I am in the process of rewriting the first novel I created. I’d like to ask a favor. Would you read this short sample and comment what your reaction is? Good, bad, and in between! I have thick skin, I need to get honest feedback. Thank you for helping me out.
by Carol Carroll
For every life there is a story, one of laughter and tears, struggle and joy.
Linda listened to the haunting sound of the chimes coming from the grandfather clock down the hall. She counted the strikes; ten… eleven… twelve. She laid alone in the darkness, on the double bed, in her long ago childhood bedroom. Her throat felt tight with emotion, her eyes swollen from the tears. Why do I need so badly to be held tonight? She sighed deeply, rolled onto her side, and pulled a pillow up to her chest. Why do I always need someone to make me feel all right again? Why can’t I be strong, capable, in control? I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m twenty-five years old, a grown woman for heaven sake. Still… she felt as helpless as a small child. She covered herself with the warm quilt and closed her eyes, but sleep would not come. Her thoughts traveled back to days gone by, vivid memories replayed in her troubled mind.
Six-year-old Linda immediately fell to her knees and started picking up broken pieces of the shattered mixing bowl she’d accidently dropped. Every muscle in her small body tightened, and her lips quivered with shame and fear.
Towering over Linda, her mother shouted, “Well now you’ve really done it! Why do you have to be so clumsy? All you have to do is hold on to things. Use your head, child.” She rapped sharp knuckles against Linda’s skull. “For heaven’s sake, pay attention to what you’re doing!”
Linda dared to look up. Her mother’s face was contorted with unrestrained anger. Fire seemed to shoot from her eyes while she spewed her cutting words. Instinct told Linda to run and hide. Weakness in her legs and knees kept her in place.
“I hope you realize you’ve broken my favorite mixing bowl. I’ll have to buy a new one now, and they don’t come cheap you know. Why do you have to be such a klutz all the time? Oh just get out of here and let me clean up this mess!”
With downcast eyes and head hung low, Linda left the kitchen and walked slowly across the front room to where her daddy sat in his over-stuffed, easy chair. When she raised her head, she saw him look up from his newspaper. He immediately put down his paper and held his arms out to her. Daddy pulled her onto his lap, held her close, and gently pressed a kiss on the crown of her head. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t need to, just being in his strong, protective arms made everything in Linda’s world all right again. She sat quietly, feeling safe and warm and loved.
The snowy-white curtains hanging over the double-hung windows caught her attention. The windows were open, so the thin sheers fluttered in the breeze and twisted into different shapes. Linda could tell how windy it was by how far the curtains blew into the room.
The front door was standing open also. She could see through the screen to the covered porch on the front of the large, white, farmhouse. She could hear the birds singing and the rustling of the leaves on the branches of the tall trees in the yard, a peaceful sound.
Daddy reached over and picked up his pipe from the glass ashtray on a stand. He placed it between his teeth, but didn’t light it. He just held it there, bit down on it, and seemed to be far away in thought.
Linda twisted around to get more comfortable. The loud bang of a cupboard door being slammed made her cringe. She looked over at the doorway to the kitchen. Her heart pounded against her chest, her little mouth puckered, and she tried hard not to cry. She knew Mama was still angry—so angry. It seemed to Linda that Mama was always upset, always mad at her.
She looked up into her daddy’s eyes and whispered, “I try to do what Mama says, but I never do anything right. I don’t do anything good enough.” She snuffed her nose, tightly gripped his shirt in her hands, and snuggled closer to Daddy. She could feel his chest rise with every breath he took, hear his heartbeat, and feel his arms tighten around her.
She heard his voice near her ear. In a quiet, sympathetic tone he said, “It’s all right, little one. It’s not your fault. I know Mama gets upset, but you just keep on doing the best you can. If you keep trying, Linda, someday you will succeed at whatever you set out to do.” He tilted her face up to his and said, “Now let me see that pretty smile.” Linda’s face lit up, her eyes sparkled, and her rosy lips turned up into a radiant grin.
Daddy looked down at her. His eyes traveled to her dark-brown, curly hair, and then to her deep, dark eyes that could express much more than any words could say. He smiled back at her with love shining from his eyes. Linda knew without a doubt she was special to him; his expression told her so. She was comforted. She believed she could do anything she needed to, Daddy said so, and Daddy was always right!
Linda heard Mama coming toward the living room. She breathed in deeply and held her breath while she watched her mother stop in the doorway, flip the switch to turn off the bright kitchen light, and then turn on the ceiling light above them.
Mama was dressed in her usual attire; a colorful house dress with buttons down the front and a stiff, starched half-apron tied around her slender waist. Her dark hair was cut short. Soft curls around her oval face accentuated her brown eyes. If they weren’t so cold, hard, and flinty right now, and her mouth wasn’t so puckered, she would be beautiful.
She gave Linda a smoldering glare, then turned her head and focused on Daddy. “Did she tell you what she did?” Daddy shook his head. “She broke my best mixing bowl. She just let it slip right out of her hands! It’s in a hundred pieces.” She exhaled noisily. “I had to sweep it up and throw it out. That girl is so clumsy, she is always destroying something!” Mama walked over to her chair, plopped down, and picked up a quilt piece to work on. “I try to teach her to do things right. She’s just impossible.”
After a few silent, uncomfortable minutes, Mama said, “Linda, it’s time for you to go bed.”
Linda climbed down from Daddy’s lap. With her eyes on the floor, she walked over to Mama. She gave her the mandatory kiss on the cheek and said, “Good night, Mama.” With sad eyes and trembling lips she turned around. On the way to the stairs, she hugged Daddy, gave him a kiss, and went up the steps to get ready for bed.
When Linda reached her bedroom door. she heard Daddy complain angrily, “Did you have to be so rough on her? Was your damn mixing bowl so important?”
“It’s not just the bowl,” Mama snapped back. “It’s one thing after another. I want her to learn to be careful and to do things right!”
“Yes, but you’re always so critical of her, and you’ve been so darn short-tempered ever since Jimmy was born.”
Linda knew there was going to be a fight. She hated to hear them argue. She thought it was all her fault. She hurried into her bedroom and quickly shut the door. She covered her ears with her hands, ran to the bed, climbed onto the quilt, and curled herself up into a tight ball.
Her mother’s angry, high-pitched voice was still coming from downstairs. She shoved the pillows hard against her head to block out the sound. Tears welled up in her eyes and streamed quietly down her cheeks until she finally fell into a troubled sleep.