Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Clockwork Crazy - First Chapter - SNEAK PEAK

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Chapter One

It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
What a bunch of crock!
And the old adage was certainly no comfort to me as I curled up in the middle of some random farmer’s field, bawling my eyes out. I snotted up my sleeve wanting to curse every silly love song and romantic soliloquy I’d ever heard. The people who wrote those words were liars. Heartbreak was explosive, wrenching, and annihilating. It battered and whipped and taunted the one afflicted by it. It crushed me like an avalanche of ragged stones without the decency to actually kill me. The pain was so deep and thorough I felt like someone was peeling off my skin.
I hated, hated, hated that I had known love. It was so much better for me when love was a fairy tale. I wished with all my bruised and bleeding heart that I’d never stopped hating Nate back in my sophomore year.
This present agony was all his fault! If he hadn’t accepted a dare to dance with me at that stupid Fall Dance (I took back the forgiveness I’d extended to Lucinda for tricking me into going), and hadn’t tripped with me back to the nineteenth century, and hadn’t let my infatuation turn into love—
and worse, if he hadn’t loved me back—I’d be happily unaware of this torment and probably half-heartedly dating Austin King. I’d be graduating in a few weeks with my body, soul, and spirit in one piece and in complete and wonderful ignorance.
Ignorance was totally underrated.
What you don’t know won’t hurt you—how true! I wanted to start a campaign to warn other high school girls: study, get good grades and for God’s sake, leave the boys alone!
I let out another low moan. I could have blamed Nate, but really, the mess I was in was totally all my fault. I had known it would be hard to have a boyfriend in college while I was still in high school. I had known there would be “college girls,” vipers who were more aggressive and experienced with boys than me. I had thought I was up to the challenge, but Fiona “the Floozy” Friaz, Latin beauty and head cheerleader to Nate’s basketball team, had proven to be my match. She hadn’t even tried to pretend that she wasn’t after my boyfriend. Even though Nate reassured me over and over again that she was not a threat, I let her get under my skin.
In my defense, she had made it personal, tweeting her intentions straight to me!
When Nate announced that his basketball team was going to Spain for a tournament, and that Floozy would be going, my insecurities hit high gear. To make things worse, I couldn’t tag along. With my condition, I can’t fly long distances, especially overseas.
Nate had promised me all my firsts, but international travel was something he could never give me. No one could.
It had killed me that Fiona would have this experience with Nate instead of me. And I had no doubt she would be with Nate.
So what did I do? I signed up for a class trip to Hollywood. Even though we were flying from Boston to LA, I had been certain—fairly—that I would be fine so long as I slept. I never tripped (my word for time travel) while sleeping. It wasn’t that long of a flight (unlike going to Spain), and it would give me something to focus on other than Nate and Fiona.
What I hadn’t counted on was Austin King. For some unfathomable reason, Austin, a good-looking guy in my creative writing class and part of the group going to Hollywood, decided that he was interested in me. Austin was the kind of guy who went after what he wanted, and any hurdle in the way was just a challenge that heightened his competitiveness. (Just like Fiona!)
By the time I got to Hollywood, Nate’s lack of attentiveness and Austin’s abundance of attention left me feeling angry and confused. When Floozy posted a picture of her with her arms draped over my boyfriend, I died inside.
Austin pulled me into a hug to comfort me, and that led to my biggest mistake of all. I let him kiss me—and I kissed him back.
I was messed up! I ran away from Austin and straight into Adeline Savoy, another time traveller from Hollywood, and we both tripped together. Only, we didn’t go to either one of our usual time travel loops (which was 1863 for me, 1957 for her), but reset to a brand new loop: 1929.
We’d gone back to the present and I returned to Cambridge, but then I had tripped again, by myself.
Which was how I got to where I was now.
“Casey?”
I’d been so tangled up in my ball of woe, I hadn’t heard anyone approach. I quickly wiped my face with the bottom of my shirt, dabbed at my eyes and drew my fingers through my run-away curls. I turned to the girl’s voice and gawked at Lolly Kavanaugh.
Lolly had picked me up when I was hitch-hiking on a previous trip to 1929 and had become a friend of sorts. I’d only ever seen her dressed fashionably in flashy, flapper-style dresses. At this moment she wore oversized field trousers held up with suspenders and a blue button-down blouse. Two scruffy mid-sized dogs sniffed the ground around her. A tractor was parked in the distance.
“Casey, is that you?” she asked. “Are you all right?”
I jumped to my feet and brushed the dirt off my jeans, keeping my bloodshot eyes averted. “Yeah. I’m okay.” A hiccup betrayed me.
She shook her messy brunette bob and popped a hand on her hip. “Those are the strangest work clothes I’ve ever seen.”
