An Excerpt of Fiction

Hello, readers.  I’m sorry that I have been incommunicado for so long.  As this blog is titled “DebbieWritesStuff”, I have uploaded some of my creative writing. The following bit of writing is an excerpt from a novel on which I have been working for the past few years.  The story centers on Aimee Mallory, a young girl who has been magically moved forward in time in order to escape an early death from Spanish Influenza in 1919. She has been sent to the future with her beau, Jack Jorgensen, but due to complications with the spell that brought them to the present, they don’t remember each other.  Instead, fate seems to keep throwing the two of them together in crazy supernatural situations until he appears even in her dreams—memories in which he plays a major romantic role.  Believing that his presence in her life is coloring her memories, she studiously ignores him, thinking his absence from her life will help her to remember the life she really left behind.  Of course, we all know how effective such a strategy really is–it doesn’t work at all.  Her best friend, Roxie, also takes issue with her behavior.

*Please respect that this is my own original work and refrain from plagiarizing my content.

Birches 

A pattern soon developed in which Lee and Jack worked on the tree house every day.  Aimee saw them in the morning, walking beneath them on the way to the Community Center for the art class she took with Roxie.  She passed them again when she returned at lunchtime, her best friend frequently in tow.  Roxie always greeted them breezily with a wave and a grin.  Aimee always looked at the guys when Roxie did, but her smile was more of an uncomfortable grimace.  Sometimes the platform of the tree house was vacant, meaning that the boys had already come in for lunch and Aimee would have to spend an uncomfortable half hour in Jack’s presence where they each pretended the other didn’t exist.  It was sheer torture.

          “What is with you?” Roxie hissed at her one afternoon after one of these uncomfortable lunches.

          “What are you talking about?”

          Roxie’s eyes narrowed into angry little slits of bright purple eye shadow and she punched Aimee in the arm.

          “Ow!  What was that for?” 

          Roxie settled into a kitchen chair and gave her best friend a hard glance.  “For being mean and unforgiving, two qualities I never thought I’d see in you.”

          Aimee rubbed her arm where Roxie had punched her and eyed her with a rueful expression.  “Care to elaborate or are you going to continue being mysterious?”

          Roxie continued surveying her with angry eyes before saying anything.  “Jack.”

          Aimee felt herself flushing.  “What about him?”

          “He’s in love with you!”  Roxie practically spat the words.  “Or at least seriously in like, though I can hardly imagine why.”

          “You’re still being mysterious.  When you plan on making sense would you please let me know?”  Trying her best to appear unruffled, Aimee walked to the sink and poured herself a glass of water.  A ruse, obviously, since her heart was pounding, her hands trembling, and her hands were so sweaty that the glass threatened to slide out of her grasp.

          “I am speaking sense.”  Roxie was standing at her elbow now and she had lowered her voice.  “Every day we walk through the yard by that tree and we see those guys out there working on the tree house—you know, Aimee, the space that is being created so you paint in solitude?  I smile at them and say hello and you ignore them.  You ignore them every day,” she repeated for added emphasis.

Aimee turned around so her back was to the sink.  “So?”

“So?  Lee probably doesn’t care that you have nothing to say to him, but I think his friend might feel differently.  When he looks at you and he sees that you’re not looking back his face just falls.

The look Aimee gave to Roxie was all guilt.  She knew that she had been deliberately unkind to Jack and that if Roxie were to keep punching her she would richly deserve it.  Her eyes stung and she knew instinctively that her eyes were wet.  “Roxie…”

          “What?’

          Aimee’s fingers flew to her throat and grasped her locket.  “See this?”

          “Your locket?  What does that have to do with Jack?

          “Follow me.”  Roxie followed Aimee as she sprinted down the hallway to her bedroom.  Aimee closed the door behind Roxie then reached under the bed and pulled out a footlocker.

          “What are you doing?’

          Aimee didn’t answer, but opened the footlocker and lifted out a plastic bag that said “My Belongings.”  Roxie recognized it at once as a bag from the hospital.  Aimee stood up and shook out a ball of white fabric.  It was a long sleeved, high-necked, white cotton nightgown.

