Beneath the Surface

“Wow, that’s…different,” Isidora remarks, trying to keep a straight face and not exposing her, what-the hell-were-you-thinking look. Catriona was one of those individuals who went left when everyone went right. “It’s so…you couz.”

“It feels authentically me. I’m sure everyone will hate it but it’s my day and I don’t care if it ends up on somebody’s worst dress list.”

“Do you need help with your hair?” Isidora asks, noticing Catriona’s indecision as she twirls her black, straightened hair in a messy bun.

“So…who’s taking you…,” Isidora hesitates, wishing she could take back her words and bury it in the part of her brain marked stupidity lobe.

“Uncle Edgardo’s filling the vacancy left by my dad when he upped and left.” Catriona smiled but the words hit hard.

There’s another knock on the door. It’s her Uncle Edgardo checking to see if she’s ready.
“In a minute Uncle!”
Bending down, she tied the red laces of her black, Chuck Taylors. Now she’s ready to party.

“Ready couz?” Isidora asks, twirling two curls at Catriona’s temples.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

Her Uncle’s face beamed when she opened the door. He had one of those smiles that took her straight into his soul.

“Wow…Caitriona. You look beautiful, chica.”

He hooked his arm into hers, nodded and they walked towards the top of the staircase. Catriona and her Uncle paraded down the stairs to music. The crowd boisterously cheered. They paused for a few seconds when they reached the last step.

‘Everyone is here…no, not everyone.’ One person’s unaccounted for. It’s Mateo, Uncle Edgardo’s son. ‘Probably late as usual.’

A gust of wind blew into the house as Grego Mendez burst through the front door nearly tripping over his own feet as he rushed towards Uncle Edgardo.
“Edgardo…Edgardo! You must come immediately. Mateo is dead!”

“How? What happened?” Uncle Edgardo stood horrified. He turned to look at

Catriona apologetically, squeezed her hand and left.
The room is abuzz as people in unison started grilling Grego for information.
‘Happy seventeenth birthday to me.’ Uncle Edgardo turned to look at Catriona apologetically, squeezed her hand and left.
Catriona’s grandmother gave a thunderous shriek and covered her face with her arthritic, trembling, veiny hands. The room went silent.

“Ella es la que…ella es la que!” she bellowed and pointed without hesitation straight at Caitriona. Her eyes locked onto her granddaughter and her crooked forefinger aims point blank like a weapon of destruction. Hit by a wave of fear and uncertainty, Catriona watched her grandmother rock in her wheel-chair, whaling in Spanish and wheezing like an asthmatic.

‘How I wish I understood Spanish. I rebelled when my mom wanted to teach me to speak my native language. No, that’s an understatement. I flat out refused. I picked up bits and pieces but not enough to fully understand.

“Mama…what’s Abuela saying?”
Her grandmother hits her fisted hands on the arm rest of her wheel-chair and wails again in Spanish.
Her mother darted in her direction and grabbed Catriona by the arm. She hauled her up the stairs. Everyone watched, distressed. Almost spooked!

‘What’s happening?’

During the struggle Catriona’s dress hooked onto a nail at the bottom of the staircase. It clawed onto the dress and slashed off a piece of fabric as she tried to loosen it. Tears streamed down her face. It was ruined! The tear ripped right through her heart. She nearly lost her footing as tears clouded her vision. Horrified by her mother’s anger she dropped to the floor.

“Mom stop…please stop!” she pleaded, trying to counter her mother’s forceful yanking. Her mother had the strength of seven men and pulled her across the floor into her room.
She shoved her to the ground like an unwanted pile of dirty clothes. Catriona observed, as she vigorously opened the cupboard door, pulled out a suitcase and haphazardly plucked clothes from hangers. She dumped it into the suitcase with urgency. Catriona looked on confused, close to drowning in her tears. She didn’t recognize the woman in front of her so filled with rage.
Her mother looked possessed, irrational, not hearing or acknowledging her pleas.

‘What have I possibly done to cause this much chaos.

“Mama…por favor hablame…mama!” She tugged at her mother’s dress, who momentarily stopped. She calmly knelt in front of Catriona and stared at her with an unwavering gaze.

