Excerpt III

*Note: I’ve decided to start from scratch with my NaNoWriMo project. Seems like I’m doing too much telling, not enough showing, and I can’t say I’m happy with the writing. Any tips are welcome!

Jacob sat on the concrete curb and wrapped thin arms around knobby knees. His shirt was threadbare and his coat old, a hand-me-down that was too small; bony wrists poked out beyond frayed cuffs, and the folded collar was wrinkled and ripping away at the seam.

Periodic waves of chills flowed through his body, starting at his toes and up to the tips of his ears. He could feel pinpricks at his scalp. He shivered once, twice.

Paul hadn’t come yet to pick him up. All the other students had left. He’d watched them, much like Lucy had the previous Friday, crowding into warm vehicles with welcoming parents who gave kisses and hugs and smiles.

Maybe Paul had forgotten about him. Jake wouldn’t mind being forgotten, wouldn’t mind being invisible. That was better than being out in the open.

He didn’t even like Paul, anyhow, he thought, scrunching his shoulders. Paul didn’t know how to sign, he didn’t know how to listen. He just talked and talked and talked. Not that it mattered since Jake couldn’t read lips fast enough. He figured anything coming out of Paul’s mouth was a lie. All adults lied.

Except Miss Lucy. She was different. Her smile wasn’t hard or too bright. It wasn’t forced like Paul’s was sometimes. Hers was natural. Plus, she had a space between her two front teeth. She was beautiful.

Paul still hadn’t come. Jake sighed, fingered the paper bag next to him. He’d clutched it since Miss Lucy had given it to him, had rubbed and rubbed the bag until it was soft and smooth. Now he unfolded the top and pulled out the pieces of paper he’d written on that day. Jake unstretched a leg to pull a pencil from his pocket and flipped the sheets of paper over, balancing them on his knees. Then he started to draw.

He hadn’t started with an idea of what to sketch, what to create out of lead and lined paper. But as he drew the pencil down, as he shaded in areas, Miss Lucy’s face appeared. Swirls became her curls, light shadowing became her eyes, crosshatching formed the roses that bloomed on her cheeks. She smiled in the picture, smiled at him. Like a mom.

Jake flipped to the next page and began to draw another face. The lips were thin, the eyes narrow, the face crinkled with deep lines, early wrinkles. The hair was straight and hung in clumps. The roots were darker, the lines more crudely drawn.

When Jake lifted his pencil, Rose stared back at him. Rose and Miss Lucy. Jake couldn’t explain why, but he felt a swelling in his throat, tears pricking at his eyes. He couldn’t tell if it was sadness or rage. It made his skin heat, made him burn. He crumpled the side-by-side portraits into a ball. Then uncrumpled and ripped them into pieces. The ragged squares fell to the ground like snow, soft and light.

Jacob stopped, took deep breaths, pressed cold hands to flushed cheeks, closed his eyes. He lifted his face to the weak sun. Then he gathered up the flakes, shoved them in the bag. Threw the bag across the street into the woods. He jammed the pencil back into his jeans pocket and resumed his earlier position: thin arms wrapped around knobby knees.

Paul still hadn’t come.


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