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#NaNoWriMo Novel – High School Soap Opera: Chapter 17

High School Soap Opera

Chapter 17

I’m back home like nothing has changed. It’s Friday, and I’m home from school pretending to be sick. The phone is ringing and I reach over to my night table and pick it up. “Hello?” I ask. i hear my mother’s voice and it makes me cry. It feels like it’s been so long since she left for work, and it’s such a relief that I’m not in that damned fridge.

“Is everything okay, sweetie?” she asks. “Why are you crying, what’s wrong?” At first I want to tell her everything that happened, from somehow joining Candace and Adaire’s conversation in the bar to my abduction. But I don’t want to think about it yet. When you talk about your dreams, you remember them better. And if there is any hope of me forgetting this one, I can’t talk about it. Not now, and maybe not ever.

“Nothing, I just had a bad dream. It’s over now.” I pinch myself, and I can feel it. I am so glad to be home. “How long until you come home?” I’m like a child, needing my mommy just because I had a nightmare. Grow up, Jenna.

“Do you need me to leave work? I can be there in ten minutes.” I want to say no, I don’t need her to miss work because of me. But I do need her. I need her to hold me and tell me it’s all over, that everything is going to be fine. It’s Friday, she can’t have that much to do at work, right?

“It was so scary, I don’t want it to happen.” I never realized how scary soap operas could be if they were real. Everything is overly dramatic, and the panic always seems over-the-top. But when I was locked in that room, tied up the way I was, I didn’t think I would ever get out. I didn’t know how I got into the soap opera to begin with, but now that I’m out, I will never again doubt the fear and terror that the characters feel in life-threatening situations.

“You can tell me all about it when I get home, okay?” she asks. “Let me just go tell my boss that I need to leave, and then I’ll come home. Do you want me to pick up ice cream on the way?”

“No,” I say, and I sniffle. “Just come home.” I hang up the phone reluctantly, not wanting to say good-bye but knowing that if she’s on the phone with me then she’s not on her way here. I need to make contact with the world, to know that it’s still there where I left it. I look for my cell phone, but it’s not on the night table. I look over to my charger but it’s not there either. What did I do with it?

I walk around the house looking for it, but I can’t find it anywhere. Maybe it’s been in my pocket the whole time? I reach for my pocket, but it’s not there. I have a little headache, so I go to the bathroom to get some acetaminophen from the medicine cabinet, but I stop when I see myself in the mirror. I look like I’ve been through hell, and the side of my head has a lot of dried blood. I reach up to check how bad it is, and my hands move together, handcuffed together.

I scream and sit up, my heart pounding, and try to catch my breath. I’m still in the walk-in fridge; being home was the dream. I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep, have I been locked in here a day? A week? Longer? I look down at my wrists. There are red marks all around from my struggling against the handcuffs, and some places where they dug in and cut my wrists. I think of the stories I’ve heard about girls slitting their wrists, and a new fear takes over. Could I die from handcuffs digging into my wrists, if I start bleeding really badly? I don’t want to think about it.

“Stop it!” I yell at myself. Maybe a pep talk will work. “Get a grip! You didn’t think you could save yourself, but you’ve already managed to get yourself out of the rope restraint. You can do this, just focus.” There. I feel a little bit better already.

I need to prioritize. I have to get out of here, but that will be a lot easier without handcuffs on. I try to slide my wrists through, but my hands are too big for that. Obviously I’m not going to chew through my wrist, so I have to try to find a way to pick the lock. But how? There’s nothing here but boxes of rotten food.

I’m trying to figure out what else I could try when my gaze falls on the desk chair. Maybe I can take the chair apart and find something useful. Since I’m not tied up, it’s not hard to untie the chair. It’s not bolted to the floor, so I move it away from the mess on the floor and turn it on its side. I have no way to unscrew anything, or take anything apart. What made me think I could do this? Right. The fact that I got free from the rope. I just have to keep looking, and hopefully I’ll stumble on a solution. This would probably be a lot easier if I had a bobby pin or a paper clip. You see that in movies all the time, where someone gets out of handcuffs with a pin or clip. Not that I would know the first place to start even if I did have something like that.

I walk around the fridge, scrutinizing every inch of my prison, but there is nothing remotely pin-like. When I get back to the door, I stand there in frustration and move my wrists around, fists clenched, and try to hold back the tears. Something gets stuck, and I bring the cuffs up to my face to take a closer look. I may not be able to pick the lock, but maybe I can break the chain? I try to pull my hands apart but the chain doesn’t break, and the cuffs cut into my wrists.

Sometimes, I remind myself, the damsel has to rescue herself. Isn’t that what I was supposed to learn from movies like Mulan? I keep working on the handcuffs. Nobody knows I’m here, so I can’t just wait to be saved. I have the chain twisted around itself and it seems to be locked. My wrists are together, and the chain is centered between them. I put my hands out in front of me, and pray that it works, then pull my hands toward my stomach in one quick motion, pushing my elbows out to the side at the same time.

It worked! I can’t believe it! I still have the cuffs on, but the chain is broken and I can move my arms freely. I feel a bit invincible right now, even though I still have to figure out how to get out of a walk-in fridge that is locked from the outside.

I go back to the desk chair. The swivel top isn’t bolted to anything, and I am able to twist it until the seat and seat back come apart from the rest. The middle part of the chair sticks up without the seat, and I wonder if I could use it as a battering ram. I pick it up, and it’s not too heavy. I hold it sideways and run at the door, which doesn’t give at all. I am pushed back and the bottom of the chair goes flying out of my hands. There goes that idea.

I look up, vexed, and see something I hadn’t noticed before. It looks like an air vent. That must be where the cold air would be coming in, if the circuitry wasn’t broken. I wonder if I could open the vent if I push hard enough. It’s too high for me to reach. The desk chair might work, but it’s on wheels. I pick up the bottom part and lift it above my head. The pole part that usually holds up the seat hits the vent. I don’t have a lot of energy left, and not having edible food or water means I won’t be getting any stronger. I push the chair up and keep hitting the vent. I discover that if I push the sides, the screws in the corner start loosening themselves.

I’m going to have to get myself up there somehow. I get the top of the chair and put it on the bottom, then turn it around and around all the way until it’s tight. I push it underneath the vent and try to climb on it, but of course the chair rolls away. I’ll have to use the rope to tie it up like John had done. It takes me a while, but the rope was wrapped around me so much that it’s actually long enough. I tie one end of the rope around the pole of a stationary shelving unit on one side of the fridge, then wrap it around the chair, pulling it taut. I take the rest of the length of the rope to tie it to a shelving unit on the other side of the fridge. I’ve never been a girl scout, so I just tie a bunch of knots and hope they will hold.

