Writing Can Be Murder

April 16, 2007


Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 11:57 am

So I was poking around the files in my computer and I found the following. It’s obviously the beginning of a longer piece. It’s definitely a first draft. Beyond that, I can’t tell you why I wrote it or where I thought it was going. Do you ever find the debris of former “brilliant” ideas and wonder “what the hell was I thinking?”


Little had changed about the beach house. The same knotty pine furniture filled the rooms. The same chintz curtains, now faded by time and sun, covered the windows. Even the wind chimes clinked the same tune when blown by the summer breeze. The same full length mirror hung on the inside of the kitchen pantry door.


Ann’s mother had outlawed mirrors in the Wiley family’s summer home. “This is our place to relax,” her mother had declared.


The year Ann turned sixteen she’d cajoled her father into hanging the mirror in the pantry. She’d spent so many hours back then facing her reflection, examining herself, berating herself. Was she too fat? Was her hair right? Did she do her makeup correctly? She’d stood in front of that mirror for countless hours perfecting the image she presented to the world.


She stood in front of that mirror now, twenty years later, with the same sweaty palms and nervous stomach wondering if she’d pass muster with her peers.


“Oh get over yourself!” she berated her reflection. “You are an intelligent, successful woman who is not defined by her hair or a couple of extra pounds.”


Her mirror-image self cocked a skeptical eyebrow. Sure she owned her own company but she also was, as her hairdresser reminded her every five weeks, “over fifty percent gray” and as her personal trainer gently told her, “fifteen pounds over your ideal weight”.


Ann stuck her tongue out at herself, the reaction of a mature woman of 36 for sure, before whirling away from the mirror and slamming the pantry door. She wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans and scooped up her purse.


She couldn’t back out of going. She’d RSVP’d to Sheila’s invitation six weeks earlier. She’d been looking forward to this party. She’d wanted to see the old gang again, most of who, like Ann, were back at the beach houses to attend Sheila and Donny’s renewal of vows ceremony. She’d been anticipating a fun, lighthearted weekend. Then she found out that Brian was going to be there. Brian Pott had been her first love twenty years ago.


Two years older than her, he’d just graduated from high school when they met.  Twenty years later she could still remember the moment she’d laid eyes on him. His parents had rented the house next door and he’d been sent over to ask where the nearest convenience store was located.


Ann had been sitting at the kitchen table reading the latest of Tiger Beat when suddenly she sensed someone at the door. Looking up, she saw him there, a shadowy figure on the other side of the screen door.  Her mother, sitting at the table smoking one of  her endless cigarettes and playing solitaire with a deck of cards, because that was back when solitaire was played with cards and not a computer, waved him in.


And Ann had fallen in love.


Of course it had been a schoolgirl crush. She’d worshipped him, hung on every word he said, trailed behind him on the beach, and laughed at all his jokes. Her stomach had flip-flopped every time he looked into her eyes and her body had tingled with electric attraction every time they’d touched.  She’d been so nervous around him, blushing at every mistake she made, muttering excuses for every foolish thing she did.


Those same nerves were plaguing her now. All because Sheila had told her that Brian would be at the party too and “wasn’t that great?”


It would be great to see him again Ann told herself as she trudged down the beach towards Sheila and Donny’s place. It would give her the chance to stop comparing every man she dated to some silly schoolgirl crush. Maybe he’d be fat, or bald, or broke. Maybe he’d bring a wife or a girlfriend. Maybe she’d see that those eyes of his, those eyes that seemed to be so intelligent and kind, maybe they wouldn’t be so….green.


It had been years since Ann had walked across sand and she’d forgotten how quickly a simple pair of flats could fill with sand. She stopped three times to empty her shoes before she reached the party at the opposite end of the beach.


Sheila ran out onto the sand to greet her, wrapping her arm around Ann’s shoulders and chattering away like they were sixteen again. Some of the faces at the party were familiar. Some of the names had a familiar ring to them. Most of the people there were people Ann couldn’t remember or that she’d never met before. Most of the people there were accompanied by their significant other. Most of the people, Ann decided after several hours of mind-numbing small talk, were boring.  And none of the people was Brian Pott.


Ann would have liked to say she was disappointed that Brian hadn’t shown up, but the truth was that she was disappointed. She hadn’t realized just how much she was looking forward to seeing him until he was nowhere in sight.


She downed another sour apple margarita to drown her sorrows. She’d never had one before tonight but she’d already decided they were now her official favorite drink. She’d had a couple of them, or maybe a few, she’d lost count. This last one went to her head and she began to fan herself as a flush warmed her face. Slightly unsteadily she wove her way through the crowd and out to the beach to get some fresh air.


She sucked in the cool sea breeze greedily, tasting the saltiness on her tongue.


“Getting some air?” a male voice asked from behind her.


The voice was familiar. Ann closed her eyes. “Yup.”


