When I wrote the first paragraph of a story I never intended to publish, let alone turn into a trilogy, I wasn’t writing to hit a list. I wasn’t writing for a paycheck. I was writing because I had to. I wanted to. I longed to. And I hope these feelings will always be the foundation for every book I complete.
I’m starting a new manuscript. The outline is done, pages of research notes saved. This is a different story. TSTD is fantastical, Daisypobia - romantic.
With TSTD, I just kinda started with the first sentence and kept writing until I typed The End. Terrible Lies and Heartlines flowed just as easily.
With Daisyphobia, I kept having to take month-long breaks until I figured out more of the plot line before moving forward. With the WIP, I’m taking a different approach of an actual outline. I’d say it worked out pretty well, as I have about 2,000 words written from today alone. Most will probably land in my shit file. Yes, I really do have a shit file. But I’m excited and since I never, ever blog - I want to share the short story below that I wrote as an exercise for this new manuscript. It’s a rough draft…here it is for your…ummm….enjoyment? Cheers :)
I didn't fall from grace--I jumped!
It was easy.
After I emptied all of the cash from the jewelry box my sister kept on the top shelf in her closet, I grabbed my duffel bag, passport, and the keys to my dad's car. The jump came before that though, when I crashed my ex-boyfriend and ex-friend's wedding reception and dumped a glass of Charles Heidsieck on the bride. The expensive Rosé was delicious when it slid down my throat after I snatched a bottle from a table on my way out of the stunned room.
Before you start thinking that I'm completely wobbly, let me fill you in on my ex, Stan. He'd been shagging practically every female in our tiny town for the three years we were together, including my friend, Tiffany.
I hadn't had a clue.
I was blissfully blind, believing he loved me. Six weeks ago, just before we were set to leave on holiday to Indonesia, he'd come to the small coffee shop I worked at and told me he was getting married to Tiffany Cornwal--she was pregnant.
Tiffany was the opposite of me in every way. Where I had the body of a teenage boy, she had curves. My mousy brown hair hung in messy waves down my back, her golden hair was smooth and shiny. My murky green eyes didn't have the vibrancy of her bright blue eyes. She was fun and beautiful. At twenty years old I was content to manage the coffee shop my dad owned and stay put in our little town.
Benny's Bay was situated in Northern Queensland and barely noticeable on the map, but it attracted a steady flow tourists traveling along the coast. I loved our home too with its view of the bay. And my family--just the three of us, always had been. My dad, Tom, had been my rock and Lil was my baby sister. She was lovely and carefree--a free spirit, I loved them both dearly. That made my decision to take this leap more painful, but it was mine to make. I couldn't breathe the same air as Stan and Tiffany.
My dad and Lil were out surfing, their special connection, making my escape drama free. I knew my tears would come eventually, but at that moment I only had one thing on my mind--getting out of Benny's Bay.
Tossing my bag in the backseat of the beat-up Ford Falcon, I quickly plopped myself in the driver's seat and sped out of the driveway without looking back.
The canopy of green was a blur as I drove too fast down the single lane road. Once I hit the Captain Cook Highway my thoughts were solely on getting to the airport.
At the Brisbane airport I made my way to a ticket counter not bothering to look at what airline it was. I couldn't hesitate or I'd lose my courage.
"May I help you?" The ticket agent asked. He was tall and slender with a shiny bald head.
"Yes, please. I'd like a ticket on the soonest flight you have."
He stared down at me, "What is your destination?"
"It doesn't matter. Just the first flight I can get on."
He frowned while typing on the keyboard in front of him. I started to fidget with the collar on my top.
"I have a flight to Nairobi, Kenya. It departs at six--in an hour."
Pulling the stack of stolen / borrowed money from my bag, I sat it on the counter and handed over the fare. Moments later I had a ticket to Nairobi in my hand. Twenty-two hours later and a two-hour layover in Dubai, I stepped foot on the tarmac of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
I'd called my dad while I was in Dubai. Naturally he was upset and demanded that I come home. I assured him that I would once I was ready. Before hanging up he told me to be safe and to call often.
Walking into the terminal, the thrill of running away had worn off and I started to feel very alone. I'd never been to another country, didn't know anything about Nairobi and I didn't have very much money. I dropped my bag on the floor and sagged against a wall. The tears decided it was their time. I tried to wipe them away, but they kept coming.
Scuffed up work boots were standing in front of me. I let my hands fall and looked up to see the most amazing green eyes staring back at me. Full lips hung slightly open surrounded by blond scruffy whiskers and shaggy blond curls hung over his forehead. His eyebrows pulled together when I didn't answer.
I opened my mouth to say that I was fine, but more tears slid down my cheeks--I quickly wiped them away.
"I'm fine, I'll be fine."
He didn't move. He stayed curiously staring at me, "Are you meeting someone?"
"No. I don't know where I'm going," I said wiping away more tears and pulled myself away from the wall. "I just kind of landed here without a plan and I'm alone here, I...." I shut my mouth before more words spewed out.
He frowned and crossed his tanned arms across his chest, "Would you like to get a coffee? I was just on my way to get a cup before heading out."
