Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chapter 1 ~ Trilby

Trilby Awakes is a work in progress. Here's a bit of chapter one...

Trilby was running as fast as she could down a dark, narrow hallway. The floor felt like clay, and her bare feet made a slap-slapping sound that echoed off thick stone walls pressing in on either side. On top of the slapping was the sound of her breathing--frantic gulps of air that didn't soothe her burning lungs. Her forehead and armpits were slick with sweat but she dare not stop. There was something else in the hallway, behind her. Another pair of feet. Gaining on her. She took a sharp turn to the right at the end of the hall, then left and right again, zig-zagging through the maze, looking for a way out, trying to evade her pursuer. The odor in the hallway was dense and vile, the smell of blood, bone, flesh, and mud. The sour smell of her fear. Suddenly the hall stopped. She was trapped in a small room. Near the back, in a corner, she saw a leather case on a tall table. She rushed to it and unclasped the hinges. Light escaped as she opened the lid. Inside was a circlet of silver and gold, wound together, emitting light. She lifted the crown in wonder, admired its intricate metalwork, moved to place it on her head. Something entered the room behind her. It was huge. Malevolent. It shouted at her, "Trilby, STOP!" Trilby clutched the circlet and whirled, expecting to see some kind of monster. In the doorway was a woman, a beautiful woman in a green velvet dress with thick black hair flowing all the way down to her hips. Her eyes were luminous blue and looked somehow familiar. Trilby took a step towards her. "STOP!" the woman screamed again, holding up her hand. Then her mouth opened wide and emitted a continuous ringing sound that got louder and louder and wouldn't stop until…
"Fuck!" Trilby shouted as she slammed down the button on the alarm clock. 
"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" She wasn't in a labyrinth. There was no beautiful crown of silver and gold, no woman in a green dress with luminous eyes, no adventure, no quest. No nothing. Just a girl in a bedroom in San Francisco--a silly red-headed girl who was going to be late to school. "Fuck," she said dispiritedly as she swung her legs out of bed and took a look at herself in the full-length mirror where she confirmed that, of course, no miracle had occurred.
It was a special day, her sixteenth birthday, and one small part of her brain had hoped that in the night she might magically transform into a woman. But no. She still looked like a barely pubescent girl, with an unruly halo of red hair and an epidemic of freckles from forehead to toe. Well, she could fix that. The only problem was it took 30 minutes to do it, and another 45 minutes to get the bus across town to school. And since she must have pressed that damn snooze button five times or more, there weren't enough minutes in the morning. 
Okay. She would be late. She could deal with that. Besides, there were no other options. No way was she going to school looking like herself. 
Trilby started by confining her hair in a huge messy bun at the nape of her neck. Then eyeliner--lots of thick, black eyeliner, above and below the eyes. Black lipstick made a big improvement. As she leaned in to apply it, she saw something sparkle on the wall behind her but she knew better than to whip her head around to investigate. Nothing would be there. Nothing ever was, except the little bauble of her mother's that she'd had hanging on her wall for as long as she could remember: a silver figure of a woman mounted on a leather backing. Joan. Joan the Wad. Trilby knew her name because it was printed on the back. 
She slipped a safety pin through her left earlobe: much better. She felt pleased as a more mature person began taking shape in the mirror. Tight black pants. Clunky boots. And the coup de grace: she couldn't help chuckling as she pulled on the tee shirt that her friend Kore had designed for their band, wondering how the administration at Saint Catherine’s would like it. They had just this year replaced their antiquated dress code with a more modern one, thank Goddess, so Trilby no longer had to board public buses in a silly little plaid skirt that was a magnet for drooling old men and creepy perverts.  But the new dress code had fuzzy boundaries that begged to be pushed, so Trilby pushed them. That was fun.
Once the transformation was complete, she gave herself a short nod of approval before stuffing her unfinished homework in her carrier bag and running down the stairs. “Want breakfast?” her Dad called out from the kitchen as she raced toward the front door. Then, even more astonishing, “want a ride?”
“Wha…what?” You could practically hear the squeal of brakes as she skidded to a stop in the hallway. 
“It’s your birthday!" he poked his head out of the doorway to recall her. "You didn’t think I would forget, did you?”
“Nevermind. Sit down and have some pancakes. Then we’ll jump into my truck and see if I can get you across town before the first bell rings.”
It was entirely possible her father's body had been taken over by aliens, but a hot breakfast was a rare treat, and Trilby gave a big sigh of pleasure as she slathered the golden disks with real butter and maple syrup before shoveling them into her mouth. She'd consumed most of the food on her plate before she noticed her father was watching her tenderly from a corner of the kitchen. 
