For this week, I’m going to post a chapter from the WIP I started in April.
My goal with this is for you to critique my work. Compare this opening chapter with the opening chapter I posted two weeks ago from a short story I wrote ten years ago. Have I improved in the last ten years? Gotten worse? Is there something in my writing style that I need to work on or change?
Give me your best constructive criticism and don’t hold back! One of the wonderful things I enjoy about an online writing community is that it allows a writer, like myself, to get feedback and constructive criticism from people with different viewpoints, walks of life, and niches.
With all that being said, here is the first chapter from my current WIP entitled Quarter Life Crisis.Enjoy!
Note: The following chapter deals with death and loss. By continuing to read you agree that you are comfortable with the trigger warning mentioned above. You also agree that this work is the property of Jade Penn and under copyright protection. If any portion of the writing below is plagiarized you may be forced to pay me for lost earnings in addition to covering attorney fees.
“Miss Lewis he’s stealing my crayons!”
“She hit me!”
I look up from my desk and observe the chaos unfolding in my classroom. Glancing at the clock quickly, I realize it’s almost time for recess.
“Helen and Lisa, if I see anyone hit anyone else neither one of you will have recess for a week and I’ll send a note home to both of your parents,” I say crossing my arms and sending a stern glance in the direction of the twins. Dubbed the Trouble Twins by their first grade teacher, I still didn’t understand why they would assign both girls to my second grade classroom. Unfolding my arms, I walk towards the back of the classroom and crouch down next to Amy and Jonathon. “Amy what did we learn about sharing yesterday? What crayon do you need to use?”
The brunette glances at me and stubbornly folds her arms. “I need green for the grass, yellow for the sun, and red so I can finish the roof.”
“And Jonathon what colors do you need?”
“Yellow and orange to color in my ice cream truck.”
“Amy can you let Jonathon use your yellow crayon while you color in the grass and the roof?”
Amy rolls her eyes and hands the blonde boy sitting next to her a yellow crayon. “Break it and I’ll break you,” she informs him.
“Amy! One more outburst like that from you and no recess for the rest of the week!”
The brunette starts to open her mouth in response, but I give her a glance and she smartly backs down. At three months pregnant, and just getting over bursts of morning sickness, I cannot and will not tolerate any back talk.
As I stand up and walk back to my desk, I rub my stomach. “Little One, promise me you’ll behave nicely to your teachers.” Standing still, I wait to see if I can feel any movement. At my second appointment my doctor informed me that I probably wouldn’t feel my baby move until 16 weeks, but my best friend, Whit, had felt Charlotte, her second child, start to move at 13 weeks. Glancing at the clock again, I see it’s finally time for recess. “Recess time,” I sing to my students, “Single file everyone.”
Outside, I stand on the curb with some other teachers and we talk amongst ourselves while watching the children play.
“How’s your dad doing Selena?” Katie asks, walking up towards me, with her long red hair flowing. At 53 she’s one of the oldest elementary school teachers still here, and a mentor to a lot of the newer teachers like myself.
“Better,” I reply with a smile. “Thank you for asking. He wanted me to let you know he appreciated the flowers you sent.” My dad was a fifth grade teacher for many years at the same elementary school where I now work and a lot of other teachers remember being in his class.
“That’s great! I hear he’s a favorite with all the other doctors and nurses at Ravenwood because of the music.”
I sigh quickly, closing my eyes and bringing my hand to my forehead. “Can you believe he’s playing it 24/7? His nurse told me yesterday that he even plays Yiruma at night.”
“Yiruma?” Katie asks with a frown.
“He’s a South Korean pianist. I walked down the aisle to his song, “River Flows in You,” at my wedding.”
“Oh I remember!,” she exclaims as her green eyes brighten with enthusiasm. “Your wedding was so romantic Selena. Don’t you have an anniversary coming up?”
“July 3rd. Eric and I were just saying we can’t believe it has almost been three years already.”
“I think we’re going to keep it low-key. Between my dad having the stroke and planning for the baby, we don’t want to spend a ton of money. I think we’ll just end up spending a weekend in the mountains.”
“How’s everything going with the baby?”
My hand goes to my belly as I reply, “So far so good. The three-month checkup went well and the morning sickness has improved.”
“When will you find out the sex?”
“At sixteen weeks. I’m really hoping for a boy with Eric’s curly blonde hair.”
Katie laughs. “What does Eric want?”
“He says he just wants a healthy baby,” I say and instantly look down as I take deep breaths and try to control the tears welling up in my eyes.
Katie’s arms are around me in a flash as she pulls me into a hug. “Oh sweetheart, don’t fret.” Pulling back a little she lifts my chin and stares into my eyes. “You’re going to have this baby and it’s going to be healthy. Don’t let the past make you lose faith in the future. You’re still young, what 23, 24?”
“I just turned 25 last month,” I reply with a smile as she takes a couple of steps back, sensing that the impending crisis has been averted. “God I wish I was still 23. Eric and I were newlyweds then.”
“And in about three weeks, this school year will be finished and another week after that you’ll have two months to spend with your hubby.”
“Maybe, Paul said he might need me to help with summer school.”
“Tell him no,” she says quickly, eyes determined. “Take the next couple of months to rest up Selena.”
“I’ll think about it,” I say smiling. Katie means well, but between helping Dad with his hospital bills, preparing for a newborn, and recently moving into the new house, Eric and I have been struggling financially despite having two incomes. I opted this school year to have my school pay spread over 12 months, so I could take the summer off, but the pay from summer school certainly wouldn’t hurt.
