Friday, November 18, 2011

M&Ms and Apple Cores

For years a story has lingered in my mind. I didn't know much of it, but had a picture of a toddler huddled in the corner of a bare room. She was neglected, left to molder there and slowly draw farther and farther into herself. But one young man who passed occasionally through the house would do a small part to reach out to her. He shared his own favorite foods with her--a handful of M&Ms and the core of his partially-eaten apple.

In my mind and planning, that book eventually changed from M&Ms and Apple Cores to Above the Clouds, the sequel to my first novel, Reaching Sky. Then it made another metamorphose to become the sub-plot to my current work in progress, Voices of the Dark. This scene is part of what resulted from that original vision.

Excerpt from Voices of the Dark

“Jasper, I’m the one taking care of the little girl.” Jesse and I sat down and I pulled out the picture of Renee and held it out to the man. “You know her?”
He peered at it, his face so young and innocent, in glaring opposition to the prison jumper he wore. His eyes were dark brown and full of…. It almost looked like empathy.
“Yeah, that’s the boss’s kid.”
“She’s Garth Keane’s daughter? Who is the mother?”
“I dunno.” He shrugged. “I ain’t never heard no mom mentioned. I jest assumed she was either dead or didn’t want nothin’ to do with some crack-head baby.”
“How long have you known the toddler?”
“I been…” he looked away, “hanging around there 'bout a year, I guess. She was always there. She just stayed in the back room, away from everything.”
“Who took care of her?”
He frowned, his eyes boyish and uncertain. “Well, no one, really. She just stayed back there. If she come out in the middle of something the boss would yell at her to git back in.” He leaned forward. “He didn’t want her hurt, you know. Didn’t want the gang guys to mess with her.”
“So Garth loved her? Protected her?” I couldn't make that fit with what I'd seen.
He shifted his weight. “Loved? Well, I dunno. I never really saw him do much else with her.”
“What’s her name?”
He shrugged again. “I never heard her called nothing 'cept girl.”
He didn’t say it like she was a thing. Even in the middle of all the drugs and neglect, for some reason this kid had cared about her, just a little. I could sense that. I could see the title, not “girl” but an almost-name; Gurl.
“But who fed her and all that?”
“I brought her food sometimes. I would give her the core of my apple and once in a while, when the boss was passed out, I’d give her M&Ms. She loved those!” He grinned. “I’d set ‘em down and she’d grab a handful and stuff ‘em in her mouth and then play with the others, grouping them by color, you know? Then eating the rest one by one, a color at a time.”
That was good news. If she could sort things by color then she at least had a basic understanding of categories.
There was one other thing I had to ask. “With all the drugs and everything… Meth tends to…” How did I say it politely?
“Up your sexual drive,” Jesse came to my rescue, if bluntly.
“Yeah.” I tried not to flush. “But the doctor said no one bothered her that way.”
Jasper squirmed. “Well, I think maybe that’s why the boss kept her in the back room. You know, to make sure no one was bothering her. I was pretty much the only one he’d let in there.”
That explained that. So Garth at least had some kind of protective feelings for her. I wished I could talk to him, find out where she’d come from, why he had her in that situation.
“So you never saw the other guys interacting with her?”
“Well,” he squirmed again. “This one guy was sort of eyeing her. She was getting older, you know? That’s why I—” He broke off, his face paling. “I mean, I’m glad she’s safe now, that’s all.”
I made a mental note to mull over that response later.
“But there were plenty of other girls around. I guess that kept her safe too, you know?”
“Other girls?” Jesse broke in again. “Like prostitutes you mean?”
“Yeah, I guess.” He studied his hands like they were suddenly the most important thing in the room.
Something about how he’d said "girls" didn’t set right with me. “Other girls. Like what age?”
“I dunno.” He shifted again, his gaze darting from me to his hands to the floor.
A weight, a premonition, settled on my chest. “Jasper,” I braced a hand on my chair, “this is really important. Were these older girls, like your age? Or were they younger? Lots younger?”
His reply was barely a whisper. “Younger.”
It was just one word, but it hung there, draining every bit of air from the room. And with it, my secure world behind to fall apart.

© 2011 Amy Michelle Wiley

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Joanne Sher said...

Oooh wow. I'm totally engaged and curious - about EVERYTHING! Great excerpt, Amy!

Yvonne Blake said...

Oh wow! Such a sad snippet!

Lisa Keck said...

Wow, I do hope this girl gets rescued. Good work!

Sarah Elisabeth said...

Gripping. So gripping. What a topic you've undertaken.

Shelley Ledfors said...

VERY powerful and well done, Amy.

Laura Elizabeth said...

I'd love to read your book someday, Amy :D

Mari said...

I love how such a sweet young lady can write intense, gripping dialog. Very good direction in this tidbit.

Catrina Bradley... said...

Amy, I hope you take it as a compliment when I tell you that the ending - that one word "younger" - made me want to vomit. And the suspense builds all the way there. SO intriguing! Great scene - I can't wait to see where you take this story.

Sara Harricharan said...

Nice way to end it! There's so much tension and suspense in here. So sad to see the end it works up to--you're coming along great! ^_^

Miriam said...

Amy I'm only catching up & reading this now. Its so gripping in such a short paragraph. I actually felt a bit nervous about whats coming next!