To the Steadfast

I SWING MY LEG OVER the edge of the windowsill, almost hitting the nightstand before landing on the hardwood floor below my feet.

“Shh!” Violet hisses from behind me. It’s barely audible over the pounding of my heart, but my adrenaline allows me to figure it out and soften my steps as I tiptoe away from the window in her older brother’s room. Tonight ranks in the top ten of things I’m sure I’ll go to hell for.

I’m not entirely proud of myself at this moment, but it’s not as bad as most of the things I do. It’s just sneaking out to an all-night party. All teenagers have to try it at least once, right?

Normally we don’t need to sneak out, but Violet’s parents grounded her and nailed her window shut after they caught her climbing out it a few months ago. Funny thing is, she wasn’t so much trying to climbing out of it as she was trying to sneak in one of her many conquests. That’s Violet for you. A devil in the disguise of a sixteen-year-old girl. Her parents are obsessed with making sure she doesn’t get pregnant before she turns eighteen. Just another mouth to feed.

“A little help here?” Violet asks, her body straddling the window with her black mini skirt riding high up on her hips. I move to grab her hand to help her in, but her brother, Mischa, gives her a boost from outside, causing her to go flying forward. I try to grab her, but the drunk aren’t the most coordinated, and she lands head first on the ground.

“Dammit, Mischa! Are you trying to wake up Mom and Dad?”
“Sorry,” Mischa says, climbing in after his sister. He swoops in feet first, followed by his torso before turning and shutting the window behind him.
“Don’t breathe just yet, we still need to make it to my room,” Violet says before putting her ear to the door and listening to make sure no one is out in the hallway. I do the same, hearing nothing but the static of the old television that’s left on twenty-four hours a day.

Her parents have a tendency to roam the halls at all hours of the night. It’s not unusual for strangers to appear on their doorstep in the middle of the night. They knock until Violet’s father, whom everyone refers to as Crumb, gets out of bed, cursing the entire time, and gives them what they want. A fix is a fix, and an addict doesn’t have manners. At least, the ones I’ve met.
“Okay, I got you back in, now hurry and get to bed.” Mischa pulls his shirt over his head, flips his MP3 player on, and flops onto the bed still wearing his shoes and jeans.

“Shut up, Mischa. I’m not spending the entire summer grounded,” Violet slurs, but this only makes him laugh. When he catches me staring, I divert my eyes from his smooth chest and pretend to be staring off into space.
She throws a random dirty shirt at the bed before sliding to the floor with her back against the door and puts her face in her hands. I  bend down beside her to feel her clammy forehead and place a wastebasket in front of her.
“Please don’t puke,” I beg as I pull pieces of her purple streaked hair away from her face. Violet’s had a lot to drink, but not enough to cause alarm. She’ll be fine.
“Did you have fun tonight, Cody?” she asks me.
“So much fun.” I press a kiss to her cheek as her eyes close and stand.
“I’m tired,” Mischa mumbles. “You wanted to go to Driller’s party, I snuck you out for a ride. Now for the last time, it’s almost morning, so get back to Violet’s room before my parents wake and figure out you’ve been out all night.”
I give him a slightly frazzled look, but decide to egg him on by refusing to leave.
“Did you have fun tonight, Mischa?” I ask, repeating his sister’s drunken words from a few seconds ago.

“Just as much as you did.” Mischa groans. “And I saw how much fun you were having making out with that bowtie guy.”
Bowtie guy has a name, but I can’t remember it. I think I may have had a class with him freshman year. It doesn’t really matter though. He was cute, available, and in the right place at the right time. Putting my hands on my hips, I wink. “A little jealous are we?”
He isn’t amused. Instead, the muscles in his face tighten up, and he straightens up as if he’s trying to make a very serious point. “I don’t get jealous, especially not over you.”

