Chapter 1 of my first novel
I was running through the woods letting all of my emotions mix together. The urge to cry and laugh and scream and punch something all marinated, bubbling together giving me the energy to do what I loved...run. I just ran like I have been doing my whole life. The wind against my face was like a drug and I wanted more of it. Soon, I realized I was running so fast that the world around me became a blur just as I had become to it. I never became tired, I was unstoppable and I loved it but then my alarm went off and I woke up.
I sat up in bed and wiped the sleep from my eyes. The early Tybee Beach, Georgia mornings were beautiful. It was a Saturday and I proceeded with my normal routine. I got up and changed into brown athletic swimming shorts and a pink tank top. I had my brown string bikini on underneath my outfit. I looked at myself in the mirror. My brown hair had become ratted and my eyes had bags under them. My skin was tanned evenly and my nails were filed and perfect just as expected. My fitted tank clung to my thin frame. I lacked everything a southern girl needed, an irresistible twang in my voice, a sudden interest in anything country, and a daddy who was a well-known preacher or farmer. Of course those stereotypes were degrading but it’s what people expected. I honestly knew that I was never meant to live in the hot summer climate of Tybee, just because my tan took six months of severe sunburns to achieve. Obviously my Native American father didn't pass down the dark skinned trait that I needed to fit in. I avoided the mirror after that and I slid on my white Nikes, pulled my hair back and grabbed my cell phone. I slipped past my mom's door and went outside. I jogged down the street before I knew it; I was sprinting counting the streets until I could get my reward, a bagel with low fat strawberry cream cheese and Fiji water. I would sit on the dock of the Pacific Ocean and watch as the waves crashed against the surface and eat.
I walked into 'Early Risers', a little doughnut and coffee shop on the Boardwalk. It had been about three years since it opened. Immediately I noticed Nancy the manager. Nancy was a sweet little woman with California roots and many stories from her old teaching job in Oklahoma. She was a short woman in her mid to late forties and she was strict when it came to little punks and sympathetic when it came to advice. She smiled when the bell chimed as I walked through the door and she immediately started to toast my bagel. I had trained her well. I hopped on the barstool at the marble front counter.
“I thought you already left.” her voice always made my day.
“We leave tomorrow; this is my last Early Riser’s bagel.” I informed her.
“You aren't going to visit?” she frowned.
“Probably not Nancy, this place haunts me. Who knew football would be so important?” I asked her.
“Just forget about it. It's been a year and everybody's fine.” she said.
I stared at the beige colored wall with pink trim, the round tables and the glass windows that were covered in car chalk drawings illustrated by Nancy herself. I was making mental picture of everything over the last month so I could save them and review them when I'm homesick.
The toaster beeped and I snapped out of my zoning. I tossed my six dollars on the counter and waited while she finished applying the cream cheese. She wrapped my bagel in a napkin and grabbed a bottle of Fiji from the fridge. She put both of them down in front of me and got my change.
“Keep it.” I said.
“Thanks.” Nancy said putting it back in the register.
“No problem. Bye Nance.” I walked towards the door.
“Bye Samantha, trust me Oklahoma will be great.” she said. Then I left the store never to go inside again.
When I got to the dock a few men were fishing at the very end. I stayed in the middle, sitting on the metal bench, eating and listening to the morning sea bird caw, which isn’t exactly a beautiful sound. Not one you want to have on a CD to help you fall asleep to it. What choice did I have? My iPod was destroyed. I watched the peaceful fishermen survey their lines patiently; they all looked like statues or mannequins. One of the fishermen was familiar, a boy from my class. He stared at me over his shoulder. I locked eyes with him and he looked away quickly. His stare was full of judgment. I knew exactly why my head began to hurt. I threw away the last of my bagel into the trash and I went for a walk along the shoreline. It was about ten o'clock and the sun was bright and shining.
I heard footsteps behind me and when I turned a parade of girls were running. I stopped and braced myself for impact. One of them ran straight into me. She was bleach blonde and super tall; she was wearing a thin striped tank top, blue swim shorts and a pink sun hat. She was holding a big plastic beach bag. The other girls wore clothes that were similar to hers.
“Okay Jenna.” I said.
“We have all decided to make this day all about you, seeing as how you are the track star of Tybee and you are leaving for Stafford tomorrow.” she said smiling.
“It's Stratford Jen and that sounds great.” I told her.
“So Sam, first we are going to sunbathe and watch for cute guys because, you are still single and I doubt any cute guys live in Oklahoma.” Tracy my auburn haired petite friend said.
I nodded and smiled. Tracy is a well-known match maker. The truth was I didn’t want a local guy or any guy at the moment. I didn’t want a relationship, recently I just enjoyed being by myself. My sense of community had a niche in it.
