I suppose that I thought of retirement in the traditional sense in the way that I always thought of the word, meaning that you stopped. Maybe that is true for golfers. They stop working and then play golf until they die. I don’t play golf. Thus far my retirement has been anything but a stopping or a golfing. It’s been more like a wild wind that whips and swirls and when it finally dies down, everything in its path has been forever changed.
The odyssey of sorting, purging and packing started in September when my husband “retired” from clinical practice. That resulted in an encore career in which he consults. Consult is a word that covers a myriad of sins…technical writing to product development. He is definitely not retired in the classical sense. He is working from home. Working from home is a lot less stressful than maintaining an office and it suits him. I’ve been doing some part-time work too, but mostly it feels as though I have been moving for a year.
To enumerate the components of this big life change is too much. It’s like forcing one of your friends to listen to your itinerary when you are over committed. So let me just say this. All this retirement business has landed us in the great northwest, where hubby, dog and I have managed to unpack ourselves into a new life that day by day settles in.
I woke up this morning to a light rain and squirrels dancing on the deck. There is a writing desk in the corner of the living room that was placed thusly for daily writing practice, and as the moving boxes dwindle, it is accessible and beckoning. Nonetheless, I sit in bed with a cup of hot tea and my laptop, a favorite place to order the chaos in my brain.
Hubby is already upstairs in his office doing non-retirement things. I am now in a position to resume the writing practice left fallow during the past nine months of packing up offices and houses and unpacking and now finally the great promise of settling in. My head is swirling with thoughts of what I want to write about and I am already thinking ahead to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Until then, however, I am committed to getting into the daily habit of writing down my stories.
Blogging has been a great way to get me writing, because as soon as I hit the “publish” button I have put myself out there for better or for worse. It doesn’t matter if the stuff is good or if it’s crap, the important thing is I have committed words to the page, put forth ideas, thoughts and feelings and now it’s out there. I don’t “publish” everything I write on my blog, but the blog is certainly a catalyst for continued effort.
Meanwhile, back to the dancing squirrels. The squirrels in Colorado were brown. Here they are grey, either way; Jeter has only fierce growls and barks for the furry little creatures. I can rest assured that thanks to my dog, we will all remain safe from squirrels and I can engage in daily writing practice without fear of being bombarded by acorns.
You should not brag about the great sex you had last night. No bragging about how much money you make or whether or not you are the smartest person in the room. You don’t want to go through life looking like the child that got way too much praise during potty training!
On the other hand it is acceptable to brag about your grand-kids, your new living room couch or published works. I do not have any of those things, but today I have bragging rights anyway because I completed the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 5o thousand words in just 30 days.
For the past month while this poor blog lay fallow, visited mostly by spammers, who are now “following this blog,” I sat every single morning and wrote down approximately 1,666 words, creating a novel, my first…a couple of excerpts can be found in the November archives under the heading of “The Angel Twin.”
The long-format has been too daunting for me to consider in the past. How do you sustain a voice for 150 pages? And what is the story that you want to tell? I did not know the answer to either of those questions when I began on November 1, but I will tell you this–the way that you learn to write in long format is the same way that you learn to write in any format, you just get your yaya in the chair every day and write. And on the days that your story is flat and your imagination has left for Cleveland, you write anyway.
While I didn’t create the great American novel, I did create new muscle. I am proud that I took the challenge and made it to the finish line. As far as what I wanted to say–well, I made it up as I went along, just like I do my life. I started with a premise and went from there. Now I wonder what I might be able to do with an outline!
Thus ends the month’s saga of NaNoWriMo, a process that I recommend to any writer looking to stretch their talents and gain new strength and confidence.
I promised myself a day off before I revisit what I’ve written to see what is actually there. In the meantime, I am dreaming about possibilities, all the while blessing my faithful little laptop and feeling pretty darn good about myself!
