As I wait for the results of the published Dev Manny book and the not-yet-published League of Scientists #1, I still feel the need to write.
So I’m writing.
I’ve started another project. This is another book, targeted towards young adults. It has a science fiction / fantasy theme. Or more specifically, you could call this a “science fantasy”.
The book currently has a working title of “Eena”, which almost certainly will be changed before final publication. I have the plot pretty well figured out. But that doesn’t mean much without actual words on paper: I’ve still gotta write the thing!
As of this writing, Eena is just over 11,000 words. A rough ballpark I have in my mind is that the final length will be something like 30,000 words.
What’s that? You’d like a sample chapter? Well, sure! Here’s the latest version of Chapter 1:
“Over here, Ty!”
I whipped the tennis ball at Zack so hard it hurt my arm. I threw it off to the side, giving him the chance to jump for it. He pushed off of the bottom of the lake and shot out of the water. He grabbed the ball in mid-air and curled his body around it before he smashed back into the waves.
He could do that kind of stuff. Jump and flip and land and have it look pretty cool the whole time. Not like in a movie, but close. He’d taken gymnastics and was obsessed with martial arts. He wanted to be a stuntman when he got older. He’d probably do it, too.
I wasn’t like that. I was fat.
I would never say it to my parents and my friends never mentioned anything, but I was. Not gigantic fat. But my belt hurt when I put it on. Even with the too-small belt, my pants were all stretched out around the waist. My back and my feet would hurt if I ran too much, and I never ran because I could feel stuff jiggling around and it was embarrassing.
Which is probably why Zack blasted the ball back at me and aimed it right for my face. It was his way of being nice, of making it so I didn’t have to work for the catch.
Even though we were a couple dozen feet away, the tennis ball moved faster than I wanted it to. I threw up both hands to protect me – forget about trying to catch it – and the ball somehow bounced through my forearms and slammed into my nose.
My arms spun in circles as I tried to keep myself upright in the stomach-deep water. I lost my balance and fell backward. My legs slipped out from under me and for a moment it felt like I was floating in space. I hung there for a moment in the shallow water and squeezed my eyes closed against the pain in my nose.
Then my leg brushed into a slimy chunk of half-submerged seaweed. I hate seaweed. It looks like snot and feels about the same. I know it’s nature and life and everything, but it’s so gross I think it should be removed from all lakes and oceans. Or I guess I could just swim in pools the rest of my life.
When the seaweed wrapped its slime around my calf, I freaked out and tried to thrash away. It took me an extra few seconds to get my feet under me and heave myself, gasping, back into the air.
Zack helped me the rest of the way up, looking at me with concerned eyes.
“Hey, you okay? I seriously did not mean to hit you.”
“I think I’m okay. My nose hurts.”
His eyes widened.
“Oh geez, dude, you’re bleeding.”
My face was wet. I felt liquid running off of my head and down my face, back and chest. I thought it was water but now I didn’t know. The word blood started to bounce around in my brain. I felt light-headed, like I was about to tip over. Zack grabbed my arm and pushed me to shore.
“Mrs. Ford,” Zack said. He shoved me at my mom. “Tyler hurt his nose. We were playing catch and I missed. And then he missed.”
My eyes were closed but I could tell what my mom would do. First she’d throw up her hands in the air in surprise and fear. Then she’d get super-paranoid and would probably-
“Tyler! What in the world did you do!”
I opened my eyes and saw my mom coming at me. Her hands were up in the air with surprise and fear. She looked scared. She reached out towards my face.
“We were just playing catch, Mom. I missed the-”
“Oh, this is my fault. I should’ve been watching you boys closer. It’s just this is our vacation, so I didn’t think you’d be able to get in trouble on the lake. And Zack is always so responsible.”
That was nice for Zack, but that also meant I wasn’t responsible. That felt worse than my nose. I felt my face going red.
“I’m fine, Mom.”
“Here. Let me just clean you up. Your nose is swelling.”
