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First Page: Untitled Manuscript – Contemporary Romance

First Page: Untitled Manuscript – Contemporary Romance

Welcome to First Page Sunday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.


“So, you drive really well, actually”, Chris said. He tilted his head back against the door, obviously cramped in her little 500. Lizzie flicked her eyes towards him and then back to the road, her arm and legs ever shifting, flexing, extending, twisting the little car through the traffic. She gunned it a little and took them sailing almost straight across the traffic circle and towards the river. A tap of the brakes and then they skittered into a right hand turn onto a narrow one way street no wider than a mousetrap.

Lizzie looked over at Chris and bit her lip. Smiling, she said lightly, “yeah, I told you, the class!”

“Sorry?”, he said.They were going much slower now, although really, not quite slow enough for such a tiny narrow, space, cars parked on either side of them. Out of the corner of her eye she could see his left foot clenching and relaxing, clenching and relaxing.

“Yeah, the driving class they make all dependants take when they get old enough — Offensive driving, or drive like an Assassin, or James Bourne, or whatever.”

“Seriously? It’s Jason Bourne, or James Bond, Lizzie,” he said incredulously, his eyebrows raised and waggling, a mixture of humor and disbelief. “And I bet it was defensive driving or something like that. Not offensive driving. Maybe special teams driving?”

And then he was laughing for real then, full out, and it caught her. His warm, golden eyes twinkled, his dimples popped, and she stared a little longer than she meant to, even when his eyes blurred away from hers. He was so American looking, with his light brown eyes, his dimples, his thick sandy blonde hair, and his, his, his tallness. No, that wasn’t right. Lizzie dated plenty of Italian men who were tall. Broadness. Yes that was it. But it was nice, muscled without being too bulky, confident and natural and a sort of strength that was used instead of made in the gym every day to make up for too many insecurities in the shower or the wallet.

Clunk

“Shit!”

“Uh, I think you just took off that guy’s sideview mirror– driving a little too close on my side, sweetness,” Chris said.

Shaking her head, Lizzie nudged the car a little to the left. Chris. Stupid fake spook. Sweetness? Musclehead. She pressed her lips together, suppressing her snort of annoyance at the endearment. Was that going to be his strategy?

The car steadied under her hands, and Lizzie blew out her breath in a long, low almost whistle.

“Collateral. It’s Italy,” she said. “ ‘Sides, I was trying to see what it would take to get you to grab the sissy bar.” She glanced up at the intersection, noting the street names. It was Italy, but she was an American. She’d come back later to check the window, fix it if she could, leave some money if she couldn’t. If she could find her punchdown. Was it in the black evening bag or the pink pucci print?

“I took a driving class too, you know,” Chris said, lightly. “It’s going to take a lot more than that to get to me.”

Lizzie slid a look at him as she turned right onto the Lungotevere, back into traffic. Crap. it was going to take at least 30 minutes to get to Piazza Santa Maria at this rate.

“Is that a challenge?”, she asked.

“What?” Damn it, the startled/caught unawares look was really cute.

“Yeah, you know, want to see if I can rattle you with my driving through Roman traffic? Actually, scratch that– even with that class I could rattle you with my driving pretty easily. Not a real challenge,” she chuckled a little, “or at least not one I’m up for– I’d be up all night repairing sideview windows.”

A slow smile started to slide across Chris’s face. His eyes warmed, and the muscles in his face softened. Less alert. “You’re trying to think of ways to rattle me? Don’t you remember our conversation from, I don’t know, 30 minutes ago? You’ve already got that one covered. For a lifetime.”

First Page: Where the Wind Settles – YA (lgbt)

First Page: Where the Wind Settles – YA (lgbt)

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.


Chinook appeared one day behind one of the library info desks in a flurry of color.
Her real name was Jane, as one of the older librarians pointed out when she gave her the codes to the computer system, but her name tag, in warm, sprawling block letters read “CHINOOK”. The name alone kind of buoyed my imagination. It smacked of adventure, and she looked like it, too.

I watched her through the narrow gap between a row of books and the shelf above them, until she reached for her coat and pack of cigarettes and headed off towards the elevators. Even then, that first day, I thought she’d left a strange hole in the fabric of space-time around that desk. I squinted at it; and for a second or so I thought I could see its flickering edges, but then I blinked and it was gone.

I padded over into the dictionary aisle. They were heavy tomes that smelled of decaying paper you could burrow yourself into like a cave. Sitting Indian-style on the grayish green carpet, I started pouring over the infinite columns of words. I remember thinking how improbable a thing language was, caressing the print with my fingertip, word for word down the long list.

I couldn’t find it in the Longman, which swept straight from China, chinchilla and chinless to chinos and chintz. The Merriam-Webster was heavier, beautifully bound, and I grunted under its weight when I pulled it onto my lap. I loved the fluttery thin paper, butterfly wings with intricate markings – all those beautiful unfamiliar words like tiny flowers or poems: chinoiserie, chinoline, chinone, chinook.

My fingers rested on the entry as I copied it down into one of my notebooks. Then I compared it with the Chambers and the humongous Oxford English Dictionary (at this point it was a little gratuitous, I admit). By the time I was done, my notes extended over 3 pages, and they boiled down to two definitions:

1. A member of an American Indian people in the pacific north-west
2. A warm spring wind

A warm spring wind, I whispered to myself and then quickly looked around in case anyone had heard – but I was still alone in the aisle.

I stuffed the dictionaries back into the their shelves and pocketed my notebook. It was an old-fashioned one, paper instead of a screen. Sometimes, I had the energy to pretend to myself that this made me more sophisticated than others, that it hearkened back to a different time, that real observations, thoughts, ideas could only be captured by hand, but most days I was realistic enough to admit that the main factor in my loyalty to paper was money.
Ironic, that. Paper money, get it?

***

There are a few things you should probably know about me, before I go on. That just makes it easier for all of us, and you won’t have to wonder whether I’m trying to sound mysterious or speak in metaphor or something later on. Spoilers: I’m not.

The first thing is that I haven’t said more than a few words to anyone since my mom died six years go.

The second thing is that I am a collector, and an investigator.

The third thing is that I can turn myself invisible.