Now that the Christmas crazies are over and the Muffin is allowing me to feel like a human being once more (as opposed to a blob of constantly nauseous goo) here's some awesome news!
When I opened my email yesterday, I found this:
It is our pleasure to inform you that your entry titled All Roads, has been awarded Honorable Mention in theWriter’s Digest Romance Competition!
Winners will be listed in the May/June 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest, and on www.writersdigest.com after the May/June 2012 issue is published, and a copy of the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market has been ordered for you.
Competition was fierce, congratulations on a job well done!
Writer’s Digest Competition Staff
Yay! I haven't posted All Roads online and I'm not sure if I can until the winners are announced or some other legal flummery. But as soon as I find out, I will put it up here. Also awesome: now I have some credentials to put at the end of my query letters!:)
In the mean time, here's another bit of Becca's story. Enjoy!
PS: the Muffin says hello:
In the mean time, here's another bit of Becca's story. Enjoy!
PS: the Muffin says hello:
I went down to breakfast the next morning determined. Kevin greeted me easily, but I could sense a distance between us. I frowned as I watched him cajole more pancakes from Alva. How had we grown close?
Elsie was giggling at something he said. I filled my plate and ate, though I had no appetite. I downed a glass of apple juice and handed my dishes to Alva.
He gestured I should continue, his mouth full.
“Can you do the same thing you did to get us here to get anywhere?”
He swallowed. “No.”
“I have to know where I’m going. And I have to have been there before. Otherwise it’s too dangerous.”
I nodded thoughtfully.
“Why?” he asked, eying me.
“I can feel my Speaking.”
“And?” he asked, his eyebrows up.
I shrugged. “That’s it. I can feel it. We need to go north.”
He grimaced. “Everywhere is north of here, Becca.”
“Are we in Florida?” I asked. He made a face.
“Yes, the panhandle. But still, north is not very specific.”
“It’s far away.”
“I don’t know,” I lied. All my dreams had been of one place. A large house, unkempt and abandoned. It sat in an overgrown lawn, the fluffy heads of dandelions waving in the sun. There were hills all around and the trees had fresh green leaves, newly sprouted. “When can we leave?”
“At once,” he assured me. “But how we’re going to get there…”
“Can’t you just flutter your eyelashes at some saleslady and get her to give us a car?”
Of all things, Kevin blushed. “I could. But that’s not exactly ethical.”
“I don’t care about ethical,” I told him shortly. “I care about saving the world.”
Elsie chimed in. I had been wondering when she would. “You can take my car.”
Kevin grinned at her. “Thanks, but we can’t.”
“Why not?” she demanded.
“I don’t know how long we’ll be gone. And I have no way to get it back to you. And the last car I drove was smashed by two scavengers trying to steal a Well.”
She only laughed, flipping her hair behind her shoulder. “Well, then, I’ll come with you.”
“No,” Kevin said, just as I said, “Okay.” His mouth dropped open as he stared at me.
“What did you say?”
Elsie grinned at me. “I’ll come and help you guys. I don’t have anything going right now. You could use some help, Kevin, especially if you come across any more scavengers.”
Kevin gulped wordlessly.
“Sure,” I said, standing. “How soon can you be ready to go?”
“You can’t come.” Kevin snapped.
“Why not?” We two girls asked together. I noticed Alva had vanished, leaving us alone to fight it out.
“It’s dangerous,” Kevin protested. Elsie snorted.
“You let her go,” she said, flicking her fingers at me.
“She had to!” Kevin snapped. “It’s her curse.”
“She’s not even magic.” Elsie said dismissively. I flinched, but neither of them noticed. “She’s useless. No offense,” she added to me.
“None taken.” I answered in the same cool voice she had used. How could she not see it either?
I spoke over him. “This is my Quest, Kevin. She’s coming.”
Kevin’s teeth were clenched. He drew a slow breath and jerked a nod. “Okay. Let’s get our stuff and meet outside in fifteen minutes?”
