Don’t mess with my stuff.

Just a quick excerpt from the novel-in-progress. A flashback from the day Angel and Sarah’s father left home for good; no explanation, no goodbye. It was Angel’s birthday. He’d never given her a birthday card before, but there it was, hung up in a bright red envelope on the refrigerator. What would she want with it? Especially now? Angel threw it in the trash and went about her day. But sister Sarah couldn’t mind her own business.

[I know this is pulling right from the middle, so I’m not giving a clear idea of what has happened leading up to this; any feedback on the language itself and how the scene pans out is much appreciated. Thank you for reading. :)]


We didn’t discuss it. Once I had thrown the unopened card in with stained paper towels and coffee grinds, Sarah knew it was her cue to leave me alone. Hours later I padded to the kitchen for a drink, my eyes catching on the trashcan and pulling me to examine its contents. I leaned over top, at first only a spotted banana peel and a paper filter from the morning the only obvious pieces of trash; but then the red piece of envelope jumped out at me like a taunting piece of confetti and I immediately reached my hand inside, the dampness and darkness suddenly making no difference. My fingers sifted through odds and ends until more remnants of red revealed themselves. I opened my other palm and collected each piece I found. Several minutes had passed when I noticed how large the pile had become, a dozen tiny rips. I put my pile on the tiled counter and looked around; I knew Sarah must have done something similar with the envelope’s contents. They weren’t mixed with the pieces of envelope. A tinge of annoyance wrinkled my forehead. It was my birthday card and my decision to avoid it. Once something has been buried I never was one to dig it back up.

A quick scan let me know the rest of the kitchen had nothing else to offer. I scooped up the pieces and headed down the hall to Sarah’s room, my annoyance growing with each step. I stopped just outside of the door, one hand raised ready to knock when a piece fell from my hand and tapered down to the top of one foot. I shook it off, grabbed the handle and turned.

Sarah didn’t flinch as the door flew open, sending a gust of wind through one of her curls. She looked up from her bed, legs crossed, already dressed for the night in the red and white pinstriped pajamas I hated. I took a step forward and threw my confetti, each prize spinning downward to their landing place on individual parts of the sheet.

“What’s that?” She’d already bent her head back down towards the book in her lap.

“Don’t act stupid,” I growled. “Where is it?”

“Where’s what?” Her words were firm, but avoiding my gaze was the only way Sarah was ever able to catch a glimpse of backbone.

I leaned toward her and snatched the book away.

“Hey! I was reading that!”

“Cut it out. What the hell did you do with my birthday card? If I didn’t want to read it, that was my choice. I threw it in the trash and you had no right to go rummaging around for it. Now hand it over.”

I tossed the book on the floor and caught a glimpse of the cover, a muscular, tanned man with a beautiful woman draped in his arms, wrapped in some sort of silk sheet that just slightly revealed one breast.

She sighed and lifted herself from the mattress, moving to the nightstand, still avoiding my narrowed eyes. I watched as she opened the top drawer and shuffled some things around. A moment later she pulled out a handful of glossy ripped paper, mirror images to the red ones I’d found in the kitchen. She held out her hand and finally looked at me, her eyes glazed, shoulders scrunched to either side of her neck, like a guilty child waiting to have their hand slapped. I rolled my own eyes and grabbed the pieces away from her.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I guess I was curious. Especially since dad has never given us any cards before. It’s not what you think, Angel.”

I placed the puzzle on her dresser and slid the parts around until they began to form a picture; the word “Condolences” slowly came into view, frayed and wrinkled, staring up at me in a silent, pathetic apology. I felt my sister’s stare from the other side of the room.

“I guess it makes sense,” I said, unwavering. “We suffered a loss, didn’t we? Probably the most clever thing he’s ever done.” I swept it all into the trash and stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind me.




Filed under Writing

6 responses to “Don’t mess with my stuff.

  1. I was up writing all night, but I wanted to let you know that I read this and will come back after some sleep to read it again with fresh eyes. Right now, it feels like a draft written quickly to get the bones down. (Like, the word “tapered” doesn’t seem to work here.)

    Mainly, I was struck by the end. How awful for their father to leave Angel a card saying “Condolences” on her birthday. I was hoping there was more to this that would give him a explanation that wasn’t about being cruel. But there wasn’t and my heart sank for these girls, wondering how much cruelty they’d endured before this, to not seem to feel the punch. (And I understood the sister’s curiosity, and then why she tore it up after seeing what it said.)

    • Ré again. I read this excerpt again and my thoughts are the same. I like the basic structure here. The idea of that specific card on Angel’s birthday is powerful and heartbreaking. Also now, it strikes me that maybe they’re so used to pain that it doesn’t show much on the outside when they feel it. I’d love to read this again after you’ve edited it for extra words and language and such.

      • Thanks so much for the feedback, Ré. You’re right; this is definitely bare bones structure here. I was busy getting the “word vomit” out of the way. As I’m sure you know, writing something so large is as amazing as much as it is completely overwhelming. I’m sometimes intimidated by the size of it and worry about making sure everything is threaded together correctly….so for now I find myself getting everything out before I go back and piece it together. Once I clean this up, I’d love for you to come back again and read it. So happy to hear the idea of the card struck you (and very, very glad you caught on to the fact that this is something they are used to). That’s what makes it worth it to keep going. 🙂

  2. I liked it, but I don’t think I’ve read enough of the “before” stuff. I best get a rainy day so I can catch up.

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