How’s This for Starters?
I have been writing a novel for what seems like eons now. Every time I get into a ‘groove’ of writing, something *happens* (ie: LIFE) and the novel gets shelved. It has been a while since I’ve had the inspiration to write and I really want to finish the story. I would like to think that it will be a worthwhile read, but that’s best decided by those who read the novel. So now, I have decided to post the first few pages in the hopes that it will get my creative juices flowing once again. I would ask anyone who takes the time to read this to please give me your honest feedback and if you have the time, give me some specifics. (I would rather hear why you like it/hate it than just “it’s good” or “it stinks”.)
A little about the book – This is an alternate reality – it’s our world, but with people who have special abilities, and possibly even creatures of legend, although the general public is unaware. Talison Tremain (“Talen” to her friends) is a struggling free-lance photo editor who is just beginning to discover she’s not 100% ‘normal’. As her talent for seeing the past and repairing photos that are beyond hope of repair starts growing, something begins stalking her. She isn’t sure why it is stalking her, and she’s not sure she wants to find out what it is after. While she is trying to come to terms with her new abilities, her friend Peter calls her in to help repair photos that could provide evidence in a killing.
A title has not been selected as of yet. So, here it goes:
Eccentricity was located in the middle of a block of shops, bars and restaurants that had taken over brownstones facing the harbor in a formerly residential district. It was a store specializing in antiques, art and “house accessories” from around the world such as handmade tapestries or oriental rugs. I walked up the stone steps and opened the etched glass and dark wood door. Cool air swirled out around me, followed by the sound of soft music. As I stepped through the door I recognized the sounds of Native American flutes and other instruments. Troika again. The music didn’t soothe me as it normally did. I was too upset. I tossed my black leather portfolio onto an antique table and looked around for James. I didn’t see him, but I did notice a rather inviting overstuffed tapestry chair. I flopped down into it and announced into the air “That’s it! I’ve had it! He raised the rent again!!” James poked his head out of the office “What? Again?” He sounded incredulous. “How much is it now?”
“Double what I was paying when I first got the place.”
“Double! I know it’s a nice place, but it’s not worth nearly that much.”
“I know but Rivers has it in his head he can get as much for it as the ones across the street.” James disappeared back into his office and kept talking “He’s crazy, those places are huge and they face the park.”
“Well, regardless of that I have to find a new place to live and work.”
James came out of the office carrying two steaming cups of tea, one of which he thrust into my hand. “I think you need this.” “I need something stronger than that.” I said ruefully. “Oh, but it is something stronger than that of course.” I took a hesitant sip and found that whatever he’d put in the tea was good, and decidedly had a kick. He sat down opposite me, leaning back in his chair. His slate blue eyes focused on me intently. “So, what are you going to do?” I looked away, trying to mask my frustration “I don’t know. It’s not easy to find a place around here that isn’t either very pricy or tiny.” “How much room do you need?”
“Well, really not much, though I do need to have room for an office separate from my living room or bedroom.”
“How about taking the apartment above this place? It’s empty now and I can’t think of someone better as a tenant.”
“But your rent is just as high as what Rivers is asking me for!” James grinned mischievously “C’mon, don’t you think that I’d cut a deal for you?” I stared at him for a moment trying to figure out what sort of deal he had in mind. James never did anything without profiting somehow. “Ok, what’s in it for you? I know by now that you’ll get something out of this.”
“Oh I’m hurt! You think I have some other motivation aside from helping a friend and getting a good tenant to boot?” I rolled my eyes and laughed “Out with it!”
“Ok, ok. I want you to run the shop for me whenever I’m away. That way I can keep it open. You know enough about this place that it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll even cut the rent in half” My eyes lit up “you have a deal! The only catch is that I want to use the other office.” I knew he would have a problem with that. He used that office for his private stash of different antiques and art work he’d collected over the years. Things his customers would never see, much less be able to buy.
James looked at me with a pained expression on his face “Where am I supposed to put my things??” “Oh I don’t want you to really move anything; I just need the desk for my laptop. That way I can watch the store and do my work.” He sat there for a while frowning a little. I could sense his concern over me being in his private retreat and said “Look, I will only be in there when you aren’t here, you probably won’t even notice I’ve been using the office.” He nodded his head while he cleared away our cups. “Ok, it’s a deal. When will you move in?”
“I have several weeks before I have to be out of my place, why?” “Well, I have to leave soon for that estate sale I told you about. I’d like you in here before then.” I thought about it for a moment “Ok, that should be fine. Thank goodness I don’t have a lot to pack.”
