I'm still working with my edits on my WIP, but I thought I'd share a bit of freewriting on a potential NaNo project if I finish up with my edits in time.
This is the New Adult project I wanted to start (yeah, I'm going to try my hand with this, though I don't expect this to follow the formula that many take with this genre). It deals with some rather controversial subjects, but I'm keeping mum about it until I actually write this thing in full. It was going to be the project I worked on anyway after I finished my current WiP.
You can find the first chapter under the cut, if you're curious. Story starts when Onyx Fuller, my protagonist, is 16. The majority of the story takes place when he's in college several years after the "week his life fell apart."
If you're wondering about a narrating voice: think a younger Michael J. Fox.
Warning: Strong Language
Not very many people can say that they’ve had their prospects for their entire future ruined inside a week. But then again, when you have a name like Onyx and have had a streak of bad karma following you, it's heavy. Like the character Pigpen from the Charlie Brown cartoons, this dark cloud following you all over the place no matter how much you try to shake it. I mean, the kid could probably solve his problems by taking a bath every once in a while, but with me, it was a permanent thing. Not something you could wash off, though many times I wish I could've. It's a stain that goes beyond the flesh to the bone.
Hard to say when it started exactly. The earliest I can think of was the time I was four years old and sleeping in my room when the plane hit next door. No kidding. I lived next door to a house where a small plane crashed through the roof in the middle of a quiet October evening in our neighborhood. The vibration from the impact shattered the glass of the windows in my room. I cried out as I saw the flames licking bright outside; my mother ran in my room, scooping me up in her arms, staring like she couldn't believe what she saw - on the outside as well as inside my room. Like a bomb had hit.
I only have the memory of the windows shattering, the curling balls of flame, and the smoke as dark gray as the color of my eyes as it billowed to the sky. Mom filled in the rest of the details later. So did the News at Eleven clip she recorded when we had to go stay at my aunt's house, while the emergency crews had to contain everything and remove debris. Took about two weeks before we could move back home, but nothing was otherwise damaged in our house, save for my room. Lucky break, but not so lucky for our neighbors.
The miracle - no one was home at the time - husband, wife or their teen kid. The husband worked a late shift at the university, the wife a teacher holding things down at a PTA meeting. The son crashed (no pun intended) a party that he wasn’t supposed to be at. Lucky break for him.
The pilot of the plane, a 64-year old retiree and his son, 20 years his junior, parachuted out just before the plane crashed. They’d tried getting an open area as the engine failed, but it wasn't a go. There were so many investigations after the incident, none I cared to remember, but Mom always said it was a good thing the emergency crews were able to keep the plane from blowing up. We all could've died, but probably I would've been the first to go in the blast.
Mom said it was a miracle, but I say it was the start of bad things happening around or to me.
Another example: me as a ten year old. That particular incident was my fault. I liked riding around on ATVs. Blame my dad for having an interest in the things. He was also a big Formula One buff. I used to ride with him, or alone while he monitored me. He would never allow me to ride on my own unsupervised. Said I was too young, and made it clear I wasn't supposed to touch our ATVs outside of our joint rides.
Had a friend from school who came over to the house one time and told me that we should take it out for a spin, along with his. Didn't wanna do it at first, but peer pressure, you know? I took the key from my mother and father’s room, where I knew they hid it in the jewelry box next to my mother’s wedding bracelet. My babysitter didn’t give a damn what I did, as long as she could talk to her boyfriend on her cellphone. Pretty sure they were having phone sex, so the greater distance I could put between me and them, the less awkward I felt. So I said at the time.
ATVs aren’t designed for a short, scrawny kids who'd only ridden with their father less than the number of fingers one could count on two hands. But I wanted to impress my friend. He was really popular at school, and I went to one of those special charter schools where my grade was incorporated with the middle grade kids. I was in fifth grade, he was in seventh. He'd talked to me a few times. If I could impress him, I thought I'd have it made in getting even the other cool kids to like me. Dad told me I had good handling, so that worked enough for me to give it a go.
Things went great for a while. We rode the rough terrain and it was awesome to feel like I was riding along on my own, all my gear in place. It’d rained recent enough to matter, and while there were trouble spots on the way as I rode back behind my house, no problems came up.
It was when we tried to do tricks on the hills that things got complicated. I followed his lead, his stunts. The kid was impressed with me, said he didn’t know many “runts" like me who could do those things.
But on a trick - I hit a slick in the way. Flipped once, twice, thrice, with the vehicle landing on top of me.