Roxie opened her eyes wide.  “Wh-where did you get that?” she sputtered.  “Is that—?”

“I was found in this.  When I was first brought to the hospital, this is what I was wearing.  I have no memory of it, of course; I was nearly dead.  I was wearing the locket too,” she said.  “That’s where they got my name.”

Roxie touched the left sleeve of the nightgown.  “There’s blood,” she said in a hushed voice.  She lifted her eyes to Aimee’s with sudden understanding.  “It’s from the mark on the inside of your arm.”

Aimee removed the circular Band-Aid she customarily wore and held out her left arm, showing the black spiral.  The expression on her face was grim.

“Aimee,” Roxie said uncertainly, “I don’t understand why you showed me these things.  What do these things have to do with you and Jack?  What are you trying to tell me?”

“These three things:  my nightgown, a locket bearing my name, and a funny scar are all I have to connect me to my past, my life before I came here.  At least they were until I started having memories.”

“Whoa…you remembered something else?  You didn’t tell me you were having more memories!”  Roxie looked a bit put out at being the last to know.

Aimee told her about the emotional upheaval she had experienced while working with Mary in the flowerbed, including the fact that Jack had been a part of it, which was impossible.  “That’s why I’ve been trying to stay away from him, not because I’m trying to be horrible, but because he’s invading my memories.  I have to remember what really happened.  I have to cut him out of my thoughts.”

         “Are you kidding me?”  Roxie looked horrified.  “That’s the dumbest reason I have ever heard for giving somebody the silent treatment.”

         Now it was Aimee’s turn to look horrified.  “You don’t believe me?”

         “Oh, give it up, Aimes, the real reason you are giving Jack the cold shoulder is the fact that he hurt you.  Maybe you’re also cutting him out of your mind, as you say, but mostly you’re cutting him out of your heart and you’re punishing him while you’re doing it.”

         Aimee neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement.  She merely lowered her eyes in shame.

         Roxie assessed her shrewdly.  “How’s it working out so far?  Ignoring him, I mean?”

         Aimee’s expression fell and she slumped down on her bed.  “Not well,” she whispered.  It was true.  Since she had started studiously ignoring Jack he had managed to appear in more of her dreams and visions.  Sometimes she woke up in the morning feeling angry at him and had to restrain herself from saying something especially cruel to him as she passed him in the yard.

“Hey.”  Roxie sat next to her on her twin bed, so close that their shoulders touched.  Aimee leaned so that her head was against her friend’s.  “I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist or what have you but I don’t think ignoring that poor guy out there is the answer.  Something tells me that you probably should talk to him if you want to unravel the problem, you know?  And maybe if you deal with Jack you’ll find that your memories have a different face.”  She paused for a moment, then smile.  “Hopefully a face that’s cute.”

         Aimee chuckled breathily at her friend’s joke.  “Hopefully.”

         Roxie stayed for the afternoon so that they could both work on their latest project for art class.  The assignment was to paint any subject of their choosing.  The girls set up their easels in the front yard away from curious eyes and got started.

 “I’m stuck,” Aimee complained after a few minutes, tossing down her brush with a clatter and splattering her smock with paint.  “I’m as stuck as Pooh in rabbit’s house.”

          “You’re as stuck as who?  I mean, you’re as stuck as whom?” Roxie asked, hurrying to cover her grammar mistake before her friend noticed.

          “Winnie the Pooh,” Aimee answered distractedly.  “I watched it on TV with Violet yesterday.  I just don’t know what to paint,” she whined.  Actually she knew what she wanted to paint.  She wanted to paint a picture of the mermaid that had nearly killed her in Seraphim Lake, but she was afraid that such a composition might raise questions best left unasked.  Besides, she was trying to put all that—what was that word that Roxie liked to use?—she wanted to put all that “weirdness” behind her.  That meant there wouldn’t be any paintings of mermaids, boys that kissed her and then ran away, or depictions of people being healed by the laying-on of hands.  Despite the many places her mind wanted to go, she would confine her work to less provocative subjects, such as a little brown-eyed girl sucking on a purple Popsicle, a naughty little beagle sunning himself in the flower garden, or a best girlfriend with iridescent peacock eye shadow. 