The bell rang for the shop entrance and James strolled over to the customer almost unnoticed by me. I was busy thinking about moving all my things. The biggest problem was that I would have to hurry to finish the work on a couple of my projects and put off taking anything new until after the move. Of course the up side was that I wouldn’t have to take any vanity projects ever again. I love my photo restoration business, but there isn’t enough work in photo restoration to keep me busy. So I take on other photo editing work. I don’t mind the ones where I remove blemishes or make sure everyone in the wedding party has a nice smile. What I really hate though is when someone wants me to alter the way they always look, making them much slimmer, younger or otherwise more attractive. Every instinct inside me screams to make the photographs true to life. Some commissions I won’t take at all. Thank goodness for James. He often sent me restoration work, my true love. I had been doing work for him for several years and a comfortable friendship grew over that time.
When I first met James I’d been at Patrick’s having dinner and drinks. I was loosing myself in writing as usual. I felt someone getting close to me and I looked up to see this rather attractive man walk up to the bar and sit near me. James is five-ten and athletically built. His slightly chiseled face is framed by warm brown hair and inset with deep blue eyes. He was dressed in a well cut suit and looked like he had walked off the cover of GQ. He took his suit jacket off and hung it on the back of the bar stool while I went back to my writing. Keo came over to take his order – a scotch on the rocks – and then turned her attention to me. She didn’t bother asking me if I wanted anything more, she just handed me another Jet Pilot and then leaned close. “Have you met James before?” I shook my head “No, I would have remembered him.”
“He’s gorgeous, yes?” she said with a conspiratorial wink. She caught his attention “James Harding, Talison Tremaine. I’ll leave you two kids alone – play nice.” Then she spun around and flounced off to wait on another patron. Figures she’d do something like that, she would do her best to ‘fix up’ friends. James looked at me appraisingly. I knew what he saw, a small slender woman with dark green eyes, chestnut hair and pale skin. Most people think I’m beautiful, but I don’t agree. Pretty yes, but beautiful? Please. “Nice to meet you Miss Tremain” “Likewise Mister Harding, but please, call me Talen. A friend of Keo’s is a friend of mine.” “Talen?” He left my nickname hanging in the air as he cocked his head to the side as if trying to figure me out. “Should I be afraid you’ll sink claws into me and carry me off?” I just shook my head at him. “What is it you do Harding?” “If I have to call you Talen you have to call me James. I collect and sell antiques, art and specialty items from around the world.” “Interesting” “What do you do Talen? Librarian? School teacher?” I leveled my eyes at him “Hardly! I do photo restoration.” “It wasn’t an insult!” I smirked and said “Did I say I was insulted?” With that he laughed “You’re mischievous, aren’t you?” “Of course, what else would you have me be?”
“Talen, Talison!” I looked up from my musings “Hmm?” James was standing in front of me trying to look upset. “This gentleman wants to look at the table you are so thoughtfully resting your feet on.” Lucky for him the gentleman in question was behind him and couldn’t see the slightly amused look on his face. I quickly took my feet off the table and assumed a repentant posture. “I’m sorry. I have no idea what I was thinking.” James then told me I could find the keys to the loft in his office. “It’s the set with the Yung Cheng coin attached to it. Have a look around.” He then turned his attention to his customer and left me to my own devices. In truth I was itching to see the apartment.
I grabbed the keys out of the office and climbed the back stairs to the apartment. When I opened the door I was pleased to see oak colored beams, pale sea green carpet and walls the shade of Daytona Beach sand. The skylights over the living room enhanced the feel of being outdoors. There was a loft above the kitchen overlooking the living room. That would be the perfect place for my home office. I could position the furniture there to give it the look of a library rather than an office. There was a little hall that ran along one side of the kitchen which led to the bedroom, bathroom and storage closet. As an added bonus there were wonderful views of the harbor from the living room, bedroom and bath.
I walked back downstairs and found James finishing some paperwork. James filed the papers and turned his attention to me. “How do you like it?” I shrugged “I guess I can live with it.” James gave me an amused look. Apparently he wasn’t fooled, not that I was trying to fool him. “You really want to use my other office?”
“Yes, otherwise my work has to wait until the store closes. I can’t be upstairs working and keep an eye on this place as well.” James cocked his head to one side and then nodded. “Makes sense.”
I was surrounded by boxes. I never thought I would have so many! It was mostly books, very little in the way of kitchenware or anything else. My place is fairly spartan by most people’s standards. I have the normal amount of furniture, but not much else. Most of the decorations I have consist of a few well-chosen watercolor seascapes and black and white landscape photos. There weren’t any pictures of family or friends for display… Of course nothing was hung and none of my shells, vases or candles were unpacked yet either.
