Do not Despair Because All is Not Easy

This scene is from the last finished futuristic, survival, romance Zone novel. Warning: It is not a lyrical as some. The book ends well. Villians vanquished. True love wins out, etc. The woman known as Ama is Helena's nanny/mentor/governess from birth on.

Excerpt from "In The Zone: Pitin's Problem" by Blatant Appeal

"I remember shaking.” Helena looked forward, her tears still not falling. She fell silent.

“Finish this story,” he commanded, hating every syllable. He needed to hear it all.

“Ama shut down the light she held. She told me I would be expected to stay until I had mastered balance on the wall. I stood up and began to feel the way with my toes. I walked forward, sideways, backward, always quicker and faster.”

“The sun rose, but so did the wind. I tried to keep going, but it was colder and on one turn, as I was backing up, I missed a step and didn’t come down on my other foot as boldly as I should have. I fell.”

“Were you hurt?”

“Yes.”

“How badly?”

“I broke my leg.”

Pitin’s tension eased—she hadn’t been badly hurt. He had imagined worse. “You fainted, then what?”

“Fainted?” Helena tried to figure out where his erratic thoughts were leading him this time. “What does that mean?”

“Passed out. Blacked out. Lost consciousness.” he explained. At her continued look of incomprehension, he said hopefully, “from the pain of breaking your leg? The darkness?”

“I did not ‘faint’ from breaking my leg or the fall. Ama picked me up and wrapped my leg properly before my punishment.”

Pitin kept his mouth closed. Barely. Only the sure knowledge that he was in the middle of a Helena conversation, with no hope of reaching the conclusion if he pummeled her with comments expressing his outrage, kept the questions that were shooting out of his brain from his lips. Almost.

For breaking your leg?”

“No. For falling.” She couldn’t look at him. Now he would know another imperfection.

Pitin watched as Helena looked down at her lap. Her posture revealing…shame? Her voice continued in a much lower tone.

“I didn’t learn the lesson of balance at that time because my mind was on the cold.”

He couldn’t take much more of this line of query. Mind healers didn’t get paid near enough to listen to this kind of recounting. He took a large breath and forcing his jaw to unlock, spoke quietly, “Go on. Tell me about the darkness.”

“After Ama wrapped my leg, she took me to the revealing room. She pulled the darkness hood over my head. My wrists were placed in the punishment fetters. Then she closed the door.”

Helena finished speaking and sat with her eyes closed. He could feel her…waiting.

Pitin carefully gathered her as close to himself as he could hold her as he asked the last question.

“What is the revealing room?”

“It is where one is left without clothes, without light, without movement, to experience what will happen if the darkness ever decides you will never see the light again.”

Naked and injured! Ama had terrorized an injured, naked child. He could feel, but not see, the slight quakes that rippled through Helena's body. No wonder she was afraid the darkness would take her. She’d had that threat of a certain fate held over her head from infancy!

While he held her close, rubbing her back, trying to calm her tremors, he made a couple of decisions. Number one: he would never again consciously pry into her past. He didn’t care what the prevailing theory of improved mental health had concluded. It was sadistic to make a person relive a painful episode.

As far as he could determine, the revelation of such an experience merely made them both feel badly. How could it really help? Maybe that was why humans were given the gift of forgetting—to use it. She needed to have new information, not relive old learning experiences. She needed to believe in him.

Number two: they would face the future together. Whenever a ‘Helena’ anomaly surfaced, then he would deal with it at that time. He could certainly understand why she didn’t like ‘talks’. He wouldn’t have wanted to ‘talk’ either.

Helena?”

“Yes.”

“We still need to talk.” He felt her stiffen in increments, pulling away from him. “The word will not hurt you, I will not hurt you and we must discuss…” He stopped his explanation of talking to see what she would do next—letting her go as she moved to stand up, wanting her to feel free to run. Then he deliberately relaxed back into an indolent posture to look as non-threatening as possible.

Helena didn’t move. She waited silently for whatever would come next. She could run or take some time for herself, like she had before, but what difference would it make? She had nowhere to go for real freedom and a duty yet to fulfill as long as she was capable. Pitin must be protected.

The suspenseful time between the transgression and the instruction in perfection had always been the worst part of her lessons. She had learned to keep her mind empty during the long hours of motionless silence before, during, and after the punishment. Unmoving silence was a much better way to pass the time until release than nursing bruises and chaffing.

