Here is my short story that I turned in for my short story writing class. At the end I had some comments on what I wrote that I posted to Facebook. Obviously my friends probably didn’t take the chance to read it, but hopefully you guys take the time to read it. And comment. Or whatever. I would love to turn this into a novel one day. =)
Origins by Jillian Rogers
It’s a bright, clear day outside when I decide to face my fears. My lips are bleeding, from the many times I have bit my lip and my stomach is in knots. Part of me wants to leave but another part wants to finally face the demons of the past. My chest tightens as I move closer to the house, as if someone shut down the oxygen supply and started squeezing my lifeless body. I’m hyper aware of the dog, in the window next to the house, barking at me as I pass. The dog is sitting next to the window of an off-white colored house almost exactly like the house to its left and right. Just a few steps closer, I urge my body. The dog barks again. Then the sprinklers from across the street turn on. Psst. Psst. As I attempt to put one foot in front of the other, I hear a cacophony of sounds. I hear the thump thump of my heartbeat, the barking of the dog, and the pitter patter of the sprinklers. Thump. Ruff. Psst. My attention focused on these sounds, my feet start to move. Moving forward, my nose picks up a smell coming from the house. Barbeque. My mind drifts back to last Fourth of July when Mom accidentally burned the chicken because she was bandaging up a wound I got from falling down the stairs. Thinking about Mom makes me stop and breathe. Is this really what I want?
I walk into the room, looking for the car keys. Where could she have put them? The study is strangely messy, with papers littering the floor and books tossed around on the desk. Mom was always the neat freak in our family, a trait I had somehow skipped over. The only reason I can think of is that something has happened that my mom cannot control. I check the desk, just in case she had put the keys in the usual box by the lamp. No such luck. Just as I was about to walk away, I notice the title of a folder sitting on top of the desk chair: Hazel’s adoption. I pick up the folder, curious to see what this folder contains.
My parents look up from the television. It was the day after graduation. Two days prior, I had found a letter from the adoption agency. They had found my biological parents. The letter was written a year after my adoption. There were many reasons why my parents chose to keep this from me, but in that moment, all I wanted to do was leave. When I read the letter, I had gone to my knees beside my parents’ desk in the study. A room that once held several collections of mystery books and an old record player, now held secrets that pile eighteen years wide. My parents have been hiding the truth of my birth from me for all these years. I felt sick.
My biological parents were doctors, living in North Carolina. They live in a moderately small town with two kids and a dog named Rover. There were photos of them in the folder. The man had brown curly hair with green eyes and the woman had blonde hair with brown eyes. I could see myself in their pictures. I definitely inherited the woman’s small nose and the man’s angular face.
As soon as I said it, my mom starts to cry. She somehow knew that something was up with me. All week she had been asking questions about my health, whether or not I was okay with leaving high school and “moving onto a new chapter” in my life. Not being a very verbose person, I usually just answered with, “fine,” or “good.” I suspected that she had managed to go through my diary or had even seen me in the study but I couldn’t tell for sure.
My dad reaches out and holds onto my mom. His brow is creased with worry. I haven’t seen him like this since his work was giving out pink slips.
“Hazel, have you thought this through?” My dad asks.
“Yes. I need to find out who my real parents are. I can’t just sit here and not know where I come from. I know you guys tried to protect me but it’s time for me to find out who I really am.”
“If that is what you want, we will support you. But we’ve got some great news.”
“I’m pregnant,” mom says.
That night, I packed my clothes and left the next day.
One night, after walking about twenty miles, I stop at a small bar in Denver, Colorado. “Hotel California” is blaring from the karaoke speakers in the far left corner. It’s a moderately small place with the stale smell of cigarettes and cheap whiskey. The guy at the karaoke machine seems to be in his early twenties, with dirty blonde hair, the youngest aspect of this place. He is sporting a Sex Pistols t-shirt with black skinny jeans and a pair of red Chucks. I take a seat closest to the left wall, to avoid the stares of the men nearest to the counter. A waitress comes to take my order. The waitress is wearing all black, save for the brown cowboy boots. She would be what my friend Trish would call pretty, with green eyes and blonde hair, except for the scar just below her left eye. Her name tag reads, “Candice.”
“Hi! What can I get you?”
“Yeah, I’m not ready yet.”
“Take your time. You must be new in town. I’m Candice.”
“Not to sound rude, but I really don’t care.”
“You sound like Aaron over there,” she says while glancing at the boy. “A real charmer that one is. You should go over and introduce yourself.”
