Friday, June 3, 2016

Maevyn: Chapter 1

I had such a good time sharing my last story with you, that I decided to do it again.

Here is the first chapter to a novel I wrote a couple of years ago that I'm in the midst of revising.
This is still REALLY rough, so be gentle.
Hopefully, as time goes by, it will be more revised and less messy.

Consider this week's chapter the BEFORE.
After revising, I'll post the AFTER.


Fortune Teller. Tarot Reader. Medium. Psychic.
Maevyn eyed the dubious titles written on the window of her grandmother’s shop. How could the woman who birthed her father, the geneticist, possibly be mixed up in crap like this?
“This is it,” her grandmother said, turning a key in the lock of the shop that also served as her home. “It’s not much…”
“But it’s home,” Maevyn finished the sentiment for her.
“Yes,” her grandmother said, eyeing her. “Hey, maybe you’re psychic, too.”
“Or maybe I’ve heard that phrase a million times before…” by my dad.
Her grandmother pushed open the door, and lead them inside. It was dark. Stuffy. The wet heat of the outdoors followed them in. A drop of sweat slithered down Maevyn’s forehead and stung her eye. She’d never experienced so much humidity. It was so thick she felt like she was swimming through it.
“I’ll have the place cooled down in no time,” her grandmother said, flicking the knob on an old window unit air conditioner. The machine buzzed for a moment then came to life in a rumbling hum. Brief, white puffs of condensed air poured from the vent, and Maevyn stood next to the machine thankful for a respite from the heat.
“Is it always this hot?” she asked her grandmother.
“Only in the summer,” she replied. “Kansas City’s humid in the summer and dry and cold in the winter. The only bearable months of the year are in the autumn and the spring.
“So then why do you live here, Gram?”
Maevyn’s grandmother, Sibyl, paused for a moment as if she was deeply considering the question. “It’s the only place I’ve ever lived. Plus, your grandpa is buried just down the street. I couldn’t leave him. He’d never forgive me.”
Good to know.
Maevyn stood next to the air conditioner a few minutes more trying to soak up as much of the cold as she could before she dared to venture into further, muggier parts of the house.
“Your room is upstairs next to mine. Down here in the parlor is where I run my business,” she said, parting a glass beaded curtain. “It’s the only room I’ll ask you to stay out of. I need to keep the aura clean in there. Back behind there is the kitchen, and this is the living room, of course.”
Do all psychics have glass bead curtains? Is that a prerequisite or something for talking to ghosts? Maevyn nodded her head in understanding.
Her grandmother picked up her bag. “Come on, I’ll show you your room.”
Maevyn hated to leave the air conditioner, but reluctantly followed her grandmother up the stairs and into a room that held little more than a bed and a desk. Fortunately, it had a window unit in it as well.
“Just make sure you shut it off when you leave the room,” her grandmother said, after showing her how to work it. “We don’t need to be wasting electricity. Gets awful expensive to run these things.”
Maeve nodded and looked around the room. It had its own bathroom at least and a nice-sized closet, though she didn’t have many clothes to go in it, yet. Boxes of her clothes were being shipped to her grandmother’s house and should be there in a few weeks. There was a lot of paperwork that had to be done, a lot of plans that had to be changed. The boxes were already on their way to Hawaii before the order for the move was canceled. Unfortunately, she’d have to wait until they got to Hawaii and were shipped back to her new home with her grandmother in Kansas City before she’d see them.
A wave of grief washed over her. She didn’t want to think about all she’d lost. She’d spent the last year trying to heal. It hadn’t been easy. The accident had left her damaged, and had taken away the people she loved most in the world. Her grandmother and grandfather on her mom’s side had tried to help, taking her in to live with them in their home in San Francisco, but it had been too hard for all of them. Initially, they thought it made the most sense to keep her with them, in the city she’d grown up in. But, their own deteriorating health and the loss of their only daughter quickly took its toll on Maevyn’s grandparents. They knew it was the best thing for everyone when her father’s mother, Sibyl, offered for Maevyn to come live here in Kansas City.
She didn’t want to move to Kansas City, even to be with her grandmother, but she couldn’t stay in San Francisco by herself. She still had a year of high school to get through. Thoughts of the life she was supposed to live in Hawaii crumbled like a castle made of sand.
Maevyn sighed. Life wasn’t supposed to be like this. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard and hurt his much.
