Monday, November 5, 2012

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Tims

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.”

This is the 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">

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 has a death grip on my wrist.

“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. His Asbergers makes it hard for him to cue in on things like that. 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.

“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. I guess I get to be the very first to comment, yay! Let me begin with the one part I question. The title. First of all it intrigues me, but then I begin to read the first five pages and the story is written in first person. I am a little confused by this, because Joy begins by telling us that she killed Adam Gordon with a little help from Preston.

    I am definitely wanting to know more about Joy and Preston after just reading the first few paragraphs. Once I now Preston has Aspergers I have so many questions, which keeps me engaged in reading. The description of the bathroom graffiti was just enough and gave me a sense of being in a true high school bathroom, with the exception that the outside door locked. Normal schools only have stalls that lock, not outside door but I am not sure that is where Peston is. Maybe adding whether or not Preston is outside the stall OR door would give a little more info.

    I hope I have been a little helpful to you and that I have made a little sense here:)
    Amy G.

  2. Hi Laura,

    You've done a great job with your first pages, setting up some suspence. I'd definitely read more to find out what you mean by "But he took her anyway." Very intriguing!

    I have no idea what the graffiti meant, but maybe YA readers will.
    I like the relationship between Joy and Preton already. The fact that he has Asperger's is a unique element.

    You have a good balance between action, dialogue, and narrative.

    I think instead of "This is the bathroom..." you could say, "I'm in the bathroom..." Just a thought.

    Good luck and happy writing!

  3. Hi Laura,

    Wow - I'm so pulled into the story, I'm grappling for more. You did an absolutely perfect job of setting up so much of your story and I don't feel overwhelmed at all - a testament to your pacing!

    While I like the short scenes, I did feel a little jostled about (which in a way is good because I'm sure the protagonist is feeling it even more so) but a bit of foreshadowing in a previous scene leading into the next might help a little.

    I think you did a great job of taking a story that has maybe been told before and making it your own - I have a feeling Preston will be a unique character to match your unique story.

    Also, awesome humor.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. hi Laura,
    I was completely pulled in and would have gone on reading if more were posted.

    Your writing flows, Joy and Preston are interesting, the premise of having killed Mr. Popular is compelling.

    The only (little) thing that threw me was that the murder happened last night and Joy managed to make it thru the night, get up this morning, get dressed, take herself to school, and then now she falls apart? Why now, rather than last night or earlier? I'm sure this can be worked out.

    Good work.


  5. Hi! Wow, what an interesting premise. I definitely like it, but I think it needs a little work. First thing - Asperger's - you have to be very careful here not to make this character a stereotype or too child like or anything like that. Most kids that age with Aspergers (and i know it depends where they are on the spectrum) are high functioning and possibly medicated. The fact that she's using him makes her even more unlikable than the fact that she killed the guy who (I'm assuming) raped her sister. The whole thing feels a little light for the subject matter too.

    I feel like you start too late. I want to get to know her before the inciting incident which happened offscreen if you will. It depends on your story, I guess if it's an "I know what you did last summer" type thing this might be wrong, it's tricky. But everything I hear lately is to let us get to know the character first so we care.

  6. Okay, first of all, BAM. I love writing like this. It's immediate, it's tight, it's action focused. There is so much that you're doing right here, and there is just a fantastic premise being set up.

    I'm a little confused over whether both she and Preston at this moment think what they did was right or wrong.

    I agree with the note Lisa gave is that you have to be very, very careful with the Aspergers thing and I would almost give it a little more space. You're still filtering everything through her perspective, so keep that in mind, but it could use some air.

    Finally, in something this immediate, I want the other shoe to drop right now. She killed him in self(ish) defense, she kind of feels bad--what's the problem. Is she not going to get away with it? Is she not going to be able to live with it? Is her sister alive and will find out? Is her sister dead? Whatever the main conflict of the book is, we need to know right now.

    But this is some great writing. Well done!


  7. Okay, wow. Great writing. It flowed, it pulled me with it, it surprised me, it totally engaged me in the best possible sense. I really don't have much more to add to what Lisa and AC said -- based on the title I'm assuming that she's going to have someone accuse her. I did read what happened to her sister as rape, and I was right there with her as a result. All the way along, you handled everything beautifully -- right up until I hit the Aspergers. I'm not saying that you didn't build up enough sympathy to possibly overcome her using Preston -- I don't know yet, and because I don't know, I'm reading even more feverishly thus far -- BUT make sure you have your priorities set up for where you want our sympathy to lie. Preston having Aspergers makes me think her danger of discovery is greater, and if that's where you want my attention and emotional investment this early, give me something more to mitigate my worry about how and why Preston is involved.

    Looking forward to finding out! Fantastic work though!