I go to the chair and try to move it. It seems pretty stable. I make sure the top is still tight, then carefully stand up, with my arms out to the side to steady me. The chair is not moving, and the rope is holding. I reach up to the air vent. There are four screws, one in each corner, and the first one I try is loose enough that I can unscrew it the rest of the way. The next one comes out just as easily. My wrists hurt, but the will to survive is stronger than the pain, and I use one of the cuffs as a hammer. I hit the side of the vent and I hit the screw. Eventually the screw comes loose and I remove it. The last corner is still attached, but I twist the vent cover around, pivoting on that corner, until the vent is open.

One again, I wonder how long I’ve been here. How long in real time? How many days in soap opera time? I would have been asleep for a day, getting out of the rope would have taken a day, getting out of the handcuffs one day, figuring out and opening the vent might be a day or two… Is this already a week in soap opera time? What is going on with Nick and Jack?

I reach up into the vent. It feels like the air ducts that people crawl in on TV and movies. I grab a hold of it, and carefully put one foot on the arm of the chair. It starts to twist for a second and I panic, but then it stops. I put my other foot on the other arm, pulling myself up as much as I can. I keep using my own arms to pull myself up, stepping on the top of the chair back. By now my head and upper body are in the vent enough for me to see that I’m not going to be able to see anything. But I have no choice. Staying in the fridge is death, nobody is coming for me.

I take a few deep breaths, gather my strength, and hoist myself up the rest of the way, crawling forward like a marine through mud. There is very little space, and I have to keep my head and body low because there’s just nowhere else to go. I inch forward slowly. It would be so easy to fall asleep right now, and I wonder how much oxygen I have left. It might be enough to keep me going after a nap, but it might not be. In fact, I’m probably feeling this tired because the carbon dioxide level is too high. I have to fight through this.

I keep going, but it just gets harder. I don’t know how far I’ve gone, or how much further I need to go, but I start to smell smoke. I hope I’m going the right way. I think about how John took Ambrosia’s phone from my pocket. If he thinks that’s the only evidence I have, then he might not be worried about my escape. He’s probably trying to help Olivia through this terrible time, telling her lies so she’ll keep thinking that Nick killed her best friend. There’s no way she’ll go back to him after that, unless John is brought to justice.

I finally see a light straight ahead. It’s far, and I have to keep crawling but at least I am starting to breath easier. There must be another vent, and fresh oxygen at last. As tired as I am, I know I’m almost free. The closer I get to the light, the stronger I feel. It’s another vent, though, which means I have to get through it somehow. If there was any way to turn around and try to kick my way out I would, but that would mean going back to the walk-in fridge and that’s out of the question.

I reach the vent, and I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s Serenity’s office, and it’s empty. John isn’t there waiting for me. He probably thinks I’m dead by now anyway. The way he kept calling me “little girl,” I know he greatly underestimated me. I try to push the vent, knowing it won’t budge, but to my surprise it falls to the floor. The smoke must have weakened the walls. I look down. Aside from the vent cover, all that’s below is the concrete floor. And it’s a significant drop. But I haven’t come this far to give up now.

I pull myself out slowly. The blood rushing to my head, since it’s lower than my heart, makes it pound again, but I keep going. When my arms are out and I’ve pushed myself out as far as I can, I use my legs to keep me going slowly. And then I’m out and I fall to the ground. My shoulder hits the vent cover and I scream out in pain. I might have just seriously injured it, but at least I’m out.

I push through the pain in my shoulder, my head, and my wrists and stand up. I lean back against the wall, a little dizzy. After a minute, I go over to the desk and pick up the phone, but there’s no dial tone. The cord has been cut. I stumble to the door and try to open it, but it’s locked from the outside. Are you fucking kidding me?

 


I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One

#NaNoWriMo Novel – High School Soap Opera: Chapter 16

High School Soap Opera

Chapter 16

My head feels like it’s spinning, and when I try to open my eyes I get dizzy. I keep my eyes closed for a long time. I can’t even tell how much time is passing. Finally, I try again, and my eyes stay open, but still blurry. My head feels like I’ve been hit with a ton of bricks. I try to reach up to feel my left temple, but I can’t move. I am tied tightly to the office chair with rope. My arms are wrapped around the chair behind me. They are bound by the rope, but there’s metal too. Handcuffs.

I look around, completely disoriented. What happened? Where am I? Then the stench hits me, and I vomit, only I can’t move so it ends up all over me. I close my eyes again for a second, but when I wake up it has probably been a lot longer than that because my vision is almost clear. Now that I can see better, I realize that I am in a large metal cube. There are shelves from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Something Nick said floats through my fuzzy mind. Circuitry broken… nothing salvageable… What was he talking about?

I turn my head to the right and see a door, and it clicks. I’m in the walk-in fridge at the pastry shop. The only thing that seems to be going for me right now is that the broken circuitry means I’m not going to freeze to death, but there is emergency lighting so I can see. I just need to figure out how to get myself to the door. There’s a safety trigger that should open the door from the inside. They even make it work if the door is locked shut. I try to shake my head to clear it and immediately regret it when the pain intensifies.

I take a deep breath and try to take a mental inventory of my body, as best I can. My feet don’t hurt. They are warm, and I can wiggle my toes. I’m still wearing socks and shoes. My legs can’t move much, but I’m still wearing jeans. I have no pain in my arms or legs, my chest, or my neck. So it seems the only injury is from when John hit me in the head with the gun. I wonder how long I’ve been here. How long was I passed out? Does anyone even know I’m gone?

Next, I try to determine my range of motion. My ankles can move. I try to see if I can make my whole body jump up with the chair, but the chair is too heavy. I look down and see that the desk chair is tied to a box that is behind me. So there’s no use trying to move. I will never be able to get out of here. I don’t even bother trying to scream. Nobody would hear me anyway. There has to be a way out. I can’t give up or I will die here, tied to a chair in a broken walk-in fridge.

I take a slow, deep breath, and sigh it out. My eyes widen. Was that real, did that just happen? I move my shoulders forward into a shrug, then push them back. Yes! The rope is moving a tiny bit! I might be able to get it off, but it’s going to take a lot of work. I wiggle my shoulders around as much as I can, but it’s not easy, and I don’t seem to be making much progress on the rope.

My head is pounding, and I stop struggling. From what I can see, I don’t think there is blood dripping from my head. Of course not, if you were gushing blood you would be dead by now. I can’t think! I whimper, and I am trying my best not to cry. If I start crying, it’s all over. Be strong. I feel like I could fall asleep again, and I know that at least I wouldn’t feel the pain anymore, at least for a little while. It would be so easy, just let go.

No! You have to fight through this! I try to visualize Jack, my knight in shining armor, but that’s not helping. That’s just making me want to wait for him to save me. Sometimes the damsel has to rescue herself. So then I think about Nick’s voice on the phone when he told me that the ballistics came back and that it was looking bad for him. I think about his face when he saw Olivia at Amelia’s, in that absent, trance-like manner. I think of the way he was folded into himself on the floor in the pantry of the bar. I think of the pain in his face six months ago when Olivia didn’t remember their love, when she told him to leave her alone. If I can’t find it in me to fight for myself, at least I can find plenty of reasons to fight for Nick.