“I’m going to make up some dinner. Why don’t you get started unpacking.”
Maevyn nodded. It wouldn’t take long to do that.
“Give me a call if you need anything,” her grandmother said gently as she paused in the doorway.
Maevyn nodded again and turned to open her bag. Her grandmother saw that as her cue, and left. Maevyn felt safe here in her grandmother’s house. She hadn’t ever been in it before, but it felt comfortable, worn-in somehow, like a favorite pair of jeans. Her grandmother had come to visit them in San Francisco every year for Christmas, eager to get out of all the snow, she said. Other than vacations to the mountains, Maevyn hadn’t really lived with snow before. She could use some now. It was sweltering. She turned the AC to high.
She took off her t-shirt and jeans, and lay down on the homey quilt on her bed in only her underwear, basking in the cool breeze pumping out of the air conditioner. She’d never lived anywhere without central air conditioning before, either. There seemed to be a lot of firsts she’d need to get used to. She smoothed her hands over her round belly and felt it growl beneath her touch. She was hungry. She was always hungry. Food was comforting, and though she knew it was just a way to push away the pain of losing her family, she was all right with that. She was less all right with the weight she’d gained, changing her once rail-thin body into one that was much softer, voluptuous, and plump. Once the room was cooled down to a more bearable temperature, she set the AC to low, and put on some fresh clothes. No more jeans, though. She wouldn’t be wearing jeans until the humidity went down.
It only took a few minutes to get her bag unpacked. She really didn’t have much. A few days’ worth of clothes, her makeup, toiletries, whatever would fit in her carryon bag. Gram said she’d take her shopping soon. School was coming up, and she’d need more clothes than what she currently had.
School. The thought of it made her stomach curl up in knots. She really didn’t want to think about it, so she decided not to. She had become really good at not dealing with things. She knew that she’d have to deal with school eventually, but for now, she didn’t need to think about it. She had more pressing matters to worry about, like where was her hair clip?
She dug around in her make up bag and found a rubber band. I guess this will do. She pulled back her long, wavy black hair, twisted it a few times, and rolled it into a loose bun on the back of her head before tying the rubber band around it. I’m going to regret this. Stupid rubber band.
Maevyn was thankful to not have to share a bathroom with her grandmother. She loved her and all, but there are some parts of getting older that she did not want to have to deal with like undergarments for the elderly and her grandmother’s false teeth being left on the sink overnight. She washed her face and neck, dried herself off, and made her way downstairs to the kitchen. Delightful smells were wafting their way towards her as she sat down at the table.
“Hope you don’t mind take out,” Gran said.
“I don’t mind anything that smell like this! What is it, barbecue?”
“Kansas City barbecue. Ain’t nothing like it, that’s for sure. I have a friend who owns a smokehouse pit, and asked him to bring some around for us. We’ve got ribs, brisket, and pulled pork, cheesy corn and baked beans for the sides. No veggies tonight, hope you don’t mind.”
“I’ve been trying to get out of eating veggies every day for the past 17 years. You’ll get no complaints here.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Maevyn gladly dug in with both hands, not minding that barbecue sauce was getting all over her fingers and face while she sucked the meat off a half rack of ribs.
“How do you know this friend, who works at the barbecue restaurant, and what do I need to do to move in?” she asked her grandmother.
“Good, isn’t it? Nobody smokes meat like Buster O’Rourke. He’s been a customer of mine a few times, and ever since I met him, I’ve been a customer of his, too.”
“A customer, eh? What kind of psychic service did he need?” Maevyn asked.
Her grandmother’s eyes narrowed. “You know I don’t talk about that,” she said.
“I know you didn’t talk about that when you visited us in San Fran, but now that I’m living with you, I think it’s okay for me to know, don’t you?”
Her grandmother sat back in her chair and wiped her hands with a wet nap. She sighed. “He came in to see if I could communicate with his dad who had passed away some time ago.”
Talking to the dead? Maevyn shivered just a bit. “And did you?”
“That, missy, is none of your business. What I do with my clients is private, and deeply personal to them. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“I’m sorry, Gram. I didn’t mean to pry. I’s so weird that you do this psychic stuff. It’s not at all like what Dad did, and I guess I’m curious.” Maevyn looked down at her plate and the pile of rib bones that had piled up there. She hadn’t talked about her father since the accident. Neither had Gram.
“I know it might seem that your father and I had very different interests. But, his career as a scientist and mine as a psychic have more in common than you might think.”
