SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘In the Nothing’

In the Nothing promo ‘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.

N.

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.

“What for?”

“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.

“Trinity!”

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.

“Yes?”

“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.


 

NOT-SUNDAY SAMPLE: From ‘In the Nothing’

In the Nothing blog2This is my new adult offering, that I’ve been working on for what seems like AGES. It’s about a young woman struggling to find her place in the world after her mother dies, and she is faced with the prospect of being kicked out of the home of her her aunt, who is her reluctant caregiver. In her quest to find a new job, she stumbles across what seems to her like another world, or privileged young people whose lives and prospects could not be more different from her own. Her name is Trinity, and her story is called, ‘In the Nothing’. Release Date: whenever.

Unedited Excerpt From ‘In the Nothing’:

Opening the store with Skylar every morning wasn’t a chore; it was a blessing. Waking up at dawn and getting dressed before anyone else was awake; walking out onto H Street where the traffic was still light and muted and standing on the almost deserted Metro platform – it was all good.  When she got uptown, Skylar was usually in a bad mood and barked out orders at Trinity as they got the store ready to open for business.  They alternated on the chore of walking a couple blocks down around eight a.m. to get coffee and pumpkin bread from a nearby coffeehouse by which time Skylar’s mood had improved and she became chirpy and chatty again.

It was on these mornings that Trinity learned about her life which sounded almost too good to be true.  As Skylar babbled in almost stream-of-consciousness fashion, Trinity discovered the following: Both Skylar’s parents were attorneys. They lived in Potomac, Maryland with Skylar’s younger sister whose name was Madison. Since they’d both her parents had gone to Ivy League schools, they expected Skylar to do the same.  She’d gotten into Dartmouth and Vassar, and was hoping that by the time the year had passed and her deferral period was over, she would be able to convince her parents that she needn’t go to either.  Because, you see, what Skylar really wanted to do was go to New York and live with her best friend who had an artist’s loft in SoHo, which was incredible since SoHo was now ridiculously expensive and who could afford to live there anymore even though it was supposed to be the kind of community for artsy types.  But her parents didn’t like her best friend and made disapproving faces when she even mentioned her name, which was Stella, a name Skylar thought was wonderfully old-fashioned and so not what Stella was really like so it was kind of ironic and the only reason her parents hated Stella was because when they were in the ninth grade Stella had been involved in a huge scandal that involved Francie’s father. Francie, whose real name was Francesca, was a girl they went to school with, and the only reason her Dad hadn’t gone to jail was because Stella shocked them all and told her parents she would lie if anyone went to the police because everything that happened with Francie’s Dad, she wanted it.

The constant chatter was Skylar’s singularly most noticeable trait. That and her beauty. Every single time Trinity saw her, she was struck anew by how effortlessly incredible-looking Skylar was.  No, it wasn’t just effortless, it was careless. She wore ugly clothes and no make-up and seemed to barely care about her disheveled natural, but still managed to look like something someone had dreamed up as the ideal Black woman. Though small-waisted, she was curvaceous in all the right places and had long limbs that she moved with the grace of a dancer. Trinity wasn’t gay, but decided that she was a little in love with Skylar nevertheless.

This morning, she waited outside, glancing at her phone to check the time.  Skylar was almost twenty minutes late. Even though she projected an air of indifference about almost everything, Skylar had always been punctual and businesslike when it came to opening the store, so Trinity was on the verge of worry when a gray Land Rover pulled up and Skylar spilled out.  She looked like she’d just woken up and was wearing jeans, flip flops and a t-shirt so large it clearly didn’t belong to her.

“Trinity,” she said. “Ohmigod I am so sorry. I overslept. Let me let you in. I’m going to have to run home and change. You’ll be okay?”

“Sure,” Trinity said.

The car still idled at the curb but because of the tinted windows it was impossible to see in. Trinity waited as Skylar unlocked the front door and they both went in. Skylar disarmed the night security system and flipped on the lights.

“You’ll be okay for the next hour or so?” she asked.

“I think I can handle it,” Trinity said.

“Brad won’t be here till about ten and I’ll be back long before then. D’you want me to bring you a coffee and pastry on my way back?” Skylar’s words came out in a rush. Despite her careful I-don’t-give-a shit mask, it was clear that being late had unsettled her.

“That’d be great. Thanks.”

“Okay. Thank you so much.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.”  She gave Trinity’s shoulder a brief squeeze before running out the door.

Trinity locked the door after Skylar left and began the process of opening the store; logging into the computer, turning on the lights and doing a walkthrough.  It felt good being there alone.  She had a book in her backpack that she was trying to get done so she fished it out and sat at the register.  If only she could leave for her coffee, but it was too risky.  Besides, if she waited, it would be on Skylar.  She only ever got the coffee and pumpkin bread every morning because she didn’t want to look like what she was – someone for whom every penny mattered.  Skylar got coffee and pumpkin bread, so she did too.  It was funny how Skylar seemed to assume that Trinity was just like her – that she would understand about choosing between colleges and parents who were pushing you to do and be more, and friends who lived in tony parts of New York City.  It created a strange sense of inclusion. Skylar’s ignorance and her utter lack of interest in anyone but herself made it easy for Trinity to conceal the grim details of her own life.