          “Why don’t you paint the birches?” Roxie asked, motioning to the small grove of birches in the yard.  “You’re always saying how much you like them.”

          “I guess I could,” Aimee said uncertainly.  It was true that she thought birches were beautiful trees; sometimes straight trunked, sometimes twisted, with thin branches that seemed to be reaching heavenward in supplication.  They were made all the more beautiful for their spareness, as if the Creator had used only the bare minimum of materials in their construction, reducing them to the bare essence of what is a tree.  It reminded Aimee of the way she looked when she first came to the Gardiner’s, fresh from the hospital, when she had been as tiny and weak as a baby bird.  She had been shocked to see her entire body naked for the first time in the full-length mirror on the back of her bedroom door: she had looked beyond skinny.  She had looked emaciated, as if she was constructed of papier-mâché and twigs.  She had been stripped down to the bare essence of “girl,” but without any of the birch’s angular beauty.

          She dipped her brush in the paint and applied it to her canvas.  White and off-white for the trees papery bark, marked with occasional flecks of black.  As so often happened when she was engrossed in a project, it was almost like she was under a spell, or rather, that she was weaving her own spell upon the canvas as she created what had not been there before.  It was easier to think when she was under the thrall of her work and she let her thoughts wander.  Her brush on the canvas brought her the sound of voices…

          “Did you know that my people believe the birch is sacred?”  It was Jack, sitting beside her on the grassy bank of a creek.  They were fishing.  He was wearing jeans and a denim shirt that had its sleeves rolled up above the elbow.  She was wearing a deep blue cotton summer dress—a sailor dress, and a straw hat. 

          “Your people?” she teased.  “You make it sound like you come from a tribe.”

          “I mean magic doers like me whose roots go back to the Druids.  Like the Druids before us, we hold trees in high esteem.”

          “And birches are sacred because?”

          “Birches are sacred because they symbolize renewal and rebirth.  Birches are tough and adaptable and they’re able to handle harsh conditions.  Did you know that after a forest fire birches are the first trees to take root?” 

          “No.”  Aimee shook her head, feeling charmed by Jack’s unusual effusiveness.

          “The ancient Druids, the Celts, called the birch “The White Lady.  They carried birch bark with them to use as kindling.  In the same way, the birch carries the fire of courage and inspires people to be bold and brave.”

          “I never realized that there was so much to know about trees,” Aimee said, looking at the popple trees on the creek bank with new interest.

          “You know,” he said, reaching for her face, his finger tracing the outline of her lower lip, there are those who say that people came from trees.  Can you imagine that?”

“Not really.  Well, I suppose,” she said, reconsidering, “but I’ve never heard of that before.  I’ve heard that humans came from apes…”

“That’s another tale entirely from this one.  Once upon a time, when the Earth was young, there were no humans.  There were other animals, like cats, dogs, birds, lions, zebras, rabbits, snakes, and sheep, just as there are now, but there were no people.  Trees covered the earth and they came in every shape and size, from tall palm trees that grew where it was always hot and sunny to scraggly dwarf pines in the always cold and windy places.  They didn’t mind where they lived, for they were fashioned by God and content to dwell in the places they were made for.  That was the thing with trees—they were happy to bide where they were planted. The trees lived happily for a long time in their arboreal paradise, turning their faces to the sun and drinking water from the earth.  They whispered to each other about the sun and the rain and how happy they were just to be, always biding where they were planted and living for season after season. 

Then, as so often happens when everything is going smoothly, something started to go wrong.  One tree, Brother Alder, started to feel restless.  After living and biding for hundreds of years, he was starting to watch the squirrels that ran up and down his trunk and across the ground enviously.  He started to wonder what it would feel like to have feet that could run instead of roots that were sunk deeply into the ground.  When his leaves floated and fluttered on the breeze, he wondered what it would be like to fly away.  He asked the birds who nested in his boughs, “What is it like to fly?”  The birds sang to him, “It’s the most wonderful feeling to soar on the wind and get to see the world.”

