I’ve been trying to get around to posting something wise or witty, but my brain is so thoroughly stuck in the noveling rut that any other topic seems to fade out before it hits the cognitive centers. So, since I have about 32,000 words to choose from at the moment, here’s another excerpt from Privileged Lives. Yes, NaNo is going exceptionally well this year. Which means I’m waiting for a brick wall to fall on me any time now.
Linden rubbed his finger over the glossy pictures of smiling students in front of classical buildings. A typical campus with lots of shade trees and endless swathes of green grass. Was there any place that still looked like that? There was lots of stuff—with pictures—about the comfortable dorms, the library and the gym. It all looked . . . unreal. He kept glancing over at the page of instructions. That had to be the one that was upsetting his mom. There was nothing in the brochure about having to accept the scholarship or leaving in three days. She must have misread something.
He finally picked it up with a sense of dread and a strong impulse to take the whole batch of paper, tear it up and throw it away. The mental image of a man standing at the door stopped him. It had been hand-delivered, not sent through the post office. Why? Frantically, he began to look for an address, even the mention of a state or a part of the country. There was nothing. He hadn’t noticed that the letter of welcome lacked an address. Where was this college, anyway? The instruction sheet was a list, and a quick scan down the page told him what he already knew. There was no address. Had his mother noticed?
“Mom? Did you see an address anywhere? The name of a town where the college is?”
Carrie put down the dish she was washing, but she didn’t turn around. “No, I didn’t. I didn’t even think about it. It must be there, somewhere.”
She turned then, and looked at him. “The people who are supposed to pick you up will probably tell you.”
“Pick me up?”
“Yes, didn’t you read that part, yet? It’s on the instruction sheet.” She made an attempt to smile, but Linden could see the anxiety she was trying to hide.
“Oh, yeah. I’m just about to read it.”
The instructions were cold and terse. They didn’t even take the whole sheet. It was impossible to misinterpret anything. He couldn’t refuse the scholarship. He had three days to settle his affairs at home. He wasn’t allowed to take anything with him. Everything would be provided at the college. He would be picked up early on the morning of the fourth day and would be escorted during the trip to the college.
He grabbed the brochure again and tore through it, looking for something that he wanted desperately to be there, but knew he couldn’t possibly missed if it had been there. There was nothing about vacations, about visits home. He sat back and stared in front of him without seeing anything. His mind had been processing everything and now he saw it all clearly. He’d been recommended, by an unknown person, for a scholarship to a college in an unknown location. He wouldn’t be allowed to refuse, and he would be taken away from his home and his mother in three days. He almost laughed. What it amounted to was that he was being told politely but firmly that he was going to be kidnapped. No matter how he turned it around, trying to see it from every possible angle, that’s what it was.
He knew, when he looked up at his mother, that his expression must be as bleak as hers. She’d been waiting for him to find the way out, and now her last hope was gone. He stood up, wanting to go to her, but he couldn’t get his legs to move. All he could do was look at her. But something was nagging at him under the disbelief and the fear.
“I don’t want to leave you, Mom. I can’t.” It was true, but not what he wanted to say, if only he could get it out in the open where he could see it. Then he did see it. “How do we even know this is real?”