So I’ve been working on a lot of stuff lately (…computer science projects and calculus homework…thanks college) – including a lot of music (I GOT A KEYBOARD FOR MY ROOM, GUYS!!!), which I’ll hopefully be posting on here soon.
Aside from that, I’m working on a new short story anthology with little snapshots into different parts of my universes…gearing up to enter them in competitions, because bragging rights and query letters – amiright?
In light of all that, I’ve sort of been…er, slacking…on my novels (giving myself a well-deserved break, okay? Don’t give me that look). But I’m back at it again, and I really like the opening lines for my newest manuscript, MARGINS FROM A NOTEBOOK, so I thought I’d share! Have a peek!
The trick to not being found is to not hide.
Tia Ling doesn’t hide. She doesn’t run, either. She walks, every step measured, every step careful. Smoke curls from her lips and spirals into the air and veils the stars like a curtain thrown across a window, gauzy, wafting in the wind, and she’s out in the open, uncovered.
The smell of cigarettes is intoxicating. So is the touch of sandpaper-rough hands against lotion-softened cheeks. So is the smell of sweat and soil mingling with rose hip perfume, the heat of asphalt in the summertime, the burn of winter frost, the bite of the wind, the blinding claws of lightning flashing from the sky. So is the taste of forbiddenness, of rebellion, of disobedience. Cigarettes. Intoxicating. Just as bad as vodka. Heavy, thick, cloying…cigarette smoke reaches at your throat and grips your vocal chords with fingers like steel, makes your breath freeze in place, fills you with the sweet poison of tobacco. Makes it hard to swallow. Cigarettes are intoxicating – like love.
And like love, cigarettes begin with the lips. Shards of dreams, shreds of reality rolled in bits of paper, pinched between the teeth. Inhale, feel the taste; exhale, billowing smoke into the air. It clings to everything – the wallpaper, the furniture, your throat, your lungs, your heart, your brain. Like love, cigarette smoke is all-encompassing, swallowing you whole.
Tia’s never smoked before, but she lives in a world that does, and the stuff’s everywhere – vapors and fumes rising towards the sky in rivers of silver, clouding between the buildings and into the gray of the gutters. The people here, the riffraff, blend into the smoke like ghosts, gaunt and skeletal. They’re quiet, mostly. They watch her with big eyes – the kind that make you feel as though you’ve been put under the lense of a microscope and pinned there overtime. Like dozens of oversized magnifying glasses all watching her at once.
Skeletons walking in a city of light.
She breathes out, and in, and her throat rattles with a cough. Harsh. Cigarette smoke is harsh. She likes it – the tang, the bitterness, the bite. It’s nostalgic, somehow. Romantic. Like black-and-white movies from three hundred years ago. Tia Ling has never smoked a cigarette before a month ago, but she’s never loved before, either. All she’s ever known is the world in front of her eyes, like a papier mâché tower in a shop window.
She stops in the light of the cosmetics shop and watches her reflection blink in the mirror, watches the way the neon lights paint one half of her face blue and the other half bright pink. The cigarette sits exactly in the middle of her mouth, at the place where her top lip crooks into a peak and her bottom lip pushes out into a pout. She pinches it in her fingers, pulls it out, and it glows gently in the light as she breathes out, long, slow, easy. Lazy.
There’s music. There’s always music here, the kind that starts in the ground and vibrates up through your body and into your chest, flickers in time with the bright neons of the characters that dance against the storefront, in time with the rippling flags that read 欢迎关岭 three times on every side. A girl brushes past her, bumps her shoulder, disappears inside the cosmetics shop, blue headphones balanced around her neck.
Tia flicks her eyes to the girl, watches the sway of her hips for a long moment, and then she turns back to her reflection again, presses the end of the cigarette to her lips. She runs her hands across her body and swings her hips, fingers sliding against the dips and valleys of her skin. It’d be easy, she tells herself for the millionth time, so easy. She could just…and maybe her family wouldn’t be torn apart like this. Maybe, with a little bit of extra money, with a little bit of help, maybe all of it would be okay. Maybe she could fix them. Fix everything.
Her mother told her not to.