I notice some of the other teachers have started to line their students up to go back inside, and a quick glance at my watch lets me know recess is officially over. “Looks like it’s time to go back,” I say turning to Katie with a smile while holding a finger up and calling over my students.
“Enjoy the rest of the day Selena. Don’t let them run you crazy,” she smirks. Every elementary school teacher knows after recess is one of the worse times of the day. Your students have run crazy for twenty minutes and all that pent-up energy is not a good thing when you need to control them in the classroom. Thank God Eric promised he would come in today after recess and read to the class for about half an hour.
Eric’s waiting in the classroom behind my desk as the children and I march back in. They’ve already met him once before last December so their eyes light up and many call out “Hey Mr. Lewis,” as they walk to their desks.
“Hello Mr. Lewis,” I say as I smile and walk towards him. He stands and holds out his arms towards me and I am once again struck by the understated beauty of my husband. At 6-ft 2-inches, he is 6-inches taller than I am, with a slim frame from years of running. I think back to how we met on the college campus; he was running for exercise, I was running from a bee. We’ve been inseparable ever since.
Slipping into his arms he plants a kiss on my forehead before moving over so I can sit in my chair. With ease he walks over to the bookshelf and crouches down in front of it. He reads stories to my classes twice a year so he knows the deal. “What story should I read today kiddos?”
The children raise their voices, shouting various book names and Eric quickly realizes his mistake. He glances over to me for help and I raise an eyebrow. He’s gonna have to find his own way out of this one.
Glancing back towards the bookshelf he quickly pulls three books off the shelf and turning towards the class he holds them up, one by one, like a peace-offering. “Will these do? I picked The Giving Tree, A Bad Case of Stripes, and Frog and Toad are Friends.”
I smile as the class breaks out in shrieks of delights. All 20 of my second graders love Frog and Toad are Friends so he’s chosen wisely. With a wink in my direction, he walks to the back of the classroom where I’ve set up a reading corner with a rocking chair and a large rug for the class to sit on.
“Class can we quickly, but quietly, walk towards the reading corner and sit cross-legged on the floor so Mr. Lewis can read us stories?
At once, the class jumps up, and much to my delight, all 20 of them obediently walk quickly and quietly towards the floor and settle down. Eric starts reading the first story and I walk towards the cupboards on the far left of the room to pull out some snacks. Not wanting them too riled up, I put handfuls of popcorn into cups and pass them out along with apple juice.
Once every child has a snack and drink in hand, and Eric is starting on the second book, I walk back towards the board and start copying some math problems onto the dry erase board. Today we’re reviewing fractions, which thankfully the majority of my students have mastered, but I make a mental note to spend extra time with Elliot. He struggles with dyslexia, but I’ve been tutoring him for the past two months and he’s made significant progress. I want to see how well he does today.
Once all the problems are copied onto the board and I’ve placed worksheets on all the desks, I collect empty cups and threw them in the trash before settling down at my desk. Eric is in the middle of the last book, but he usually takes some time to chat with the students for about ten minutes after story time so I have about 15 to 20 minutes to grade some papers.
I’m searching for my red pen when I see my phone light up with a missed call. Recognizing the number as the Hospital’s, I grab my phone and walk towards the door, signaling to Eric that I’ve gotten a phone call. I don’t usually make a habit of answering my phone at work, but with my Dad in the hospital, and Eric here to watch the students, I make an exception.
Taking a second to listen to the voicemail, I hear Dr. White asking me to give her a call back concerning my Dad. Quickly, I dial the Hospital’s number.
“Ravenwood Hospital, how may I direct your call?”
“Hi. My name is Selena Lewis and my Dad, Stephen Young, is there on the fourth floor. I have a missed call from his Doctor, Dr. Jenna White.
“I’ll page you to the nurses station on that floor and see if they can reach Dr. White for you. One moment please.”
There is a brief pause before I hear, “Fourth floor nurses station this is Thomas speaking.”
Recognizing the voice as one of the nurses who frequently is assigned to dad, I brighten. “Hey Thomas, this is Selena, Stephen Young’s daughter. I had a missed call on my phone from Dr. White. Can you get her for me please? Do you know if anything is wrong?”
“Hey Selena! I wasn’t assigned to your Dad today. Hold on let me check.”
The phone is filled with the voice of the Hospital’s spokeswoman reminding me to use sunscreen this summer and keep hydrated. I absent-mindedly straighten one of my student’s pictures on the wall. Dad was fine when I spoke to him on the phone this morning. His health has steadily improved all week. I wonder if they’re calling to complain about the music. Surely that discussion could have waited until I came in later tomorrow.
“Hello, Selena?” Dr. White’s calm voice fills the phone.
“Hi Dr. White, I’m returning your call. Is it the music?” I ask with a chuckle. “I’ve told Dad he’s disturbing the patients when he constantly plays it.”
“Actually, Selena, is there anyway you could come to the Hospital right away?”
I feel my pulse start to quicken and instinctively bring a hand to my stomach. “What’s happened?” I whisper.
“I’d rather discuss that with you in person. I advise that you bring Eric along too.”
My left hand moves from my stomach and covers my mouth as I choke back a cry and tears pour down my checks. “Is…is my Dad still alive?”
“Yes, but he’s…I would rather discuss this with you in person. Can you come to the Hospital as soon as you can?”
Sliding against the wall and to the floor, I grip the phone tighter and blink repeatedly. “I’ll be there as quick as I can. Tha…Thank you Dr. White.”
“See you shortly Selena.”
Bringing my head to my knees, I drop my phone next to me and start to sob.