My shoulders hurt, so I start trying to move my feet back and forth. I can’t do much with sneakers on, so I use one heel to push down on the other, kicking off the shoe. Then I kick off the other one. I manage to get my socks off too, and now I feel a surge of power over this tiny victory. I may be tied up, but I’m not broken down.

I keep fighting against the rope that binds me. I try to loosen it from the bottom, but it’s tight. No, I have to keep working it from the top. I start working my shoulders again, forward and back, up and down, any way that moves the rope. I look down. I had forgotten that I vomited on myself, but I must have gotten used to the smell. Ew ew ew, gross! But even though my brain thinks it’s disgusting, my body won’t let me dwell on that. Survival instincts I didn’t even know I have are kicking in.

Below my chin is the part of rope that has loosened. I bite at it, and after two false starts I get a decent grip on it. At first I thought I could wriggle myself free, but that will take a long time. Now, I wonder if I can somehow chew my way through this thing. It tastes dirty and awful, but I have to try everything I can think of until I’m out of here. I feel like a dog with a chew toy, but after a while, one little thread breaks. Just a few thousand more and I should be able to wiggle out.

While I work on chewing my way through this impossibly thick rope, I think about my real life. Because this has to be the part that’s not real. I don’t live in a soap opera. I have parents, and friends… maybe… and right now, I would give just about anything to be back in my bedroom dealing with the high school drama I’m used to instead of being locked in a walk-in fridge for discovering the murderer who framed my boyfriend’s cousin.

Another few threads break. This is going to take forever, but it’s not like I can go anywhere else. Don’t think about what you’re doing. Just keep doing it. My thoughts drift to Talie. There has to be an explanation for her wanting to get detention for a year. She’s hiding something. Why would she want detention? She doesn’t have a crush on the teacher, he isn’t young and hot at all. So if she didn’t do it to get in, she must have done it to avoid going somewhere else.

Home a voice in my head says. Yes, the only place I want to go right now, and the last place she ever wants to go. She always asks if she can come to my house after detention, and on the weekends. There must be something at home that she’s trying to stay away from. Why didn’t I realize this sooner? Am I really so self-involved that I never put the pieces together? Now that I’m looking, the puzzle is easy.

I spit out the rope for a few minutes. I can see progress, which is a good thing. I move my shoulders around again, but the rope isn’t broken enough to split apart yet. I spit some dirty saliva onto the ground, and I allow myself to whimper again for a few seconds. I wonder what John is doing, and if Jack is back with Alexis. Is Nick still in jail? Without a clock or watch, and with my head injury, I have no concept of time. I take another deep breath and let it out, then bite into the rope again.

I start to think about Josette. We’ve always said that we’ll be best friends forever, and maybe that’s why I’m so reluctant to admit that we’re just so different. Neither of us is the same person we were when we met. We’ve developed separate interests and friendships, and right now, I don’t even care. If I could have her back in my life, I wouldn’t care if she was just a friend I said hi to in the hall at school when I saw her. I wouldn’t need to be best friends with her, I could let her go. Just not completely.

And my parents? I miss them so much right now. If I was at home, tied up in some kind of crazy situation, they would laugh and shake their heads. But at the same time, they would be there to support me as they let me figure out how to untie the ropes and find my own freedom. And after all, maybe that’s what this is all about. Maybe that’s why I’m here in a soap opera, to learn how to be my own knight in shining armor. Maybe I have lessons I need to learn before I can go home.

Yes, this is a metaphor I can use to motivate me to keep going. My friendships are only screwed up if I let them stay that way. I’ve been a passenger in my life for far too long. I need to step in and participate, just like I did when I picked up Ambrosia’s phone near the place she died, and when I found the key to get into her house, and when I stole the flash drive and the video. Like I did when I sent John the text message asking him to meet me here.

Why do I have to make such a big deal out of everything? There’s nothing wrong with Josette having other friends. And if Talie doesn’t want to talk about what’s going on, why she wanted detention then maybe I should leave her alone… but maybe not. Maybe in her case, too, I need to participate more. If there is something wrong at her home, and if it’s bad enough for her to want detention every day, then maybe that’s a time when it would be best to step in and interfere in her life.

I drop the rope from my mouth again and look. It’s almost chewed through! I strain my upper body, but it still doesn’t give. I bite it again, this time not even noticing the taste of it in my mouth. I work my teeth back and forth, and the threads are breaking faster now. How long have I been gnawing on this thing? I spit out the rope one last time, move my shoulders around, and the rope finally snaps.

The ends of the rope fall. I move around as much as I can, and as the rope continues to loosen, I can move even more. Soon, the whole length of rope is on the floor. But my celebration is short-lived. I’m still handcuffed to the back of the chair, and I’m still locked in a walk-in fridge in the middle of a burnt-down building that maybe nobody will think to check for me. But at least my legs are free.

I take a mental inventory of my body again. My arms are tight around the back of the chair, and my wrists hurt from the metal restraints. But my legs feel good. I spread my knees, straddling the chair, and plant my feet firmly on the floor. Then, I use all the strength I have to try to stand up. I push my feet into the floor, and move my arms to help me lift myself up, and I don’t stop until my hands and arms are free from the chair. I walk away from the mess and squat down, then carefully step backwards over my hands. Now my arms are in front of me, and I feel ten times better than I did five minutes ago. Yes, I can definitely be my own knight in shining armor.

Before I can think about leaving, though, I need to check my head. I gently feel around. There is bruising, there’s no question. The skin is open, but it’s not a big area. It probably needs stitches, but the blood has already dried into a scab. Unfortunately, the wound is in my hair, and I might need part of my head shaved before someone can even stitch it up. And that’s only if I can actually manage to get out of here. For all I know it’s only been a few hours and John is sleeping on the couch in the office in case I escape. I hope I can at least get myself safely to an ER. What are you waiting for? Get out of here, they can get the handcuffs off you when you get to the hospital.

I go to the door and find the emergency escape button. I push it, but nothing seems to happen. I try the door, but it’s still locked. I try pushing the button harder, then I try to push the button with one foot while I push on the door with my upper body. But it’s no use. John must have broken the emergency button before he left me here.

I feel for Ambrosia’s phone, but it’s not in my pocket. Did I put it in my other pocket? No, it’s not there. Not only did John tie me up and break my only way out, but he also took the only means of communication with the outside world that I had.

And just like that, the little bit of hope that was starting to grow in my heart is gone. I look around the fridge. All the food is rancid, and there is nothing to use as a pillow. I lay on the floor next to the door on my stomach, using my one of my arms as a pillow, and cry myself to sleep.