“Then, a goodbye lunch and dinner, my treat.” Megan my other blonde haired friend informed me.
“Great, just let me run home to get the—”
“Sunblock?” Meg interrupted pulling out a big bottle of Coppertone.
“You know me too well.” I said.
We sat up in our usual spot by lifeguard station six. By noon it was hot and a lot of guys had shown up and were playing football and Frisbee in front of us. I lie down on my beach towel and soak up the bright sun.
“So this new school you're going to, do they have a good track team?” Meg asked.
“The site didn't say.” I said.
“Are you going to try out for the team?” she continued.
“I might after somebody explains to them that their track suits are hideous.” I laughed.
The others joined in and it felt good to know not everyone had given up on me.
“Oh! Oh! Hottie at three o'clock.” Jen announced.
I turned my head and gasped. He was amazing…the guy of my dreams. He was playing shirts and skins football with a bunch of other guys. Lucky for us he was skins. I bit my bottom lip as he ran to catch the ball with such grace that I was immediately jealous. He had a boyish smile and a medium build. I wanted to be in his arms so bad it almost killed me. I didn’t even know him, yet I was so drawn to him it was like an electric current between us…magnets. As he came closer to me I began to slowly lose any grip I had on reality. I snapped back into the moment only to see him as he jumped to catch the ball as it barely slipped through his fingers. I didn't realize that the ball was headed straight my way.
“Hey look out!” a boy called to me.
Before I could catch the ball, it hit me square in the forehead. I felt an instant migraine; I passed out for a minute. When I opened my eyes, I felt a cool hand on my face stroking it lightly as if I was fragile, “Please, wake up.” he begged.
My eyes fluttered open and I heard several sighs of relief. The beautiful boy was leaning over me staring me in the face so close that I felt my heart pick up speed. His brown hair was only a third of a shade lighter than mine. His skin was a more subtle tan and more natural than mine. His eyes were brown but more solid than my chocolate brown eyes.
“Can I get up?” I asked smiling.
He smiled too; my breath caught in my throat almost choking me. We both seemed lost in the moment. Finally he answered, “Oh, uh, sure.” he said sitting back on his calves.
When I sat up he immediately became tense, “What?” I asked confused I moved my hair to reveal the goose egg the football created. I crossed my legs and grabbed a bottle of water from one of the beach bags.
He began to stand up but his eyes became wider and my hand flew to my head covering the obvious blemish I absolutely hated! A long scar, I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about it. He backed away a little, he looked scared of me.
“Did I…” he asked.
“No you didn't, I'm fine.” I said, standing up quickly and running away. I wanted to disappear from everyone. I ran home embarrassed, wishing that this day had never happened. I charged up the stairs, slammed and locked my door. I found my way through a sea of boxes to my bed.
I cried for a half hour and afterwards I put all the boxes downstairs so the movers could get them packed up and to Oklahoma quickly. All I had left in my room by that night was my laptop and charger, phone and charger and a twin size blowup mattress. I sat on the forest green mattress with my laptop on my lap and for the sixth time I searched for my new home. And every time I wished there wouldn’t be any results for Stratford, Ok. Each time the town’s website popped up mocking me saying, ‘Yeah I exist…there’s no getting rid of me!’ The pictures only gave three clues as to what I was facing. Windy, small, near empty and I could tell Stratford, Oklahoma was my very own personal purgatory, complete with bland sights and possibly inedible lunches. I had only moved once in my entire life and that was from Savannah to Tybee six years ago. I closed the site and climbed in my make-shift bed and fell asleep.
Loud thumps outside my door jolted me awake. Moving day. I felt the warm sun on my face through my floor to ceiling windows where my bed was stationed. My eyes opened I looked around my bare room. By the time we got to Stratford the trucks would be there.
I shouldn't be griping about leaving because I wanted to move. Every day I looked in the mirror and tried to convince myself “it will be better there”. I went to my bathroom and realized my mirror was shipped off yesterday, so I grabbed a compact from my knock off Coach Bag and looked at my morning face and repeated that line again. It seemed to be a little brighter after I admitted that to myself. I picked up my phone from the floor by my laptop and read the three new texts from Jenna, Tracy, and Meg.
I will miss you
I closed my silver flip phone and dressed for the plane ride.
I took a deep breath and said good-bye to my room, my house, and my city. I walked out of the empty two-story house and into the blinding sunlight. Mom and I drove to the airport in silence. She tried small talk but I simply stared into the side view mirror as my old school faded behind me into the past. I felt a little relieved to be shutting this door and never opening it again.
I will live as if yesterday never happened and as if tomorrow is a new beginning, I vowed internally.
We got our bags checked in and I stood in the waiting area.
