I guess technically this isn’t a new book. It’s the one I wrote during the 2012 NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Except it’s actually a worldwide writing challenge. Fifty-thousand words during the month of November. Thirty days. I wrote this manuscript in twelve – and it’s been collecting virtual dust ever since.
That means it’s pretty rough in most places, pretty awful in others … and it needs a lot of work before it’s ready for other eyes to see.
The workshop that’s been kicking my butt is helping. This is the story I’m using for the assignments, and I’m pleased with the changes I’m making. So much so that I’m sharing a scene with you.
Keep in mind that it still needs some work, and it’s probably going to be a couple of months before it’s ready. And … let me know what you think in the comments below.
“You do have a brain injury,” Wendy said, her voice soft, shocked. She let her hand drop slowly to her side. It was clear she considered herself personally responsible for the ladder falling over, and the anguish in her expression hurt Jake’s heart more than all of his injuries combined. He tried to lighten the moment, to cheer her if only a bit.
“Oh please. Look at the flashlight you’re using. Of course it bothers my eyes. People in Kansas could see that thing on a moonless night.” Disappointed when his joke fell flat, he tried again to reassure her. “Wendy, I’m fine. No concussion, no brain injury. Just a few scratches and bruises. That’s all, okay?”
“Fine,” she snapped, turning away from him. Her voice sounded thick, like she’d swallowed something she hadn’t chewed first. “But you’re either staying in my guest room or I’m sleeping on your sofa, because I will be checking on you during the night.”
“Hey. Look at me,” he said gently.
“No. I need to finish frosting your cake.” He reached for her hand as she started to walk away, tugging her back to stand in front him. When she kept her gaze glued to the floor, he raised her chin, sighing when he saw tears streaming down her face. “Aww, sweetheart-“
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, her chin quivering.
“You got hurt cleaning my stupid gutters.”
“Wendy.” He pulled her against his still bare chest. Closing his eyes, he rested his cheek against her hair, almost grateful for the accident. It wasn’t often he got to have her this close, and when she slid her arms around his waist, he had to bite back a groan. “Listen. I mean it. The only one to blame here is me. I knew the ground was too soft to support the ladder, but I was too stubborn to wait. This was my fault, not yours, so don’t cry. Please?”
“I can’t help it. I was so scared when I realized what happened. And then I saw you lying in the shrubs and- I don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happened to you.”
“Shh. Nothing is going to happen to me. I promise. I’ll always be here for you.”
“But-” She looked up, her tear-filled eyes meeting his.
“No. I’ll always be here,” he said softly. “You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
Jake knew he had a choice in that moment. Her emotions had been on a breathtaking rollercoaster ride, peaking at terror, then bottoming out in relief, and he knew if he tried to kiss her, she’d let him. She wouldn’t think twice about it right now. But later- Later, after she’d had time to mull everything over, there would be consequences. The thought of her being uncomfortable around him wasn’t worth the risk, so he made the hard decision. He would continue to bide his time, to hide his true feelings, to stick with Sara’s plan.
“Wendy? I’m freezing here.” He forced a teasing tone into his voice. “Do you think I could get a shirt on now?”
“Of course,” she murmured, pulling away from him. Or trying to. He wasn’t quite ready to let her go. Not just yet.
“Stop worrying. I’m really fine. If I thought I needed to see a doctor, we’d go. I promise you, I don’t have a death wish.”
After a long, thoughtful pause, she nodded her head once and said, “You’re still staying here tonight.”
“You’ll get no argument from me.” When he finally let his arms fall away, they felt as empty as the pockets of a teenager who spent all his cash partying over the weekend.
“Good. I’ll find you a shirt.”
“Wait. What? Where?”
“I know I have some night shirts that will fit you.” Jake snorted and shook his head.
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not much into fairies and butterflies. Besides, I don’t look good in sissy col- Uh- I mean I don’t look good in pastels.” She laughed at that and he cupped both of his hands on her cheeks, wiping her tears away with his thumbs. She brought hers up to cover his. He pressed his lips against her forehead for an all too brief moment, then said, “I’ll just run home and grab a clean one.”
“It’s too cold. I’ll go. You can park yourself in one of the recliners and rest.”
“All right.” He took a shaky breath. “Thanks for caring so much about me.”
“You don’t have to thank me for that. Jake, I-” He watched her lips clamp together, and didn’t try to stop her this time when she backed away. “You’re my best friend. Of course I care about you.” She was at the bathroom doorway now. “I’m just going to go get that shirt. Do you want anything else for the night?”
“My toothbrush and razor would be nice. Maybe a pair of sweatpants.”
“I don’t own pajamas.”
“You sleep in sweats?”
“Not usually, but I will tonight.”
“Jake, just wear whatever you usually do. It’s not like I haven’t seen shorts before. You’ll be covered up anyway.”
“If I slept in what I usually wear, I think we’d both be embarrassed. Just grab a pair of sweats.”
When she finally realized what he was saying, it took every ounce of his self-control to choke back a laugh. Eyes wide, Wendy’s face flushed so red she looked like she’d spent an August afternoon in the sun. Then, without another word, she whirled around and hurried down the hall. A few moments later, he heard the door slam shut behind her.