I'd put myself in a situation where I needed to rely on the kindness of strangers. Something told me that this stranger meant me no harm. He was just being kind.
"I'd like that. Thank you." I reached down for my bag. "I'm Gemma," I said holding my hand out to shake his.
"Kellan." His hand wrapped around mine--warm and strong.
At the coffee stand we ordered our coffees and sat in white plastic chairs.
"So, you're traveling alone, and you don't have any accommodations?"
"Yes. It's a long story."
"You've run away," he said simply with a smile pulling the corners of his mouth wide across his handsome face.
There was a part of me that wanted to deny it. That I wasn't so weak that I had to run away from my home, my family, but instead I cast my eyes down and gave a slight nod.
My eyes met his, "It was the first flight I could get."
He let out a laugh, "I don't think you're going to find what you're looking for in this city." He leaned forward capturing my eyes with a penetrating stare, "I'd like to invite you to come with me. I think I can help you. It's a lot safer than a city like Nairobi."
It hit me then, the risk of traveling alone. A woman alone in a strange country.
"I don't know..." I answered, starting to feel panic nipping at my heart, making it race.
"It's safe there and I promise you'll love it. I can use an extra hand for however long you want to stay. You'd be doing me a favor."
He typed on his phone, "This is where we're going."
He handed me the phone, Samona Camp, the screen read with a photo of a baby elephant under the name.
Was it then I saw the first glimpse of our finite time together? It seemed important to go with him--to spend the time together. I didn't know anything about the man across from me, but the hopeful excitement in his eyes was contagious. His offer suddenly seemed like a great adventure.
Shifting in my seat I answered, "Ok. I'll come with you."
This was really happening. Walking beside him, a stranger, I realized I'd been waiting for something like this to happen. I couldn't go on as I had been and I had to admit that for the past six weeks I'd been thinking things couldn't go on as they were, I couldn't go on in Benny's Bay. Maybe Stan and Tiffany were just my one good reason. I had a choice, yield or fight. Running away was my way of fighting.
We walked along a path that ran the length of the airport towards the end of the property where smaller planes were parked in tidy rows. Kellan opened a chain-link gate.
"We're just over here," he said ushering me through.
"Are you sure we're supposed to be in here?"
"Yeah. This is my plane." He stopped next to a small yellow and white plane with a single propeller.
"We're flying, in this." It sounded like an insult, but what I meant was that I'd never been in a small plane. My stomach turned and tightened.
"It's pretty much the only way to get there."
"How long will we be flying?"
"Just three hours. We'll be there before the sunset."
Relinquishing my bag to Kellan, I stepped forward and climbed into the idiot, I mean co-pilot's seat right next to the potential lunatic and willingly adjusted the headset he offered me to fit my head.
Halfway into the journey the landscape grew to a beautiful canvas of greens and rich browns. What really got my attention was the void of people, buildings or vehicles. It was completely wild. Owned only by the animals on the ground and the ones who seemed alarmingly close to the plane--flamingos, hundreds of them were flying just below us.
"It's amazing!" I spoke to Kellan through the headset.
"Wait till you see the camp." His grin stayed on his lips, "I'm happy you've come."
The small plane bobbed around in the unblemished sky and I'd been so busy watching the view the flight had gone by in no time at all. Seeming to float to the ground, the wheels bounced across the red dirt below us causing a reddish dust to momentarily rise up clouding our view. Once clear we rolled to a stop.
"We're here, Gemma." Kellan opened his door--I did the same. He jogged around to me and grabbed our bags from the back. He slung his duffel across his body, "Come on, we've got to hurry." He reached out for my hand.
Half jogging, half walking, holding on to Kellan's hand, we raced towards a grouping of buildings that fit intimately into the hillside. The main building's roof was made of thatch and protectively hung over a rich wood floor. Stone and grasses, red rusty dirt and dried leaves--I was, for a moment, having a difficult time comprehending the all-encompassing, overwhelming beauty and wildness of Samona Camp.
Kellan dropped our bags, "We barely have enough time to make it, come on."
Following him out to a beat up, ancient looking Land Rover, he shoved a key in the ignition.
"It's not far," he shouted as we sped up a rutted-out dirt road.
Skidding to a stop, Kellan then reached behind him grabbing a blanket from behind his seat and leapt out of the Rover. He climbed the ladder at the back and tossed the blanket up then rolled it out.
"Come on up, Gemma."
We sat side by side with our feet dangling through the sunroof looking out at the view that stretched out and endless. I doubted that there were very many places on earth as stunning as that valley in the Mathews Range of Kenya. The sky transformed from a burnt orange to the deepest of blues. I'd only ever heard the line "where the stars meet the earth," but that night I got to see it with my own eyes. One-by-one tiny diamonds dotted the black canvas slowly urging us to lie back and watch the show.
It was magical.
I'd never been away from Australia, but the strangest feeling of self-complicity came over me lying next to Kellan--I hadn't run away. I'd run straight into the arms of Kenya, to Kellan.
I'd found Samona.