In an effort to motivate myself to continue my writing and finish this dang series THIS YEAR, I am posting the original beginning to my yet-to-be-released first novel, Echo.
I think the new beginning is much more direct and in the middle of the action, but you’ll have to wait to read it when the first novel is e-published later this year. If you get a chance, leave me a comment and tell me what you think of the premise for this story.
Banging Amy’s latest track blasted from the radio as Brynn St. Clare drove us through the Knoxville rush hour traffic. We were headed to the World’s Fair Park for the first night of 101.7’s Rocksville Rock Fest Battle of the Bands.
I stared out the window, watching cars with impatient drivers speed past us. I couldn’t focus on the lyrics. Brynn’s description of the upcoming sorority graduation party distracted me from the music, and my own thoughts distracted me from her ramblings. I simply nodded and mumbled “Mmm, hmm,” every once in a while, which encouraged Brynn to keep talking.
The images of last night’s dream replayed over and over in my mind. The dream wasn’t exceptionally exciting. It was rather ordinary really, except that in the past three weeks, since the night I’d performed my dedication ritual to the Wiccan path, I’d had the nearly the same dream at least a dozen times. I’d stopped counting after ten.
The dream is almost always the same: I walk out of a house into a dimly lit yard full of familiar people and loud, socially acceptable music. Strings of decorative lights hang from trees and along a privacy fence. I’m wearing a new maroon, micro-mini dress that complements my Irish genetics. The weight of my thick curls tugs at a silver comb and bobby pins that secure the massive pile on my head, leaving my neck and shoulders bare to the warmth of the night. Brynn is right behind me when out of nowhere I get this hot flash and a feeling of profound joy comes over me. I’m talking winning-the-lottery elation. And I look across the lawn at this guy in a yard swing. I’ve never seen him before, but he’s staring at me so intensely that I should be freaked out. I’m not, though. His confidence draws my attention. He rises from the swing and begins to walk toward me and…
“Tara,” Brynn barked. “Are you listening to me?”
“What?” I jerked my head in her direction. “Oh, yeah. The party’s gonna be great.”
“That was so five minutes ago!” She cut her eyes at me as her grip tightened on the steering wheel. “I was talking about last Saturday’s game night. You know, the one you missed because you weren’t feeling well?”
I’d lied to her on Saturday and said I had a puke-inducing headache so I could stay home for the full moon ceremony I wanted to perform. Brynn knows I’m a practicing Wiccan, she just refuses to acknowledge it. I’m having an issue with that. I shouldn’t have to suppress part of who I am, especially with my so-called best friend. But, for now, this close to graduation, I’d rather have her friendship than her persecution.
Ironically, she was the one who’d first found a coven for us to practice with. Our World Religions professor had assigned us to attend a service for a religion other than what we were brought up practicing. Brynn chose the one furthest from her Christian upbringing – Wicca. I just went along for the experience since it was the one religion I hadn’t tried as a teenager. We attended an Ostara celebration on the first day of Spring and I decided to continue meeting with the coven for other holy celebrations – esbats, the full moon ceremonies, and Sabbats, the Wiccan holidays. On my year-and-a-day anniversary, at the end of my initiation, I chose not to join the coven but to continue practicing as a solitary.
“Sorry.” I shrugged, turning my attention back to the conversation. “I was lost in my own thoughts about a dream I had last night.”
“Ooooh! Anything interesting?” Brynn, always the psych major, was practically salivating at the opportunity to analyze my dreams.
“This one was really strange,” I began. I pressed my lips together, biting my bottom lip, debating about whether I should tell her all of it – the dream, the guy, me still practicing Wicca. Did I really want to hear her dissect my psyche like some classroom clinical study?
“And your other ones haven’t been?” she said.
“But when I tell you, you’re going to think I’m crazy.” I reached up and tucked a loose strand of my curly, brown hair behind my ear, a nervous habit from my childhood.
“Just spill it, already.” She glanced over her shoulder then swerved into the right lane amid angry horns honking, preparing to exit the freeway.
After a cautious pause, I described the dream: what I remembered of the house, the yard, the swing, the guy with the dimples. But I didn’t tell her everything. Not the feelings I had when he looked at me, or when he touched my cheek. Those details I saved for myself; I couldn’t risk her trivializing this…Goddess, what did I even call it? I didn’t even have the words to describe what these dreams about this man did to me. Besides, how did I tell someone who patronizes me for not matching my purse with my shoes that I’m in love with a man who may or may not exist? Brynn really would think I am losing my mind.
“So, do you think you’re dreaming about a place you know?” Brynn asked. I watched the little creases in her forehead twitch the way they always do right before she drops some condescending remark. But I answered her anyhow.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, the house seemed familiar, but I can’t place it. It was too dark. But the people I knew. Most of them were Kappa sisters.”
Surprisingly, Brynn acted genuinely interested. “So, the guy in the swing? Do you know him from a class at UT or the middle school?”
“No, I’ve never seen him before in my life.” I thought about the faculty at Bearden, the middle school where I was interning, and the classes at UT from the last two semesters. “At least, I don’t think so. But, he seemed so familiar.”
“Maybe from back home in Nashville?”
“Maybe, but I think it’s more than that.” I was positive I’d never met him in person, but the feeling that I did know him nagged at me. I tucked my hair again, furiously twisting the loose ends around my fingers.
“I swear, Tara, you’ve got to loosen up. It’s just a dream,” Brynn said. We were nearing The Park and traffic was getting heavier.
“But sometimes they seem so…real,” I said. “I even wake up exhausted after the active ones.” I handed her money for parking as she paid then followed the directions of the flag people to an open spot.
I checked myself in the visor mirror. I still wasn’t sure about the bangs. I usually liked to keep all of my long hair curly, natural; but I’d seen a picture in a beauty magazine that I thought would look great with my round face. I’d straightened my long bangs and parted them on the side instead down the center. It made me look more mysterious with half my face hidden by hair, but honestly, it was annoying. I attached a hair clip to my waist band, just in case.
Brynn cut the engine and flipped down the visor to check her makeup and hair as well. Not a single honey-brown strand out of place. “So, do you want a quickie?”
“Huh?” That didn’t sound right.
“A quick analysis,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Of your dream?”
“Sure, why not,” I said. “Don’t disappoint.” I already knew what she was going to say. I had a deep seated sexual neurosis, or some crap like that.
“The guy could represent your fears about the future, of not finding the perfect partner or the right job. The swing, though, with its back-and-forth motion is your indecision about any commitment. All the people you know represent trust. And the house and its familiarity is your security in wanting to stay in school,” she finished with a sense of self-satisfaction.
“That’s bullshit,” I laughed. She looked at me, somewhat miffed, then burst into laughter, too. We climbed from the car, still laughing.
“Yeah, probably.” Brynn turned and aimed her keys at the car and hit the lock button on the key fob. “Was the guy hot?”
“Yeah, tall, built, gorgeous. And those dimples. Mmmmm.” I smiled at the memory. I checked my appearance once more in the reflection of Brynn’s tinted windows, hoping my short denim skirt and sequined tank top didn’t come across as too skanky. I just wanted to be comfortable and attractive in this Tennessee summer humidity.
“Too bad it was just a dream,” Brynn said.
“Yeah, too bad,” I echoed.