In honor of the summer solstice, I am going post an excerpt of my NaNoWriMo project from last year. It's a YA urban fantasy novel tentatively titled Solstice because the summer solstice plays a part. Just don't ask me what that part is because I have no idea. I just know when I get back to working on this story that the summer solstice will be very important. Somehow.
Anyway, Solstice is the story of sixteen year old demon hunter, Gwendolyn Chase. By day, she's an average high school student with a penchant for the occasional schoolyard skirmish. By night, she's a bad ass demon hunter patrolling the streets of Boston for all things otherworldish. Everything changes when her mother, oblivious to her daughter's extracurricular activities, sends Gwendolyn to a program for troubled teens. There Gwendolyn will find herself battling not only actual demons but also some inner ones as well.
But that comes later. The scene I'm going to post for you is the scene where Gwendolyn finds out her mother's sending her away. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Summer Solstice, everyone.
They come for me in the darkest hour of the night, right before the dawn. There are four of them. Four hulking faceless figures who slide in and take up space where they do not belong and are not welcome. I didn’t hear them when they entered the house. I first hear the squeak of that one step and think it is my mother coming to check on me and, in a way, I am right. It is my mother who opens my bedroom door for them and allows them to take positions along the wall. When they are set, my mother comes and sits on the edge of my bed.
“Gwennie,” she says softly as she shakes my shoulder. “Sweetheart, it’s time to wake up.”
She doesn’t realize I am already awake and wondering what is happening. She leans forward then and turns on the lamp sitting on my nightstand. I act sleepy and surprised to see her and then I act scared when I see the four men standing in my bedroom.
I am not afraid of them. But I do not know why they are here.
“What’s going on?” I ask my mother as I sit up.
She looks tired but then again, she always looks tired. Working three dead end jobs will do that to a person. She’s still wearing her uniform from the all night diner and still smells strongly of stale coffee and fried foods.
“You know I love you, right?” my mother says.
I look from her to the four men. “What’s going on?” I ask again. “Who are they and why are they here?”
“I just want to help you, Gwennie,” she says.
“What are you talking about?” I ask. “Help me with what? Mom, what is going on?”
“I’m talking about help,” she says. “For you, for me. Gwennie, things aren’t— they’re not going well and I want to help you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the fights, Gwennie,” my mother says. “And your grades—“
“My grades are fine.”
“You’re barely scraping by. You’re barely passing.”
“So you’re skating over the part where I actually am passing.”
“Fine then,” my mother says. “The fights.”
I look away then. I can’t argue about the fights. She doesn’t have any idea who it is I’m fighting most of the time. All she sees are the occasional cuts and bruises, the ones I don’t manage to hide. All she hears about are the occasional skirmishes I have at school. I can’t stand bullies. Maybe violence doesn’t solve problems but it does, on occasion, seem to help.
“So what are they here for?” I ask, folding my arms across my chest.
I hate having this conversation in front of these four strangers. This stuff is private. It’s between my mother and me. They shouldn’t be allowed to hear it.
My mother looks down at the floor. “They’re here to take you—“
Take me? I steal another glance at them. They’re roughly the size of refrigerators but I don’t care how big those guys are. They won’t be able to take me anywhere. Not if I don’t want to go.
“Somewhere they can help you,” my mother finishes.
“I don’t need help,” I say.
I have been in a lot of fights in my life and I’ve taken a lot of punches but those two words hurt me more than the rest of them combined. I am actually breathless for a handful of moments and look at my mother in genuine surprise. Does she know— does she realize— how much that hurt?
I’ve tried so hard. Just not hard enough, I guess.