Today is my very first WIP (Work-in-Progress) Wednesday! And aren't you lucky, I have a super-long excerpt from The Other Side of Light. As I said, constructive criticism is welcome. Hope you enjoy!
My phone rings and I grab it from my bedside table.
“Lyddie!” It’s Michelle. “Please, please, please tell me you’re free tonight.”
I sigh. “Michelle, I told you. I have to help out my aunt.”
“Every single night? Come on, Lyddie. You can get out of the house for one night.”
I put down my book and sit up. “No, I really can’t.” I wish I could just tell my friends why I’m stuck in my house 24/7. At least then they might feel bad for me and come over more often. I’m beginning to feel like an involuntary hermit.
“Lyddie, please. You have to come!”
“I don’t even know where you want me to go, Michelle.”
“Spring Fling!” She says it like she expects me to be excited.
“Are you telling me,” I say slowly. “That you want me to tell my aunt that I can’t help her because I have to go to a dance?”
“Oh, come on! I thought you said your aunt was cool. Are you telling me she won’t let you go for one night?”
That’s exactly what I’m telling her, but I know she’s not going to let it go. Unfortunately, Aunt Kelly is not going to let me go. “Michelle…” I begin, but she cuts me off.
“No,” she says, half – joking, half – serious. “I will not take no for an answer. I will come over there myself and tell your aunt to -”
I don’t hear the rest of her sentence because just then, I see Julie pass my door on the way to her own room and I get an idea. “Hang on,” I say into the phone, then put it down on my bed.
Julie’s door is open a crack and through the space, I can see my sister laid out on top of her covers, an arm thrown over her eyes like some damsel in distress. What Jake did to her was totally screwed up, but I hope I never get so attached to a guy that I get affected like this. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything to her…
It’s worth a shot, though, I decide. If she says no, I won’t push it. But if she says yes, then maybe I can have finally some fun. I knock lightly on the door.
I push the door open and go inside, a little surprised at what I find. Julie’s not the neatest person, but the made bed seems to be the only effort toward tidiness she’s made for a few days, and when I see the blanket crumpled on the floor, I know the bed is only made because she hasn’t had the will to pull the covers down.
“Hi,” I say quietly; the darkness and disorder in the room seem to demand a low volume. Julie doesn’t answer and I immediately make up my mind that I’m not going to ask her about the dance. As much as I disapproved of her relationship with Jake, I hate that he deserted her when she was so devoted. Now is the time for me to be Julie’s sister in the best way possible. I sit down on the end of the bed by her feet.
“How are you?” I ask, hoping the question won’t cause her to burst into tears.
To my relief, she doesn’t. She doesn’t even move. “I’m…” She trails off. Even two words are too much effort for her, and now I want to cry. Julie annoys me sometimes, but she’s still my sister. No one is allowed to be mean to her but me, and Jake has hurt her in the worst way possible.
“Julie,” I say, trying to be comforting. “I know you’re upset about -” Oh. Probably shouldn’t mention her idiot of an ex-fiancé. “-everything, and I just want you to know that I’m here if you want to, you know, talk or… whatever.” This is not going well. “I mean, anytime you want to. Ever. About this. Not that you can’t about other stuff, but…” Why do these words, meant to be so earnest, sound forced and fake? And they don’t seem to be making Julie feel any better. She’s closed her eyes and I wonder if she’s stopped listening. “Julie?”
“You can go.”
“What?” Julie didn’t open her eyes when she spoke and I can’t help thinking that I imagined the words.
“To the dance. I heard you talking on the phone. You should go. It’ll be fun.”
“No, Julie -” While it’s true that I came to her with the idea of asking her, there’s no way I can do that now, seeing how she’s feeling. “It’s fine. I don’t even like dances.” I pause. “I don’t even have anything to wear.”
To my surprise, Julie gets up, albeit slowly, like she aches all over. She walks the few steps to her closet, reaches inside, and pulls out a pink sleeveless shirt with and empire waist and lines of clear sequins running down the skirt-like bottom half. She holds it out to me. “Here.”
“Julie, no, seriously. I’m not going to go.”
My sister shoves her shirt into my hands. “Go. Then at least one of us will be having fun.”