Three days of intense packing and moving had me longing to escape. I sighed and stretched. What I needed was some coffee and a nice hot shower. I wove my way through the boxes into the kitchen. The coffee pot, mugs and grinder were the first things I had unpacked. It wasn’t long before I was pouring coffee into my favorite mug and lacing it with cream & sugar. I padded down the hall into the bathroom and set the mug down on the counter. I turned on the water and grabbed a towel. I stripped out of my clothes while the water heated up and then stepped under the steaming spray. I tipped my head back and let out a sigh. I let my mind drift while relaxing under the hard, tingly spray.
After the shower I wrapped up in a cozy robe and stepped into the closet to pick out clothes. Soft black leggings, a black knit T-shirt and hiking boots… aah comfort clothes! Clothing had to feel good or I wouldn’t buy it, especially if it was stuff to relax in. Of course it had to look good, but feeling good was equally important, if not more so, in my book. I heard a knock on my door and wondered who it could be. Very few people knew about the move yet and James was gone for the day. I looked out the peephole and pulled the door open. My best friend Fai Young stood there tapping her foot trying to look impatient “Well, are you going to stand there looking at me or are you going to invite me in?” I smiled shaking my head at her, stepped back and gestured for her to enter. She gave me a wink as she walked into my living room. “Nice, VERY nice. You’ve done well for yourself Tat.” I stuck my tongue out at her “You know I hate that nickname.” She laughed “Of course! Why else would I keep calling you that?” I pretended to punch her and motioned for her to follow me. “Allow me to give you the grand tour.” When we got to the bathroom she gasped “Oh, I’m in love!” I had to admit the corner Jacuzzi was a great perk.
When we got back out front Fai looked at all the boxes “Are you getting tired of unpacking?” I nodded “Yes, but I have to get done before James leaves for his trip, and I do need to get back to my work at some point soon.” “You need a break, let’s go to dinner.” Without waiting for my answer she whipped out her cell phone and dialed “Michael, would you be a dear and make reservations for dinner? Talen needs a break and it’s been a while since we’ve all had time together.” She paused, listening to him and then smiled “Oh that’s perfect! Thanks love! We’ll see you soon.” She looked at me with arched eyebrow “You need a little wardrobe change.” I walked back into my bedroom, switched the hiking boots for some high heeled ankle boots, traded the Tee for a black silk tank top and added a knee length sleeveless black duster. I stepped back out into the living room to find Fai admiring the view of the harbor. She turned as she heard me approach and eyed me appraisingly. “Nice, not what I would wear, but it suits you well.” I grinned “Nor would I wear what you have on, and you look great.” She was dressed in a soft charcoal grey suit jacket and matching mini skirt paired with an ivory scoop neck silk top. The mini skirt was just long enough to be ‘acceptable’ at work, but just short enough to show off her long, slender legs. Her rich, melodious laugh echoed off my still bare walls. “True, I can’t picture you in a suit.” We both shook our heads at the thought. I was more at home in jeans and leggings than in office wear.
We locked up and decided it was nice enough out to walk the couple of blocks to the restaurant. Romero’s is a great Italian restaurant with many different dining areas, some intimate and others a sort of casual “family table” kind of thing where you could sit at any open seat. Michael had picked one of the more intimate dining areas for us. Michael and Fai both loved good food, though you couldn’t tell by looking at them due to their many athletic hobbies. It didn’t take us long to order our food… we barely needed to look at a menu there anymore; we practically knew it by heart. By the time the appetizer and wine came we were already engrossed in all sorts of discussions. We flitted from topic to topic, telling jokes and stories, sometimes laughing uproariously at times. We quieted down by the time dessert arrived. We always split a sampling of desserts and indulged in cappuccinos… a heavenly end to a delicious meal. Fai looked over at Michael and he nodded… The exchange between the two wasn’t lost on me. “Ok… what’s up?” “Well, Michael and I would like to do something for you as our housewarming gift to you.”
“We want to give you a break for the night, go out and have fun… and while you do that, we’ll hang all your art work”
“That’s sweet of you guys but I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
“You’re not asking us, we’re telling you… after dinner go get lost for a while… relax… and let us do something nice for you.”
“I’m not going to win on this one am I?”
“Nope” they chorused in unison.
“Ok… fine… but I want to get my papers first… maybe I can get some writing done.”
They grinned and nodded their heads. I had the distinct feeling they were up to something more than just hanging pictures, but I let it slide.
We made our way back to my new place and I grabbed my binder up from the side table by the door. Fai and Michael hustled me out and said “we don’t want you coming back for hours!” I nodded my head and asked “Will you guys still be here when I get back?”
