Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Snippets 17

Sorry I'm so late posting Friday Snippets this week. I was hoping I'd have something from my NaNo project ready. I should have known better. It is too soon. In order to generate word count I am allowing myself to be very messy with it.

So instead I'm sharing a scene from my NaNo project of two years ago, Brooding Instinct, another novel from my Fruits of the Spirit story world. Most of that one is still messy too but there were a few scenes I have worked over. This one still needed some work after I chose it for today's snippet. I chose it anyway because it has a character in common with the snippet from last week. Curtis isn't actually in either this scene or last week's snippet from Tale of a Wail, we view him only through the thoughts of the protagonists.

Brooding Instinct

Vivian listens to the silence of the house. She waits at least thirty minutes past the last sound she heard from her parent's room. The night-time restlessness of both of her parents have increased since Valerie's last miscarriage. Her father spends more time in his study before heading to bed and her mother has taken to coming in to check on her, content to watch her sleep if Vivian does not let on she is awake. This has made it difficult lately for her to leave her bed let alone slip out the window into the yard and make her way to the apple tree. Thus the rendezvous with Curtis have become fewer and farther between.

She slides one foot onto the floor and pauses to listen. Nothing but the tick of the clock on her headboard. She sets the other foot beside the first and stands, holding her breath for the sound of the creaking floorboard if she miscalculated. Thank God she doesn't have to cross the middle of the room where most of the old floorboards are loose in the dry heat of summer and speak their irritation with one another in a language of ticks and squeaks. It is just one step from the side of the bed to the window sill of this old window with the sash that is left raised to catch stray night breezes. Each season has its own challenges but summer is the most conducive to getting out of the house and back in again without announcing her movements to her parents on the other side of the wall.

She has already prepared for her departure by unhooking the bottom of the screen so that it will push out on its hinges. She will have to remember to keep one hand on it as she lowers her self to the ground so that it won't snap shut with a sound like a knock on the door. She slides one knee onto the low sill and leans her head under the sash. It would be so much easier with Curtis' help but also so much harder to explain if they were caught. This way she can claim she only wants to go sit in the swing to catch the breeze. That is something she and Valerie used to do in the summer when they shared the room. And even after Valerie left home three years ago, Vivian continued to do it and occasionally her mother would spot her and come to join her.

It wasn't until Curtis moved into the converted Sunday-school room the summer she was thirteen that her parents started acting like she mustn't be sitting out in the yard alone at night. Vivian couldn't pretend not to understand why. She had been wearing her heart on her sleeve for Curtis since she was small enough to ride on his shoulders. But what the family considered cute when she was five to his fifteen was no longer thought cute after he turned eighteen. Let alone now that he was twenty-five. He promised that as soon as she turned eighteen they would move to Idaho where it was still legal for first cousins to marry.

Vivian slid her other leg over the sill and lowered herself to the ground by one arm as she held the screen open with the other. As soon as both of her feet were solid on the grass below, she let go of the sill and then carefully released the wooden frame of the screen. She stood absolutely still for long seconds, breathing in and out through her open mouth the better to hear every possible sound. Her parent's window just yards to her left was also open. Though she thought she heard their electric fan whirring, which would mask some sound. But why take chances?

After a couple minutes of hearing nothing but crickets and frogs, she ventured one step backwards. And then, pivoting on that foot, she fairly scampered across the yard to the apple tree. Sometimes she would sit quietly in the swing for several minutes. Just to be sure her escape from the house had not been detected. For being spotted quietly sitting in the swing was not likely to bring her parent's wrath. Only her Mama's offering of an iced juice or herbal tea along with her solicitous companionship until Vivian voluntarily returned to her room.

But this night, it was already past one in the morning and she was impatient, fearful that Curtis would give up on her and return to his room, leaving her to ache for the touch of his hand on hers, for the sound of his voice as he spoke her name when only she could hear. So, instead of sitting in the swing she stepped into its seat and in one fluid motion she grabbed the branch on which its ropes hung with both hands and swung herself up into the foliage.

Standing on the branch supporting the swing she was just able to reach the underside of the tree house floor where there was a trapdoor. She pushed this up eagerly anticipating his greeting. But there was only silence and black darkness. Disappointment was like a sudden dousing with cold water. Tears sprang to her eyes and she had to take several juddering breaths to keep from crying. She couldn't bear to turn back, retrace her steps in the same careful silence to the same sigh-soaked sheets and dream-withering walls. She could at least rest for a bit first.

Before lifting herself up she reached into the branches and plucked an apple. She tucked it inside the front of the sports bra she wore under her knee-length night shirt then reached for a second one, tucking it into the other side. For the third one she had to reach so far to the side she needed to release the grip her other hand had on the solid trunk-connected branch and shift all of her weight onto the foot farthest from the trunk. She held her precarious balance by swaying gently as the toes of a single foot gripped the bark under them. When she grabbed the apple and tugged sharply its sudden release caused her to wobble so severely she thought for a moment she was going to topple off her perch and plunge into the dark beneath her feet where the twigs and branches which were now her concealment and comfort would whip and lash her mercilessly as she fell. But it was only a moment. Not even a second lapsed before she had steadied herself again with one hand on the trunk and that third apple safely in the other.

But now she must do something with it for she needed both hands to proceed up into the tree house and she wanted to go on up even if Curtis was not there. He might still show up and even if he didn't she longed to lay on the floor and look up through the branches at the stars and dream of the day when she and Curtis could declare their love for each other and forever after belong to each other in the open light of day before the eyes of parents, Assembly and God.

The tree house in the wee hours was the only safe place to think about this longed for future as it was the only place it was safe to meet each other's eyes, to let their gazes linger on one another, to touch finger tip to spine. to trace the graceful arch of the other's bare foot with one naked toe. Vivian shivered as a cool breeze passed through the branches. She opened her mouth and gripped the apple gently with her teeth without breaking the skin. It was early in the season yet and she nearly drooled in anticipation of its sharp, green-apple tartness as she launched herself up into the womb of darkness above her head.


Just a note to clarify something. I have no idea whether Idaho is a state that still allows first cousins to marry. Vivian believes it because Curtis has said it.

6 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  11/02/2007 10:19 PM  

Your descriptions are as sharp and delicious as that apple...

Forbidden love. Nothing more is required to make it all the more desirable except a little bit of opposition. (grin)

IanT 11/03/2007 4:24 AM  

Another good start!

(I seem to have typed that on lots of people's blogs over the last couple of weeks... everyone seems to have lots of projects on the go except me. Sounds like I need to spend more time writing!)

The apple motif works very well.

(For when you come to edit this: You seem to switch tenses - past-to-present - a few times.)

Gabriele Campbell 11/03/2007 9:14 AM  

Aw, sweet first love and innocent toe tickling.

*goes and steals an apple from neighbour's trees* :)

Julia Phillips Smith 11/03/2007 12:50 PM  

"where most of the old floorboards are loose in the dry heat of summer and speak their irritation with one another in a language of ticks and squeaks."

Really enjoyed this, Joy Renee!

Ann 11/03/2007 6:28 PM  

Excellent beginning. Good job, and good luck with Nano! *waves pompoms as cat stalks away grumbling* :)

Joely Sue Burkhart 11/06/2007 6:07 AM  

Sorry I'm late to this--NaNo is killing me! But I greatly enjoyed your descriptions. Now I really want a porch swing and an apple tree. :-)

Hope NaNo is going well for you!!

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