In a modern twist of fairy tales,
what if the beast is a woman instead of a man?
I was about to find out when a mysterious job led to the secluded home of a horror novelist. I’d lost everything: my scholarship, my education, and my way. In denial of my family inheritance, I took the unusual employment as a chance out of a hole, but I found myself buried in the unknown trauma of another situation much deeper.
I had changed my name and my address to keep myself hidden, but my scars were more than physical. Living as a recluse in the woods, I was used to being alone, so I wasn’t happy when a certain someone was always in my space. Our first encounter was less than pleasant and tension continued at every attempt to tame me.
I knew she was keeping secrets and I wanted to help, but she was cutting me down and cutting me off every time she opened her mouth. Our frustration with one another grew until a misunderstanding changed everything. How can I be the next guy after something so tragic? It was a challenge I wasn’t sure I was willing to take.
I knew I was taking the dirt road a bit fast, but I felt exhilarated with the prospect of my new job. It sounded simple. Cook. Live in the woods. Keep a secret. Easy. My thoughts were screaming a song in my head about freedom when I turned one of those unexpected curves in the winding drive and pulled up short in front of a girl.
I noticed her hair immediately. It was brown with reddish tints, like a perfect combination of brilliant fall leaves wild and blowing in the September afternoon air. A storm was definitely coming and I was mesmerized for a moment as the startled girl looked up at me. I couldn’t slam on the brakes of my motorcycle without flying over the handlebars, so I slowed as best I could and skidded to a halt inches before her.“Jesus Christ,” I yelled over the dulling roar of the cycle as I yanked off my helmet, releasing my own set of wild waves. The girl was frozen like a deer in headlights looking back at me. Her bright blue eyes pierced my own deep brown ones.
“Are you okay?” I asked as I squinted with concern. She turned her head just the slightest bit and I noticed a horrid scar down the right side of her face. Three long gashes dragged down her cheek and neck, ending under her white tank top. Her bright highlighter-orange shorts and the earbuds in her ears made it obvious she had been out for a run. I flicked my glance from her scar to the shorts and back to her hair. I didn’t want to stare at her face. I knew how much I hated it when people stared at Mum and her bald head from chemotherapy. The girl’s tongue sneaked out to wet her pink lips and she bit her bottom one slightly.I opened my mouth to speak again, but the girl bolted for the woods. She propelled herself through the greenery and disappeared before I could get off the bike. I had no idea where she went due to the thickness of the trees and shrubs. Shaking my head as if I had seen a mirage, I sat back on the motorcycle, returned my helmet to my head, and roared the bike back to full life, taking the road more slowly as I exited Winters Trail.
I’d like to say I was always a writer. I’d also like to say that I wrote every day of my life since a child. That I took the teaching advice I give my former students because writing every day improves your writing. I’d like to say I have my ten-thousand hours that makes me a proficient writer. But I can’t say any of those things. I did dream of writing the “Great American Novel” until one day a friend said: Why does it have to be great? Why can’t it just be good and tell a story?
As a teenager, I wrote your typical love-angst poetry that did occasionally win me an award and honor me with addressing my senior high school class at our Baccalaureate Mass. I didn’t keep a journal because I was too afraid my mom would find it in the mattress where I kept my copy of Judy Blume’s Forever that I wasn’t allowed to read as a twelve year old.
I can say that books have been my life. I’m a reader. I loved to read the day I discovered “The Three Bears” as a first grader, and ever since then, the written word has been my friend. Books were an escape for me. An adventure to the unknown. A love affair I’d never know. I could be lost for hours in a book.
So why writing now? I had a story to tell. It haunted me from the moment I decided if I just wrote it down it would go away. But it didn’t. Three years after writing the first draft, a sign (yes, I believe in them) told me to fix up that draft and work the process to have it published. That’s what I did. But one story let to another, and another, and another. Then a new idea came into my head and a new storyline was created.
I was accused (that’s the correct word) of having an overactive imagination as a child, as if that was a bad thing. I’ve also been accused of having the personality of a Jack Russell terrier, full of energy, unable to relax, and always one step ahead. What can I say other than I have stories to tell and I think you’ll like them. If you don’t, that’s okay. We all have our book boyfriends. We all have our favorites. Whatever you do, though, take time for yourself and read a book.