Friday, July 23, 2010

Home Late

This morning this story was pulling at me. Nate is a supporting character in my YA novel currently Untitled (and unfinished). This is part of his background story:

Home Late

Nate watched as his instructor’s fingers danced across the strings of an acoustic guitar. He longed to play the way Mr. Williams did, and often stayed after school for free lessons. His twin sister sat out in the hall doing her homework, waiting for him to finish up, so they could head home.

“Now you try, Nathan,” Mr. Williams smiled.

Nate caressed the neck of the Gibson Sunburst his father had given him when he was ten. He turned the page of his sheet music and began to work the frets, his fingers mimicking Mr. Williams’ dance over his own strings.

The instructor’s smile spread wide across his perfect teeth, he closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair absorbing the beautiful music escaping from Nate’s hands. He waited until the end of the song, and clapped enthusiastically. “Bravo, Nathan! You are getting better every week. Before too long, you will be outplaying me.”

“Thanks, Mr. Williams,” Nate slipped his guitar into its canvas bag and slung it across his shoulder and onto his back, “I’m practicing every night.”

“It shows, boy. It shows. I will see you… Friday?”

“Yes, sir,” he said as he slipped out into the hallway where Natalie was waiting. She had her arms crossed and was tapping her foot.

“We’re late,” she sneered.

“I know… missed the bus.”

“In trouble…” she breathed.

“Let’s get going,” Nate pushed open the front doors of the school and Natalie followed. They crossed the street and cut through the Meyer’s cornfield to get to the concrete drainage ditch. It was always dry, and the quickest route home.

“Quit trying to hold my hand, Natalie.” He shoved her hard. “Someone will see.”

“Everyone knows I’m your sister, stupid.”

“So… it’s weird.”

“We are weird; we’re twins.”

“Shut up,” he groaned. They walked in silence as Nate kicked stones and watched them ricochet off the side of the tall concrete walls.

“How much trouble, you think?”

“Loads,” Natalie huffed.

“You didn’t have to wait for me.”

“Of course I did,” she smiled at him. “Stupid… besides if I got home without you; we’d both be in trouble anyway. Dad’s always angry.”

“Yeah,” Nate watched his feet as they moved along the concrete.

As they rounded the corner to their house, the neighborhood buzzed with activity. There were police cars, a fire truck, and ambulances parked in front of their home. Neighbors were clutching each other in their front yards; they watched the blonde-headed duo and whispered – pointing with their eyes as the children closed in on the scene in front of their house.

Nate dropped his guitar in the street and walked with his sister, shoulder-to-shoulder, into their front yard, staring at the house and commotion on the porch.

For a moment, the twins were invisible. People moved between them and around them. Neighborhood dogs were going wild, drowning out the sobs and gasps of their masters.

Nate felt the pull of people’s voices and heard the drone of radio communications, but he wasn’t really listening. Two looming, black stretchers floated by and disappeared; he turned away before they reached their destination. His heart was racing; each draw of air clouding his vision around the edges.

Nate watched the officer talking to the McMillans, watched as their lips moved; the woman with the slick black gloves on the porch, the fireman dressed for the non-existent fire. Two words bounced around inside Nate’s head, appearing and reappearing. They bubbled like bile in his stomach; threatening to erupt from his mouth at any moment – spilling across the manicured lawn.

If I say the words, maybe they will disappear… maybe we can go back to school. Not miss the bus, make it home on… time. Nate shook his head and felt his sister trembling at his side. Tears were free falling off her chin as she stared at the house they would never again call home.

“Murder suicide,” Nate whispered. The moment he spoke it, he felt cold and empty.

“Nate, Natalie,” a neighbor grabbed them and squeezed them close. She searched the crowd and pulled the children toward a police officer. He looked them over and sighed. “Ok, you come with me.” He grabbed Nate’s arm and started toward one of the many police cars parked in the road.

“No!” Nate pulled from his grasp and stepped next to his sister who was sobbing uncontrollably.

“We stay together,” he said firmly, as he grabbed Natalie’s hand and weaved his fingers between hers.

The officer nodded.


  1. There was the tiniest hint, "Dad's always angry..." and then we get "Murder suicide".

    Ouch! And I'm left wanting way more about Nate and Natalie - and what happened.

    Hurry up and finish your novel, OK? :)

    A good, sharp entry for #fridayflash. I love your writing.

