Following is the start of a new adolescent fiction novel/la. I would appreciate any constructive feedback that you could offer. Does it flow alright given the time shifts? Is the voice authentic? Does it feel realistic?
Cheers brothers …
It is called Secret Society.
I believed that that would have been the end of it.
Honestly. It’s not like it happens every day.
Okay, I didn’t realize it did. I didn’t know it had happened to some of my friends. We never really spoke about that sort of stuff. How do you even open up a conversation about it. Ick. Thinking about it makes my stomach turn. Thinking about him makes my stomach turn.
But I can’t get rid of him. I squeeze my eyes shut when my thoughts turn to him. Squeezing them only seems to allow images of him seep into my mind.
Thoughts. Images. Anger. Lash out. Hide. Cry. Thoughts.
A never-ending cycle.
Like I said though. We don’t talk about it. It doesn’t happen if we don’t talk.
It didn’t happen if I don’t talk.
It’s just a nightmare.
It’s just a nightmare.
“Hey! Lissa! Wait up!”
Hands in pockets. The days were already turning, betraying summer. I walked along the path. Uneven. How does concrete shift so much in some places and not others? Makes no sense. I remember the day we sat on our bikes, across the road, watching the men lay it. We had been debating if we had the courage to engrave our names on it when they went to lunch. We didn’t. It stayed pristine. Until the earth forced cracks and movement.
You would have to be careful if you were riding your bike on it now. Especially at dusk. The cracks could swallow the tyre. Movement. Change. Unpredictable.
I was listening to my music, entranced by the promise of other worlds when I was pushed from behind. Lurching forward I struggled to maintain my balance and stumbled as one who is afraid to fall so fights ferociously against it. Barely balancing I heard raucous laughter and turned to launch an attack.
“We have been calling out to you for ages. How loud is your music!”
My body relaxed. Just. I pressed pause.
“I almost fell.”
They looked at my ashen face, turned to each other and continued their raucous laughter.
Shaking my head, I pressed play, adjusted my bag, put my hands back into my pockets, and continued walking.
Away from their laughter. Away from their ‘friendship’.
Before long I felt their strides match mine on both sides. Maybe today wasn’t the day we parted ways. I could pretend a little longer. Maybe. Arms linked through mine. No words exchanged. No words necessary. We marched together into the day.
“So what was up with you this morning?”
“You’re lying Liss.”
“Nah. Just a rough weekend. Threw me when I went flying. Didn’t expect it.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean to push so hard.”
I nodded. Acknowledging her words was all I could do.
“We okay Liss?”
And we were okay. I wasn’t. But we were.
And so, rather than going to first period, I turned and left through the gates. I figured I could go to the gardens. Hide there. Listen to music. Think. Work it out.
“I’m glad you aren’t a normal kid Lissa.”
“Thanks mum. That’s great. I wish I was normal.”
“No you don’t. Normal is boring. And over rated.
“Easy for you to say. You’re an adult. And from all accounts, Miss Popularity at school.”
“You’re popular; you have lots of friends.”
I rolled my eyes at her. She’d never get it. I don’t know how different times were way back then but they had to be different. My mum still barely knows how to use a computer. I’m permanently attached to one device or another, to her frustration.
It’s only my mum and me. My dad took off when I was younger, like three. Mum always tells me it wasn’t about me but I find it hard to believe her. We were a package. He left the package.
She works hard. Long hours. She is relatively young still. My dad had been her world. To this day, he is the only man she ever loved, she says. She doesn’t hate him.
No time for hate Lissie. And he gave me you. If I hate him I am hating someone who gave me my most precious gift.
I envy her attitude. I question if it is real or if she is protecting my image of him. I play along. Keeps her happy. But I don’t feel the truth of it; I do hate him. He had a responsibility. He’s a jerk.
“I have to go to work Liss. What are you doing tonight?”
“The girls are all hanging at Clem’s. Might sleep over if that’s okay?”
“Sure. Her parents will be home?”
My first lie.
“And just you three?”
“Sure. What time will you be home tomorrow?”
“Not sure. Does it matter?”
“Grandma is coming over with Pop.”
“I’ll be home.”
Third lie. Unintentional. Unknown.
I had meant to be home.
I love my grandparents.
Serenity. The gardens were almost empty. In my area there was only an older mum pushing a baby in a stroller. She ignored me. I showed them the same respect.
My laptop lay open in front of me. An empty page … waiting …
I had no words. I barely had thoughts. Just sensations. Glimpses. Flashes. Before I could hold them they had fled. Frustrating. I ate my apple. Slow bites. One after the other. A slight breeze reminded me that summer was almost over. Clocks would change soon. Less daylight hours. Less laughter. Less freedom.
The inevitability of change.
The impermanence of predictability.
Clementine’s parents weren’t home. They had gone to Melbourne for the weekend. Her dad had been at a conference down there and they had decided it was a good time to go away. Clem’s brother was nineteen. He was responsible for the house and his siblings. They had been warned not to have anyone over.
They didn’t listen.
I don’t know why parents who are going away never tell the parents of their kids’ closest friends. I think that would be the best way to ensure no parties happened. I always thought adults were meant to be smart. It disappoints me that they’re not. Who are we meant to have faith in?
I arrived at three. Clem and her brother Oliver were moving the valuables and the breakables into the back room that they intended to lock. They had been busy. The place was virtually spotless.
“Lissa you have other clothes don’t you?”
“Nup. Just my pyjamas. Why?”
“We are dressing up. It’s okay though. You can borrow one of Sally’s dresses.”
Sally was Clementine’s seventeen year old sister. They were as different as sisters could be. Sally was really tall, really elegant, really beautiful. Clem was tallish, tomboyish, and scraping pretty. But she didn’t seem to care. That was one of Clem’s best qualities, her confidence. She believed that she was enough, perfect as she was. I had always tried to emulate that with disastrous consequences. I always came across as insincere. I guess that’s fair; it was insincere. Oliver was similar to Sally. Tall, strong, elegant. Ultra confident too. They were all confident. I wished I was.
“Sally! Lissa needs a dress too.”
“What?” And Sally came towards the top of the stairs.
“Hi Sally. How are you?”
“Good. What Clem?”
“Liss needs a dress. Can you hook her up?”
“Come on up Liss.”
I took the steps slowly, uncomfortably. I hate dresses.
But we had fun trying them on. Oliver’s friends had arrived and Clem had been liberated to come upstairs and help us.