Read the intro to Words In Color here.
Stevie Nicks, Edge of Seventeen
Words In Color – Chapter 4
“Where ya headed off to?” Amity’s mom looked up from her crochet on the couch.
“Uh, out..side. Just gonna star watch…a bit.” The words hung on Amity’s tongue making her sound less than honest.
Her mom nodded and smiled, a twinkle in her eye as her hands continued to loop the yarn unsupervised.
“That’s my star gazer.” Amity’s dad grinned from the opposite side of the room where he sat watching TV. It used to be he’d jump up to go with her setting up the scope in just the right position on top of the carport roof. She had him to thank for her deep seeded interest in all things stellar even if his enthusiasm had fizzled in the wake of game shows and light beer.
Closing the door behind her, Amity waited a minute, hoping neither parent followed, but more than that trying to calm her nerves.
“Just breathe,” she whispered to herself, then rubbed her sweaty palms against her jeans and stepped out. Amity hoped it would be cooler than the balmy eighty degrees creeping up the back of her neck, but was thankful for the descending darkness, a veil over the rings of sweat expanding under her arms.
Dustin stood in the same spot next to his drawing rolling a piece of chalk in his fingers. A gentle grin spread across his lips at the sight of her. Amity couldn’t help smiling under his gaze as she stopped in front of him.
“Hi.” His voice was deeper than she’d imagined, which made her think he must be older than her.
“Hi.” Amity hadn’t intended to whisper and figured it was a subconscious reaction to her parents being twenty feet away.
The pair stood and looked at each other then at the ground, then back to each other. Amity thought it felt just like an episode from a Jane Austen book.
“I really like your drawings.” Amity sounded nervous and why shouldn’t she. Her insides were trembling as if she were freezing cold.
“Thanks. I like your writing,” Dustin replied with a half smile.
“Really? Thanks.” She debated explaining how this particular poem took forever to write, but decided to save it until she knew he could handle her babbling.
“Yeah. Where’d you learn to write like that?” Dustin looked genuinely interested.
“Well, I didn’t really learn it, like in a class or something. Just started writing one day after reading a book with a horrible ending. It’s kind of therapeutic, writing. Like if I’ve had a bad day or something interests me I just start writing my feelings down. Eventually they turn into stories or poems or just thoughts. Sometimes, if I really want to make an impression I’ll research certain subjects.” Amity caught herself. She was babbling. It was exactly what she didn’t want to do, but Dustin’s expression, posture, eyes, were so open like he actually wanted to hear.
“Cool.” He smiled broadly. Amity thought he could almost see into her soul the way he looked into her eyes.
“So what about you? How did you learn to draw?”
Dustin looked down at the panther’s as if they might give him the answer. Amity thought a look of sadness crept over his face, but in the shadows, couldn’t be sure.
“Not sure. I just woke up one day and started drawing.” His answer seemed simple. So simple it made her feel stupid for asking.
“Weird, huh?” He must have noticed Amity nodding, a look of confusion on her face.
“No, not at all.” She stammered. “I just figured this kind of talent must have been learned to some degree, but when I think about it, there’s no way someone could learn to draw this way. Could they? I don’t think so, but again I don’t know. I don’t think I could, but that’s just me.” Amity stop talking, she said to herself ending the rant before it became a full fledged monologue.
Dustin chuckled. “Sure you could. You just have to practice.” Amity thought he was just being nice, but appreciated the gesture.
“No, I’m pretty sure you’re born with these skills.” She dropped her eyes to his drawing.
“Probably, just like you were born with writing skills.” Dustin’s compliment gave her that warm feeling in her stomach. She wanted to debate learning to write since that’s what every English class was based on, that and reading books no less than a hundred years old.
“So, how do you decide what to draw? What’s your inspiration?” Amity hoped she wasn’t being too nosy, but thought it a valid question, one that would extend her time with him.
“Sometimes I draw things I’ve seen in books or on TV. Sometimes people I’ve seen or maybe combinations of people.” Dustin smiled as he studied her face wishing the light was better.
“Combinations? Sounds interesting, like pizza.” Amity imagined his mind worked like a Mr. Potato Head toy plugging traits from one person onto another.
Dustin laughed. “Yeah, but not as tasty.” He thought her quirky sense of humor fit her name.
The thought of eating brought Amity’s attention to Dustin’s mouth. His lips reminded her of puffy marshmallows in the shape of a heart perched peacefully under his nose.
Dustin bit his bottom lip under the scrutiny. He’d always felt like his mouth was a bit oversized for his face, so sometimes rolled his lips inward hoping they’d somehow melt under the pressure.
“You wanna walk?” He motioned his head toward the end of the courtyard.
“Sure.” Amity answered before thinking twice about walking with a stranger, at night no less, but in her heart she didn’t feel anything strange about him.
Dustin grinned as they turned and started to the far end of the complex. It wasn’t a long walk, maybe two or three minutes, but Amity aimed to make it longer shuffling her feet like a toddler.
“So, where are you from? Any brothers or sisters? What do your parent’s do?” Amity knew she sounded like a reporter, but she wanted to know everything about Dustin.
He stifled a full fledged laugh, a bit taken aback at her jump into this personal line of questioning. “Are you writing my life story?”
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to offend you.” Amity looked down at her sandals.
“I’m not offended.” He smiled into her eyes. She thought for a second they looked the deepest shade of brown, but as he tilted his head toward the street lamp she could tell they were an orange eerily similar to that of the panther’s.
His gaze made her nervous causing a trickle of sweat to escape from under her arm and trace a path to her elbow. She quickly rubbed her arm against her side pretending to scratch her back. Dustin seemed not to notice.
“I’m from Oregon. I’m an only child. My dad works for the airline’s and my mom’s…” He hesitated looking off in the distance as if his mom might appear and save him from the painful admission. Amity watched him wondering if he might finish or leave her to decide for herself.
“My mom lives in New York.” Dustin looked Amity square in the eye, a solemn expression on his face. He wanted to hide the fact that his parents were separated, but couldn’t stand the thought of losing another friend when the truth came out. He didn’t know what it was, but every time he came clean it was like he had the plague losing friends over the course of a few weeks, sometimes days. No, he couldn’t wait to tell Amity. If she were going to reject him then he’d rather have her do it before they were friends and he really hoped they would be, friends.
