I’ve had an on again-off again relationship with this here story for the past five years. It’s been shelved so that I could devote time to another project only to resurface when I needed a break from the first project (a break so that I could come back to the first with fresh eyes and focus on the rewrite). I’ve finished the first novel—well, “finish” is relative, as I still think about ways to delve more into the psychology of the protagonist in the first, and I’m constantly jotting down passages that I think I want to insert in the novel—and now I’m flirting with the second project.
This time, I’m thinking of changing where the female protagonist comes from (New York or L.A.?), where she lives as an adult (D.C. or New York?), and changing her entire back story (growing up in the 80s in Brooklyn as one of three girls or growing up in the 80s in Inglewood as the only sister to two brothers?). That’s just the beginning as I’m contemplating changing the entire trajectory of the protagonist’s life. Naturally, I’m paralyzed. I could take bits and pieces that I’ve already written over the years and apply it to this new woman—I can do it because I’m the creator of her world—but it’s a matter of buckling down.
In any case, before this recent bout of “What do I do?!”, I wrote just over 16,000 words of this untitled novel. Below is the prologue, which I’m quite certain will make it into the reworked iteration of this untitled novel.
They had become careless, reckless, unthinking; the rumpled sheets, the shoes tossed haphazardly as they had stumbled to the bed, the clothes strewn about, were proof of that. The act was done. She propped herself up on her elbow and watched as he moved, slow and deliberate, about the room lit by soft light, gathering first his boxers then his pants. He seemed almost self-conscious as he dressed, his back to her. She wondered why. He had the body of a former athlete; he told her that he had played football in high school, but his years as a chef, always tasting and preparing food, had softened him up a bit. However, he still had a great form as far as she was concerned.
As they had sex—she could not bring herself to call it by any other name—he was most self-assured, knowing what to do, where to move his hand, his fingers, where to place his lips. Even outside of the bedroom, through conversations they had on the metro, on the phone, via email, his confidence had been present. The little that she did know of him had not suggested that he would turn away as he dressed.
He glanced over his shoulder at her and saw that she had been watching him. She appeared comfortable beneath the soft cotton sheets, in her element, her tight black curls brushing against her shoulder. He wanted to reach out to her, move several curls from her smooth, almond-colored cheek, but thought better of it. He needed to be out of this place, her place, and back home beneath the covers. He looked away from her, as though doing so would allow him to make sense of the other thoughts that had fast become a jumble in his head. What the hell had he just done? He was supposed to have been out for late night drinks with a couple of his work friends, and here he was, preparing himself to leave the house of this woman. He had not a clue about what he would do when he walked through the door of his apartment. He normally did not shower after work; simply changed out of his work clothes and into shorts and a t-shirt, but he would need a shower before he slipped into his sleep clothes and went to bed.
“I’ll let myself out,” he told her.
“OK,” she said. Yet, she found herself picking up the silk robe that she kept draped over the footboard of the bed and sliding it on. She followed him through the house, to the front door where he stopped, turning to face her.
“I—.” He waited for her to stop him, silence him in some way, but she said nothing. “Good night,” he finished.
“Night,” she said, her voice low and soft.
He grasped behind for the doorknob and turned it. When the door did not open, she reached past him to unlock the knob and the deadbolt. Her body brushed against his as she did so, and in the course of that, she felt his lips against her own. She found herself again unable to resist and allowed the kiss to go on for a while longer, him pulling her closer, his hands sliding lower to her buttocks, her arms wrapping around his neck. After what felt like slow, ticking minutes, she broke away, startled by her own impulsiveness. She needed to regain control, remind herself of what she had to do. The sheets on the bed upstairs would have to go through the wash; the flight from Tokyo was to arrive early the next morning, and things needed to be as they had been before.
Even as she pulled away, wanted him out of the house, she had an internal struggle where she debated leading him back upstairs. “You should go,” she said.
“Yeah.” The words he wanted—“I’ll see you again?”—refused to come. He did want to see her another time and a time after that, yet she seemed too cool right now, and he feared that a suggestion about getting together again would be too forward. The moment was in stark contrast to whatever had propelled her to kiss him just minutes prior. It occurred to him that maybe this was not her first time, and he was not sure what to feel about that. The silence between them grew, and as time stretched, he considered how different she was now than she had been hours ago, than she had been when they first met. In their talks, she was usually candid about her thoughts, confiding in him about her ideas on photography, about the new city she had been living in for a year.
“Take care,” she said. What had almost escaped her lips was “See you.” Before tonight, it would have been an ordinary good-bye between the two of them, but at present, those two words only served to confuse her. There was too much weight in the simple language she used every day when taking leave from someone. She wanted to continue seeing him, but she was unsure if it would be best to allow what had transpired tonight be the only time it happened.
He opened the door and slipped out into the quiet night. She
remained at the front door, watching his retreating figure, a smooth
walk marking his stride as he made his way to the Dupont metro
station. She closed the door and leaned against it, exhaling a loud