I wore a striped red and navy blue T-shirt, skinny jeans, and canvas running shoes. My backpack lay at my feet. Unfortunately, it only contained my homework, not any costumes for this period.
“Uh, yeah. These are… my brother’s. They don’t really fit.” The excuse sounded lame, even to me, but I couldn’t come up with anything better in my current, weakened emotional state.
I stared at my empty hands and gasped. Nate’s pocket watch was missing. I must’ve dropped it. I fell back to my knees and examined the ground around me, turning over stones and pushing aside carrot tops. The earth clung to my nails as I groped. Nothing.
I leaned back on my heels and let out a long sigh as I absorbed yet another blow. I must’ve dropped it on Nate’s front step.
“What are you looking for?” Lolly asked.
“I thought I’d dropped something, but…” I brushed soil off my knees as I stood up. “Is this your farm?” I asked. I was used to coincidence and chance in my way of life, so the fact that Lolly stood in front of me just now almost didn’t surprise me.
“Yeah. How’d you find it? Were you looking for me?”
I sniffled and turned away to take in the open pastures and farmland that would one day be the neighborhood Nate Mackenzie lived in.
“I’m kind of lost.”
“Forgive me, but you do look it. Why don’t you come back to the house with me and you can tell me what’s wrong. And please don’t insult my intelligence by saying that there’s nothing wrong. You look a mess, darlin’.”
Lolly whistled for the dogs and started toward the tractor. I picked up my modern backpack and followed.
“It’s a one-seater,” she said, hopping onto the wide seat, “but it’s big enough for you to slip in behind me.”
I placed my foot on a runner and heaved myself up behind Lolly. The tractor stuttered and popped as Lolly turned the engine over, stepped on the clutch and put it into gear. We puttered toward a farmhouse in the distance and I was glad the motor was too loud to talk over. I had approximately five minutes to get my story straight before Lolly began her interrogation in earnest. Though I’d only known her for a short time, I knew she would be relentless in her quest for answers.
We approached a small farmhouse painted canary yellow. Large trees in a sea of leafy green surrounded it like a big protective hug. Several out-buildings—sheds, barns… and outhouse?—sat just beyond. Lolly pulled the tractor into a shady spot behind one of them and killed the engine.
“We’ll have to sneak you upstairs and get you out of those rags,” she said. “Ma’s very conservative and won’t appreciate that you’re wearing dungarees that are much, much too small for you. Though,” she added with a sympathetic glance at my clothing choice, “you can’t be to blame if you’ve outgrown your work clothes and your family can’t afford to buy you new ones that fit properly. Did you say you were the eldest?”
I didn’t remember what I’d told her about my family. I’d learned it was best to stick with the truth whenever possible.
“Yes.”
“Obviously you’ve been crying. Once we’re settled, you’re going to tell me all about it.”
A line of laundry hung in the back yard with large white sheets floating in the breeze like sails. Lolly ducked low as we followed along and motioned for me to do the same. “In case Ma’s looking out the window,” she explained.
Lolly carefully opened a screen door, nodded with her head that I should enter first, and then she slowly let the door close without a sound. I had the feeling Lolly was skilled and experienced at sneaking in and out of her house.
We paused at the base of a narrow flight of stairs.
“Follow my steps exactly,” Lolly whispered. She strategically placed her foot on one side of a step and then the other—sometimes in the middle, a pattern that got us to the second floor without a squeak.
We stepped inside a small bedroom with ceilings that sloped sharply to the windows. There was only a narrow section where I could stand up straight and not bump my head. Lolly chuckled. “It’s helps that I’m short. At least when it comes to getting dressed in this room.
Despite its diminutive size, the room was cozy, with floral wallpaper that ran from the wood floor to the cream-colored ceiling. White sheers floated lazily around the open windows. Lolly opened a darkly stained wooden wardrobe that rested against the longest portion of an interior wall and removed a couple of dresses. She held a flowing rosy-pink one out to me.
“I hope it fits,” she said. “It drops to my ankles on me, so it should easily fall to your shins.”
She unabashedly stripped out of her farm trousers revealing a conservative set of undergarments that would blush at the sight of my comparatively skimpy underthings. There wasn’t much I could do about that and Lolly was busy in front of her vanity mirror, fixing her hair, so I didn’t think she’d notice. I slipped out of my jeans and T-shirt, pushed them under Lolly’s bed with my toe and wiggled into her dress. We were both of slender build and the loose style made way for any differences in body shape. And, as Lolly predicted, the dress landed at my shins.
“Can I borrow a brush and a few pins?” I asked. I ducked to get a glimpse of myself in the mirror and stared at my blotchy face and red-rimmed eyes. No matter how badly I felt right now I had to stop crying, at least until I was home again and in the privacy of my own room.
