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Lost in Destiny Chapter One

August 29, 2010

A while ago, I posted up a brief synopsis for Lost in Destiny.

I’ve entered the first 47 pages into The Golden Pen contest and am now racing to finish the MS by October.  Eek doesn’t begin to cover it, but at least I had some vacation time to burn at work and am about halfway finished.

So, all that to say that I am finally posting Chapter One here. No, there will be no Chapter Two or any others posted. This is all the freebies you’re getting. A girl’s gotta draw a line somewhere.

I Would Have Preferred the Treat

My gun belt snagged on the seventh rung up the ladder, the sudden jerk sending my left foot sliding off the rusted metal. Palms, sweaty from my sprint across several city blocks, did nothing to hold me in place. Hooking my arms around a rung and jamming my right boot heel to lock against the white iron bar, I managed not to plummet back to the sidewalk.

Perhaps breaking into the Euclid Grove Park Public Library in my extremely authentic gunslinger Halloween costume—I’d worked every day after school for two years to purchase all the pieces from collectors and professional costume shops online—wasn’t the best idea. Mother’s new boyfriend’s expensive cologne still clung to my thick blue button down shirt and brown leather vest from his too tight, too long hug and “why, she certainly looks older than seventeen” comment. It was the first time I’d met him, and already I could tell boyfriend number nine was a real winner. I’d have to sleep with one eye open if Mother decided to move in with this one. Of course, I’d been doing that since I caught boyfriend number four snitching my panties from the laundry—gross! The fact that they were my favorite light blue pair with the tiny bucking broncos had just pissed me off even more.

I took my hockey stick to his gigantic, pretty new television and then escaped to the library on my powder-pink (gag) ten speed—a Christmas present from boyfriend number three who thought it was an acceptable substitute to the horse I’d been promised. Of course, it had been during normal hours, so I’d been able to stroll through the front door instead of scrambling across the rooftop to slip in through the unlocked fire riser door. It was only unlocked because I’d picked the lock and duct taped the latch years ago, but the fact it remained so proved my theory that no one cared. Besides, I never stole anything. I was just there for my books. And they were mine. No one cared for them like I did.

Yanking the jury-rigged door open, I felt my way to the inside door. Flying down the dark but familiar cement stairs, I launched into the crash bar, not even wincing as the sharp ping-clank echoed throughout the two story building. Not another soul was here to register the sound, but I liked to think my books heard and knew I was home. The perfume of thick paper soaked with the oil of eager fingers flipping pages and covered in plastic sleeves that hadn’t been new since the ‘80’s wrapped around me, hugging me like an old friend. Orange, heavy-duty tread carpet at least two decades past its prime, hushed the clunks of my boot heels, the only thing I found to grumble about here. I liked the solid thunks they made. It always sounded like I meant business.

Cowboy boots were supposed to “leave behind” just a little as you stepped forward. I wore them pretty much every day, polishing them almost as much as my Championship Barrel Racing belt buckle. I’d won that on the Orange County Junior Rodeo circuit before Mother had decided having a daughter who constantly smelled of saddle leather and horse sweat wasn’t in the pro column of finding Mr. Moneybags. She’d blown through my room like a F5 tornado, throwing away anything hinting of my cowgirl ambitions. I’d been at school at the time, luckily wearing my belt buckle and favorite pair of boots, saving them from her scouring.

What ensued when I got home I now referred to as Epic Fight Numero Uno. I’d called her all the names I’d learned from the grown up bull riders I’d shadowed during the county rodeo, even the ones I didn’t understand. That was the first time I broke into the library, spending the night devouring my books in the broken shifting moonlight.

Tonight, I followed the same route; one left, two rights, then several rows straight down an aisle guarded on either side by the customary combination solid oak and oak veneer bookshelves. Once, when visiting a potential grandparent’s home in another state, I’d been to a library whose caretakers had opted for metal shelving. It’d smelled like the inside of the cookie tin where I kept my pennies. The cold steel seemed to trap and drain the books’ souls, and I’d fled after only a few minutes. I pressed a palm along the wood, reassuring myself that desecration was far away from my books.

