Chapter Two

Chapter Two

A Chapter by Jooolie
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Masterpiece

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        Ellizabeth sat in her room, a palette of hair color packages sprawled out on the table in front of her. She studied her reflection in the small mirror propped up next to her. Ellizabeth frowned as she looked at her sharp jaw line and pointed nose; they made her look angry, she thought. She had always been envious of girls like Aimee, with their soft features and large, delicate eyes. But Ellizabeth pushed her thoughts aside and examined her natural blonde roots starting to show under the vibrant colors covering her hair.
As she kept her blue eyes fixed in the mirror, Ellizabeth fumbled around the table to find the red tube. She grabbed the small package and playfully flipped it between her fingers. She beamed at the memory of when her hair was first dyed. She had sat crouched in a corner, her eyes clamped shut and reluctant to witness any part of the experiment while the circle of half a dozen art students stood gawking at the process, adding in the occasional participation as another color was added onto her head. Ellizabeth now gently coated her roots in the red dye. As she carefully layered it, she smiled at the rosy color.
Next came the orange dye. Ellizabeth groaned as she reached out for the tube. Orange was her least favorite part, as the coloring was located on a strange part of her head. She had been somewhat relieved to hold the responsibility of re-coloring her own hair instead of the group of artists that originally started the trend. It gave her a sense of control and made her feel less like an experimental model. In the orange section, however, she always considered calling her friends to have them do it anyway. She missed them, she thought as she profanely muttered at the back of her head. Ellizabeth knew she would miss her own university, she understood that as one of the risks of coming to the city. For an instant, Ellizabeth felt an overwhelming homesickness and she noticed her hands starting to shake as they worked quickly on her hair. Her eyes focused up to her wall at the small, framed postcard of her central campus. 
Her friends thought it was odd for Ellizabeth to bring it as her sole photograph from California, but it was her greatest cause of strength. While in her freshman year at the university, Ellizabeth established she wanted nothing more than to eventually work as one of the photography professors. In fact, that dream was one of the primary reasons she had decided to follow Aimee in the first place. With her stay in New York, Ellizabeth knew she could expand her portfolio, a project she had been waiting to complete since her junior high years. Now it was almost finished. This, Ellizabeth knew in her heart, would be her means of becoming a professor, and the thought of being so close made her desperate to finish the album that much faster. She frowned and glanced back up at the wall. It would not be long now until she was back, and Ellizabeth suddenly felt a wave of excitement flow over her as she sat on her floor, dye in hand. 
Ellizabeth smirked with a sense of accomplishment as she finally set the orange dye tube on the table. The yellow took only moments to apply, as it was essentially her natural hair color, and Ellizabeth next grabbed for the green dye. She grinned as she picked up the colored tube. She remembered the first time she used the color. It had reminded her of seaweed. Every time since, the particular dye made her think of her small neighborhood in Sacramento. 
As a consequence for living only a few hours from the ocean, Ellizabeth had developed a sense of adventure at a very young age. She remembered how her mother had always been apprehensive to let her go down to the water, but her father simply laughed it off. Ellizabeth particularly remembered the seaweed event, a moment of dangerous curiosity when she was seven. The plant had captured her eye during a swim in the shallow salt water, and she tried to reach out and touch it. She chuckled lightly at the memory of her younger self screeching in fear as her small hand became wrapped in the patch of seaweed near the shoreline. She could never remember how she escaped, but her desire to explore the ocean never returned after that moment. She did remember her father’s laughter as he picked her up and placed her on his strong shoulders as he continued his walk down the beach. 
Her father was dead now. It was ruled suicide. Ellizabeth had never known her father to have any problems, but now all she felt was regret; regret that she never noticed his real feelings; regret that she never helped him.
Ellizabeth sighed as she extended her hand toward the blue tube. The color had always seemed to be the messiest, and a particular disaster during the original experiment. She fondly remembered the day. One artist- not one of Ellizabeth’s particular favorites- came to the project in a new blouse, wearing it without knowing she would be participating in the experiment. The blue began to drip onto the shirt. It was destroyed and the artist had never forgiven Ellizabeth.
She finished the process with a purple dye, her favorite color. After rinsing her hair, she stared into the mirror, slightly surprised at her own work, and grinned. Ellizabeth quickly gathered the remaining dye tubes and placed them back in their box before rising to answer the whistle of a tea kettle calling from her stove.