I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One

#NaNoWriMo Novel – High School Soap Opera: Chapter 15

High School Soap Opera

Chapter 15

I want to look for evidence that Nick was at the pastry shop last night, but I don’t know how to get there. I go back to Jack’s house to drop off Ambrosia’s phone and the flash drive, and I find his laptop. Damn, I don’t know his password! Okay, think Jenna. What do you know about him? I try StargazerLounge, but it doesn’t work. Neither do Stargazer, TreasureIsland, or Jenna – it was worth a shot. I think back to all the conversations we’ve had this weekend and try a few more. After about five minutes, the login screen finally accepts a password: Dinosaurbasket726. I close my eyes and mouth the words thank you.

First I plug in the flash drive and play the video. It works, which is a relief. I was afraid it might not have saved properly. I am about to do a web search for the pastry shop to get directions when the phone rings. I cross the room to the phone and pick up, hoping it’s Jack.

“Hello?” There’s silence from the other end. “Hello? Jack?”

“It’s me.” I can hardly recognize the voice, he sounds like he’s dying.

“Nick? What happened?”

“Jack,” he says, almost choking on the word.

“He went to find Alexis. What happened?” He’s scaring me.

“The preliminary ballistics report came back.” Already? “They matched the pattern on the bullet that killed Ambrosia to the bullet that killed Raul. They were shot from the same gun.” My stomach tightens. They don’t care. Like any soap opera police department, Spruce Ridge is full of corrupt cops. Rodriguez just wants to see Nick pay for killing Raul.

“I think I know who’s framing you,” I say. “I just need a little more time to get solid proof.”

“Really?” he asks, finally warming up to me. “You’re really helping me, even after the terrible thing I did last night?” We still haven’t gotten a chance to talk about it. No wonder he’s been so awkward around me! Then again, I haven’t been able to get my mind off it too long myself.

“Nick, you were in a really dark place. I know it’s only gotten worse, but that’s irrelevant. You and Olivia belong together, and I don’t think one kiss when you were mentally a wreck should ruin that.”

“You and I just met. How could you possibly know that Olivia and I belong together?” There is really no way to tell him the whole truth without him thinking I’m crazy, and maybe I am but I don’t want him to think that of me.

“I have seen you and Olivia around town for years,” I say, and it’s half true. Well, technically it’s completely true, but it implies that I’ve been in Spruce Ridge when I saw them together. “I’ve been rooting for you.”

“What about John?” he asks. I bite my tongue so I don’t react. “You don’t think she belongs with him?” I don’t want to tell him that John killed Ambrosia, because I don’t need him saying anything to the police that will get either of us into trouble.

“John was there when she was feeling so much pressure from you and everybody else to remember a time she just can’t. Her brain broke, and all that she heard was that she should just be fixed. As if it was a switch she could turn on and off at will. John understood that she couldn’t control her memories, and he accepted that. At a time when everyone else was telling her that she was wrong, John helped her to accept herself. She needed him. But believe me, she doesn’t need him anymore. She needs you to rescue her from him, she just doesn’t know it.”

“I never thought about it like that,” he says slowly, like he’s still thinking it over.

“That’s what she was trying to do last night. She wanted you to see her through her eyes, not your own.” He’s silent again for a minute, but this time I’m patient. I wait until he is ready to speak.

“Seriously though, Jenna… How do you know all of this?” But I can’t tell him. Even if I were to detail his whole life, and those of everyone around him, nobody will ever believe me.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“I have to go,” he says abruptly.

“Sit tight. I’m working on getting you out, and if I take too long, maybe Jack and Alexis will be back soon enough to get you out on bail or something.”

“There is no bail. They think I killed someone.”

“I will fix this, you just have to give me some time, and trust me. I know what I’m doing.” Do I really? I haven’t thought this through. I know I need to confront John. The video and the text messages aren’t enough to convict him. Now that I know John somehow got Nick’s gun, I have to try to make John confess.

******

I don’t know how else to get in touch with John, so I pick up Ambrosia’s phone and go to the text message window. Reading the final messages between the two of them, this time knowing that he somehow managed to obtain Nick’s gun, infuriates me. I want to say something that will chill him to the bone, but the only thing I can think to type is I know you killed me. After I send that, I wait for a response.

I don’t have a plan, gotta have a plan… I know I have to get John to confess to the murder. I also have to record it somehow. He’s not stupid enough to confirm it by text, I realize. We’ll have to meet somewhere. Not at the bar or at Jack’s. He’ll think Jack is hiding, but could come out any second to tackle him. I still haven’t checked the pastry shop for anything that can concretely place Nick there during the murder, so I should go there and ask John to meet me there. Meanwhile, I’ll look for clues.

I take Ambrosia’s phone with me, hoping the battery is charged enough to record John’s confession. I close my eyes and think. Where is the pastry shop? Every time Serenity went there she drove, so it can’t be within walking distance of her apartment. But Nick walked there from the bar. That at least gives me some parameters. What else? Serenity delivered pies to Amelia’s for Thanksgiving, and she walked from the shop. So it’s in walking distance of the bar and Amelia’s. I drive to the bar and park in the back again.

I do my best to guess at the pastry shop’s location. It takes longer than I expected, but at last I recognize the little shopping center. The pastry shop was its own building, so the other stores weren’t damaged in the fire, but it’s Sunday night and it’s dark out and the stores are all closed. I get a bad feeling, like I shouldn’t be out here alone, but I ignore it. Nick is in jail, and I have to do whatever I can to get him out.

I look around. Everything in the public area of the shop is burned to the floor, ash and rubble all around. I try to step as carefully as I can. I continue to the counter, which is surprisingly still standing, though it is in shambles. The further I go, the less damage I see. Amazingly, Nick was right. Despite it being clearly looted, when I look in the office it hardly looks like there was a fire here. The kitchen also appears less affected than I anticipated. Dolf, the idiot that he is, must have started the fire in the front of the building instead of in the kitchen where the heat elements are. I return to the office and send John another text message. This one says, Meet me where you and Olivia had your first date. There’s no way he’ll have forgotten that. I put the phone in my pocket.

I don’t know what I hope to find here. It’s not like there’s a camera here, right? Or is there? Didn’t Serenity install cameras after the cash went missing from the register two months ago? I don’t know if John is coming, or how long he’ll take to get here, so I try to search as quickly as I can. If only I could remember the scene when the cameras were being installed. I stand behind the desk. Serenity was standing here. She was talking to Trevor, who was… I try to visualize the scene. He was standing on a ladder… above the door!

I look over the frame of the doorway. There’s a tiny flashing red light! The camera is still there, and it wasn’t damaged in the fire! Forget the phone, if I can get John to confess here, then I’ll just need to access the camera’s feed is, and it should have both John’s confession, and proof that Nick was here, and nowhere near the scene of the crime! Now that I think about it, Serenity watched Dolf set the fire from her computer, at home, in her apartment. As long as electronically everything is still properly connected, and as long as her computer is turned on, the video cameras should still be recording.

