Category Archives: Writing

Something A Little Different

 

 

Catching Cinders

All her life, Cindy has been told she’s worthless, kicked into the shadows so often that she believes the lie, but with her father inexplicably dead and the Prince far too interested in her story, she must decide whether to accept the way the world sees her or to prove she’s someone worth fighting for.

Catching Cinders Word Cloud 2

By Winged Chair

For years Merry has helped her father study the OtherRealms and the creatures that live there, but now Merry’s attitude and razor wit has gotten her kicked out of yet another boarding school. When OtherRealm creatures show up in the last place they should be and begin stealing memories from the people of Woodshire, Merry must team up with an outlaw mage in order to return the lives that have been stolen.  She has to choose between the anger her disability instilled in her and the strength she can take from it, because a crippled mage might be just the hero this fairytale needs.

By Winged Chair Word Cloud 3

Skin Deep

Young Lord Léon’s carelessness maims a young girl and lands him a curse from her family, but years later, trapped as a bear, Léon comes across  a disabled enchantress in the forest who promises to free him. What he doesn’t tell her is that he recognizes her as the girl he wronged so long ago, and as he starts to fall in love with her, he realizes he must keep his secret if he wants to keep her.

Skin Deep Word Cloud

A Shroud for my Bride

Seventeen year old Kallan has been the Reaper’s personal hit-woman since she was twelve. But no more. She wants to catch criminals the right way, and after telling Reaper to take a long ride in an empty airship, she seeks a place with Namerre’s police force. But growing up in the world of murderers and vigilantes has left her with debilitating anxiety, and she has to hide her obsessions and compulsions from her new partners and friends. When a serial killer begins stalking the city streets, masking his crimes with magic, Kallan must seek help from her past, from the Reaper, a father who forced her to murder.

A Shroud For My Bride Word Cloud

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

The movie adaptation of John Green’s book, The Fault in Our Stars, is currently in filming, and it started me thinking, why is the question always “Will your book be a movie?” and not “Will this movie be a book?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3H1T3xqzZY

As a kid there was a particular type of conversation I hated. It went something like this:

Me: Well, what about Harriet the Spy?

Friend: Oh, I loved that movie.

Me: I meant the book.

Ex-friend: Same thing.

I’m not a book Nazi, declaring genocide on anyone who doesn’t agree the book is always better. Because, it isn’t. Not always. The Scarlet Pimpernel anyone? But there’s still that nagging annoyance with anyone who doesn’t know the movie was originally a book, or worse, thinks they’ve seen the movie so why bother reading the book.

Why do good books “have” to be made into movies? Well, as much as I hate it, movies are more accessible. It only takes a couple hours to watch a movie as opposed to days and weeks to read a book. Movies are visually stimulating which a lot of people find more engaging. And finally it’s easier and quicker to portray a scene in a film. A picture really is worth a thousand words (unless you really do the math in which case a movie is actually 216 million words).

But is all that better? There is something to be said for taking the time and care to peruse a good book. A movie has cinematography going for it, but a book has language and voice. It allows you to use your imagination and life experience to visualize the details of setting and characters an author gives. And it allows you to get inside someone else’s head in a way a movie never could.

Again, is that better? In the end, they’re two different media with which to tell a story. Neither “wins” over the other. But the question persists. Will the book be a movie? And I’ve never heard the vice versa.

To be fair there have been a couple instances of movies spawning a book or two. Case in point: Star Wars. Huge expansion on canon there. And there is fan-fiction which, while an entity in and of itself, can’t be ignored. Or look at Twilight which spawned a movie, which spawned fan-fiction, which spawned erotica. Oy. But still the phenomenon is very rare.

So what’s the deal? Are movies still such a novelty compared to the thousands of years of fiction that are out there? I can’t deny that, like John mentioned, there is a thrill to seeing your characters come to life. But there’s a large part of me that’s resistant, that says I’m writing a book and hoping or assuming that book will one day grace the silver screen cheapens what I’m doing. I don’t know. I have no answer. What do you think? Why do we insist on making our most successful stories into movies?

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Is Merry a Person First?