“Look, you seem like a nice person, and if I was anyone else we would probably be friends, but I’m not someone else so go bug someone who cares.”
“Candice, are you harassing this girl? Cause I can give you something better to harass.” The boy, Aaron, wanders over to my table. His face has the permanent mark of a smirk, as if he finds everything amusing. I cross my arms in front of me, trying to give off the impression that I don’t want to be messed with.
“Is Candice over here bothering you? Do I need to teach her a lesson for annoying the general public?” He gives me a wink.
“No. In fact, I was just leaving.”
I stand up from my chair and grab my coat.
“Someone needs to loosen up.”
I turn around.
“You heard me. I’m sure you have some heartfelt story about how your parents died or what have you. But so many people have it worse.”
“Look, I really don’t know you, so back off. You don’t know anything.”
With that I walk out the door, not checking to see the look on his face.
I had hoped to forget the whole ordeal, but the next day, as I was walking down the street towards the nearest Starbucks, a group of guys started following me. I wasn’t sure at first, but as I crossed the street to maybe move out of their way, they just followed me. Two of them started whistling at me and the other two made some comments on the size of my breasts. This continued until a voice came from behind us.
“I wouldn’t touch her if I was you.”
“Oh we were just messing with her. She your girl Aaron?”
“Yeah. So why don’t you guys just back away?”
They did as they were told. I was shocked. Who was this guy? I turn around to thank the person who saved me, when I stop dead in my tracks. It’s that guy from yesterday.
“You could at least thank me. I did save you from being raped,” Aaron said, after a few seconds of silence.
“How did you get them to go away? And thank you.”
“Let’s just say that I have my ways. Now that you are okay, I’ll be on my way.” He starts to walk away.
“Wait. I’m sorry. This is not at all how I thought I’d be spending my time away from home. You helped me and all I seem to be doing is bitch and moan. Lets start over. My name is Hazel.” I extend my hand out, only to be abruptly brought to his chest in a hug.
“Hazel. Nice name. I’m Aaron. Want to get coffee?”
“Nice try. I’m not going on a date with you.”
I start to head in the other direction, towards the motel where I was staying at.
“It’s not a date. I just want to get to know you.”
One day, while sitting at a diner, we were commenting on some PDA in the corner.
“God, they look pathetic,” Aaron says.
“Yeah. They should get a room.”
“Maybe we should get a room,” Aaron says, giving me a wink.
“Haha. No. That would be weird.”
“How would it be weird? Oh I see, you want to go on a date. How about this? We go on a date and see where it goes from there?”
I accepted his offer and it started from there. The date was awkward at first. He took me to this nice restaurant in downtown Denver. Aaron tried to play it off as if we didn’t know each other.
“Where are you from?” Aaron asks.
“Berkeley, California. You?”
“Indianapolis, Indiana. How old are you?”
“21. Who would win in a fight? Superman or Batman?”
The questions ranged from basic logistics such as age and number of family members, but we eventually started talking about political affiliations and our opinion on evolution. The date went better than expected.
He was my first real boyfriend, although he was not my first. I was his first, however. Aaron somehow still believed in waiting till he found the right person. I was never like that. I just wanted to get things over with. I was hesitant at first to try dating, but through Aaron’s persistence, I learned to cope.
One topic that we never talked about that much was Aaron’s parents. He never spoke of them except for that one time when he told me why he left. One day I got curious and decided to ask.
“I just don’t want to talk about them right now,” Aaron said.
“Yeah but don’t you think it’s time to? I’d like to know about them.”
Eventually he started to open up about them. His parents were both lawyers who took pride in their son. Aaron felt like he was being smothered by them, so he moved to Denver to avoid them. The way he talked about how his dad would take him fishing every other month and how his mom taught him how to cook made me realize how much he really misses his parents. I suggest a trip to go see them and he approves, after a few hesitant moments.
I don’t want to stay. Aaron glances at me as if he knows my intentions. I calculate how long it would take me to get to the door before his mom gets back. Chances are slim, as I smell the beef stew drawing near. My heart pounds and my legs squirm in the seat. I can imagine the conversation. Aaron’s mom would ask me how much of the stew I wanted and I would say “I’m not hungry.” She would then look at me suspiciously, as if she could see my unease. She would question whether or not it was something she said that put me off my appetite. Then Aaron, being the great boyfriend that he is, would make a comment on how my stomach has been acting up lately. And then I would feel guilty and run out the door. Aaron and I would get in a fight then eventually break up. Wren, the bartender at Puzzles, would tell me I was stupid to fight over some stupid family recipe. My thoughts race as I hear Aaron’s mom say, “I hope you’re hungry for some…” In that instant, my body takes over and I slowly make my way towards the door in order not to be noticed. Aaron, as always, notices. “…hot beef stew I made from a can. I hope you don’t mind Hazel.” I’m standing by the dining room door, unable to move. Canned beef stew? I turn to Aaron. “I thought you said it was a family recipe.” I hiss at him. “It’s an inside joke Hazel. Calm down.”
