‘In the Nothing’ is my first planned New Adult novel. Trinity, daughter of a heroin addict and unknown father starts thinking about building a life outside of the housing projects where she lives, and begins to take the first cautious steps to get it.
Lately, this character’s voice has been dominating, so I may release earlier than planned. I don’t know. It’s not like I’m in charge or anything. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
From ‘In the Nothing’:
“So what? I’m just s’posed to let you walk out of here without a thought to where you’re going?” Aunt Sheryl demanded.
Trinity barely looked over her shoulder as she continued packing. There wasn’t much – it all fit very neatly into the suitcase she’d bought from Target the day before. There were also a few books, a framed picture of her mother and some toiletries. Her belongings were pitifully few.
“You said you wanted me to take responsibility for my life and so I am,” she said keeping her voice level.
“But who are these people you think you’re moving in with? Where’d you meet them at?”
“I told you; I met them at work,” Trinity said.
“And where is that?” Aunt Sheryl grabbed her shoulder and spun her round forcibly. “Now that I think about it, you been real secretive and sneaky lately, Miss Thang. I want to know exactly where this place is and who you been hanging out with that put this idea in your head that you . . .”
“I’m eighteen,” Trinity said calmly, ignoring her questions. “I can do whatever I want, go wherever I please.”
Aunt Sheryl looked momentarily dumbstruck. She looked across the room to Chanelle who was watching the proceedings with interest, bouncing Khalil on her lap. Trinity tried not to look at Khalil, because he was the only person here she knew she would miss. If she could bundle him up and make a break for it she would, but what then? She tried not to think of what his life would be like – never mind ten years from now, ten days from now. Chanelle’s love for her son was unpredictable at best. She doted on him when his father was around, and when she had nothing else to do but quickly tired of him and looked to the nearest and most convenient way to pass him off to someone else when she did.
“So this is it then, huh? You gon’ walk outta here and not come back.”
“I’d . . . I’d like to see Khalil,” she said trying not to betray how important it was to her.
Chanelle looked down at Khalil in her arms as though surprised that he was there and that someone else had noticed him at all. Aunt Sheryl sneered.
“To see how he’s doing,” Trinity said casually. She was done packing and could leave anytime now. But this was the one thing she wanted settled.
“He’ll be just fine,” Aunt Sheryl said coldly. “You want to leave, then leave. Don’t half-step.” She moved aside and indicated the door.
Trinity walked past her and headed for the front door. She didn’t look back as she lugged her suitcase toward the stairs. She would take a cab on the corner and go directly to the house. It didn’t matter if it cost her fifty dollars. It was worth it to get out of here as quickly as possible.
She was almost at the bottom of the stairs when she heard Chanelle, calling to her from the stairwell above. She looked up. Chanelle was leaning over, looking down at her, her braids partially obscuring her face.
“You can come see Khalil whenever you want to,” she said in a stage-whisper. “I would like it if you did.”
Trinity gave her a half-smile and nodded.
“See you ‘round the way, cuz,” Chanelle gave her a brief wave and was gone.
The taxi cost thirty-seven dollars which Trinity happily paid. She alighted from the cab and was greeted by the sight of Emily sunning herself on the steep patch of grass in front of the house next to the steps. She had a book in front of her face and her bare legs extended before her. As Trinity made her way up to the house, she lowered the book and her face brightened.
“Hey!” she said. “You’re here.”
She jumped up and rushed to help with the suitcase and heavy satchel of books.
“Is this all you’ve got?” she asked.
“Yes,” Trinity said. This is everything.”
“Wow. You must have like a zero carbon footprint. C’mon, let me show you everything.”
Trinity barely listened as Emily showed her about the house, telling her all about its idiosyncrasies – the windows that stuck, the rules about food in the fridge, the days she was expected to do certain chores, their signals for when they had overnight guests. All she could think about was the moment when Emily would leave her alone and she could sit in her new room. It was the smallest in the house, but had windows on all sides. The former occupant had left behind a futon and a small dresser. There was also a desk and chair set up under one the window that looked out onto the backyard. The walls were painted a pale robin’s egg blue and there was a mural of clouds on the ceiling. The only thing she needed was a light bulb since someone had evidently pilfered the one from the overhead light fixture. It would be the first time in more than two years that she’d had a room of her own. The idea of being able to sit alone with her thoughts, of being able to shut the door and turn the key in the lock was almost intoxicating.
Skylar was working a shift at the Green Banana and wasn’t expected until that evening, so she would have the luxury of silence the first day in her new home. She couldn‘t help but smile.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Emily concluded.
“Me too,” Trinity said honestly.
She was in the room lying on the bare futon staring at the clouds on the ceiling when the doorbell rang. It took her a moment to realize what it was – the chime was in the tune of a Snoop Dogg rap song. She laughed out loud and went to the landing to see who it was. Emily opened the door and greeted Ethan. He was in painter’s overalls with a long sleeved paint-spattered shirt underneath and combat boots. His hair had been pulled back into an untidy ponytail. He looked up and spotted her standing at the top of the stairs.
