Hello readers. The following is the first chapter in my new interactive writing experiment, Write A Novel With Me. For those who understand how the project works, feel free to jump right in. If you aren’t aware of what the project is, please click here to learn all about it. Then come back here, read the first chapter and answer the question posed at the end.
With your help, I will be able to write one creatively insane story. Enjoy, and above all else, have fun!
Why am I so freakin’ nervous?
It wasn’t as if this was Jaden and Sawyer’s first date — far from it. The two of them have been living together for nearly two years, ever since he presented her with a key to his apartment on Valentine’s Day, a story she would go on to tell for days to anyone who would listen. They were both extremely excited about the upgrade to their relationship status, but also a bit apprehensive about the changes it would mean to their routines and the compromises they would need to make to accommodate the other.
Compromise: The mutual act of give-and-take in a relationship, where the man gives and the woman takes.
In hindsight, Jaden’s father couldn’t have been more accurate in his definition. The flowery drapes in the living room and the bed-in-a-bag — complete with bed skirt and a flurry of “decorative pillows” — was just the tip of the iceberg. But it wasn’t as if Sawyer didn’t make sacrifices; it did take her ten minutes longer to get to work, and she allowed Jaden to keep his man-cave… with visitation rights every Tuesday from nine to eleven. Besides, Jaden loved Sawyer more than his Xbox and he never really asked for anything more than that. If he didn’t like what was happening, who’s to blame? At least his nuts weren’t chained to her wrist twenty-four seven. They both still had the freedom to hang solo with friends, never argued when it came to sharing the remote to watch shows that one or the other might detest (though no matter how much Jaden denied it, he cried more at Grey’s Anatomy than he did at his father’s funeral), and agreed to always be truthful about their feelings toward the food they kept in the house. Neither wanted to change the other, not if it would cost them their relationship, which in their eyes was more magical than a hobbit riding a unicorn across a rainbow in space.
They shared; they laughed; they argued; they cried — this was love.
“I love you,” Jaden said to Sawyer one night during an extra sentimental episode of Hart of Dixie. He was half asleep as Zoe complained about her life being miserable after some hunky guy wouldn’t go out with her because another hunky guy did something romantic and she couldn’t handle the whole thing (or some such storyline), when he turned his head from the comfort of her lap to get a great view of her nostrils. “We should get married.”
His heart skipped a beat when she didn’t answer him — ignored him, actually, her eyes hypnotized to the television screen. Disappointed, Jaden turned away and closed his eyes. For the next few minutes, Sawyer mindlessly combed Jaden’s hair lightly with her fingers. But when the next commercial break started, she leaned down, kissed his cheek and whispered, “I love you, too. Yes.”
Jaden’s lips curled upward. Gazing into those pearly eyes, glistening with ecstatic moisture, he couldn’t help but kiss her.
The next morning, as they lay in bed together talking about their future (well, the extravagance of the wedding at least), Jaden pulled a piece of red thread from Sawyer’s cross-stitch bag and tied it gently around her left ring finger.
“I was going to wait until I saved up enough to get you that ring we talked about, but I couldn’t help myself.”
Sawyer answered with a kiss. “I love it. It’s simple and it’s beautiful, and it’s right. Just like you.”
The moment couldn’t have been written any better.
But now, sitting across from Sawyer at the table draped in an elegant silk cloth, a couple of plates resting upon it with nothing but crumbs, a bit of leftover sauce and a few discarded chunks of carrots — Sawyer could never stand them, especially in her salad — Jaden was more nervous than he had ever been. Everyone was staring at him even though no one was looking, waiting for him to replace that gaudy piece of thread with the jewel Sawyer truly deserved. Her eyes were like a brilliant crystal and they were the only solace he got as he opened the small box that would make his commitment official.
As he took her hand in his, he felt like spewing his barely digested pasta salad all over the table. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense; she already said yes, this is the exact ring she had asked for a year earlier, and she wasn’t expecting some grand gesture (eating at such an expensive restaurant was quite enough). So what exactly was the problem?
Just bite the bullet already!
“Sawyer,” he said with a light crack in his voice. He swallowed his nervousness with a deep breath and continued. “I don’t remember the first time I saw you; I don’t even remember the first conversation we had. But what I do know is that from the moment our lips touched for the first time, we were meant to be together. You’ve given me light where there was only darkness; love where there was only hate; order where there was only chaos. You became my angel, my soul. I can’t remember my life before you and can’t imagine my life without you.”
Sawyer’s smile could have lit the restaurant all on its own.
Jaden removed the string from her finger and slipped the ring in its place. “Will you be my forever?”
Sawyer leaned across the table and kissed Jaden until the waiter stood above them, clearing his throat.
“Excuse me,” the waiter said as the couple finally acknowledged him. “You’re making the other patrons uncomfortable.”
Jaden and Sawyer laughed as their faces burned red. “We’ll take the check, please,” Jaden said, and the two of them were gone from the restaurant like rats from a sinking ship before the waiter could even return to collect the cash with a larger than fair tip.
It was a beautiful night, not warm enough to feel discomfort, but not cool enough for a jacket, and neither of them wanted it to end. No words were exchanged as they walked along the edge of the quiet stream just down the hill from the restaurant, admiring the handful of stars that somehow found their way through the pollution of city lights.
Sawyer soon broke away to giddily chase after a small rabbit. Jaden watched her with cherished amusement. He wasn’t sure what happened to the rabbit, but Sawyer eventually turned back to him, her shoulders scrunched together and her eyes squeezed by an expression of adorable elation — she was the prettiest porcelain doll ever to have been created by God or man. The purse that dangled from her delicate fingers provided her the perfect accessory.
As the wind licked Sawyer’s radiant curls, she reached out for Jaden to join her. He smiled and was about to step forward when he suddenly recalled what his father used to say:
When you reach the height of perfection, there’s nowhere else to go but down; and as with any mountainous trek, it takes a lot longer to climb than it does to fall.
It never occurred to him how true those words were until it took less than the flap of a hummingbird’s wing for Jaden’s life to explode right in front of him.
WHAT HAPPENED TO SAWYER?
Be as creative as you can, as outrageous as you want, and as detailed as possible. The best answer will determine where the story goes next.
Post your answers to Facebook, Twitter (using #WriteANovelWithMe) or in the comments section below by 5 p.m PST on Thursday, October 2, 2014. You can give as many different answers as you want. The top 5 will be posted on Friday.
I can’t wait to see where your imaginations soar.