April 29, 2009 was cold and rainy. I was home alone for the first time in recent memory, having faked a cough to get out of visiting my in-laws. I sat on the couch with my laptop and lit a fire. I plugged in my iPod and I started to type a oneshot that had been floating around my head for the past few weeks.
“Please, Bella?” Edward looked at me, his green eyes bright with curiosity.
“But I told you mine,” he whined. And just like that—with his juvenile intonation—the reality that my lover was only seventeen came crashing down on me.
“Silly, Edward. We both know you had nothing to tell.‚”I rolled away from him, and clutching the sheet against my bare breasts, I stepped out of the bed and into the sunlight. I stood in front of the window and closed my eyes, letting the afternoon sun warm my face.
Thankfully, most of the time we were together, it was easy to forget exactly how young he was. I could never be intimate with him while dwelling on his age. During moments when such acknowledgment was unavoidable, I emotionally withdrew—a fact I’m fairly sure was not lost on him.
The sheet suddenly pulled away from my chest, and there was Edward naked in my bed, holding its other end.
“I do, now.” He smiled suggestively.
I joined him in bed, pushing the thoughts that weighed so heavily on me away from my consciousness.
“Perhaps we should start over then.‚”I put my hands on his chest and climbed on top of him, straddling his pelvis. “So, Edward…‚”I looked down at him and brushed my thumbs across his nipples. “How many sexual partners have you had?”
He closed his eyes as I ground my hips against his; I was willing to play along, but I wasn’t about to make this easy for him.
“One.” His voice was not much louder than a whisper.
“Yes. Exactly one. I’d watched her for months.”
“Why didn’t you approach her?‚”I pressed into him.
“She was forbidden.”
“My, my.” I trailed a fingertip down his chest to the patch of hair below his navel. “Why did you decide to pursue her?”
“She did. I ran into her at the Art Museum on a Friday night. There was a jazz quartet playing, and she was stunning. She stood alone and swayed to the music. When I noticed her glass of wine was empty, I brought her another and struck up a conversation with her. She didn’t talk down to me like other teachers did, and she didn’t treat me as if I were a freak like I was used to from my so-called peers. She was human, and treated me as if I were the same. Only my family had ever done that…”
“I was never your teacher, Edward.”
“No, you weren’t. Well, not that way.”
He reached up and pinched my nipple. I gasped, he hardened, and before I could even verbalize my need, he entered me. As he began to move, I remembered how in a few weeks this would all end. I would have to let him go.
I didn’t allow the thought to linger, instead doing what I did best in Edward’s presence. I let everything that was not directly related to the pleasure he brought my body drift away, focusing instead on the beautiful boy beneath me.
The words came easily, and I realized the gem I had in my female protagonist. She was a composite of every broken woman I’d ever known, the majority whom lived and slept and fucked and never realized there was anything wrong, that there was a disconnect, that though they existed, they weren’t alive. In a short story, I could keep her that way. Broken and closed off. She’d break up with him the night before he left for college, thinking she was doing him a favor, never knowing that she perpetuated the cycle by breaking him. He’d become as guarded as she was, and she would spend the rest of her life wondering how her life would be different had she given him a chance.
The original version of Art After 5 was cynical and raw, but very real. It also felt flawed to me. Character-based writing has little purpose if the characters involved never grow. I decided to scrap the short story and write a longer piece in which I explored a woman who is so terrified of being hurt, she was nothing more than observer in her own life—a woman who could justify anything in the name of self-preservation, a woman who in a moment of weakness commits one of the most selfish acts possible—and then I would redeem her.
The original ending of the full-length piece was much more uplifting than how I envisioned the end of the oneshot; she heals herself. She meets Edward at a diner and apologizes. They becomes friends, and they stay friends. At the end, he stays with Kate. I changed my outline halfway through writing when I realized I could realistically pull off a reconciliation.
It was an amazing process for me. Though I took two semesters of creative writing in college, it wasn’t anything I ever thought I could do—nor had I ever dreamed that I would be able to produce a novel in six months. More importantly, I’ve learned more about myself and the world around me in the past twelve months than I think I have since I was an undergrad.
My end of year tally:
4 short stories
and a profound sense of accomplishment
Thank you for taking this journey with me.