Amity watched his face for a minute then smiled, “I heard Central Park is pretty cool, but they can’t see the stars like we can.”
A feeling of relief soaked Dustin to the core. “Really? Good to know.”
“Yeah, too many city lights not to mention the smog.” Amity grinned wide. He thought for a second how cute she looked with her cheeks all puffed out. “Take for instance those stars there,” she held her arm in the air and pointed toward a cluster of bright twinkling lights.
Dustin raised his head to the sky, “Orion.”
“How’d you know?” Amity sounded shocked and impressed at the same time.
“I like to read. Plus, Oregon has an even better view.” He winked at her, a sly smile on his face.
Amity felt her heart skip a beat. She thought Dustin might be too good to be true. What she didn’t know is that he thought the same about her.
~ **** ~
Read the intro to Words In Color here.
Goo Goo Dolls, Here Is Gone
Words In Color – Chapter 3
Amity awoke to a beam of sunlight, like a laser, across her eyes. She raised up on an elbow squinting at the curtains, which she was certain she’d pulled closed last night, and noticed a small crack in the fabric. Small maybe to the naked eye, but under direct sunlight she thought it more like a huge gap.
“Musta forgot to pull ‘em all the way last night,” she mumbled laying back on her pillow. Amity always left her curtains open until she could see the moon. Then sat on the chest under her window and watched it, glowing, breathing, pulling words from her. Words likened to prayers. It was a ritual she’d started as a little girl after her dad brought home a telescope. She still remembered the bruise in the shape of a circle around her eye from staring at the moon for so long.
Rolling to face the opposite wall she decided the curtain adjustment could wait. Besides, it was Saturday and she wasn’t getting out of bed before nine.
Holding her eyes tightly shut she tried to re-enter her dream: angels floating in the sky singing the words she’d written to Dustin while he sketched for her. Wacky she knew, but she could live with that as long as he was in it.
His eyes so kind, smiling at her while he drew images that magically appeared in the sky – a bear, elephant, butterfly. She thought it odd how he never took his eyes from her and yet all of his drawings were perfect, “Just like him,” she smiled at his image in her mind.
As she dozed, a spark of sunshine hit Amity in the face reflected off of a silver bracelet hanging over the side of her dresser.
“Oh, come on!” She sat up throwing the covers off. Stomping to the window she geared up to show the curtains who was boss. Grabbing the fabric edge of each, she yanked them together pulling not only across, but down. This proved a strain on the already bowing bar responsible for upholding the heavy window treatments, which caved under the pressure landing in a heap at her feet.
“My God. Really?” Amity thought the situation could’ve been a Murphy’s Law shoe-in had the bar actually hit her on the way down. She kicked the heap off her feet and resigned herself to the fact that the universe obviously wanted her awake.
Stepping to the window she cupped a hand over her eyes and looked out across the grassy lawn. Sometimes she spotted the French dog, for lack of a better title, who took it upon himself to go number two on the sidewalk just like the dogs in France at least that’s what her friend Sasha said. She wondered how she’d managed to avoid stepping in a steaming pile and chalked it up to the fact the dog was so fat he couldn’t waddle to this side of the courtyard.
Sliding open the window Amity breathed in the scent of the morning, fresh and dewy, before the sun strangled it with a deathly heat. Raising her arms she arched her back and stretched as high as she could, then lowered her hands to the window sill as her eyes came to rest on the sidewalk below. She thought for a minute she’d left her blanket outside, which was now on the sidewalk looking like a heap of dirt. Moving to the side peering only through the glass, Amity caught her breath, “Another drawing from Dustin,” she whispered, the warmth of her breath fogging the window.
Her heart raced as she turned to throw on clothes and get a better look. Bolting down the stairs, she stumbled on the second to last step and almost went head long into the front door, but managed to grab the banister and correct herself before spraining her ankle, a talent she’d perfected at least a dozen times in the last six months.
“Well you’re up early for a weekend.” The voice of Amity’s mother caught her by surprise.
“Yeah, well you know what they say.” She tried to slow her pace and excitement. The last thing she needed was her mother standing beside her wondering who’d drawn the graffiti in the middle of the night.
“No, what do they say?” A look of intrigue spread across her mother’s face.
“Uh, the early worm gets a head start on the bird.” Or whatever the saying was, she thought.
“Good one! I’ll make that the quote of the day on my Facebook page.” The statement made Amity flinch and by the look on her mom’s face, she knew she was serious.
“Please don’t. Isn’t there some old people stuff you can post?” She didn’t really mind her mom quoting her, it was the whole “I’m so hip because I post on Facebook” attitude that made her a little nauseous.
Her mom pursed her lips and wrinkled her nose as if she were thinking then said, “Naw, besides I’m not as witty as you are.” She flashed a smile at Amity who rolled her eyes while silently accepting the compliment.
“I’ll be back in a minute.” Amity reached for the door maybe a little too eager as she pulled against the lock still firmly in place.
“Where ya goin’ in such a rush?” Her mom sounded concerned.
“Just outside for a second. I think I forgot something.” Amity finally twisted the dead bolt open and was out the door before her mom got on a full roll with twenty questions.
Approaching the chalk drawing Amity’s hunch was confirmed, it was indeed a black panther, in a standing position, a cub between its front legs. Behind them a setting sun in hues of orange, yellow and red, made the cats seem all the more black as they popped from the picture in 3D style. Every muscle was outlined with such precision, every facial detail highlighted making the animals seem as real as if they were standing right there. The mother’s orange eyes stared at her as if trying to tell her something yet at the same time, looking right through her.
“Black panther’s,” Amity mused to herself. She’d read about their symbolism some time ago in a history book. Now what was it about them, she wondered. She remembered the guardian part, ability to know the dark, which she found kind of redundant given its black color and the fact it was a cat, then there was something about it symbolizing the feminine. She knew there was more, but for the life of her couldn’t think, not now.
Her mind was blank standing their in awe over their beauty, their silky black bodies reminding her of Dustin’s hair. Amity’s heart skipped a beat realizing the location again, just under her window. She felt her cheeks flame with embarrassment at the thought of him creating this especially for her, in the middle of the night, while she slept.
Images of Romeo and Juliet floated in her mind as she pictured the scene, a smile gracing her lips. Realizing she probably looked like a romantic idiot she quickly scanned the courtyard for his face and was relived not to see him. She looked a mess and felt sure her complexion matched the red Coca-Cola t-shirt she was wearing.
