Saturday, July 2, 2011

8 1st 5 pages workshop - July entry #5

Chelsey Blair--YA Contemporary 

Outside of Boston’s South Station I became the anonymous girl-with-the-guitar again, the person I’d been when the streets of Paris had been mine to fill with music. The chords I played reaffirmed my choice to flee my suburban exile. Once I got where I was going, no one would want to take my music away.


I misfingered a chord at the sound of my name. My E-string let out a low moan, like it knew we were in trouble. The late-April sun blinded me, but one silhouette on the other side of the crosswalk was obnoxiously familiar. Kyle Baker. What the hell was he doing there? Had he followed me all the way from Fernsgrove?

I didn’t plan on sticking around to find out. I dropped to the ground to lay my guitar in its open case and concrete bit into my knees through the holes in my jeans.

As if fate wanted me to get away, the light turned green before he crossed the street. With the noise of Boston’s heavy downtown traffic buzzing in my ears, I pressed my palm against the right clasp on my guitar case until the metal almost broke the skin on my hand. It had bent when I broke the lock Uncle Rob put on it. It finally snapped shut, but wouldn’t hold for long.

I stood, slinging my guitar case over my back. The WALK sign had begun to flash and I could see Kyle’s Fernsgrove High School letterman jacket clearly. It symbolized everything I was running from. I picked up my duffel bag and fled.

The Roman numerals on the clock in the lobby of the station told me my train wasn’t due for two hours. I dove for the staircase to the T, Boston’s convoluted subway system. I’d ride it as far away as possible and double back in an hour. My pursuer would have given up, and I could be on my way.

“Meridian, Natalie’s hurt!” Kyle’s voice rose above the noise of shoes and suitcases squeaking across the floor. I stopped midway down the stairs, which caused me to collide with a man’s over-stuffed suitcase. He yanked it to the side, removing my only support. The golden railing sparkled out of my reach. Score one for gravity.

Merde!” I yelled, before I toppled down the stairs.

I was met with a sickening crunch when I landed. It wasn’t my spine shattering, at least. My guitar case had broken my fall. Key word: broken. The worn left clasp hadn’t withstood the impact any better than the shattered right one. The case had flown open and my weight had smashed my guitar against the ground. I brushed my blond hair out of my eyes and began piling the shards of guitar into the case so disinterested commuters couldn’t grind them into the dirty concrete.

Kyle knelt next to me. “Are you okay?”

Every fragment I dropped onto the heap of splintered wood represented a European city my mother had dragged me to or a day in Fernsgrove I’d battled through, armed with the promise of the day I’d escape with my guitar. I stared at the finished pile and squeezed my eyes shut, giving the splintered wood time to meld into a whole guitar.

“Come on, Meridian. Can you get up?”

I opened my eyes. No guitar. I fiddled with the less-broken clasp. It snapped shut, but I had no idea how long it would hold. “What happened to Natalie?”

 “She fell at gymnastics.” Kyle tugged my arm. I stayed limp on the ground. Maybe I could still go to New York, but what would I do once I got there? My guitar was my livelihood. “They called the school looking for you.”

I used the banister to drag myself upright. “Did she sprain her ankle, or something?”\

He rolled his green eyes up to the ceiling and shook his head like I just wasn’t getting it. His strong grip tightened on my arm. “I think it must be bad. They didn’t send her to Fernsgrove Memorial. She’s here, at Children’s Hospital.”

An image flickered before my eyes; a body in a pool of blood. The only person I loved taken away. Down the platform a train charged in, and I took off for it. The wreckage of my guitar bounced in my useless case. I didn’t realize Kyle had followed me until he slid through the closing doors of the Red-Line train. He didn’t matter. Natalie mattered.

Natalie listened to my music when no one else did.

We burrowed as far into the crowded train as possible. I couldn’t reach the handhold, so Kyle looped his arm around me. My heart pounded against my chest so hard that he must have felt it. There was no way he didn’t, since it was going to pop out of my ribcage at any second.

“How’d you find me?” I asked, realizing that focusing on the horrific images in my head wouldn’t make the train move any faster.

“All anyone talked about this afternoon was you storming out of French. Then the people from the Y called during my shift in the front office. You always said you’d escape one day to land a record deal. I figured you’d made today the day, and you’d be somewhere between Fernsgrove and New York.”

“You listen to me?” He sat by me in English, and had born the brunt of some of my more infamous rants, but I’d never thought he paid attention.

“Always.” His breath tickled my ear. Then he dropped the debonair tone. “Plus, Lance Ellis told me he dropped you off at the commuter rail station before sixth period.”

“I knew he was a rat.”

Kyle smiled, and a dimple appeared on his left cheek. I cast my eyes down and tried to ignore the way his hips crashed into mine each time the track curved. The train jerked to a stop at Park Street, where we had to change to the Green Line. We flew across the station, but the Green Line train waiting at the platform was a D-train, and we needed the E. Boston’s convoluted subway system was not doing me any favors.

Merde,” I spat, and then added “Shit,” in English, to emphasize my point.

“I knew we should have taken my car.”

I whirled around so fast that my duffel bag hit Kyle in the shin. “You have a car? We could have been there by now!”

 “You’re the one who took off for the T. Don’t worry, I’m sure your aunt is already bossing doctors around.” The next train approached, but it was a C. The spidery subway system refused to do me any favors.

