Here is my latest baby! I have been working on her faithfully since I started on May 30th (Yes, this year!) I am currently finishing up chapter 21! And I think I have --maybe--3 more chapters left! Wahoo! So, this week I'll be through and begin the long editing process! It's still in rough draft for so be gentle. And for those of you who don't know... It is a remake of Jane Austen's Persuasion, for teens!
BTW: This is book two of my YA Austen Series!
By, Jenni James 2008
There was an awkward tug, a twist and a slight jerk, before the glass beads spilled everywhere. All over the floor.
I’m such an idiot! This wasn’t even my necklace!
He was supposed to be gone. He had already said good-bye to his friends. I watched as Gregory hovered in the doorway, hesitant about what he should do. I decided I would make it easier for him. As I knelt on the floor I turned my back to him and ignored him completely to pick up the mess.
There, now you can go. See? I don’t need you. It’s only a few beads after all. I sighed at the thought of being such a klutz in front of him, again. It wasn’t a loud sigh, so I was surprised to see his long lean fingers surrounded by mine and the beads. I glanced up and saw the top of his blonde head as he studiously avoided me, yet, at the same time acknowledged the fact that I did need help. It had been years since I had seen that head and those hands so close to my own. Years. It stopped me a moment and I didn’t know quite what to do with myself.
What I wasn’t expecting most was the joy of him being so near. I had anticipated grief and pain and awkwardness, but never joy. What a foolish being I must be! To be happy he is so near, when I was the one who rejected him. When I was the one who broke his heart. Why, oh why, did I ever listen to my friends all those years ago? They told me I did not love him, but they were wrong. I love him. I have always loved him. Now, with him returned, I fully expected him to my break heart--as the punishment I deserved--but not bring it joy. Never joy. I didn’t deserve to be happy.
Stunned into silence with my wayward thoughts I began to collect the beads again. This time I looked over and noticed not only had Gregory centered the beads he had collected into a pile, he had also begun to organize them in groups of color and size.
Is he stalling? My heart began to race. Is he waiting for me to say something? He can’t be hoping to be next to me longer, I know he hates me. Hasn’t he looked straight through me—as if I didn’t exist--during the entire party? We haven’t spoken one word to each other the whole night. Even when we were introduced he just nodded and walked back to that beautiful blonde girl. The beautiful blonde who was, even now, waiting for him in the hall. One blue glass bead. One green glass bead. One silver spacer bead. One…
“Thank you, Gregory.”
He looked up then, still not meeting my eyes.
I tried again, “You didn’t have to, but thank you anyway. It was very nice of you.” And more than I deserve.
Shocked, his eyes finally met mine. My heart stopped. Deep chocolate brown eyes, set against such blonde features were as striking as I had always remembered them to be. And more. He was older, much older. Four years older. And extremely good looking! my foolish heart whispered.
His eyes held mine far longer than my heart could be comfortable with, yet I didn’t want to look away. I couldn’t. I had waited too long to see his incredible eyes again. Selfishly, I absorbed every moment he gave me. There was so much I wish I could’ve said--so much I am sure he wouldn’t want to hear—but, I let it be. I remained silent and allowed the moment of our first real meeting to dominate and overwhelm me. I lived in the moment. Something I was chided for doing all those years ago. Something I vowed I would never make the mistake of not doing again. The moment lasted. Gratefully, heartwarmingly, intensely…it lasted.
His eyes tugged and pulled and searched through mine with unknown questions I could not answer. He did not smile. He did not frown. He just watched and looked and searched and then,
“You’re welcome.” His unfamiliar deep baritone jarred me. If I wasn’t frozen before, I was now.
It was short. It was simple. It was complete. And, he spoke to me! He actually spoke to me!
It surprised him. I could see that he was very surprised. I realized then, that he must’ve broken some small vow to himself in that moment. --But that was the way it always was with him. Gregory could not resist helping someone if they were in need. Even if it was someone he had sworn to loathe for all eternity.
He blinked then, his thoughts—I am sure—taking a turn in the same direction mine had. And then he began to pull away. Slowly and surely I watched him leave. There was nothing I could do to keep him next to me. Nothing I could say. I did not deserve him. I was more unworthy now, than I had ever been. And more so, because at fourteen years old, I had still had the promise of turning into a beautiful princess.
At fourteen, everyone knows your face will continue to grow and develop and change. But at eighteen, my face was what it was. While Gregory’s features had only become better, mine, I knew--without the aide of any mirror--had become worse. I had not grown as beautiful as those all around me. In fact I had become quite ordinary and plain. --No, I did not deserve to keep him. I had given that chance up long ago. He wasn’t, nor will he ever be, mine.
Within seconds Gregory had stood up again. I watched as he slightly adjusted his jacket—His tall form towering over me—and then he was gone; his eyes never once wavering from the hallway where the beautiful blonde had waited for him.
In silence I collected the last of the borrowed necklace I had been so eager to wear, earlier. The necklace that had always looked so pretty on my sister. As if a necklace could change my looks! My face is what it is, and what it always will be. Plain. And if I grow to be a hundred years old, it will only become even more plain than it is now. Then the pain I knew would come, came. I fled the party. I had to get away before anyone saw my emotional distress.
Once in the privacy of my car, I allowed the full force of the pain and bitterness of four years to wash over me. Four years! How can I be silly enough to love someone who I know has despised me for so long? --Especially this much! It is a stupid, idiotic notion that has to stop. Really! To hold onto something --so fiercely-- that will never be, is only set to ruin me further! I can barely breathe or think as it is… but this—this notion that he is the only one for me is really quite brutal to my soul. It can’t be healthy!