Heading inside she made a b-line for her bedroom where she pulled books from her shelf detailing symbolism, mysticism and ancient tribes. Pouring over each she soaked up everything she could find, and make sense out of as it pertained to black panthers, feverishly jotting notes in her journal. She had to respond to his effort, but she wanted it to be deeper believing it only fair since he’d shared a piece of himself through his creation.
Moving to her window Amity peered at the drawing again. “So powerful,” she thought. She found it interesting he depicted the mother in a stance that evoked protection yet the look in the cub’s eyes seemed somehow fearful maybe of something in her. Crouched low its head tilted up toward her face, its eyes questioning, even pleading.
Squinting Amity noticed one of its small paws wrapped around the outside of the mother’s leg as if trying to hold on, stop her from moving. “A piece of him,” she whispered to herself.
I move through the darkness, welcome its solace, bask in the solitude. Here I find the light, one which once I did not understand being of great sorrow and fear. Yet time has opened my eyes, awakened my senses, allowed reclamation of a hope I’d exchanged for death. From the night I emerge, feeding on knowledge, blessed with truth, graced with power.
Amity wondered when Dustin would come as she stood looking out her window. It had taken her five hours to write the four lines, but that was nothing compared to the painstaking thirty minutes it took her to scrawl it next to his drawing. She’d like to blame it on the chalk, but really it was her fingers or more precisely, her nerves.
She second guessed almost every syllable she wrote wondering if it made any sense or, more importantly, expressed what she felt about him. Well not really him because she didn’t know him, but the him she saw in his drawings.
Amity didn’t want to miss Dustin reading her poem, almost as romantic as him drawing for her, so sat on the chest under her window, eyes glued to the courtyard. She tried to read, but quickly tired of losing her place between glancing out the window and fantasizing about seeing him, not to mention, re-reading line after line.
It was almost seven before he returned. Spotting his black hair, she caught her breath and sat up straight looking over the side of the window sill just enough to see him. Wearing khaki cargo pants and a white button down shirt rolled up at the elbows, she thought him a vision of perfection.
He stood over her poem then knelt in front of it as if to get a better view. Amity had to admit, she did write smaller this time trying to fit all of the words in one cement square.
Dustin looked up at the window and caught Amity staring. Her face went hot. She debated ducking out of sight, but decided against it. He smiled at her then waved. Amity returned the gesture. For a few seconds they just stared at each other, grins on their faces, unsure of what to do next. Then he motioned for her to come down.
Amity’s eyes bulged, “Us, meeting face to face?” The thought made her sick with excitement, but there was nothing she wanted more.
I love the beach! I’m lucky to live close enough I can visit often, even everyday, without getting sick of it and once I let go of my obsessive “clean car” idea the sand doesn’t bother me (so much).
Funny, but I find the sound of the waves not only calming, but inspirational. Well, the sound of water moving pretty much anywhere even the kitchen sink. I’m not sure why, but my mind seems to kick into creative gear, ideas emerge, story lines pan out and words are in over drive. Too bad I don’t have pen and paper when most of this inspiration is occurring, but it wouldn’t matter if I did because who can read words dripping off the page?
One way I take the inspiration with me is through photographs. If I’m stuck wondering, “What was that idea I had today?” I look back at the photos and sometimes video. It helps keep me moving forward and at the same time reminds me of where I’ve been.
Being at the beach is a sensation I think everyone should experience at least once in their lives. It’s such an amazing feeling to hear the waves, see them move, experience their power. I would say it’s magnetic, the pull the ocean has on some people, me being one of them. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s like the words float from the sea into my brain. Now, if only I could bottle that and bring it home.
Read the intro to Words In Color here.
Delerium featuring Sarah McLachlan – Silence
Words In Color – Chapter 2
In the still of my world, when the turmoil called my life seems, at last, unbearable, I wrap myself in the one saving grace I own. One day, they’ll take me far from here, show me truth, teach me love, give me peace.
Dustin stood over his drawing in the parking lot reading the words for the umpteenth time digesting every syllable as if it were the water of life. He hadn’t expected her to reply, except for maybe a “Hi,” but she had and written a poem no less. A smile parted his lips as he read her name, Amity. It reminded him of the horror movie. He shuddered to think a parent would name their kid after such a horrible thing. “Poor girl, no wonder she’s like a hermit,” he thought.
He’d noticed her a few months back when he moved here. Another apartment to add to his sketch book of broken promises, right behind the promise of a house with a yard big enough for a dog, a bike and set of oil paints, but that was before everything went to hell. Before his mom left.
Dustin didn’t half blame her. If she would’ve asked him to go with her, he would have, tired of the screaming arguments, the tension, the sadness. Now there was just sadness mixed with the occasional tension about his grades and why they weren’t higher than their regular A and B status.
Turning toward her apartment Dustin wondered if Amity were even there, maybe watching him out the window. Not that he knew which window was hers, but guessed it was the one upstairs, just like his. He squinted trying to get a better view through the darkness, but quickly decided it was too late for anyone to be up doing anything, much less observing the grounds.
This was his favorite time to be out, eleven or later. No one to bother you, no over bearing heat to make you wish you were dead and no sound. The silence was his peace, not that he didn’t get it at home, but this was different. This silence made him feel alive as though within his being began to grow the person he really was, wanted to be.
Visions of paintings, sketches, sculptures floated through his mind each distinctly different, but all his creation. He took out his chalk, knelt to the ground and studied the surface. The sidewalk was smooth. Better than the carport, but more foot traffic. He could only hope the dyslexic dog didn’t choose this spot to leave his deposit, a horror Dustin discovered a few weeks ago when exiting his apartment in a rush to get to school. He still couldn’t figure out why the dog went on the sidewalk instead of stepping four inches into the grass.
He remembered how the day stunk, literally. Without an extra set of shoes he was stuck. Wiping it in the grass didn’t help except to push it further into the grooves on the bottom of his Vans. Even turning the hose on it seemed a waste of time given the water pressure wouldn’t go higher than a dribble. So off he’d gone to school, soggy shoe smelling of dog poo. If there was anything that said, “Stay away from me,” louder than that, Dustin didn’t know what it could be.
