Foreword from the Writer
So here we are again. This time I thought I'd put my two cents at the beginning. Seems to make rather more sense that way. Below is the first iteration of Amara's story from the first attempt. I scrapped the second one entirely. I was in a bad place when I wrote that, please don't judge me for it. So I took the first one, filled in the gaps, wrote around it, and tweaked some wording here and there. It's still not perfect, but it actually has something resembling a structure and meaning. Now that it is more or less a complete thought, it opens up the floodgates for all the feedback, criticisms, and ideas on how I can improve this. I'm open to everything and anything you would like to share. I'm a big boy, I can take whatever you want to throw at me. The fact that I actually wrote something is a victory enough for me.
It's interesting, I had a much easier time rewriting than I did with the original draft. This is unusual because most of my early writing, such as for school assigments or my own little projects, rarely consisted of revisions or multiple drafts. My senior project was a 16 page report I wrote in one sitting and I didn't change before I submitted it. When absolutely required to submit multiple drafts I would write it up and delete pieces here and there to make it incomplete. Sorry, teachers.
So I thought it was interesting that writing the first time around was like pulling teeth with rusted pliers, but this time it felt much more like how I imagine writing should feel. Until I got to the end of the original material and had to start the conclusion - then it started feeling a little more difficult. I could feel a palpable heaviness to pushing past the end of my draft, a weight I had to be able to shift in order to continue.
Apparently, writing for me is, at this time in my career, like sculpting. Except that I have to extract the clay surgically from somewhere around my ribcage. Once I have the material I can work to shape it, but getting it in the first place is a little painful.
On the actual story below, a few disclaimers. It deals, even if only briefly, with parental dynamics. I don't want anything I write to give the impression that there is anything wrong with step-parents or 'split' households. I have no living memory of a time when my parents were still together, but they are both wonderful, amazing people that I love very much and whom have a healthy respect for one another. I have had 4 step-parents over the years, and I have loved each of them in turn. I often joke that I don't have a family tree - a shape with a strong origin, a central foundation upon which the branches sprout from - rather that I have a family shrubbery. It all just kind of goes every which way. Aunts, uncles, step-relatives and cousins I've rarely, if ever, met. It's a mess of a family, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
My actual writing 'voice' is still a work in progress, I'm still developing how I as a writer sound. So I encourage any feedback, especially having to do with how it sounds. If there are any pieces that work particularly well, or lines that could use a little more polish, please point them out.
On a sidenote, Amara's father's name is never mentioned. partly because I haven't been able to given him one yet (Though their surname is "Langward"). However, I also like to think it reflects how he is thought of as Dad or Father, not by his name. Gives him kind of a mystique.
Well, without further delay, I humbly present some words precariously arranged into something I hope resembles meaning..
* * *
Outside, it was a gray afternoon with a broken sky. The rain fell at an angle, but uniformly so as if someone took the clouds and tilted them to one side. Inside the biodome park, however, it was high noon with clear skies. One of three basic settings for the park, those being morning, afternoon, and closed. Artificial sunlight filtered through artificial trees (branches waving in an artificial breeze), threw dancing shadows on artificial grass. Contained, sustainable, and completely fake. Not that the act fooled anyone, but when the alternative was walking in the rain across what would otherwise be a parking structure or office building, no one complained.
"How was school today, Amara?"
Amara had absolutely no complaints. She had an ice cream cone, which made today an exceptional day, and she was more focused on her treat than any academic inquiries. She scrutinized it carefully, quick to delicately lick up any errant drips of ice cream.
"Amara?" Sterner, this time. Her father glided alongside her, a towering figure even without the contrast of a small child. He was empty handed; after taking care of Amara's crippling list of school supplies an ice cream cone was almost a stretch.
"What?" The top of her cone was licked to a near perfect dome of dessert. A work of art. Adults couldn't appreciate this kind of fine detail.
"School? I assume you went to class, or how could you be complaining of having homework from a chemistry class you didn’t attend? That would be rather impressive." A thin hand fell on her shoulder, applying gentle pressure to hold Amara back as a man in a suit ran through the exact space she was about to enter. The man, jogging swiftly down a path to an exit, opened a door and momentarily the sound of the outside downpour raced inside the park, determined to get as far as it could before the door shut again, instantly cutting off any notion of rain.
“Of course I went to class, Daddy.” What a stupid question, and ultimately irrelevant compared to the question at hand: lick the dome down to a flat surface, or take a solid bite out of the cone? Her expression was one of a painter deciding where to put the brush next.
"And what?" Her brow wrinkled in exasperation as she saw a line of ice cream had very nearly ran over the back of her hand. As she lifted the cone for a better angle to stop it in its tracks, her small blue eyes met the grey-blue orbs of her father’s. He lifted one eyebrow. Barely.
Amara sighed, with only a slight roll of her eyes that she didn't quite try to conceal. She straightened up, adjusted her backpack – standard for her class, white with a red cross – and gave him the most serious look a twelve year old could muster, “One Thing I Learned In School Today was the toxsticity levels of all pre-op medications used in a standard hospital environment.”
That's what I said, she retorted. Or would have, except her mouth was full and her cone now had a mysteriously girl-shaped bite taken out of the side. Her attention had shifted immediately back to the cone as soon as she answered the question.
He laughed and ruffled her hair, earning himself a withering glare from the girl, "Always learning, my little genius. I think Carrie will be really good for you. She's a teacher."
It was partway through talking about what it was that Carrie taught when he realized that Amara was no longer beside him. He stopped, looking back down the path where she had stopped. She stared at the ground, as if intense concentration alone could teleport herself somewhere far away from the biodome. As he approached, each step with a cat's grace, she remained resolutely still, only speaking when his shadow eclipsed her. He knelt down in front of her so they were eye-level, or as close as was practical.
"I thought I didn't have to meet her." If the words were any heavier, they would have cracked the stones set in the path upon landing. A line of ice cream streaked down the side of her cone and over her hand, dripping down off her fingers.
"Not immediatly. I just thought you would eventually want-"
"I don't want to meet her! I didn't want to meet the last one. I still have Mom, even if you don't. So you can find yourself a new wife but I don't need another new mom!" She pushed past him and ran down the path, keeping her head low so he couldn't see her tears. Mom never cried in front of anyone.
Just like her mother. He stood up, ran a hand through his hair, and turned to follow her. She was waiting at the far exit to the park, not quite angry enough to storm out of the park entirely. When he reached her, neither spoke. The words of an apology began forming on his tongue but he held them back, unsure how or where to start. His daughter's thoughts were a mirror of his own.
He felt her hand slide into his, their fingers intertwining and squeezing briefly. His free hand conjured an umbrella as they walked through the short hallway from the shining midday sun to the torrential storm outside. He did his best to keep them both dry or, failing that, at least Amara. The rain, slanted as it was, made for a difficult task. So they braved the storm together, hand in hand, a silent truce.
Meanwhile, inside the park, beneath an unmoving sun, an ice cream cone melted on the path.