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Entanglement

Photo by Ryan Boren

This first chapter was originally posted here on February 23, 2011 as Mahogany Curls and the Things We Need to Do. I’ve always had an idea of where the story was supposed to go, but I was discouraged when it first began, so I moved on to different stories and practice. The practice seems to have done my writing some good, because I like this better after more editing. Chapter One begins again with a new title. If you come along for the ride, please don’t hesitate to tell me what you think as it goes on. I don’t know how long it will be. I’ve decided to just have fun with it. I hope you will, too.

 

When she returned to the couch, Aliss had suggested it was time for Miller to leave, and he wasn’t happy about it. He mustered a ‘man pout’, furrowing his brow and tossing a strong squint in her direction while his jaw tensed ever so slightly. She lifted one bare foot to rest its ankle across her opposite knee, and it grazed the overhanging corner of the flat wide box, perched at a precarious angle on her coffee table and empty except for crisp crumbs and smears of tomato sauce. Her gaze turned away from him, toward the task of unrolling two fluffy wool socks she held in her hand. Her feet were cold.

“So,” Miller said, “you only invited me over because you needed someone to fix your surround sound.”

The dimensional, intricate cables of his grey sweater, with the deep charcoal of his jeans, were at the corner of her eye, causing her to question why his fashion sense and the burnished pools of mahogany hair curling around his eyes and at his nape — as well as his handiness — weren’t enough to keep him on her couch. Unable to suppress a sigh before it reached his ears, she felt the slightest twinge of guilt at her own impatience, then finished slipping on the socks.

She thought she saw him wince at the sigh, as if cold air had been blown onto an ailing eardrum, and imagined seeing him clap a hand over his ear to protect it. She almost laughed before pursing her lips to hold it back. Turning to do him the honor of looking him square in the eye, she said, “I was right beside you while you were working, handing you the right screwdriver, asking which wire was which, and why you were doing each little thing.” She wanted to be nice. She tried to smile. “I didn’t invite you over so you could fix my surround sound. I invited you over so could learn how to fix my surround sound.” His expression faltered, then faded. Aliss thought she saw a slight tremble, and felt it necessary to add, “I did order the pizza.”

Miller lifted himself off her couch with great effort, lingering for a moment while rubbing his hands together as if they were suddenly as cold as her feet. He said a low, almost inaudible, goodbye before going to the door, taking his jacket off the nearby hook and letting himself out. She tried not to feel sorry for him. It wasn’t his fault that he’d known her so long, tried so long, and yet this was still the wrong night for things to get past dinner. Aliss didn’t have many friends, but one had felt comfortable telling her how crazy she was to have known a guy who was that interested in her for two whole months, and not have thoroughly checked him out. And she’d said that without seeing with her own eyes what he looked like. Aliss thought it was funny how good looks could get in the way of the things we intended to do in our lives.

After he left, she went to get the big ceramic bowl from the kitchen cabinet, and filled it with an entire bag of organic cheddar popcorn. In the living room, she inserted the DVD of “The Dark Knight,” knowing this time she’d be able to hear as well as see every bit, saying out loud to herself as she slid into her squashy ruby-colored chair, the popcorn in her lap, the remote control nearby, “Figure it out this time.” She watched with intense focus as missing pieces of her past, her life, felt at once closer and farther away.

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14 thoughts on “Entanglement

  1. I like these characters. Both Aliss and Miller have solid motivations here, and the conflict is clear throughout. Once I got into the scene, I was completely engaged with them. At the very beginning (and I’m only talking about the very first couple of lines here), I would have liked more action and dialogue. Instead of “When she returned to the couch, Aliss suggested it was time for Miller to leave, and he wasn’t happy about it. He mustered a ‘man pout’…”, I would have preferred something like this:

    “Aliss perched on the edge of the couch. “Don’t you have something you need to be doing?”
    Miller mustered a ‘man pout’…”

    And I LOVED “man pout” by the way. What a great descriptor. The whole scene hangs together strongly, especially when she says “I was wanting to learn how I could do it”. Ouch. Zing. Extremely well done.

