First of all, I'd like to say thank you to all the people who have read and enjoyed my stories It really is a thrill for me when people connect with the characters I've created and want to continued to spend time with them, and that's true whether I have hundreds of readers or thousands. Hint, it's not thousands.
Secondly, I've never had so much trouble writing a book before, which I find weird because the story is basically written in long outline--beginning, middle, and end, all just there waiting for me to fill in the words. I hope it's the distraction of summertime, and the pool, and traveling, and music festivals that seems to have my mind blocked. Now that my kids are back in school (they're in college), I'm assuming I can get some serious writing done and get the next book out by the end of the year. One thing I've realized that's kind of a bummer is, for a self publisher, I'm painfully slow.
I've said this before and didn't have much luck, but I'll be posting scenes of Sun and Saltwater in hopes of getting me on a stronger writing schedule. I've already posted one scene here, which I thought would end up on the cutting room floor, but now I'm having second thoughts. The beginning of this book is giving me fits.
There may be spoilers ahead so if you don't want to know what happens until the whole book is completed you might want to stop reading now.
Sun And Saltwater (scene 2)
From the outside, Pirates didn’t look like much. The Gulf side restaurant had a slanted roof that I knew leaked in three places and was equipped with rickety but serviceable ceiling fans. The tables were of the picnic variety, and at one time they’d been painted in bright colors that had faded over the years to barely there. Sand stuck to the sticky floor like glitter on glue.
Joe, the owner/cook/waiter, didn’t cater to the tourists from Atlanta or Birmingham or New Orleans. He catered to the locals. And by locals, I meant us—waterbreathers. We didn’t mind a little sand in our food as long as it was good, and Pirates had the best seafood baskets on the coast. The hush puppies were spiked with lumps of crab and lobster. The fish fresh caught and grilled to perfection. Shrimp the size of my fingers, and I didn’t have small hands.
Pirates had survived two category 3 hurricanes, five tropical storms, and too many fist fights to count. An old metal sign hung on the wall behind the bar over the mirror that read “Pirates and Ninja’s and Lasers and Shit.”
We were the shit all right. At least secretly I liked to think so.
My face broke on a smile when I spotted Joe behind the bar. Joe was a lander. He was also a friend, and now I was sorry I hadn’t brought Caris here before.
“Hey, Joe this is Caris.” I leaned in and whispered loudly in her ear. “Joe owns this dump.”
“Hi, Caris.” Joe’s face beamed.
“Hi, Joe. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Looks like you out punted your coverage, Noah.” Joe reached across the bar and knuckled me in the shoulder. “Have a seat and I’ll bring you a basket of hushpuppies.”
“Thanks, Joe.” I placed my hand at the small of Caris’ back and led her to a table closest to the beach. “I know the place doesn’t look like much, but I guarantee you won’t find better fish anywhere in the world.”
“Then why haven’t we been here before?” She slid onto the bench on the opposite side of the table from me. The dining area was more of an open-air pavilion and she lifted her face to the breeze coming off the Gulf.
“It was Jamie’s favorite. Still is. We came here a lot. And I don’t know, I guess I haven’t felt like hanging here much.”
But things had changed. Jamie was back. He was alive. Life was good again.
As if he could see me salivating, Joe plopped a basket in the center of the table, piled high with fresh steaming hushpuppies. It was a start.
"Noah usually has the grilled fish basket. Catch is grouper today. Should I make that two?" Joe asked Caris.
"That would be great."
Joe thumped me on the back. He’d always liked me. Joe had been a buddy of my dad’s, and I’d saved Joe’s daughter, Riley, from a rip current that had been racking up an unusual amount of casualties one summer a few years back. In payment—not that I’d asked—food was always on the house and so were the beers. Riley and I ended up going out a few times once we were older. I probably kissed her once or twice.
“Riley was asking about you the other day,” Joe said over his shoulder, fetching the two glasses of water waiting on the bar.
“Yeah? How is she?”
“She loves college.” He placed one glass in front of Caris and the other in front of me.
“That’s great. Tell her hi for me next time you talk to her.”
“I will. I know she’d like to see you next time she comes home.” He winked at me before walking back to the bar.
“Riley, huh?” Caris grabbed a hush puppy and blew on it. “Old
“We may have gone out a few times,” I said just to tease her a bit. Caris was my first real girlfriend and as far as I was concerned, my last. “I might have kissed her once or twice.”
“Sounds like she’s still interested. Maybe she’s hoping for more of those kisses.”
“The only mouth I’m interested in is yours.” I took the hush puppy she’d yet to eat out of her hand and fed it to her. Her eyes nearly rolled back in her head. “Good, huh?”
