First of all ... I'm almost done writing Unraveling! *gasp* I hope to finish it this week, in fact. Which means I have to race through this blog post and then get back to writing, because I still have a bit of work to do before it's done. Wish me luck!
Secondly, I did a guest post on my friend Ally's blog, Novel Ideas Life of a Teen Writer, which you fellow writers out there MUST check out––not just because of my post, but because the blog is amazing and Ally gives excellent writing advice! (My guest post is on the topic of fantasy writing, by the way.) So if you have the time, I would be ever so happy if you'd stop by and take a look!
Thirdly, Round 2 of ABNA is announced on Thursday! I will be sure to update then ...
And now for the teaser! I know I posted one from Unraveling last week but ... I'M GOING TO DO IT AGAIN, because it's the only thing I've been writing lately, anyway. :) So here it is ... In Which We Find Out Emily's Middle Name. Huzzah!
I didn't know your middle name until we were about ten years old. I knew almost everything else about you––the scars that hid under your sleeves, the pain and the fear that hid beneath your smile. But I'd never known the secret name that hid between Emily and Lawrence. Maybe it seems like something insignificant, but once I knew it I felt as if I had some new level of power.
You told me late one night, when we were having a sleepover at my house. We were closed away in my room, like we were sealed from the rest of the world. I was painting your toenails bright red, one by one. We talked as I did this––or, it was more like you were doing the talking while I was concentrating.
I don't even remember how the subject came up. I just remember the small details––how that stinging smell of nail polish seemed to rush up my nose and burn between my eyes, how my hand shook slightly as I struggled not to make a single mistake, how that perfect shade of red reminded me of so many things. Like strawberries. Or blood.
Although I don't know how the seed was planted, somehow the question sprouted from my mouth. “What's your middle name, anyway?”
You were oddly silent. “What's yours?”
I don't know what it is with people and their middle names. Everyone is so guarded about them, like they're trying to protect some hidden identity. In elementary school, kids swap them like secrets, whisper them into each other's eager ears. They compete for worst place, seeing whose parents managed to come up with the most hideous one. Personally, I never had much of a problem with mine, and I almost felt like there was something wrong with me because I didn't.
So when you asked me, I went through all the steps I'd seen the other kids do, like it was choreography: the dramatic pause, the wrinkling of the nose in disgust, the quick shake of the head.
“Come on,” you said. “Tell me.”
I finished painting your nails, and I carefully avoided your gaze as I screwed the cap back onto the bottle. You wiggled your freshly red-tipped toes and chanted “Tell me, tell me, tell me” until it became a single word––“Tellmetellmetellme”.
“It's Ashley,” I said, finally.
“Ash-ley,” you repeated, dissecting it. “Mia Ashley Wise.”
“Okay. I told you mine. Now it's your turn.”
You kept your mouth shut and shook your head.
“Come on. It's only fair.”
“No I didn't.”
You gave the signaling sigh of defeat, which I knew meant I had won.
“Fine,” you said, and closed your eyes for a second. “My middle name is George.”
I waited for the twitch of a smile, something to betray the joke.
Your face went red, almost the same color as the nail polish on your toes.
“Your middle name is George,” I said, trying to process this. I would have laughed, but there was something in your face that stopped me––an unusual hardness in your eyes.
You looked away, resting your chin on your drawn-up knees. “It was my dad's name.”
As always, a dark feeling stirred inside of me at the mention of your dad. When we were younger, it had felt too strange to talk about. It was too difficult for me to imagine growing up without a father. And for you, you didn't know what it was like to have a dad. Yet, you had accepted that empty aspect of your life for what it was.
Now that we were older, it was difficult in a new way. You were old enough to start questioning what your drunken mother had told you. Sometimes you asked me, What if she's lying? What if he's not really dead? But then the thought of him being alive brought you other fears, like, If he's still alive, then where is he? Did he leave because of me?
And then there were even more questions that neither of us dared to voice out loud. Did your mom beat you because of him? Did she look into your eyes and see someone she had once loved, someone who had betrayed her? Left her?
So, I didn't laugh at your middle name. I just held it inside, felt it burn away at the inside of my stomach. Emily George Lawrence.
“Anyway,” you said. “George can be a girl's name, too. There's some writer or something named George, and she's a girl.”
I shrugged, not wanting to argue with you. “Okay.”
But I couldn't get rid of the strange, rushing feeling. I finally knew something about you that wasn't beautiful.
It was like that Greek myth we read that year in school. You probably remember it. Everyone kept laughing because it had the word “ass” in it, even though the teacher kept desperately explaining to us that, in this contest, ass meant donkey.
Anyway, in the story there's this king, Midas. And he does something rude that results in a curse that causes him to grow a big pair of donkey ears. He wears fancy hats and whatnot to cover up these ears, but one day his barber comes to cut his hair and sees them. King Midas tells the barber not to tell anyone, and the guy doesn't. But keeping the secret inside is killing him, so he goes around whispering to plants, “King Midas has an ass's ears!” And the wind takes the secret and spreads it all over town until everybody knows.
So, I didn't tell anyone. But the truth was always bursting to come out. When no one was around, I could whisper it to the walls, to the ceiling, to the darkness. “Emily's middle name is George.” Maybe the words are still caught in the wind somewhere.