I Won’t Let Go

There’s something I really love about writing. It gives me a release from the real world, just like reading does for me. Except with writing, I get to make up the story, and that is a whole other feeling. I know what’s going to happen, and I get to fill the blanks. I want other people to be in suspense at a mystery I’m writing about or fall in love with a character I’ve created. I could talk forever about how much I love to write (and read) because books and stories take me to another world. I can’t quite explain how happy it makes me, but someone once told me they could tell by the look on my face when I talked about it.

So I have been working one a novel for a few years–thanks to school work and summer jobs, I have yet to finish and I’m really sad about it–and I want to share a part of it with you. I never really share the “work in progress” part with people because, well, it is a work in progress. But because I love you guys so much–and to show you there is more to me than the subject of my last post–here is a bit of chapter one of I Won’t Let Go. The title may or may not change; I haven’t decided yet.

So the plot summary is along the lines of: girl witnesses murder, doesn’t remember the killer’s face, gets put into the Witness Protection Program, starts to live seemingly perfect life while still trying to figure out what happened, etc. Insert really cute boy that I wish was real.

I know the whole WITSEC thing probably wouldn’t happen in that situation, but I made it up and it worked for me, so I’m keeping it. ‘Tis a work of fiction, after all. Sooo here ya go:

Chapter One

“Over there is the market,” Gracie Malone told me, pointing to a small building with a sign saying “Piggly Wiggly,” “It’s brand new. And there’s City Hall. And that down there is the country club.”

I looked down the streets at the old wooden buildings with that beachy feel everyone loves so much. Then I glanced out the driver’s side window across Gracie at the sparkling beach on the other side of a long bed of sand.

Gracie and I were driving down Main Street in the small town of Haywood, Georgia. Haywood was a small island just off the coast and a few hours from Savannah. It had a population of less than two thousand and everyone knew everyone and everything. It was a place that somewhat reminded me of Martha’s Vineyard or the Hamptons.

Gracie rolled down a narrow street called Maverick Avenue. Despite its length, there were only four houses on either side, placed so they were in perfect window panes so each had a view of the ocean. They had beautifully manicured lawns, not a blade of grass out of place. At the end of the cul de sac stood the largest house on the block. Gracie pulled into the long, U-shaped driveway.

“Home, sweet home,” Gracie said.

I stepped out of the navy blue convertible. I stared at the beautiful sky blue mansion. It had three floors, white balconies on each, windows everywhere, a wraparound porch, and an indoor patio with a perfect view of the beach. A cool breeze blew past me. I couldn’t deny it: this place was gorgeous.

I went to the trunk of the car and Gracie helped me with my suitcases. She walked up to the front door, and I followed.

“This is the living room. Right there is the kitchen and dining room. The guest bedroom is down that hallway; there’s a bathroom there and just past the staircase is another,” Gracie explained, climbing the stairs. “This is the second floor. My room is right there. I’ll gift you the full tour later. You can get settled first.”

The two of us trekked up to the third level. Gracie told me I had most of the floor to myself. For the most part, it was a massive loft that faced the ocean and had sliding French doors opening to a long balcony.

I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. Three of the four walls were white, the one with my new queen-sized bed was bright pink, the floors a light tan wood—same as the rest of the house that I’d seen—a fluffy black rug laid under a canopy bed covered in white and pink sheets with black, white, and pink pillows. There was a long, white desk, and next to it, on the wall directly opposite the bed, a flat screen TV. The balcony had two lawn chairs and a small table in between them.

Gracie left me alone to unpack—at least, that’s the reason she gave for leaving. A lot had happened in the last few weeks and I hadn’t had a break from the madness.

I’d watched someone murder my mother. I saw the killer’s face before they knocked me out with a clean punch to the cheek. Why I’m still alive is beyond me. I laid unconscious next to my mom for hours before we were both found. I’d been questioned countless times because I was the only witness. I’d even been accused of killing her, but that was over quickly. I wasn’t much help, though. I didn’t remember the murderer.

I was there. I recall the whole event: seeing my mother before she hit the floor, screaming, seeing the criminal lunge at me. But the most crucial detail was his face, and I couldn’t remember one inch of it. I’m assuming it was a man at least. Since he left no evidence and my memory was no help, the killer was still out there somewhere.

