I’m hurting for some good feedback.
As you know, my sister and I have been working on a young adult urban fantasy type story about Charlie and Jasmine (a pair of twins that were cursed by Death), and a tough-as-nails rebel from Boston named Esmeralda. The story is told from all three perspectives, with diary entries from a third mysterious party thrown in (it all comes together in the end, trust me). This is the first time my sister and I have tried writing something together as opposed to just brainstorming story ideas or giving each other suggestions for our current works in progress. The genre is also something neither of us has tried writing.
Naturally, we’re a bit self-conscious and uncertain about the quality of the story. I think we’re doing pretty good considering our inexperience, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you guys think! Your feedback is invaluable to our process. Won’t you let us know how we’re doing?
Some things we want to know: Does the story make sense? Are the characters likeable, relateable, semi-believeable? Are there any cliche parts? Can you hear four different and distinct “voices” while reading or does one character’s “voice” sound too similar to another? Is the plot engaging? Is there anything you want to see more of (dialogue, setting description, etc)?
Keep in mind that this is a first draft. We’re more than willing to change things that don’t work but we need to know what those things are first. Here is the first diary entry and the first chapter to get you started. Enjoy!
**A note to my more conservative readers: Esmeralda is a complicated kid. She smokes, swears, and behaves disrespectfully. She might come off as offensive or abrasive at first but she does mature and find healing by the end of the story. If you’ll bear with her, I’m sure you’ll come to love her, jagged edges and all.**
April 11th, 1718
What is time? Is it merely an instrument to dictate the passing of years? Is it the friend that reminds us of who we once were? Is it the soothing doctor who erases deep hurts and covers them with protective scabs? Or is it something far more sinister?
I have been dwelling on the question of late. I thought I knew the answer once. Now, there is no way to tell for certain.
I’ve lived longer than I look. I was born when time was recorded differently. It has been too long since we visited our roots. Our home no longer exists, for our people died out centuries ago. Even the land itself has changed. We are all that survived that race, my Jerebald and myself. Adelina and Zebded still live as well, but they have forgotten where we came from. They have new aliases to hide their heritage. They are always amalgamating with the passing time. Meriabey and Frases only laugh whenever we mention home. They don’t realize how truly wondrous it was and how foolishly we discarded it.
The only reason I am recording my thoughts at all is because I no longer feel safe confiding in my comrades. Jerebald understands, for he has always understood me. The others used to, but in this last decade or so, I have noticed the change. My friends are not who they once were. Sometimes I look at them, listening to the words they utter, but find no trace of my beloved friends anywhere. Our views differ where once they were akin. It frightens me to think that we may not last together another decade.
We all chose this life. We all made the pact. We all swore an oath to be together forever. But forever has taken a toll on us. I fear it will be our doom. Us; the immortals. Our greatest desire, our greatest triumph, could be our undoing.
Again, I return to the question. What is time? It is the handler of change, a force of destruction, like a river beating relentlessly against an immovable stone. Our friendship, once immovable, once strong, once indestructible, has met its match.
I threw the door open to the boys’ restroom, skidded to a halt just inside, and fell back against the door. Straining my ears to hear over the pounding of my heart, I bit back a smile.
“What kind of sicko hides in the boys’ bathroom?” Randi said, her voice warped with disgust.
“She can’t stay in there forever,” Karen said. “Let’s wait around. A boy’s bound to go in and kick her out.”
“We’ll see about that.” I glanced at the guy standing at the urinal, giving me an incredulous look over his shoulder. “Hey. How’s it going?”
Despite his surprise, his voice was calm. “I was trying to take a piss before some girl decided to come barreling in.”
“I’m not some girl. I’m Esmer.”
The boy scoffed. “What kind of name is that?”
“The name a couple of gypsies thought would be cool,” I said with barely suppressed annoyance. “What did you get saddled with?”
The boy sighed heavily and zipped up his pants, apparently giving up. “Charlie.”
I rolled my eyes. “Congratulations. You’re one of the lucky few with an average name these days.”
Charlie flushed the urinal and turned. He was shorter than I was but not by much. He was pale, with brown eyes, thick lashes, and dark skater hair that curled out from under his backwards ball cap. There was a skateboard strapped onto his plain black backpack.
Not bad, I couldn’t help but think.