If John got the text message when I sent it, then by now he has probably made an excuse to leave Olivia. Maybe she’s already asleep, or maybe she’s too depressed and crazy to know the difference. I try to figure out how long it will take to get here. Is Olivia still with Amelia? Or had John taken her home? I don’t know the town well enough to figure it out, though. I got lost coming here, and I don’t even know how far it is from the bar.

I get another bad feeling, a tingly sensation running up my spine. I should have waited until morning. I should have waited until Jack was home and could back me up. I should have went looking for Candace, or Otis, or maybe even Dolf. No wait, Dolf is in jail. Well, anybody would be fine, as long as I had someone else with me. But it’s too late now. John has to be on his way. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when he saw the first text message I sent. He probably froze like a statue. If I ever do get home, I wonder if everything I’m experiencing will have been on Spruce Ridge. I would love to relive this, watching myself like any other character on the show.

*****

 

I hear something rustling, and it’s getting closer. It has to be John. I didn’t hear his car – he probably hoped to sneak up on me without alerting me to his presence. Too late, I think. I’ve got your number. He’s coming slowly, and I have enough time before he reaches the office to wonder if we’ll exchange snappy banter that soap opera characters have when there is a verbal power struggle, or if I’ll be stuck with whatever my own brain thinks up. Remember, you can’t let him leave until he has explicitly confessed to the murder.

He opens the door, and I’m ready for him. I am leaning back in the chair with my feet on the desk, crossed at the ankles. His jaw drops. “Not who you were expecting to see here?” I ask. “Well, let me just remind you: Ambrosia’s dead.”

“So what,” he says, regaining his composure, “you think I had something to do with it?” He stands in front of the desk with his arms crossed. In blue jeans and a black leather jacket, he looks a lot like Jason Morgan, Sonny’s right hand man on General Hospital.

“Would you be here if you weren’t involved?” I ask. He raises his eye brow and tilts his head to say touché.

“So what’s your game, little girl? Trying to play ball with the grown-ups is dangerous, don’t you know that? You should probably run along home and we can both forget this ever happened.”

“Nick is in jail,” I say tersely, taking my feet off the desk and slamming my hands on the desktop, “for a crime he didn’t commit. I want justice.” John laughs. He just stands there and laughs at me, like I’m a two year old demanding her mother to let her have one more cookie simply because she wants it. I clench my hands into fists.

“Relax, little girl. This doesn’t have to be a problem. Like I said, you just go home, and I don’t have to hurt you.” He reaches behind him and takes a gun that was tucked into his jeans, under the leather jacket. It’s Nick’s gun, I’m certain. My eyes flicker up to the blinking red light when John turns to close the door. This is going exactly as I need it to go.

“You think I’m scared of that thing?” I ask. Now it’s my turn to laugh, and John’s face turns red. He points it at me, but that doesn’t frighten me either. “That’s Nick’s gun, right? The one that was used to shoot Raul. The same one that the police confirmed was used to kill Ambrosia last night. You don’t have to tell me, I know it is.”

“And so what if it is? You think I won’t shoot you? If I really did kill Ambrosia like you say, why wouldn’t I kill you?” Really?

“Really?” I ask in confused shock. “I mean… Really? Do I really need to spell this out for you?” He doesn’t look so sure of himself anymore. He is really that stupid. “Nick’s in jail, genius. Or hadn’t you heard? So I’m pretty sure that if you kill me and the police find my body with a bullet in it, and the bullet fits the pattern and they can prove it’s from the same gun that killed Ambrosia… Do you see where this is going? Nick will be exonerated because he couldn’t kill me from jail. Killing me would prove that someone stole his gun, and then he can’t be held responsible for Ambrosia’s death. So even if the police don’t catch you, Nick is alive and kicking, and a free man. You kill me… you lose anyway.”

“Ah ha!” He comes right up next to me, and since the desk is in the corner against the wall, and he’s blocking the one exit, I’m trapped without an escape. “What a clever girl you are! But I don’t have to kill you to get you out of the way. I can just do this.” He raises the gun above his head, and it feels like he’s moving slow and fast at the same time. He lowers the gun, I feel a blinding pain on the side of the head, and then everything goes dark.


I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One

#NaNoWriMo Novel – High School Soap Opera: Chapter 14

High School Soap Opera

Chapter 14

It’s been a busy day, especially for a Sunday, so Jack and I go back to his place. We don’t want to think about anything, we don’t want to do anything. We just want to take a break. We sit together on the couch, and he puts on the TV. I wonder if they have soap operas here. Do they have the same television shows?

“Looks like perfect timing,” he says. “The next movie is starting in a couple minutes. You like comedies?”

“No,” I say sarcastically, poking his side. “My new boyfriend is a self-proclaimed goofy guy, but I can’t stand comedies.”

“Cheeky girl, okay. I see how it is.”

The movie starts, and it’s actually one I’ve heard of. Good, so at least if I start talking about actors and movies, he’ll know who I’m talking about. This movie has John Candy, who was a very funny man. He died a year before I was born, but my dad used to watch them with me. I haven’t seen this one, but ironically, it’s about a guy who writes for a soap opera and ends up becoming part of the show. In his case, when he types stuff on a typewriter, it starts to happen. I wonder if that would work for me… Probably not, though. I don’t write soap operas in my real life.

That’s the thing, as real as this feels, I can’t help but feel like it’s going to end. This can’t be real, it can’t be happening —  I look at Jack — no matter how hard I wish it was. I wonder how long I’ll be here. Will I find out who killed Ambrosia? When I do get back home, will she still be dead? Or is this a dream, and I’ll wake up on Friday like nothing happened? Is Jack really on the show, and will I notice him after I get back? And if he’s really on the show and he gets a girlfriend, will I be jealous? Yes.

“Jack?” I ask. It’s time to tell him. I’m ready. I can’t let another minute go by living this lie. And anyway, despite his promise to have his friend make me an ID the other day, I still haven’t met this alleged friend, and I’m no closer to getting a fake ID. Which means any time I’m in the bar, a cop could come in and arrest me for not having proof that I’m old enough to be there… because I’m not, even if I did have ID.

“What’s up, Jenna?” This is it, here I go.

“I have to tell you-” I begin, but Jack’s cell phone rings, interrupting me and making me lose my nerve. He picks up his cell phone from the coffee table and looks at it. He pushes a button.

“Hello? … Nick, where are you?” He listens, then whispers to me, “He’s at the police station in a holding cell. They’re keeping him for 24 hours.” He switches the phone over to speaker mode.

“You there?” Nick asks.

“Yeah, you’re on speaker now. Jenna’s here. Is that okay?” There’s silence for a few seconds. “Nick?”

“Hi, Jenna.” He sounds uncomfortable.

“Hey,” I reply. “Are you okay? Can we bring you anything?”

“No, I’m not allowed visitors. They have me in a cell with Dolf, and Serenity is in the next room. I just wanted to let you know where I am. Jack, I don’t think they believe me. You have to help me clear my name somehow.”

“Did you tell them where you were last night?” Jack asks.

