Happy Fourth of July everyone! And if you don't celebrate this day then... Happy Wednesday!!
Since today is a holiday for us Americans, I plan on seeing a movie with a friend, hanging out by the pool and cooking our with a few friends before finally finishing the night up with a semi-lame firework show. That's the perks of living in a small town... but oh well, at least the kids will love them and that's all that really matters, right?!
Today I thought I'd share with you the first chapter of my current work in progress, Painted Memories. It very rough and I've only been over it a couple times... so I'm sure its full of mistakes.
So here goes... I'd really love to hear what you think!
Chapter One: Painted Memories
The day seemed to drag along as I looked forward to my three day weekend. Exhausted from dealing with high strung kids all day, I walked inside my apartment and dropped my keys on the kitchen table along with my stack of school papers before walking back towards my bedroom. I switched out of my teaching attire, opting for a pair of running shorts and a tank top. On a day like today, even that seemed to be too hot to wear. After keeping my body cooped up in the classroom all week, all I really wanted to do was sleep, but I knew if I did I’d be useless the rest of the night. I needed to stretch my legs, wake my body up and jog around the track behind my apartment complex. After all, I had been living in Fairfield, Georgia for three months now and not once did I take advantage of all the amenities my apartment complex had to offer. Even the gym membership I signed up for the week I moved in had gone to waste. I had been so hung up on trying to make my first teaching year be the best it could be, that I kept myself shut-up since I got here. It was time I changed that. Live a little. Enjoy myself. God knows, my parents never gave me the chance after the accident. Now,I was on my own. Free to make my own choices… or mistakes.
Jogging, I made my way around the pond. It was beautiful and the layout made it the perfect place for a vigorous workout or a peaceful walk. The concrete track skirted the bank of the water while couples lounged on the park benches that were sporadically placed around it. Others laid in the grass, enjoying a picnic or reading a book. It was the perfect place to get away and I could definitely see myself spending more time here.
My apartment complex was off the beaten path, and if it weren’t for getting lost trying to find a different complex, I might have never found this place. Hidden off the main roads, tucked into a wooded area, large oak trees filled the perimeter. It was a large complex, eight buildings total, two floors each. The property manager told me when I inquired about renting that walking trails twisted from one side of the pond through the woods and wrapped around to the other side of the pond. It was definitely made the choice easier over what any of the other complex had to offer. There were also basketball courts, tennis courts, and two swimming pools, all for the resident’s enjoyment. I was lucky to have come across it and that there was an immediate opening. Apparently, Oakdale was the place to live around here. But none of that matter if I didn’t allowed myself the luxury of enjoying it. I always meant too, just never found the time. It was about time I started making time, because being a workaholic like my father was all my life was the last thing I wanted to become.
The sweat dripped down the back of my neck and other unmentionable parts of my body as I ran. The hot temperature of the September heat made me realize I probably picked the worst time of day to force myself around this track. I looked across the pond where I originally started and knew there was no way I’d be able to push myself all the way around before collapsing from exhaustion or worse, a heat stroke.
Hearing a noise behind me, I stepped off the path and jogged near the edge of the water so I wouldn't force the person behind me to slow down. I looked over at a man as he fell into stride beside me. He nodded, giving me a smile. I smiled back, hearing unknown lyrics to a loud song stream from the headphones in his ears as he started to pass. Then out of nowhere, I fell forward. The only thing I could see in front of me was the pond. I saw a park bench in my line of sight and I tried to reach for it, but missed. The momentum of my body propelled me forward and I screamed before I was silenced with a mouth full of water.
I flailed around, losing my footing every time I tried to stand up. I’ve got to get out. I’ve got to get out. The snakes are going to get me.
I splashed water and choked on a mouthful of water as I gasped for breath. I felt like I would drown while everyone around me watched as I flailed around. The guy that had been jogging beside me was on the edge of the bank, leaning over with his hand stretched out.
“Just calm down and stand up,” he said. “It’s not that deep.”
His words sunk in and I tried to remain calm as I stood up. When I looked down at the water, I felt like an idiot seeing I was only in water waist deep . I took a step toward him and reached for his hand. Something slimy brushed against my leg and I screamed, leaping forward.