Once Upon a Time

Last week, I talked about writing characters with disabilities and finding a balance between the two extremes. Because it would be easy to overplay your hand so a character is nothing except their wheelchair, or treat it with kid gloves so the disability is just another window dressing that fades into the background. Then I posed some questions for writers to really dig in and examine their characters and their motivations for writing them in the first place.


And I’m going to share a secret with you guys. Lean closer. Closer. Okay, you can’t tell anyone…I…write…characters with disabilities. Shocking, I know. So I decided to put my money where my mouth is and ask myself these same questions about Merry, the heroine of my young adult fantasy,
By Wingéd Chair. So let’s see if she’s a person first.

Merry is a seventeen year old student who suffered a spinal cord injury three years prior to By Wingéd Chair. She uses a manual wheelchair that her father built.

  • Is she more than her disability? A lot of Merry’s flaws come from her experience in the wheelchair. She is defensive to the point of hostility. She does not accept help gracefully, and she hides her vulnerability behind layer of snark and self-sufficiency. But there are other things that define Merry that have nothing to do with her disability. She is goal-oriented and persistent. She is courageous and funny. And her knowledge of the OtherRealms is second only to her father’s, which is what leads her to team up with Robyn Hode eventually. All of these things are affected by her disability, but they aren’t a result of it. They’d define her even if she was able-bodied.
  • Is she more than one detail deep? Since I’m writing from personal experience, I tried to give readers many things that would ground them in Merry’s situation as well as her head. And I tried to stay away from stereotypes and tropes that are damaging to the character and reader alike. I did touch on going to the bathroom but that was more a nod to the time period and setting, not the stereotype. Movement is a huge consideration for Merry, and as a result, for me as the author. For instance, how do you navigate a fight in a wheelchair? And what happens when you’re kidnapped or stranded without your primary means of locomotion? Merry is faced with these questions and many more. And I consider her fears another detail that help round her out. There are the expected ones: who does she ask for help? Will anyone ever find her attractive? But there are others buried deeper. Merry is afraid of new situations. She’s afraid of losing what little control over her life she has. There are plenty more details, if you’re interested, over in the Accessible Excerpts series.
  • Do they have heroic qualities above and beyond their ability to adapt? One of the things I love about Merry is that her strengths keep moving her forward despite the obstacles I throw at her. She doesn’t take no for an answer. Whether this entails dealing with her disability or not, Merry goes for what she wants. And she runs toward danger – well, rolls toward danger – disregarding the consequences. And she is loyal, even when presented with a temptation most in her situation would have to seriously think about.
  • Is she healed at the end of the book? Hell no. Just as in real life, Merry will have to deal with her disability for the rest of her life. She is in a much better place emotionally at the end of the book, but physically she is the same. Even in fantasy reality has its limits.

So, all in all, I think Merry is a person first. Her disability plays a large role in her growth as a character because that was the story I wanted to write. But she is so much more than the sum of her physical abilities and by the end of the book she’s confident in who she is.

Person First: Just Happen to Be Disabled

1 Comment

Filed under Disability, Writing

“Just Happen to be Disabled”

Disabilities in SF/FI see requests all the time for books about characters with disabilities where the disability is not the main conflict, characters that “just happen to be disabled”. The thing is, I understand where this is coming from. I talked about it last week. People with disabilities are first and foremost just people. Our struggles are not the most important – and certainly not the only – things about us. But we still want them acknowledged. We want to be “normal” and normal requires representation, doesn’t it? No one will recognize us as normal without first recognizing us.

But to be completely honest with ourselves, disability tends to be pervasive. I mean, it’s exceptionally hard to define, but I believe a major part of disability is it changes your life. As okay as I am, as much as I’ve accepted my limitations, the truth is, I would live differently if I could walk better. No chair, no crutches. Those are obvious, but there are others, too. No constant low-level anxiety about how I’m going to get out of this folding chair. No putting my back to a wall so I don’t have to worry about being jostled from behind. No blog about disabilities in fiction, and no writing fairytale heroes in wheelchairs. Life would be different.

Then what’s the difference? Why do we read about certain characters and cringe at their portrayal? What does it mean that they “just happen to be disabled?” If it means that a character should be a person first, then I agree. But if they’re saying they want to see a character that’s in a wheelchair and the chair doesn’t play any part in the main conflict or the character’s arc, then I feel like that’s unrealistic.