"I can't believe you're sixteen today," he said in a goofy voice. Had he been drinking?
"Come on, Dad. Don't embarrass me." She should have known there would be a price to pay.
"I've done okay, raising you, haven't I?
This was dangerous territory. If the topic of her mother came up, he might even start bawling. "What are you talking about? Of course!" 
"There were times when…"
"Come on, Dad! I'm going to be late for school. Let's get going!"
Normally, her father expected her to make her own way to school, which meant scrambling out the door of their Folsom Street flat just in time to catch the 48-Quintara across San Francisco to the private school he had to work overtime to pay for, as she’d heard often enough. But this morning he even stopped outside Philz Coffee long enough for her to run in and get two cups of the magic black liquid that kept her hands warm all the way to school. 
But the day's surprises didn’t end there. After arriving just before the bell, which was a minor miracle of it's own, the second thing of wonder on Trilby’s birthday was Kore showing up to first period English class in the lowest-cut blouse Trilby had ever seen her wear. It was a wardrobe malfunction looking for a place to happen. Trilby couldn’t keep her eyes off of Kore’s breasts, and Trilby wasn’t even a lesbian. 
Kore slid into her seat next to Trilby, who tensed and waited for the impending confrontation, since the blouse was an obvious and utter violation of the school dress code. And Sister Cerdwin saw it, for sure. There was no mistaking the moment. She stopped handing back papers and stared straight at Kore’s blouse for half a second. Her mouth even dropped open a little. But then she just went back to handing out papers. 
Trilby didn't understand why Kore escaped punishment, but there was no second guessing Sister C. She often surprised. She had on another one of her Magic Schoolbus-inspired outfits, for example, with the glasses, shoes, and dress all the same shade of kiwi green, and what looked like little red caterpillers crawling across the cloth. It was pretty over the top for a nun--for anyone, really. So maybe Sister Cerdwin felt that, you know, she shouldn’t cast the first stone in a fashion war. Or maybe she felt sorry for Kore, who was always making obvious bids for attention because she was so pathetically insecure. Or maybe she was just embarrassed. She probably didn’t want to precipitate the moment when every single person in class turned to look at Kore’s breasts while she accused her of a dress code violation.
Trilby, on the other hand, wasn’t shy. “What’s that you’re wearing?” she whispered. “It’s outrageous.”
“Thanks,” Kore beamed. “I like it, too.”
“I didn’t say I liked it.” Trilby rolled her eyes. “You look like a woman of ill repute.”
“A what?” Kore bunched her eyebrows. 
“You know, a ho.”
“I do not!” Kore laughed delightedly and pushed Trilby playfully on the shoulder. “Besides, I brought this to cover up.” Kore held up a little woven jacket that looked about the size of a coaster. As she displayed it, Trilby noticed a small cut on Kore's upper lip. 
“What happened to you?” Trilby asked.
“What?” Kore moved her hand to her mouth.
“What do you mean, ‘what?’ Why are you hiding your lip?”
“Trilby!” Sister Cerdwin menaced, tapping her pen on the podium. “I have asked you to come up to the board.”
Normally Trilby didn’t mind diagramming sentences in front of the class because she was pretty good at it. But she wanted to hear what Kore was going to say about the lip, and this particular sentence was a syntactic nightmare, with an appositive phrase, a participial phrase, an adjective clause, a compound verb, and 105 random prepositional phrases. “Fucking Faulkner,” she cursed under her breath. But there was no refusing, so Trilby was standing at the board puzzling, tapping the end of the marker against her cheek, when into the classroom walked the third wondrous thing. 
He paused in the doorway and looked directly at Trilby for a nanosecond, and in that tiny moment she felt a blush rush from her toes to her forehead, all the synapses light up in her brain, and the blood in her veins transform into hot honey. Her entire body restructured itself on a cellular level, and to announce the process, the tips of her ears tingled. Then Sister Cerdwin asked what he wanted and he handed her a note from the attendance office. He was a new student, just moved to San Francisco. Sister C seated him across the room from Trilby, over by her friend Luz, who must also have noticed that he was drop-dead gorgeous, since she gave him an especially seductive smile. This was going to make English class a whole lot more interesting. 
“How ‘bout that?” Trilby whispered to Kore, nodding in his direction, after she’d diagrammed the bejeezus out of the sentence and returned to her seat.
Kore shrugged. “He’s too young for me.”
“What do you mean? He’s exactly our age.”