Pulling an orange piece of chalk from a small case he began to draw. For some reason he thought of his mom. He wondered where she was. Thirteen months and three days ago she’d sent a postcard from New York. Her words seemed light and airy, “Getting to know the city. It’s so beautiful! Can’t wait for you to come visit.” Visit. The word made him feel less a part of her life than he ever had. Did she really only think of him as a visitor? The thought made him pause remembering the picture on the card, an aerial shot of Central Park. Sure it looked pretty, but there were lots of parks where they lived in Oregon. Heck, who needed a park when the entire forest was your backyard, Dustin wondered.
Putting a knee down and stretching his arm as far as he could to the left, he finished the outline of the drawing, which now spanned two and a half sidewalk squares. Next he grabbed white and started another sketch in the center. His hand flowed freely as if he were tracing lines already on the ground.
Dustin wasn’t sure why he could draw the pictures in his mind, he just knew that if he didn’t he couldn’t focus on anything else. They were like firefly’s trapped in a jar aimlessly throwing themselves against the glass until someone let them out. Sometimes he thought it a curse, up all night drawing until his hand hurt so bad he couldn’t even do his homework. Yet he felt somehow fulfilled if not relieved, to give them life.
The cool air felt good on the back of his neck. He leaned on his hand and looked up at Amity’s window. For a second, he thought he saw the faintest flicker of light, but decided it was a reflection of the street lamp in the window. Grabbing a handful of chalk he began to fill in the sketch using various colors. He liked this chalk. It actually stuck pretty well without smearing.
Dustin worked peacefully filling in details and accents from his vision. Finishing the final touches he heard a rustling in the bushes. Turning from his work he strained to see who or what it could be. The light was horrible and his eyes were having a hard time adjusting, but whatever it was couldn’t be bigger than a cat.
“Probably after a mouse,” Dustin thought returning to his work. Not more than a few minutes later the noise maker made itself known running across the chalk art leaving muddy footprints in its wake.
“Damn it!” Dustin whispered under his breath looking after the cat as if it might offer an apology.
Licking his finger he began to rub the mud off wiping it on the grass. Luckily it was mainly across the top of the sketch, but still annoying. He managed to get most of it off then colored over it using the orange chalk again, which didn’t entirely hide the obvious paw prints, but he hoped she didn’t notice.
Dustin sat back and looked at his creation. He nodded, a grin on his face. He was pleased despite the cat’s contribution. He laid back on the grass, his hands behind his head, and looked up again at Amity’s window. He wondered what she might do when she saw it and wished he could see her when she did. For a minute he debated spying on her, but decided it was dumb since he had no idea when she woke or came outside.
Laying in the still dark night Dustin was reminded of his home in Oregon. It wasn’t odd for him to sleep outside in the summer, alone, under the stars with only a blanket. After getting the hammock it was even easier. He could fall asleep right now if he wasn’t afraid Amity would find him under her window in the morning, drool running down his face.
The thought spurred him to collect his chalk and head home. As he stood to leave he looked toward her window one last time and smiled as if she were watching him through the curtains. He turned to leave contemplating when he should come back to check on his drawing and not for more paw prints.
Read the intro to Words In Color here.
Jason Mraz – You And I Both
Words In Color – Chapter 1
Amity leaned her head back against the wall of the apartment building. It was hot. Even in the shade she was sweating like a pig. She wished for a pool, a real one, not the one she created sitting on the vinyl couch suffocating under the glory of a swamp cooler. She’d never been in a steam room before, but guessed it was similar to the feeling in her apartment.
“Sit in the flower bed. It’s not as hot.” Her mom had said, but the thought of creepy crawlies and dirt on her butt wasn’t all that appealing, so she took an old blanket and spread it out as far as she could on either side of her. So far, it was working aside from the June bug that dive bombed her right eye.
Then she saw him. It had been awhile, but there he was, sitting on the sidewalk in front of the carport holding a book in one hand while the other scribbled quickly with what looked like a pencil. She wondered what he was writing, but didn’t have the nerve to ask, so, watched. She was good at that particularly when her subject didn’t know she was there, watching.
He put the book and pencil down then pulled something from his pocket and began marking on the ground of the parking lot.
“Hm, a guy who still likes to doodle with chalk,” Amity thought. For a second she classified it as juvenile, but decided if chalk were available right now she’d be doodling aimlessly on the ground too even if she was on the verge of sixteen.
She found herself mesmerized by him, so intent on what he was doing, drawing. His black hair glinted in the sunlight as he leaned back rolled his shoulders then stretched his bronze arms overhead and looked behind him. Their eyes met as if magnetically bound. Amity froze caught in his stare, but more than that, caught staring. He did a double take and sent a sideways grin before she brought her book up between them.
“Geez! That was embarrassing,” Amity said under her breath. She searched for the place she’d left off reading, but the words seemed unfamiliar as if she’d never seen them. A fact she knew to be untrue as she’d read The Black Stallion at least fifty times.
Amity lowered the book a hair to see if he’d gone back to drawing. He had.
“Oh good. He’s forgotten about me,” she thought surveilling him once again. This time she kept the book perched on her knees to make it look as if she were really reading, but lowered it just enough to see him over the edge.
The boy looked over his shoulder again studying her, maybe trying to decide if she were really reading instead of drilling a hole in the back of his head with her eyes. Standing, he turned facing her then crouched low and continued to draw. Every now and then he’d look up, even paused once for a few minutes and stared in her direction, his almond shaped eyes daring her to look at him for longer than a blink. Amity made sure to turn a page, or two, giving the impression she was, in fact, reading.
After what seemed like forever, but not long enough, he stood, picked up his notebook, smiled at her and walked away. She grinned behind her own book, but doubted he saw being at least forty feet away.
“I hope he doesn’t think I’m infatuated with him,” Amity thought as she watched him disappear around a corner. The truth was, she could hardly keep her eyes from him the whole time he was out here and that went for anytime he was out here, so she guessed infatuated might be appropriate.
Amity waited a few minutes remaining in her position. She wanted to see what he’d drawn, but couldn’t chance him swinging back around and catching her in the act. Not that it would be horrible if he did, catch her. It wasn’t like she didn’t have any business in that area, which she didn’t, but she couldn’t wait until her dad got home and parked over it. A tragedy marked by dripping oil and tire tread.
Finally, she closed her book and stood, making her way slowly to the carport while keeping her eyes fixed in the direction he’d walked. Her heart raced. What would she do, say, if he showed up? She wondered. She thought herself horrible with words, well saying them. She was better at reading them and had a certain knack for writing them, but coming out of her mouth, not good.