Snaking around another left, I stopped. Tiny black plaques with etched white lettering announced “U.S. HISTORY” and below that “THE WILD WEST” across four bookcases, each boasting six shelves of books; most of them here as a result of my special order requests. I’d read every single one of them at least twice, my name scrawled in ever-increasingly messier handwriting—it drove Mother crazy—on all the checkout cards before they switched to barcodes and fully computerized checkouts.

I pulled my favorite, Vardis Fisher and Opal Laurel Holmes’ Gold Rushes and Mining Camps of the Early American West, off the shelf and opened the front cover to see Jesse Brooks, listed in fifteen of the last twenty slots. I’d memorized this book at home before realizing I could tuck myself into one of the cracked red vinyl reading chairs hidden behind the reference section.

More in the mood to pour over books about guns, I lovingly put Fisher and Holmes back. Out of a habit I’d formed rather quickly today, I closed a fist around the silver handle of the 1860 Colt I wore in my holster. I’d managed to find it at an estate sale I’d seen in the newspaper. Although it had cost me almost as much as a car, the people running the sale hadn’t bothered to ask me my age when I’d handed them the cash. Lucky for boyfriend number nine, I hadn’t procured bullets for it yet.

No one noticed it was real. Not that I cared, I was always happy to go unnoticed. Noticed equaled a barrage of criticisms from Mother for not being a girlie-girl cheerleading prom queen. I’d been Rodeo Queen once, for five minutes, until I picked up a road apple and chucked it into the face of my runner-up. She’d been hissing a constant stream of insults at me during the coronation ceremony and, in my book, manure-in-the-face is the proper response when dealing with a snob. The rodeo commission apparently went by a different book.

Trailing my fingertips over the spines of my books, I stepped down two bookshelves, reaching up to the very top. My hand brushed hardened leather, which somehow warmed under my touch, and I yanked back. Where Dean K. Boorman’s Guns of the Old West: An Illustrated History, should have rested on the only-dusted-on-rare-occasion oak shelf sat an unfamiliar book. It was wedged in there, like someone had hurriedly stashed it.

Darting back down two rows, I kicked the rolling footstep down to my books and jumped onto its swirled black rubber top. The tip of my nose almost knocked against the bottom binding of the leather book, and I leaned my head back to study the newcomer without crossing my eyes. White lines marbled the tan leather, cracks from payment demanded for years of service. Yet, it didn’t look in disrepair, only softened with the wisdom of time.

There was no name on the spine, only what looked like ancient Greek symbols. I’d never bothered to study mythology other than that of gunfighters and frontier lawmen. Eager to hold an undiscovered book, I gingerly pinched the spine between my right thumb and forefinger. Again, I was struck by the near warmth the book gave off and wondered if the leather soaked up the heated air seeping through the overhead vent. For being crammed into the company of my books, it slid out easily as if it was just as curious about me.

Still standing on the rickety footstep, I avoided shifting my weight too heavily—it’d only taken two spills to teach me that lesson—and held the newcomer in my hands. The cover of the book was blanker than the spine, but closer examination revealed something faded as if it had been rubbed off over the years. If I could turn to the right a bit more and catch the moonlight just so … the title was kind of readable. T…Rangers.

Could it be a book I’d never heard of about the Texas Rangers? There was only one way to find out, and I felt silly having wasted all this time deciphering what I could read clearly if I just opened the stupid thing. A strange hesitation washed over me, and I froze, feeling as if something wrong had just invaded my sanctuary.

Holding my breath, I listened for any indication I was not alone. Outdated computers hummed idle downstairs, wood frames and plaster sighed and groaned the soft satisfaction of settling in for the night and the exit signs buzzed a quiet beacon, calling all to safety. Even the stuttering motor of the water fountain assured me all was as it should be. So why did it feel like I was being watched?