I’d lived alone with my mom since I was six. My dad’s a heavy alcoholic and my mom left him. We’d moved from Colorado to Los Angeles, California to get away from him. They were divorced soon after that. My dad sobered up a little bit and actually came to visit me a few times. The last time I’d seen him was almost four years ago, when I was thirteen, but he’d made a very clean appearance at my mother’s funeral. He clearly hadn’t been able to or ready to become my legal guardian, not that he could really be. Since the killer hadn’t been caught, I had to go into the witness protection program. I had to leave all my friends behind, my house, everything. I didn’t want to go, but I had no other choice. I had to change my whole identity: my name, my history, my social security number, even my driver’s license.

Gracie Malone was assigned to be my guardian, posing as my aunt. She owned a restaurant in Haywood that was famous, and she’d been mentored by Paula Dean. Other than being an agent in the Witness Protection Program, Gracie was a normal thirty-two year-old woman. So far, I liked her, so I was glad I was getting to live with her.

Now I was here, in this beautiful beach house that was my new home, although I didn’t think I could call it that quite yet.

I opened my suitcases to decide where to start with my unpacking, mentally going over my new information. Name: Charlotte Hayes. Hometown: Bemidji, Minnesota (a town I spent hours researching). I began with my clothes to put in my dresser…If only I knew where it was. I didn’t see anything in the room that looked remotely like one. There were two doors on either side of my bed. One was a bathroom and one a closet, Gracie had told me; too bad she didn’t clarify which was which. I chose the door opposite the beach. Luckily, it was the closet. But I don’t think I could call it just that. It was close to the size of my bedroom back home. A row of clothes hung on the top rod. All still had the tags attached and were my size. The bottom rod was empty for all of my things. Built into the left wall was the dresser. I opened the top drawer and stared at an array of bras and underwear. I note was laid on top of them. I smiled as I read it.

“Charlotte *wink, wink*, you found your closet! I wanted to buy you some things to fill your hangers and drawers. I didn’t know exactly what you style was, so I just guessed. I’ll return it all if you hate it; I don’t mind. As for this drawer: a Victoria’s Secret just opened in the mall one the mainland and I went a little crazy. I thought, ‘she’s a teenage girl; she’ll love it!’ Anyway, I hope you like everything and that you’ll enjoy living here. Love, Gracie.”

I put the note on top of the dresser. I put my clothes in their respective places and surveyed the additions to my wardrobe. Gracie was right about my style. I don’t think anything would need to be returned.

There was a full length mirror hanging on a door next to the dresser. I opened it, and I was in the bathroom. It was big and fancy, like something you’d see in a master bedroom. There were sandy colored tiles lining the floor, white marble countertops, a vanity mirror framed with lights, a huge glass-door shower, and a jetted tub. But that wasn’t even the best part. A giant picture window sat above the tub. It was on the same wall as the balcony in the bedroom, but I hadn’t realized how beautiful the view was until now. I walked out of the bathroom and onto the balcony. A giant jade green field surrounded the houses on the block. It was about thirty yards to the road that lined the beginning of the beach. The sky was a gorgeous blue and the ocean a calm turquoise.

There were a few people laying in the sand and a few more splashing in the waves. This place was peaceful. There wasn’t a house behind ours for about a mile, where the grass turned to road, then sand, then water. I was skeptical about leaving California for this tiny Georgia town, but, so far, I didn’t hate it.

I unpacked the rest of my clothes and put my few keepsakes in safe places. Finally, I was almost completely moved in (I didn’t have much to begin with). There were a few things still in boxes, but I could sort that out later. There was one thing I had to do before I left the room, though. I picked up a half-unwrapped picture frame and tore the paper off. It was covered in hearts, stars, flowers, and peace signs. In glitter paint, “I love you” lined the top. Across the bottom was a date: August 29. The picture frame was given to me for my sixteenth birthday last summer. My mom and I had been saving up all year to pay for a big birthday bash in a ballroom at the Castaways, one of the most expensive restaurants back home. My mom even splurged for a photo booth. The photo set in the picture frame was of her and me in various goofy poses. The four pictures were in black and white, which off set the colorful frame. It’d been my prized possession since that day. My bedroom wasn’t complete without it. I knew Gracie wouldn’t let me keep it on display so I placed it neatly in the top drawer of the night stand, Even though I couldn’t see it, the room still felt complete. I smiled and walked out.

There are actually indents and everything, but you know, blog format is different. Yay. Tell me if I made any typos or just give me feedback. I still plan on majorly revising everything again when I am finished writing it, but anything is appreciated.

The title comes from this song. It’s one of my favorites and it has gotten me through some really difficult times in my life.

Happy Sunday from me, as I am currently en route to San Diego. In just a few hours, I will be at Sea World! Please, spare me the Blackfish lecture. I love you all! -A


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