This caught Maevyn’s attention. “Really?”
“Yes, really. Now finish your dinner.” Maevyn could tell that the matter was closed for now. But her curiosity was piqued. What could a biochemical engineer possibly have in common with a small town psychic?
“Can I ask you one more question?” Maevyn asked.
Her grandmother put down her fork, wiped her mouth, and stared at her granddaughter for a moment. “Alright.  One question. Shoot.”
“Did you talk to your friend’s dad? The dad who died?”
Maevyn’s grandmother shut her eyes, and pinched the bridge of her nose, like she was suffering the onslaught of an oncoming headache.  “Not that it’s any of your business, but I was able to give my friend some peace. That’s what I do. Now eat.”
Maevyn obeyed, finishing the meal without any more questions about her grandmother’s business. She helped clean up and then said, “It’s been a long day. I think I’m going to take a shower and head off to bed, if that’s all right.”
“That sounds like a good idea. Towels should be in the bathroom already. Let me know if there is anything you need.”
“Thanks. Goodnight,” she said, kissing her grandmother on the cheek before leaving.

An hour later, refreshed from her shower, and basking in the coolness of the air conditioner, she laid in the dark and fell into a blissful sleep, until the dreams started.
She was in the car. They were all in the car. Maevyn was driving, and they were headed home from the movie theater. It was the day her family died, again. The dreams had plagued her nearly every day since the accident.  She wanted to stop the car. She knew danger was coming, but no matter what she did, she couldn’t communicate. No one was listening to her. Her mom and sister were talking in the back, and her father was commenting on their conversation. Maevyn tried to get their attention, yelling, screaming, as she drove the car along, but no one was paying her any attention.
A black sedan was in front of her. Every time she changed lanes or made a turn, it did so first. It was like the driver knew what she was going to do before she did it. Finally, the sedan pulled into a different lane as the cars came to a stoplight. Maevyn looked over at the car, trying to see inside, but the windows were tinted and all she could see was the reflection of her own car. A window of the black sedan rolled down. Maevyn looked to see who was driving. A blinding light shone out of the window, and she though it seemed impossible, she knew a semi truck was barreling towards her, coming through the window of the black sedan. They were all going to die.
Maevyn woke up, shaking. She hated that dream. It was worse than her memories of the actual event. She didn’t remember what happened to her the moment the car had been hit. The police report said that she hit her head on the driver’s side door, but that the airbag had saved her head from being crushed. She was lucky she survived at all.
Lucky. Lucky to have survived. And lucky to have a grandmother to take her in when she had nowhere else to go.
She continued to shiver, and realized it wasn’t just the dream. She was freezing. The air conditioner was still set on low, but it had cooled the room down to arctic temperatures. She jumped out of bed and turned it off. She’d have to remember to turn it off before going to sleep from now on.

“Maeve, time to get up!” a voice called from the hallway.
Maevyn rolled over and pushed the remaining blankets off her leg. She’d pulled out a couple extra quilts last night when her room was freezing, and then it warmed up and she was sweltering again. Was the temperature ever going to be right?
She shuffled down the stairs to the familiar smell of bacon frying.
“You know that stuff’s bad for you, don’t you?” she asked her grandmother, tending to the bacon frying in a skillet on the stove.
“Of course it is. Everything that tastes like heaven is bad for you. It’s the bad that makes it taste so good.”
Maevyn smiled, and sat down at the small table in the corner. A stack of pancakes was already sitting on the table, steam rising from them as a large pat of butter melted into yellow goo.  Her grandmother set down a plate of bacon, and sat across from her.
“Gram, this smells delicious, but I can’t eat like this every day,” she said, worrying about hurting her grandmother’s feelings.
“Of course we’re not going to eat like this every day, child. Heavens! I don’t need the cholesterol, or the weight gain. Just this morning. Tomorrow it’s back to shredded wheat and oatmeal. Until then, let’s enjoy.”
Maevyn helped herself to several pancakes and slices of bacon. “You know, Mom wouldn’t let us eat bacon. She said the nitrates would kill us. Dad loved bacon though, and if she was ever gone, he’d sneak it into the house and cook it up. It didn’t matter if it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, we’d have bacon with everything.” Maevyn smiled at the memory.
“Your father could be sneaky, that was for sure.”