For once, my section felt too open. I shot off the step, barely registering the clatter of it tipping over, and tore down the long line of oak cases, grabbing onto the edges of the shelves to pull myself around corners without losing velocity. My heart thudded in my chest, pounding through my veins, and I feared it echoed as loudly off the walls as it did in my ears. My boots, while fantastic at keeping my feet from slipping through the stirrups in case of a fall, seriously failed in the give-you-traction-while-fleeing-library-creepy-crawlie-sensations department.

I still clutched the newcomer in my hands. The short cubicles of newspapers loomed, and, switching the book to just my left hand, I planted my right on the top of the white particleboard and vaulted over.  I used the slick soles of my boots to maintain a controlled slide around the end of the Reference towers and finally saw my goal: my faded red vinyl refuge.

Collapsing into its cushion, I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling “Safe” as if I’d been playing hide and seek. Panting from my terrified dash, I scooted the seat back the few inches it took to be flush against the wall. I still wasn’t entirely rid of my body’s fight or flight adrenaline rush, but I knew in a moment or so I would be laughing at myself. What could harm me here?

Asking rhetorical questions of the universe was like waving a giant red flag, jumping up and down and yelling “come get me.” Scanning the room on all sides of me, I caught my reflection in the window and laughed. My sun-kissed—ravaged was probably closer to the truth—skin looked pale, and my eyes were much wider than normal even while shaded from the brim of my hat. Tucking my legs under me, I set the newcomer on my lap and opened the cover, determined to immerse myself in the world of whatever history awaited.

Opening to the title page, I gasped. I was staring at an old world portrait of me. Well, me if I was attacked by a Hot Topic version of one of those glamour picture places where they doll you up into your inner beauty pageant contestant. Head tipped back, long brown tresses spilled in waves down past her bare shoulders. A leather and metal corset made her body much more of the woman Mother wished I was every time she took in my t-shirt and jeans. A black fur cloak draped around her arms, leaving her shoulders bare, and the dangerous, curved jewelry at her ears and neck looked like it could double as a weapon.

This is just leftover crazy from your mad dash to your red throne.

My eyes swept over the picture again, searching for the obvious differences that made her not me. Small upturned nose? Check. Strong jaw? Check. Wide eyes surrounded by thick lashes? Check. Full lips? Check. Fangs … I caught myself pushing fingers to my teeth. Nope. No fangs there. And now I felt really stupid thinking the vampire immortalized in the newcomer’s pages was me.

Chastising myself for not being desensitized to Halloween after all, I turned the page over. A sprawling portrait of Silver City, Nevada in its finest moments of prosperity greeted me. There was no caption, but I instantly knew. I’d planned to visit modern day Silver City, walk down those streets, stay in the old bed and breakfast, maybe even purchase bullets for my Colt. Longing filled my heart, leaving the rest of me empty and I stroked my finger over the picture.

It was like touching one of those fajita plates they always warn you not to touch. I tried to pull away, but my finger welded to the page and the rest of my hand followed as if everything had just become magnetized. Shouting curses, I clawed at the book with my other hand only to have it trap that one too. My body felt weird, like it had gone from set Jell-O to when you’re mixing the powder and the water together. Breathing became difficult, and I tried to get up.

Run! My fight or flight was stuck on flight and screaming. Flailing my arms up and down, I tried to shake the book off my hands. I spun to smash it against the wall behind me and saw my reflection in the window again. This time I was more smoke and liquid than anything, my entire form flowed up into the air, huddled over the book then crumbled, spilling into the Silver City picture.

Everything went black.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2010 8:46 pm

    I love it. You will do great in the contest, I know it. ♥

  2. August 31, 2010 5:07 am

    Yay! Love this so much!

  3. August 31, 2010 10:22 pm

    Very intriguing!

  4. September 6, 2010 5:10 pm

    Phew…I’m pooped just reading that. Had my heart going…speaking of being sucked into a book. Way to go, girlie!

  5. March 19, 2011 3:57 am

    Wow…way to go to build tension! Great Chapter H!


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