A disability is going to affect the way a character thinks, feels, and reacts. The same way their race or socioeconomic class would. We’re taught to take these things into account about the characters we create so why would one who’s disabled be any different. It may not be the main conflict (and honestly, I’m struggling to figure out exactly what that means), but it’s going to affect it. Just as much as it will affect the character’s arc. No matter how hard you try to write the book so it’s “not a big deal”, if you’ve done it right and the disability feels real, then it’s still going to feel like a big deal because it’s always there.

So in the end, it’s a balancing act. How do you recognize the life changes and still write a character who is a person first and disabled second? Especially when that second begins to feel like a pretty big first.

The questions I’m starting to ask myself while I write are:

  • Are they more than their disability? Disabled characters are going to have quirks and flaws and strengths unrelated to their disability, just like every other character in the book.
  • Are they more than one detail deep? No character should be limited to one characteristic, just as no disability is defined as one trope or stereotype. An author loses a lot of points by repeating the same detail over and over again as if that makes the disability more real. We got it, she needs help going to bathroom. You’ve beat that dead horse to death.
  • Do they have heroic qualities above and beyond their ability to adapt? Yeah, sure being adaptable is a good thing, but when left with no other options, most people will bend before they break. I want to see the heroic qualities of Aragorn or Luke Skywalker in a character with a disability.
  • And my least favorite, are they healed at the end of the book? This is just plain insulting and unrealistic and damaging to all people with disabilities everywhere. By healing a character of their disability, an author is saying, “There’s something wrong with you that needs fixing.”

These are my questions. What are yours? I’m realizing that everyone is going to read my books differently. I cannot please everyone, but I can’t enrage everyone either. All I can do is write my characters with as much reality as possible. They will have strengths, and flaws, and they will have disabilities.

Person First                                                     Person First: Is Merry A Person First?

1 Comment

Filed under Disability, Writing

Progress Report: The Writing Process

Remember progress reports? Mine always said: “Kendra excels at spelling but could really use some work on her times tables.” Unfortunately, this is as true now as it was when I was twelve. And just like those recurrent times tables, sometimes the writing feels like I’m running the same track over and over again, wearing down the soles of my shoes. But apparently, readers/followers/anyone-else-who’s-listening like to hear about The Process. So I’m going to indulge myself and y’all a bit and give you an update on my writing process.

I’ve been working on my young adult fantasy novel, By Wingéd Chair, in its various stages for about three years now. It was the fourth book I wrote, it’s the second book in the Valeria series, and it’s the third book I’ve tried to sell.  It’s been written, revised, pitched, rejected, revised, pitched, rejected, and revised some more. My last rejection was particularly positive, telling me I’m finally starting the story in the right place, my character is well-balanced and interesting, and I’ve locked down my voice. So now I just need to find the right agent and the right editor for this project. Unfortunately, that’s a big “just”.

So this week, I will be polishing my synopsis and query letter. I already have a growing list of agents to try for my next wave of submissions. And if I exhaust those prospects, I have a list of small press publishers I think would be a good fit for my book.

And while By Wingéd Chair is out on submission I’ll be working on the fourth book in the series, A Shroud For My Bride (Skin Deep is broken and is going on a back burner until I have time to fix it). I also have a couple short stories that go along with both books in the works. Those will go out on submission as soon as they’re polished.

It’s funny how rejections lead to a flurry of activity. The next couple weeks are going to be pretty busy with revisions, submissions, and heavy edits. Not really my favorite part of the writing process, but every step moves me forward.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Writing

Worthy of Rejection

Last week, I received another rejection letter, only this one was different from the others. This was the infamous praise-rejection. It read something like this: “Dear Kendra, I really enjoyed your MS. I especially liked your character and world-building. But this publishing house hasn’t had much success with this type of MS in the past, so we’re going to have to pass.”

I’ve collected a lot of these over the years, but I was really happy when I read this one. You see, there is a hierarchy of rejection letters, and an author has to climb through the ranks as they advance in their craft. First is the form rejection every writer becomes familiar with, the one that says: “Thank you for your submission. We do not feel it is right for us at this time.” Apparently, at this point, you don’t even warrant an original composition. If you get this one, consider it a badge of honor – you are a writer worthy of rejection – but don’t dwell on it. Keep writing, keep revising, and keep submitting.