“Aunt Caroline won’t be there unless you’ve invented teleportation. She’s—.” A rush of wind interrupted me. The E-train, finally. I let the disembarking passengers pass and leapt on. Kyle followed in my wake. 

“She’s where?” he asked.

 “In Hawaii.”


  1. Wow. I have to say, I'm really impressed. Your MC comes to life for me, you have great tension already, and enough mystery about why she was running away, and what happened to her sister or cousin (I presume) to keep my attention.

    My biggest gripe would be that the opening was a tad confusing. I guess I'd like it to be clearer that she had JUST run away. That today is the day she chose to make that plan happen. I was surprised when I found that out later. I'm not familiar with the layout of Boston, so I didn't understand that she wasn't that far from where she started either, at least at first.

    Also, when you introduce Kyle, she uses the word "obnoxious" even though we pretty quickly get a sense that maybe she likes him, and he isn't so bad. With the word obnoxious, I assumed she had a negative history with him, as opposed to one where she hadn't really given him much thought either way. Does that make sense? Perhaps her initial reaction should be more of shock that HE showed up, or even confusion.

    Also about her past in Paris. She was with her mother, and yet she felt anonymity and played on the streets? That was what I thought reading it. Perhaps just a tiny bit of clarification, I know you don't want to give it all away now, but you also don't want the reader to be confused as opposed to curious.

  2. OOPS I'm sorry! I was still logged in as Martina from posting. My apologies for the confusion. The comment above was mine. :D


  3. I really enjoyed this! Nicely done!! :)

  4. I got a strong sense of Meridian's voice: her love of music, and her need to fight against the situations that would keep her from it, is very clear. Possibly even a bit overstated.

    I was very confused when Kyle entered the picture. The statements "Had he followed me all the way from Fernsgrove?" and her hasty, reckless run for it, plus the urgency from "As if fate wanted me to get away..." really made me think that he was dangerous to her, that perhaps he was a stalker or a dangerous ex. Add to that her elaborate plan of taking the train to the farthest point and doubling back to elude her pursuer, and it just sounded like he was trouble.

    Even if she's highly strung and doesn't want to deal with anyone from her small-minded town, this level of flight reponse seems at odds with her actual interactions with him.

    He seems nice; she doesn't seem offended by him personally. Her heart pounds and she doesn't seem repulsed when he loops his arm around her on the train. She's physically attracted. Ultimately, what's the worst he could do? It's not like he could physically restrain her or drag her back. So the fact that she sprints off to the point where she'd endanger (and eventually crushes) her precious guitar seems like an overreaction, and just "off" to me.

    Finally, I'm a little confused about the whole "Natalie" situation. I'm assuming Natalie is younger (Children's hospital reference.) The 5 pages end with her aunt off in Hawaii. Natalie obviously means a lot to Meridian: Natalie is the only one who listens to her music, the only one who "matters." So why would Meridian leave her little (sister?) to her own devices and run away to New York?

    As Lisa said, I'm sure you're trying to build suspense, and nobody wants a backstory dump. But I'm just sensing inconsistencies and some illogical responses; I think some tweaks and dialing it down a bit would probably clear things up.

  5. I LOVE your main character. She is so vibrant and quirky. Boston also holds a special place in my heart and I enjoyed how vividly you described the T. And the mention of Paris, French class, and then the French profanity was a great touch! And of course the music dreams of making it big make me like her even more.
    There were a few things that were a bit confusing, though. I agree with Lisa and Cathy in that I didn't really understand who Kyle was or why she so desperately wanted to get away from him. You do explain, but I think if you moved this observation up a few paragraphs ("I could see Kyle’s Fernsgrove High School letterman jacket clearly. It symbolized everything I was running from."), maybe even right after she sees Kyle, it would bring a lot of clarity to the situation. The other thing I noticed was the apparent "lack" of sorrow over her crushed guitar, which was, in her words, her "livelihood." Perhaps if you moved the two sentences about her "still going to New York, but how could she without her guitar--her livelihood" (paraphrase, sorry), then the reader would feel more sorrow at the crushed guitar. Also, do you think you could explain Natalie's relationship to Meridian? I thought at first it was romantic.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your first five pages. Thanks for putting it out there and I can't wait to read more about Meridian!

  6. First of all, I agree with the other's comments about her overreaction to Kyle. Unless I'm mistaken, I think I've read an earlier draft of this where it was a police officer who stopped her? I think the chase scene made more sense then.

    I loved your MC, Meridian, she's very vibrant and the voice is lovely, so good job! I think some sentences need a little tightening, but aside from that I liked it a lot.

    Also, this sentence: 'The golden railing sparkled out of my reach' made me go huh? Not sure what you mean here.

    Good luck!

  7. Well, it seems that everyone has said my thoughts exactly. I love the idea of a street musician being your MC. I'm a big Boston Celtics fan, so your setting perked my interest. Her mixed reaction to Kyle was a little confusing, but that's probably just something you can fix with a couple of word changes.

    Just one little thing. You describe the subway system as "not doing me any favors" twice.

    I wish I had more to say, but everyone else has pretty much said it. Can't wait to see your revisions!

  8. I agree with the others - I really like the MC - I did find the reaction to Kyle a bit confusing as well - and I didnt realize that Natalie was her sister (although in looking back i should have) - but lots of setups here and I'm really interested in seeing what you revise on this. Great start!


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