    • Thanks, Jessie. I’m so glad to hear you like the characters and those specific lines. Yay!

      I did think about that opening line when I re-edited, so I see your point, but when I put an exact line in her mouth, it felt too blunt, like it would’ve needed a lot of possibly pointless dialog to set it up with the same airy, matter-of-fact effect. I hope a fix pops into my head, especially if I hear this same comment more and more. Thanks.

  2. Practicing my man pout here. I am looking forward to more of this tale. The only thing I’d change is to bold the word learn instead of the word I. She’s the only one learning, since he already knows, so the learning would be special rather than the person learning. Or something like that. I don’t know; it just seems a little “righter” to me. Not a big deal either way. I really love the sentence about how good looks get in the way of what we’re trying to do with our lives. If I had a hundred thousand dollars for every pretty face I chased while missing out on, say, 2 or 3 girls/women (maybe more–I was looking the wrong way) who would have been a much better choice, I could retire today.

    • I’d like to see it! 🙂

      Thanks for reading this! It feels good to hear that you’re looking forward to more of it. And thanks so much for your impressions. Everything I hear about my writing becomes a part of how I think of my readers’ experiences with my work. Even if I fuss a little in response to critique (I’ve been working on that), it still helps me see new ways of looking at the things I write.

      I thought about that line and read it aloud both ways. They each work. With the ‘I’ bolded, it’s more about her talking about herself. Her character seems a little headstrong to me and someone who’s thinking of herself first. I think that’s why it’s sounds to me like she’d emphasize herself in that sentence. She’s making that point as if it’s important to her that he gets it.

      Thanks for mentioning the line about ‘good looks’. I’m glad it rang true as you read it — true to life, not about you particularly.

  3. Eased us right into it, like the fluffy pair of wool socks. And it’s just as comfortable.
    If you wrote about frying an egg it would be amazing. And you’d make us all hungry.

    • Oh, wow, thank you so much! That’s very nice of you to say. I want so much for people to be comfortable with my words. I don’t want to get in the way of my story and mess it up for readers. You make me think I’m on the right track. I’ll try hard to stay on it. Thanks again!

  4. Alas, I have begun the “Entanglement” series! 🙂 The characters drew me in.
    “It wasn’t his fault that he had known her so long, tried so long, and yet this was still the wrong night for things to get past dinner.” These lines give me some indication of the possible entanglement that we’ll learn more about in the subsequent chapters. I’m curious about why exactly Aliss has reservations about moving things forward.

    • Thank you so much for the feedback, Ms. Empress. 🙂

      I’m almost sorry you began it today, because my daughter was finally able to talk to me yesterday about it, and we managed to get to the heart of why readers didn’t know certain things I thought I’d put in. She and I realized that a certain sentence I used here wasn’t only a bit too subtle, but the wording could be understood in two different ways. I fixed it today and just replaced the version you read with one I hope I tweaked enough to get in that needed clarity. Sorry it took me so long, but I guess that’s why writers like me need a dialogue about the work — so we can figure out these kinds of things.

  5. Was the following sentence included in the original chapter?
    “She watched with intense focus as missing pieces of her past, her life, felt at once closer and farther away.” I’m not sure that I remember it; nonetheless, I think it adds something to the development of Aliss’s character. Clearly, there’s some history that informs her perspective.

    • Thank you so much for coming back to it. Yes that’s new. I’m glad it adds something. My daughter said that the way it was before, she thought Aliss was referring to having forgotten the movie and wanting to remember it. (I was floored and a bit embarrassed when I realized it read that way.) She also said it wasn’t clear that Aliss and Miller knew each other for a while and that Aliss liked him, so I added a line in the next one about how she likes to smell his scent in the jacket of his that she wears.

  6. Have just subscribed to this blog, enjoyed this opening chapter. I thought it was interesting how you began as if something had come before; wondering where the back story will come in. The start has left me intrigued for certain. I shall be looking again at my work to see if it hooks the reader in the same way.

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