I do the normal teenage eye rolling and pull a half-empty bottle of cheap vodka off his dresser. I don’t want to go.
“Let’s play a game,” I say. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
His eyebrow raises, a cheesy grin taking over his face.
“Get your head out of the gutter, Mischa. It’s more of a show and tell. I’ll show you some random amazing talent, and if you can do it too, I have to take a shot. If the other person can’t do it, they take a shot. Got it?”
“Where do you come up with these random drinking games?”
I tap my pointer finger against my skull. “I’m an amazing drunk.”
He nods at the spot next to him. “Let’s play then.”
Opening the bottle, I pass it to him before sitting down on the old, lumpy mattress.
“Okay, me first. Can you do this?” I grab my lipstick from my pocket and balance it between my breasts.
“Hell, no.” Mischa chuckles as I apply a smudge free application.
“Tada!” I smack my lips at him.

He gives a slow clap. “First off, you did not just Breakfast Club me. Second, I don’t have breasts so that was completely unfair.” He tries to hand me the bottle, but I push it into his chest.

6 thoughts on “To the Steadfast

  1. Rona says:

    HI there!

    This is my very first time doing this, so please bear with me. First, I’m assuming first-person present is standard in YA right? I read a lot of romance but not YA, and that threw me, but I’m assuming that’s a genre convention. It certainly didn’t keep me from reading.

    I really enjoyed the voice of the main character. She seems feisty and a lot of fun, and I’d be interested in watching her relationship (I’m assuming with Mischa?) develop, especially with his sister such a big part of her life. The dialogue made the read really fast, and I could picture the three of them hiding in Mischa’s room trying to avoid parents who stalk the hallways. There wasn’t a huge amount of setting or description to me, but I didn’t feel like I needed it to picture exactly what was going on.

    I was really interested in the end of the second paragraph when you start with “Tonight ranks in the top ten…” but I didn’t feel that you went into that at all, unless that’s past the 1000 words. It went from that statement, which intrigued me, to Violet and her relationship with her parents and other people’s relationship with her dad, which felt out of place and I didn’t see the correlation.

    Violet really seems to be the main focus of this scene, and I’m not sure that’s what you want. It appears that there is some mutual interest between Cody and Mischa, but Violet’s tendencies to sneak boys in and her parents trying to keep her from getting pregnant aren’t related to that, at least not now. She also disappears from the scene, even though she appears to be drunk, which made me wonder if Cody ever got her to her room or started playing games with her sitting on the floor.

    Also, there are some repetitive phrasing and disembodied phrasing that took me out of the story a bit. For instance, you say “sneaking out” and “sneak out” on consecutive lines, three times. “Climbing” is also used repetitively, though I can’t find where right now :). In terms of disembodied phrasing, you mentioned Mischa swooping in feet first, followed by his torso, and I kept waiting for his chest and head to follow. I think you can leave it at swooping in feet first. Then you say, about Violet, “I press a kiss to her cheek as her eyes close and stand,” and I honestly thought her eyes stood. I had to re-read and then I felt like an idiot.

    So, my last comment is another genre one, so forgive me if I’m off-base here. I was a little perturbed about Cody saying she’s an “amazing drunk.” I’m assuming that she and Violet are close in age, so 16, which feels really early to be that adept at drinking. If you’re in a universe where this is kosher, I’d probably mention that so it’s not striking. If it’s not a big deal in YA, disregard everything I just said. But it jolted me. Last, is “The Breakfast Club” a reference that’s going to be notable for the readers? I’m in my mid-30s and really had to think about it, so I just want to make sure that’s a reference that will resonate.

    I hope some of this was a little helpful, and I wish you the best of luck in your work!

    • rachmeister says:

      Sorry if I’m a little late to the conversation…

      I liked that you started in the middle of the action. The idea of the friends sneaking out intrigued me and drew me into the story. However, I had trouble feeling grounded in the beginning because many of the descriptions (of people’s body parts in specific places) felt clunky. After Cody went through the window, I didn’t know where they were – I had to go back and reread the beginning to figure out they were in Mischa’s room.