Brother Alder sighed, making his leaves tremble.  He would love to see the world.  He was ever so tired of being stuck in one place.

Meanwhile, the other trees regarded him with disapproval; Brother Alder’s restlessness was upsetting the timbre of their thoughts, making them uncomfortable.  The trees closest to Brother Alder fluttered their leaves at him, while the other trees sent calming thoughts.  Unfortunately, neither their disapproval nor their calming thoughts helped.  They all knew that Brother Alder had fire in his spirit. 

“He is so unhappy,” Sister Willow said thoughtfully, “perhaps we should help him.”

“Absolutely not!” thundered Father Oak.  “We are meant to stay where we are planted and be content.”

“But he is no longer content,” whispered Mother Apple, “and we cannot make him so.”

Brother Rowan was a keen thinker and he had given much consideration to Brother Alder’s situation.  “We should allow our Brother to follow his true nature,” he said solemnly, “or his discontent will affect us all.”

After much discussion and argument, the trees agreed that they would help their Brother.  Focusing on Brother Alder’s happiness, they filled their minds with encouraging thoughts, which they sent to him.  Brother Alder stood up straight—he had started to bend over with despair—and his leaves stood up from his branches.  There was a roaring sound as he pulled first one root and then another from the ground.  Brother Alder danced for joy, he was that happy to be free.  The other trees cheered for his happiness.

Brother Alder went on a journey then and his closest friends didn’t see him.  They would often look at the hole left in the ground where he had stood for millennia and wonder where he was.  Because he was no longer tied to the earth, other trees could not hear his thoughts, nor could he hear theirs.  That didn’t stop the other trees from thinking about him, however, sharing their tales of the tree who lived as freely as the birds of the air.  It was quite some time later when Brother Alder returned to his friends.  They didn’t recognize him for in his time abroad he had become a man.”

“He had become a man?” 

“Yes; Brother Alder was the first of the Tree folk.”  Jack seemed to see the question in Aimee’s eyes, because he went on to answer it before it was posed, holding up a finger to keep her from speaking.  “Tree folk are trees that can become human for periods of time.”

“But Jack, we’re human all of the time, not just some of the time.”

“Well,” he answered, stroking her wrist, “legend has it that there were so many Tree folk that there was chaos and they were forced to choose their form, either tree or human being.  However, there are still some Tree folk among us, and if you look carefully and are able to call them by name, they will have to grant you a wish.  One wish.” 

Aimee pulled her line out of the water and lay back on the grass.  Jack could see the sky and clouds mirrored in her eyes.  “I wonder what I would wish for,” she mused, “if I were given just one wish.”

“I know what I would wish for,” Jack said.  Leaning over, he touched his lips to hers.

 Aimee inhaled sharply as she relived the kiss.  The sound seemed to break her out of her trance and she saw what she had painted.  What she saw shocked her.  She shook her head, as if doing so would make her see a different image.  She could see the beginnings of the birch, the start to her painting, an upright trunk painted with thick dabs of white, off white, and black.  From one birch she had gone to a grove of four trees, but that wasn’t all, for between their trunks there lurked another image, an image that was at once background and part of the birch trunks.  It was a dark haired young man who had eyes of brown and green.  Aimee thought she might swoon when she beheld the image.  Her desire to paint a mundane subject had brought her something that was anything but.  It had brought her Jack Jorgensen.

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About debbiewritesstuff

I am a wife and mom in Minnesota with more than enough things to think about! For the past two years I have served with AmeriCorps, last year I helped children from grades K-3 with their reading through Minnesota Reading Corps. This past school year I taught social and emotional skills to preschool children through the LEAP Initiative in Southern Minnesota. I've been working on my own writing endeavors for a little while now: a novel that I have put on the backburner and poetry. I have a Master's degree Counseling and Psychological Services. I love history, family stories, taking pictures, singing in the church choir, reading, tracing the family tree, and oh, yes writing. I also love 'likes' and comments on my blog and I am tickled when someone chooses to 'follow me.'
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