Then there is the critique rejection which sounds a little like this: “Hey, I like your premise, but why don’t you try this, this, and this.” Wow, you’re moving up in the world. Don’t take this lightly. It means someone liked your work enough to sit down and write about how to make it better. Congratulations, now you have to decide whether you agree with their critique or not. If you do, go to town on those revisions, wait six months, and then send it again. Be sure to mention you took their advice to heart. There’s nothing wrong with a little pandering.

And that brings us to the praise rejection. Not only have they taken the time to write you a lengthy letter, but they also have a lot to say about it – mostly good things with some critique thrown in. But in the end they just can’t use it. A bit of a bummer but how can you stay upset with all those ringing endorsements just above the “but?”

So I’m feeling pretty good about this one. It means an expert thinks I’m close, and he’s given me a couple things to work on in the meantime.

What do y’all think? Am I missing any other kinds of rejection letters? What do you do when you get them?

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

Under the Coffee Table

So, I’ve always said I started writing when I was fourteen because that’s when I started Blue Fire, my mammoth 160,000 word epic/young adult/sword and sorcery fantasy novel/catastrophe. But while going through some boxes after a recent move, I discovered proof that I was an official storyteller long before that.

DSC_3335

 

Yes, that is my first novel. The Mice in the Toy Factory. Dear God, I wish I was kidding. I wrote this in Singapore when I was ten and some nice librarian helped me put it together and provided lovely plastic binding. Look, it’s even got a copyright. So you can’t steal this masterpiece.

DSC_3336It has some of the classic blunders of a first novel, like starting the story in the wrong place, an overly developed sense of melodrama, bad self-drawn artwork, and excessive lamination. But it also has some redeeming qualities. Even in fifth grade I had a good grasp on complex sentences and story structure. My opinion of what readers should consider funny was a little off, but hey, I was ten.

DSC_3337

DSC_3341

 

Yeah, it should be a coffee table book. It’s the right size, the right amount of shiny. Well, maybe an under the coffee table book. Way under.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

A Writer’s Truth

Last night I met with the local writing group at our library and as usual we shared our responses to a writing prompt. One of the things I find amazing about writers is how we can look at the same picture and all see something different. Our work reflects our senses of humor, our backgrounds, our writing styles. Each experience molds and shapes us as writers and only becomes obvious once our words are laid out on the page.

So I thought I would share a couple pieces that came from the same inspiration. The picture was our prompt. The first response is mine, and the second, my sister, Arielle’s.

Mirror Reflection

Alex shuffled her feet, heedless of the dew that soaked through her shoes as she made her way across the garden. Her throat burned as she fetched up against the side of the old wishing well, but she fought the tears with everything she’d gained from years of quiet perseverance.

Her fingers gripped the crumbling stone and she leaned over the still water as though she would leap into the depths. Her pale face stared up at her. She dropped a rock into the water, shattering her reflection the way Rob had shattered her that morning.

When the water smoothed, Alex gasped and jerked back. There were two reflections below her now.

She looked up at the figure beside her, only just stifling a scream. Her own face stared back at her, her own eyes slanted in satisfaction, and her own lips quirked in an unpleasant smile.

“What-?” Alex started. “Who are you?”

The other Alex cocked her head. “I am you,” she said. Her eyes narrowed. “The only you.”

She shoved Alex with a vicious grin and Alex stumbled back…over the low stone wall. And down, into the cold and damp.

Above her the other Alex laughed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

I have been many things, and I have been none of them. I’ve been you. When you smile, I smile. When you frown, I frown. When you talk to me, my lips move with yours. I see you, but you don’t see me. You look at me and see yourself. I am you, but only when you’re with me. When you leave, I cannot follow. I am left to wait for your return. Then silently I will show you yourself again. You will hate me for it. You will use me to make yourself better, but I will always tell you you’re not good enough. And you will never know I didn’t want to. It’s only what I was made for.

 

We both managed to turn out something fairly creepy (and to be fair, we are related, with similar backgrounds and influences), but there were other responses in our group that were amusing, nostalgic or passionate without the darker shading. I liked how some of us saw the girl looking in a mirror, and others saw her looking at her reflection in water. Some saw her as a tomboy, others thought she seemed fragile or abused.

