In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share an excerpt from my (unpublished) novel VALENTINE, a YA contemporary that’s pretty much 500 Days of Summer meets Law and Order.
How much of what you remember is true? This is the question eighteen-year old Claire asks herself while on the witness stand for the attempted murder she witnessed last Valentine’s Day. It is told in a non-linear timeline covering a year and a half of the lives of Claire, Steven, and Mike, three teens whose lives change after the Valentine’s Day shooting. At time of the shooting Claire has been dating Steven for years, but she soon falls for Mike, the victim of the attempted murder and road rage incident; however, Mike is hiding the truth about what really happened last night. Claire’s witness testimony at the trial will soon put all three of their lives in danger when someone from Mike’s past is out to kill Claire for what she reveals. Someone will end up in the hospital, someone will end up in jail, and someone will end up dead. True love might conquer all but is it enough to save a life?
VALENTINE is inspired by an attempted murder I witnessed 15 years ago, when I was 17. Like Claire, I was on my way home from a date with my boyfriend (not named Steven. That boyfriend was no where as sweet and cute as Steven) on Valentine’s Day, driving my mom’s mini van, when I stumbled on a road rage incident that quickly escalated into an attempted murder right in front of me. Like Claire, it freaked the hell our of me and messed me up a little, though I didn’t start lying to my parents, try and fail out of school, and fall in love with the victim- a high school dropout. No. Instead I stayed with my not-so-great boyfriend until he dumped me and I stopped eating, but that’s another novel.
I’ll try and scare up the articles from that night and post them later. I actually grew up with the kids involved, and at one point had been childhood friends with the victim.
Even if VALENTINE never sees the light of day, writing it allowed me to work out a lot of shit I still hung onto twelve years later. Below is a 500 word excerpt from the last draft of VALENTINE. One day I may rework the entire thing and see if it has wings. In the meantime, enjoy:
“I told you I don’t want to talk to him about it,” Claire hissed to her mother. A cop settled himself on the worn couch in the living room. He looked out of place in his stiff uniform and holding a Dunkin Donuts cup. Mom never let crappy coffee in the house.
“You have to give a statement.” She nudged her daughter into the room. “Just tell them what you told me this morning.”
“I don’t want to,” Claire said, tears welling in her eyes. “Can’t you just do it?”
“No, Honey. I wasn’t a witness. You can do it. You’ve always been so strong.”
She wasn’t feeling strong. She felt like shit. She was tired and scared and her brain was still foggy from the Valium mom had given her last night to help calm her down.
She took a seat across from the cop. “Where are the officers from last night?” She wasn’t fully awake yet even though it was early afternoon, so she took another sip of her milky Earl Grey tea. She’d been carrying it around with her for the last half hour and it had long since grown cold. At least it was still strong. “I’m sorry I can’t remember your name, Officer.”
“Detective,” he corrected. The detective looked at her like she was trying to be difficult, which she wasn’t. Claire really couldn’t remember his name. “Detective Ryan Simmons.”
“My bad,” Claire mumbled into her mug. She drank the last sip and set the cup on the oak coffee table in front of her chair. “No offense, Detective, but I’d rather talk to Officer Straub.” Officer Straub had been so kind last night. She reminded Claire of the librarian at her old elementary school. This guy just seemed like a douchebag.
Detective Simmons sighed. “She was unavailable today and I’m one of the detectives assigned to the case. I need your official statement. It’s best if you give it to me now while it’s still fresh in your mind. We don’t want you to forget anything.” He gave her a short smile. Yep, douchebag.
How could she ever forget what happened last night? It was impossible not to think about it. Hell, every time she closed her eyes she saw the gun. The face of the man who had pointed it at her. The bloody body on the pavement. The problem was she couldn’t put that shit into words. It was too horrible to say.
Detective Simmons waited with his pen raised. Her mother nodded encouragingly.
She scowled at them. “It’s hard to explain,” she started. She closed her eyes and swallowed. It was slightly easier if she didn’t have to look at the Detective right now. She could pretend she was just talking to Steven or Tiffani; anybody other than this cop who was treating her like she was the one who gunned down a kid in the street last night. “I’ve never seen anything so terrible in my life.” A tear slipped down her cheek.