I stood and went out.
I was folding my clothes into my pack when Kevin entered his old room. The door swung shut behind him and the lock clicked. Again I wondered why they had locks. What was the point?
“What is going on?” he snarled, arms folded over his chest.
“I don’t know what you’re-”
He swore and made a sharp gesture. My tongue hit the roof of my mouth and I couldn’t speak. He prowled closer, his eyes narrow.
“I don’t know what Malcolm said to you,” Kevin growled. “And I don’t know what I’ve done, but I don’t think I deserve to be treated this way.”
No matter how furious I was, I could not get my voice to work. He went on in a seething whisper.
“I’ve risked a lot coming with you, including my life. And considering I’ve saved yours twice now, I’d appreciate a little gratitude.”
I stood mute until he rolled his eyes and released my voice.
“Thanks,” I said nastily. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“You’re damn right you couldn’t.” He retorted.
“Happy now?” I asked, turning away.
“No,” he bit out. “Why do you want Elsie to come?”
“I don’t,” I admitted. “But she has a car and I need a car to get to that house.”
“What house?” Kevin demanded.
“The house in my dream.” I shook out a sweater and balled it up before stuffing it into the backpack. “Trust me, I would rather be dumped in pit of snakes than have to ride anywhere in a car with her.”
Kevin didn’t say anything for a long time. When he did respond, it was not as I expected.
He gripped my arms, turned me to face him, and pressed his lips to mine.
I stiffened with shock. He slid his hands across my back, holding me tightly. I saw his eyes close as his lips moved gently on mine.
A thousand thoughts raced through my head.
This was my first kiss.
Was Malcolm right about him being in love with me?
What if he fell out of love with me?
What would he say when he knew what it was I was looking for? Would he leave me, betrayed?
What if he refused to let me die?
His lips were warm.
His heart was racing.
“Aren’t you going to kiss me back?” he asked, his mouth still touching mine.
I stood frozen. I had no idea what to do. My stomach, instead of twisting in knots, was now a block of ice, chilling me through.
Did I want to kiss him back?
Everywhere in me that was not my stomach purred with warmth. Yes, I most certainly did. I wanted Elsie to walk in and find us like this, with our legs touching. Odd, how intimate that position. In everyday life, people’s knees and thighs never touched. Nor their stomachs or chests. Or their lips for that matter.
Yes, I wanted to kiss him.
So I did. Clumsily, I was sure. He didn’t seem to mind. His hands closed into fists, clenching my t-shirt.
It lasted forever and was over all at once. He lifted his head, breathing hard. I could feel the air rushing in his lungs under my hands. I blinked my eyes open. Another strange thing: Why do we close our eyes when we kiss? I hadn’t thought about it, it just happened.
“Believe me now?” he asked hoarsely. I could see he was still angry at me. I bristled and pushed out of his arms. He let me go. “Well, Becca?”
“You ever kiss Elsie like that?” I trembled, praying he hadn’t.
He swore again. “No!”
I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to slap him or let him kiss me some more. Both sounded appealing. Before I could decide, there was a knock.
“Becca?” Alva called. “Elsie’s waiting for you.”
“Be down in a minute,” I answered.
“Have you seen Kevin?”
I scowled at the door. She had to know he was in here with me. “No.”
“Alright, I’ll tell her.”
I waited until her steps receded, then looked back to Kevin. He met my eyes for a long moment, then turned away.
“I’ll meet you downstairs,” he said, trying to sound disinterested. It was ruined by the anger still roughening his voice.
I sighed. “Kevin, wait.”
He stilled, his hand raised to unlock the door. I thought I could see a flicker of the power gathering around him, preparing for his casting. Where did it come from?
“I’m sorry, Kevin.”
I grimaced. He sounded like my mom, making me speak the details when I had to apologize for beating the crap out of some neighbor kid for taunting me about my curse.
“I’m sorry I…” What? I really didn’t know. “I’m just sorry. I don’t like it when you’re upset. You’re my friend. My only friend.”