Skylar was back before nine, this time dressed in her own clothes and followed by a tall, blonde young man carrying a tray with three coffees and bags with pastry.  He set them down on the counter in front of Trinity and turned to Skylar who tilted her head back to gaze up at him flirtatiously.

“Thank you, Carey,” she said.  Her voice was different, a little more high-pitched and girlish.

“Anytime,” Carey leaned in and kissed Skylar, a deep, open-mouthed kiss of the kind generally reserved for when you were in the act of lovemaking, or about to be. When they were done kissing, Skylar turned.

“This is Trinity,” she said.  “We love her.”  The last three words were directive rather than descriptive.

“Hey Trinity,” Carey grinned at her.  “You mind if I join you girls for breakfast?”

Trinity offered him a thin smile and watched as he grabbed the second stool next to her and perched on it, reaching for one of the coffees.  Skylar leaned between his open legs as they all ate and described how she’d run into Carey the night before at a pub off Dupont Circle.

“We haven’t seen each other since junior high school,” she told Trinity.  “He never gave me the time of day then.”

Carey laughed.  “I was dating Hayley then,” he said.  “And she was your friend.”

“Oh bullshit,” Skylar said.  “You weren’t enlightened enough to date a Black chick, that’s all.”

“Oh but I am now,” Carey said.

As he and Skylar gave each other significant looks and nuzzled, Trinity pretended to be engrossed in something on the computer in front of her.  One week.  It had been one week since she’d started working here.  She stole glances at Carey’s hair when he was distracted.  It was so fair, it was almost white.  His skin was a strange bronze that more likely came from a bottle than from exposure to the sun.  Along his arms, there were fine hairs like peach fuzz.  He was well-built, athletic and probably good-looking. Trinity didn’t feel qualified to judge since she’d never been attracted to white guys.

Carey slipped out just after Brad showed up and the workday began.  There was generally very little to do in the store, just as Brad had warned the day she hired.  Most of Trinity’s time was spent examining the items on the shelves, reading the labels and marveling at the prices.  Everything was either organic, all-natural, or chemical-free.  There were essene breads, almond flour, psyllium husk fiber, and oils of various types.  Then there were the protein powders and weight-loss shakes, coconut milk and water and grains that weren’t identifiable just by sight.  She tried to learn the names and purposes of everything, studying each item just as she’d studied in school.  Occasionally, Skylar or Brad would try to draw her into their conversations, but generally, they talked on their cell phones, or slipped into the storeroom to watch television on the 20-inch set that was hooked up with cable.

“Rick’s back tomorrow,” Brad said almost to himself as they were eating lunch.  “So we’re going to want to make sure we clean up thoroughly at closing tonight.”

“I could stay and help,” Trinity offered.

“Don’t be a suck-up,” Skylar said.  “Brad has plenty of help with Jenny and Paul.  He’s just being a drama-queen.”

Jenny and Paul were the high school students who came in after five.  Trinity had never met them.

“You’re going to love Rick,” Brad said to Trinity.

“He’s an over-the-hill hippie,” Skylar said dismissively.

“Ohmigod, he’s only thirty-five,” Brad protested.

Skylar laughed.  “I knew you’d defend your little secret crush,” she said.  She made kissing noises and only laughed harder as Brad turned beet-red.

Just then the door opened and they all looked up.  Skylar shoved aside her sandwich and jumped up.

“Baby!”  She stood on her toes and threw her arms around the neck of their visitor.

He was about six feet tall and looked Middle-Eastern or Latino, with dark olive-toned skin and thick jet black wavy hair that was long enough to permit him to pull it back into a short ponytail at his nape.  He had formidable eyebrows and eyes that were dark and intense.  A neat moustache and about a day’s worth of hair shadowing his jaw didn’t quite succeed in disguising his good looks.

“Hey Ethan,” Brad said.

“Hey, how’re you doin’ Brad?”  Ethan hugged Skylar back but looked over her shoulder with curiosity at Trinity. “Who’s this?”

Skylar turned.  “This is Trinity.  Trinity, my boyfriend Ethan.”  She looked at Trinity evenly, the memory of that morning hanging in the air between them.

“Hey Trinity,” Ethan reached over and briefly took her hand.  “Nice to meet you.”

Trinity smiled.  “Hi,” she said.

“What’re you doing here?” asked Skylar.  “We don’t have plans till later.”

“I tried to reach you last night.  Your housemates were all squirrelly.  And you didn’t answer your phone, so . . .”

“It died on me,” Skylar said breezily.  “I went out with Max and we got so wasted . . .”

“Well, I need to change our plan for tonight and I was up here getting some paints so I figured I’d stop by.”

“And I’m glad you did,” Skylar looped an arm through his and led him to the back of the store.

Brad and Trinity watched them walk away.

“Now you’re part of the conspiracy,” Brad said dryly.

Trinity looked at him.

“That boy she had in here this morning wasn’t the first.  Our Skylar’s a total slut, I’m afraid,” he said matter-of-factly.