“I like my men older,” Kore sighed, holding her chin in a way that implied that she knew what she was talking about, which she did not. Kore had been Trilby’s best friend ever since second grade, and Trilby knew pretty much every last detail about her. She knew Kore was not particularly good in school, unreasonably frightened of spiders and mice, and always imagining that she was ugly and fat, even though the exact opposite was true. She took exactly 28 minutes to put on her make up, and usually changed her clothes three times before going out. And she'd never had a boyfriend--until now.
 “Oh, yeah. I forgot about your imaginary boyfriend.”
“You wish. He’s not imaginary just because you haven’t met him."
"About that…" 
“Trilby! Luz! If I could have your attention, please! I’ve asked everyone to turn in their homework.” Sister Cerdwin was rapping on her podium again, and Trilby was forced to stop questioning Kore long enough to dig in her backpack for the appropriate paper, take it to the basket in the front of the room, and make a detour by the new boy’s desk on her way back to her seat. She willed him to look up when she passed, and he did, releasing happy hormones in her nether regions.
“So, what happened to your lip?” she asked again after she’d completed the circuit. 
“Nothing,” Kore was nonchalant, pulling on her hair. “I just opened the refrigerator wrong.” 
“With your face?”
Kore stuck to her story, so Trilby let it drop. Then in second period, after changing into her P.E. uniform and reporting for roll call on the track, Trilby was happy to see that Mr. Third Wondrous Thing was going to be in P.E. with her, too. 
Trilby was admiring him from afar as she stood with the rest of the girls, listening to Mrs. Peters explain how to run the mile (put one foot after the other), when she saw him lay his black backpack down next to the bleachers and take off. 
“Uh oh,” she thought. And as soon as Mrs. Peters excused them, she ran off to tell the TWT that he’d better put his backpack in his locker, but before she got 20 feet, she saw someone was already messing with it, so she changed course. 
Moto’s hand was already deep inside the new boy’s pack when she arrived. “What are you doing there?” she asked, surprising herself. 
“Getting my phone.”
Your phone? But that’s not your backpack.” Now both Trilby and Moto were surprised. What was she doing, challenging him? Moto crouched before the backpack. Trilby stood over him. They both wore Santa Inez’s standard issue P.E uniforms of baggy black jersey shorts and baggy gray tee shirts, but that’s where the similarity ended. Moto was twice as big as Trilby. He was tall, dark, handsome, densely muscled like a full-grown man. He looked like he could pop her tiny skull between two fingers like a zit. 
“Yes it is!” Moto put on an air of indignation. “What’s it to you, anyway? Go on back to your business, little girl. Aren’t you supposed to be running the mile?”
“Aren’t you?” Trilby’s voice sounded cool, but her heart was thrashing around in her chest like a dying animal.
She felt vaguely protected by the fact that dozens of students were running around the track behind them--if you used the term "run" loosely. Some jogged. Some walked. But the teacher was eighty yards away, encouraging a group of laggards to put in a little more effort.
Moto grabbed what looked like an iphone from the bottom of the pack.
 “That’s not yours,” Trilby said. It was like she was a ventriloquist's dummy. In reality, she didn't have this much courage. 
Moto stood up. He was a good foot taller than her, big through the shoulders, small hipped. She knew he played on the football team, because she’d seen him wearing an orange tie on game days. His curly black hair hung loose around his shoulders. His teeth were bright white. He pushed his face into hers and she couldn’t help noticing how good he smelled. It disarmed her for a moment, until he spoke. “What are you getting into my shit, for?”
Trilby couldn’t say why she was getting into Moto's shit. In fact, she wished she would stop. But some foolishness was pushing her on. So she tried her old trick. “I think you’ve made a mistake,” she coaxed. “This isn’t what you’re looking for.”
“The backpack you’re looking for is over there.” Trilby pointed over his shoulder to a bundle at the other end of the bleachers that looked like a wadded up old black sweatshirt. Moto looked confused, and when he turned to see what she was pointing at, she slipped the iphone out of his hand and into her pocket.
The teacher’s whistle snapped them both out of a trance. “Moto! Trilby! Get back on the track!”
Moto whipped his head around and grabbed her wrist. “What did you just do to me, you little witch?” 
The teacher’s whistle blew again. “Moto! Get moving!” Mrs. Peters started walking purposefully in their direction. Moto made a grab at her pocket, but Trilby danced away.
“You don’t want to do that, Moto, because then I’d have to tell Mrs. Peters you stole it, and you’d get suspended, and you wouldn’t be able to play in Friday’s game.”