His shoulders slumped and the power drained away from him. “Becca, that is the last thing I want to hear after kissing you.”
I was confused. “Huh?”
He turned to face me and I was relieved to see a wry sort of smile on his face. “Never mind. You all packed up?”
“What do you mean-”
“It’s a long hike to where we park the cars. Bring a water bottle.”
“Kevin, I don’t-”
He went to the door once more.
“Kevin!” I exclaimed. I could see his magic now, swirling up around him. His hair moved as it whipped around his head. How had I not seen that before? It focused into his hand, brightening. I scowled at it and stamped down on it with all my might.
It shattered, scattering in all directions. I felt a hot graze on my cheek as it flew by me.
“What the-?” Kevin was staring at his hand, now empty of power. He lifted his head slowly, his eyes dark with suspicion.
“Look,” I said, close to tears as I realized what I had done. “I’ve never had any friends. No one would ever play with me. The kids I went to school with? They bullied me until I learned how to punch. Their parents fought over who had to be in the same class as me. I never got to play on soccer team or go to summer camp. I never got invited to a sleepover, never had a boyfriend.”
I cleared my throat to keep being able to talk. “So, I’m sorry, okay? I don’t know what to do and I’m scared. I scared you could get hurt, that you’ll leave me, that I won’t be able to stop it and everything will die because of me. I’m scared Malcolm’s right about me and I-”
“Malcolm?” Kevin interrupted. “Right about you? What do you mean?”
I shook my head. “No, no I mean - I can’t tell you - please, Kevin, just go-”
He was suddenly next to me, his hands tight around my arms.
“I’m sorry, Becca,” he said. “But I have to do this. Look at me.”
I shook my head, staring determinedly at his chin.
“Rebecca, look at me.”
I fought it as long as I could. My eyes forced my head up, moving past his mouth, his straight nose. I gasped as I met his eyes. They were brighter than I had ever seen them, all their power bearing down on me.
“Tell me the truth,” he said. I whimpered as his voice pressed into me. “What did he tell you? Answer!”
I gritted my teeth. “No!” His grip loosened.
“Becca,” he said softly. “Becca, I’m your friend. You can tell me.”
If his stern command was hard to resist, this was impossible.
“Becca,” he said again. He smiled, his devastating, secretary-seducing smile. “Becca, tell me what Malcolm told you.”
I hated him even as I sighed and did as he wanted. “Malcolm says I’m magic.”
“And are you?” Kevin asked. His voice was like chocolate, rich and warm and delicious. I wanted to kiss him again, taste him.
I nodded. “I am.”
“Why did you lie to me?”
I shook my head frantically, terrified he would be angry. “I didn’t lie. I promise, Kevin. I didn’t know, not until he told me. I don’t want it. Please, make it stop. Please, Kevin.”
He pulled me into a hug and rested his chin on my head. Freed from his eyes, I shivered, my will my own again. I cried into his shirt, letting him comfort me. When I felt better, I drew back and slapped him with all my strength.
“How dare you do that to me!” I snarled.
“I thought you loved me!”
“I do!” Kevin said hotly. “But-”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. I hurt at the betrayal in his voice. “Don’t you trust me?”
I checked my immediate response. Did I? His casting was holding back the curse. I was not the only one with secrets.
I hesitated too long. If I had thought his face hard before, it was nothing on the frigid expression he wore now.
“Get your things,” he said tonelessly. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“Are you going to tell her?” I asked. He had reached for the door handle, unlocking it manually.
“Tell her what?”
“That…” I blushed. “Well, everything.”
“No.” He said shortly. “What happens between us is none of her business. I wasn’t lying.”
I flinched at the accusation. “I’m sorry, Kevin. I just…I just didn’t know what to do.”
He sighed. “If I’m your friend, why don’t you trust me?”
“I do, Kevin, I just-”
He cut off my explanation by shutting the door soundly behind him.