New Opening to My Upcoming Novel
by Alan F. Zundel
Here’s the latest draft of the first few chapters of to my upcoming paranormal romance novel, “Hold Only Good Memories.” Feedback is welcome!
When eyes meet it is more like touching or tasting than observing. There is something mysteriously physical that takes place, like the transfer of a spark of static electricity. Contact is felt. Mutual existence is acknowledged. A question is asked, waiting to be answered: what now?
It calls for a smile or a stare, inviting or refusing further intimacy. Or, most often, breaking contact and feigning innocence of having encountered the other. Yet both know—something has happened.
If Sean had not met her eyes that day, he would not have fully registered her existence. People pass you all the time on the streets. Most are as much as invisible to you, and with many you may see their outside without considering the person inside. But she turned and their eyes met; that undefinable something passed between them. A thread of light bounced from the white of her eyes and the hazel of her iris, entering the dark portal of his pupil. They became visible to each other.
Now he knew she was there, and she knew that he knew. The question was asked, waiting to be answered.
Having rarely had a reason to leave his home state of Ohio, Sean was not yet jaded at the sight of clouds close up. Spread out in the airspace beyond his little window they really did look like hills of fluffy white cotton. He could imagine angels walking around on them, or blissful dead people with harps and big white wings to get them from one snowy mound to another. He smiled at himself, still thinking like a kid even after a quarter century of life.
Of course he knew better. Clouds have no solidity, he reminded himself, they are just aggregations of water droplets coming together temporarily, mostly empty air. The play of light on the droplets, blurred by the limitations of eyesight, give the illusion of some kind structural integrity to the clouds. What appear as “things” standing there outside his window are only things until the wind shifts and their forms dissipate, revealing their ephemeral nature.
“Well folks, we are beginning our descent into Portland, so please double check that your table trays are up and your seatbelts fastened. There are a few rainclouds ahead, so we may experience a bit of turbulence as we come in for a landing. Crew please take your places.”
The jet began to lower itself into the clouds, slowly being immersed in them until the blue sky disappeared. Sean’s seat bumped a little underneath him and he double-checked his belt. Then rain spattered the window and the view turned dark, the sunlight all but blotted out. Sean closed his eyes and tried to breathe, waiting for the pilot to land them safely on solid ground.
* * *
While exiting the airport into the passenger pick-up area a spike of pain shot through Sean’s left knee. He winced and groaned, releasing the handle of his wheeled bag and shifting his weight to the other leg. After slipping his old jacket out from beneath the shoulder strap, he dropped his backpack to the concrete sidewalk.
“Are you all right?” A middle-aged woman was standing nearby with her bags, a maternal look of concern on her face.
“Yeah,” Sean replied. “Knee’s stiff from sitting too long. Just need to stretch my legs a little.”
“Hey Mom, over here!” a man’s voice called out, interrupting their conversation. A guy about Sean’s age emerged from the driver’s side of a grey Prius several yards away, waving his arm.
The woman looked back at Sean.
“I’m okay,” Sean assured her. “Thanks.”
She nodded and hesitated for a second, then turned and hurried over to the young man. The pair embraced as a young woman exited the passenger side of the car and stood shyly waiting.
“Oh, I missed you so, so much,” the mother said.
“Me too, Mom. It’s so good to see you again!”
Finally the man released his mother and presented his companion. “Mom, this is Kelly.”
“I’m so happy to meet you,” Kelly started to say, offering her hand, but the mother stepped in and threw her arms around her.
“Oh, come here!” she said warmly.
Sean watched this happy rendezvous silently for a moment, then realized he was getting cold. Above and beyond the overhead canopy rain was drizzling down, and the breeze going by was cool and damp. He pulled his jacket on and zipped it.
The man was now loading his mother’s bags in the trunk as the young woman helped her into the car. Soon they were all in the car and pulling away.
Sean watched for a few seconds as it headed out into the misty rain beyond the canopy, then he turned and looked down the line of cars moving in and out at the curb. He was looking for a white Civic, but didn’t see one.
He pulled his phone out and checked his messages. Nothing.
The chill in the air was worsening the soreness of his knee. Keeping his eyes on the cars coming in from the entranceway, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and waited for his ride.
Mark was only about fifteen minutes late, but by the time he got there the rain had escalated from a drizzle to a shower. From where he stood Sean could see it pounding down on the pavement beyond the pick-up area and reducing departing cars to two red brake lights disappearing into the distance.
His phone chimed at the same time he spotted the Civic maneuvering into the curb lane. He quickly checked the phone—yeah, it was Mark—and grabbed his bags to head over to the car. The trunk popped open and Mark jumped out of the driver’s side.
“Sorrysorrysorry!” Mark grinned. “I got hung up at work, then this rain was a real bitch!”
They met at the back of the car and Sean dropped his bags. Mark slapped his arms around his friend and swayed him left and right in a bear hug that lifted Sean’s feet from the ground.
“That’s okay, man,” Sean said, stepping back to admire Mark’s business attire. “You look good! How’s the job?”
“Great, great! Here, let me help you with these.” They each grabbed a bag and hefted them into the trunk, then Mark shut the trunk and they got in the car.
Mark began pulling out as Sean peered into the rain ahead.
“Does it always rain like this?” he asked.
“Not always,” Mark replied. “We’re just starting the rainy season.”
“Um, from about October to May.”
Sean stared at him.“Shit, man! You’re kidding me?”
“Beats the snow,” Mark laughed.
They reached the end of the canopy and raindrops began pelting the roof and windshield. Mark turned the wipers to high speed.
“Really, it’s not as bad as it sounds,” he said. “The rain usually goes as quickly as it comes. Plus it’s great for plants. This is the City of Roses, you know.”
“Roses, huh?” Sean said. “That’s very nice.”
“Gotta have some beauty in life.”
“And some thorns.”
They had merged with the exit lanes from the upper deck and were passing a light rail train on their right going in the opposite direction.
“C’mon, where’s the romantic guy I knew in college?” Mark said. “You seeing anyone back home?”
“Nah,” Sean shrugged. “Still haven’t met the right girl, I guess.”
“The ‘right girl,’ huh? Holding out for perfection?”
Sean smiled. “I thought you had the perfect woman.”
Mark thought this over. “Well, she’s definitely good for me, but no one’s perfect. You learn that when you live with them.”
“Like college roommates, huh?” Sean said.
They both laughed.
“My dad always said my mom wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect for him.”
“That’s a good way to put it,” Mark agreed.
Sean leaned forward squinting. “Whoa, slow down, dude, before you hit something! Are those horses on the side of the roadway?”
Mark shook his head. “Put on your glasses, man, they’re metal sculptures.”
Sean stared out the window as they passed them. “How can you see anything in this rain? I’d be scared as shit driving.”
“You get used to it. People get used to anything after a while.”
They were both silent for a few minutes as the rain picked up, drumming at the windshield like so many tiny fists trying to break through.
“You’re wrong,” Sean said quietly as he looked out the window. “Some things you never get used to.”
* * *
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