This is just a taste of the novel I have worked on for the past four years. I’m not a speedy writer since I only have a few hours each day to write.
Okay, a fewer more since my surgery and sick leave from work.
The intro of my novel is lengthy, so I’m putting it here in four installments spread over four days.
Below is the first installment. It features 15-year-old Vree Erikson and her neighbor Owen Avery. The story opens on a Sunday and five days before Halloween.
Enjoy. And please don’t shy from leaving comments.
Vree Erikson yanked the steering wheel of her dad’s John Deere riding lawnmower and sent it across several surface roots of the old oak tree in the backyard. She and the mower pitched left, right, left again, then … BAM. The deck slammed down, the blade stopped, and the motor whined for a moment before the engine stalled.
“No, Mom, listen,” Vree said into the microphone of her pink and black Bluetooth headphones, “I need acrylic ultramarine blue. It has to be acrylic paint. I want to finish my painting tonight so it’s ready to take to school tomorrow.” She sighed. “Have Tina help you. She works there every Sunday.”
She was quiet and chewed at her bottom lip until her mom said she had found the correct paint.
“Thank you.” Vree whipped off the headphones and flung them over the steering wheel.
A chilly October wind blew grass and leaf clippings at her back, rippled her white shirt and green palazzo pants, and blew her long blonde hair around her face. She hunched in her seat and sputtered, pulling strands of hair from her mouth.
The sky over Ridgewood had darkened as thunderheads rolled in and dimmed the afternoon sunlight. She needed to hurry if she wanted to finish mowing the backyard before the rain came.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Go away, Owen. I don’t want to talk to you.”
Her neighbor Owen Avery peered at her from the brown picket fence that separated their yards.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “It sounded like the lawnmower’s blade struck one of those tree roots.”
“I’m still mad at you.” Vree leapt from the mower and fell to her hands and knees when she tripped over a root.
Owen vaulted the fence and hurried to pull her by an arm from the ground. She pulled from his grasp and stumbled over another root. Owen reached for her but she slapped away his hands.
“I told you I don’t want to see you anymore,” she said.
“I know. But listen.” Owen peered at her with anxious brown eyes. The hair on his chin and upper lip made him look older than fifteen. Grass and dirt marked his cheeks and stained his T-shirt and jeans. Had he been in his mom’s pumpkin patch, picking out the best ones for jack-o-lanterns on Friday night?
“This is all Skye’s fault,” he said. “She saw me kiss you at the hayride last night and wanted to know how serious we were. She’s been stalking me at school, driving me crazy, so I told her we, uh…” He combed a hand through his bushy auburn hair, lifting the locks from his forehead. “I told her that we—”
“You told her that we were all the way serious.” Vree scowled at him. “And when she asked me about it after the hayride, my mom overheard her. I spent all night convincing my parents that I’m … you know … that you and I haven’t had sex.”
“I’m really sorry about all this. But if Skye wants to think that we had sex, then that’s her business. Now she can’t play me like I’m someone she needs to score with.”
Vree stepped away from him and leaned her back against the lawnmower’s hood. The conversation had plowed into the one thing she did not want to discuss. And it was all Owen’s fault.
“When two people are in love, they should cherish their love and not say stupid things,” she said. “You need to remember that.”
The pained look left Owen’s face. “Does that mean you still love me?”
Vree pushed her windblown hair away from her face again. “It means you need to make things right with Skye and my parents if you think I’m ever going to talk to you again.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I really hate myself for hurting you.”
His apology softened Vree’s anger and eased her frown. She gave him the smallest smile she could muster and said, “For the record, I had a good time at the hayride.” Then she rolled from the hood and grabbed the lawnmower’s steering wheel before Owen could open his mouth and ruin the good moment they had just shared. “Help me get this thing off those roots,” she said. “Okay?”
She steered the mower away from the roots while Owen pushed at the back of the seat. The damaged root exposed a white, wet wound where the lawnmower blade had cut it.
Thunder boomed from the bruise-colored sky as a sudden cold downpour rushed through the bare oak branches above them. Vree shrieked at the icy rain drenching the back of her shirt.
She hurried back to her seat and tried to start the mower. The engine coughed but did not jump to life.
“Dad’s going to ground me for a year if I broke anything.” She jumped to the ground. “He’ll be home from his office any minute,” she said to Owen who swiped away rainwater from his eyes. “Come on. We need to get the mower out of the rain.” She pushed against the steering wheel and steered toward the little white shed behind the garage thirty yards away.
Owen pushed from behind again but he slipped several times as his beat up tennis shoes lost traction on the wet grass.
A flash of bright light dazzled the space around them as thunder cracked again. Heat hit them like a giant fist that knocked them off their feet. Vree landed on her back, rolled to her stomach, and rubbed at her eyes with cold, wet fingers. Her body ached everywhere and she spat away an acid taste in her mouth.
When she got to her knees, the rain had stopped. Owen lay on his back a few feet away. He did not move.
Vree forgot her pain and scrambled to his side. He looked asleep but he was not breathing.
His heart made no sound when she put an ear against his chest.
Two EMTs had demonstrated CPR on a rubber mannequin in her Human Health class last month. Was it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if the person was not breathing and external cardiac massage if their heart stopped beating?
She was unable to remember.
Panic kicked in. She cried for help, alone in her backyard. Where were Mr. and Mrs. Avery and Gaylene? Someone needed to call an ambulance, but she had left her phone charging in her bedroom.
She cried out again, almost screaming for help. No one came.
She had to save Owen.
She blew air into his mouth with hers, remembering to pinch his nose closed.
Then she pressed her palms against his sternum for ten quick jabs, but it did not revive him. She called out for help again until a painful sob erupted from her throat. How long had Owen gone without breathing? More than five minutes? Could the human brain live without oxygen for more than five minutes?
She continued CPR, calling for help, and begging Owen to live. She almost screamed when strong hands pulled her to her feet.
Her well-groomed blond-haired father in a gray Brooks Brothers suit towered over her for a moment before he dropped to his knees at Owen’s side. He performed chest compressions with the skill and ease of someone who had done it many times before.
Her dad knew CPR. She stumbled backwards. Did lawyers have to know CPR to be lawyers?
Vree jumped when he shouted, “Did you call nine-one-one?”
“I don’t have my phone.” The words caught in her throat and choked her. She staggered backward. A heavy weight pressed away her breath. She needed to get away from Owen’s lifeless body.
Her dad pulled his iPhone from inside his suit jacket and dropped it in the grass. He snatched it from the ground, swiped away the grass clippings stuck to the screen, and dialed 911.
A white crow cawed from the lawnmower as Vree backed away. It was perched on the seat, and it cocked its head at her, looking with black, beady eyes.
“Not dead,” it cawed before it vanished like a ghost.
Vree stumbled across the tree roots and fell into warm darkness.
To be continued