“It doesn’t matter. I can’t prove it.”

“Nick…”

“You wanna know where I was?” Nick asks in exasperation. “I went to Serenity’s pastry shop that burned down. I wanted to see what she was arrested for, see how bad the damage is.” I feel like there’s something else that he wants to say, but that he’s holding back.

“What else?” I ask softly.

“Nothing,” Nick says, and I know he isn’t going to tell me no matter how much I pry. “That’s it. I went to her pastry shop, and the damage wasn’t as bad as I expected. The customer areas are ashes, and part of the kitchen, but other parts are just a little smoke damaged. The circuitry to the walk-in fridge must have broken, so there was nothing salvageable to eat in there. But Serenity’s office, aside from being ransacked, was pretty much intact… structurally, at least.  I didn’t want to face anyone, so I slept there on the couch in her office. Someone stole the cushions, but it wasn’t the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had.”

“Did you call Alexis? Did Serenity? Ugh, you probably should have called her before you even went to the police.” Jack slaps his forehead.

“Serenity called yesterday, but Alexis is out of town.” Out of town? Alexis hasn’t gone out of town since… ever.

“Did she say where she went?” Jack asks.

“She drove to her sister Kristina’s house up the coast.” Spruce Ridge is supposed to be near Chicago! There’s no coast! So now we’re back to the stupid beach scene opening credits?

*****

“You’re just gonna leave me here?” I ask as Jack fills a duffel bag. He has decided to ride his motorcycle up the coast – because he has informed me that yes, Lake Michigan does have a coast (I still don’t think it should count as coastal if there is no ocean) to find Alexis and bring her back to town. I don’t know if he has any idea where Kristina lives, but in soap opera land, I anything is possible. He thinks he’ll find her surfing the waves in Milwaukee… who knew Wisconsin has waves?!

“I’ll be back as soon as I can. You have to stay here and keep an eye on things. Can you pick a lock?” he asks, stopping to look at me. “Maybe there’s something in Ambrosia’s house that will lead to the real killer.” I shake my head. He starts taking clothes out of the dresser. How long does he expect to be gone for, a month? “Can you hack into her computer? Maybe there’s a threatening Facebook message, or-”

“Wait… Can I hack into her computer? How am I going to get to her computer if I can’t pick a lock in the first place?”

“I know, sorry. I shouldn’t expect you to be a technological mastermind, you don’t even have a cell phone.” I bite my tongue. It’s not because I have a choice in the matter, I just didn’t have it when I got here. “But maybe she has a fake rock or something,” he suggests as a place where there might be a spare key hidden, and then I remember. It’s under the planter.

“I get what you’re saying, though. I’ll keep poking around, see if I can find anything. Maybe there’s something at the burned down pastry shop that can place Nick there at the time of the murder.”

“That’s good, I don’t think the police will even try to confirm his alibi. We’ll need evidence if we can’t find the killer.” He goes into the bathroom to get things like a toothbrush and shampoo.

“What about the bar? Trevor quit, Nick’s in jail. Without you there’s nobody to bartend. Can you really close it for a while?” I sit on the bed and watch as he comes back and puts a handful of things into the duffel bag.

“Jenna, how do you think I can have an entire house for just me?”

“Huh?”

“I don’t need the money. The bar could be closed for a year and I’d still be able to pay all the expenses.”

“At your age?” I ask. He shrugs.

“My father had a lot more money than anyone expected. He left it to me in his will, along with the bar. And I’ve learned to be a smart investor.” He says it like it’s no big deal. Oh, by the way, I’m a gazillionaire, could you please pass the butter? Insert horrified look here. Then again, he’s (apparently) on a soap opera, and everybody on soap operas is rich. And if they’re not, then it’s a big deal that they’re poor, and usually the horror is that a young man with no money wants to date a young woman with a Legacy family, and her family thinks he just wants her money. Which he often does, until he realizes that she’s not just rich, but also gorgeous and funny and pretty and surprisingly proficient with a blade. Then, of course, he wants her for all those reasons and to piss off her parents.

I guess in our case this would be the opposite. I’m the girl with no money, staying in his house and eating his food, except that I had no idea that he is rich. I just needed a place to stay my first night here, and he offered. If I am stuck here, and if Nick doesn’t take the apartment above Otis and Amelia’s garage, maybe I could live there… Nick! We have to find a way to help him.
“Do you want me to put a sign up at the bar to say that it’s closed?” I ask. Not that I have any way to get there. Jack doesn’t have a car, just the motorcycle. Even if I could drive the bike, he’s going to be riding. Up the coast that apparently they have in Michigan.
“No, I’ll take care of that before I go.” Then, as if reading my mind, he tosses me a set of keys, and they land on the floor. I pick them up. “Otis drove Nick’s car back to the diner. I’ll drop you off on my way out of town, and you can use that to get around.” He zips the duffel bag closed. “Let’s go. I’ll drop you off before I go by the bar. I have to call Ramon and Gertrude and tell them not to come in.”

*****

After Jack drops me off at the diner, I drive the car back to his house and use the extra key he gave me to get in. I have waited long enough to check Ambrosia’s phone. I press a button, but nothing happens. Of course it’s dead, why wouldn’t it be? I wonder if Jack has a charger for it. I look next to the couch, but his charger isn’t for the same phone. Now what? I could try to find a store to buy one, but I don’t want to go driving around a town I don’t know. I mean, I know the town, I just don’t know the roads. Soap opera scenes aren’t usually set in cars, unless it involves a kidnapping or a collision.

Well, I do know one place where I could find a charger for this phone. I just don’t know how to get there. I chuckle. Well, I do know how to get there, I just don’t know how to get in. Then I remember that I do know exactly how to get in. I drive to the bar, and when I get there, I’m relieved to see that the motorcycle isn’t there. I park in the back. It’s starting to get dark, and I’m glad for the privacy the night will provide.

I walk down the street. Without Jack, and knowing it’s been less than 24 hours since Ambrosia was shot on this exact street, I wish I had some kind of weapon to defend myself in case something happens. I listen carefully and keep a watchful eye on my surroundings. When I get to Ambrosia’s house, I get down and try to lift the planter. It’s heavier than it looks, but I manage to tilt it to the side, and when I slide my hand beneath it, I feel the key. I grab it, then let the planter go.

I look around while I’m still kneeling on the porch. It doesn’t look like anyone is watching me, so I stand up and put the key in the lock. For a minute I’m afraid it’s not going to turn, and I take a deep breath. Oh good, it’s turning. I open the door as little as possible and slide in, then close and lock it. I turn around, and with the light coming in through the windows, I see that the room seems to be untouched. I thought the police would have wanted to start the investigation in here, but I guess they haven’t been here. I wish I had thought to wear gloves. I’ll have to be very careful not to leave fingerprints behind.