“Where were you last Friday?” her mother asked, her shaky breath brushing past Catriona’s flushed skin. Catriona’s baffled by her mother’s question and her heart drummed against the inside of her chest. Her mother’s jaw tightened, sweat beads dotted across her hairline and a bulging vein in her forehead throbbed as she waited for a response. Catriona realized the seriousness of the question. Her mind raced, trying to retrieve and sift through the information of her cobwebbed gray matter. A fiery slap across her cheek pulled her back to her mother’s inquisition.
“I was…I was at Greta’s. Why?” she stuttered, placing a trembling hand over her fiery cheek to alleviate the burn.

“Where were you two days ago?” The questions kept coming.

“I…I…” Her mother yanked her arm, urging her to focus. A shooting pain jolted up her arm as her mother’s long, artificial nails pierced into her skin. “…Babysitting at Mrs. Morales. Mama you’re scaring me.”

“And yesterday?”

“I was helping Mateo with his homework and…”
The blood drained from her mother’s face. She pulled Catriona from the floor, took the suitcase and scrambled down the stairs. Her Grandmother started wailing again and making the sign of the cross as they walked past her. All the guests downstairs moved aside, like she had some kind of contagious disease.
Too distressed to ask any more questions, Catriona obediently followed her mother not resisting anymore. She wanted it all to end. The one thing that flooded her mind was what she has done to deserve this treatment?

They drove down the road and her mother sat silently not once looking in her direction. She stared out the window and saw people outside happy and carefree, oblivious that her world had come to a halting end. The woman seated next to her had become a stranger.
She wanted to shout out, ‘Where are you taking me!’ but fear of setting her mother off again firmly kept her lips shut. Instead she sat sedately, awaiting her fate.

4 thoughts on “Beneath the Surface

  1. Ash says:

    Hi! I think you do a really good job of conveying ethnicity (Hispanic, I think?) without being obvious about it…at least, from what I read. But I did stop reading. Here’s why:

    1) I’m so far removed from the protagonist in 3rd person here, that I’m not entirely sure who the protag is meant to be. Isidora, maybe? I catch a little hint of voice from her (“…marked stupidity lobe. -liked this), and this chapter starts with her. But she’s entirely inactive. Consider a closer, more intimate 3rd person narrative, so I can get a better feel for the characters and find someone to root for.

    2) Opening with dialogue isn’t my favorite anyway, because I don’t have a frame of reference for the speaker. Add to this the fact that the conversation between Isidora and Catriona is dry and there really isn’t anything to compel me to read on.

    3) Even when someone runs in shouting that Mateo has died, I wasn’t hooked. “Edgardo! You must come immediately. Mateo is dead!” This sounds too formal, too stiff. The horror and tension I’m sure you meant to convey isn’t coming through for me. And I’m not getting an emotional reaction of any kind from either of the girls we met in the opening.

    4) This reads like an early draft in need of revision. There is a lot of telling going on. “…noticing Cationa’s indecision.” “Uncle Edgardo stood horrified.” I want to see the indecision, the horror. You bounce from present to past tense a lot. But I stopped reading when I found the line “…turned to look at Catriona apologetically, squeezed her hand and left” repeated verbatim in close proximity.

    This is just my opinion, of course. Other readers may feel differently. Good luck!

  2. vanessafowler says:

    I liked the very beginning but then I lost interest around ‘who’s taking you’ – by that time I still
    Couldn’t figure out what was going on and next thing I knew someone was dead-it as a lot to process and I wanted to understand the characters more/get where the girls were coming from.

  3. suesauer says:

    Alo,

    So going to try and turn this page into a storyboard. Here goes:

    —- thumbnail one —

    “Wow, that’s…different,” Isidora remarks, trying to keep a straight face and not exposing her, what-the hell-were-you-thinking look. Catriona was one of those individuals who went left when everyone went right. “It’s so…you couz.”

    “It feels authentically me. I’m sure everyone will hate it but it’s my day and I don’t care if it ends up on somebody’s worst dress list.”

    “Do you need help with your hair?” Isidora asks, noticing Catriona’s indecision as she twirls her black, straightened hair in a messy bun.

    “So…who’s taking you…,” Isidora hesitates, wishing she could take back her words and bury it in the part of her brain marked stupidity lobe.

    “Uncle Edgardo’s filling the vacancy left by my dad when he upped and left.” Catriona smiled but the words hit hard.

    There’s another knock on the door. It’s her Uncle Edgardo checking to see if she’s ready.
    “In a minute Uncle!”
    Bending down, she tied the red laces of her black, Chuck Taylors. Now she’s ready to party.