Pitin watched for a while, thinking that surely she would move or speak. He shifted his position—no movement from Helena. Well, apparently she wasn’t going to dash off.

Helena?”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t you sit here and we’ll discuss our future and what we want to do with it,” he said encouragingly, giving her a determined stare while patting the spot beside him.

At least he got a response, she looked at him. Her eyes changing color, she seemed…confused? Maybe that is what he needed to do—keep her off balance and confused.

No. He couldn’t do it. She might be rigid in her thinking, but she needed reassurance and an anchor more than anyone he’d ever met…no matter how self-contained or elusive she appeared.

Helena scrutinized Pitin carefully for clues about what exactly he wanted from her. His dark hair luffed in the slight breeze but that was the only movement. Other than that, he had turned into a non-blinking statue with a stare of intent. But of what?

Her confused thoughts bounced around. Pitin didn’t look violent, but what response did he want? What did he mean? He didn’t make sense. Again. The future? Our future? What could she do about it? What did he think he could do about it?

Helena do you have any questions?”

“Yes.” But it had never mattered how many questions she had. No one ever really answered them.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“What questions do you have about our future?”

“What future?” she responded, hoping to get real information.

Awareness shivered down his back—spearing through into his chest—tearing a raw wound in his heart. Burning acid hit his stomach.

He loved her.

Barely able to keep his last meal down, he got up. Holding his jaw locked, teeth clenched against disaster, he tersely ordered her, “Stay here,” and fleeing the scene of his disaster, left her standing there...alone.

Pitin made it an unknown distance into the trees before he staggered, fell to his knees, and heaved his guts up.

I’ve destroyed myself, he anguished. Turning in lone misery, he covered his eyes with one arm, and sat back against a tree, oblivious to his surroundings. He loved a woman who’d had her heart tortured out of her so early in life she never knew it missing.

17 comments:

Becky A said...

Miss Nina,
I don't even know what to say. That was awesome and original and way deep. Has this been published?
I am soooo impressed. Way to go!
My mind has been reduced to gibberish trying to grapple with the concept in your story. Aagghh!
Tell me more!!!!!!

Reese Mobley said...

You have such a wonderful way with words and a knack for showing their anguish. I applaud your talent.

Nina Sipes said...

Becky and Reese,
You two are good to say such nice things.
This story is not yet published and I'm not sure it ever will be. It is too long and I'm too ignorant to know where to cut or where to market it. It is a survival, futuristic, romance for cryin' out loud. I have no concept of 'black moment'. This scene isn't it,if there is supposed to be only one. I admit that it tickles the evil side of my sense of humor to 1)play tricks on the reader--I'll bet you didn't realize why he left. 2)play tricks on the character. This guy, (Mr. Executive) has been the one all along who thought HE was the smart one. Look where it got him.

Penny Rader said...

Nina, I truly enjoy your writing. Fiction and non-fiction alike. You have such a unique way of looking at things and expressing yourself. Thank you.

Oh, and I get such a kick out of your sunflower pic. Makes me smile whenever I see it. :D

Becky A said...

Ok Miss Nina, who says it's too long? Have you tried to get it published? Don't you know that you have a group of writers down this a way that would be happy to help with your questions????? My current work has so many "black moments" that I have called the final one, "THE black moment" so don't worry so much about all those confounded rules. They, by the way, are meant to be broken. Us Kansans are notorious for being independant cusses. If you shake things up a bit, good for you! And your survival, futuristic, romance sounds a lot like "fantasy" to me. If the rest is as good as this snippet, getting published ought to be a snap. Go for it!

Nina Sipes said...

Ah, Penny, thanks. I wouldn't be here without you. Look what you did! My husband and I were out looking at the sunflowers to see how well they were coming along. We took turns taking each other's picture in them. If you can squint well enough, there is a silo and trees in the distance. That's where my dh grew up--a whole 1/2 mile from where we now live. Those pictures are my favorites too. We didn't have to hunker down very far. Those suckers were huge that year.

Nina Sipes said...

Becky,
According to websites for publishing houses, the manuscript is too long by about 35,000 words. I have received a few nice words about it in publisher rejections, but it seems a bit hard to place. My current plan is to seek an agent. I think they would probably know best where to market it. The Zone stories are a bit odd and not exactly market mainstream--as you can see by this snippet. Most readers do not expect their hero to toss his cookies when he realizes he's in love, let alone abandon said beloved by walking off at the realization moment. She's not there when he gets back.