Note from the author: Excerpts from the story, “The Angel Twin” are not installments given in particular order of the story. They are just little tastes here and there that allow me share something about what is my first pass at the novel format. I’m happy to report that I have crossed the half-way point to 50K words in 30 days and though I have no idea as to the quality of the work I am churning out, there is something to be said for just plowing through on a daily deadline and word-count! It certainly develops new writing muscle Thanks for the support and good will. NaNoWriMo is a pain. It’s a ridiculous endeavour, and it’s still fun! Here’s a little tidbit, introducing a new characterfrom The Angel Twin. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it:
Richard Rosen sat at his desk with a glass of water and lemon. He had stopped drinking six years ago because it made him meaner than he already was. He had also stopped doing the premium Columbian coke that he used to brag about to the clients and colleagues with whom he shared the white powder. And after his second divorce, he had sworn off of any relationship longer than a two-day stint with hot looking twenty-two year olds. In short, Richard was an ill-tempered, minimally misogynistic ass hole that was riding through life dressed in power suits and intimidation skills. Handsome beyond what any 50-year-old should be, it wasn’t enough to sugar coat his dark personality.
Late at night, alone in his office pouring over big-money divorce cases from the rich and famous who treated marriage like an accessory that was exchanged and tossed around– wives and husbands that became undesirable– last year’s fashion. Richard hooked them up with public relations experts who spun the unsavory tales of profligate laisons into media spin about “remaining friends” and “still caring deeply for one another…” this was Richard’s world and it had colored him cranky at best, and evil at worst.
Richard Rosen was your guy if you wanted to save your assets from the young trophy wife that you had impulsively married on a weekend binge of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Richard Rosen knew all of the PR people who could paint the story in your favor and make you look like less of a dick. Richard was ruthless and mean and didn’t buy sad stories, but remained focused on the financial bottom line and for that, there were many who loved him. Not that they would ever show up for him in any real way, but they did keep the referrals coming.
Alone in his office, Richard could not stop thinking about Sami King. He had taken Martin Fedderman’s case as a favor to an old friend. There was some, but not a lot of money involved and Martin had wanted to fairly split the assets accumulated in the year he was married. He had wanted to add a bit more to help Sami get on her feet and have a chance. Richard had tried to tell him that people don’t change and that Sami would be back to her wild and crazy ways sooner than later. Martin was just throwing away his money he had told him.
Still, there was something about the Sami King story that had touched him, though he could not name it. And he found himself going against his better judgment to concoct a plot and a conspiracy that would get the young woman into rehab. He had eventually stopped giving Martin his opinion and just listened to what Martin wanted. He had gone through the perfunctory paperwork to move the divorce forward, along with paperwork that assured Sami’s health insurance and car insurance would pay from some of the fiasco, thus lessening Martin’s financial burden. It was all awkward and distasteful to him, but he kept going. And today he had finally met her—Sami King.
Sami did not see herself the way that other people did. Richard saw her accurately. Sami was a tall, lean woman with a ballerina body. She glided into a room with legs that seemed to go up to her neck. He had noticed her hands. They were soft and delicate, with long fingers that could have been an artist’s inspiration. She had an angel face. In spite of the hard living, her face was sweet, slightly round and framed by flowing dark brown hair. Sami’s green piercing eyes were a combination of sexy and soulful and compelled the viewer to look hard and fall in. That’s how Richard had felt when he met her, like he was going to fall in.
The thoughts and feelings that he had about Sami King were a surprise to him. He had some odd sense of wanting to protect her; wanting to hold her. He took a swig of the lemon water on his desk and realized that he wished it were scotch. Scotch to help him through the uncomfortable feelings, the unfamiliar feelings of a man who was smitten. “I would never ask her out,” he muttered aloud. “She is nothing but bad news. It would be unethical of me to date her.” Yet he could not get Ms. Bad News Sami out of his head and in an unexplained small way, she had already burrowed into his heart. “Fuck this,” he said and he stood up, placed a stack files and papers into his brief case and decided to go home.
Richard Rosen was the kind of bad choice that Sami had made a dozen times. The difference was that Richard had been clean and sober for six years. He was a focused and ruthless attorney who had been wildly successful. There was enough money in his accounts to retire at any time and he sometimes dreamed about a life that was quiet, something away from the negative pall of walking entitled and demanding clients through divorce for the sake of profit.
Sometimes Richard Rosen would sit on the patio of his beautiful home in Coldwater Canyon and watch the squirrels scurrying around the branches of the big eucalyptus trees. The furry little creatures brought him an unbeckoned joy. Mr. Rosen was a paradox of a man who had long ago lost himself to the trappings of power and success, but was captured and entertained by the small furry creatures dancing in his trees.
