Catherine Cole is the main character of my WIP Second Nature. The excerpt I am going to post isn't the opening scene of the novel but it is Cate's opening scene and the first chance readers have to get to know her. I can't post the entire scene here; it's much too long but the entire scene (among others) is available on my website. I'll post a link to it at the end of this blog so that, if you're interested, you can go out and read the entire scene. And, if you're so inclined, I would love to hear what you think ( good, bad or in between).
The fifteenth of July that year had been a perfect day, right up until the moment they’d told her her mother was dead.
Cate remembered how nice it was. It had been the first truly nice day so far that year. The winter had been long and dumped a record amount of snow on the city. May, keeping with a long standing New England tradition, had been a month of wind and rain, saturating Boston and everyone in it until they were all wet to the bone. June had been drier, but still gray and unseasonably cool. July had started off no better in its first two weeks. The holiday weekend was a total washout and the entire city was on the verge of rebelling but, on the fifteenth, the sun appeared in all its radiant glory and suddenly, the entire population of Boston was fighting the urge to ignore obligation in favor of lounging in the warmth of a much missed sun.
Cate had been no exception. It was the first day she’d cursed her decision to take a summer class at the university and had contemplated skipping her philosophy lecture altogether. Ultimately she’d gone, mostly because she didn’t want to either lie to her mother about going, or suffer through a lecture about skipping.
So she sat in the windowless lecture hall with about fifty other students, few of which she judged as being actually enthusiastic about their attendance. She neglected to take notes and spent the time alternately drawing random patterns, staring off into space and wondering why the first really nice day, the first really warm day, of the year wasn’t automatically declared a city wide holiday.
By the time the lecture came to an end, Cate had filled two pages with Celtic looking knots, pyramids, cityscape outlines and a variety of stick figures in various death throes. She looked over her handiwork before shoving the notebook in her bag and considered declaring a major in art or art history. She decided against it though and instead joined some friends with plans to waste time being marginally disreputable around Quincy Market. Her cell had been off during class, her professor insisted, so she took it out of her bag and turned it back on so she could check in, at her mother’s insistence, with Fiona, the housekeeper. She saw she had a message waiting and accessed her voicemail in order to hear it.
“Catherine, love,” Fiona’s Irish lilt was saying. “You have to come home. Right away.”
She’d stopped then at the top of a flight of stairs and lowered the phone, holding it against her chest. She’d never heard Fiona sound mournful before. Angry, or disappointed, appalled by Cate’s sometimes questionable behavior even, yes, but mournful? No. Not once.
Her friends had called to her then, noticing she was no longer with them. She looked up at the sound of her name and saw Daniel looking back at her. Daniel was her mother’s man, Laura’s jack of all trades, and right now he was standing next to her friends at the bottom of the stairs. He was a man who made stoic people seem down right emotional and the look on his face made her drop her phone and hold onto the stair railing for dear life.
“What happened?” she asked.
Your mother’s dead, they told her, Daniel and Fiona together, as they all sat in the living room of Cate’s Beacon Hill townhouse. She’s gone.
Cate looked at them, dry eyed, for a moment and then turned her head to her left. The windows overlooked the street and she watched the people walking past, wearing their shorts and short sleeved shirts. Fiona came and sat beside her, taking her hand.
“Cate,” Daniel said.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
And she hadn’t. She hadn’t understood it any more three days later when she was standing grave side, watching her mother’s coffin being lowered into the ground. She still didn’t understand it. It had been nearly a month now and still she just didn’t understand it.
Maybe if there had been a reason. People died suddenly all the time, some crazy tragic accident or something, but all Daniel and Fiona had said, or would say, was that her mother had had a sort of cancer. And it had killed her.
Cate knew they were lying. Laura Cole did not have a sort of cancer. The woman was healthy, the woman had always been healthy, never even a damn cold, forget cancer. And if there had been, by some freak chance, a tumor, Cate would’ve known. Her mother never would have kept that from her.
They’d had the sort of mother-daughter relationship that only existed in fairy tales or whatever, but not real life. Cate told her mother the truth, the truth, about things. Everything. Almost everything. Boys, fights with friends, the stupid stuff she did in school, whatever. And her mother had reciprocated. Of course, her mother never dated, didn’t really have many friends and never, ever did anything that could be counted as stupid. But still, she shared. She damn well would have shared that she was dying from a sort of cancer.
Cate came out of her reverie suddenly. She was sitting in the waiting room of her doctor’s office. The receptionist –Rosie maybe?- was standing in front of her, hand on her elbow.
“Hi,” Rosie said, smiling her very best fake smile. “Sorry to interrupt your day dreaming.”
Day dreaming. Right.
“No problem,” Cate said.
Rosie nodded. “Dr. Blaire will be with you in a moment,” she said. “He’s just running a little late.”
He was always running a little late and yet they still expected her to show up for appointments on time. Whatever. Cate nodded and Rosie patted her elbow before retreating back to her desk. Cate glanced at the clock on the wall and saw she’d been waiting almost thirty minutes already. Not that she’d noticed. Time sure did fly when one
was obsessing over one’s dead mother.