Welcome to Day 12 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge here at Reading on the F Train. Today's topic is Last, my current WiP!
So, today, I'm taking a big leap and sharing two short excerpts from the project I'm working on. It evolved from my NaNo project...sort of. Except the story is completely different, so this is essentially a second first draft.
It's called Last for now, because it was inspired by "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning. I feel like that will eventually change, but hey--it gets me an "L" entry.
Here's the setup: Bridget, the MC, is totally in love with her best friend Maggie. There have been hints that Maggie feels the same way but they aren't talking about it; neither one has ever dated a girl before. Maggie has just started dating cool-new-guy Duke; Bridget has just had a Moment at the bus stop with boy-next-door Rob. The first snippet is on the bus with Maggie; the second is after school with Rob. There's some stuff in between, but these were two of my favorite scenes to write.
“So what was all that about?” she asks.
“All what?” I try to play it cool but I know my face is at least bouncy-ball pink.
“What just happened with you and Rob? You’re all red.”
I shake my head. “Nothing,” I insist. “I mean...I think nothing.” My face heats up another few degrees.
Maggie grins. “Ok, details. Maybe I can help decipher this mysterious nothing.”
“We just made plans to meet up and work on a newspaper thing after school. Then he gave me a high five. But he like...grabbed my hand. For a second. That’s it.”
Maggie twists around to check that Rob isn’t looking at us, then slumps down into the seatback for extra privacy. She holds up her hand. “Show me what he did,” she says.
I hold my hand up, and nod at her. She reaches in for the high five, and I squeeze her hand as our fingers touch. I forget to breathe for a second, as the electricity of Maggie’s touch jolts through me. I realize I’ve held her hand for much longer than Rob held mine, and I drop it abruptly.
Maggie’s eyes get big. “Oh yeah. That was definitely something,” she says.
I shift away from her, leaning into the window. The chill of the glass and metal shocks me through my thin sweater, but I stay where I am. “I don’t know. It wasn’t really like that. It was probably nothing.” I don’t know who I’m trying to convince. I don’t even know what I want. I just know that whatever just passed between us isn’t something I want happening on the stupid cheese bus, surrounded by half the neighborhood. I cross my arms over my chest, suddenly feeling like there’s a huge neon sign over our seat blaring something about “hot girl-on-girl action.”
Maggie, apparently, feels no such thing, because she slides closer to me. “Well, something happened. He looked like he’d won the lottery and you looked like a tomato. Are you--” she drops her voice and puts her face achingly close to mine--”Are you into him?” She raises her eyebrows and smiles hopefully.
Time slows down in that moment. I can feel Maggie’s breath tickling my ear. I can smell her strawberry shortcake gum. I panic momentarily about my own breath, and clamp my mouth shut. Every part of me is aware of every part of her, but rather than enjoying it, I feel my stomach tighten. She’s not interested. She met Duke a week ago and they’re already all up on each other at the bus stop. If she wanted you, she’d have done something about it by now. I look her straight in the eye. “Yeah,” I say. “I like Rob.” It comes out a little defiant, and I think I see her expression change just a tiny bit. She deflates, just barely, just for a second, but then she amps up the excitement and I wonder if I imagined what I saw.
That afternoon, Rob and I sit on the steps of the school waiting for the late bus. Our interview was a bust; Ms. Holmes never showed. But we waited long enough that we missed the first bus, so here we are anyway.
Rob fiddles with his camera. He’s actually one of the only people I know--other than parents--who still has an actual camera, rather than just using his phone. And he carries it with him pretty frequently, so I should be used to it by now. But when he points it at me, I hold my hands up in front of my face.
“Come on, Bridget,” he coaxes. “Let me practice. We’re doing portraits in my photography class.”
“No way I’m letting you take a picture of me for class,” I tell him, my hands locked in place.
“Please? You look really pretty with the sun on your hair like that.” I’m so shocked by Rob’s compliment that I drop my hands to look at him. Before I know what’s happening, the shutter whirrs.
“Hey! You tricked me!” But he’s got the goofiest grin on his face, and as much as I want to yell at him, I can’t help but return his smile. He snaps another shot, lightning fast. I roll my eyes, laughing, and he steals a third before sitting down--a safe distance away--and looking down at his screen. When I see the look on his face as he studies the pictures he just took--pictures of me--something twitches in my chest. He slides toward me on the steps, close enough that our legs touch, and holds the camera toward me.
“Wanna see?” As I lean in to look at the pictures, my shoulder presses against his. I’m surprised by how solid he feels, given how scrawny-looking he is. The warmth and weight of him feels nice, and he doesn’t shy away from the contact. I focus my attention on the pictures.
“Wow,” I say. “I don’t hate these.” In fact, I’m startled by how almost-pretty I look. He must have gotten me from a flattering angle, because I barely look fat at all. Don’t get cocky, I remind myself. These aren’t real. This is not how you really look..
Rob elbows me in the side. “Geez, tough audience,” he teases. “I think you look great.” He doesn’t break eye contact with me, and we hold each other’s gaze for a long moment before I finally feel my face heating up and look away.