“Care for some company?”


She wanted to say no. She wanted to say “hell no!”, but she didn’t. Instead she shrugged.


Michael Freeman, former sand-castle-wrecker, current CPA sidled up to her. “Beautiful view.”


Ann had been doing this dance with Michael all evening. He pursued her, she tried to avoid him. He was the only other unattached person at the party under sixty. As such he’d latched onto her and relentlessly pursued her all evening.


Ann wasn’t interested in him. In fact, she was repulsed by him. She always had been.


He stepped closer, intruding on her personal space. “Have I told you about my boat?” He slid his hand from her shoulder, down to the small of her back, resting his fingertips on the swell of her butt.


She considered slapping him, but worried that if she made a scene, Sheila would think she was ruining the party.


“Three times,” Ann replied and tried to step away, but she was caught between a piling and a man with a hard on.


“You’re very beautiful in the moonlight.”


“Don’t let that fool you. In the light of day I’m a fat, gray-haired old lady.”


“Modesty is so attractive on a woman,” Michael muttered, leaning in and grabbing her earlobe between his teeth.


“Get off of me,” Ann hissed while driving an elbow into his ribs and a heel into his instep. She hadn’t taken those self-defense classes for nothing. This felt much more satisfying than punching a man in a rubber suit.


It was neither subtle nor sophisticated, but it was highly effective. Michael Freeman C.P.A. collapsed like one of the sandcastles he’d taken such pleasure in wrecking two decades earlier.


A light smattering of applause erupted from the party and Ann looked up towards the partygoers, most of who were pointing at and laughing at Michael’s misfortune. Ann winced and ducked her head as she blushed with embarrassment. The evening was a disaster.


As self-conscious as a teenager, she skirted past Michael and forced herself to head towards the party to apologize to Sheila and Donny.


“Well done,” a male voice said from the shadows. 


The voice had a familiar quality, but was deeper than she remembered, huskier. But his eyes, those green eyes, when he stepped out of the shadow and into the light, they were exactly as she remembered. Brian.


Jane’s stomach flip-flopped and a sharp pleasure-pain settled in the pit as his gaze slowly slid down then back up her body, before settling on her face, examining her features, seeming to memorize the lines of her face.


“It’s good to see you Ann.”


She gulped and licked her lips, her mind desperately casting about for a reply, any reply.


Amusement crinkled the edges of his eyes. “Sorry. It’s been a long time. I should introduce, or rather reintroduce myself. I’m Brian Pott.” He offered her his hand and she instinctively raised her own to shake.


The moment her slender fingers slid into his work-worn palm, the electric attraction sparked to life between them, almost hurting as it traveled up her arm. As though burned, she tried to yank her hand back, but he held on, trapping her hand in his, holding her gaze with his own.


The amusement was gone from his eyes. Awareness lingered there now as he took in her pink-tinged cheeks and parted lips. Without releasing her hand he once again perused her body, this time appreciating her curves and exposed skin.


Michael, who’d gotten back on his feet muttered, “She’s not worth it Pott,” as he limped past them, back into the party.


Brian opened his mouth as though to reply but then snapped it closed as though thinking better of it.


Bringing his eyes back up to meet Ann’s he said simply, “It was good to see you again Ann.” Then he released her hand, turned on his heel and strode back into the party.


She watched him go, watched him walk out of her life again.


“You are so stupid!” she muttered, finally regaining her voice.


The man of her dreams, okay he’d been the boy of her dreams, but now he was man, definitely a man, had tried to have a conversation with her and she’d stood here like a drooling, lovesick idiot. The night couldn’t get any worse.


She stalked back into the party, intent on apologizing to Sheila and Donny and getting the hell out of here before she did anything else monumentally stupid.


She tracked down Sheila in the kitchen and tried to apologize, after all Donny and Michael had been in the same freakin Boy Scout Troop, but Sheila waved her off dismissively. “He deserved it. He’s a jerk.” Sheila told her. “Isn’t that right Donny?”


Donny nodded, earning another merit badge in Ann’s mind.


Making her excuses Ann prepared to leave the party. Smiling politely at the guests, she’d almost made it to the door when her gaze collided with his. It was those damn green eyes that did it to her every time. They might as well as have physically slammed into each other. Ann stumbled, the breath knocked out of her.


Muttering yet another apology to the woman she crashed into, Ann made it to the door, not daring to look back to see if that amused look had crinkled the area around Brian’s eyes again. Still unsteady on her feet, Ann lurched across the sand, desperate to put as much space between herself and anyone and everyone at the party, as possible.



  1. You call this flotsam?? I love it!! So smooth, excellent! Where’s the rest??

    Comment by Jennifer Colgan — April 17, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  2. I don’t know where the rest is since I never finished it– lost at sea maybe?

    Comment by jenniferelbaum — April 17, 2007 @ 8:53 pm

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