The rush of taking on the challenge of writing 50 thousand words in 30 days has grown weak, or maybe I should say week as in the beginning of week two. All the experts, the writers who have done this challenge more than once and made it to the finish line, or not will tell you that week two is a bear. Of course, when I read those cautionary tales, I was certain that they were not addressing me, because I was too busy enjoying the high of telling all my friends, at least the ones that would listen, that I was going to take on this challenge and make it to the finish. Then I would humbly add, that I was sure I would learn a lot. Oh cringe!
Week one was nothing short of committed, inspired and focused. Week two has been kicking my little yaya sideways with a leathery old boot that magically talks to me. It says:
1. You are flying by the seat of your pants, here.
2. You do not know what you want to say.
3. This is crap
4. What was I thinking?!
I am also assured by the experts, that if I can hang in there with week two, week three holds all kinds of new promises and joys. Cranking out 1,700 words at a time is not the least bit daunting. Cranking out 1,700 words per day in order to keep up and have all of those words be part of the same story relates to item number four: What was I thinking!!!!!
I am happy though. I spent most of the day in my pajamas, thinking about my characters, writing and knowing that I wasn’t writing my greatest stuff but I was going to stick with it any way, and who knew I could write this much? For anyone who is a perfectionist (you can all put your hands down now) all of your perfectionist issues arise on the NaNoWriMo and slap your face multiple times. Meanwhile, you still attempt to give yourself permission to do what Natalie Goldberg told you to give yourself permission to do on the original rule list of “Writing Down the Bones,” and that is to write the worst junk in the world.
Even though week two of the NaNoWriMo is similar to what I believe Dante was describing about hell’s inner circles, I am still glad I took on the challenge and am still going strong, albeit slightly bruised.
Note: This is another excerpt from the NaNoWriMo Challenge. I don’t post continuous excerpts and only plan on doing a few. Keep in mind that the story is being told from the angel twin’s point of view. Wish me luck as I enter into week two of the challenge, a place that I’ve heard can unwind the best of writers. Here you go:
A seven-year-old Sami sat in the darkened movie theater with a father that she didn’t know very well. Her parents had divorced three years ago and she had seen her dad once in that time. The lights dimmed and a picture of a sunrise filled the screen. The voice over said “in the beginning was the word, and the word was God…” Sami’s father leaned over and whispered in her ear: “promise me you will never believe that.” Stuck for a response, she weakly replied “Okay, I won’t.” The words were engraved in a long line of criticisms, disapproval, and above all, invisible edicts that underscored the expectation of how she was supposed to be in the world.
That summer, her mother had sent her across the country to be with him. Sami had not seen her father in two years, which was a very long time when you are only seven. He had picked her up at the airport and driven her to his small apartment in Alexandria, where they ate canned ravioli and watched Paladin on the grainy black and white television. Her father still had the bunk beds that had been her brothers, back when her parents were married, and it was here that she would sleep in what was to be her room this summer.
The next day, her father’s girlfriend, Virginia arrived to spend two weeks. Virginia was a nice woman, slightly plump with short red hair who brushed and braided Sami’s hair and could be heard moaning in the night in the closed-door room that was her fathers. Virginia wore low-cut tops that pushed her boobs together and created a line. Sami wanted to know what “that line” was and Virginia explained that it was called cleavage. Sami later tried to create her own cleavage with a crayon, but it didn’t look the same.
Virginia stayed the two weeks and did kind and useful things that a mother would do. Her father also stayed at home for two weeks, having taken vacation time from his job in Washington DC. They made a good little unit for that time, visiting Mt. Vernon and the Washington Monument; walking through the Smithsonian. They picnicked on the banks of the Potomac and ate pistachio ice cream at Howard Johnson.
Then Virginia, packed her bags and went home and her father went back to work. Seven-year-old Sami was left to her own devices with a $5.00 bill for breakfast each morning, and the knowledge of how to get to the swimming pool in the apartment complex. She made herself a bologna sandwich and wrapped it up in wax paper, putting it into a little bag that she carried to the pool. She swam all day long, with nothing else to do, her only friends being those that she met at the pool. She waited for her father at the bus stop in the evenings and they walked back to the apartment together for TV Dinners and an evening of television or reading. On weekends, he sometimes went to the pool with her or planned an outing in the area.