Charlie gave me the once over with a quizzical look on his face. “The fact that I’ve never seen you before suggests you’re new but your clothes tell me you’re a native.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said, pushing away from the door. The black cotton skirt I wore ruffled lightly around my ankles as I moved.
“Does your shirt really need a vest?”
My eyes narrowed. “Who died and made you the fashion police?”
Charlie shrugged and went over to the sink to wash his hands. “I’m just trying to figure out how the ensemble works in your mind. The combat boots are a little out of place, if you ask me.”
“Nobody did ask you, but if you must know my dad was a marine. He gave me these.”
Charlie paused for a moment, eying my boots through the mirror. “Okay, that’s pretty dope. Any particular reason you’re here or do you just enjoy making strangers uncomfortable?”
“Who doesn’t enjoy making strangers uncomfortable? Watching them struggle for words is hilarious.”
Charlie shook off the excess water from his hands and then reached for a paper towel. “Who’d you piss off?”
I snorted. “Some chick named Randi. I didn’t know I needed to be initiated into her gang before I could smoke with them. I thought it was a pretty stupid rule and told her that her haircut made her look like a dude. I guess she didn’t appreciate my constructive criticism.”
Charlie chuckled. “Yeah, the boys’ bathroom is probably the safest place for you right now.”
“I figured.” Opening the door a crack, I dared to peek out.
One of the security guards was talking to Randi and her posse. Randi pointed at the boys’ bathroom.
“Shit.” I hurried away from the door, messenger bag slapping the backs of my thighs.
Charlie watched me with mild curiosity. “What’re you doing?”
“I’m not here!” I walked into a stall, locked the door, and stood on the toilet seat.
The security guard came into the restroom several moments later. “Curnble.”
“Sir?” Charlie said.
“Have you seen a girl come in here? She’s about 5’10, has short orange-red hair and a nose piercing?”
“No, sir. It’s just me in here.”
The security guard must’ve believed him because he soon left.
I unlocked the stall and came out. “Thanks.”
Charlie backed out of the room with a smirk. “Welcome to Green Bay Prep.” Then he was gone.
I glanced at my reflection and ran a hand through my fiery red hair. Heavy eyeliner and eye shadow made my green eyes pop.
Yeah, he thought I was hot.
Another guy walked in and froze when he saw me. “Um…This is the boys’ restroom.”
I frowned. “I am a boy.”
The stranger blinked several times before slowly backing out. I chuckled to myself and followed.
I ate lunch outside the library. The fact that I was eating my cheeseburger like a Neanderthal discouraged anyone from joining me on the bench. War and Peace sat in my lap. People gave me strange looks in passing, but those were easy to ignore. As the new kid in a small private school, I knew I was going to attract attention. At my old public school it had been easier to blend in. There were more freaks, Goths, and wanna-be gangsters to hide behind. There was just Randi and her gang, and a group of skaters who got together behind the cafeteria at this place.
How’s a girl to survive in this preppy purgatory? I thought with a sigh.
The sound of skateboard wheels along the sidewalk made me perk up. What were the chances that was Charlie? So far, my pit stop to the boys’ bathroom had been the most interesting part of my day. Maybe he could rescue me from this boring book I was pretending to read. Unfortunately, it was just one of the guys from the skateboard clique, trying to impress a group of giggling girls huddled together in the courtyard. I slumped back against the bench and frowned down at the book.
I might not be so desperate for good conversation if I had my phone. Man, I miss that thing!
The school was small enough. I was bound to have at least one class with the only guy worth talking to at this place…
And I did. Seventh period art class. Charlie rushed in five minutes late and had a brief conversation with the teacher. He looked irritated and a little worried. The teacher’s brow furrowed, but she nodded and assured him that he wouldn’t lose his place in the class. Charlie thanked her before rushing out of the room.
I watched the exchange with rapt attention. Getting permission to skip out of class on the first day of school? This guy just got more interesting.
Now that he was gone, the teacher proceeded to introduce the class to the projects we’d be doing this year. What a snore fest.
The only reason I signed up for this class was because I needed one more elective to graduate and my options had been limited. My move to Seattle had been very last minute; most of the classes had already been filled by the time I got here. It had been this or choir. I thought I had chosen the lesser of two evils. (I loved listening to music but I couldn’t sing to save my life.) Now, I was starting to think I was wrong. Fifty minutes later, the bell rang and I was free.
