Happy March! In like a lion, out like a lamb, I hope! I'm so ready for spring.
But meanwhile, I'll write. I would like to share with you the first chapter of my work in progress. Tell me what you think!
Excerpt from NIGHTTIME IN AN UNFAMILIAR PLACE
The sound of cars zooming by awoke Sharon from her sleep. Her head ached. She was lying on her back. As she blinked open her eyes, she began to make out the blue of the afternoon sky and the clouds floating above her. It took a few moments for the fog of sleep to lift, but when she realized that she was lying outside in the dirt on the side of the busy highway, she panicked.
Her heart pounding in her chest, she sat up abruptly. Her head throbbed. Cars rushed by, not one of the drivers noticing her sitting there, twenty yards from the road.
She glanced down at herself. She was wearing her pink sundress and the new white shoes her mother had just bought for her, but they were smudged with dirt, as if she had been rolling around in the mud or playing in the woods.
There was the sound of a groan next to her, and her eyes immediately snapped to the source of the noise. It was a boy. She blinked a few times as tears began to cloud her sight, and she recognized him. It was five year old Ben, her neighbor. His clothing was just as messy as hers, and he had scrapes on his elbows and knees. Sharon crawled over to him to shake him awake.
"Ben, Ben," she said, gripping his bony shoulder. "Ben, wake up."
He moaned groggily as if Sharon was his mother telling him to get up for school. His eyes fluttered open. When he saw Sharon, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"Sharon?" he asked. She helped him sit up slowly. His eyes darted around to take in his surroundings. "Where are we?"
"We're by the highway," Sharon answered. Her heart was pounding so hard she thought it would burst from her chest.
"I don't know," she said. She grabbed his hand and brought Ben to his feet. Standing, Sharon hoped, would bring them attention from the people driving down the road. "Are you alright?" she asked Ben. There was a large bruise on his forehead.
"I think so," he said, but his face was still construed with confusion and sleepiness. "My head hurts."
"So does mine," said Sharon. She took a step toward the road. A tear rolled down her cheek. Ben's grip on her hand tightened.
"What's going on?" he asked, but Sharon did not respond. She continued to walk toward the highway, her feet aching with each step she took. With some resistance, Ben followed her. Sharon raised her free hand as high as she could, beginning to wave down a car.
"Hey!" she shouted, though she knew it was impossible for a person driving as fast as these vehicles were driving to hear the sound of her raspy, pathetic yelps. "Hey!" she tried again, louder this time. She released Ben's hand and waved her arms high above her head, nearing the road.
Ben began to wail, but Sharon ignored him. Jumping up and down, she began to scream, her skinny arms flailing above her head. It seemed like forever before a car finally noticed her and swerved over to the side of the road.
A man and a woman bounded out of the vehicle, their faces in shock at the sight of the dirty, bleeding children.
"Are you okay? Are you okay?" the woman yelped, her hands reaching out to them, then retracting, as if she was hesitant to touch them. Tears were streaming down Sharon's face. She glanced over her shoulder at Ben. He had wet himself and was just standing there on the side of the road, frozen and caked in dirt.
"Honey," the man said, placing a hand on the woman's shoulder. "These are those kids. Those missing kids."
"Oh my God," the woman gasped. Her hand flew to her mouth. She shuffled through her purse and pulled out her bulky grey cell phone. The man slowly edged toward Sharon and Ben, not wanting to frighten them.
"It'll be okay," he said. He looked Sharon in the eyes. She was terrified still, but she felt her heart begin to calm down, relieved that someone was here to help her. The man retained eye contact, but inched closer to Ben, who obviously was in greater need of comfort that Sharon.
The woman was on the phone with the emergency contact, explaining that she and her husband had found the two missing children, but the words were all jumbled together. Sharon could hardly understand them. She was in complete shock. It wasn't until she heard the sounds of the sirens coming closer and closer until the reality of her situation began to sink in.
"Missing?" she whispered, though no one heard her. She had fallen asleep in her own bed and awoken on the side of the road, now considered a missing child. "Missing?" she said again, louder. "What do you mean we are those missing kids?"
The woman knelt before Sharon, placing a kind hand on her shoulder to comfort her. Sharon could see the worry in her eyes, unsure why the woman was so afraid.
"Everyone has been looking for you, Sharon," the woman said. She flashed a weak smile. "But we're so glad we've found you. Now you can go home."
"Missing?" Sharon repeated. "How... how long have we been gone?"
The woman's face was blank. She glanced down at Sharon's shoes, uncertain of how to break the news to such a young girl. "About... three months."
A surge of sheer terror tore through Sharon. Her eyes stung with salty tears. Three months! The last thing she remembered was her father tucking her into bed, kissing her goodnight on the forehead, wiggling his fingers in a wave before closing her bedroom door. Three months, yet it seemed like only an instant. In those three months she would have missed her sixth grade graduation, her older sister's sweet sixteen, the Fourth of July celebration. What was going on? What was happening to her?
Everything was a fog. Before she knew it, she was sitting in an ambulance, being poked and prodded. Then there was a policeman with a gentle smile asking her questions she did not know the answers to. People scurried around her, fretted over her and little Ben. It seemed as though she was in and out of consciousness for hours before she finally saw her parents. They rushed to her, hugged her tightly and wept, although it appeared to Sharon as if she had only just seen them the night before.
Three months of her life had gone by, and she had no recollection of them whatsoever.