“There you are,” he said. “I have a mission and you’re going to help me fulfill it. C’mon down.”
Trinity descended the stairs, wondering what was up this time.
“Skylar is cooking you a welcome dinner,” he said. “So I’m supposed to somehow secretly figure out what you like to eat and then go buy it so she can surprise you.”
“Way to keep a secret, Greenwald,” Emily said shutting the door.
“I was getting brain pain trying to think of a way to pry information loose about your favorite foods,” Ethan said to Trinity apologetically. “And anyway, something tells me you’re not the kind of girl who enjoys surprises.”
“You’re right,” Trinity said. “I don’t.”
“Am I good or what?” he said. “See Emily? She didn’t want a surprise.”
Emily rolled her eyes. “No one wants a surprise, Ethan. But we enjoy it when it comes.”
Trinity looked at him over Emily’s shoulder and shook her head.
“I disagree,” Ethan said. “Anyway, don’t tell Skylar I ruined it. Trinity and I will be out shopping for her surprise party tonight.” He opened the door and held it for her.
Once they were in the Saab and pulling away from the curb, Trinity looked at him. He had a day old shadow in addition to his goatee and looked as though he’d been up all night.
“So, Greenwald?” she said.
“No, I meant I didn’t know that was your name. Greenwald.”
“Yup. That’s my name.” He looked at her. “Wanna make something of it?”
His tone held a teasing note as it often did. It was difficult to tell when he was serious about anything.
“No. I just never knew what it was.”
“Well there it is,” Ethan said. “I’m a nice little Black Jewish kid born and raised in DC.”
Trinity tried not to show her surprise. Black Jewish kid. She looked him over out of the corner of her eyes – she could see it now. He was bi-racial, like she was. Presumably.
“Are you . . . a practicing Jew?” she asked, hoping she didn’t offend him.
“I’m a practicing agnostic,” he said.
“No such thing,” Trinity murmured.
Ethan laughed. “Fair enough. Let’s just say I believe enough to be chicken-shit about claiming atheism.”
“I wrote a paper about atheism for extra credit,” she said. “That it’s kind of a religion itself.”
Ethan looked at her, interested now and serious for a change. “How so?”
“Well if you define religion as a dogmatic belief system, then atheism is a religion that hinges on non-belief in a deity and replaces it with a dogmatic belief in the self.”
Ethan said nothing and before Trinity could react, he pulled over at the nearest curb and shut off the engine, turning to look at her full on. His eyes were slightly narrowed and after a moment the corners of his lips turned up into a slight smile.
“Well hello, Trinity,” he said quietly. “Nice to meet you at last.”
Living at 2012 Macaw Circle was like stepping into a new world; one that had been deliberately and maliciously concealed from her before now. Trinity could scarcely believe that no more than seven miles from the Carver Apartments, kids her age had been living like this while she and Chanelle eked out what amounted to a pitiable existence in comparison. Almost every weekend there was an event of some kind. The roommates planned happy hours and house parties, hiking in Great Falls or trips to orchards in West Virginia to pick apples – they were almost never home and Trinity was always pleasantly exhausted by Sunday night. Ethan would drop in unexpectedly a few nights a week, invariably bringing food for everyone and telling funny stories about his day while stroking the back of Skylar’s neck or giving her a foot massage.
Intermittently, Vanessa would have an overnight guest, some guy she met in a bar or at her summer job as an event planner for the Four Seasons. She would stumble in with her high heels slung over her shoulder, hanging onto some blue-suited Capitol Hill staffer and later there would be soft moans emanating behind the closed door of her room. Emily was a musician and stayed out late every night playing Spanish guitar for tips in local clubs and restaurants as part of a trio. She wore colorful floor-length skirts and an assortment of tank tops with heavy, bejeweled belts. She was the sweetest natured of the roommates and sometimes knocked on Trinity’s door with a mug of coffee in the morning. Travis was still somewhat of a dark horse. He spent time with the roommates but clearly felt a little bit superior to them. He didn’t talk much, but when he did it was generally to correct someone else’s misstatement of what he liked to believe were the facts of any given situation. He sometimes passed Trinity in the hallway or kitchen without speaking and she suspected that he considered her presence a reminder of a battle with Skylar in which he had not prevailed.
And Skylar was, well, she was Skylar. Always the center of attention, always the dynamo. She had what she liked to call “capers” every once in awhile. “Capers” were the nights she wound up in the bed of some guy other than Ethan. She never brought them back to the house but everyone knew what she’d been up to when she didn’t respond to texts or calls and would later come straggling in at two or three a.m., sometimes hammering on the front door because she’d left her key in parts unknown, or calling one of the roommates’ cell phones from a random place in the city and demanding that they figure out a way to come pick her up. Occasionally, Ethan would stop by when she was MIA. Trinity fell easily into the conspiracy of silence about where Skylar might be and what she was doing. Ethan generally waited around for a few hours, sitting on the living room floor and watching television or chatting with Trinity before finally giving up and going home. Trinity didn’t mind those nights.