Why did he come back? Why did he choose now--of all times--to disrupt my life? And why did he have to be so good looking too! I would’ve gladly taken him no matter what he looked like. –But, to be so—so gorgeous was torture! No one recognized or remembered him but me. Not one of my so-called friends even recalled their disapproval of Gregory Wentworth. He was cheerfully welcomed into their circle, like vultures eager to stake a claim at so fine a specimen. The same girls that had gossiped about him and secretly mocked him, now gladly turned to him with open arms.
It was rumored that his father had become very successful after leaving Farmington and now Gregory’s family were whispered to be worth millions. Millions! While my family—who used to spend our winters in Hawaii and our summers in Alaska--had to now learn to economize. Thanks to the burden of the economy and recession our deteriorating investments and businesses had nearly depleted our finances.
My dad didn’t think I knew, but I had overheard him and my stepmom countless times debating over the great burden of debt that seemed to swallow us whole. Just last week they announced that we were going to move. My stepmom had made up some pretense of having a difficult time keeping up such a large house as ours, but I knew we didn’t have a choice. At least my parents were smart about it. We would all be better off with a smaller house that fit within our newly required budget.
The house! That was the final blow. Why did his family have to buy our house, of all houses? It hadn’t even been put on the market when the realtor called to arrange a viewing while I was at school Thursday. Thank goodness I was at school! My dad had mentioned a tall good-looking guy had come with his parents during the viewing. I probably would have fainted had I met him then! I would’ve thought I was hallucinating or something. How many times had I wished Gregory had been in my home all these years? --But to now have my wish granted in this way was unthinkable. To have him sleeping in one of the bedrooms, or walking daily through the living room, or putting his feet up with a good book in the study--it was enough to unnerve me. I was as very nearly mortified as I could possibly get.
“Amanda!” I let out a short involuntary shriek at the sound of my name and the pounding on the passenger window of my car. I was still sitting in it. My car was still parked in front of Kylie’s house. I had not driven away, I couldn’t have. I had promised to help Kylie clean up and I would.
I rolled down the window to hear Kylie better, “I thought you had gone! What are you doing out here, anyway?”
I quickly put the warm beads--that were still clutched in my hand—in the pullout drawer beneath my stereo. “I—uh, I was just--”
“Oh, never mind.” She interrupted, “You’re coming in to help, aren’t you?’
“Yes, of course,” I answered as I hurriedly opened the car door and stepped out. Kylie was still chattering. “Everyone else has gone already. You weirdo! What an odd thing to do. Only you would sit alone in your car at night—in the dark—when there was a party going on!”
I silently followed her up the steps of her house and took the large black trash bag she handed me.
“Well, here. Since you like being in the dark anyway, I assume you will not mind cleaning up out here first?” She looked at me and then shook her head, before opening the front door and waltzing in. “I’ll be inside. Hurry up, okay?”
“Okay.” I mumbled to an already shut door. With my second sigh that night, I surveyed the damage done by the teenagers. I guess it could have been worse--since it was mostly cans and wrappers everywhere. Kylie had thought it would be fun to have a piñata at the party. It was fun. But by the looks of it, most of the candy wrappers had ended up outside. Relieved, I didn’t have to give Gregory another thought, I started to clean up. In no time at all, I was in the house and tossing junk in there, too.
Kylie’s parents had one rule when it came to throwing a party in their house and that was: If Kylie threw a party; she had to clean it up. That meant she wasn’t even allowed to leave part of it for their cleaning lady who came to clean Monday-Saturday. I don’t think there has ever been a party that she has thrown where I wasn’t there before hand to help set up and still there afterwards to help clean up. I really didn’t mind helping. It sure beat staying home at night. Not that home was all that bad, its just lately my older sister had really began to wear on me. My parents must’ve told her their financial troubles because she had been constantly whining about how unfair her life was for weeks now.
“So, you lucky girl, tell me all about it.”
Startled for the second time by Kylie breaking into my thoughts, I turned around. She was wearing an apron and looked positively gorgeous in it. Like a model for one of those Pillsbury commercials you see on TV.
“Tell you all about what?” I stared at her in confusion. Did I miss something?
“Hello? About Gregory Wentworth. Do you think I’m blind?”
Does she know? I decided to stall a bit. “Blind?” My heart unconsciously began to race.
Kylie rolled her eyes. “Come on, the hottest guy here tonight totally comes to your rescue and you can’t even say anything about it?”
Oh! “Uh, yeah. He was really nice.”
“Nice? You mean nice looking, right?”
“Amanda! You were closer to him than anyone else at the party tonight. I want details girl! Weren’t you just totally freaking out? Did he say anything to you?”
“No, nothing really.”
“Ugh! Only you would totally waste an opportunity like that. No offense, but seriously girl, if he had helped me with my necklace, he would’ve had my phone number by the time he stood up. I don’t care who he came with.”
I weakly smiled. Her words hurt more than I think she intended them to.
“Did he say who that girl was? I heard from someone that she was from Bloomfield.”
“No, he didn’t say anything.”
“Well, I will just have to find out who she is.”
“Are you going to break them up, or something?”
“First, let’s see if they’re going together. I don’t want to do something drastic if I don’t have to.”
I lowered my eyes a minute before I bravely smiled, “So, you think he’ll go for you? Do you think he likes you?”
“Um, if he doesn’t yet. I promise you, he will.”
I nodded my head. She was right. I mean what guy could resist Kylie Russell? What guy would want to?
“Can you believe it? Gregory’s a multi-millionaire! And he’s moving here of all places!” She laughed, “To think, I thought this summer was going to be boring!”
I attempted a half chuckle. It was all I had left in me. This summer? This summer will most likely prove to be painful. Horrible. Awkward. --But, Kylie was right, it wouldn’t be boring.