At first, it may seem like there is only one truth here. There is a little girl, well dressed, looking down at her reflection. And this may be the one truth. But there are many stories.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Writing

Inspiration in Sneakers

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a response to a writing prompt, and since I’ve got a new one in my portfolio, I figured I’d share it with y’all. I met with my local writer’s group this week and we all wrote on the same subject: a picture of a man’s feet in seriously beat up sneakers. Honestly, I had a hard time with it. Didn’t find it as inspiring as I felt like I should have. But I pressed on and came out with something I actually kind of like. Not really sure where I was going with it, but the character seems really interesting.

I’m going to kill the next person who offers me a free meal. Just cause I like to breathe through my toes don’t give you the right to think I live in a cardboard box behind the dumpster on Sixth Street. If I could afford those fancy loafers imprisoning your tootsies, I’d rip the toes off those too. I’ve got to have room to wiggle, got to feel the breeze airing out the spaces between my piggies. Got to evict the fungus before I start charging it rent.

Like I’ve said before, I can be resentful of the challenges prompts present, but I usually get something out of them. I learn something. I like to think that stretching my brain around problems like this on a regular basis will serve me well the next time I’m staring at my screen suffering from writer’s block. If I can find words to write about old beat up shoes, a story that’s been haunting me for years shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Leave a Comment

Filed under Writing

At First Sight

In the spirit of the holiday I have a special post for y’all. This is a short story I wrote back in September as a response to a prompt that said “write something that takes place in a public restroom”. I’m not sure how a romance fell out but it did. I think it could use a couple more drafts but the foundation is there. I hope y’all enjoy, and happy valentine’s day.

 

The door of the restroom swung open. A young woman limped in, her flats shuffling across the tiles and her crutch clicking with each uneven step. She stopped and leaned against the cool wall, looked down at the bridesmaid’s dress she wore, and burst into tears.

She should never have introduced them. Kara sniffled and reached into her purse to grab some more tissues. The wads in her fist which she’d been using all night were too soggy with tears and snot to do her any good now. Her fingers found some loose change, a tube of chapstick, and four pens, but no Kleenex.

Dammit. Her nose was leaking like that stupid kitchen faucet she still hadn’t fixed. She ducked down to make sure the stalls were empty and limped across to the counter. She winced when she saw her blotchy face reflected in the mirror. That shade of red definitely clashed with the coral of her dress. She turned from the horrifying visage and propped her crutch against the counter so she could snatch up a few paper towels.

Really, this was her fault. She shouldn’t have introduced them, she thought again. Or at least she should have refused the dubious honor of standing next to them as they tied the knot. Then she wouldn’t have had to come at all and wouldn’t have had to watch her best friend marry the only guy who had ever looked past Kara’s crutch to see her.

Kara froze as the door to the reception hall swung open, letting in a burst of sound from the party. Oh God, if it was Emily, she’d just go ahead and die on the spot, public restroom or not.

But it wasn’t Emily. Her gaze met startled gray eyes in a distinctly masculine face.

Kara squeaked and darted into the back stall, but her drooping foot caught the edge of a tile and she stumbled. Ready to start crying again, this time with frustration, she slammed the door shut and collapsed onto the toilet.

“Oh crap, I’m sorry.” His voice came over the stall door.

“What are you doing in the women’s restroom?” she said. Her voice sounded too high, and she concentrated on bringing it back into a register discernible to humans.

“I didn’t notice the sign,” he said.

“It’s a chick in a dress. How could you not see it?”

“I just didn’t.” He paused. “Are you okay?”

She blew out her breath. “I’m fine. Go away.”

“Your face is all red.”

“Gee thanks.”

He didn’t apologize but there was an awkward silence where it kind of felt like he wanted to. “I have a confession,” he finally said. “I didn’t come in here by accident.”

“You didn’t,” Kara said, her voice flat.

“No.”

There was another pause. This one went on a bit longer. “Are you still there?” he said.

“I’m trying to decide if you’re some creepy pervert.”

He laughed. She liked the sound of it ringing off the walls of the restroom. “Not a creepy pervert,” he said. “I swear.” She imagined him holding up his hand as if swearing on a Bible. “I’m Paul. Emily’s brother.”

