desperate for. Normal meant a level of okay-ness that made your good heart visible. Most of the people here did not know her that way. They knew her as the feisty girl who partied hard and kicked back shots of whatever. Guys thought that she was “one of the boys” and they dug her for it. Women were cautious of her, and rightly so. She had few true friends. Christine was one of them. Christine knew her good heart. Knew her angst of wanting to be normal and tried to support by teaching her basic life skills, like keeping a checking account and waiting one month before you brought a guy home to sleep with you. “Anyone can keep up party manners for 30 days,” Christine would say. But the 30 day rule rarely stuck, even though Sami recited it often. Christine probably kept her from totally derailing. And Christine always knew to carry a Valium when she was going to be with Sami, because if common sense couldn’t calm her down, Valium had at least a fighting chance.
The two had met at an office party given by Christine’s company, a naked lady magazine that easily lured and captured starlet wannabe’s with the promise of worldly fame, all for the easy price of taking off your clothes for publication. Christine worked for the magazine as a copy editor, training an eye that wanted to write…hopefully one day, something beyond “Your Most Secret Sex Questions for the Editor.” For the present, it was a good job and a writing job at that, and she didn’t have to look at the naked ladies, just edit the inane pictorial bios of “turn-offs” and “turn-ons.”
Anything was an excuse for a party in the naked lady business. Sami had gone with a photographer friend with plans of leaving alone. A party meant free food and that had been the appeal. She was scarfing at the trough of a buffet when she noticed the woman next to her doing the same. “Blind munchies?” Christine had asked her. “Not yet,” Sami replied. And without further conversation they snuck off to an outside fire escape where they lit up a nicely rolled doobie and inhaled deeply, looking down to the throngs of ant-like people, scurrying on the sand hill of the Sunset Strip, that was coming alive in dark hours of the night. From this point forward, Sami decided that they were best friends, and Christine went along for the ride, mesmerized by the unbridled, unrepentant, wild and crazy Sami King.
As Sami reached the small, white gazebo, festooned with flowers that matched her bouquet and the lavender and pink dress colors of her three bridesmaids, the Valium hit, and a warm and a relaxing mood engulfed her like a long, lost friend. Her smile softened from grimace to something pleasant. And though Christine would later describe it as a lamb being led to slaughter moment, Sami managed to slip gracefully off her brother’s arm and offer him a cheek to kiss before he went to join the other guests.
Words blurred into words that did not make sense. Promises and “yes” collided into each other like fat skaters on bad ice, and the ceremony seemed as though it had lasted about a minute and a half. The groom stepped on the wine glass; the hundred guests said “Mazel Tov:” the music burst into something cheery and that was it. One very stunned Sami King had tied the knot and was looking forward to a marriage that would last no longer than any of her previous relationships…about one and a half years.
Still as you will see, the date was to mark a change, an awakening to something a little more ambitious than having “normal” as a life goal.