The breaking glass and muffled whispers in the kitchen woke me from a sound sleep. Instinctively, I reached my hand out to quiet Janice, only to find the sheets cold. I couldn’t stop the panic from forming, and forced myself to breathe. Calm down Dale. It’s okay. Janice is at work. Right. Janice is working, Rach is out with friends, and Sami’s at a sleepover. I breathed easier. It was probably Rachel coming home from a night out. One of these days I’d remember she was an adult without a curfew, and that it was okay for my 22-year-old child to go and drink. I wasn’t there yet.
Convinced it was Rachel, I threw on my robe and house shoes. I walked down the hall mentally preparing my reprimand, and it occurred to me that, if this wasn’t Rachel, I was in serious trouble. What did Samantha call it? Too stupid to live? I swallowed the laugh that threatened to burst out and expose my presence.
Shaking the thought from my head, I stopped at the edge of the kitchen. It was thick and black, and I had no idea where the glass was. The only thing I had going for me to the element of surprise, and I flipped on the light next to me. Well, that was a surprise. Rachel wasn’t standing there. My wife was.
I had no earthly idea who the man standing next to her was, but he looked both sheepish and angry. As for Janice, well, I’d never actually seen a deer in the headlights, but I’m fairly confident her face mirrored one.
My confusion overrode any other emotion. “Janice, honey, what’s going on?” I took two steps toward her, resting my hand on the kitchen island. The guy, whoever he was, moved to stand in front of Janice as though to protect her. As though I was a threat. I tightened my grip on the cold granite top and looked around him to my wife.
“Janice, do you want to tell me what’s going on here?”
She sighed, that weary, burdened sigh someone gives when they don’t want to answer but know there’s no choice. Yeah, that. “Dale, I really didn’t want to do this this way.”
“What way? The way where I wake up in the morning and my wife is gone, and I have no idea what just happened?”
She reached out and touched the guy’s shoulder, and he moved to the side. Who in the hell was this guy? Janice came to stand in front of me. “Dale, I’m leaving.”
No shit Sherlock. “I think I picked up on that.” I was having a hard time keeping the sarcasm out of my voice. “I guess my question is, why?”
She wouldn’t look at me. After twenty-two years together, she couldn’t look me in the eye. I didn’t know whether I was angry or frustrated or just sad. The man behind her stepped up and squeezed her shoulders.
“Janice, it’s time to go,” he said.
Angry. Definitely angry, and he was a perfect target. “Who the fuck are you? And what right do you have to tell my wife to do any damn thing?”
The guy stepped up to me, right into my space. I wondered if the “defend your home” laws applied because, if so, I’d love to use them right now. His face contorted into a sneer as he spoke. “I’m Mike,” he said. “And I’m the guy who’s been banging your wife for the past six months.”
His words transformed into something unrecognizable, and I was unable to respond. Instead I looked around, noticing what I’d missed before. The packed bags sitting on the couch. Empty spaces on the mantle where family pictures had been. Small trinkets, items that I knew had sentimental value to Janice, gone. I closed my eyes and inhaled, the spicy mix of Janice’s fragrance wafting over me. Hmm, that’s a newer scent. She’s only been wearing it for … oh shit. “Six months, Janice?”
She turned to me. “Dale, you have to understand…” she began, her voice trailing off as she caught what was surely a thunderous expression on my face.
“I don’t have to understand anything. Are you or are you not sleeping with this guy?”
She stepped back, surprised by my venom. “Yes.” Her eyes pricked with tears.
“Why are you crying, honey? Were you crying while you were screwing him?”
I should’ve been prepared for the slap. Objectively, that was uncalled for, but I think I could be forgiven for it.
“Fuck you Dale,” she yelled. “I’ve been miserable for twenty-two fucking years. We were dating, and it was just supposed to be a damn fling. And then your brother died, and you were all ‘woe is me’ about it.” The air quotes lent great effect, but she was too swept up in her passion to notice. “And then you were so damn needy asked me to marry you, and I felt sorry for your pathetic ass and said yes.” She moved away from me to grab the broom and start sweeping the broken glass. The silence settled in my gut, and I was sure I’d be sick. Satisfied that there was no remaining glass, she turned to me. “I have tried and tried and tried to make this work. But you’re so busy trying to be Superman, trying to be the perfect son, husband, and professor, that I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I want a life. I want to enjoy myself. I wanted to stop being Mrs. Prim and Proper to your Mr. Perfect with our perfectly imperfect kids. So I did.” She smiled at Mike, then walked up to me and gently patted my cheek. I knew I was going to hate what she said next.
“Mike wasn’t the first sweetie.”
“But I damn sure will be the last,” Mike muttered behind her.
She turned her head and smiled at him, …
16 thoughts on “Mirrors I – Radiance”
Yikes. Sure sets us up to hate the wife. Her complaints against him aren’t all that solid. I mean, he seems like a good dad, worried about his 22 year old daughter. I’m guessing there is more to come.
Anyway, it’s well written and intriguing. I would be looking forward to Dale’s romantic opportunities for this one.
Thank you so much for reading and leaving feedback. I’m a complete newbie at this and putting work out there is very hard for me. I appreciate all the advice I can get, especially from potential readers.
So far, I already hate the wife. If that is your intention, that is great, because she comes across as a cold-hearted bitch. If not, I would make her a bit more sympathetic. Her reasons for leaving Dale seem a bit cold. Telling someone that they were selfish for wanting attention after their brother died just seems mean. Or maybe the woman is just bat crazy? And what about the kids? She doesn’t mention them, is she leaving them as well?
