After being encouraged to start writing again (I’ve been on a short break. Ok, two months or so isn’t that short….) by Rachael Ritchey, I’m back at it again. Of course, she wanted me to participate in the upcoming “Hazel” #BlogBattle. Knowing that I needed to return to writing—my hands were starting to itch like an addict—I decided to take her up on it.
Of course, I had an idea floating around in my head for my next novel, and so I plucked that to be the next #BlogBattle. It isn’t a complete story, but rather just the lead-in. But it gives you a glance into what is coming next from me. So please, enjoy!
A frigid wind rushed down the street. The buildings and trees on either side, as small as they were, worked like a funnel, forcing the wind faster and faster until it became blistering to Hazel Parker’s exposed skin. She huddled deeper into her coat. It was too light for this kind of weather, or for anything approaching winter. But it was what she had, so she used it.
The last of the winter snows had melted a couple of weeks ago, but it felt as if Mother Nature hadn’t gotten the memo with this cold snap. Grey clouds blotted out the sun and rotting leaves pressed flat from the snow still littered the ground. None of the trees had yet to bud a single green leaf as if they knew something that everyone else did not and refused to be taken in by some joke no one else knew. All in all, tied in with that wind, it was a rather depressing sight. Hazel shivered and shoved her hands still deeper into her pockets.
For the millionth time since moving here last year, Hazel wished that she had a car. But if she couldn’t afford a better jacket, then a car was an expensive she could not afford. She could barely the small studio apartment she lived in. More often than not her shelves were more empty than not. It felt like decades since she’d been comfortable and fully fed. Beggars couldn’t be choosers, however, and while she’d had this life thrust upon her, at least she knew what to do.
Her two mile walk between work and her apartment always made her melancholy. When she’d first started this twice-daily walk, the depression had hit her hard, forcing her to recall all that she’d lost in the past year; all that had changed. Now the dark moods were fewer and farther between. It was proof that given long enough, anybody could adapt to anything.
At least, she mostly thought of herself as Hazel Parker anymore. It wasn’t her real name; the one she’d been born with. But names were easily changed, retired when need arose and sloughed off like a dirty pair of clothes only to be replaced by something entirely new.
At least if you knew how.
She shrugged deeper into her jacket as she paused at an intersection waiting for the light to change into her favor. Only a block to go then she’d be out of this wind. The light changed and off she went, tired feet in worn sneakers slapping the pavement as she crossed in front of several cars waiting their turn at the intersection. Numb fingers fiddled with some loose change in her pocket. Reaching the other side, she didn’t slow down, wanting to be out of the weather as soon as possible.
Rolled into a ball and clasped in her other hand was her paycheck for last week’s work. While the job didn’t pay much, it fit the specific criteria she required by not looking too deeply into her past or her credentials. Oh, the job was legal—you couldn’t do much when your job was to stock shelves and bag purchases—it was Hazel who wanted to avoid scrutiny. The same had gone for the apartment she rented above a laundry mat. But somehow, in this small town, she’d found what she was looking for and had jumped at the opportunity.
She could see the laundry mat in the distance now as she rounded the building of a local burger joint. Cutting across the parking lot wouldn’t save her a lot of time, but in this weather, she’d take whatever she could. Hazel took her time crossing it. The lot was almost empty, but she kept an eye out for cars. Drivers were even more reckless in an empty lot than they were when it was stuffed to the gills.
Five minutes later, Hazel reached the building that housed the laundry mat. The front was almost all glass and she could see several people waiting around as they waited for their laundry to finish. The rest of the building however was made from concrete brick painted a dull yellow. Out back, a metal stairwell rose, leading to the three tiny apartments that occupied the second floor. Hers was the only one occupied at the moment. Frankly, she doubted the other two were livable. Once she’d glanced into one of them while the owners were fixing one thing or another for the laundry mat. The room was in such a state of decay that the walls seemed to be pealing and the ceiling collapsing. She’d gotten the better room for sure.
Not that her apartment was something to write home about. It was simple. White walls surrounding the living space and the tiny kitchen. But then again, she thought with a wry grin, if she wrote home, her mother would understand. Privy to everything that had happened in the last year, her mother had offered to help her out, but Hazel had turned her down. She’d needed time and distance from those events. With any luck, she’d be able to start over.
And so far, I’ve been able to, she thought as she started climbing the cold stairs. They were treacherous in the winter when covered in snow and ice, but with it all gone, the stairs only had a slight slickness to them. Water clung to the railings, dampening her hands as she climbed, chilling them even further. As soon as she got inside, she’d get a towel and dry them. Cold shot up her arms as she reached a small landing leading to three doors.
Hazel’s was the furthest away. Digging into one of her pockets, she pulled out a key ring that contained only two keys. She fit one into the door lock and turned. The lock snapped open and she entered. It took a moment for her eyes to start adjusting to the dark as she closed the door behind her.
She shivered as she put her forehead against the door, relaxing for the first time since leaving this morning. Leaving always put her on edge. The last thing she wanted was for anyone to recognize her. It was only a small chance, but a chance nonetheless. Back when she’d first moved in, it had taken all of her resolve to leave. Now, it was more manageable—manageable being the key word—but still something she dealt with every day.
Turning, she leaned with her back against the door for a heartbeat or two. Then she reached out with a familiar hand and flipped on the light switch next to her. A dim bulb flipped on above the corner that passed for a kitchen, drowning out the meager light that shone through the blinds covering the front window. A dirty folding table with two matching chairs came into view before her. Behind that, sat a small bookshelf overflowing with paperback novels. Off in the corner, sat her bed, no more than a cot with a sleeping bag and ratty pillow on it. She’d been saving. In a few more months, she might be able to afford an actual bed if it wasn’t too expensive.
And in the sole comfortable chair—an overstuffed armchair she’d found heavily discounted at an estate sale—sat a man with piercing blue eyes. His hair was slicked back and plastered to his skull. A pair of glasses sat on a thin nose. A black suit with matching white shirt and black tie covered a thin frame. Long fingered hands sat folded on the topmost knee of his crossed legs.
Hazel recognized him and her stomach dropped.
“You are a hard one to find, Samantha Carter,” he said. “Or should I call you Hazel Parker now?”
There are questions that I have about this excerpt though. And I hope that someone will help me with one of them. Not knowing the events that lead up to this point, does the excerpt make sense? Would it work well for the beginning of a novel?
Please, please, everyone, let me know.