      The other thing I struggled with was the interaction between Cody and Mischa. I sense the flirtation and attraction between them, but I don’t care enough right now to read on because I don’t know them well enough yet. I feel like this interaction might be too significant to introduce before we get to know the characters. Also, where does Violet go while they’re playing the drinking game? I assume she’s just passed out, but shouldn’t Cody and Violet be checking on her? I guess we transitioned from drunken Violet to the flirtatious drinking game too quickly for me. It’s good that you’re introducing the romance element early on so that readers know what to expect, but you might consider having a more subtle interaction here and saving the important part for a little later.

      I hope this helps, and good luck!

  2. Leah McKinnon says:

    The story has lots of potential – being an out of control teenager who might have the hots for her friend’s older brother has a lot of potential, but I really didn’t connect with any of the characters. I didn’t understand why she decided to play the drinking game, with no objection from anyone, when she should have been trying to get to the safety of the room. I found the reading to be not as smooth as I like and a bit too jumpy. But still the idea is compelling, there are so many journeys these teenagers could take from this point.

  3. Loretta Holkmann-Reid says:

    I’m not experienced at this either.

    Here I go.

    Great opening for the reader. “I SWING MY LEG OVER the edge of the windowsill, almost hitting the nightstand before landing on the hardwood floor below my feet.”

    You’ve got some good stuff here. Really!

    Yes, I agree with Leah. The story has good potential and the characters—Cody, Violet, Mischa and the parents. I like the story it’s youthful and has potential for a stronger character development, in terms of how the characters relate to each other and what they are trying to achieve.

    Seemingly, despite not wanting to wake up Violet and Mischa’s parents, and people coming to the house all times of night anyway is a bit confusing.

    I understand the parents not wanting their daughter to get pregnant—one more mouth to feed than ruining her future or going to college more of a struggle, single-parenting; or simply the shame of the family and the daughter. Things of that nature..

    The phrase already gives the reader insight about how the parents would react to their daughter getting pregnant. See my point? The parents’ moral compass is out of sync already with selling drugs? Right? Yes, I know that is a judgment call on my part. Sorry.

    So the idea of locking the window seems a bit superficial on the part of the parents.

    More in keeping with the parents, especially the father. “If I find out that you snuck out of your room, I’ll beat the crap out of you and lock you in it. Maybe not beat the crap out of you (Smile1), but, I think you know what I mean.

    Not clear about the purpose of the drinking game.

    Is the drinking game to entice Mischa to engage with Cody in an intimate way? Has Cody flirted with Mischa in the past? Or, is Cody teasing him because she’s just drunk or a horny teenager?

    I can’t see why she said. I’ll show you mine first then you show me yours. What, his…..? Smile!

    Does Cody live with Violet and Mischa or just sleeping over? Not clear to me.

    “Shut up, Mischa. I’m not spending the entire summer grounded,” Violet slurs, but this only makes him laugh.

    “When he catches me staring, I divert my eyes from his smooth chest and pretend to be staring off into space.” Who’s staring?

    It reads as if Violet is starring at her brother in an unnatural way. If she is, hum… Or is it Cody? This needs to be really clear…

    “Did you have fun tonight, Cody?” [Violet] she asks me.
    “So much fun.” I press a kiss to her cheek as her eyes close and stand. Who’s doing the kissing?

    Eyes close I understand. But,” I press a kiss to her cheek as her eyes close and stand.” Not clear on the meaning of stand. Rewording it might help.

    I hope my comments have been constructive as that is my intent for an inexperienced writer of novels. Smile!

    Again, goooood stuff!

    Loretta H. Reid

  4. Briana says:

    Thank you guys so much for your feedback, I’ve tweaked bits and pieces to tighten it up here and there! (Just in time considering final edits are due on the 21st for my August 31st publishing date) Your kind words and encouragement have helped me get over my scared slump, this is my first romantic YA book.

  5. Rona says:

    Briana,

    Congratulations and good luck! I look forward to reading the book when it comes out. Best wishes on all of your future endeavors.

    Rona

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