She reached the edge of the sidewalk where he’d been working and stopped. It was like nothing she’d ever seen. A beautiful angel, her wings wrapped around her in an embrace, eyes closed in a silent solace as she leaned one side of her face into the feathery pillow. The detail of her being was amazing. She wondered what kind of chalk he’d used to draw such precise features, but decided it wasn’t the chalk to be in awe over.
Her eyes traced the wings, their realistic beauty moving her to reach down and stroke them. She rubbed the dust between her fingers as if it might tell her something about the sketch, the artist, then continued tracing the outline to the bottom. Scrawled in a half circle under a wing was his name, “Dustin Knight.” Amity repeated it in her head a million times further engraving it on her memory. That’s when she saw it, the message, just below his name, two letters, “Hi,” with a smiley face below.
It was already a hundred degrees outside, but she felt her temperature rise another twenty knowing he’d probably written the message for her, the mute girl in the corner pretending to be a statue when she really wanted to be next to him. Embarrassed, Amity jerked her head up quickly glancing around expecting to see him spying on her around a corner, but he was nowhere in sight.
Taking a breath, she relaxed enough to notice he’d left a piece of chalk next to the message, so did what came naturally – wrote back.
I took a walk in my grandmother’s backyard and was surprised to hear the buzzing of bees in her Macadamia Nut tree. It was so loud I thought, “There must be a hive up there.” So, I ducked under the branches and hanging blossoms looking high above me, but I couldn’t see anything that looked remotely similar to a hive. Couldn’t see much really, except a lot of branches. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, she’s dumb.” Rest assured, I do know bees sting when guarding their hive I just wasn’t afraid at that moment. Go figure.
Anyway, bees were flying all around me, but were too concerned with the tiny blossoms on the tree to sting me. Good thing because I think I’m allergic to bees. Can’t remember. (Again, not dumb just not afraid.) The bees landed with such precision on the blossoms. There were thousands of them, all over the tree, some open others still closed and tiny! The tiniest blossoms I’ve ever seen. So pretty!
I finally talked a few bees into posing for me, which was great because I was tired of seeing “abdomen” in all of the shots, if you know what I mean. I had to be fast because they were so busy. They hardly ever stopped moving!
Watching their nectar gathering made me think how bees (and all other insects/animals) have a task by nature. They do what they’re supposed to do, constantly. They don’t take a break or ditch out on their bee buddies to watch TV then make excuses later. I realized I need to take a lesson from the bees and keep doing what I do, writing. Whether it’s my nature or not is debatable, but I have to believe it is or it becomes just a hobby. Will I produce a product as sweet as the bees? I can only hope!
Listening to: Moby, Natural Blues
Someone asked me if I had a writing muse. My first response was, “no.” I was thinking about the movie The Muse with Sharon Stone and remembering how she was actually in the same room with Albert Brooks as he wrote, or tried to, and I don’t have that type of muse.
The Free Dictionary lists muse as a guiding spirit, a source of inspiration, a poet.
I agree with guiding spirit and inspiration, but poet? Not necessarily.
I’ve had a few muse’s in my life and I can honestly say, they are true to their definition. My writing seemed to flow from my fingers after reading an email, text or notes from them. Sometimes, if I were logged into a program (email, Facebook, etc.) and I could see that my muse was there available to chat, I could write for hours without sending much more than a “Hi!”
It helped that one muse happened to be an artist as well. It was like I fed off of the creative energy coming through the computer or maybe that was the radiation, but I choose to believe the former.
I also use music as a muse and find myself sometimes unable to write without it. Depending on the story, the music needs to be in a specific genre. Case in point, I wrote Highway 90 to Alternative/Grunge/Heavy Metal, but when I tried the same playlist with Johnny Mustang it didn’t work so well. I think I wrote about this in a prior post on Soundtracks.
So, how do you find a muse? What makes a good muse?
Hard to say. Maybe consider what you need from a muse (someone cracking the whip or someone to talk shop with?) They could be a family member or online buddy you met in a forum.
For me it was someone I already knew who was creative as I said earlier. I liked that they understood the process of taking a thought, an idea, and making it into something real that people could touch, read. Within that understanding were kind words always ready and willing to encourage and reassure me that I should keep writing. More than a few instances my muse told me to get to work, stop wasting time, and crank out a best seller. This is the personal side, the human touch, that I like about muse’s that music just can’t offer.
Muse’s as inspiration for stories is also completely believable as I didn’t start writing Highway 90 until after I started a dialogue with my artist muse. Pieces of the story took shape around my muse and I even wrote my muse into my book (bit part at the end). I often wonder if I would have written the story if not for my muse. Looking back I can say no, the trail to this story leads straight to my muse. Before that, I was scribbling junior high dialogue for another young adult book I’m in the process of writing.
The hardest part about having a muse is remembering the muse has a life too, meaning they may not always be there or have to leave completely, for long periods of time or maybe forever. Let me tell you, the leaving part sucks. To me, it felt like I was drowning in my own drivel. At times my writing just didn’t make any sense and the dialogue turned into a conversation I’d written two pages back. Seriously! I wanted to scream countless times throughout the day, “Where’s my muse?” (pathetic picture, I know) Anyway, my point is, don’t misuse, overuse or abuse in any other way your muse. They are treasures that don’t come along every day, okay for me they don’t, so keep that in mind.
So, I guess the short answer to the initial question that started this post is, yes I have a muse, a constant muse, which is music. Would I rather have a person? Of course. I have in the past and it’s different than music, but much more fun, fulfilling, as only human interaction can be.
Maybe since it’s Valentine’s Day or maybe because I also write romance, but have yet to release any true romance novels, or maybe because I’m a hopeless romantic in the truest sense of the term, whatever the case I thought it would be a good time to wax ecstatic about…you guessed it, romance.
Like I said, I have yet to release a romance novel, however, that does not stop me from having loads of romantic influences and opinions mostly on the lives of other people. So with all these thoughts and ideas racing through my head I figure the least I can do is offer a few tips and opinions when it comes to romance.
These tips are based solely on my own experience, or lack thereof, and ideas with a few worked out while standing on the outside looking in on the lives of my friends. Sometimes, it’s easier to see the logic in our lives when others point it out, but I digress.
