Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tango Girls

I finally finished the rough draft of my latest novel. This is the fourth novel I've finished in the last two years. I'm still not entirely sure how this happened....

The novel is part of what I think will be a set of four novels, each focusing on a different main character. I have no idea what the title of this novel is, but the series of books is title Tango Girls.

Here is a snippet from the novel. Please be kind, this is a completely unrevised rough draft!

I am lurking in the candy aisle at 6:55 Friday morning. I’m not sure that I really made a decision to do this, to take up Tate on his offer of a ride. It was just the idea of not having to sit on the bus. I did the thing that didn’t involve a bus. It won’t hurt to take the ride once, I can always change my mind later and go back to the bus. Even if the thought makes me cringe a bit.

The rattle-tinkle of the strip of bells hanging on the front door pulls my eyes from the gummy chipmunks. Why are those a thing? A guy with a tower of black kinky curls walks through the doors. His hair reaches the 5’11” mark beside the door. I estimate his head reaches to 5’9”. It’s a lot of hair.

He makes a beeline straight for the coffee island. I watch him grab a cup and dump in four packets of sugar and three cups of hazelnut creamer before pouring coffee over the top. He is humming something and shifting on his feet, almost dancing, as he does this. I can’t make out what the music is, but he is definitely putting on a coffee show.

“You’re here.” I turn to the voice on my right. Tate.

“Yeah. Good morning. And thanks.” If Tate is beside me, I think the coffee dancer must be his friend. “Is that Malcolm?” I send my gaze back to the island where the show has progressed to stirring while his feet patter out a bit of soft-shoe.


“Does he do this every morning?”


“What is he like after he adds all that sugar and caffeine to his already overflowing energy?”

“You’ll see.”

My eyes widen. I’m going to be trapped in a car with him when all of that hits his system. Maybe this is an awful idea. But I’m stuck. The bus is long gone. If I wait for  the next one, I’ll miss English.

“You’ll survive. He hasn’t exploded yet.”

This is my real concern. Tate pulled it right out of my head. I look up at him, and he is smiling down at me.

I sigh. “Okay. Let’s go.”

I have so many reservations. Deep, deep reservations. But I climb into the car with these two unknowns anyway. Malcolm insists that I take the front seat, because I’m “a lady.” I’d much rather sit in the back where I can hide, stay out of their conversation and the path of Malcolm’s potentially frantic, explosive energy.

The first few minutes are relatively calm, silent even. I pull my script out of my bag and flip it open, intent on memorizing the lines to my first two songs. I want to be able to focus on the notes, the music during rehearsal, not juggling a sheet of paper to help me with the words.

Malcolm has other ideas. He has a lot of ideas and a ton of random facts. He is determined to share them all with me in the next forty-five minutes.

“Did you know there are two skulls in Hayden’s tomb?”

This one stops me cold. “Hayden, as in, the guy in the show?” I pivot my head to look over my shoulder so that I can see Malcolm out of the corner of my eye.

His look of confusion mirrors mine. “Hayden is dead.”


Malcolm and I sit staring at each other in puzzled silence for a moment. Tate breaks it. “I think Malcolm is talking about Haydn, with no e. Not the guy that goes to our school.”

Malcolm’s brows relax. “Why would I talk about a guy at our school? Haydn. No e. Austrian composer.”

That makes much more sense, and yet none at all.

Now that his confusion has passed, Malcolm resumes bouncing slightly in his seat, vibrating, really. I can feel it pass through the hand he is using to grip the headrest of my seat as he leans his head forward into the space between the two front seats.

At this point, I decide it will be easier just to play along. “No. I did not know there are two skulls in Haydn’s tomb. No e.”

I hear a tiny snort from the driver’s seat. I glance over. Tate is smiling and shaking his head ever so slightly. I feel like he’s heard this version of the Malcolm show before.

Malcolm continues as if I asked for more information. “His real skull was stolen. By those science-ish people who study the shapes of people’s skulls, the bumps and stuff. So someone, like his relatives, or something, put a fake skull in his tomb, so he wouldn’t be headless. But they got the real skull back eventually. And just added it to the tomb. They didn’t take the fake one out. I think it’s because they weren’t sure at that point which one was the real one, and didn’t want to through away Haydn’s actual head.”

There might have been breaths in there somewhere, but I didn’t hear them.

“Death is weird. And people dodge it all the time. Like the London orchestra. They were booked to travel on the Titanic. But something happened at the last minute, and they changed boats. So they lived. Like, the whole orchestra should be in the bottom of the ocean somewhere, but they’re not.”

“That was lucky.” It’s the best I can do. I feel obligated to say something, but I’m clearly not as obsessed with music-related death as Malcolm is.

Again, Tate seems to pull my thoughts from my head. “Maybe enough with the death facts, Malcolm. What else you got?”

Or, not quite what’s in my head. I was more interested in a general stop in fact-lets, not just the death specific ones.

“There are more than seventy pieces of wood in my violin.”

I turn my head to look into the back seat. I missed his case when I climbed into the car. There is a black hourglass settled in the seat behind Tate, sitting upright like a little human. The seatbelt is crossed over it and latched into place. I smile.

“Is that your violin?” I know it’s an obvious question, but I ask anyway. “Can I see it?”

“Not in the car. Tatiana stays safely buckled until the car is no longer in motion.”

“You named your violin.” There is zero question in my voice. Of course Malcolm named his violin. Maybe she knows the name of Tate’s car. I don’t suggest this out loud.

“I didn’t name her. It’s just who she is. The beautiful and elegant Tatiana de Corleon.”

I smile at Malcolm and turn back to look out the windshield so that he can’t see what happens on my face. I can’t control the raise of my eyebrows, the twitching of my lips as I struggle to keep in the giggle.

“She is beautiful,” Tate says. Somehow he manages to keep his voice straight, I don’t hear a trace of a laugh in there.

Malcolm is silent for long enough that I am able to focus on my script. I’m not sure if he’s lost in reverie, or dreams of dancing with Tatiana, or just passed out from caffeine and sugar overload.

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