NaNoWriMo Blues

What have I done?  I signed up to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days????  Good grief, what was I thinking?

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and I have no characters, no plot, and no ideas.  Well, hopefully the deadline will get the creative juices flowing….

Here’s something I wrote awhile ago.  I’m thinking of expanding it for the contest and seeing where it leads me….

             A stiff wind blew as I walked along the quiet lane just off of Craig Street in Oakland.  The sun was out and the sky was a deep blue, but you wouldn’t know it from the temperature, which was in the thirties.  A typical late November day in Pittsburgh.

            Joe had given me this address and told me to check it out.  As I approached, I saw that the address in question was a small bookseller.  Most people nowadays read books off digital devices, but I still liked the feel of real paper between my fingers and I’d once had a good sized collection of paperbacks.  Of course, what with my time in the Navy and all, it had been a long time since I’d been able to indulge in collecting anything.

            Curious, I mounted the steps and entered.  A bell tinkled as I opened the door.  The smell of old books wafted over my nostrils and for a moment I closed my eyes and just breathed in that wonderful smell.

            “I’ll be with you in a moment,” a voice called, and my eyes snapped open.  The speaker was on a ladder, which was mounted on rails that ran around the room, at the back of the shop.  She had dark hair caught in a ponytail.  She wore a red scoop neck sweater and a long black skirt with boots.  Her back was to me as she climbed down but I didn’t need to see her face to know who she was.  As she reached the bottom of the ladder, she turned, and her piercing brown eyes widened.  For a moment, I thought everything would be okay, but then her mouth tightened and her eyes narrowed.  “Well.  Look what came crawling out of the muck.”

            “Hi Sarah,” I replied quietly.  She was as beautiful as I remembered, and her words stung deeply.  Four years ago, she and I had been pretty intimate.  I’d been a different person back then, loud, brash, and cocky.  And quite the player.  Sarah, for me, had been one among many.  Sadly, I hadn’t realized what I’d had until after I was crawling on a riverbank in Asia trying to stay alive with some pretty bad wounds.  Sarah, on the other hand, had been thinking marriage.  When I’d left, I hadn’t bothered to keep in touch with anyone.  And by the time I realized I should, it was too late.  As evidenced by the cold anger she was radiating toward me at the moment.

            “What are you doing here, Mike?  Come back to rub it in?  Forget it.  I got over you a long time ago.”

            I cursed Joe in my mind.  A little warning would have been nice.  I said, “I’m sorry for what—“

            She rolled her eyes and turned away.  “You’re sorry.  That’s just great, Mike.  You took off without a word, joined the Army, and never bothered to acknowledge that you’d bailed out on us.”
            “Sarah, look, I—“

            “If you’re not going to buy anything,” she said, climbing back on the ladder, “I’d appreciate it if you’d go away.  And never bother to come back.”

            I stood there silently, watching as she rearranged books on the shelf, and waited.  Finally, her shoulders slumped and she leaned her forehead against the books.  “What do you want, Mike?  Why did you come here?”

            “Joe told me about the books.  He didn’t mention you.”

            She shook her head.  “Typical Joe.”

            She descended the ladder and faced me again.  “When you left, it ripped a piece out of my heart.  It took me a long time to patch it up.  I’m not going through that again.”

            “I’m not asking you to.  I want you to know I’m sorry.  If you want, I’ll leave and never come back here.”

            “Leaving’s what you’re best at, isn’t it?”

            I sighed.  I had hurt Sarah deeply, and despite her claims to be over it, she was obviously still bitter about it.  There was nothing I could say that would change that.  Still, I couldn’t let that go.  “Once, yes, that’s what I was good at.  But a lot has happened since then.  I’m back here, and I’m not leaving Pittsburgh.  I’ll leave you alone, but I wish I could say it was nice seeing you again.”

            Something broke inside her then, and she charged me, her fists hammering on my chest as tears streamed from her eyes.  “You jerk!  You total, selfish, ignorant jerk!”  That was all I got before she became incomprehensible, and slowly settled into quiet sobbing.  I stood there stoically and didn’t move.  Finally she looked up.  “You’ve changed, Mike.  You’re quieter, less cocky.”

            War will do that to you, I wanted to say, but instead I simply nodded in acknowledgement as she pulled away.

“You broke my trust, Mike.  I don’t know if… I mean, I just can’t…”

            “Sarah, I understand.  If you don’t want to see me again—“

            She just shook her head and smiled sadly.  “No.  I didn’t say that.  It’s just that I don’t want you to think you can just pick up where you left off.”

            “I wasn’t trying to.  But I hope that if nothing else, maybe I can earn your trust again.”

            “I don’t know if that’s possible.”

            “I’ll pray that it is.”

            She raised an eyebrow.  “Since when does Mike Jamison pray?”

            How to answer?  Since I almost got killed on the same op a dying buddy bequeathed me his Bible?  Since a missionary family nursed me to health and smuggled me to safety?  I shrugged.  “Like I said, a lot’s happened.  I pray, and I take that seriously.”

            She looked at me wonderingly, then shook her head.  “I need to get back to work.  But I’m here most evenings.  Mondays and Tuesdays are pretty quiet.”  Her eyes widened at what she had just said, and she turned and fled through a door in the back of the store.

            Bemused, I turned and headed back out onto the street, turning left and walking towards Craig Street.

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