Broken arm, bruised ribs, concussion, and sixteen stitches in the side of my head. If I hadn’t been wearing my helmet, I would’ve died. The helmet cracked from the impact because the momentum of the stunt where it threw me was just that much. Bears mentioning that I was comatose for the first few days in the hospital, but when I got out of it, my whole family - Mom, Dad, Aunt Sida, and Uncle Trent surrounded me and covered me with more kisses than I could keep up with, too stunned to be embarassed.
I was the coolest kid in school with my cast and bandages when I finally went back (first the time off from school was fine, then I got bored).
But the “friend" I had? We never talked again.
It did lead me to meet my first real friend though - Manny Kendall. His real name was Emmanuel, and he stuck with me through a lot of rides.
He didn't stick with me that week though. But who could blame him?
You'd think for a guy who survived those things that one week at Wilstown College Prep High would be easy. I was sixteen, not quite two months before finishing up with my junior year. I played lacrosse, was dating a girl I'd known for three years, had two great friends from the team that had my back through anything.
Manny met me Monday afternoon, after classes ended. He slammed his locker shut, his dark blue eyes flashing, nostrils flaring as he stared at me.
“What the hell's wrong with you?” I asked, though I wasn't mad at him so much as confused as to what I did to piss him off.
“For some reason, I get the impression you don't want to be around me anymore.”
Then I got it. “Come on, Mann, you know I have practice with the team AND Wes wanted me to take her out to a party later this week with them. I've been blowing her off a little more than I can chew.”
“Yeah? You think? And what about blowing me off in the same breath?" he snapped. “Between your girl and between whatever you’re doing with the team, you’re always around them. Thinking like you're better than everyone else, like you're better than me, so I just bend ass up while you fuck me over.”
“Whoa, whoa!" I held up my hands, palms out. Manny never usually swore. It just wasn’t his deal, so it meant he really was pissed at me. “Where’s this coming from? Look, between you being with your Mathlete trials and me being at practice, I know it's been a while since we did anything, but...?”
“A while? Onyx, you blew off the last three things I invited you to. And you didn’t even remember my birthday a couple weeks ago until the last minute. You think I didn't notice?”
My back tensed, first because he never called me anything than Nyx usually, and second because he was right. A couple of weeks back, I had forgotten his birthday until the day of, but I remembered enough to give him wishes before the day was out, and got him something the day after when I could.
Made me a shitty friend, and guilt flooded through me again.
“Why did I think you were going to throw that back at me?" I pinched the bridge of my nose, back slumping against the row of lockers. “I said I was sorry, Mann. It’s just that...I had a lot to deal with that week, okay?”
“Wanna tell me exactly you were ‘dealing’ with, then?”
It wasn't my place to tell. I didn't think about saying it was family stuff until after the fact, 'cause I’m not good being put in a corner. No time to process. So I said the first thing that came to mind. Knee-jerk.
Manny laughed, but without humor. “Really? You can’t say? Or is it that you don't want to? There’s a difference. Maybe I can help you. You’re not interested. You don't give a shit. Six years, I've been friends with you, and you wanna throw it away over your goddamned posse that you think is better than me. They all hate me anyway, so it’s just as well.” He shoved past me, starting to leave out.
My blood boiled. “You’re my best friend, Mann, you don't get...”
“I get it!” His voice rang sharp through the empty hallway as he turned to face me again. Most of the people already boarded the bus, drove home, or were already in their classrooms for after school activities. The sun streamed through the windows of the hall, but the mask in his features held a darkness even the light couldn’t touch.
Funny, since I was standing out of the light of the windows, still against the lockers in shadow. The cloud.
His voice dropped to a more bitter tone. It stung me more than when he yelled. “I'm going to make it really easy for you. I'm done. Do you hear me? I'm done. You don't have to defend me anymore. You don't have to see me, you don't have to talk to me, you don't have to hang out with me. I'm not your obligation.”
I didn't even know what he meant 'cause I was still stuck on his ‘I'm done.’ “Are you saying that you don't want to be friends anymore? Do you think I don't care?”
For a moment he smiled. “I don't think that at all. I know you don't care. Have fun, Onyx Fuller, with your new life and liberation. Have fun with your new friends. And fuck you.”
He turned, pushing his way through the double doors.
I wanted the cloud around me to swallow me whole, cause I had no idea where that came from. Where any of it had. It was the shattered glass from the window panes when the plane crashed, the moment when I overcorrected on the ATV and flipped, the moment that slipped from my grasp and made me realize I just lost my best friend of six years, and I didn't even know where the moment fell away from me. Easy to tell where it ended, but not where it began.
There’s a line in one of my Mom’s favorite songs - called “Monday Monday.” The line that goes “Oh Monday mornin’, you gave no warnin’ of what was to be.” Pretty much summed up my thoughts for that moment.
And that was just the first day.