This is the prologue and first chapter from a book I was writing for NaNoWriMo in 2010. I only ended up with 30,000 words then, but I suddenly feel like I should go back and finish this one. Any thoughts on that idea or on the story in general are much appreciated.
If you turn to page 63 of the Caldonia High School yearbook from 1990, you will find the entire page devoted to the class valedictorian and hometown sweetheart, Danielle E. Sampson. Golden brown hair with natural curl to match the caramel eyes frames a heart-shaped face with the sweetest smile ever caught on camera. She is sitting on a porch swing by a classic white farmhouse, and a rose bush is creeping up onto the porch beside her. There’s even a butterfly hovering in the lower right-hand corner. The summer dress shows enough skin to let you know it is flawless, and it adds to the homegrown country girl image. The photo is so sweet it makes me want to puke.
I’m in that picture, too. You can’t see me, though. At that point, I was still just a parasitic jumble of cells settled firmly in her uterus.
I’m not mentioned in the list of accomplishments or future plans below the picture, either. Instead, there are snippets about Drama Club presidency and editor positions on the school paper to condense four high school years. And a short paragraph announces: “Danielle will be attending NYU in the fall, pursuing a double-major in Communications and Theatre Arts. She hopes to run a major publishing house and/or be famous on Broadway.”
Big dreams. Too bad I showed up.
Chapter One: Danielle
Have you ever looked at a highway and thought, ‘I want to follow that dotted yellow line wherever it goes and never look back?’ I have. I’ve had that thought so many times that I’ve lost count of the minutes, days, hours, that have accumulated simply staring at the blacktop, wishing I could follow where it leads. It even whispers to me at night. Growing up, there was a highway right outside my window. Late in the night, no matter the date or the time, there was always a vehicle traveling by me. I wanted to be that person. I would make up stories about where they were going, and what would happen if I went with them. What if one day I just stood out there by the highway and held out my thumb? What if the first person who drove by stopped for me?
That was my younger years. I was always dreaming about when I would run away. I couldn’t wait to escape. I wanted to follow that road outside my window to other roads, and then more roads after that, and I wanted to just keep following and keep finding new things, new people, and a new me. I wanted the world; not to rule or to own, but to explore. I wanted to find every new flavor available. I wanted everything everyone else had seen, and everything they hadn’t.
The thought really began to form when I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I’m not really a huge proponent of the Beatnik way of life, but something about that book really spoke to me. I wanted that. I wanted to crisscross not only the U.S. but the world, as well. Just me and whoever I picked up along the way, traveling along in a beat-up car, not knowing when the next meal or even the next town was coming up.
It’s fun to dream about. But even then I knew it was impossible. Still, dreams are what the future is made from. And I knew what kind of future I wanted from the beginning.
It’s taken me 20 years, but I’ve finally set my original plans in motion. I’m going to see the world. It’s more dangerous now than it was then (at least, that’s what they tell me), but I refuse to be daunted. I let obstacles stop me once before, but I won’t do it again. Nothing and no one will get in my way this time.
I’m heading for New York tonight. I bought a bus ticket. It’ll be a long road, and it’d be much quicker to fly, but I want to follow my original dream of following that yellow dotted line. Forever.
I’ll leave my car at the grocery store near the bus station. It’ll be a hassle for Stephen to get it from there once it’s found, but I don’t care at this point. I love the man, but God…I’m so tired of being held back by what other people want and tell me I need to want, too. I’ve always wanted my own life, separate from anyone else. Now I finally have a chance to do that. I know he’ll be hurt. And my mother… Well, Mom will be upset. Dad will most likely just shake his head, like he’s always done where I’m involved. Especially when he thinks I’m being foolish. But I guess I do feel some twinge of regret for those three. But, they’ll still have each other now. And God knows they haven’t needed me, and I haven’t needed them for a very long time. Still, I do worry a bit…
The only one I don’t worry about it Elizabeth. O, I’m sure she’ll be angry at first. But she’ll understand more than anyone else once she figures out what’s happened. It’s the not knowing that will bother her the most. I think that’s also part of why I’m leaving like this. Without saying goodbye to anyone, or even telling them I’m going. It’s mostly because they might convince me to stay, but another part is that I know it’ll piss my daughter off. Funny, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the other way around.
Ah well, my petulant teen years were spent being the perfect small-town girl preparing to leave for bigger and better things. And when they didn’t come, I realized I’d wasted so much time in preparation for nothing. But now I look at it as having prepared myself for this. I just added 20 years to the prep time.
I’m ready. The highway is out there beckoning. I’m going to follow it. Tomorrow night.