For my post today, I have a bit from my story Slush: A Holiday Romance. This title represented my very first foray into self-publishing, nearly five years ago.
A lot of books under the bridge since then! I’m still fond of this gentle tale, though, about a rich guy who’s rescued by a homeless young woman.
Hot shot Boston lawyer Ian Pierce has everything but peace of mind. Christmas Eve finds him alone, wading through the slush to his BMW so he can drive back to his lonely luxury apartment. Then everything goes black. He awakens with an aching skull to find himself in a freezing, boarded-up garage occupied by a street kid. At first he blames the dodgy-looking youth for his troubles, but before long he realizes the raggedy girl who rescued him from the gutter may well be a Christmas angel in disguise.
“Hey, mister – you okay?”
The youthful voice filtered down the deep, dark hole to Ian’s flickering awareness.
“Urgh.” That was his own voice, a groan that kicked up pounding echoes in his head. Irritated by his own incapacity, pushing the pain aside, he tried again.
“I – uh – I don’t know...” He forced his heavy eyelids open, blinking to dispel the maddening blurriness, and tried to focus on the pale face hovering over him. “What – what happened?”
“I think you were mugged. I found you unconscious in the alley, lying in the gutter next to some fancy car.” The teenager had a thin face with a toothy grin. A knitted Bruins cap pulled low over his ears hid the kid’s hair. His breath condensed into white clouds when he spoke.
A shiver wracked Ian’s body. Even that slight movement exacerbated the throbbing at the back of his skull. Damn, it hurt! And it was freezing in here!
“Where am I?” Ian tried to sit up, impatient as always with any kind of weakness. “Ow – shit!”
He sank back onto something yielding, breathing hard. A damp smell of mold assailed him, mixed with hints of motor oil and wood smoke.
“Better not move,” the kid counseled. “You might have a concussion.”
Ignoring this advice, Ian managed to work himself into a half-sit. The softness beneath him was an old mattress, covered with a stained woolen blanket. He leaned against a plywood wall. Cold seeped through the thin barrier from the winter night outside, all the way through his coat and his shirt. His back muscles cramped and he shivered again. He glanced around the dim, crowded space, noting that the other walls and the floor were bare concrete.
“Here – try this.” The younger man grabbed a thick wad of newspapers from a pile in the corner
“Tilt forward – yeah – that’s right.” He slipped the papers into the space between Ian’s back and the wall. They worked surprisingly well as insulation. The kid smiled, showing those even white teeth once again. “Better now?”
Ian nodded, then regretted it as the pain in his head surged. “How did I get here?”
The teen’s laugh was high and girlish as he gestured toward a rusty supermarket cart parked near the door in the plywood partition.
“Nope. A sled might have been better on a night like this, though.”
“But how... why...?”
The kid gazed at him, hands on his hips. “I couldn’t leave you there in the slush, could I? You would’ve froze to death, no question.”
Ian peered more closely at his savior. The teen – well, he might have been twenty, twenty one at most – looked plump in his miscellany of sweaters and sweatshirts. Underneath the bulky layers, though, he was slightly built. His hands, wrapped in orange mittens, were small. Bright red long johns showed through the holes in his ragged jeans. Despite the inclement weather, he wore no boots, only dirty sneakers, which looked soaked through. That observation made Ian realize how wet and cold he was in his own clothing.
He shivered again. “Don’t you have any heat in here?”
The kid shrugged. “I could light a fire, I guess. I don’t like to do that too often – makes it more likely someone will figure out I’m in here. But I suppose nobody’s going to be prowling around on Christmas Eve, ‘specially when it’s so miserable out.”
He dragged a battered oil drum with a deeply dented lid into the center of the room and started piling on bits and pieces of wood from a box near the newspapers. Then he crumpled some of that paper onto the top and struck a match.
The merry flames made Ian feel marginally better. The ache in his occipital region faded a bit and the numbness shrouding his brain cleared. He began to remember, brief impressions at first, then whole scenes.