Monday, November 12, 2012

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Tims Rev 1

Laura Tims

I’m hiding in the bathroom.

My hands are shaking. I’m crying, too. I don’t know when that started.

Preston pounds on the door again.

“Come on, Joy, please.”

It’s the one-stall bathroom on the bottom floor of Stanwick High’s art department. Nobody comes down here before the first bell. Nobody will hear the noises I’m making, but I muffle them with my fist anyway.

“We should just go up to first period. We have to act normal.” He’s pleading now. “It’s almost eight. It’s seven-fifty-seven.”

Seven-fifty-seven. I hear someone else shrieking, someone from Sunday night: Nine-one-one. Call nine-one-one.

I look at the toilet. I want to vomit, but I shouldn’t freak Preston out. Should give him some idea that I haven’t snapped, actually. “Right. Just a sec.”

I sound calm for someone who can’t breathe.

“Come out,” he says.

I don’t want to come out. I want to stay right here with the bathroom graffiti until the outside world changes into a place where I haven’t screwed up so massively.

One piece of graffiti catches my eye. Scratched in, not written. Probably with an earring back. A.G <3 data-blogger-escaped-br="br">
A.G. Adam Gordon.

Now I do vomit. It’s quick and not that messy, but Preston starts banging on the door with both palms. “Joy, you should unlock this so I can…”

So he can what? He can’t do anything.

I smile at the toilet water. I’m sure I look crazy. That’s probably how I should look. “This is a girl’s bathroom.”

He blows air out through his mouth. “I don’t know what—you said—”

I said I was fine and that we were doing the right thing and that this would fix it all. I know what I said.

I just don’t know if I was right.

The bell rings. And the morning announcements come on:

“Good morning, Stanwick Stag Beetles.”

The stag beetle is our mascot. All the good mascots were taken, I guess.

“I have some very tragic news to give to you today.” A pause. Principal Eastman talks like he’s swallowed a ball of cotton. “Some of you may already have heard. Last night, a member of our community passed away.”

Preston isn’t knocking anymore. I lay on my side and press my cheek against the cold tile. I close my eyes.

“Adam Gordon was a senior and a member of the lacrosse team. I would like to request that we have a moment of silence for him now.”

Suddenly, the school is haunted.

Eastman picks up: “Any student who wishes may leave class to attend group meetings with any of our school counselors that will take place throughout the day. My wish is that we can all support each other today.”

On the second floor, someone starts wailing. Preston is muttering shitshitshit under his breath.

And everyone begins to grieve for the boy that I killed.

Adam Gordon was handsome.

The kind of jaw you had to imagine touching. Full lips. Shoulders and chest and stomach like an Egyptian god. Everyone loved him. Stanwick sports are notoriously pathetic, but he sailed the lacrosse team through a 14-0 season. At any given time, he had ten kids hanging off him. And girls. Girls only wanted Adam Gordon.

Except my twin. My Grace. She didn’t want him.

But he took her anyway.

So I took him.

Preston’s death grip on my wrist shakes me out of my thoughts.

“It’s okay,” I tell him. Quietly. “Just pretend like you’re fine.”

“Everyone’s looking at us.”

“Nobody’s looking at us.”

I’m right. First period’s in two minutes, but the hallway is flooded, and nobody is looking at us. They’re all whispering. Underclassmen, the ones who didn’t know Adam Gordon—the few—are excited. This is the most interesting thing that’s happened at Stanwick High since the gas leak scare two years ago.

Mostly everyone else has tears in their eyes.

Some sob openly. Iris Bowden and Sarah McCaughney cling to each other by the trophy case. A member of the lacrosse team stands with his face white, his hands clenched. My classmates don’t wave when they see me. They stare blankly at the wall. Maybe they’re seeing the last time they spoke to Adam. All I know is that we’re invisible right now.

“Should I fake cry?” whispers Preston.

"No. I mean, if you can, I guess.” My own eyes are already puffy.

He screws up his nose. It looks ridiculous, so I touch his shoulder. He stops. His green eyes are wider, more frightened, than usual. He has goose pimples all along his arms.

“Do you still feel sick?” he asks.

“A little.”

“Do you want a Tums?”

He doesn’t understand why I’m not talking much, why I’m pale. I told him that killing Adam Gordon would make me happy.

That’s why he helped me.

“Do you want to see something?” He hesitates in front of the water fountain. “I have a new one.”

“Yeah, sure.” My voice is thick.

He brightens and takes out a colorful string, tangling it between his fingers until an intricate pattern stretches between them.

“It’s called Two Mountains and a Stream.” He smiles.

I hear moaning. I can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl.