“Mmm,” she said, stuffing another hushpuppy in her mouth. “Really good.”
I fed her a few more and ate some myself. I was on the fence about whether to tell her about my visit with Sol yesterday. My brother being back had put her brother in an uncomfortable position. For the most part, she’d done as I’d asked and not spoken his name aloud to me, but I knew she worried about him. When Joe brought our food, I dug in with single-minded relish.
After a few minutes of my guarded silence, Caris bumped my foot under the table. “You might as well tell me. I know there’s something.”
I shrugged and swallowed a mouthful of grouper. “I saw Sol yesterday.”
Her body tensed and unease grew in her pale eyes. “What happened?”
“We kissed and made up. Held hands. Swam naked together.” My mouth quirked up. I could hardly confess I’d almost choked her brother.
“What really happened?” She reached across the table and took my hand and a fire started low in my belly and made its way to my chest. I loved it when she touched me even if was only her hand in mine.
“We talked. I didn’t kill him.” I lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles.
“How is he?” A strand of hair blew across her cheek and she whisked it away. When I’d met her, her hair had been an unremarkable shade of toast. Now her hair was like sunbeams shooting through gray clouds—sunbeams I could touch and feel and bury my face in.
“Fine as far as I could tell. He’s hanging in St. Joe with Levi.” I finished off the last of my fish, debating whether to order another basket.
Her shoulders relaxed and she gazed at me with those eyes that had the ability to melt my insides. That look only meant trouble for me because when she looked at me like that—all stormy eyed—I’d do anything for her, promise her anything.
“Thanks for not killing him. I know it’s not easy for you to deal with him.”
I was about to explain to her that Sol’s standing in the tribe wasn’t up to me anymore, but the wind coming off the Gulf changed. The gentle breeze of seconds before was now charged with an energy I felt under my skin.
I glanced over my shoulder to see Jamie climbing up the back steps, and I thought I heard the wood groan under his weight. He’d been back for months, and I ought to be used to him by now, but it still startled me whenever I saw him. He looked more or less human again with an emphasis on the less. He’d been marked by the Deep, his face, his chest, his hands. It was like he carried the Deep with him where ever he went as if she didn’t want him ever to forget she’d saved him, that he owed her.
After signaling Joe for a beer, Jamie sat down next to Caris. She immediately scooted the basket of hushpuppies toward him.
“I really like this girl, Noah.” He leaned toward her, bumping her shoulder with his massive one. “When you grow tired of this plankton, let me know.”
He was joking of course. He wore his broken heart like he wore the blue streak on his face. Everybody could see it and knew there was a story behind it.
Joe set two beers down then returned with three platters of food piled with grilled red snapper, fried shrimp, and fried grouper fingers. A cup of coleslaw was perched to the side of each plate and would more than likely remain untouched. Jamie's diet consisted of protein, protein, and more protein.
“Thanks, Joe,” Jamie said, wasting no time before digging in. “Keep them coming.”
“The beer or the sampler platters?”
Risking the loss of my hand, I snatched a shrimp from Jamie’s plate. Jamie wasn’t into sharing food unless it was someone else sharing with him. There was something predatory about the way he guarded anything that was put in front of him as if he were making up for those two years he’d spent in the Deep living off seaweed and whatever he could catch.
“Are you ready for this?” It was a special day for us. In approximately forty-five minutes, Lt. Commander Rucker would take to the podium in front of a roomful of reporters and confirm what most of the locals already knew—another species of human lived among them.
Jamie’s “condition” when he’d first come back had caused a bit of an uproar and no small amount of concern. Athen Kelley, our tribe’s current leader, and Marshall Shaw, our one human liaison, had been involved in negotiations on how to best transition us into society as a species. Apparently, holding our arms in the air and declaring, “We’re here,” wasn’t good enough. People had questions.
Where did we come from? (last I checked A was inserted into B and nine months later hello world)
Why all the secrecy? (we’re really not that big of a secret)
Are these things dangerous? (excuse me while I point my middle finger at you)
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” Jamie nodded at Jeb and Cree who had just come in the door with Tate and Donovan, two of Jamie’s former teammates, close on their heels.
Operation Waterbreather’s Among Us was a few short minutes from getting underway, and Jamie was our poster boy.
~ ~ ~ ~
I'm digging getting back into Noah's head. I'm considering having 3 POV's for this one if I can pull it off. Jamie still has some things to say, and for those of you who have asked, his and Erin's story isn't over.
This scene is still labeled first draft even though it's more like the third.