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“Welcome to Sortilege Falls” is my second novel. My first, “Tough Girl” was about an eleven-year-old who is slowly starving to death and loses herself in an imaginary world to combat the misery of her life. I wanted to write something happy after that and WTSF is about as “happy” as my writing gets. The idea was to come up with a main character whose very name sounds like a smile, thus Grape Merriweather was born. Stories grow and writers hardly ever end up writing the book they intended. That is definitely true with WTSF. My “happy” story grew to encompass the themes of beauty worship, celebrity, as well as delving into the mysterious relationships between child stars and their parents. In the beginning of the novel, Grape is new at school and eager to impress. She was popular back home and has never had trouble making friends. She spends over an hour the night before trying on outfits and picking the perfect one for her first day. But she is ignored by students and teachers alike. Everyone is too caught up with the beyond gorgeous models to bother with one new student. We discover this weird world along with Grape and I tried to stay true to her voice. It was very important to me that Grape wasn’t perfect, that she partially fell under the Models’ spell as well.
GRAPE MEETS HER LOCKER MATE
“Gross.” Books, notebooks, trash, and candy wrappers littered the lower half of the locker.
A wet, bored voice said from behind her, “Your rose is dripping on my books.”
Grape turned to find a pudgy girl with a loose brown ponytail standing mere inches away. The girl blinked at Grape through pink, plastic framed glasses as she continued sucking on her candy necklace.
“Sorry,” Grape said, not exactly sure what the girl was talking about. “I guess you’re my locker-mate?”
The girl slurped on her necklace, her bland expression not changing. “Guess so.”
“I’m Grape Merriweather.”
Grape extended her hand to her new locker-mate, but the girl only looked back at her suspiciously.
“Is that a stage name?”
“No. Why do people keep asking me that? It’s just my name.”
“Good. Not sure I’d want to be locker-mates with a Model.”
“Do you think I could be a model?” Grape asked, running her hand over her flat tummy. She knew she didn’t need to lose weight.
The girl shrugged. “Sure, but what do I know?”
“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” She’d heard her mother use that line tons of times when she met someone new.
“My bad. I didn’t know I was rushing anything.”
The girl slipped another piece of necklace into her mouth. “No, that’s my name,” she said, smacking her lips around the candy.
“Oh. Well, nice to meet you.”
“Did you read the note yet?”
“What note?” Grape looked back at the locker, and sure enough, a blood-drenched rose sat on the top shelf of the locker, red goop dripping onto the books below. Just when she thought the locker couldn’t get any worse. “Ewwww. Is that yours?”
Patience snorted. “Why would I have a blood-soaked rose?” Why would anyone?
“The note has your name on it,” Patience said, loading another piece of candy necklace into her mouth.
So it did.
“Sorry about this.” Great, now her locker-mate would think she was a freak. No one in this school was ever going to like her.
Grape reached into her book bag and ripped a few sheets out of her notebook. She bunched the pages up in her hand and used the paper glove to grab the rose. Drops of ruby-red blood splashed on the ground as she pulled out the flower. Grape stared down at the note attached to it but didn’t want to pull it off without some sort of protection, and she'd only made one paper glove.
“What are you waiting for?” Patience grabbed the note. “It’s probably just pig’s blood.” Her words came out slurred around the mouthful of necklace.
Grape’s stomach lurched as her locker-mate peeled apart the sticky pages, little strings of blood spreading and breaking as she did so.
The girl gave a crooked smile, revealing teeth that were too white for someone who ate so much candy. “It’s from Graeson. He says sorry about last night.”
“Thanks.” Grape tried to offer Patience a smile, even though looking at her blood-covered hands left her nauseated. “Can I see?”
Patience held the note out to Grape. Thick black curlicues covered the page between red, gooey splotches.
“Grape Merriweather, so sorry about last night. Will you be my Queen of Darkness? Yours Darkly, Graeson.”
Grape dodged across the hall to throw the rose and paper glove away. Her breakfast threatened to come up when she returned to find Patience licking the blood off her fingertips.
“Hey, don’t do that.” She grabbed for her locker-mate’s hands. A list of blood-borne pathogens, mostly made up, ran through her head.
Patience sidestepped with surprising speed. Grape lost her balance and nearly fell into her locker, catching herself at the last second.
“Not pig’s blood.” Patience sounded bored, as if she licked blood from her fingers every day. “It’s corn syrup. Good stuff, but I’m not a fan of red dye.” She turned back to the locker and began digging out a notebook that lay buried under a mound of trash.
“Yep, super sweet. Want some?” Patience turned to offer Grape an unlicked portion of her hand.
“I’m good. Thanks.”
I’m a writer and improviser. I studied acting in college but spent more time rewriting lines than memorizing them. My first play, Fourth Wall, was produced my junior year. Since then, I’ve written several full length plays, one acts and screenplays. I started writing fiction in my late twenties. Now, I focus mainly on novels but still dabble in theater.
Fun facts about me: There are none. I’m sorry to disappoint you so soon. But, I do love to read, write, and run. My hubby is my favorite person on earth. Dogs are my second favorite. All dogs. I love orange juice, especially when it’s mixed with club soda. Carbonation is better than alcohol. Jaws is my favorite movie. Everything I’ve said so far is true.
Puschcart Prize Nomination for “Grow Your Own Dad” – Published by Mixer Publishing
Semi-finalist Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference – “STUFF”
Honorable Mention The Ohio State Newark New Play Contest – “The Last Day”
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Raleigh, NC 27616
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