There I was, at the church, in my beautiful white dress. I'd planned everything, from the elaborate, vegan wedding cake to the honeymoon. In Fiji.
Things had fallen into place exactly as I'd dreamed they would. Except that my fiancé was nowhere to be found.
I'd been left at the altar.
Ok, not really.
I've never been engaged. (No, a proposal by a complete stranger on a flight doesn't count). I've never been abandoned on my wedding day. But I have experienced a similar disappointment. Kind of.
See, I had a publishing deal. I received a contract, a graphic artist to design my cover artwork, and a promise that my book would soon be available in bookstores across the country.
Until it all fell through.
Financial issues struck the publishing house, and my book was the first to go. It had been slated for publication in spring of 2013. Clearly, that never happened.
My heart was broken. Completely shattered. I swore off the entire concept of publication.
But something shifted recently. I decided that life is far too short to wallow in self-pity. Or procrastinate.
So I'm editing "The Sleep Leaper" one final time. Then I'm shipping it off to publishers. Like, a million of 'em. Every publishing house in the country is going to get my manuscript. I'll even deliver it personally. With a giant smile and a package of airline pretzels, perhaps.
So here's the very beginning of the novel. Hopefully it's getting better with every single edit.
THE SLEEP LEAPER
CHAPTER 1: FRIDAY
Where are you? I need your superpowers NOW, the text says.
I shake my head, trying to remember when Helen started that joke. She found it hilarious, but I was the one who saw the real humor behind it. Because things are always a little bit funnier when they’re true.
I’m on my way, best friend, I type in response.
With one hand propped against the door, I slide into sky-high black boots. They’ve got a four-inch heel. Which makes me tall enough to avoid eye contact…with everyone. Perfect.
“Julie, be home by ten-thirty,” Mom calls from the living room couch. She leans into the cushions, flipping through channels.
“Really?” I groan. “You do this every time…”
“That’s because I care about you,” she says, concern emanating from each word.
I grab a jacket from the coat closet and head for the door. But then it dawns on me that, unless I take action, Mom will never treat me like an adult.
In one swift motion, I turn around and march toward the couch. My heels click along the wood floor as I approach my mother.
“Look, I’m not a kid anymore,” I say, placing a hand on my hip defiantly. “Last week was my birthday, remember? Seventeen, Mom. People my age stay out later than ten-thirty.”
“You’re my little girl,” she argues. “I’m supposed to worry about you.”
I sigh. “Please don’t. I’m just going to Tony’s house. You’ve known Tony Viena for ten years and met his parents about 5000 times. You have to start trusting me!”
She stares blankly at the television, refusing to meet my eyes. Because she knows what I will do. We’ve never discussed it, never uttered a word, but my mother knows I have this…thing.
“Mom? Can I go out for one night without a ridiculous curfew?” I press.
She sighs, finally turning her face toward mine.
I don’t want to do this either, I reflect, sucking in a huge breath before diving into my mother’s anxious mind. But we both need to be honest here. Let me in, Mom.
The instant our eyes meet, I capture thousands of scenarios. My mother’s worries seep into my brain, playing like a slideshow.
She envisions my Honda crashing into a huge truck. Shards of glass fly through the air like confetti. There’s blood everywhere.
“Ok, Mom, let’s be realistic. I’m not going to get into a car crash tonight and I’m not going to wind up splattered on the side of the road,” I tell her. “You’ve got to let me live my life. Please. I’m not Jess. I’m not going to leave you.”
My mother is quiet, staring at the television set again. I wonder –briefly- if I should have kept my mouth shut about Jess.
“Honey, I just want you to be safe,” my mother says, her voice shaky.
“And I will be,” I say. “You know I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t get into trouble. Give me a little credit, please.”
She nods. “Alright. Be careful, Julie. And come home at a decent hour. Midnight, ok?”
I smile as I walk to the door, because I’ve finally gotten through to my mom. It’s a miracle. Dad’s easier to convince, but Mom is a tough shell to crack.
“Bye, Daddy,” I shout, my fingers wrapped around the handle of the front door.
“Bye, Julie! Have fun,” he calls from his office downstairs.
I burst outside, thankful for my thick Northface jacket. Even though it’s April, Chicago’s freezing. Which is pretty standard.
I crank up the heat in my red Honda. The streets are quiet tonight. As soon as I turn on the radio, a Kickstars song fills the air. It’s their new one, and it’s really catchy.
I sing along with the radio as I cruise toward Sheridan Road.