here. I really appreciated your kind comments. And, because you asked for more, here it is. =)
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So, as I mentioned last week, Personal Demons is told in alternating first person points of view. The story opens with Luc. I promised that today you'd meet Frannie. In these next five pages, we pick up where we left off in chapter one, when Luc and Frannie move beyond ogling each other into an actual conversation.
Okay, so I’m not generally the swooning type, but Holy Mother of God, I can’t believe what just walked into my English class. Tall, dark, and sorta dangerous. Mmm…nothing like a little eye candy in the morning to get the day off to a sweet start—and possibly rot my brain. And, bonus. Apparently we’re gonna be essay partners, ’cause obsessive-compulsive Mr. Snyder is having me move down a seat to make room for him. God forbid we should ever be out of alphabetical order.
My eyes work slowly over his black T-shirt and jeans, not to mention the body underneath—very nice—as he saunters over and sits to my left. He folds his tall frame into the attached desk and chair with the grace of a sly black cat, and I swear the temperature in here just shot up ten degrees. The dim classroom lights glint faintly off the three steel bars piercing the outside corner of his right eyebrow as he stares at me through silky black bangs with the blackest eyes I’ve ever seen.
Mr. Snyder paces the front of the room for a moment, taking silent roll, then says, “Pull out your composition books and The Grapes of Wrath. Since Mr. Steinbeck was unable to find a convenient place for a chapter break in the seventy-one pages of chapter twenty-six, you’ll recall we arbitrarily imposed one at the end of page 529. Today, we’ll be reading the rest of the chapter in class and outlining Steinbeck’s major points.”
Mystery Boy looks away, finally, and I feel like I’ve been ransacked—but not in a bad way, if that makes any sense. I feel like he just checked me out from the inside out and maybe kinda liked what he saw.
“Miss Cavanaugh, care to join us?”
Mr. Snyder’s voice is like a bucket of cold water to my face—which I probably needed, ’cause things were getting kinda steamy inside. “Um…what?”
“Nice write-up in the Boston Globe yesterday. I think they captured the essence of your program nicely. I especially liked the picture,” he says with a smile. “Will you start the reading off, please? Page 530.”
I look around and everyone has their books open, even Mystery Boy. Mine’s still in my book bag. So, I’m also not usually the blushing type, but I feel my cheeks burn as I pull it out, flip it open, and start reading. My mouth articulates Steinbeck’s description of the preacher Casy’s death at the hands of a pick-handle-wielding stranger as his friend, Tom, looks on. But my mind only vaguely registers any of it, ’cause I’m keenly aware of Mystery Boy, sitting only a foot away, staring at me. I stumble on the words when he leans closer and I catch a hint of cinnamon. Mmm…
Mr. Snyder comes to my rescue. “Thank you, Miss Cavanaugh.” His eyes scan the room.
Pick Mystery Boy.
He smiles at me, then his gaze shifts to Mystery Boy. “Mr. Cain, will you continue please.”
Mystery Boy’s still looking at me, a wry smile just turning up the corners of his lips. “Certainly,” he says, and his voice sounds like warm honey, smooth and sticky-sweet, as he starts reading. But his eyes don’t shift from mine to the book right away. “Tom looked down at the preacher. The light crossed the heavy man’s legs and the white new pick handle. Tom leaped silently. He wrenched the club free. The first time he knew he had missed and struck a shoulder, but the second time his crushing blow found the head, and as the heavy man sank down, three more blows found his head…”
He seems like he’s enjoying the gruesome passage. Savoring it, really. Mr. Snyder closes his eyes and looks as though he’s meditating. He lets Mystery Boy read through the end of the chapter, which is much longer than anyone else has read all year. I glance around the room and everyone—even tough guy, smart-ass Marshal Johnson—seems hypnotized.
“Would you like me to continue to chapter twenty-seven, Mr. Snyder?” Mystery Boy asks, and Mr. Snyder snaps abruptly out of his trance.
“Oh…no. Thank you, Mr. Cain. That will be sufficient. Beautifully done. All right, class, the chapter outline on Mr. Steinbeck’s major themes in the second half of chapter twenty-six is to be finished before class tomorrow morning. You have the rest of the period to work.”
Mystery Boy turns toward me, closing his book, and I get caught in his eyes for a second. “So, Miss Cavanaugh, do you have a first name?”
“It’s good to meet you. That was a nice little trick.”
“What?” His eyes flash as a beautifully wicked grin spreads across his face.
“Reading without looking at the book.”
He shifts back in his seat, and his grin falters slightly. “You’re mistaken.”
“No, actually, I’m not. You didn’t even glance at the book till you were on the second sentence, and you were behind turning the pages. Why would you memorize Steinbeck?”
“I haven’t.” He’s such a liar, but before I can call him on it, he changes the subject. “Why a Globe article?”
“It’s no big deal. Just a thing where we send letters to kids in Pakistan. Kind of like pen pals, I guess. Mostly, it’s a way of helping us understand each other…you know, our cultures and stuff.”
There’s a cynical edge to his expression. “Really.”
“You want a name?” I shuffle through my bag and come out with a folder. “I have a few more.”
“Let me think about it. I’m assuming we’re essay partners, whatever that means?”
“Guess so.” Despite the freaky reading-without-looking thing, I’m not about to complain. He’s definitely a step or twenty up from Aaron Daly, who has taken his bad sinuses across the aisle and is now sniffling all over Jenna Davis’s composition book instead of mine. “We’re supposed to discuss the reading and come up with a chapter outline with all the major points. Mr. Snyder’s big into discussing things,” I say, rolling my eyes. That’s all for show, though, ’cause I’m seriously into discussing things with Mystery Boy. “So…what do you think of Tom’s conundrum?”
I write “Frannie and Luke—Chapter 26-2 outline” on the top of an empty page in my composition book.
He raises an eyebrow, slides my pen out from between my fingers, crosses out “Luke,” and writes “Luc” above it.
Query critique Tuesday: Just tell the story
17 hours ago