Well, not really…
Great Aunt Dinah’s graying Cadillac was waiting for me just outside the school’s main entrance.
If I cared about what my rich, spoiled peers thought of me, I might’ve been embarrassed.
“Not that I give a damn, but how was your first day of school?” she barked once I’d opened the door.
Aunt Dinah was the crotchety cat lady that darkened her neighborhood. She didn’t just frown; she scowled. She was too proud to wear glasses. Her squinting made her look like she disapproved of everything and everyone, which wasn’t far from the truth. She always wore her white hair in a bun. I doubted she even let her hair down to sleep. Oh, and she never left the house without her fluffy pink slippers.
I slammed the door closed, dropped my book bag by my feet, and said nothing.
“Sorry to hear that,” Aunt Dinah said as we pulled away from the school. She didn’t sound very sorry. “There are plenty of chores waiting for you at the house to take your mind off of things.”
I glared out at the window at the cars and buildings we passed. “I have a lot of homework to do.”
“Which you can do after your chores. You’re a smart girl. I’m sure you’ll manage your time wisely.”
I slouched in my seat because I knew it would bother her. “You give me too much credit. I was banished to live with you for the year after all.”
“Sit up straight. You might have made poor decisions in your personal life, but that doesn’t mean you’re incapable of balancing two projects.” She struggled with her turn signal. “Oh, I almost forgot. Your mother called this morning just after I dropped you off.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh, yeah? What did she want?”
“To wish you a good first day and to send her love.”
I chewed on my lips, picturing the look on my mom’s face the night she had decided she’d had enough.
With exhausted tears in her eyes, she’d turned to her husband and said, “All right, Hunter. I give up. Deal with it your way.”
My stepdad had been more than happy to send me to his aunt in Seattle. He’d been itching to get rid of me since he moved in. He told my mom that Aunt Dinah would be able to teach me “a thing or two about discipline.” He assured my mom that I wouldn’t come back home the same “rebellious, stubborn child” I had been since my dad died. And that was all she’d needed to hear.
Despite the ache building around my throat, I forced a snort. “The guilt has probably settled in by now.”
“Your mother made the right choice,” Aunt Dinah said with confidence. “There is nothing for her to be guilty about.”
“Uprooting me from the only place I’ve ever lived just before my senior year of high school and forcing me to come to the other side of the country to live with a relative she’s never met doesn’t sound the least bit wrong to you? For all she knew, you could’ve been crazy, or an unstable old lady with Alzheimer’s, or a super neglectful person who would’ve let me starve to death!”
“Have some faith in your father, Esmeralda,” Aunt Dinah said, exasperated. “He wouldn’t have sent you to live with anyone who couldn’t handle taking care of you.”
I shook my head. “Hunter is not my father.”
Aunt Dinah pursed her lips. “He’s married to your mother, isn’t he? He deserves your respect.”
“The last time I checked, respect was earned.”
Dinah sighed as she pulled into the driveway of her ridiculous mansion. “I have my work cut out for me it would seem.”
I looked up at the house, dread making my stomach knot.
This monstrosity of brick and mortar had two stories with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a sitting room, a library, a kitchen separate from the dining room, a foyer large enough to comfortably fit a Hummer, and the biggest wooden staircase I had ever seen. Not to mention the attic and the wine cellar could have passed for third and fourth stories. The exterior sported ridiculous Corinthian columns and a second story porch with a wrought iron balustrade. The clapboard cladding had been painted blue years ago but was now so pale it was almost gray. The grounds were lush and green, having been trimmed and watered by Dinah that very morning. It was more space than anyone would ever need and it annoyed the hell out of me.
“Why can’t you live in an apartment in some retired folks’ center like a normal old person?”
“Not that it’s any of your business but this is my family’s estate. I’d rather it stay in the family.” She climbed out of the Cadillac and shut the door none too gently.
I followed my aunt up the walkway. “You didn’t think to hire a maid?”
“Maids are expensive. Aside from being mentally taxing, you’re free.” Aunt Dinah opened the front door and scowled over her shoulder at me. “Well, come on! It’s not going to clean itself.”
I gritted her teeth and suppressed a groan. I hate my effing life.
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