About three years ago, it was the summer before my senior year in college and I wanted to write a novel. It was an ambitious project, one that, as I’m sure I’ve spoken about many times, fell to the side as I began working on senior things, like my thesis and other work, all of which, at the time, was dominating my schedule. Since then, the novel I was working on has collected dust and, as of right now, I have no real interest in carrying it forward. It was, in my mind, a great potential story and one I will always love when I look back on it, but with all of the stories I want to tell and with how I’ve grown in being able to tell them, it’s difficult to want to look backward at something I’ve done as opposed to creating something new.
To keep that bit of an unfinished novel alive though, I want to, periodically, post excerpts from what I wrote, which totaled in all close to three full chapters and a prologue. Sometimes this will be in the form of entire scenes, small exchanges, or, in the case of what I am posting here, an entire prologue. Again, as much as I thoroughly enjoy looking back at this, keep in mind everything I am posting was never edited–it was all first draft content–so, be easy. Enjoy!
Cora sat down in a booth by the window, tapping her knuckles against the side of her head, trying to remember what it was she’d forgotten.
The orange vinyl seat cushion hugged up against her hips as she sank down in her seat, the subtle clank of a knife on plate or a fork on knife wove itself alongside the idle chit-chat and bell tinkle above the front door as it nestled itself in her ear.
A car passed, chugging along, windows down, coughing up black clouds into the clean air of a small town, firing back as it went like a shotgun. Fuzzed bass reverberated the tabletop. It was the sign, she thought, of a boy her age, one with too much money, most likely given to him by his parents, spending it all on a car that, let’s be honest, kind of sucked in the first place. She peered out as he sat at a red light, the paint on his, what was probably blue, maybe green once, four door generic, peeling off to reveal a deep, cloudy grey. It didn’t really suck any less now.
Green light. The car pulled back, cracked loudly, Cora blinked, before tottering its way out of sight and it was then, Cora decided as she often did, that she didn’t like him or his piddling excuse for a car.
She slumped back against the seat, her arms crossed, her neck locked in a way in which all she could do was stare downward at a single spot on the table. One spot, of many.
One cheese crusted, greasy, dirty spot.
She tapped the heel of her foot and closed her eyes. She could feel the elderly stare of the patrons boring against her. The misguided gaze of a people in a town who wanted people to visit, they really did, they always said so, but did everything they could to make anyone who did, the most uncomfortable it was they could possibly be.
Scattered thoughts bound about the inside of Cora’s head, knocking against the inside of her skull with a force likened to a punch to the face.
Family, she had one, a father, a mother, a baby brother, her baby brother. He wasn’t a baby anymore, but he was always to Cora, even if he was the most infuriating little–
Her memories fell linear. The school presentation she gave on T.S. Eliot two weeks ago, the yellow dress she wore, the B- she received. She remembered the time a week ago, the day after that and the day after that when the cute boy walked in with the arm tattoos and thick rimmed glasses toThe Snoberry (where she worked), and walked out, each time, with a smile and a ten ounce cup of vanilla and toppings. She blushed at the thought and was embarrassed she even kept track.
Cora rubbed her fingers into her temples.
The last of those was Friday night.
Her fingers bore deeper.
She was with her friends Saturday night, Sunday too. School was Monday. She set her phone on the table in front of her. She’d gone two days and now it was Wednesday. It should have been Wednesday.
A white Friday, October 7th, stared back at her from the phone face. Where were the last two days? Where was she? And why couldn’t she remember?
When the waitress came, she ordered a coffee. Black. If anything, that would wake her up from whatever this was. She took a bitter sip and set it back down. It didn’t.
“Anything else sweetheart?” Dolores smiled down at her over top of her notepad, her blonde hair, what wasn’t grey yet, pulled back tightly in a bun. She wore a blue diner dress which hugged her up in between the folds along her sides, her stomach, and soft padded shoes that pattered along as she walked.
“No thank you.” Cora pulled her coffee in close, the warm cup, the warm smell, wrapping up along her fingertips, her nose, spreading out along the length of her body. The cold felt good, but the warmth felt better and Dolores, with her out of time feel, was the warmest thing here.
“Um,” Cora began with her hand outstretched, “excuse me.”
Dolores was sweet, kind, as if she’d understood what it was like to be out of place in a place that didn’t seem to want you there. She reminded Cora of someone…back home? No. From somewhere else, a memory far off and away, not easily held and remembered, but floating, freely, coming and going like a ghost. “Yes, dear?”
“Where am I? I mean, what town?”
“I’m sorry, where?”
“Small town north of Seattle. About–” The last syllable held long. “An hour out from the city limits.”
“Never heard of it.”
Dolores leaned down, wiping crumbs off the table. “I wouldn’t imagine you had.”
“Do you get many visitors?”
Dolores wiped her hands, looked out the window, looked to every table, everyone else, but Cora. “No.” She smiled. Sort of. “Not many. Can I get you anything else?”
Cora looked down at the coffee mug gripped in her hands. Steam billowed up, over top, wispily, wistfully, winding its way into her nose.
“Today’s Friday, right?”
Dolores nodded, slowly, concernedly for the girl who sat at the table alone, not knowing what day it was she was in. Cora gave a thank you, Dolores, a nod before pattering off to a table on the other end of the diner, glancing back at the girl in the booth.