I can’t believe he would make a joke like that. He knows where he comes from. He hasn’t been lied to for most of his life like I have. I go back to my seat. The rest of the dinner goes by without that many more excitement, until it comes time for dessert. Aaron’s mom asks me where I’m from. When I tell her, she seems surprised.
“I didn’t realize you were from California. The way your skin complexion is, I would have guessed you were from somewhere less warm.”
“You have to excuse my mother. She thinks everyone in California is tan,” Aaron says.
“It’s fine. I get that a lot.”
“You should see Aaron when he was little. He was so pale I thought he was switched at birth. Hold on, I’ll show you.”
His mom comes back with a family photo album. She turns to the first page. There is Aaron as a little boy, playing with a caterpillar in his diapers out in the yard. This reminds me of the time the other kids in school used to make fun of me for eating caterpillars. I would eat them thinking that I would somehow gain their power to turn into a beautiful butterfly.
One day, in third grade, after being bullied by the school bully, Trisha, I finally had enough. As Trisha and her friends were laughing at me, I walked up to Trisha and punched her in the nose. Blood started spilling from her nose. Needless to say, I got suspended. Mom was the one to bring me home from school. I was so afraid of being yelled at that Mom took pity on me and gave me ice cream.
Staring at that photo, I realized that I had forgotten my purpose. Excusing myself from the table, I go to the coat hanger in the hallway to grab my stuff. Aaron is close behind me. He knows what I’m going to do. Unfortunately, he can’t stop me.
This time, when I walk out the door, I don’t come back. I’ve been too busy with being in a relationship that I’ve forgotten why I came here in the first place. I head to the motel. As I start packing my stuff, I hear the door open and close behind me. Aaron is here.
He is trying really hard to convince me to not do what I’m about to do. I can’t listen to him. Not today. I need to finish what I started out to do. I need to figure out who I am and there is no way he can stop me. Aaron has shown me, in the past few days, how to live in the present. He has shown me places that will bring not only joy, but also tears to your eyes. He has taken me out of my comfort zone. But no matter how much I want to live in the present, I have to confront this part of my past. I turn away from him and head for the door. I don’t want to leave him, but I need to figure myself out first before I get into something serious.
As I stand at the corner of the house, I realize that I don’t need this. I already have a mom and a dad. Knowing how I was conceived isn’t going to change anything. Aaron was right. I call my mom, who is happy to hear from me. Even though she is probably busy with her new baby, Tatiana, she says that she will meet me at the airport. The plane ride from SFO to Fayetteville, North Carolina is about seven hours, so I hastily go back to my motel to start packing. After packing, I head to the library to read while I wait.
Mom texts me when they arrive. I quickly close the book I had been reading, anxious to see my parents. I power walk to the bus stop and wait for the bus. I glance at people’s faces as they walk by. Everyone seems to be walking really slow today. The bus won’t come fast enough. I try to use my psychic abilities to speed up traffic, but it does not seem to work, seeing as how magic is not real. Just as I was about to give up all hope of ever seeing my mom again, the bus arrives.
When I arrive at the airport, I don’t spot them at first. As the crowd around the bus stop begins to disperse, I start to recognize a pair of yellow boots. The ones mom would wear on the slight chance it was raining, depending on what the weatherman predicted. I always thought she was crazy to trust the weatherman. As I walk forward, I can tell that she is rocking back and forth on her feet, trying to look over the crowd. Her short stature always made it hard to spot her in a crowd. Right when I catch her eye, it begins to rain.
When I finally get to her, I am unsure of what to do. Should I hug her, or will that be weird? My thoughts are interrupted by a hug. My arms move around my mom’s petite figure to pull her closer. I can hear faint hiccups behind mom. Tatiana. I slowly pull away from my mom and look at my father. My father looks tired, with bags under his eyes and a new golden mustache. Yet, he is smiling. In his arms is the new addition to my family. She is sporting a cute pink dress with a matching flower headband. Her eyes are a mix of green and blue, like my mom’s. As soon as she sees me, her hiccups stop. My eyes threaten to start crying all over again.