“I’ll do it. I’m fine.”
My mom moved away, talking to herself about putting ice on my nose and checking to see if it was broken. I could tell by the tone of her voice she was already forgetting about this latest crisis and was prepping for the next one.
I turned away and touched my nose gingerly. My fingers came away clean. Most of what was dripping off me must just be water. No horrible bloody nose. The pain had settled down to a gentle throbbing. I guess that was a good sign.
I plopped down on the beach in a crunch of wet sand and heat. Out of the water, I was already sweating from the noon sun burning down my head, neck and back. Zack sat down next to me. We stared at the lake, at the gentle waves kicked up by far-off speedboats, and at the dozens of kids jumping around and playing at the beach in front of us.
“Hey Ty, I’m really sorry.”
“I know. It’s not your fault.”
“Want me to tell your dad or anything?”
“No. I’m fine.” My nose still pounded softly, feeling like it had only recently been attached to my face.
Zack was a tough guy. I didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of him. And my dad wouldn’t care, even if we could find him. He was probably out doing his “Extreme Living” thing, where he slept on the ground at night without a sleeping bag, ate stuff he found in the forest, and built tents out of leaves. My dad was weird.
This was my family’s yearly vacation to Something Fun. We usually did it around my birthday, June 20, so it was always in the blistering hot days of summer and a good excuse to go somewhere we could swim.
I’d just turned fifteen, and this year’s trip was to The Lone Wolf Lodge in Michigan. It’s a family resort where you go and stay in a cabin – a real log cabin – and swim in a lake and explore the forest and as my dad says, “Enjoy the simple life.” For me, that means no Internet, no cellphones, no gaming. That’s what Dad likes. I think it sucks.
There was another reason I hadn’t wanted to leave home this year. Somebody was still back in the city.
Zack was the only person who knew that I was seriously in love with Emily Dowers. I told him two years ago and he swore never to tell anyone else. He didn’t. Zack was cool about stuff like that.
He was also good for advice. He’d dated plenty of times. He’d told me about how to kiss a girl with or without tongue, where to touch, what to do. Great for him, I guess. But I’d never even kissed a girl. Actually, I should tell the full embarrassing truth: I’d never even held hands with a girl. …Well, yeah, I’ve held hands with my mom, but she doesn’t count. I mean a real girl.
I’d known Emily since we were kids. We went to the same grade school together and then the same high school. We didn’t hang out with the same friends, though, so we never had a chance to talk. But I watched and listened. She was cool. Funny and smart. Not irritating-smart, but good-smart. She was hot. More in the last couple years. She had soft curves, better than any other girl in the class, and I really liked that.
She knew I existed, but probably didn’t care. I so wanted to call her, ask her out on a date, whatever, anything, but it just wasn’t that easy.
One time I was hanging out at Zack’s house. He handed me his phone. He’d already dialed Emily’s number. All I had to do was to hit one button and I’d be talking to her.
“Just like that,” he’d said. “Say ‘hi’. Ask her out to a movie. Or to meet somewhere. Get food. Anything. Just talk. This isn’t difficult.”
I don’t respond well to pressure. When I realized how close I was to actually talking with Emily, I froze up. My heart started beating hard. I even felt sick.
I don’t know how Zack does it, but I’m not him. I can’t just start talking to anybody like that, especially without practicing first, especially when that anybody is this perfect girl who I dreamed about for years.
So after I called Emily and heard her say “Hello?” I immediately hung up the phone. I took a deep breath, hiccuped and handed the phone back to Zack.
…and Emily called back.
Zack answered. She’d seen his parents name on the Caller ID and wanted to know what he wanted. Zack had told her some lie and kept me out of it.
The phone call only made things worse. Emily Dowers was pretty much perfect. I definitely was not. Zack got girls. The fat, quiet kid did not. There was no way she’d be interested in someone like me. So for the time being, I’d worship her from afar.
That was my life. Pretty boring.
I should say that part again: My life was boring.
Then I met Eena.