***

Aimee’s tired, wide eyes stared blankly at her typewriter. The paper already had numerous blotches of white-out dripping over poor word choices and phrasing. She took another sip of coffee, then glared at the letters.
“Why can’t you work with me, just this once?” she groaned before her head collapsed onto the pile of notebooks strewn across her desk. She had found herself in this same position on many occasions, having fallen asleep in the midst of meeting an article deadline. She slowly glanced down at her trash can, overflowing with crumpled sheets of paper. In fact, she noticed the majority of the small table she called her desk was in the same condition.
Most found her career odd, but Aimee did not mind. Her roommate, Britney, had a tendency to return home at late hours of the night, a throbbing hangover inevitably approaching, to find Aimee slumped over her old Remington. Usually in an intoxication, Britney would question the antique typewriter, the lingering smell of ink, and Aimee’s ability to write articles only for money on certain commissions. 
Aimee understood her work barely made rent, but she did not care. Any other career would eventually kill her. The small side job Aimee held at a local diner was torture enough for her, but she at least enjoyed the walks home that led her through Washington Square Park. The sights and sounds of the city life always made her feel better and on some lucky nights, even helped her form article ides. 
Her real passion was writing, a skill she would have had more time to study in depth had she not immediately been targeted by the professors as a photography prodigy. Aimee’s images had gained her full-ride trips to study from London to Paris. But for every congratulatory compliment Aimee received for her photos, she despised her work more and more. What others thought of as a masterpiece, Aimee shrugged off as a hobby. She never truly hoped for a career in photography, nor did she have any real desire to become a professional journalist, constantly trapped within the confines of a small newsroom. The pride Aimee felt when she grabbed the final sheet of her completed article from the typewriter’s grip made her fear the excitement would disappear should she choose to repeat the process day after day for some paper. Thus, she remained in her small apartment, scrounging for the occasional work from local papers, always denying any following employment offers presented.
The previous morning, she had plopped down in front of her small antenna television, already irritated at her toaster for burning her breakfast. Aimee watched the news as the anchors sat behind their desk and talked about the so-called “poison crisis” every program had been broadcasting for weeks. The update claimed the disease showed no signs of improvement, nor a sign of slowing down any time soon. One scientist had even suggested the average human lung would not be able to survive under such conditions for an extended period of time, spanning from a few years to less than one. The news sent a chill down Aimee’s spine as she watched a reporter covering the public’s response from the city. The numerous faces of students, elderly citizens and mothers as they hugged their confused children seemed to blur in front of Aimee’s eyes and she sat glued to her television screen. In that instant, Aimee had found her new story; a story to focus on real people. In her bones, she knew the article could send her straight to the top. It would be her masterpiece.
Now, she was left to sit at her desk, trying to process in her mind the proper wording and the intricate design of each sentence. Her notebook was full of quotations and scattered pieces of information she gathered in her trip through the city. A pile of tape recorders, each used to its fullest with bits of narration from any man, woman, or child Aimee found roaming about, lay scattered across her floor. She had gotten all the information she could possibly collect for the time being, now all that was left was to finish the article. She wanted the story to be complete fact, no sugar-coating, no optimism. Solely the truth, whether the public would be afraid to read more than a sentence or not. 
In fact, Aimee thought for an instant she wanted them to be afraid. The average human curiosity could not resist reading on, she thought as she considered her own mind. People were always interested in disaster, history had shown that. Nothing she could think of seemed more interesting than this complete disaster of the human race. Despite their fear, the public would come. They would pick up the paper, reluctant to accept the knowledge of their own demise in the fine print, yet they would read on, searching for some key that could disprove the whole thing. It had happened before, Aimee recalled, and perhaps it would happen again; it did not matter to her. What mattered was showing the people the facts and making them face the information straight on.
Aimee awoke to a tap on her shoulder. She had fallen asleep at her desk again. She slowly tried to focus her vision on Britney, whose face was now peering closely into hers. 
“Hey there. You all right?” her roommate muttered, her eyes obviously blood-shot and breath smelling strongly of alcohol.
Aimee rubbed her eyes and looked back at her typewriter. The work had made no progress. She sighed heavily as she ripped the remaining paper from the machine and added it to the pile of balled paper in her garbage. “I’m fine, Britney. Just go to bed.”