“Mom would always smell it when she got home. She’d give him this look and he’d kiss her and beg her forgiveness, and she’d always give in.” She stopped talking, lost in her thoughts.
Her grandmother cleared her throat. “I’m going to take you shopping this morning. Get you some clothes so you’ll be ready for school. It starts soon. A couple of weeks, I think.”
Maevyn groaned. “School? Do I have to go?”
“Well, yes, I think you do or else the truancy courts will likely have a problem with you hanging out around here every day. It’s not really a choice.”
Maevyn thought for a moment, chewing on another piece of bacon. “Couldn’t I just stay here and homeschool? I could do it myself. I’d keep up with my studies. You wouldn’t have to do anything, teach me anything. I could teach myself like I did last year.” She didn’t mention how difficult it had been to keep up with her advanced courses on her own, while taking care of her grandparents. Sibyl didn’t need to know about that.
“I don’t know, Maeve. I thought you’d want to be around other kids your age. Maybe make some friends. I think it would be good for you to be around people, instead of isolating yourself. It’s not healthy for a girl your age to be alone all the time.” Maevyn wondered what part of her life was healthy in any way.
“I’m not sure I’m ready,” Maeve answered, her eyes fixated on a stream of maple syrup dripping off her pancakes. “Maybe I’ll never be ready.”
“Maybe not, but we’ll never know if we don’t try, right.”
Maevyn sighed. “I guess not.”
“Well, that’s a winning endorsement if I’ve ever heard one. Let’s stop by the high school after we finish up your shopping. There’s a shopping center just down the street from the high school. I bet kids walk there all the time after school.”
“Really? You think kids hang around a shopping center?”
“Well, maybe they do. It’s not a mall. It’s an outdoor neighborhood with shops. It’s kind of ritzy, and outdoorsy all in one. You’ll understand when you see it.”
“Okay. I guess I’d better get dressed then. I don’t want to miss a moment of shopping in this ritzy outdoorsy metropolis of consumerism,” she said with a smile and left to change clothes.
“Smartass,” her grandmother said as she left.
Thirty minutes later, Maevyn understood what her grandmother had meant by a neighborhood of shops. It was an outdoor shopping center, with boulevards, sidewalks, alfresco cafes, and apartments on top of all the shops. It even had its own grocery store. It was like a complete neighborhood.
Maevyn quickly found an artsy boutique with mannequins donning the kinds of clothes she liked. Bright, airy cottons that had an ethereal air about them, but most importantly, wouldn’t be too hot in the sweltering Missouri humidity.
“Is it always so hot here?” she complained on the way back to her grandmother’s car.
“No. Not in the winter,” her grandmother answered.
“Now who’s the smartass?” she asked. Her grandmother smiled.
Her grandmother had been right about the high school too, it was just down the street from the shopping center. Maevyn’s palms began to sweat as they pulled into the parking lot and parked in the visitor spot. Cars were in the parking lot, so evidently someone was there. The student lot was empty though.
“I was wrong,” her grandmother said as she pulled the key out of the ignition.
“Wrong about what?” Maevyn asked.
“School doesn’t start in a couple of weeks. It starts Monday.”
“Monday? That’s just three days away! How did you find that out?”
“The sign out front. I thought school didn’t start until after Labor Day. When did the school year begin starting in August?”
“A long time ago, Gram,” Maevyn answered, pushing her purse onto her shoulder and looking at the front door.  “Park Hill High School, Home of the Trojans. Awesome.”
“Let’s go, little miss enthusiastic.”
Maevyn rolled her eyes and followed behind her grandmother inside the building. They found the office, and talked to a secretary for a few minutes.
“Mr. Sheffield, the school counselor is here today if you would like to see him,” the secretary mentioned, taking the clipboard of paperwork back from Sibyl.
Maevyn immediately became defensive. “Why do you think I need to see the counselor? There’s nothing wrong with me,” she said.
“Oh, no, of course not. I meant, for your schedule. We have all of our upperclassmen meet with a counselor to talk about their schedule. A lot of our students are interested in AP classes and getting in as many college credits as possible before graduating. You’ll need to meet with a counselor to set that up. I just thought you might be interested.”
“Oh, well, yeah. I am interested. I guess I’ll meet with Mr. Counselor then,” Maevyn said.
“Mr. Sheffield,” the secretary corrected. “I’ll buzz down to his room. Go ahead and have a seat. He’ll be here in just a moment.