The movies had been such an outing. An epic film about Ben Hur, and an unexpected direction about the state of her beliefs. At seven, Sami wasn’t really too sure what to believe. Her mother was a non-practicing Catholic who still kept statues of the Virgin Mary around the house. Her grandmother feared for her “immortal soul” and could be heard chastising her mother for not baptizing Sami. There were plenty of beliefs to go around—one that said don’t believe anything, and a bunch that said if you don’t, something bad is going to happen to you.
Sami had gone to church with her grandmother. Trips to the bins of scarves at Woolworth’s, downtown, allowed Sami to choose a scarf to wear to the Sunday service. She liked the candles and the incense, the ceremony of the man in the fancy robes, and the light that slid in through the stained glass windows and wrapped itself in colors around your feet. Though she didn’t understand the words, she was lulled into peacefulness by their rocking, song like sound. Better though, than the hours in this building, were the hours in her grandmother’s garden, a garden filled with statues of saints and angels, nestled among snap peas and tomato plants. It was here that she sat with her grandmother on the cool ground, sun on her neck, pinching back leaves like her grandmother had shown her. She had sweet and warm memories of pulling weeds, while her grandmother fingered a rosary with one hand and place removed the green beans from the vine with the other. Sami believed in God when she was here, could feel it, in fact.
“Promise me you will never believe that” and the response that Sami gave in her weak “okay” was a lie. Sami knew there was something greater, something better that lived in the sky and the clouds and protected her grandmother in the garden, made the vegetables grow and kissed her neck with sunshine.
Even though Sami had flown across the country to spend the summer with her father, he was as absent in those hot and humid months as he was in the rest of her life. But it was the incident at the pool with a new friend, that made Sami realize once and forever that he would never really be around when she needed him, that faith in the garden God would better serve her.
Sami had met a friend, Cathy who came to the pool everyday–a friend whose mother worked in the city and was not around during the long summer days, either. Cathy was also seven and lived in the same complex, near by. Each day the girls would meet and swim, making up games and stories to entertain themselves. After a day of swimming and sunning, the two were walking the side of the road back to Cathy’s apartment when a pick-up truck slowed down and a man leaned over to talk to Cathy. “Oh hi,” Cathy had responded to his greeting. “That’s my baby sitters brother, Eric” Cathy said proudly.
Eric asked if the girls wanted a ride and my feathers went up and on high alert. Cathy climbed into the cab, and then Sami. The truck moved toward Cathy’s building, while I hovered. Sami was looking straight ahead when she got a hard elbow in her side. Cathy was nudging her and pointing a Eric’s john willy, which was now fully exposed and in his hand. Seeing that the girls had noticed, he asked “Do you want to go to the woods where there is a river.” Sami, started yelling “stop the truck, stop the truck” as she was pulling at the handle of the door. “Stop the truck.” Now Eric was laughing, but he did stop the truck and Sami grabbed Cathy’s hand, pulling her out the door. The two little girls ran as fast as they could to Cathy’s building where they made it inside and slammed the door, locking the dead-bolt at the top. They were laughing a nervous little laugh when they heard him knock and ask to be let in. That’s when Cathy began to cry, and Sami did what her mother had taught her and that was to pick up the phone and tell the operator what had happened. The operator stayed on the phone with the girls until the police came.
Parents were called and Cathy’s mother came home first, concerned and comforting. Then Sami’s father showed up and he was pissed. But he wasn’t pissed at Eric the perv, he was pissed at Sami and Sami didn’t understand why. Later that night as Sami lay in the bunk bed, she heard her father talking to her mother on the phone. “She is just a willful child with an over-active imagination. I don’t believe that any of that ever happened and she is certainly in no danger, she just got hysterical.” At her mother’s demand, Sami returned home early and finished the summer at home. Her mother had found a day camp for Sami and Sami was not left alone to fend for herself for the rest of the season. They never talked about what had happened, but her mother hugged her a lot more.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God—Step 3. Sami reviewed her life, playing out scenes like the one with her father over and over in her head and on this day as she sat in her favorite place outside, she felt the sun on her neck and thought, “this is how I understand God. God is the kiss of the sun on my neck; God is in the vegetable garden; God is in the life that is held by those trees.” For the first time in a long time, Sami felt a kind of peace that the seven-year-old Sami had known. There was something in the quiet of her heart that she had been afraid to face. She had kept it at bay with drugs and drink for most of her adult life, and now what she once thought was the dread was holding her in peace as she cried.