My first tip is aimed at the Love Lost crowd. This group includes: the one that got away, the one that never was, the relationship you screwed up, the one person you can’t get over. You know who you are.
Here’s a brief example to set the tone: Casual friends living together become more than friends. Their relationship is great, open and straight forward, non-confining, but monogamous. Then there’s an issue, maybe an argument, maybe other friends are involved wherein one side of the relationship makes a smart-ass comment to lighten up the mood. This doesn’t bode well for the other partner who takes it personal and cuts off the relationship immediately, as in “get out” with little or no discussion otherwise. The person whose been cut-off can’t for the life of them, apologize enough or talk any sense into the party who has excommunicated him/her. Nor figure out why their comment was taken out of context when he/she is pretty much known for being a smart-ass.
My plan of Romantack (Romance + Attack):
* Note – the tips that follow assume you want this person back, if not romantically, then as a friend at the very least. If you do not wish to rescue the relationship then proceed to my book page where you can buy lovely stories not about romance.
1. Assess your skills. If you are highly skilled at anything artsy be it painting, drawing, sketching, writing, candle making, underwater basket weaving, etc., know this will be your strong suit and where you will be focusing a lot of attention. Musical ability also falls into this category.
2. Create. Use your artsy skills to create anything for said person who has cut you off. Keep a few things in mind: Was this person partial to a certain type of art you created? (a figure, a scene, style, song, etc.) What did he/she like that you could incorporate into your art? (favorite animal, place, etc.)
Example: If you are skilled in figurative art then I highly suggest you fill a sketchbook with drawings of your true love. Maybe place him/her in different scenes where you both were when together, happy, special places or some place you talked about going like Greece. Seriously, is there anything more romantic? Perhaps, but we’ll leave that for later.
3. Present art. You may find that trying this in person has dramatic effects and may be painful. Therefore, I recommend using the mail option. Either snail or email. Take a photo of said art and email it with a brief message, which I’ll go over later. If you absolutely must deliver this in person, then be prepared, not only to be rejected or met by someone else (Hey! It could just be a friend, don’t assume), but you must know what you’re going to say if anything at all. Believe me, sometimes no words speaks VOLUMES and if you’ve included a note then you’re good.
4. Messages. Is it just me or does everyone get sappy when given a love letter? No, it can’t just be me, so flex your fingers and get out a piece of paper. Yeah, it’s gonna be handwritten. Why? Because it shows how much you care, and that you care at all, especially when considering how little people write by hand these days with computers, cell phones, text to chat. Trust me, the person who receives it will appreciate the extra effort and am I the only one that finds handwriting sexy? The curly tails of some of the lower case letters, the way a ‘t’ is crossed or a letter is slanted. It makes me feel somehow closer to the person I received it from as if they’ve shown me another part of themselves. Maybe that sounds funny, but like I said earlier, I’m a hopeless romantic.
- Start simple, Dear *Name of Person* — Probably drop the cute nickname for this note. I don’t know, to me it seems like if you’re trying to tell him/her that you seriously care then “Dear Pooky Bear” just sounds too…cute. Like you’re still together and just had a little disagreement.
- Don’t sound like a regular letter, “How ya doin’?, How’s life?, How’s your cat?” This is a LOVE letter so you are professing love for this person. Use statements like, “I think about you everyday, the way you played with your hair while you read, your singing in the shower, the way you lit up whenever you saw a butterfly then closed your eyes and made a wish.” There are plenty of endearing things you remember about your true love, so let them know. Sure, some are overused and sappy, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few tries. Make it your own, change words, add words, then there’s the Internet if you’re still drawing a blank.
- Don’t make it about YOU. Your focus should be solely on him/her, NOT on you and definitely NOT on what you think went wrong, who was to blame, how it should be fixed, etc. etc. If you’re going to place blame, place it on yourself. Something like this, “I blame myself for not listening more, being more attentive, being more appreciative.” I might steer clear of “I blame myself for letting you get away” since it sounds like the person was trapped…by you. Trapped is negative anyway, so something like “I blame myself for getting lost in my selfishness not realizing I was losing you, us.”
- Do keep it short. Unless you’re writing a story or poem, don’t go on and on about the relationship rehashing the past and how things were, even if you make them sound pretty – “I remember the times we ate ice cream at midnight. Chinatown was such a blast on New Years.” You hope the person hasn’t forgotten about all of the great times you had together and they probably don’t, but this operation requires you think ahead. You want him/her back because you see a future with them, one that doesn’t include focusing on the past. Keep that in mind when/if you get back together too. Forget the crap that happened in the past and NEVER bring it up again especially NOT during an argument.
Also, if you do write a story or poem don’t mimic your relationship in the story and change names then have the two characters get back together at the end. It might work, but depending on how you write and how soon you give it to the person, he/she may not be ready and alienated even more. Remember, your goal is to open up the communication train, not jump straight back into the relationship.
5. Skill challenged. If you made it this far you’re probably thinking there is no hope for you, but, alas, here is a simple way to start. Create a YouTube playlist of songs that are cool, express how you feel, use the words you wish you wrote. It’s simple. Sign-up for an account on YouTube then surf for songs. Under each video is the option to “Add to,” click on this and select “Add to New Playlist.” Each song after that can be added to the playlist you created by clicking the “Add to” option. In order for your true love to view this you need only go to your Videos tab click on the playlist you created then Share. It will give options such as embed, email, copy and paste URL, etc. Then send it.
Also, if you’re so inclined, creating a video for said true love would be romantic too. For the musically gifted how about a tune? My God that’s romantic! Maybe create a video collage using photos of your true love, places you’ve been, want to go,etc. Word to the wise, I wouldn’t post this on YouTube until you’ve sent it via email. I mean, yeah it’s romantic, but posting photos of your true love could go either way. Know what I mean?
I created a playlist with a sampling of love songs (“I screwed up/I can’t live without you” songs) to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. I tried to mix up musical styles because, let’s face it, guys don’t always like soft melodic, sappy love songs. I would suggest looking for songs that have the lyrics on screen to reinforce the message you’re trying to send and…do you really want your true love getting lost in the eyes of Adam Levine or Rihanna and forgetting the whole point of the playlist? Again, just my two cents. (* side note: some videos are prohibited from being played back in a playlist, go figure. So, double check the playlist in your account or send the link to your own email prior to sending to your true love.)
