You know what’s really freaky?
I’m almost finished with the first draft of my fifth book. Holy cow, guys. It wasn’t too long ago that I was questioning if I could finish one book, never mind five! It’s a pretty cool feeling, and please just know that if I can do it, then you can too. Just persevere and keep writing!
Anyhoo, now that I’ve got a few books under my belt, I’ve noticed a pattern: most of them take place during the summer. Only two of them (one being the work-in-progress) take place over a longer span of time which includes the fall holidays. And since Halloween is just around the corner (one of my favorite holidays, period!), I thought I’d share a more-sweet-than-spooky scene from book five, tentatively titled, ROMEO AND THE SCARLETT LETTER.
So here goes. . .
I pull into Romeo’s driveway at a quarter past five and go to knock on the door. Even though I just saw him a few hours ago, butterflies dance in my stomach at the thought of being near him again. But instead of Romeo, a miniature Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz answers. She peers up at me with big, brown eyes.
“Scarlett?” she asks tentatively.
I smile. “Hi Nina.”
She eyes my wig. “I like your hair.”
“Thank you. I love your sparkly shoes.”
“They’re not high heels,” she says with a sigh.
“They look great,” I assure her.
“Come in,” Romeo calls from somewhere inside the house.
Nina opens the door wider, and I follow her inside. The house smells like freshly baked cookies instead of empanadas this time, but my stomach still rumbles all the same. I’m just about to ask Nina if she helped to make them when Romeo appears in the hallway, his dark hair gelled in a very Edward-esque style. The butterflies in my stomach multiply. He wears gray jeans and a navy V-neck sweater. Also very Edward-esque.
“Wow. You look way more like Edward than I do Bella.”
He smiles. “Nah. You look great.” Just give me another minute. I’m trying to put in these contacts.” He disappears inside the bathroom. “Pizza will be here any minute,” he adds.
Nina’s already in the living room, sitting on the couch, so I go take a seat next to her. “What grade are you in?” I ask.
“Second.” She holds out the remote to turn on the TV. “But I can already write in cursive.”
“That’s really cool.” Nina settles back onto the couch to watch the Peanuts Halloween special. I remember watching the same one when I was her age. “So are you excited about trick-or-treating?”
She shrugs, her eyes still glued to the TV. “Sure. I wish my mom was here to take me though.”
I’d never really considered how hard it must be on both of them to have their mom gone for so long.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “But Romeo and I can’t wait to take you.”
She turns to look at me. “You’re pretty,” she states, matter-of-factly.
She continues to scrutinize my face, like she’s searching for something in particular. “Do you like my brother?”
I’d forgotten how brazen little kids can be, but I nod. “I do like him. Very much.”
“Very much, huh?” Romeo appears, grinning like a fool. A very hot fool, however. His eyes are a stunning color of magenta. It’s both freaky and strangely sexy at the same time.
“Whoa!” I stand and move toward him to get a better look. “Do those hurt?”
He blinks several times. “They aren’t the most comfortable.”
“But you look perfect.”
“I don’t really have the whole pale vampire thing going on. . .”
“Who cares?” I’ll take Mexican Edward over the real one any day.
A knock comes at the door, and Romeo goes to answer it.
“Holy crap,” someone says from outside. “Your eyes are super cool.”
“Thanks,” Romeo says. Moments later, he’s carrying two pizzas into the kitchen.
“Come eat you two,” he calls.
My second dinner at the Ramirez house is almost as tasty and even more enlightening than the first. Much to Romeo’s apparent embarrassment, Nina tells me all about his ex-girlfriend, Miriam, back in Oklahoma. According to Nina, she was also very pretty and liked to wear red lipstick. An unexpected surge of jealousy shoots through me just thinking about this other red-lipped girl. But I just laugh and tell Nina I’m glad they moved to Texas.
“We’ll move again,” Nina tells me matter-of-factly. “We always do.”
Romeo and I exchange a glance. By the next time it happens, he’ll most likely be on his own. Nina seems to come to this realization as well. She stops mid-bite and gazes over at her brother.
“Wait, are you going to still live with us when we move again?”
He sighs. “Probably not Niner-Weiner.”
My heart flutters upon hearing his adorable nickname for her. Brendan’s only name for me when I was younger was dork.
Nina frowns. “So I’ll be all by myself? Who’s gonna take care of me when Dad has to work?”
“I don’t know,” Romeo says. “But you’ll be older then. Maybe you won’t need a babysitter. If you do, Mom and Dad will figure something out.”
Nina drops her half-eaten slice of pizza back onto the plate. Tears pool in her eyes. “I don’t want you to leave our family!”
Romeo reaches over to rub her back. “I’ll never leave the family, Nina. I’ll come see you guys no matter where you move to. And who knows, Mom might not do another tour of duty after this one.”
Nina starts to cry. “I want Mom to come home.” She balls her fists over her eyes. Romeo pulls her to him, sitting her on his lap. He continues to rub circles on her back as she cries. Nina looks up at me momentarily and then turns to hug her brother. Tears prick my own eyes as she sobs into his shirt.
“Nina, we’re getting ready to go trick-or-treating,” he tells her. “Tonight is going to be so much fun.” This doesn’t seem to phase her. She continues to cry. “Hey, Mom will be home in less than two months for a visit. Right after Christmas, remember?” The sobs lessen in intensity, and she straightens to look at him.
“Is she going to bring me presents?”
Romeo smiles. “You know she will.”
Nina rubs at her eyes and climbs out of his lap, returning to her own chair. She takes a long sip of her Coke and lets out a ragged breath. Her eyes are red, but the tears have dried at least. Most of them have been transferred to Romeo’s shirt, actually. A huge, wet stain covers one shoulder.
“Better finish eating,” he tells his sister. “And then you can have two cookies before we go.”
Nina’s eyes light up. “I helped Romeo make them,” she tells me.
I smile at her. “I bet you did a great job.”
We finish our pizza, and Romeo goes to change shirts while I wait with Nina again in the living room. She nibbles at her second cookie.
“These are so good, I can only eat a little at a time,” she tells me.
I laugh. “Oh yeah? Why is that?”
“That’s what you always do with good stuff. Make it last.”
“You’re a smart girl.”
Romeo reappears wearing a black sweater now. Even though he’s only been gone for a minute, my heart still skips a beat upon seeing him again. “Everyone ready?”
“Ready!” Nina and I both say at the same time.