Roxann Delaney said...

...let alone abandon said beloved by walking off at the realization moment. She's not there when he gets back.

Sounds like the black moment to me. :)

Nina Sipes said...

Naw, Rox, there's when she won't kiss him because she's full of poison and is afraid she'll kill him and he doesn't know what's wrong. Then there's the time, maybe the worst black moment when he almost kills her by the celebration wine he wanted to--well--celebrate with her and it turned out she was highly allergic to it and almost succumbed--good thing they were out of the Zone and had good medical care available. Life isn't safe you know. (Apparently, one of my re-occurring themes.) Or maybe I'm thinking of black moment for the characters and not the reader. Hmmmm. I may have to think more on this.

Roxann Delaney said...

Hmmmmm...

Nina, it sounds like you have plenty of Turning Points. Sometimes that realization is the Main Turning Point that comes midway in the story, but it doesn't have to be. The Black Moment (or Dark Moment) is when all seems lost, and the reader wonders how these two characters can ever be together.

The Black Moment doesn't come at the end of the book, but it does come near the end. And those turning points and the Dark Moment should all be heavily emotional...something you don't have any trouble with!

Here's a clue for anyone who doesn't understand Turning Points and Black Moments. Watch any hour-long TV program and keep an eye on the clock. You'll see turning points right before a commercial and the Main one at about the half hour. Criminal Minds is famous for this, but I admit that I'm often too wound up in the story to actually track it.

Roxann Delaney said...

Check out Alicia Raisley's website for some great articles on everything writing related. Or do a search for "turning points" and/or "dark moment", "black moment".

Starla Kaye said...

As they've all said, you do have a way with words. An interesting, intriguing way. This isn't the typical cookie-cutter story that most are these days. Even I tend to write a lot of those stories because I write so many, so fast, and it is what my fans want. But I'm very impressed when a talented writer dares to be different.

Nina Sipes said...

Starla,
What worries me about my writing is that is may disgust many people. These aren't really sweetness and light kind of stories. It seems no matter how hard I try, I end up writing dark things. Now, mind you, there are funny parts, but they're the kind like when Pitin's muscles get so toned his clothing doesn't fit and he's practically naked in the Zone because Mr. Executive didn't think about that in advance. That kind of humor.

Did any of you find yourself repulsed by the characters? I do need to know.

Roxann Delaney said...

No! Not repulsed at all.

This is a completely different sub-genre than traditional (sweet) romance, Inspirational romance, even romantic suspense. When it reaches into more futuristic romance or urban fantasy (and they sell well!), there's nothing wrong!

I know a published author who wrote an urban fantasy type book with a friend and sold to Avon (3 books in the series). I read the first chapter and was mesmerized. And believe me, it wasn't sweetness and light!

It's all about what sub-genre of romance you're writing. Each has its own tone. Just because it's darker than what some of us write, that doesn't mean it's wrong. :)

Pat Davids said...

Nina,
Great piece. Really great.
Of course some characters turn me off. I don't normally care for dark and tortured. Now, my husband loved that stuff. He can't stand the "fluff" I write. A lot of people can't.

That's why there is room for every kind of character and every kind of genre. Because we are all different.

However, good writing is good writing. Dark or light, and you're good.
Pat

Nina Sipes said...

Rox and Pat,
Thanks for coming back with some explanation and viewpoint. I never thought about the different flavor of writing that the different genre's of romance are, I thought the differences were in the settings. And it didn't really occur to me that different readers like different characters, whether tortured, or not. I feel like I just got a twin, Duh...moment. However, I'm certainly glad you both slapped me up the backside of the head with perfectly obvious facts (just not so obvious to ME). Now, I can quit worrying about it and believe me, I WAS worrying. That is a great gift to give me. Thanks!

Nina Sipes said...

Everyone,
Thanks for the very supportive comments. I worry over whether:
The story makes sense.
Whether it has ANY appeal.
If it is too weird in a bad way.

Thanks for reading and adding explanation enough that I feel I can continue without having to revamp everything I do. You all give me the courage to send it out the door and attempt to see if it can go 'commercial'.

We're told to write about characters the readers can cheer for or get behind, or ones that will appeal to them. I figured I'd pretty well failed on this one and it has made me very backward about sending it out the door or even talking about it much.