So, that’s it. My apologies for going on so long. Once again I’ll tell you, I am a hopeless romantic, which means I could’ve gone on even longer, but, alas, I’ve got books to write.
* Disclaimer – The recommendations listed above are not guaranteed to work. They are only ideas that this hopeless romantic would cave under in the worst of ways. If nothing else, understand these are things my characters would do, say, write, act on, but that’s because I make them.
I noticed I never gave more than a synopsis of this story, so thought I’d share an excerpt. Enjoy!
The sky is pitch black as we hum down the two-lane highway, the only car on the road for long stretches as we make our way through the desert. I’m nervous, but comforted at the same time. More cars means a better chance of someone finding us if we break down and in Molly that possibility is greater than seventy percent. On the other hand, less cars reduces the chance we’ll be hit by drunk drivers headed east. It’s too easy, too accessible. Forty minutes to the west, no I.D. required and no one to squeal to your parents. Sounds strange, but we’re getting used to a funeral every month.
“Hey, can you grab that CD for me?” Paige’s thumb is pointed over her shoulder.
“You’re not seriously gonna turn off one of my favorite songs are you?” It’s Soundgarden for God’s sake.
“Brooke, you know this song is so blasphemous.” Her look reminds me of my Sunday School teacher from third grade, lips pursed, face twisted like I’ve committed the ultimate sin.
“Jesus Christ Pose is blasphemous? Have you even watched the video?” I knew better than to ask. If it didn’t have 90210 in the title, she wasn’t watching.
“Headbangers’ Ball isn’t exactly award winning TV.” She’s such a smart-ass. I think that’s why we get along so well. In every situation she has a comment that smacks of cynicism and, if not, I do.
“Oh my God.” I can’t believe she knows the name of the show.
“Besides, my church did a whole exposé on rock music and this one definitely goes against what the Bible says about impersonating Jesus. Did you know there are eighty-six rock songs that talk about hating Jesus? You should be careful, you might start to believe it too.” She’s channeling The Church Lady. I imagine any minute now she’s going to mention Satan. I break into hysterical laughter expecting her to join me, but her face is solemn. I wonder how many ‘Hail Mary’s’ she’ll do just for hearing a piece of this song, a ritual I still don’t understand, but somehow makes her feel squared away with God.
“Seriously, your sermon couldn’t wait until the song was over?” Fine if she doesn’t like the song, but she has to appreciate the fact that Chris Cornell’s voice is hot, which compliments his sexy face. Turning it off would be a sin, but talking over it, cruel.
“Brooke, c’mon.” Clearly she’s not in the mood for my musical taste tonight and I’m not in the mood for another lecture on how her priest views my life choices.
I reach my arm back, but my fingertips don’t even graze the seat. Dang station wagons. I unbuckle myself and lean through the middle. It looks like someone dumped the contents of a locker complete with a blanket waded up on the floor. I grab the only CD and push myself back to the front before falling over the console.
“Here.” I hand the case to Paige. She pops it open and slides the disc into the radio then jacks up the volume. R.E.M.’s Out of Time blares through the speakers. Her ex-boyfriend gave her a copy before breaking up with her this summer. Like a CD was going to make the pain any easier to digest. It wouldn’t have been so intense if he hadn’t been her first, real boyfriend. One she thought cared, but ended up not so much. I didn’t think a long distance relationship was a good idea even if it was for a year until she graduated, but a girl gets a little screwed up watching movies that say otherwise. At least he came all the way here to break it off, which I found admirable and pompous at the same time. She said it was mutual, but I didn’t believe her. Not after hearing all of the plans they’d made together since ninth grade when they started dating. Plus, her face was red and puffy for months after he left. Allergies don’t last that long, that is, if you have them.
Track one was our favorite. Kind of an ode to her break-up and songs that reminded us of certain people. All you can do when they come on the radio is change the station.
We sing together as loud as possible, our bond made stronger by their split. I guess because she isn’t dividing her time between me and writing, calling or swooning over him anymore. Not that I demand a lot of her time, but after Pax made me look like a fool I needed to hear something other than, “I hope he calls tonight, I hope I got a letter, I can’t wait ’til we get back together!”
“By the way, what’s the blanket for?” I’m unsure if I want to hear the answer.
“I use it to change.” She glances at me, my eyebrows bent in confusion. “You know, change clothes, like between work and classes.” Her explanation doesn’t make sense.
“Why don’t you change at work?” It isn’t the classiest, but I know the bar and grill has a bathroom.
“Holes, that’s why.” Her expression is serious as she stares at the road.
“Holes? You mean those tiny things in the wall that look like something’s been ripped off?”
“Yeah, holes in the walls.” I look at her, waiting. She must think I’m thick.
“You know, holes they use to look at you from another room?” Our eyes meet. I can tell she’s not kidding. I feel sick. I’ve been in that bathroom more than a dozen times and never noticed any holes. Not that I was looking. I mean, who does? When you gotta go, you just go, right?
She must have noticed my face fall and the color disappear. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure they didn’t see much. At least you weren’t fully naked.” She shot me a reassuring smile. I’m stuck on the word ‘much.’ I look out the window trying to remember exactly how much I had exposed, but more than that, who would have seen me? I remember a few creepy guys hanging around the bar once or twice, but wrote it off as too many drinks.
“Why didn’t you ever say anything?” This information would have been good to know a long time ago like before I used the toilet.
“Sorry, I thought you knew. It’s kinda common in a lot of places especially bars.” Her answer makes me feel stupid. Like a country hick none the wiser to the ways of the big city. Except this isn’t the big city. It’s a stupid little town in the middle of nowhere Texas. A town unlike the big city in many ways including the lack of a mall. That’s why people move here. To get away from all of the big city crap although I read a Wal-Mart is set to open in a few months. Now I find out, of all of the big city influences, the hole in the bathroom wall has made it’s arrival.
“Well, why don’t you go home then?” I snap out of my self pity long enough to ask another question, one I already know the answer to.
“Girl, you know how far my house is from the rest of the world. It’s a waste of gas.” She punches fast forward on the CD player skipping three tracks until the last one. I’m glad. I don’t like the slow songs, not tonight. We bob our heads and sing along. I don’t know why, but this song makes me wish I was standing in the back of a truck going fifty miles an hour. So, I do the next best thing, stick my head out the window. The warm air blows my long curls away from my face. I close my eyes and breathe in the smell of the desert. For a few minutes I dream I’m somewhere else, someone else, a person who matters.