This is Part II of yesterday’s excerpt of The Angel Twin. In short, it is the rest of the chapter. This is day three of the NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge and though I have managed to keep up with the word count that will put me at 50K words in another 27 days, well, let’s just say I am flying by the seat of my pants and wondering whether or not I can do this. I’ll post another excerpt, once I can get through the first week. In the meantime, thanks for the good wishes. Please keep them coming. Here you go:
Rabbi Rosenthal was the only Rabbi in all of Los Angeles who was willing to perform a “mixed marriage.” The couple that sat before him in his paneled study, lined with books, was a shiksha goddess and a young Jew, who had been raised in the Fairfax district of the city. The rabbi had learned that Martin’s parents were not members of a temple; Martin had not been bar mitzvahed; and Martin himself seemed pretty much an atheist. And yet, here they were, like so many couple before them employing a Jewish Rabbi with all the gear to perform the wedding ceremony. That he might return Martin to the fold, was not an entertained thought. That Sami might convert and raise their children in the Jewish faith seemed a stretch. But a wedding was a wedding, and as the couple filled out the check and slid it across the desk, the rabbi leaned back in his leather swivel chair and smiled the smile of resolve.
From the old Rabbi’s perspective, this was going to be more like a “mixed up marriage” than a mixed marriage. As the requisite meeting came to an end, the short lecture about children and faith was met with nods and smiles from Sami and Martin and it was very clear that neither one of them had a clue. The stupor of humor and the faint smell of pot said it all.
Rabbi Rosenthal was a good choice for an officiate, though. He looked like he was straight out of Central Casting. A large and robust man, whose face was framed by snow-white hair and a long white beard, he had the look of someone who had actually been on Mt Sinai and talked with Moses personally, just before he showed up for your wedding. The old man rose from his chair and his desk as the couple left his study, and then clucked and shook his head as the door shut behind them.
Before Martin and Sami joined their guests for the reception, the photographer snapped pictures. This, as far as Sami was concerned, was the whole reason for a wedding—the pictures. She wanted lots and lots of pictures. Pictures that captured a beautiful young woman in a long white gown, the princess at the ball; pictures that could be framed in silver and wood and placed around her house for everyone to see; pictures that portrayed a loving family all leaning together and squinting into the sun as the photographer captured a moment that wasn’t a moment at all, but their real life. Sami wanted pictures that covered up the wild and crazy Sami who took drugs at her wedding. She wanted pictures that made her look normal, acceptable and upstanding. Though she would never tell you that, wasn’t really even aware of it herself, I knew when she and Martin stood on the bridge, heads tilted to touch one another, each of them holding a champagne glass in their hands and each of them smiling a smile that revealed straight white teeth, and sparkling eyes. I knew the posed photographs would be cherished as something to be not just remembered, but something to be aspired to in the grand scheme of things.
But here is the truth. There wasn’t anyone at the King/Fedderman wedding that day, who wasn’t baked. Mrs. King, Sami’s mother had long ago changed her name, several times in fact, with several latest, greatest husbands. But for the sake of clarity and your ability to follow, I will just refer to her as “Mrs. King.” Mrs. King had awakened on Sami’s wedding day and gone directly to the plastic medicine box in her suitcase. A wonderful plastic medicine box, that was really a bead box from a craft store, but held so many more pills than those silly little pill holders you could purchase at the pharmacy. Sami’s mother was a middle-aged woman who had put on weight in recent years. The once slender and sexy woman was now a little dowdy, a little more motherly looking for her age. Mrs. King was blessed with wonderful relationships with several doctors who regularly prescribed a cocktail of speed and Valium, along with other things too. She was especially fond of sleeping pills that eased here into the darkness of night, into deep, undreaming sleep, that never quite satisfied her insatiable need for rest. She appreciated all of her morning uppers with her fresh juice. She was a Mormon now, a slightly frumpy woman who eschewed the evils of caffeine and alcohol. She had landed on this identity when she realized that her last husband was a collector of pornography. Marrying a Mormon, even converting to the faith made her feel that she had smoothed out the bumpier edges of her life and was now on track to being a nice, “normal” wife. Mrs. King too craved “normal.”
