Monday, August 25, 2014


The Secrets We Share
70,000 words
YA contemporary/romance

Stop is such a stupid word. What does it even mean?

Here’s the thing. Sometimes words don’t matter.

Here’s another thing. My body enjoyed it. The pain. The build-up. The release that a boy could make me feel.

Here’s the final thing: My heart has never forgiven me. I could have believed in anyone two years ago. Love made the world go round; a smile was an easy gift to give; people were innately good. I knew Kyle liked me a little. I knew I liked him. I knew so much, but I knew nothing at all.

“I’m not sure about this,” I mumbled that night. Grady Bolt’s song, “Your Kiss,” played softly on my computer in my bedroom. Grady Bolts believed in true, young love. So, I did, too.

“Just lie down, Grets,” Kyle answered. He positioned his legs on either side of mine and whispered the sweetest nothings (which were somethings) to me. His words were the best, dipped in dark chocolate and colorful sprinkles. Delicious. Unhealthy.

As his lips and fingertips explored my body, a hunger deep inside of me awoke and it was achingly good. Still, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t even know all the details of it. Does anyone the first time, though?

“St—.” His lips pressed my voice quiet and suffocated my “stops.” But, he heard them. He felt them. He knew as well as I did what the word stop means. 

It felt sort of like love, I guess. It was a weird feeling. There was a fullness to it. But, there was an emptiness to it, too.

“Kyle!” I screamed as my legs tensed, my arms clutched the bedspread underneath me, and my head stilled. My body combusted and I twirled out of control like a spin top. Grady Bolt’s voice echoed somewhere in the distance against Kyle’s and my shallow breaths afterwards. “Touch me everywhere, baby/Let nothing go amiss/I love you ‘til forever comes/and steals away your kiss.”

The next morning as I laid crying in a fetal position by myself, I knew my tears were warranted.

Kyle wasn’t a bad guy. He really wasn’t. It’s been long enough for this retrospective analysis. Still, he is the villain whose shadow haunts me.

My heart could have believed in anyone.

That was two years ago.

I was fifteen.

And apparently, I was open for business.

I said “yes” to every guy who wanted it for a year. Then, I stopped.

Call me whatever. I don’t blame you. I call myself the same things.

I will forgive myself someday. Sometimes, I even whisper, “Stop, Greta. Just stop.” Then I remember what a stupid word stop is.

“Every breath I have is yours
I willingly surrender
To all the love you give to me
It’s your spell that I’m under.”

“Surrender,” A Walk ON WATER

Grady Bolt’s house in Nisswa looks like paradise for a crypt keeper. Ash-gray brick with a black roof that needs some legit TLC, it’s a hopeless sight. Except for the stairs. There are three of them leading up to his front door and they are painted with heart and star designs colored purple, teal, and blue. My favorite stair is the middle one where the word, YAMS, is printed sloppily in white for the world to question. For me to question like I have every day since I moved to Nisswa ten months ago with my dad. My mom still hasn’t forgiven me for my choice. She preferred me to stay in the Twin Cities that I grew up in, but, as I told her, I moved to be near Grady. Which is half-true.

My dear Grady knows my real soul in a way that no other human being knows it. His songs are romantic without a touch of angst or anger or pain. His words. I want to believe in them again. Grady hasn’t released a single for 366 days. Sometimes I think I see a curtain rustle or a dim light turn on and off from inside his home. One night, I swear a shadow sat staring back at me for an entire hour while I was standing outside his house, hoping to finally meet him. But, I must be imagining these things. Tourists who visit my dear Grady’s house share stories with similar ghostly happenings. Maybe they imagine things, too. Or maybe, we all want to believe in his music. We all want to know why he quit. It’s a question with many possible answers—sort of like what happened to the dinosaurs?

Behind me, a truck approaches as I’m gripping Grady’s shoulder-high, locked picket fence.

“Hey, Greta! Do you want a ride?”

I smile and turn around, faking surprise at the offer. “Sure, Tristan,” I answer, as I’ve done for the past 30 days of June and 1 day of July.        

Tristan leans over his truck’s center console and opens the passenger side door. When I get in, I brush against his hand. Everything jolts out-of-place inside of me and places that should be comfortably cool become instantly warm and ready for immodest things. Things that I can’t handle. Not again. He’s had this effect on me for three plus months now. An eternity. Tonight, he bites the top corner of his lip the same way he did last March of our senior year when he said “hello.” That was all it took. A simple, brave hello to the newest girl in school.