My mom watched me carefully as my blank stare followed the many people that filled the nearby seats.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Sure about what?” I asked looking at her.
“I'm sure Bill would definitely give us back the house.” she said pulling out her phone.
“Mom, I'm fine. I'm sixteen and if I make a decision I have to deal with the result. Oklahoma shouldn't be that bad. Plus, Steph will be there to help us.” I assured her.
“Maybe this is a bad idea. I let a sixteen year old decide where we live.” she bit her lip.
“Actually, you decided. I suggested Florida.”
“Truthfully, your dad suggested Oklahoma.” she admitted.
My face lit up, “You talked to Dad?”
“I e-mailed dad and he lived in Stratford with Granny and Pa all through high school until he moved to Lawrence where he met me. He says it’s wonderful down there.” she said.
“Windy and wonderful huh?”
“It will be great.” I said aloud.
“That's the spirit kid.” as she hugged me, “I'm going to the restroom stay here.” she said, walking away.
“Okay?” I guessed. I sat down and started texting the girls before the flight attendants started loading.
“Football?” a boy, who was close to me, had said. His voice was familiar and somehow startling. I looked up slowly and there he was. The boy from the beach. I gasped, and then blushed because it was clearly noticeable; he pretended not to notice.
“Um...” was my answer.
“How's your head?” he asked.
“Good...um fine I guess.” I stood, “is this a coincidence or are you stalking me?” I asked.
“Oh it's not a coincidence.”
I widened my eyes staring at him with an expression of fear.
“I mean it is a coincidence...um, what's your name?” he asked.
“Samantha, Sam.” I answered.
“Austin.” he held out his hand and I shook it.
“Formal much?” I asked.
“I guess it's in my roots.” he nodded smiling.
“And what are those?” I dug.
“Texas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.” he shrugged.
“Oklahoma?” I asked.
He nodded. “That's actually where I'm headed. I came here for a vacation with my--”
“Found you!” a young girl, about seventeen with dark red hair who was only as tall as I was, seemed to pop up out of nowhere. “You accidently left me in the parking lot and...” she looked at me, “Who's your friend?” she asked.
He never took his eyes off me, “Her name is Samantha but she prefers Sam and it wasn't an accident.” he said.
“Sam?” she nudged him and he looked down at her, “Sam?” she repeated.
“Yes Sam now why don't you go wait in front of the plane engines Miss. Subtle.” he said through clenched teeth.
She seemed unfazed by his threat “Ouch! Don't burn a hole in the leather its name brand.” She said lifting her purse, “See you Sam.” she walked off.
“Girlfriend?” I asked.
“Ew, no! She’s my sister.” he corrected.
“But you don't--”
“My grandmother had red hair.” he explained.
“Huh.” I chewed on the inside of my cheek.
About that time I saw my mother heading towards us and her expression changed to interest when she saw Austin. I knew my fate if my mom had said anything to him.
“Not to be forward but can I have your cell phone number because my flight is leaving!” I asked.
“Oh yeah, sure!” he put it into my phone and then he walked away at the exact moment my mother walked up.
“Who is that?” she asked trying to sound relatable.
“Just another could've been.” I played along.
“Don't rule him out yet. Take it from someone who's been married, guys surprise you.” she said watching him.
I watched too. “Yeah because your marriage went well.” I giggled.
“Eh you're right. What do I know?” she said.
“Time to leave.” I said.
“I know.” she said guiding me to the terminal.
I sat with mom on the plane. She watched the movie while I just tried to rest but, an extremely familiar voice rang out as he discussed something with the flight attendant. I sat up and leaned out into the aisle. Austin was in the middle section in the aisle seat three or four rows ahead. When the attendant walked away I took a chance.
“Psst, psst, Austin!” I whispered.
He turned around. “Sam?” he asked.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Going home.” he seemed confused by my question.
“To Oklahoma?” I asked.
“Yes.” he said it slowly.
“Why didn't you tell me?” I asked.
“You never asked.” he smirked.
I glared, “Could you keep it down up there I'm trying to relax.” I smirked.
“I'll try.” he smirked in a way that made me suspicious.
I sat back a little worried. Out of nowhere there was a loud heavy metal band blaring from his seat. A bunch of people—including mom—sat up to see what was going on. Austin leaned out and was holding an iPod touch in his hand and smirking straight at me.
“Hilarious.” I said.
He just smiled.
An old woman tapped him on the shoulder. “Son could you turn that down please?” she asked in her frail voice.
“Yes ma'am.” Austin said obediently.
I covered my mouth so I wouldn't burst into laughter. He put up the iPod and looked back at me I was giggling and he seemed to enjoy the attention.
My mom tapped me on the shoulder. “What did I tell you? Guys can surprise you.” she said pointing to Austin.
“Yep.” I nodded.