Also, I find it a bit unrealistic that a strange guy would introduce himself like this: “I’m Mike,” he said. “And I’m the guy who’s been banging your wife for the past six months.” Why would he want to hurt Dale by saying that? He could just say his name. Or maybe say nothing at all.
How does Dale pick up on the fact that she is leaving him? The guy could be a co-worker or a friend or something, so why did Dale jump to this conclusion?
These are just a few questions that came to mind while I was reading your work.
Thanks so much for your comments. I’ll definitely work to clear some of that confusion up. And it’s cool to totally hate the wife :). I do. I appreciate the time you took to read and respond.
You’ve definitely got some talent. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there. The thing with this particular exercise is that it is only the first 1000 words and that is not nearly enough for me to give a full review but it is enough to know you’ve got something and should keep at it. The first 1000 should not answer every question but should intrigue the reader to want to keep going and that is what you’ve done.
Maybe nobody else had this issue, but I wasn’t sure if Dale was a man or a woman until Janice said he’d been acting like Superman. The character feels androgynous to me – the name “Dale” didn’t help, either, as it can apply to both men & women. So, I wasn’t sure if I was reading about a lesbian couple splitting up or a heterosexual marriage going down the tubes. Once it was clear, then I felt like I needed to go back and reread from a man’s POV. I found it highly distracting, which is not a good thing at the top of a novel. Otherwise, good start (unless you plan on getting Janice & Dale back together — I really hate Janice!)
Thanks for your comments! I never considered Dale to be a female name (which is saying something, as my actual name is one of the most androgynous ones out there), so I’ll have to consider doing something more to either confirm his gender or consider changing the name.
Hello – thanks for posting your work in progress.
As a reference, I stopped reading when I reached, “I swallowed the laugh that threatened to burst out and expose my presence.”
Perhaps the reason for my early departure from the story was because I felt like the character’s thoughts made sense for the character, but not for me. I think this was a man, but I wasn’t sure at first. I think he’s a dad, but again, I wasn’t sure about that either. If he was sleeping soundly, but yet he was still adjusting to his adult daughter being out, wouldn’t a crashing sound wake him more abruptly and he might respond more impulsively? Did he not wake up when Janice went to work? Who is Samantha and what is she calling “too stupid to live?” Considering he had a sense of panic, he rose rather slowly. I just feel like I am missing some bits and pieces here that might pull the introduction into clearer focus.
Enjoy your work and the entire Novel Boot Camp experience. Happy writing!
Thanks so much for taking the time to review and leave comments. I’ll keep your concerns in mind in terms of engaging readers. Best of luck with your own work!
I’m not certain if I can comment as I haven’t submitted anything this year, but I want to say I really liked your submission. Starting out with a male character’s point of view was interesting, something I’ve not seen before.
It would be more clear to me if you wrote: Calm down Dale, it’s okay, your wife is at work. That qualifies who Janice is to Dale. I also found this bit confusing: Right. Janice is working, Rach is out with friends, and Sami’s at a sleepover. I read Rach as Rock, and didn’t know it was Rachel until you mention the name Rachel later. Might be better to use the full name first and the shortened version after. Perhaps if you left those names out altogether and just skipped to the next sentence. You’ve written good dialogue and show not tell.
The line I should have been prepared for the slap, I’m not too sure about. Might be better to put in some action here. “Whack.” Janice slapped me, my face stung etc.
One other thought – I was told it’s cliche to have a character waking up in the first scene. I had to rework my novel around this and I floundered quite a bit for awhile. Since the first two lines are really important, it might be more impactful to start with “Mike wasn’t the first sweetie.” Then backtrack. Just a thought.
Thanks for reading and responding even though you’re not doing Boot Camp. It really means a lot. I did worry about starting with my character waking up, but since this scene takes place in the middle of the night I thought it was appropriate. Based on comments, I think I need to make that clearer. Thanks again!
I read the whole thing, so you did keep my interest on finding out what Dale would find in the kitchen. I agree with the other reviewers who noted the confusion on whether Dale was a male. Also I found myself wondering exactly what broke in the kitchen. It’s mentioned that the wife swept it up but what was it? Maybe no one else is bothered by that but I was.
I didn’t like the air quotes part, personally I would leave that out. Also the too stupid to live reference feels cliche. I would recommend finding another way to get that across or just cut it.
I disagree with another reviewer that they didn’t like how Mike introduced himself, actually I thought that was fine, it fits if he’s a jerk who doesn’t care about hurting the guy whose wife he is sleeping with.
Thanks so much for reading and leaving comments. I seriously thought about taking out the air quotes, but decided to leave it in and see how readers felt, so thanks for commenting on that. I think you’ve cemented that decision for me. Best of luck with your own works.
I would definitely continue reading! There are some bits I am not sure about however. For example, what’s with the broken glass? It seems like a literary device that you used to have Dale wake up and find the couple. If his wife is leaving, why would her lover even be in the house? And she seems unnecessarily cruel, given that his only fault was being nice. If she was so unhappy, is it conceivable that she would never have discussed her feelings with him? That said, it is very gripping and I hope you go on with it.
Thanks for reading and leaving comments. It gives me some idea of things that I may need to clarify or strengthen, at least from the MC’s viewpoint so it’s not confusing to the reader. I appreciate you taking the time to review.
Seriously guys, thank you all so much for reading and commenting. This is the first full-length work I’ve ever tried and I was a little more than terrified about putting this out there (in fact I did it at 1am on Monday because I wavered so much on it). Your positive responses are so encouraging, and I seriously appreciate the constructive comments that so many of you have given. I know I’ll never please everyone, but you’ve given me so many ways to tighten and strengthen this that I never would’ve seen on my own, and for that I’m eternally grateful. I wish you all the best in your individual works!