“You’re gonna fall out the window!” Paige pulls the edge of my dress so hard I think it might rip. I fall back on my seat smiling.
“I swear, you’re so careless sometimes. You’re gonna give me a heart attack.” She scolds me as if I’m her irresponsible teenager. Funny since she was the one busted last year for standing through the sun roof of our limo as it sailed down the main drag. It was probably more what she was doing instead of the fact she was standing.
In her rage about being dumped by said D.C. boyfart, as I call him, and going to prom alone, she pulled down her spaghetti straps and flashed every guy on the boulevard while yelling, “Would you give these up!” No amount of coaxing could get her back in the limo and the one time I pulled her down she slapped me so hard tears stung my eyes. I couldn’t blame her, hopped up on Jolt since she hardly slept, writing letter after letter hoping to strike some sense into boyfart. He never answered even one.
It wasn’t long after that I found out about Pax, the quiet, smart, all American wrestler. Perfect everything – teeth, hair, clothes, parents – all of the time. I thought he was cute and liked how he wasn’t on a pedestal like my jock boyfriend before him. Maybe not being the popular jock, teacher’s pet and all around high school celebrity would be a good change of pace for me or at least safe. From what I wasn’t sure. Maybe the constant harem that followed jock boy like entranced zombies or the rumors that jock boy was cheating, which is one reason we broke up, but never proven. I couldn’t take the stress always having to look and act perfect like a wind up toy repeating the same words, same tone, same gestures. I began to feel as if I were losing myself, the thoughts I had were someone else’s, the person I really wanted to be, envisioned myself being, was becoming a dream. So, instead of become a product of my peers, I got out. Like Julia Roberts in ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’ I decided to leave it all behind while I still had some sense and an ounce of dignity.
It wasn’t hard to slip out of the jock spotlight. I quit the cheer team, which conveniently got me dropped from the circle of airheads I once called my friends. Then I made sure I wasn’t involved with any activities which put me in close contact with them for long periods of time like decorating floats for homecoming, Prom planning committee or eating off campus at Pizza Palace or Deli Delight.
When I met Pax I knew it would be different. He’d be the one I would call my high school sweetheart, the one I’d go off to college to forget, but our love would be so intense we would find each other after our first year and get married, have kids, then look back at our photo album when we were eighty and say, “I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.” I heard the needle drag the record on the day I knew that would never happen.
Days after prom, when all of us were back in our right minds or at least some of us, it was brought to my attention that Pax had attended an after party. An after, after party because my parents threw one for us at my house. He must have been bored out of his mind hanging out with my family on a night he should have been doing something else, but we weren’t quite there in our relationship. We’d talked about it and both knew we wanted to, I think his body more than mine, but I just couldn’t go through with it, not after overhearing stories by the girls who did. How they just gave in to shut the guy up, that it was no big deal and how they used it to get what they wanted. To them, sex was a tool, an idea this hopeless romantic could never accept.
I think my grandmother pinching Pax’s butt was the last straw and the point at which he told me he was tired. I didn’t think much about it since it was already close to midnight plus it was Pax, Paxton Charles Edmonton III, upstanding catholic boy, debate team leader, Food Pantry volunteer. What did I have to be concerned about?
There was no way to keep it secret for very long, particularly when the girl he fell onto was freaked out she might be pregnant. I should have known when she followed him all over campus a desperate expression on her puffy eyed face. I recognized her from the debate team, a freshman, wide eyes, eager to please, open to anything and everything anyone would teach her, show her. It scared me to think I was just like her at that age, except for the obsession with someone else’s boyfriend. She finally cornered him one day, so full of panic she didn’t care if anyone else might be around.
“Pax, I think I am.” Her voice trembled, eyes brimming with tears.
“How can you be sure? It’s only been like a week.” His tone was disbelieving, but gentle. Not at all like this news might ruin is life plans to go to Stanford and study law.
“We didn’t use anything and my cycle was due three days ago.” She sobbed putting her hand over her nose covering the snot she couldn’t sniff back anymore.
Pax just looked at her considering what she’d said, maybe trying to reason it away with the knowledge from his AP science and physics classes. He stroked the side of her face wiping away the tears staining her cheeks black. My heart fell into my stomach as the blood left my face. If they could see me above them, eavesdropping from the senior locker quad, they’d probably think I was a vampire.
I watched him kiss her, the same way he kissed me. Slow, gentle, top lip, bottom lip then full mouth. Anger raced to my head. “That two timing piece of….” I felt sick and dizzy at the same time. I wanted this to be over, but I couldn’t leave. I didn’t want to find out from anyone else what I already knew, but more than that I didn’t want anyone to know I’d been made a fool, again. So, I did the only thing that might save a shred of my already lacerated honor. I marched down to both of them and laid it on the line.
“Look, I’m not exactly sure what happened here, but I’ve heard enough to know I don’t want any part of it. I’m sure you don’t either, but sounds too late for that. So, this is what we’re gonna do. Pax, you and I are broken up, obviously. It happened prom night, but we’ve been hanging out to see if we could patch it up, but, alas, you’re just a jerk. Don’t worry I won’t tell anyone. Now, when asked, it would be cool if you guys acted like nothing happened between you two for a few weeks just so the dogs we call friends won’t have another rumor to run with and our high school reunion won’t sound like, ‘Hey I wonder if Pax will show up and get punched by his ex?’ Anyway, hope that works for you guys.”
Their expressions went from deer in headlights to one of relief. I could see I had made the bigger move by letting them off the hook, but it didn’t make me feel any better. They nodded their agreement. I expected Pax to protest, maybe offer some sort of explanation, but he didn’t. Just stood there with a pathetic expression of failure on his face. I turned and walked away before I punched him. “Pax,” I looked over my shoulder and waited for him to look at me before I told him what a piece of crap he was, a lie, just like all the others, but I felt my throat tighten up. I knew my voice would crack and sounding heartbroken wasn’t a satisfaction I was going to give him. Instead, I shot him my best “I feel sorry for you” smirk and walked away.
If you’d like to read the entire story, buy it here!
While the initial cover was nice, I thought it was lacking in background scenery making it a little lopsided, so I had my awesome illustrator, Ghia Mercado, add more detail. Below is the result. I love it! Thanks Ghia!