    “Ready couz?” Isidora asks, twirling two curls at Catriona’s temples.

    “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

    ——- Mid shot? I draw two girls in a room? Making ready for a party? —— So lots of visual questions here, I would try add visual ques to the dialog. For example:

    “Wow, that’s…different,” Isidora remarks, trying to keep a straight face and not exposing her, what-the hell-were-you-thinking look.
    —– Wide camera from mirrors perspective. see mostly Catriona, open door and opposite wall.—- Isidora just walked into room. Catriona does a twirl,or a twirk, or a jump, whatever. —–

    “It’s so…you couz.”

    —– camera pans to show rest of Catrionas room? full of what makes her individual/ we show she is special. We show why the dress is so her.—–

    and so on…

    Hope this helps a bit, I really would like to know what has her gran so worked up 😀

    Stuff like this will draw pictures in the readers mind.

  4. Jen says:

    Hi,
    There’s promise of conflict and action which is very enticing. However, it might help the reader to understand/know a bit more the main character before seeing her in this scene. Also, perhaps a bit more about the scene: what kind of party is it? family only? 17th birthday – tell the reader sooner so reader can understand the context and where it is held. presumably held in her home but not sure.

    Below are some thoughts/suggestions I had when reading:

    “Wow, that’s…different,” Isidora remarks with a straight face, disguising her “what-the hell-were-you-thinking” look. Catriona was one of those individuals who went left when everyone went right. “It’s so…you couz.” (suggestion revision of 1st sentence. could still be cleaned up more)

    “It feels authentically me. I’m sure everyone will hate it but it’s my day and I don’t care if it ends up on somebody’s Worst Dressed list.” (capitalize Worst Dressed )

    “So…who’s taking you…,” Isidora hesitates, wishing she could take back her words and bury it in the part of her brain marked stupidity lobe. (quotes around stupidity lobe?)

    “Uncle Edgardo’s filling the vacancy left (seems a bit too formal for dialogue. also s/b: up and left.)

    Another knock on the door (why another? when was the first knock?). Her Uncle Edgardo checked to see if she was ready. (suggested revision)

    “In a minute Uncle!” (is it practical/intended to call him “Uncle” as opposed to “Uncle Edgardo” or some other name. or, no name; “in a minute!”)

    Bending down, she tied the red laces of her black, Chuck Taylors. Now she’s ready to party. (tenses keep changing. present vs. past tense – needs consistency.)

    Her Uncle’s face beamed when she opened the door. He had one of those smiles that took her straight into his soul. (very nice)

    ‘Everyone is here…no, not everyone.’ Mateo, Uncle Edgardo’s son, is unaccounted for. ‘Probably late as usual.’ (who is saying this? suggested revision)

    “How? What happened?” Uncle Edgardo stood horrified. He turned to look at
    Catriona apologetically, squeezed her hand and left. (does grego respond to Edgardo’s questions? if not, how does Edgardo know where go? grego says “you must come” which insinuates that grego will bring Edgardo to mateo.)

    “Happy seventeenth birthday to me.’ (As a reader I now don’t like Catriona b/c she’s thinking about herself/her party when she just heard that her cousin died. seems unlikely and very vain/shallow. was that intended?)

    ‘How I wish I understood Spanish. I rebelled when my mom wanted to teach me to speak my native language. No, that’s an understatement. I flat out refused. I picked up bits and pieces but not enough to fully understand. (is this really what she’d be thinking when she just found out her cousin died? )

    During the struggle Catriona’s dress hooked onto a nail at the bottom of the staircase. It clawed onto the dress and slashed off a piece of fabric as she tried to loosen it. Tears streamed down her face. It was ruined! The tear ripped right through her heart. (again, how can she be worried about a dress when her cousin just died?)

    “Mom stop…please stop!” she pleaded, trying to counter her mother’s forceful yanking. Her mother had the strength of seven men and pulled her across the floor (up the stairs where she was earlier ?) into her room.

    ‘What have I possibly done to cause this much chaos.” (very formal thought, not realistic)

    They drove down the road and her mother sat silently not once looking in her direction. She stared out the window and saw people outside happy and carefree, oblivious that her world had come to a halting end. (dramatic that she thinks her world came to an , as opposed to the cousin’s life who really did end. doesn’t make sense )

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