“It’s going to bite me! Get me out! Get me out!” I screamed, as I splashed water everywhere.
He pulled me up the embankment, my tennis shoes slipped over the soft wet dirt. I was coughing up water as I gasped for a fresh breath in the humid air. He wrapped his arm around my waist and walked me toward an empty park bench just a few feet away.
“Are you okay?” he asked, sitting down beside me.
“Oh my God! Thank you. If you hadn’t helped me, I might have drowned.” I looked around at the bystanders, still gawking at me from their park benches and private picnics. “Obviously no one else was going to,” I said louder than I needed. They adverted their eyes while I glared, forcing them to carry on about their business.
“Well it’s a good thing I decided to come for a run when I got off work, isn’t it? My names Drew by the way,” he said, extending his hand.
I shook his hand. Breathing heavy, I said, “I’m Lilly.”
“Umm, you’ve got something—” he started to say as he reached his hand toward my hair.
I saw it out of the corner of my eye as he pulled it from between the strands of my hair. It was long and green and only one word came to mind... Snake! I jumped up, a scream building in my throat, but slapped my hand over my mouth when he dangled the long piece of grass between his fingers. I closed my eyes and settled back down on the bench and thought to myself, I’m such a freaking idiot.
“I just don’t do snakes. School prank. I’ve never been the same since.”
“Oh I see. Sounds like an interesting story.”
Jenny Newcomb. Seventh grade. She knew bringing her pet snake to school was against the rules. It was a risk she was willing to take. Jenny hated me and apparently, putting it in my locker would be her greatest prank yet. It was supposed to fall out of my locker when I went to retrieve my books. But Jenny’s plan backfired when the snake bit my hand. She was expelled and it took my classmates two years to stop teasing me about it. My fear of snakes would last my entire life.
“No it’s really not that interesting. I can take most anything, but show me a snake and we’re done.”
“Ooh well I can assure you I don’t have any snakes. Tragedy averted.”
He had a warm smile. Deep dimples pierced his cheeks. His eyes looked bright green in the sunlight, the landscape around us making them seem more vibrant than any other green eyes I had seen before. Beads of sweat prickled his brow while his hair, a dark sandy color, lay wet and flat against his head from the perspiration of his run. He wore a white tank top, now dotted with brown spots, all thanks to the fit I had thrown in the pond. I didn’t dare look at myself. I knew I looked hideous and I didn’t want to show my embarrassment even more by letting him see my reaction.
I went to grab at his shirt, but pulled my hand back. “I’m really sorry about your shirt. Can I buy you a new one?”
“What? No, of course not. It’s nothing the washing machine won’t get out. I’m dirty anyway.” He held out his hands to show beige color paint sprinkled across them. “I paint for a living, so I’ve always got something on me.” Turning his wrist over, he looked at his watch. “Oh crap, I’ve got to run. I’m expecting a phone call soon.”
“Oh okay. Well thanks again for your help. I really appreciate it. Maybe I’ll just stick with the gym from now on.”
He stood up, his jogging pants wet where I had pressed against him. “I don’t know. The gym can be a dangerous place too. Next time, just try to stay on the track. Those tree roots will jump up and grab you every time. And I don’t want to have to jump in the next time to get you. It’s deeper on the other side.”
I laughed, wondering how he knew the depth of the pond. Had he actually been swimming in it before? That though made my skin crawl. There was no telling how many snakes lived in there.
“See you around Lilly,” he said, over his shoulder as he walked away.
Yeah right. I thought. He was going to avoid me like the plague.
Standing in front of my full length mirror behind my bedroom door, I marveled at the mess that looked back at me. I would have looked better if I had rolled around in the dirt first. Not only were my clothes disgusting, but my hair was matted down, now a darker brown rather the lighter color it was supposed to be. My mascara had smeared, making my blue eyes look mean and tired. My thin top stuck tightly to my skin, which I’m sure gave Drew more of a show than I realized.
Great. I’ve been here for three months and the first person I have a conversation with here, has to pull me out of a pond. Classy Lilly, real classy.