Story time! Well, a writing exercise for a romance, at any rate. Should I keep this one going?

Cass twiddled with the spare stir stick she’d taken from the counter, trying to turn or flip it in circles about her fingers like she’d seen done in a movie once. It was difficult to keep from checking her reflection in the darkened window of the coffee shop. Night had fallen too quickly, so unless she pressed her face right against the glass and blocked out the light, people would know she wasn’t just looking for her date. The other patrons would be able to see her checking her lipstick for smears, tucking lockings of hair back behind her ears or pulling them out again, uncertain as to which style looked better. She sipped at her tea, trying to gauge the attentiveness of the others in the shop — were they watching? Had they noticed her fidgeting?

———————-

I know, I should be working on the snowmobiling story, but I was thinking about this idea earlier today, and I figured I should get it down. And since my files are currently out of my reach (sob), I’ll put it on my blog! 

This short piece is mainly me trying to focus on showing, rather than telling. But also — fellow writers, do you often find it difficult to come up with character names? I find that’s one of the hardest parts of beginning a project, because too often, I’m faced with a name that belongs to someone I’ve taught, or worked with, and therefore it’s hard to separate the name from the history. Plus, I would never want to be accused of having written someone into a story that wasn’t compimentary of that individual. Sometimes I pick a name because it’s unique and cool and suits the character more than anything else. Sometimes the name of the character will change mid-draft. In this case, I went back and forth on several options before I settled on Cass, and I’m not even sure I like it. But there we are.

———————-

The tea was scalding hot, but she preferred it black with a bit of sugar, so with not a little trepidation, she peeled up the edges of the lid on the take-out cup in order to pop it off and let the worst of the heat steam away. At the last second, Cass remembered to open it away from herself, only just avoiding a spatter of brown on her cream sweater. She had a long scarf with her to hide any accidental stains, but it would be one more thing to worry about, if she had to disguise her sloppiness all evening. Already, she’d nearly dropped the first stir stick onto the floor, but she’d caught it in time to keep from feeling foolish.

If Henry was watching from Heaven, what would he be thinking of her right now? 

He’d tell me to take a deep breath, Cass thought, straightening her shoulders. And don’t worry about what others think.

She was trying, but it wasn’t easy. The last time she’d been on a real date with anyone had been thirty years  earlier, and that had been with Henry! Typical. There were movies made about moments like these, and romance novels, although she wasn’t sure she’d seen any that directly matched her own situation. That would have been nice. Like a kind of guideline, perhaps, although God knew, people didn’t behave in real life as they did in fiction. If they did . . . she could have a say in how this conversation was going to go. She wouldn’t have to fear stuttering, or having a booger dangle from her nose, or spilling tea all over herself. 

She caught a glimpse of her reflection again, and in a wild panic, debated wiping off her lipstick completely so she wouldn’t have to worry about whether it was still in place. Did other women even notice lipstick, or was that just a part of those expectations for women that had been imposed by a patriarchial society? Cass gripped a paper napkin, her hand hovering near her face. 

Don’t worry . . .

Cass forced herself to fill her lungs and look away from the glass. Her lipstick was fine. She liked how it had looked when she’d put it on, and she liked how women looked with a skillful application of makeup. So if this woman she was meeting — Katherine Batey, she was called — if she didn’t like it, that would be one sign for Cass that their relationship was likely to be short-lived. 

Then the door opened, making the bell above it tinkle merrily. Cass put her fingers to her mouth, sweeping the underside of her lip one more time, as the woman in the red coat came toward her.

Advertisements

Bermuda Crybaby

Okay, fair warning: I’m pooped, so this story has been started but it doesn’t seem to want to finish itself tonight. I’m not entirely certain where it wants to go, just yet — I’m thinking scary, but it could also be a gentle sort of romance. I see both possibilities happening here. And it was meant to be much shorter than it’s turning into. Anyway, read it if you like and tell me: do you think it should become scary and ominous, or be more about self-discovery and love? I can do either!

———————————————–

Lindsay wasn’t really scared of the dark, nor had she been since she was a little kid. And she wasn’t afraid of the water. But she didn’t like the idea of seaweed touching her legs deep under the surface, where she couldn’t see the stuff wiggling and waving around in the currents, and her stomach turned over at the thought of a fish ever bumping into her leg.

Shudder.