Moto looked over her head at the approaching teacher and scowled. Mrs. Peters was advancing quickly. “I’m not gonna forget this,” Moto spat, fixing her with a threatening look. “You better watch your back.” Then he ran off before the teacher reached them. Trilby waited for Moto to put a few yards between them before running off, too. 
Once she was back on the track, trotting easily, relief flooded through her. She had prevailed over Moto Unga, one of the baddest bad asses on campus! She had used an old talent she wasn't even sure she possessed! 
Trilby laughed delightedly and raised her hands to the sky. “Thanks, Joan,” she mumbled, and the small, bright things that sometimes danced on the edge of her range of vision seemed to surge and sparkle in reply. Then she laughed again at her own foolishness. What an imagination! Joan the Wad was hanging on the wall in her room, not orchestrating triumphs here at Trilby's high school. Where did she come up with these stupid ideas? 
Trilby saw the new boy jogging up ahead. His longer legs made him naturally faster than she was, but she didn’t mind. She was a great sprinter, and full of raw energy after her victory, and happily anticipating the gratitude the new boy was going to feel for her when she gave him back his iphone. “What would be her reward?” she wondered wickedly. The sound of her feet pounding on the spongy red track material invigorated her, making her aware of her physical strength and speed. She had a tight little body and was still nimble from the years of gymnastics lessons she’d had as a child. The air was chill and a little wet, and bit her skin in a way that was not unpleasant. She knew the fog was curling and lifting tendrils of her hair, and the effort of running was tingeing her cheeks red, so she figured that she’d be a picture of beauty when she finally caught up to that good-looking boy. She wished she knew his name, so she could call out for him to wait up, but she hadn’t been listening (as usual) when Sister Cerdwin had announced it to the class. So she shifted her body into third gear, and was closing the gap when the teacher’s whistle interrupted her again.
“Trilby! Come over here!” 
She looked around in annoyance. What did Mrs. Peters want now? The teacher pointed her finger forcefully at the ground in front of her and made stabbing motions. “Right now!” There was no pretending she hadn’t seen. So Trilby turned towards the grassy center of the track, where Mrs. Peters stood with her arms crossed over her chest, waiting imperiously. 
“What was going on with you and Moto, over by the bleachers?” she asked when Trilby got there.
“Don’t give me that,” Mrs. Peters said sternly. “I could see you were fighting. It looked for a second like he was going to break your arm.”
“Nah. He wasn’t. We were just talking. It was nothing.” Trilby had her hands in her pockets, and looked off towards the side casually. She was rocking back on her heels and up on her toes with pent up energy. The new boy was rounding the oval, coming back towards them. If she could get this conversation over with in the next 15 seconds, she could dart out and get in place next to him when he pulled even with the 50 yard line. “Mrs. Peters, can I get back to running now?” she asked sweetly. “C’mon, I need my exercise! You’re damaging my health!”
“Whose backpack is that on the ground over there?”
“What backpack?” Trilby's agitation rose as the new boy drew closer.
“What have you got in your pockets?”
“Nothing!” Her attention snapped back to Mrs. Peters.
“Empty them out.”
“C’mon, Mrs. Peters. What are you harassing me for?”
“Why don’t you want to empty your pockets? Did I catch you red-handed?” 
“No!” Trilby slowly took out the cell phone. “I saw this cell phone on the ground over there by the backpack, and I picked it up so no one else would take it. That’s all. I was just now trying to catch up to the owner to give it back to him. I swear!”
“Hand it over.” 
“Mrs. Peters. Seriously. You don’t think I took this phone?!”
“Trilby. Seriously. You don’t think I’m stupid, do you?” 
As a matter of fact, Trilby did, but now wasn’t a good time to bring that up.
Mrs. Peters was scribbling aggressively on her clipboard, pressing the pen down hard on the page. She pulled off the top sheet of a triplicate form and handed it to Trilby. “I take it you know what to do with this?”
Trilby clamped her mouth shut and looked away. The new boy was jogging by at just that moment. He gave her a big, winning smile.
“Go back to the gym, change into your regular clothes, and take this referral form directly to the dean. I can’t believe you did this, Trilby. After all the progress you’ve made.”
“I didn’t do anything!” Trilby spat, ripping the form out of her teacher's hand and stomping off the field towards the gym.


Trilby Awakes is a work in progress. I'm hoping that 2015 will be the year that it gets finished. May the muse be with me! Comments? Suggestions? Please leave a comment.  Find more of my work on my Amazon Author Page. See what I'm working on now at

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