My phone starts to ring. The caller id says “Aaron”. My mom looks at me, curious to see who could be calling me. I pick up the phone.
“Hazel, its Aaron’s mom. Can you come to the hospital? Aaron needs you. I don’t know the right way to say this, so I’ll just say it. Aaron has been dealing with cancer since he was six. He seemed fine for a while there, but his condition has gotten worse. The doctors say he might not make it.”
I drop my phone. I can’t hold it in any longer. My tears start to fall and my legs stop supporting my weight. My mom grabs me before I hurt myself. I start mumbling words like, “Aaron”, “cancer”, “Indiana”, “hospital” and “dying”. My mom seems to get the gist of what I’m saying because they lead me inside the airport.
The plane trip and the car ride to the hospital are all a blur. My mom had contacted Aaron’s mom, which is why she knew where to go. By the time I got to the hospital, it was too late to even hope. The hospital room is bare, save for a few flowers and cards by the bedside table. Aaron is the only patient in the room. I slowly walk towards his bed, unsure of what I want to say. As I approach, Aaron’s eyes open.
“Told you so,” he says.
“Yeah you did. I’m…”
“Don’t. You had to do what you felt like doing. It wasn’t my place to try to stop you.”
“I…I don’t know what to say.”
“That makes the both of us.”
“I don’t want you to die.”
“I don’t want to die either.”
He starts humming “Hotel California” when his body starts convulsing.
This semester, I attempted to write a short story, one with a beginning, middle and an end. I wanted to write about a love story that grows with the passage of time. I started out with a story about two people who work in an office together, but then trashed that idea and went with a different take on love. I wanted to work with a topic of coming of age originally, but did not know what path I wanted to take that so I went with a topic I had written about a year ago but had only wrote two scenes for. When I did my talk, I realized how much I did not really know about my subject at first. But as I was talking, I realized how much that story did not feel organic to who I am at the moment. The title confused me, so I changed some things around and decided to drop the story for this semester. I took up this story that I had originally wanted to write. Before I decided to post it for the first time for this class, I had about two drafts of the story so far, but I was nowhere near actually finding out what I really wanted out of this story. When I changed some words around, I realized how much I really didn’t know about my characters. I wanted to originally write my story down on paper, but I ended up procrastinating on that and only putting my notes and thoughts about the story and the editing process down. That helped me to fully realize where I intended my story to end and where to edit. Kacy gave me some great tips on how to revise my story, which I took into consideration. I took a short story writing class this semester that helped me to revise my story for this class. In the other class, we had to answer five different questions that helped further our understanding of the writer’s work. I applied this technique to my own writing and was able to formulate different prompts for me to work with. The story, in regards to what I changed and why, was changed only slightly from the area that I started out in. I knew that if I could keep going, this would turn out to be a full novel, so I kept the scenes short and to the point. I decided to take out the fact that Aaron falls down because it would not make any sense if we only find out he has cancer later on. It bothered me that this was the case at first because I felt like it was essential for Aaron to show it earlier on. Through a total of six revisions of this story, I have learned to take that part out but keep the fact that he dies in the end. I’ve realized that a lot of short stories take maybe years to finish and that this one probably won’t ever be “done” until I grow older. I will admit that I procrastinated on this for a while, which I think actually helped me in the editing process. Through the time that I spent procrastinating, I was able to get a safe distance away from my piece in order to edit it in the way that I wanted to edit it. I did spend time on the research aspect of it, however. I reread “Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, I watched a lot of chick flicks and I listened to songs that Hazel might have listened to on her road trip. The more distance I had with my piece the more I saw the little mistakes that I did. Although there were a few big mistakes like leaving a detail in that wouldn’t make sense if I changed a scene or some of the ordering of the story. From the start of the semester to now, I think I’ve changed as a writer. I’ve never officially ended something before. Having an ending to a story feels amazing. And even though I still could use some editing in the future, this piece has an actual end. I knew from the start that I wanted Aaron to die and have struggled with making this make sense for the reader. As of this moment in time, Aaron dies and the story ends. If by some miracle I change my mind, I can go back and fix that. This semester I also faced a lot of places where I got stuck. I would write out my ideas but all of the ideas were the same. I felt like I couldn’t create anything new until I tried something I heard about in my Writers on Writing class. One of the authors talked about repeating until something new came up. I wrote a few of my scenes over again a few times until I realized where there needed to be changed. I got bored of my material and was able to get rid of some of the scenes and sentences that did not make sense. The act of reading other people’s work and commenting on their stuff helped to also make me realize where I got stuck.