Late last year, I dug Elite Falcons out from the bottom of the “Unfinished WIPs” pile. To borrow a NaNoWriMo term of art, I “pantsed” my way through the planning process, didn’t take any notes, and thus have long since forgotten how the plot was supposed to go. Judging by what I’ve written so far, most of the young leads get kidnapped except Max and another kid named Elliot. How they were to get from this point to being recruited into a top-secret spy agency for teenagers remains a mystery I hope to crack this year.
Other themes I was trying to cover, judging by what past-Allison had written, included racism, anti-bullying, and dispelling ethnic stereotypes. I don’t think I was too effective and I need to rethink how I’d written some things so my past self’s good intentions carry through.
At the moment, I’m writing a scene which picks up where Max left off. Some time has passed since he got into that car with the awkward social worker lady (although nowhere near as much time has passed in the real world). But it’s not done. In the meantime, here’s a decent (albeit melodramatic) scene I’d written two years ago about another character, Tatiana.
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From her bedroom, twelve year old Tatiana Dean watched the people stop underneath the brightly-striped awning just below, peer through the front window expectantly, and ultimately walk away looking dismayed. She, too, wondered why the bakery her parents ran so attentively was still closed at ten o’clock on a Saturday morning.
They’re probably sleeping in, Tatiana reasoned, stepping out of her room and eyeing the closed door across the hall. It happens to the best of us.
As she went to knock on the door, she became aware of the repetitive beeping of her father’s alarm clock. He set it every morning for six o’clock, and he was up before it even finished its first shrill beep; it was against his character to hit snooze – all the more so to let it carry on this way.
Tatiana opened the door a crack. “Mom? Pop?” she whispered. When she heard no response, she stepped inside.
The bed was empty. It hadn’t even been slept in; the covers were untouched.
Where were they?
Tatiana made a thorough search of their small home. No one was in the bathroom; the balcony was locked and unoccupied; the living room and kitchen were empty. If they weren’t in the store….
I’m all alone here, Tatiana concluded in dismay.
A knock at the front door broke the somber silence that had fallen upon the apartment over Dean’s Bakery.
“Tatiana, darling,” a high, nasal voice called through. “Are you in there?”
It was Mrs. Flanders, the woman who’d been renting the other apartment above the bakery since last fall.
Tatiana looked down at her clothes, realizing she was still in her pajamas, and tried to pat down the frizzy mass of curls that she called hair. A little sheepishly, she opened the front door.
Mrs. Flanders was about fifty, with bleached hair, bleached teeth, and enough liquid foundation on her face to drown a cat. “Oh, there you are,” she drawled. “I was startin’ to wonder if there was anybody home. Where are your parents?”
Tatiana frowned. “I’m trying to figure that out myself.”
Mrs. Flanders pursed her magenta lips in a show of sympathy. “Oh, you poor dear. Why don’t you get dressed and come on over. You look like you could use some company. And some breakfast.”
Tatiana blushed self-consciously as her stomach growled. She usually ate at the bakery; her mother always set aside a freshly baked cinnamon roll or a slice of quickbread for her. Today, that wouldn’t be the case.
“Okay,” she replied uncertainly. “I’ll be over soon.”
“Take your time,” Mrs. Flanders called as she went back to her apartment.
Quickly, Tatiana pulled on a pair of jeans and a clean T-shirt before she went next-door. Before she even knocked, Mrs. Flanders opened the door and invited her in.
“Come on over to the kitchen, sugar,” the neighbor said.
The room was clammy and ill-furnished, a sharp contrast to Mrs. Flanders’ heavily made-up face. Tatiana tried not to show her distaste as she sat at a cheap, folding card table.
“Thank you, Mrs. Flanders,” she managed to say as the woman served her some Crystal Lite. Grainy powder coated the bottom of the glass, like it had been poorly mixed.
“Please, call me Marlene,” said Mrs. Flanders, placing a reassuring but wrinkly hand on Tatiana’s shoulder. The hand was cold and hard. Inadvertently, she shivered at the touch.
“Y’know, I’ve been doing some baking of my own,” said Mrs. Flanders, ambling over to the kitchen counter. She returned with a plate of cookies. “I’ve always wanted to better my skills, just like my grandma used to do. Southern hospitality, she called it.” She held out one of the cookies. “You’ll try one, won’t you?”
Reluctantly, Tatiana accepted the lumpy thing. It looked like it had come from a boxed mix. Just add eggs and oil, she thought wryly.
She chewed, noting the peculiar, chemical taste. Mom’s cookies were so much better.
“Do you like it?” Mrs. Flanders asked, an odd look on her face.
“Yeah,” Tatiana answered. “It’s alright.”
Mrs. Flanders smiled tightly. “Surely it’s not as good as your mother’s. I’m no baker, y’know….”
As Mrs. Flanders droned on and on about her culinary experiences (or lack thereof), her godchildren, and her ex-husband, Jeremiah, Tatiana felt her eyelids become heavy and her mind slow down. Perhaps it was something in the food. Was she having an allergic reaction to all the artificial flavoring?
“My stars!” Mrs. Flanders exclaimed. “Are you feelin’ alright?”
Tatiana shook her head, or tried to. I don’t think so, she wanted to say, but all that came out of her mouth was a weak moan. Abruptly, she slumped forward against the table. Her head felt like it’d been struck from the inside.
“Sweetheart, I’m going to call an ambulance,” she heard Mrs. Flanders say, but it sounded like her voice was coming from inside a fishbowl.
The last thing she saw before the blackness took over was Marlene Flanders speaking into a funky-looking cellphone. “We’ve got her,” she was saying, any vestige of an accent gone from her voice. “She went out like a light. You can send the van over now.”