So, I’m trying to get back into the flow of writing my book for young adults (or adults and kids, whomever it appeals to!), and thought I’d share the working first chapter here. I would love to hear your thoughts. Does it capture your interest? Would you want to read more? Do you think your child would read it? Is this first chapter material, or would you expect this chapter somewhere else? And, just for fun, what do you think is going to happen next? What do you think this book is going to be about? Whatever you desire to share is welcome, and thanks for reading!
The Line at The Bubble
It was the second day of summer vacation. In two-and-a-half months Dell would be starting the eighth grade, but right now she was concentrating on the heat radiating from her hair. The water in the lake was warm for June, and the sun held reign over a cloudless sky, its heat sinking into her deep brown hair and turning the water that soaked it into vapor.
If Dell had a choice, she would live in the water. Dell’s mother liked to tell everyone that her daughter’s aqueous obsession was due to her birth. Instead of delivering in a hospital, Dell’s mother had decided to birth her first child in water, at a birthing center with a midwife.
“I wanted to make it like the environment inside the womb,” she told Dell. “You swam in my belly for nine months, it was only natural that I deliver you into water, where you could swim into your new world.”
Dell’s father, who had been a resident physician at the time of her birth, was less than thrilled with his wife’s insistence upon a water delivery, but had eventually relented. “We’ll only be five minutes from the hospital,” Dell’s mother told him. “Everything will be fine.”
And it was, Dell reflected as she floated. She had come to see her water birth as a gift. With her belly lifted to the sky, Dell thought about the lake’s ability to keep her body from sinking into the damp earth below. If she lowered her legs, she knew they would turn into an anchor, unless she moved them like she was peddling a bike. With her limbs spanned like an angel on the surface, and her chest lifted toward the sky, Dell could not sink. The water inside of her was in perfect balance with the water of the lake, and while she floated, suspended in liquid harmony, Dell forgot she was supposed to be unhappy.
That morning, Dell’s parents had announced over their plates of scrambled eggs and toast that they were moving to New Hampshire. Dell’s father had accepted a position at a small clinic not far from their summer home. He was to start his new job in late August, and they would be moving a few weeks before then, putting their house in Belmont, Massachusetts on the market and leaving their old life behind.
Dell was only somewhat saddened by the news. She would miss her home and her teachers, but she knew she wouldn’t miss some of her classmates. In the months before school let out for the summer, Dell had watched her two best friends shun her in favor of each other.
“It’s only natural,” her mother had said, when she told her that Lizzie and Sarah were no longer really her friends. “I’m sorry, honey, but three eventually becomes a crowd at your age.” “It happened to me,” she added as though this would comfort Dell.
Dell knew it was more than a simple selection of one friend in favor of another. During the winter she had won the top spot on the swim team over Sarah. Later, at a meet, Lizzie’s boyfriend had told her she looked great in a bathing suit, not realizing that Sarah had been within ear-shot. Dell was pretty certain that Sarah told Lizzie, after the meet, her own version of what had been said.
It had been a gradual fading, their friendship of three, but this didn’t make it less painful. Each time Dell saw Lizzie riding on the bus home beside Sarah, she felt a pang of envy and sadness. By spring she no longer bothered to sit with them at lunch, and they no longer asked her to. Instead, Dell would watch them from the length of the faux wood table as they giggled their secrets into each other’s ears, and wondered how many of them were about her.
In many ways, Dell concluded while she floated with her eyes closed to the sun, moving would be a blessing. She could start over in a new school where no one knew her, and there was the possibility of living on the lake. Her parents were thinking about renovating their summer cabin to make it a year-round home. They wanted to add a second floor, more insulation, and electric heat to supplement the wood stove. Maybe they would even put a windmill on the point of land over-looking the cove — they sure got enough wind — and add some solar panels to the roof.
Dell loved the idea of living at the lake year-round. In winter, if it got cold enough, she could skate on the frozen water, and her father promised they would try ice-fishing. Dell studied the trees framing the lake and imaged their leaves turning the color of flames. It would be beautiful and quiet here come fall, with most of the homes vacated until the weather warmed again.