Still, she hadn’t expected to be so afraid of snorkelling around a wrecked ship not twenty feet from the pink beach of the resort in Bermuda where she and her friends were staying. Not when the sun was roasting her shoulders and the waves were lapping coolly around her ankles, the turquoise waters sparkling into the distance while children laughed just down the way and rock music was playing from someone’s boombox. This was her vacation. She was supposed to be trying new things on this adventure, not standing frozen, half-in and half-out of the Atlantic ocean like some sort of washed-up Greek statue. And not when the equipment in her hands was costing her $20 an hour for the rental. She’d worked hard at her part-time Mcjob to fund this trip, and she hadn’t even needed to bring her English homework along — she’d prepared for a good time by wrapping up all her loose ends at school days before the plane had taken off.

She’d vowed, once she turned eighteen, to stop being so nervous about new experiences and to take more chances. Lindsay had never broken a bone in her life, or sprained an ankle, or even gotten a gash deeper than a scrape, because she was cautious to the point of paranoia, or so her girlfriend Eva told her. Eva — now, there was someone to envy. Eva had jumped (literally, her feet actually leaving the ground when the announcement was made) at the opportunity to go parasailing, taken a scuba-diving class to check out a nearby reef, and climbed to the top mast of a sailboat. Lindsay was familiar, too, with the pictures and videos of Eva bungee-jumping and zip-lining, horseback riding and skiing downhill at breakneck speeds. Eva was so much the opposite of herself . . . sometimes Lindsay wondered what the woman saw in her.

It was just a sunken boat, for crying out loud. The resort people had put it there, on purpose, for tourists like herself to paddle around and peer at. She could see it from where she was standing, a long white, black, and red shape seemingly just beneath the waves. Other guests she’d spoken to while renting the flippers, mask, and snorkel had gushed about the colourful sea life they’d observed in and around the wreck, an experience that was not to be missed.

So what’s wrong with me? It’s a perfect day — just get in the freaking water!

But Lindsay couldn’t make her legs push forward, no matter how she berated herself. She stood there until her feet were buried in the drifting pale sand, letting the soft sea breeze caress the burning skin on her upper back and neck and enjoying the way it teased her hair. Seagulls cried overhead. If one of them pooped on her, she’d have to dive in to wash it off, or else go back to her room to take a shower.

Finally, she turned around and trudged back onto the hot sand to return the gear, dry and unused (by her anyway), because her time was nearly up and she really wanted something to drink. The brackish odours of brine and kelp and God knew what else were making her mouth and throat feel dry and scratchy. Glumly making her way back across the beach, she smiled in relief at the sight of Eva loping toward her.

“Lindsay! You’ve got to come and see this!” The tall brunette was shouting as she approached, uncaring of who might be watching. “They’ve got a grotto!”

Bemused, Lindsay shaded her eyes. “One of those underwater cave thingies?”

“Yeah! Well, sort of,” Eva told her, skidding to a halt. She leaned over to rest her hands on her knees, grinning breathlessly. “It’s a cave and it’s got a pool, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Come take a look!”

Lindsay let her girlfriend take her by the hand and lead her down the length of the beach, toward a cliff at the opposite end. She suppressed an urge to climb up the wooden stairs leading back to the resort’s main building and her safe, air-conditioned room, following Eva instead along a crushed-shell path around a prettily-landscaped abutment.

On the other side was a small dock within a charming lagoon. A few rowboats tied neatly on either side of the dock bobbed gently in the swells. To the left, the path ended at another set of stairs rising toward a dark hole in the cliff, beside which was a neatly letter sign reading, “Grotto”.

“See?” Eva chortled, clapping her hands. “Isn’t it awesome? You have to see inside, it gets even better.”

The gaping blackness raised goosebumps on Lindsay’s arms and scalp, but Eva was already dragging her forward and up the steps. A rush of cold air made her shiver, and she started to protest, too late; in another moment, she was inside the darkness of the cave, smelling wet earth and salt water.

Oh, my God, there’s going to be a cave-in and we’re going to be trapped . . .

“Just let your eyes adjust,” Eva told her quietly. Lindsay felt Eva’s arms wrapping around her and relaxed a little. “See, Lin? There are lights on the walls, and just under the waterline.”

It was true. As her vision changed, Lindsay saw two perforated lines of muted yellow orbs, one at just over head-level — well, for Eva anyway — and the second distorted by the waters lapping around it. The pool itself was an inky black, but the striations of the rock glistened around each lamp’s glow.

“Have you been in the water?” Lindsay murmured. She moved forward, shuffling her feet cautiously, and discovered a railing placed conveniently to prevent guests from falling over the ledge of rock.

“Yeah, and it’s beautiful. You’d think it would be cold, but it’s comfortable.”

“Are there any fish?” She knelt to touch the stone, expecting to feel disgusting slime under her fingers. “There wouldn’t be any seaweed in here, would there?”

“No, you goose,” Eva laughed. “I promise you, there’s nothing else like swimming in a grotto. You’ve already got your swimsuit on, let’s go in!”