That’s right. She’d met him last night at the dress rehearsal, but she’d been so worried about not being bitter and not ruining Emily’s wedding that all she remembered of him was a brief impression of light eyes and dark hair. But wait, if he was her brother…

Kara groaned. “Emily sent you in here, didn’t she?”

“Yeah.” He sounded kind of resentful and weary at the same time. Guess he didn’t like being sent to comfort the third wheel any more than she liked being recognized as the third wheel.

“Well, you can tell her I’m fine. I’m not angry, or upset, or-or anything, all right?”

She heard him shift and it sounded like he was leaning against the counter. “I don’t think she expected you to be in here crying,” he said.

“Why else would she send you?”

“Maybe because she thought you could help me.” His voice was quiet.

Kara closed her eyes and pounded her forehead with her fist. Not everything’s about you, stupid. Well, maybe if she helped him with whatever problem he had, he would go away and leave her alone. “Why do you need my help?” she said.

“I don’t.” His response was too quick and too loud. “I’m fine. Emily’s just overprotective, and she thought since we both have disabilities… you know, instant connection.”

Kara sighed. “Why does everyone think that crippled people are automatically attracted to other crippled people?”

“I don’t know. It’s insulting really.”

“It is.” Kara narrowed her eyes and thought back. She didn’t have a great memory of him from the night before, but she knew she would have noticed if he’d been in a wheelchair or had crutches like hers. “Wait,” she said. “I don’t remember you having a disability.”

“You’re assuming you can see it.”

“So, you mean like vertigo?”

“I mean like PTSD.”

“Oh. Were you in the military?”

“Nothing so heroic,” he said. “I was a hostage in that bank robbery last year.”

“The one on 6th street? Geez, I remember that.”

“Yeah, nothing like being in combat or anything, but it kind of messed me up.”

She was getting better at reading his voice. He sounded embarrassed with something deeper underneath. Shame? “Paul, they kept those hostages locked up in that safe for three nights. And a couple people were shot, weren’t they.”

She heard him swallow. “Yeah.”

“I’m not trying to remind you or anything, I’m just saying, that would mess anyone up.”

“Yeah, well, I’m better now I’ve got Warden. He keeps me sane. I’m usually too worried about him sticking his nose up women’s skirts to be worried about myself.”

“Who is Warden and why hasn’t he been arrested?” she asked.

“He’s my service dog. And most of the girls forgive him once he looks up at them with those big brown eyes.”

“You have a service dog? Why didn’t you bring him?”

He paused. “I did.”

She leaned over and looked under the stalls and saw Paul’s feet in his dress shoes. Right next to him were four paws and the tip of a wagging tail.

“Sorry, I didn’t see him.”

“He’s big and slobbery and wears a bright red vest. How could you miss him?”

She heard the smile in his voice and couldn’t help smiling in return. “I just did. Besides you startled me.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. So why are you in here instead of out there eating cake?”

Her smile disappeared at the reminder. “I’m being pathetic,” she said, going for a light-hearted tone. “I didn’t want to ruin Emily’s wedding by bursting into tears during their first dance.”

“You don’t approve of the groom?”

“Oh no. I know he’s a really great guy. That’s the problem.”

“So you’re in love with him,” Paul said.

“No.” The stall door made the perfect barrier to hide behind, so she found it easier to say, “I just thought he might be the kind of person who could love me. And those are hard to find.”

“Well, now it just sounds like you’re fishing for compliments.”

Kara knew he was trying to lighten her mood, but she’d had a rough couple days and just wanted a moment of self-indulgence. “Oh, that’s what it sounds like to you? Well, that’s the reality I live with. Every guy I meet I have to wonder if he’s going to be one of the ones who only sees my disability. Half of them have a hero complex and the other half get that glazed look right before they run away because I’d be too much work.”

“At least you can leave your house without having some kind of breakdown. Every day I wonder if I’ll actually be able to step out the door. At every store I have an argument with myself about whether there are enough exits or too many people inside.”

“But no one knows what’s going on in your head,” Kara said. “You can smile and nod at people and they won’t be able to tell you have problems. I get judged before I even open my mouth. Everyone can see my weakness as I step out of a car or stand up from a chair.”