A passing jet ski startled Dell out of her reverie and she shot its driver an annoyed grimace before she dove underwater. The murky world below the surface was revealed as Dell opened her eyes to the water. A sunfish darted past her as she swam to the lake bottom, her eyes catching on a black object jutting out of the sand. As Dell’s fingers touched its rough edges, she said a silent prayer that it wasn’t alive. If it was, she wouldn’t keep it.
The mussel released without effort when she tugged it from the sand. Dell studied the contours of the shell with her fingers and found a hole the size of a small pea. She knew the bivalve was no longer living, and brought it up to the surface. Now she had six. The shell was perfect aside from the small hole. The mother-of-pearl that lined its insides was an opalescent sheet of silk that shimmered in waves of violet, blue and white.
Dell carefully separated the shell at the hinge and returned the half without the hole to the lake. Her towel was hanging off one of the posts, and she grabbed it to dry her already browning skin, then wrapped it around her head like a turban. She picked up the shell-half with the small hole, and skipped up the stairs into the house.
On the sunporch five more half-shells from mussels gathered along the windowsill, catching the sunlight. Without really paying much attention to what she was doing, Dell took her newly acquired find and added it to her collection, rearranging the shells into a circular pattern, like the petals of a flower without a stamen, before she danced her way into the kitchen
“I’m starving,” she announced to no one in particular, as she opened the fridge and peered into its cool depths. The contents were disappointing. They desperately needed food, Dell concluded as she grabbed a Granny Smith apple.
Dell found her mother at the peak of land they called “The Point,” painting the lake in watercolors. “Can we go into town?”
As she studied her daughter, Dell’s mother brought the wooden end of her brush to her lips as though it were a pretzel. “Hmmm,” she nibbled the tip. “I suppose so. We could use some groceries. Is there something else you wanted in town?”
“Well I’d kill for some sushi, but Wolfboro isn’t exactly the place to buy it, is it?” Dell pulled her sunglasses over her eyes as she gazed at the water dancing in the sun’s light. “I’d settle for a grape-nut sundae at The Bubble.”
Dell knew her mother had a weakness for ice cream, and sure enough she started gathering her various painting supplies into her tote. “Go find your brother.”
Jack was where he usually was, in the middle of mounds of earth near the edge of the water. When Dell found him he was moulding sand to the height of his kneeling form.
“Great castle, buddy,” Dell appraised her brother’s handiwork. “Not bad for a six-year-old. Want to get some ice cream?”
“It’s a pyramid,” Jack frowned at his sister.
The line at The Bubble snaked down the street in a rainbow of bodies of various sizes and shapes, many clad only in bathing suits.
“Boy, you’d think it was the 4th of July,” Dell’s mom muttered as they took their places at the end of the queue.
Dell didn’t care that there were at least fifteen people in front of her. When she really wanted something, she pushed aside discomfort until she got it. Besides, she liked to people-watch, and standing in an ice cream line was the perfect excuse to be a voyeur.
While Jack skipped around their mother, tugging at her arms and asking when their turn would come, Dell studied the early summer crowd. She recognized at least half of the faces, but realized she didn’t know most of their names. Sure, she had a few summer friends who had houses on the lake, but during the three years since her parents’ had bought their summer home, she had made little effort to meet any of the people who lived in town.
When Dell’s eyes made their way to the front of the line, they stopped at a tall boy wearing one of those wide-brimmed fishing hats they sell at places like L.L. Beans and Cabela’s. It was navy blue, covering most of the boy’s hair and shading his forehead. He was paying for his cone, and as he turned away from the window Dell watched him lick his ice cream, then lift his eyes to meet hers.
“What are you looking at?”
Her mother’s words broke the energy that held her gaze to the boy’s. In those few seconds, Dell had forgotten everything but the color of his eyes. They were like the flaming sun in a cloudless sky. They were like nothing she had ever seen before.
Dell’s mother, not waiting for her daughter’s reply, located the object of her reverie by following the former trajectory of her gaze.
“Well, he’s cute, isn’t he?”
Normally, Dell would blush and roll her eyes, but it hadn’t occurred to her that the boy was cute. He was, she realized, but it seem insignificant. Somewhere deep within her, Dell knew this boy whom she had never met. And, Dell realized, as he stared back at her with an equal intensity, he knew her too.