I look down at the top I’ve been given. It’s a little girly for my taste, but I can’t exactly give it back – I’m afraid of what even the smallest rejection might do to her. So I just say, “Thanks,” and smile. Julie attempts to return it and then flops back onto her bed. She looks absolutely exhausted and though I can see that our short conversation has tired her out, I’m too concerned to leave. She tilts her head to look at me.
“Lyddie, go to the dance. Have fun. Don’t worry about me. I’m… fine.”
I don’t move. “I think I should stay.”
“No. Go.” Now there’s a hint of annoyance in Julie’s voice.
“It’s all right. I’ll stick around. We can have a girls’ night!” I bounce on the bed a little, trying to sound excited, even though we haven’t had an evening of sisterly togetherness in years.
“I don’t want a girls’ night,” she says, sounding even more irritated. “I want you to go to the stupid dance and have fun. Now go get changed and leave me alone.”
Now I’m aggravated. I’m trying to show some concern for my only sister in her time of need and she’s pushing me away. Can’t she see what I’m trying to do?
“Fine,” I snap. “Go ahead and wallow.” I head for the door, but before I leave the room completely, I turn back to her. “And just so you know, Jake was not as much of a catch as you thought he was. I can’t believe you were actually going to marry him.”
It comes out a lot nastier than I meant it to and I see Julie’s lower lip begin to tremble. I should apologize, but I’m still annoyed, so after hovering in the doorway for a second, I go back to my own room, tossing Julie’s shirt onto my bed. It lands beside my phone, and suddenly I remember that I left Michelle on the other end of the line. I snatch it up.
“God, where did you go? I’ve been waiting here for like an hour.”
“I’m not,” she says. “I gave myself a complete pedicure while I was waiting for you.”
“Good for you.”
“Geez, what’s your problem?”
I sigh. I can’t have someone else mad at me tonight. “Sorry. I just had a fight with Julie. But, hey, she said she’d stay home for me – I can go to the dance.”
“Awesome! What are you wearing?”
“Uh… well, she gave me this pink shirt,” I say, staring at the sequins reflecting the light. “I guess I’ll wear that. I don’t really have anything else dance-y.”
“Pink?” Michelle asks incredulously. “You?” Then she giggles. “Trying to get Aaron’s attention?”
“Shut up,” I say. “No. That’s not it at all. I’m just… wearing it.”
“Mm-hmm. Okay. Well, Trevor and I are heading over around seven. Do you want us to swing by your house?”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll get there.”
“Okay. I’ll see you in a little while then. Go make yourself pretty for your boy.”
I instantly begin to protest. “He is not my -” But she’s already hung up, so I put down the phone and reach for Julie’s shirt. It is really not me, but what I told Michelle is true – I do not own anything that could be worn to a dance. I don’t even know what to wear under this.
Fifteen minutes later finds me in front of the mirror wearing black capris and the sparkly pink shirt. I don’t really think I’m dressed right, but it’s the best I can do. I’ve never cared about not having proper dance clothes before, but despite my protesting to Michelle’s teasing, I wouldn’t mind it if Aaron noticed me. He didn’t seem think I was gross or anything when he stopped by the other day, and since this shirt is like a freaking disco ball, there just might be a chance he could look my way.
This thought causes me to attack my small collection of make-up, which proves to be even less varied than I had thought. I have no lip gloss, no blush, and a collection of eye shadow that’s probably left over from my and Julie’s dress – up days. I do the best I can with my limited options and inexperienced hands, and in the end, I don’t look completely hopeless.
I check the time. I have half an hour to get to the school, which is within walking distance of my house. Digging to the back of my closet, I come up with a pair of heels – my shoes for an honors convocation a few years ago and the lowest heel I could get away with. I slip them on, hoping my feet aren’t completely torn up by the end of the night; the shoes aren’t really broken in, as honors convocations rarely involve anything beyond sitting, standing, and eating cookies.
I stuff my cell phone and student i.d. into a tiny, frilly purse given to me by someone who obviously didn’t know me very well. It’s that or a backpack, and somehow I think the latter will attract the wrong kind of attention.
As I head downstairs, I crane my neck to see if I can sneak a peek at Julie, just to make sure she’s okay. But her door is shut tight and there’s not even a strip of light at the bottom. I should tell her I’m sorry before I go. I should, but I’m still annoyed at her, and I’m probably not staying at the dance for long anyway. We can have a heart – to – heart later. And so I go downstairs and slip out the door and into the night. At last – freedom.