“And that’s a bad thing? Do you know how long it took me to realize that I actually had a serious condition? This is something treatable, but only if you recognize that it’s there. Once I finally acknowledged that I needed help, I had to convince the rest of the world there really was something wrong with me and it wasn’t all in my head. You don’t have to convince anyone.”

Suddenly, Kara was laughing, the tension and the anger spilling out until she felt loose and free. “Are we arguing about who’s disability is more disabling?” she said.

His chuckle was warm. “I guess so. Is it weird that I kind of feel better?”

“Not really. I feel better, too. Maybe Emily knew what she was doing.”

He was quiet while she fished in the toilet paper dispenser for something to wipe her nose. The plastic rattled.

“Drat,” she said.

“What?”

“It’s empty, and I’m out of tissues.”

A package sailed over the stall door, and she reached up to grab it just to keep it from hitting her in the face.  It was one of those pocket size packets of Kleenex.

“Really?” she said, her breath huffing out on a laugh.

“Brother of the bride, you know. I have another confession,” he said. “Emily might have asked me to talk to you, but that’s not why I came in here. I’ve been trying to get up the nerve to ask you to dance all night.”

“So you followed me into the bathroom?”

“I didn’t want to lose my chance. I guess I got a little carried away when I realized you were alone and no one would overhear my awkward attempt to ask you out to dinner tomorrow.”

“First it was just a dance, now you want a date too?”

“I wanted a dance cause you’re pretty. I want a date because you’re interesting and I’m really enjoying our conversation.”

“Hmm. Are you sure you’re not one of those guys that only sees the disability.”

“I don’t know. It’s hard to tell since I haven’t actually seen you in a while. Why don’t you come out and you can judge?”

“My face might still be splotchy.”

“Warden doesn’t mind, do you? He says he doesn’t.”

Kara suppressed a giggle and levered herself to her feet. She took a moment to smooth her dress and make sure her mascara hadn’t run before she opened the stall door and stepped outside. Paul leaned against the counter, his lips curving up in a smile, a German shepherd grinning at his feet.

“Well?” she said. She turned like a model on a runway, hanging onto the stalls for support. Where had she left her crutch?

He shook his head. “No disabilities. I just see a beautiful woman.” He cocked his head. “Is there hope for me?”

Kara pretended to consider. “What do you think, Warden?”

The dog’s tail thumped against the tiles.

“I agree.” She spotted her crutch propped on the counter opposite Paul, and she limped to grab it. Something cold and wet touched the back of her knee, and she felt the back of her skirt lift. She jumped, slipped, and caught herself against the counter with her hand in the sink.

“Warden! Sorry, sorry.” Paul was yanking the shepherd’s harness.

Kara laughed. “I suppose you did warn me.”

“What did you agree with?” he asked the dog and then looked up at Kara. “Do I get a dance and a date?”

Kara opened her mouth just as the door opened and an older woman wearing a burnt orange sweater and a lime green skirt swarmed into the restroom.

Paul started guiltily when her eyes widened and she stopped short.

“Paul Jay Sherman. What do you think you’re doing in the ladies room?”

“Aunt Phyllis. I was just-”

“You were just leaving, is what. Stop bothering this young woman and get marching.” She pointed to the door, and Kara had to cover her smile.

Warden stepped in front of Paul and leaned against his legs. Paul seemed to soak in the dog’s strength and stood up straighter. “Not until I’ve heard her answer.” He turned to her and held out his hand. “So, what will it be Kara?”

His eyes stayed locked on hers. They didn’t stray toward her crutch or her legs.

She placed her hand in his. “A dance then,” she said.

“And dinner?”

She smiled. “And dinner.”

They walked out of the women’s restroom, letting Aunt Phyllis seek out a stall in peace.

The restroom door swung open. A young woman limped in, the clicking of her crutch muffled by the fabric of her wedding dress. She stopped by the mirror and took a moment to check her makeup. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a plastic package of Kleenex propped up by the sink. She smiled as she reached for it.

“Kara?” A girl poked her head around the door. “Paul says hurry. Emily’s about to start her toast, and he says he can’t live through it without moral support.”

Kara curled her fingers around the tissues. “I’m coming,” she said.

“Okay. Oh geez! Warden, no.”

Kara laughed and left the restroom.

1 Comment

Filed under Disability, Writing