Lolly pointed to all her hair accessories. “Sure thing.”
I remembered how Adeline had made a faux bob out of my long hair the first time we’d tripped back to 1929 in Hollywood. My version wasn’t nearly as neat, but it would do. My real problem wasn’t my hair, but my feet. There was no way my hoofs would fit into any of Lolly’s petite shoes.
I pointed a toe. “I’m going to have to go barefoot.” Unless I wore my sneakers.
Lolly’s eyes widened in shock at my pronouncement. I gathered a lady without stockings or footwear was a little too much for this “modern” girl.
“My mother has large feet, too. I take after my father’s side of the family,” she added quickly. Before saying more she disappeared out of the room. I took the opportunity to dig into her cosmetics, knowing from my previous encounter that Lolly wouldn’t mind. In fact, I knew she’d insist, and for the first time I wondered where we were getting ready to go out to. I packed it on to even out my skin tone and hoped that plenty of eye makeup would detract from the puffiness.
Lolly returned with a really unattractive pair of brown tie-up shoes—very sensible. She smiled apologetically. “Sorry, this is the best I can do.”
“It’s fine,” I said. It wasn’t like I was trying to impress anyone, anyway. “I assume we’re going somewhere?”
“Marlene’s throwing a party. I promised her I’d come. Won’t she be surprised to see you again!”
“Won’t she!” I said it with a touch of sarcasm. Marlene Charter was the first person I’d met in 1929 Boston. Nate was with me on that trip (and very angry with me that I’d caused a reset). We ended up at a speakeasy in hopes of finding a way to make money when Marlene offered me a job dancing.
It would’ve been fine, except I had been spotted by Sheldon Vance, a mob thug who’d duped me and Adeline on our reset loop to 1929 Hollywood into helping him film a movie, which turned out to be a front for an actual bank robbery! Marlene had taken us in after Nate was injured in the subsequent scuffle. I didn’t like how she blatantly flirted with Nate, and she hadn’t liked how we left without saying good-bye or thank-you after accepting her hospitality. Time travel doesn’t always allow for social niceties.
Since then Marlene had begrudgingly helped me by getting me a job in the speakeasy kitchen. However, she was probably less than impressed that I had taken off (again) before finishing my last shift. Not only had the poor young helper, Paul Junior, been left alone to do all the clean up, he was probably freaked out at seeing me disappear into thin air like that.
Lolly handed me a strand of long beads, and I slipped them over my head. She looked at me like I was a project she wasn’t quite finished with but didn’t know what else to do with. “Let’s go.”
I followed her exact pattern down the steps to the back door. She opened it and motioned me to go outside. “I’ll be right there,” she whispered. “Stay out of sight.”
“Ma!” she called. “I’m going into town.”
“Lolita! You hold on now!” Her mother’s voice filtered outside. “You’re not going into town dressed like that!”
“Ma, we’ve been through this a hundred times. This is how kids dress nowadays.”
“It just makes you look so… cheap. Did you forget that Thomas Burgess is coming for dinner tonight? I need your help to prepare things.”
“Thomas? Again? Ma….”
“Lolita, don’t you lip me!”
“But, Pa promised I could have the car to go into town today.”
“Fine, go if you must, but be home by five o’clock, do you hear? I mean it young lady.”
The door slammed and Lolly scurried past me in a huff. I hurried after her. “Is everything all right?”
“No! We’re not going to be able to stay for Marlene’s party. She’s going be so angry!”
We came to a narrow garage and I recognized the jalopy inside from the first time Lolly had picked me up. I climbed into the passenger seat. “Your dad lets you take the car out a lot.”
“Yeah. He’s scared to drive in the city. Figures someone should drive it. Ma’s still mad at him for buying it in the first place, but I simply adore him for it.”
Once Lolly had backed us out safely, I asked, “Who’s Thomas?”
“He’s the farmer’s son next door. Our parents want to join our farms because they think it’s the only way to make the most of the booming economy. The truth is, we bought a flashy new tractor and other machinery with easy money from the bank. They’re more expensive to run and though we can do everything faster, we still can’t produce enough to make the loan payments.”
“What do you mean by join the farms? They want you to marry him?”
“Yes. I’m an only child and a girl. My parents wanted a lot of kids, but…well, they only got me, unfortunately. We have to hire help, but cash flow isn’t there for that. Thomas is the eldest of ten kids, and eligible to marry. He could run our farm.” She let out a long, sad sigh. “He’s a nice enough fellow, but I don’t love him.” She pressed her shoulders back and said boldly, “I’m not going to marry him. I’m a modern girl!”

Lolly geared down as she came to the intersection at the main road into Boston. “Now, enough about me,” she said with an arched brow. “I want to know why you were crying your eyes out in the middle of my field. And don’t skip a thing!”

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