His smile fades. “You should know—you didn’t—do anything wrong.”

He puts a hand on my wrist. He doesn’t usually touch people willingly, so I force a grin. “We finally did it, didn’t we?”

He nods so enthusiastically that some of his brown deer hair flops onto his forehead. “We did.”

My first period class is canceled. The teacher takes everyone outside for a walk.

I don’t go. I hide in the bathroom again and let myself collapse a little more. Then I tell myself to get up, and I do. I go to one of the group counseling meetings. I guess I want to see how badly I’ve hurt everyone.

I told myself I would feel the guilt.

The couches in Mrs. Hui’s room are an ugly purple and occupied. Adam Gordon’s friends sit clumped. Makeup streaks the face of Marissa Lindblatt, Adam Gordon’s last girlfriend, and Paige Kent, the girl he cheated on her with. They’re hugging. Either they don’t know about the cheating or they don’t care.

I sit on the carpet by the door. I have to remember that this is worth it. That this will fix my sister. But all I can breathe is the guilt, a corrosive black fog that burns out everything else.

“He brought me daisies the day before,” Marissa gulps. “They were his favorite flower. He was sweet like that, to have a favorite flower.”

Paige opens her mouth and shuts it. Maybe Adam Gordon brought her daisies too. I saw them both at the party, the one on Sunday, the one where he died.

“That’s it,” says Mrs. Hui. Her long black hair is tied in a bun. “Cherish the good memories.”


  1. Hi Laura,
    Yep! Still just as exciting to read the 2nd time around! I just love the short paragraphs and the way the conflict is right there. I'm so hooked!

    A couple notes.. I sort of have a hard time knowing if the protag is a girl or a boy for awhile. Kind of embarrassing on my part as a reader (I'm assuming she's a girl by the way). Maybe a physical description to hammer it home early on. Also, while I like the short scenes, I go get a bit disoriented, mostly because I always imagine her in the bathroom, but at a few points its obvious she's moved somewhere else. Maybe there's a way to introduce the setting early on in each switch?

    Awesome dialogue. Also, I like the added "it will fix my sister" bit, it gave my more sympathy for the protagonist.

    Thanks for letting me read!

  2. Hi Laura!

    Great job with the revisions, but I think as a reader I need more description to balance the narrative and dialogue. The dialogue is wonderful, it just needs more. Some things I just can't picture, like the school for example.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with the rest of your writing!

  3. Hi Laura,

    Very nice! I like all the dialogue. Maybe you could add some action dialogue tags to give a little more description of the characters and setting, but I really liked it!

    I missed your statement about Preston having Asperger's in this revision. Without it, the reader may wonder what's up with Preston and his string.

    I'm not sure about the school is haunted line. Maybe you could say something like, "The minute feels like five until Eastman picks up..." Unless of course, the school really is haunted. :)

    I hope your power and internet have been restored!

  4. hi Laura,
    I so enjoyed reading this. I think you've got a voice, characters, and a relationship (Joy & Preston) that really work. I also think you've successfully drawn Joy and Adam Gordon so that we're sympathetic even though we know she's done this horrific thing.

    I'm still bothered that as a reader I'm being thrown into the bathroom to react to something that happened Sunday, and I don't know how long it's been since Sunday or if anything else has happened between then and now.

    But maybe you're getting into that in a later scene...?

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi Laura,

    I love this. I love that you took out the Aspbergers, and I love that you've let us see Preston has issues, but we don't fully know what they are yet so we can get to know your protag first. I love her guilt, her hope that this will fix her sister. I'd love a tiny bit more guilt toward what she's done to Preston, but you know your characters best.

    It might help to ground us and foreshadow a little at the same time if you insert Monday morning into that first sentence. The few details you give about the bathroom come out organically and very well, but I wondered two things. One, could you do something with the grafitti that makes it clearer for people who aren't in the "know?" A lot of teens won't know how to translate that, and as you likely know too, upwards of 40% of YA readers are actually adults, most of whom wouldn't have a clue. Second, the one-stall bathroom made me pause. If it's a one-person bathroom does it need to have a stall? And can you make it a one-person girl's bathroom and address some of the previous questions?

    I don't personally feel that we need a lot more sense of the school in the first scene because she's not going to be thinking about much more than you've already got her thinking about given her situation. On the other hand, she is calmer in the second scene, so it would be natural for her to notice more of her surroundings.

    If it is Monday and the party was Sunday, would it be natural for her to say "the one on Sunday when Adam died?" Or would she say yesterday? And would she say died? Or something else?

    One final note. Is she worried about Preston and how he's going to hold up? I sure would be in her shoes.

    GREAT job though. I love this.