***

Darwin sat in his apartment. The normally dark and freezing building tended to discomfort him, but it was now the only place where he could escape the non-stop talk of disaster outside its brick walls. He knew he needed sleep, but Darwin instead took a deep breath before once again focusing on his textbook as he began to read. 
Locke differed from Hobbes in the sense that he argued for a government with power limited to the protection of-” 
He slammed the hard-back onto the floor. Try as he might, political theory was not first and foremost on his mind. Darwin could not help but feel that all his hard work was for nothing. If he could not concentrate on his notes, he could never concentrate on the real thing.
For his full twenty-one years, or at least as long as he could remember, Darwin had wanted to be a lawyer. He had his own firm planned out by the age of fifteen, and had applied to Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League schools early on. He was accepted just before the start of his senior year in secondary school. Unfortunately, the highest ranking colleges in the nation called for a large sum of money, a sum which the Hayes family could hardly afford. Darwin was stuck with New York University; degraded, he still believed at some times. He did not mind too much, but considered it another opportunity to easily become valedictorian for the second time in his academic career. But now, according to the new disease, he would never have any of it. 
Darwin once again glanced down at the information staring up at him from the book. He sighed as he picked it up and carried it over to his pile of schoolwork, setting it down gently as if to apologize for throwing it. As he turned away from the stack, something in the corner of Darwin’s eye caught his attention: it was his old video camera. He suddenly remembered he had used it for a presentation a few months before and apparently never returned it to its original spot on his dresser. 
Darwin reached out for the camera and settled it in the palm of his hand. The cold metal sent a shiver up his arm as he held the camera up to eye level. The lens was still perfectly clear and the light from Darwin’s nearby lamp bounced off the thin piece of glass that covered it. Darwin rarely used the small hand-held but as he slowly opened the side screen, he felt a sudden eagerness to film something; anything that would keep his mind off the disease that loomed over the whole city. But he knew there was nothing.
Darwin shook his head in disappointment and carefully set the camera back on top of his wooden dresser. He returned to his seat, and numerous springs loosely flapped as he applied pressure to the recliner. As he gazed about the gloomy loft, he pondered for a few moments. He could have had more than this, he thought, reflecting on his over-the-top childhood dreams of owning an elaborate mansion on a private island. Darwin grinned at the thought. Aimee had even laughed about it once when he told her his old life goals. She had joked that he was at least rich enough to own a penthouse, as his loft was located on the eighth and top floor of his small village apartment complex. 
An idea quickly came to Darwin’s mind. If he could not be remembered as a lawyer, perhaps there was something else he could do before the possible disease ruined him. He froze momentarily as he remembered his camera charger neatly wrapped in his top drawer. He pulled himself from the chair and fished the cord from a pile of scattered wires in the desk before plugging it into the camera.
As he returned to his chair, Darwin was startled by the ring of his phone. He grabbed the phone from his pocket and slowly picked up the receiver, confused by the late-night call.
“Hey man, it’s me,” the voice on the other end of the line said energetically. Darwin mumbled sleepily at the sound of the familiar voice. Even when filtered through technology, Ian Sanders’ distinct speech could still manage to come through. “How’ve you been, man? How’s the city holdin’ up?”
Darwin shrugged, shaking his head from side to side in a final attempt to ease his drowsiness. “Impending doom, the usual. It’s all the rage around here,” he replied.
“I heard.” Ian’s voice seemed to pick up a slightly apprehensive tone amidst the windy static filling the background. “Any estimates on how serious it’ll get over there?”
Ian, his former roommate, had left for a vacation on the West Coast a month earlier, only a few days before the first news of the disease was released. Darwin immediately dreaded having to talk about the theory with him. “I guess it depends on how long of an attention span everyone has,” he finally muttered. The other end of the line was quiet for a moment before he continued. “It’ll die down once people stop caring.”
“Probably,” Ian’s answered gravely, as his voice began to lose its familiar chipper tone. He took a long breath before speaking. “Not much we can do about it anyway, eh?” Ian cleared his throat for a moment, then he seemed to lighten up almost immediately. “Listen, I’ll be back in town soon and I need to stop by the bar. I haven’t seen you in ages-”
“Ian, it’s two-thirty in the morning,” Darwin interrupted, looking down at his wristwatch.
“All the same,” Ian chimed in immediately.
Darwin smiled at the idea. Ian had been his friend throughout grade school in Minnesota. After just a few short weeks, Darwin was glad to have him back. He glanced across the room at his camera as it sat abandoned on his shelf. “Yeah, sounds good. Not like I have anything better to do.”
“I thought so,” the voice chuckled through the phone. “I’ll see you when I get there.” With a beep, Ian was off the line and the room was quiet once more.
Darwin beamed at his phone for a moment before walking over to his camera. He stared at it as he packed it into its bag. He could create something future civilizations would look back on, he told himself, if any of the news was real. Darwin rolled his eyes at his own thoughts. He could feel himself slowly caving in, and he knew his new plan would not help the matter. But as much as he hated himself for thinking of the idea, Darwin could not understand why he still grabbed his camera bag and dashed out the door.


© 2011 Jooolie


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I think we were almost given too much character description in one go. Sometimes when given this much all at once it is easy to forget details as the story goes, because you didn't learn them completely naturally. Although I don't think it was done badly, sometimes it has to be done that way, for sake of the story, so I couldn't say for sure that its a problem until I read more. In general the chapter felt kind of like filler in the sense that it didn't really forward the plot any.

Two little mistakes
her form article ides (ideas)
and
Ian’s (Ian) answered gravely

Posted 13 Years Ago


Again with the first chapter, I think instead of the author informing the reader about what the character does or what their goals are, you should let the character's actions define them. I got lost in all the details you have in this chapter. Let the story flow, and let us learn about the characters gradually, instead of all at once.
Your structure is spot on though and I enjoyed it.
=D

Posted 13 Years Ago



This section got a bit wordy for me. I do enjoy precision...but the tone of the book is nicely dramatic.

Posted 13 Years Ago


I think the descriptions are coming along better. It is such a tough thing to do in fiction. I have the same problem and have to write fairly slow and keep flipping the way I write a phrase or paragraph to limit how many times I use the character's name or "I" (for first person). My degree is in journalism which is so different in style from creative writing. I wish that I took a more than two classes in CW in college.

Posted 13 Years Ago



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Added on September 19, 2010
Last Updated on March 18, 2011


Author

Jooolie
Jooolie

The city with the water tower, IA



About
I'm a sophomore in Journalism/Mass Communication and in the process of some sweet novel-writing. I thoroughly enjoy show tunes and I don't care who knows. I really like reading short stories an.. more..

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