The first thing I do is find her cell phone charger and plug it into the phone. As soon as I can, I turn on the phone. There are two voice mails, which I can’t get without her password, which I don’t know. I look at her text messages. Olivia, of course. I know she’s not the killer. John? I open that thread.

John wrote to Ambrosia last night. He said Olivia had gone straight to bed, but he wanted to talk to Ambrosia. He said that it was about what they talked about in her house the other day, which must mean when she drugged him and made him promise to sign over his half of the shares in Adaire’s company. She texted back to say she was leaving the bar, and she said she would meet him out on the street.

Oh my god. John killed Ambrosia so he wouldn’t have to sign over the shares after all! He probably tried to talk her out of their deal, and when she refused, she probably reminded him of the video. Or maybe she never told him about the video. Maybe she found another way to get him to do what she wanted. If he knew about the video, he would have stolen her computer, wouldn’t he? I go to Ambrosia’s computer. I turn it on and wait impatiently for the computer to reach the login screen.

“Hurry up, you stupid computer!” I say, even though I know it won’t do any good. Finally the login screen comes up. Luckily, I have seen this on the show, and I type in her password. Scout123. I think it was the name of her childhood pet or something. I’ve got to be able to find the video of her and John here somewhere.

There is a folder on the desktop called Blackmail. Are you kidding me? Soap operas are so ridiculous. I open the folder, and there is just one file, and it’s called Seducing John. Obviously. I play the video just to be sure, and it’s exactly what I saw on television the other day. I open a drawer and rummage around. Somehow, by miracle perhaps, there is a 16 gig flash drive, and I plug it in. There’s nothing on it, and I start copying the blackmail video onto the drive.


I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One

#NaNoWriMo Novel – High School Soap Opera: Chapter 13

High School Soap Opera

Chapter 13

Jack knows his bike is too loud for us to sneak around Ambrosia’s neighborhood looking for clues, so we leave it in the back parking lot and start walking. It’s the first time since I arrived in Spruce Ridge that I can get a good look around. It’s a nice day out, and there are flowers in bloom in front of every house. Jack takes my hand, and we look like any young couple who recently started dating. But we are vigilant, hoping to find something the police failed to notice.

“When is your birthday?” he asks.

“Why, you want to know how much time you have to figure out what you’re going to get me?” I don’t know if I’ll still be here then. I’m having fun, and it’s still bizarre being in my favorite show, but this isn’t real.

“It’s been two days, and we still barely know each other. We don’t talk much about personal stuff.” He kisses the back of my hand, and I get a deja vu about the first time he did that, when I showed up in his bar on Friday.

“My birthday is September 24. Just as the leaves are starting to change color. My favorite birthday party ever was when I turned 10, and my parents took me to Florida so I could go to the beach and swim the whole day away. I got so sunburned, I could barely move for a week.”

“July 26. And since you shared yours, my best birthday was when I turned eight and my Mom got me a bike with a dinosaur basket on the front.”

“Ah! So your thing for bikes goes way back. Why didn’t you keep the dino basket? That would look pretty hot on Ginger.” He gently pushes me, and I almost fall, but he squeezes my hand to help me stay balanced.

“Favorite book ever?”

“Romeo and Juliet,” I say. “Except the end. Same question?”

“Treasure Island. I read it when I was a kid, and for a whole summer I tried digging for treasure everywhere I went. I got in big trouble when my Dad saw that I had dug up the backyard.” He laughs at the memory, and I smile as I try to picture Jack as a little boy.

“It’s probably a good thing I didn’t read mine until last year, or I might have had a tragically short childhood.”

Jack stops, and I see it too. A big dark spot on the sidewalk, and I understand. It’s her blood. Her head must have… I don’t even want to think about it. He runs to a nearby bush and vomits behind it. I walk over to make sure he’s okay, and something catches my eye. It’s about two yards away from Jack, and I crouch down to get a better look.

“Ambrosia’s phone,” I say. I recognize the white case covered in silver rhinestones. I pick it up and put it in my pocket. “Jack, are you okay?”

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I thought I could handle it. Guess I’m not cut out for the P.I. business.” We start walking back to the bar.

“It’s okay. Maybe Nick has his own air-tight alibi. Have you called him yet?”

“It goes straight to voice mail, either he turned it off or it’s d-” He can’t manage to say the word, but I know what he means. Dead.

“Do you think the police found him already?” I’m trying to get his mind off the sight of Ambrosia’s blood all over the sidewalk, and the smell of it in the grass, but it’s not going to be easy to forget.

“I hope not,” Jack says. “I want to talk to him first.”

“Where do you think he would go?” I ask, but then I have an idea. “Serenity’s apartment. He knows I’m staying with you, so your guest room isn’t free.”

“That’s brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?”

“You’re trying too hard. Your brain isn’t working right because you’re too close to the situation.” Plus, I’m not supposed to know that Nick put his things in a storage locker before he left, and broke his lease, so he can’t go back to his old apartment.

“Come on, let’s check my place first, because it’s closer, and if he’s not there we’ll try Serenity’s apartment.”

We walk faster until we get back to the bar, get on the bike, and drive off. I don’t think Jack heard me when I said I found Ambrosia’s phone, but with the way he reacted to seeing the place she died, I think it’s up to me to keep investigating her death… only now, I have to keep it a secret from Jack too. I touch my pocket to see if it’s real, and I feel the phone through my jeans. I’ll solve this mystery.

*****

Nick isn’t at Jack’s house or Serenity’s apartment. We sit on the stoop in front of her building to figure out what to do next. Jack checks his cell phone. There’s a voice mail from Nick, and he plays it on speaker so I can hear it too.

“Sorry I missed your zillion calls this morning. I was sleeping off a rough night. You kept saying to call but not what it’s about, and now you’re not even answering. Everything okay? Are we cool? I’m going to Amelia’s to see if Otis has anyone staying in the apartment over their garage. Call me, the ringer’s on.”

“When is that from?” I ask as we both stand up. Jack doesn’t seem to suspect anything, but I know the are we cool? part was Nick wondering if Jack knows he kissed me.

“Five minutes ago,” Jack says, heading for his motorcycle. “We didn’t hear it because we were on the bike.”

We hurry back to the bike and Jack floors it. We get to the diner in record time. Olivia is still there, but John’s not with her. I wonder where he is. If he’s “always there” for Olivia when she needs him, shouldn’t he be with her now? We don’t see Nick, and Jack looks at his phone.

“He said he was coming,” he says impatiently. “Where is he?”

“Just wait, he’ll be here. He’s not on a motorcycle,” I say. When Nick left he was driving a black sedan. “We probably just got here first, that’s all.”

“Unless…” He was going to say unless the police got him, but then we see Nick’s car coming down the road. He pulls in and parks, and Jack meets him at the door as he’s getting out of the car. “What happened last night?” Jack asks. “You didn’t do anything stupid, did you?” Nick flashes me a look, but I shake my head. I didn’t tell Jack.