  2. Wow! Very intense! I need to know more about these two! Good job!

  3. Yeah Tomara. You really do rock as a writer girl. Seriously!!! What the hell are you waiting for? Finish your novel already. Like yesterday. LOL So Awesome!!!

  4. Mmmhmm. Told you. It's awesome. And everyone apparently agrees with me that you NEED TO FINISH THE NOVEL!

    You know I loved this (even if you pretend to doubt me).


  5. Oh, this was so incredibly and wonderfully good!

    Teary when Nate held hands with his sister at the end, not caring who saw.

    Excellent. Now go, go. Finish your novel. :)

  6. Tight pull at the end. The hand holding issue defines this story, and the "weird" remark quickly sets the characters. Nice.

  7. Good thing they were late. You lulled me into thinking this was a feel good childhood nostalgia piece at first... then, wham. Very nice build up, you really see how these two are bonded at the end. One small typo - last sentence, "office" should be "officer?"

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  9. Incredibly powerful and very emotive. These are characters I want to know more about, want to follow.

    Excellent job with a tight vignette; so much conveyed. Well done!

  10. This is a powerful story indeed! Good thing they were late. Many great elements in this.

  11. This was incredible. That lil' guy got me in the end, 2...

  12. Wow, I am amazed to wake up to so many comments. Thank you guys always for reading and commenting.

    Kevin - That is such an honor coming from you. I am a HUGE fan of yours.

    Ryan - Thank you for being so supportive and all of the awesome word spreading.

    RaShelle - Shush, you. Thanks :-) I am working on it.

    Kemari - it was all of your editing that they love. You always make it better :-P Thanks for being awesome.

    Marisa - You always leave the best comments. I was just telling Kemari about that in IM earlier.

    David - Thank you so much. I am glad it came across well. I always have it so well written in my head, but I don't always translate as well.

    Pamila - sorry for the late night trickery. I corrected the typo ;-). Thanks for pointing it out, I was spent by the time I posted this last night.

    jdanetyler - Nate and Natalie have plenty of backstory, which is nuts because neither is the MC in my novel. I spend too much time thinking about things and too little writing.

    Eric - It was a good thing they were late, but sadly I don't think they always see it that way.

    Ant - if I can get you to waiver, I have succeeded. *pumps fist in the air*

    Again, thank you all so much for reading and commenting.

  13. Good job they were late - murder and triple suicide otherwise, no doubt.

    Very tense when they got to their house, the non existent fire particularly

  14. Beautifully, written. Very powerful piece.

    My daughter is reading #fridayflash with me this morning and she said to tell you that she absolutely loved it.

  15. Vivid descriptions, good pacing, powerful ending. The reader can sense the guilt Nate feels for missing the bus. You did a good job with this one.

  16. Wow, what a great story. I'm joining the chorus-- go finish this novel. It will be amazing.

    Excellent writing, and the characters just jump off the page. I'm so glad they were late getting home.

    Amazing work.

  17. Excellent. Love the all-for-one dynamic of the twins.

    Can't wait to read more about them.

  18. That was intense! On the one hand, it's good they were late, on the other , what will happen to Nate and Natalie now? I need more...sequel? Please.

  19. I like Kemari's praise best of all. Got to believe in yourself, 2mara, and keep those two together.

  20. This is excellent, a really taut, tense read. To evoke that in a reader from the humble placing of words on a page/screen is a mighty gift. & you've got it!

    Marc Nash

  21. Like others have said, probably the tightest thing here is the hand-holding at the end. For all that he'll wish they had gotten home early, it probably saved their lives. Still, he'll always wonder, and that definitely defines a character. Good work.

  22. This is really tramatic and excellent, 2! I'm with Kevin...hurry up and finish your novel!

  23. A powerful piece that really captures the relationship between the twins in the little details. Definitely hooked enough to want to read more about Nate and Natalie.

  24. Wonderful story, Tomara. Great from the get-go. Your twins are thoroughly interesting - and I'm interested in seeing what they do next.

  25. Tomara, well-written. You really feel for the twins, especially with the contrast of the guitar lesson to the violence that waits them at home.

  26. Excellent work, Tomara. This is one of the best pieces of flash I've read in a very long time - from anyone. You really nailed this. The hand holding at the end was so so poignant. I really feel for these kids.

  27. Such a powerful piece. The tension and characterisation are supreb so I will echo the thoughts of others and encourage you to finish the novel. Taut description and clever angles to get the idea across.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  28. Outstanding. Such sweetness in the opening and horror in the close.