A few minutes later, a man in shorts, t-shirt, and Birkenstock sandals walked into the office. A long, graying ponytail hung down the back of his balding head. “Maevyn Hartmann?” he said, looking at her.
“That’s me,” Maevyn said, standing.
“And you’re her grandmother, I understand?” he said, turning his gaze to Sibyl.  She nodded.
As they walked down the hall to the counselors’ offices, Maevyn got the distinct feeling that Mr. Sheffield was into her grandmother. She wasn’t sure if it was something in the way that he looked at her, or if it was the language he was using. If she had to describe her hunch, she’d have to say that she felt he was giving off some sort of vibe. An “I like you” vibe. Weird. It was just a weird feeling.
She liked Mr. Sheffield. He was funny, and he talked to her like an adult, not like a kid. She liked him even more for that.
“So, Maevyn, I took a look at your transcripts from your old school, and I see that you’ve already taken quite a few AP classes already.”
“Yes, sir.”
“As a sophomore.”
“Yes, sir.”
“And you passed them. Brilliantly.”
“Umm, yes, sir.”
“Richard. Please, call me Richard.”
“Ok. Yes, Richard, I’ve taken AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, and AP English so far. If there were more hours in the day, I would have taken AP Physics, too, but what can you do?”
“That’s quite the academic resume. Impressive.”
“I was blessed with good genes. I can’t really take credit.”
“Well, I’ll take credit then,” her grandmother interjected. “Her father was my son. And he was brilliant as well.”
“Was?” Mr. Sheffield asked.
Maevyn looked down. Her grandmother looked at her a moment before answering. “My son, and his family were killed in a car accident. Recently. Maevyn was the only one to survive. I thought you knew.”
“I’m so sorry,” he said, verbally backpedaling. “I didn’t realize. Please, whatever I can do to help, I’d be happy to do. I can offer my counselor services, if you’d like.”
“What I’d really like,” Maeve answered, “is to spend as little time here as possible. I asked my grandmother if I could homeschool, but she wants me to be around people. But the thought of being around a lot of people, all day long...well, the thought of it makes me want to throw up. Isn’t there something I can do, some sort of homeschooling hybrid where I come to school for some classes, and then stay at home for the rest?”
“Maeve, how would we work that out? I’ve only got the one car, how would you get around?” Sibyl asked.
“Actually, maybe that is an option,” Mr. Sheffield answered. “You can do some of your studies online, but it looks like you’re short a few elective credits. You can come to school for those. We work on a block rotation, A block and B blocks, and they rotate every other day. Classes are an hour and a half long, and only four classes a day. You can pick four classes that you want to complete here at school over the semester, and four that you want to do at home. Since you’ve already taken so many AP classes, you may want to take advantage of some classes we offer for college credit. They take place at Park College. It’s downtown in Parkville, which isn’t far from where you live, if I’m not mistaken. You might even be able to walk there.”
Maevyn sat forward in her chair. “That doesn’t sound bad. What do you think, Gram?”
“I guess we could probably make that work. You’d have to ride the bus on the days you need to be at school. I’d need to have my car at home for house calls when I work.”
“House calls? I haven’t heard of that in a long time. What kind of work are you in?” Mr. Sheffield asked.
“Prostitution,” Maevyn answered for her. “She’s a hooker.”
“Maevyn Anne Hartmann! That’s not funny,” her grandmother said, glowering at her. Maevyn unsuccessfully tried to stifle a laugh. “I’m a psychic and medium, Mr. Sheffield. I have a shop downtown. You’re welcome to stop by some time for a reading, if you’re so inclined.”
Mr. Sheffield cleared his throat. “That sounds…nice. I just may take you up on that offer.”
Sibyl smiled.
“Now, I’ll just need you to pick which classes you want to take, and I’ll get your schedule all set up for Monday.”
Thirty minutes later, Maevyn held a printout of her classes, and shook Mr. Sheffield’s hand as they said their goodbyes.
“He seemed nice,” Maevyn noted. “He might even come see you at the shop.”
“Yes, he did seem nice. And no, he won’t.”
“How do you know? He said he might.”
“Because I know. You did read the sign on my front window, didn’t you? I am a psychic after all.”

Questions for the reader: (Please answer any or all of these and leave your answer in the comment and help me make my story even stronger!)
Where did it confusing?
Where did it get boring?
What was exciting?
What questions do you have that you expect to be answered in upcoming chapters?
Other changes, questions, comments?