“We might, but we can always lock up for you”
Fai leaned close and whispered in my ear “You know, I might want the use of that tub of yours.”
I laughed and said “That’s fine, but you’ll have to find the box with the rest of my towels first!” I tossed Fai a spare set of keys so she could lock up and left wondering what surprise they had in store for me.
I headed to Patrick’s, which fortunately was only a short walk from my place now. Keo was there and when she came over she took one look at me and poured me a glass of pinot noir. I don’t know how she managed to do it, but she always knew what I wanted. I opened my notebook but didn’t start writing yet. I just scanned the room for anyone interesting, sat back and sipped my wine. The noise of the crowd soothed my still somewhat frazzled nerves. Most people would find it energizing, or possibly unsettling but not relaxing. The opposite was usually true for me. Certain noisy situations will jar me, the cacophony that only children can create is one of the few that does. Here in this smoky, noisy environment however I am at home. This is where I come to center myself, to sort out the chaos in my life and make sense of it all. Looking at all the people crowded around, seeing and hearing the interplay of all the bustling life was like watching a thunderstorm or waves pound a rocky beach.
After a while I started jotting down bits and pieces of things I would incorporate in my stories. Now and then someone would come over and talk with me. Most of them would drift away after a while; going back to their friends or wandering over to someone else who caught their eye. A few people talked to me for quite a while about random things before leaving.
I was always friendly, yet aloof when I was out at the bar. Keo understood my reasons. If I allowed my normally friendly, affable nature to come out and didn’t stay at least a bit aloof there were often problems. It was beyond my understanding why men thought I was very interested in them when I was just being friendly and enjoying conversation. I couldn’t understand why they would be interested in the first place. I’m short, wear glasses and I’ve always though I’m a bit too ‘serious’ looking for most guys. But they still try to pursue things. Maybe it’s the way guys act with any girl who shows interest in what they have to say, but I don’t think so. I’ve always been able to set people at ease, to the point they tell me things they rarely – if ever – share with anyone. Maybe it’s an extension of that I mused.
I wasn’t expecting to see James, but I knew the moment he walked in the door. I didn’t bother looking up until he was almost ready to sit down.
“Hi James” I said as I looked up at him and smiled. He looked a little startled then a bit annoyed “I wish you would stop doing that! It makes me feel like you have eyes in the back of your head or something!” I just grinned. It wasn’t long before he started excitedly telling me that he had just found out about another estate sale not far from the one he was already going to. “The best thing is they have agreed to let me come in early!” “From what they have said there are quite a few Chippendale pieces and even a couple of pieces by Boulle!” He might as well have been speaking Greek to me for all I knew about antiques. “I’m going to need you to take over running the shop starting the end of next week.” I told him that was fine, by then I’d be settled in to my place.
A couple of girls sat down next to James and tried to get his attention. They were very pretty but he hardly noticed. They looked over at me as if I had something to do with him ignoring them. He excused himself for a moment. While he was gone I leaned over and told them “You aren’t his type, but of course I’m not his type either… He’s not interested in anything under a hundred years old.” They looked at me as if I was crazy. I just shrugged and said “Believe what you will, of course you can always ask him.” He had just returned and said “Ask me what?” “Oh. If you’re really only interested in something over a hundred years old.” I said grinning. He laughed “You’ve got me there, unless it’s very unusual or rare.” The girls looked at him and said “Oh that’s gross!” grabbed their drinks and moved to the other side of the bar. James looked puzzled “What was that about?” “Oh, I think they believed you were talking about people.” I flashed him a wicked grin. He shook his head at me “I wonder how they got that idea! You really shouldn’t do that. Of course they were stupid to fall for your prank.” I tried feigning innocence but burst out laughing instead. “You do happen to prefer older things; I swear you can’t love a woman because you are so in love with antiques. Well, that and the fact that there aren’t any antique women around who look young enough that you’d want to bed them!” He pretended to cuff me “You’re a wicked girl Talen!” I just smiled sweetly and took another sip of my wine.
Keo came over and refilled our drinks. She was shaking her head at me and said “You are so mean. Poor James will never get any girls if you keep making them run in fear.” I just laughed and said “James wouldn’t have wanted those little Barbie dolls anyway. He likes intelligent women.” “So why’s he friends with you?” “Because I’m not just intelligent, I’m brilliant!” She shook her head and walked away laughing. I gave James a puzzled look “Did I say something funny?” He just shook his head and drank his Scotch. We discussed some things about running his shop and he admonished me not to put my feet up on any of the furniture while he was gone. He headed out after a little while saying that he had a million things to do before his flight, which was now moved to Friday.
Congratulations! You made it to the end!