“Olivia still doesn’t remember me, and I was upset. I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with her anymore, and I didn’t want another problem with Ambrosia, so I left.”

“Did you see Ambrosia after she left the bar?”

“No, why? What did she tell you? Whatever she said, it’s a lie.” Either he doesn’t know that she’s dead, or he’s a really good actor… no pun intended. Jack puts a hand over his mouth and looks away. “What?”

“Nick…” The police are after you and it’s all my fault. I can’t say that. I don’t want him to hate me. “Ambrosia’s dead. She was shot last night. The police know that you argued with her and then Olivia, and then stormed out of the bar…”

“They think I killed her?” Nick asks. “Are you kidding me?”

“Where were you?” Jack asks. “As long as someone can confirm that you were somewhere else at the time of the murder, they have to let you go.”

“That’s not possible, I wasn’t with anyone. But they have to keep looking for the killer, it’s not me. I swear on my life, I didn’t kill her.”

“Where were you?” Jack asks. “We just left Serenity’s house, and you weren’t there. We checked the bar, didn’t see you there.”

“You don’t trust me.” Nick looks betrayed.

“It’s not a question of trust,” Jack shouts, “it’s a question of where on earth you were last night! Why can’t you just answer the freaking question? The police are going to need to know anyway.”

“I don’t have to answer to you, Jack, either you believe me or you don’t. I see where you stand.” Nick looks inside and sees Olivia. “She must be devastated. Ambrosia was her best friend. I can’t believe someone shot her last night.” Thank you, Captain Obvious! Hearing the same things over and over is a lot less annoying when you’re watching a storyline unfold over several weeks. He starts for the door.

“Nick.” Jack says. Nick turns and scratches the back of his neck. He did that when we were talking about Serenity’s arrest, must be a nervous habit. At first Jack doesn’t say anything, like he’s trying decide if he should say what he’s thinking or not. “I don’t know who killed Ambrosia. But you’re my cousin, and you’re like a brother to me. If you say you didn’t do it, I believe you.”

“Yeah,” I agree, “I believe you too. I’ll do everything in my power to clear your name.” He doesn’t make eye contact with me, though. Maybe he still feels bad about kissing me.

“Thanks, it means a lot. I have to talk to Olivia, but then I’m going to the police to give them a statement. I want it on record that I volunteered to speak to them, that they didn’t have to bring me in.”

*****

We follow him in, because we have nothing better to do. He walks to her table and stands there, waiting for her to look up. At first Olivia doesn’t respond, but then she sees him. Jack and I sit at a table near the front door, but the diner is small enough that we can still hear every word.

“What are you doing here?” she asks. “Haven’t you done enough?” She’s staring out into space, and the only move she makes is blinking every few seconds. Her voice changes too. It’s kind of sing-songy, like Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

“I didn’t do it, Liv.” He says softly. Here we go, Olivia and Nick, round 2.

“Everyone saw you fighting with her before I got to the bar,” she says. “Why should I believe you? Like I’ve told you a million times, I don’t remember anything about you before I woke up from that coma.” Her voice is chilling.

“Okay, fine. You don’t remember me. But you don’t have to be so cold to me. Can’t we be friends?” He sits in the chair across the table from her. Amelia comes out of the kitchen and sees Nick, and she shifts her weight from one foot to the other and back again, as if trying to decide if she should go interrupt their conversation.

“Everyone knows you shot and killed Raul,” Olivia says, ignoring his question. It’s like she doesn’t even hear him. “You could have killed Ambrosia. The police have no witnesses.”

“I saved your life,” Nick says, “or did you forget that too? If I hadn’t shot him, you would be the dead one.”

“Have you talked to the police yet? They said it looks like the same kind of gun was used to kill Ambrosia. They’ve ordered ballistics.”

“I didn’t do it, okay? I wasn’t anywhere near her house.” He sounds like he is pleading for his life, begging Olivia to come back to him, but I’m afraid she might be gone to everyone. I can picture her in my head giving everyone flowers, like Ophelia before she kills herself.

“If you turn yourself in, they might give you a lighter sentence.”

“Livy, look at me! Look at me, damnit!” But she just keeps staring at nothing. He puts his head in his hands, like he did when she walked away last night, then comes to sit with us. Tears are coming, but he tries to blink them away. “She’s lost it,” he whispers. “Did you hear her? I didn’t know Ambrosia meant so much to her that her death would leave Olivia… like this…”

“They’ve known each other forever,” I remind him. “When they were eight, Ambrosia donated bone marrow when she needed a transplant. So you’re not the only person who saved Olivia’s life.” They both look at me strangely, and I realize: I blew it. But before anyone can say anything, Amelia comes with a tray of ice waters and takes the last chair at our table, next to Nick.

“Hello, Mr. Nicholas,” she says, her tone not as formal as one might expect. “I heard whispers that you were back in town. I’m glad you’ve finally come to visit me.”

“Miss Amelia…” He can’t finish his sentence. He turns to her, puts his head on her shoulder, and cries. She puts her arms around him, like she did with Olivia this morning, and speaks to him in a slow, soothing voice.

“Now you listen to me. Everything is going to be okay. I don’t know how, and I don’t know how long it will take, but you have to trust me on this one. Okay?”

“I have to go,” he says, sitting up. “I have to go to the police. I have to tell them it wasn’t me so they’ll keep looking for the monster that took Olivia away again. I thought it was bad when she got amnesia and broke up with me, but I could live with that. Even if I never got her back, I could live with that. But I can’t see her like this, and if there’s any hope of getting her back, the real killer has to be found.” He gets up, but even though he hasn’t been drinking, he’s in no condition to drive.

“Wait,” Amelia says. “At least let Otis take you in. You shouldn’t have to go alone.” Nick agrees, begrudgingly, and they head to the kitchen. Now it’s just me and Jack. Nick may not even remember what I said, but Jack does.

“How did you know that?” he asks. I don’t even know what to say. There is no logical answer to his question. “Jenna, how did you know about Olivia and Ambrosia?” And suddenly an answer comes. It’s not true, but I think I might be able to get away with it.

“Friday night, when I first came here, I saw Candace in the bathroom.” That much is true. I almost admit she has a fake ID, but now that we’re friends I don’t want to rat her out. “Then last night when Olivia got to the bar, Candace was there and clearly wanted to avoid her. So I let her out the back door, so Olivia wouldn’t see her, and she explained that Olivia is her sister.” Okay, so far so good. Then what? “Then she started rambling a little bit. She said that she and her sister aren’t very close, and that Olivia is a lot closer to Ambrosia and probably wished that Ambrosia was her sister. Then she said that when they were eight, Ambrosia donated bone marrow and saved Olivia’s life, and that since then she has always felt like Olivia feels more of a connection to Ambrosia because she saved her life.” I bite my lip.

“Candace told you all that?” he asks doubtfully.

“How else would I know all that, right?” I ask.

“I didn’t know she was such a talker, that’s all.” Holy cow, he believes it!


I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One