“Well, hello,” I said back. From the tiniest place in my heart, where I keep my most important, forbidden things, I felt a small change in me that day. My heart slowly and then quickly made room for Tristan Thunders. Admittedly, I liked his artwork before I even liked him. His sculptures, his drawings, and his paintings have a life of their own. They’re colorful, but melancholy; care-free but seeped with deeper meaning; a glimpse into his mystery but also my own.

My tingling intensifies. Does he really know what he does to me? I hope not. I hope so. It doesn’t matter. We are both on separate tracks in two months anyway and I can imagine what distance does to relationships. Besides, maybe Tristan doesn’t like me at all. Maybe this tussled-haired, hazel-eyed boy is toying with me. 

“So, I’m going to ask for the thousandth time—why are you always at Grady Bolt’s house, Greta?” Tristan could be jealous; he could be curious; he could just be an a-hole making fun of my intrigue. I haven’t tried to figure it out. Still, when he mumbles, what is it about that guy? I smile.

“I admire him and his music and I wish I knew why he stopped.” I admire him like I admire you. I have grown to have great taste in boys.

“Do you think you’ll get the answers by just standing there watching his house, Greta?” This question is new.

“You never know, Tris.”

Tristan pulls at his pant leg several times as he drives. “Maybe Grady doesn’t want the world to know.” This statement is new, too. “I mean, some people keep their secrets in plain view so that other people don’t think to question their significance.”

I look at Tristan who glances back at me, both of us sizing up the real conversation we are having. In another life, maybe I could be brave enough to love him. The braver thing, though, would be for Tristan Bolts to love me back.


  1. Really enjoyed Greta's voicing here. She's quirky and immediately likable. I particularly enjoyed her theory on the stupidity of stops considering her "stop and go" tendencies in love. She has brushes with fleeting almost romances but ultimately her heart belongs to a musician. She's relatable, interesting, and I'd certainly read on. Nice work & best of luck!


  2. I agree, Greta's voice here is great. You did a great job grounding us in her frame of mind right from the bat. I love how you opened-such a startling scene but one that sets up wounds for her really well. She comes across as confident and vulnerable both at once-very authentic. Nicely done!

  3. I really like this as well. I was a little confused when the second scene began. At first I didn't know whose point of view it was from, but otherwise a really great opening.

  4. I also enjoyed the voice! Greta comes across as such a strong character. For me personally, the opening scene was a bit jarring. But I think the stage is well set for where she's coming from for the rest of the book. Best of luck to you!

  5. So many good lines here - and I have to agree with other commenters - Greta's voice is strong.

    I particularly liked:

    "His words were the best, dipped in dark chocolate and colorful sprinkles. Delicious. Unhealthy."

    "It felt sort of like love, I guess. It was a weird feeling. There was a fullness to it. But, there was an emptiness to it, too."

    "I will forgive myself someday. Sometimes, I even whisper, “Stop, Greta. Just stop.” Then I remember what a stupid word stop is."

    This is a really difficult subject matter, but I think you wrote the scene and her state of mind very well, and its clear the impact it's had on her. It's heartrending to see her turn that emotional turmoil in against herself. I want to read more because I hope she finds that 'someday.'

    I have a few suggestions:

    It seems strange that Tristan treats the fact that she's standing outside this guy;s house so normally - even if it is something she's done before. But he sounds totally unsurprised to find her there when he asks her for a ride. I was waiting for Tristan to ask "Why are you standing outside this guy's house?" and it took a while for the question to finally come.

    If he's used to it also maybe he could indicate that by saying something like "“Hey, Greta! Thought I'd find you here.. Do you want a ride?”

    Although.. now that I write it I think maybe it works as it is.

    Lastly, I feel like their lines of dialog could be more casual - more teenage vernacular. Particularly, the lines with "I admire him.." and "..question their significance." They sound a bit formal.

    Good luck!

  6. I'm on the bandwagon with saying that Greta's voice is spot on. The first half of this excerpt was very well done, and it flows so well. The beginning of the second half made me stumble; the setting was unclear, I didn't know how much time had passed, and I was distracted by asking myself if this was the singer's house (and if Greta knew the singer personally, until you brought up the subject of a ghost). I would take a second look at that part and make it clearer.

    Good luck!


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