I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about this book. Maybe because I’ve been working on it for so long (over ten years, yikes), I’m afraid to commit to anything and let it go. It’s still in a place where I’m not satisfied, but will I ever be? Trusted people read it and love it, yet I can’t seem to find that same faith in myself.
So today, I took my laptop to the backyard, set up a card table and a folding chair, grabbed a cup of cold brew, played a little 4 Non Blondes on Spotify, and set to start the last re-write.
I present to you the final re-write (with some professional editing to come at a later date) of the opening of my first novel, When the Dragon Wakes:
**Also, please excuse the awful formatting that is a result of copy/paste from Word.**
Whenever the wind rushed in waves through the towering branches of the white oak trees on mornings just like that one, Nora Langosy longed for the ocean she’d never seen in person. One day, she always told herself, closing her eyes to allow the sound to transport her. When we don’t have to hide anymore.
She glared at the blue and white helicopter as it flew overhead for the third time that week, hidden in the refuge of her bedroom window. Sure enough, it had the very same tail number and patterns she’d seen before. She wanted to believe it was nothing but a news chopper, but something deep down in her belly begged to differ.
Even with the helicopter out of sight, she remained at the window until the distant thwop-thwop faded. Sure, it could have been anything, but Nora and her mom didn’t have the luxury of taking that chance.
“Just saw another one,” she told her mom when she found her in the living room with the remote pressed against her lips.
Charlene Langosy didn’t respond. Her eyes and ears were glued to the TV as the news anchors talked over aerial footage of what looked like military or government vehicles arriving in droves in several different cities.
“Mom?” Nora asked, moving closer to see what was going on.
Charlene gasped, blinked at her daughter, and turned off the TV.
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” Charlene said, tossing the remote onto the end table on her way to the kitchen. “You ready for your last day of school?”
Nora shifted her backpack onto her shoulder and picked up the remote. “Yeah.”
“Put it down, Nora,” Charlene called from the kitchen. “Come in here a minute.”
“Sorry,” Nora said, dropping it back in place. “I know; no TV before school.”
“I’ve been thinking that maybe we should leave right after school today,” Charlene said, filling the coffee machine at the sink.
“What? Why? Mom, you promised,” Nora said, dropping her backpack on the floor by the island.
“I know, but… It’s getting close, hon.”
“That’s what you were watching, wasn’t it?”
Her hesitation made Nora’s heart sink. “I just don’t think we should take the chance—”
“Yeah, but… Friday, Mom. It’s only–”
“I know, Nora. I know. But a lot can happen in two days.” Neither one spoke for a moment as she returned the reservoir to its place on the coffee machine and started the brew cycle.
“But- Mom. We can’t leave now. They’ll know I’m not there. People will notice. You know that. Please don’t make me miss this.”
With a heavy sigh, Charlene said, “God, I wish your dad was here.”
“Well, he’s not,” Nora grumbled, regretting her words immediately. She didn’t remember much about the man who sacrificed his own life to protect her so many years ago, but she knew her mom never got over losing him. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“I know. Me, too.”
Grasping for something to say to break the silence, Nora said, “So you know where we’re going, then?”
“Of course I do.”
“Don’t you think it’s time to tell me?”
“No, I don’t.” Charlene stirred a spoonful of sugar into the steaming cup and took a sip. “So please stop asking.”
“Because you don’t trust me.”
“It’s not that and you know it,” she said, popping the lid onto her coffee. “It just… It has to be a secret. Top secret. You know that.”
“Just like everything else.”
“Drop it. We’re not having this discussion now.”
Nora turned away to roll her eyes. “You mean, ever.”
“Nora,” Charlene sighed, pressing her palm between her eyes. “We can’t have this conversation. Jesse’s going to be here any minute. Don’t get sloppy now after we’ve done so well all this time.”
Grabbing an oatmeal bar from the pantry to shove in her backpack, she glanced up at the ceiling. “I know. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. It’s stressful, I know. I just… You have enough stress on your own plate right now. I don’t want to add to it. Okay?”
“Okay,” Nora answered, eyeing the box of chocolate chip cookies on the shelf. “But I don’t want to leave today. I need to graduate with my class.”
“Nora, you just told me you saw the helicopter again.”
“Yeah, well, apparently whatever was on TV isn’t important enough for me to worry about, so what does it matter?”
“Okay,” Charlene snipped. “That’s enough.”
“Mom. I love you. I know that you’re only doing this to protect us. I get that. But my whole life has been nothing but one big lie, so can I please just have this? It’s – It’s just that… Graduation is real. It’s one of the only real things I can depend on to be… real. Hell, I’m not even real! At least not the version everybody else gets.”
“Mouth,” Charlene scolded, pointing at her. She picked up her coffee and set it down again on the island, staring at the multi-colored wood grain. With a long exhale, she looked up and met her daughter’s pleading eyes. “If we stay, promise me you’ll stay alert to everything going on around you.”
“Always.” Nora wasn’t going to tell her about the striking dark-haired stranger standing across the street from her bedroom window last night just before dusk, or about the strange feathery sensation in her chest when she caught his eye.
“Jesse’s real, you know. So are your friends.”
“Yeah, they are. But I’m not. I’m one big lie after another, and I hate it.”
“Come here, baby,” she said, gathering Nora in her arms. “I know it isn’t easy. I can only imagine how it feels to have to live like this. I would give anything to give you the childhood I had.”
“Well, I’d have to be Human for that, but thanks for the thought.”
Charlene chuckled and playfully smacked the top of her head. “I love who you are,” she said, holding her at arms’ length to look her in the eyes. “You’re beautiful and strong and special. Everything you’ve put up with is just proof of that. You think it’s easy for typical teenage girls to keep secrets like this?”
“Ugh, quit with the gushing,” Nora teased, shaking out of her mom’s grasp. “Typical teenage girls don’t have secrets like this.”
“You know what I mean.” Charlene turned off the coffee machine and put the teaspoon in the sink. “Ok. We’ll do this, but only as long as I feel it’s safe. As soon as the risk goes up, we’re out. So… remember to pick up your—”
“Cap and gown. Thank you, Mom,” she said, relief gushing through her chest.
“If you forget you’re going to have a hard time walking across that stage on Friday.”
“Oh, hey, since it’s the last few nights… Is it cool if I stay at Mikki’s tonight?”
“Is Jesse going to be there?”
“Probably, but her parents’ll be home.”
“Yeah, just-” Charlene seemed to lose her train of thought as she pulled her bagged lunch from the refrigerator.
Straightening her scrubs, she shook her head and smiled softly. “We’re standing here, talking like everything is normal.”
Nora glanced down at the black backpack on the floor, its frayed straps held together by no less than five safety pins. “Yeah, well.”
“Yeah, it’s fine. Just make sure you have your phone on you and it’s charged. Call me after school, okay?”
“I promise,” Nora said just as her boyfriend, Jesse Thorne, pulled his truck up to the curb in front of their house.
Charlene had been tracking government activity since Nora was a little girl, looking for signs that they’ve found out about her. She taught her daughter what to look out for. She taught her that every move they make was a message, and their message was clear:
There was no place in this world for Human-Dragon hybrids like Nora Sigdis Langosy or the people who harbor them.
Did you like it? Did you hate it? Did you feel neither? Let me know in the comments below! ~ns