Mrs. King had married a man named Nick who was a teacher in the church; who never swore; who did not drink; and whose air force past seemed oh so respectable. And he gently enabled the salt and peppered hair Mrs. King to procure boxes full of legal, necessary medicine to get her through her days. Each pill, in Mrs. King’s mind, was an absolute medical necessity and often when she was alone, she would count them, placing them carefully in the plastic medicine box, grateful for all the many colors and moods that they provided. And on this day, her daughter’s wedding day, she had taken a combination of pain medication for that pesky back pain she so bravely endured, a muscle relaxer and some sort of mood elevator that made her feel happy and alert. She washed it all down with a healthy glass of California orange juice, on the balcony of her hotel room, while enjoying the California sun.
And then there was Mrs. Fedderman, the groom’s mother. Mrs. Fedderman had gone directly to her medicine cabinet first thing that morning and also enjoyed a cocktail of uppers and downers, but unlike the more health conscious Mrs. King, Mrs. Fedderman had poured herself a strong cup of coffee, cooling it down with a fair amount of cream, so that she could wash down what would be her “breakfast.”
Meanwhile back at the wedding, when Martin stepped on the glass and the guests yelled Mazal Tov, three swans moved on cue across the lake, and the photographer captured the picture of two young people looking through a haze of pot and Valium into each other’s eyes as if in love. The whirr and click of the camera that followed Sami and Martin throughout the day was held by a photographer, who unlike the Rabbi, didn’t see two kids in trouble, but knew that his job was to make the worst look the best, so that women like Sami could point to a moment in time, placed in a silver frame and say “that was my wedding day, wasn’t it beautiful?”
The Hotel Bel-Air has a wedding hall, a formal dining room close to the area where brides and grooms say their vows, and a short haired wedding planner in a pale peach suit ushered all 100 guests, who had been given glasses and champagne, into that room with army like precision. Because once the bubble of this happy moment is vowed, fed and danced, the next wedding has already been set up outside and it’s going to be time for you to go. And so it was in the wearing off blur of drugs and champagne, that friends and family filed out the door, having witnessed the Sami and Martin show on a summer afternoon in Los Angeles.
As much as Sami craved those pictures framed in silver, the pictures of happiness and normalcy, Martin craved the wedding gifts. Piles and piles of wedding gifts, all of which had been placed in a garden room with a king sized bed where the two would spend the night. The bridal suite was heavily wall-papered and coordinated with comforters and matching pillows all in some dark red and brown colors that seemed more sinister than wedding like. But the room was tasteful, beautiful in fact. The French doors to the balcony could be seen from the bed along with the rich green foliage that surrounded the small outdoor balcony, a balcony that held a wicker table and chairs upon which they could have breakfast.
On the back of the tall, white bathroom door, Christine had hung a long black and sheer robe with matching panties that had ribbons on each side. They had joked about Martin taking a ribbon in his teeth and pulling to remove the little black naughtiness. But Martin, enthralled with the piles of presents, had not noticed that Sami was lounging across their bed in sheer black ensemble that left little to the imagination. No Martin, was like a child at Christmas. He was busily unwrapping each present and commenting with exuberant exclamation the nature, use and value of each gift. By the time he had unwrapped the 100th’ gift and placed it in line with the other gifts in the room, now ordered by which room he thought they would enhance, Sami had fallen asleep. And thus the wedding day curled itself into a little ball of a wedding night, and the ending to what each of them really wanted and really got: lots of pictures to convey what they were not, and lots of gifts to ease the pain of what they were not. How the intent behind this wedding would grow itself into a marriage was beyond the possible. Sami and Martin had spent a tremendous amount of time talking about what kind of wedding they wanted and no time at all talking about what kind of marriage they would have.
Yet for a moment, before Sami drifted into a deep sleep, she had smiled at Martin eagerly opening the gifts and thought of the normal and happy life of acceptance that she would now live. Normal, once again was the great motivator and driving force, and as my energy hovered in the corner, I felt the calling to do that which I was not supposed to do, and that is intervene before this poor girl turned into her Mormon mother, washing legal or illegal drugs down her gullet with freshly squeezed orange juice!
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.