Chapter One: Hale

Chapter One: Hale

A Chapter by Joshua Donahue

Forbidden. Evan (16) is forced to move from big city San Francisco, CA to small town Hale, SC after the recent death of his father which he is still trying desperately to cope with.

Previous Version
This is a previous version of Chapter One: Hale.



BY: J O S H U A  D O N A H U E

Chapter One



“Look, sweetie, I’ve told you this a million times before, we just have to move okay? That town---San Francisco---is just too dangerous, too expensive, and too darn big. It…It’s just not for us, okay? Is that good enough?” my mother said to me out of obvious frustration.

I turned my head away in response.

My mother, Elana Woods, wanted nothing but the best for me, and I knew that. It was just that I hated to leave San Francisco. It was so big and so amazing; it appeared to be stuck in its own magnificent world of adventure. With cool weather, famous landmarks, and nearly a thousand shops all around (not including those of Chinatown), I couldn’t help but to smile at the City of Wonder. But so far, all that my eyes had spotted while on the road were depressing things like the steamy, mediocre sand, fragile-looking tumbleweeds, lonesome cacti, odd-shaped cliffs, and everything else that tuned in with a scorching desert scene.

My mom had decided to drive half the distance to our destination and fly the rest of the way. I couldn’t have cared less, seeing as how I was going to sleep anyways, trying to escape my life.

Obviously, this was my first move.

I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. It was my hometown---my true hometown. I knew why we had to move of course, but picking fights with my mom---was wrong, yes---but it helped me overcompensate with the ruins that my life seemed so miserably left in.

My mother had been having a hard time keeping up with the bills since six months ago. Things just seemed to get worse, harder, and rougher for us both since then. Six months ago was when tragedy attacked us out of nowhere: my dad died.

Things were easy when he was around; there were no worries at all. He always had a smile on his face no matter what was going on, and he seemed to turn the bad stuff into good stuff. In fact, he was the only person able to do that for my mom and me. Sometimes he would play videogames with me as we both tried desperately to block out the nagging of my mom informing us that staring at the television would ruin our eyesight. Other times, he and I would throw the football back and forth through the house as my mother laughed at the sight of us whenever he or I would plop down on the sofa in the middle of a catch. He basically did the cool stuff awesome dads typically do. But above all, he knew what it was like being a teenager as a male. So we connected on some level, I guess.

Then his death occurred, shadowing things. Because of the tragedy, my mom grieved at an unbelievably high rate making everything all the more pitiful. It seemed that his death just sucked the life out of her, draining her of all happiness that had once been inside. It was as if she was a robot powered by cheap, knockoff batteries. I wanted to breakdown and succumb to it just as my mother had; but I wouldn’t. I wasn’t as weak as she was.

Since my father was a construction worker, he did have insurance on himself, but because he worked with his workers instead of just running the business like the typical stereotype brought on by some dumb idiot, the insurance settlement was revoked. Thus, we were left in a tight financial spot. I even resorted to shoplifting several times in order to get what I wanted, but my mother didn’t need to know about that, especially with the move and all. We were headed to some place in South Carolina. Hale, I think was the name of the small town. Or was it Hell? I couldn’t be sure which, but I knew my new path was designed to crumble regardless.

As my mother drove, I paid little attention to the outside world which flashed right on by the vehicle’s window. My too-overly optimistic mother tried so hard to get me to take photos with her at famous landmarks like it was some celebrated road trip. Maybe she just didn’t get the fact that this was hard for me and that all I wanted to do right now was crawl into a dark cave and live there for the rest of my life. Or maybe she did get it and that was why she was trying so hard to get me to open up. Still, I was planning to resent her for a while.

So here I was: riding in the passenger’s side of my mother’s white jeep in the beginning month of April. The top was off and stuffed away somewhere under the few bags we had, and the wind was rustling in my black hair. My eyes, with their chocolate-brown tint, were feeling the full effects of the intense sun above, and my skin was attracting more of a tan than I already had, covering my Caucasian skin.

Since November of last year, I had become a sixteen-year-old guy who was---unfortunately---stuck in the lame tenth grade of high school. Only now, I was heading to an unfamiliar high school.

Great. Just Great.

*      *      *

After our plane ride, we drove a little bit longer. I had already listened to every song on my iPod at least three times and sent at least a million text messages on my cell phone. During the drive, more photos tried to be taken, and in fact, I got out for one just to make my mother leave me alone. I did not smile, however. I just made a simple frown, allowed the flash to occur, and then back into the jeep I went. She tried jokes as well to open me up, but she was such a poor joke teller that it just made the entire thing worse. Were parents supposed to act like this?

Not long afterwards, I saw it: the sign that indicated to the small town that my mother was dragging me all the way across the United States to---the sign to the town of Hale, South Carolina. 

This place deserved more of the title “village” rather than “town” actually. It merely contained a post office, a small gas station, a tiny seafood restaurant, a bank, a movie rental store, a small mini mart, and a church. Oh, and only two stoplights out the whole thing! Instantly, I could tell that it was one of those places where everybody knew everyone else; and if anything big happened, then the whole town (village) would know about it in an hour. It was just so little!

Nothing. Like. San Francisco. At. All.

My mother looked at me and forced a smile upon her face.

I just looked away disgustingly.

We passed through the town so fast that it took only about eighteen seconds. Afterwards, we turned onto a back street by the gas station and passed several other streets with pleasant-looking houses. They all seemed to be inspired by a scene from Marry Poppins, with children playing out in the yards. Then we turned onto one of those streets that had MCGREGOR STREET on the corner post. The street had houses lined on each side---most of them white, but all with various shades of window shutters.

It just seemed too happy and peaceful. Where was the drama or the excitement? Did these people just live off of birds, grass, and the sunshine? It was like watching one of those wretched PBS Kids shows where they try to lie to you and tell you what a wonderful place the world can be.

I could already tell that the name of this town was indeed wrong. It was not Hale like the sign had said, but the actual Hell below my feet. Only, instead of under me, it was now around me.

My mother turned into the driveway that had the number 592 imprinted on the mailbox. It was the only home that had the biggest front yard. But other than that, it looked just like any other house around: happy and joyful. It did have a small, waist-high fence that outlined its perimeter though---again, another Mary Poppins reminder. The structure itself was a two-story with black shutters surrounding the windows. The only other noticeable thing about it was that it had two mover’s trucks in the front yard, unloading all of our belongings via the front door.

My mom had told me it was some heirloom of some sort that she had inherited. This lightened me up a smidge, because we had a home finally and not an apartment. But still, I loved our apartment before. I would welcome it back into my surroundings any day.

Upon parking in the garage (it had one of those too), my frantic mother rushed over to the trucks to make sure that none of her stuff was being misplaced, leaving me to sulk---thankfully. On the contrary to her actions, I took no rush to get out of the jeep. In fact, I took my time, gathering all of my electronic junk and piling it into my traveling bag that I had for totally useless times that referred to uprooting my life and destroying it by moving across the country such as these.

Procrastinating no longer, I climbed out. When my sneakers touched the concrete below me, I could instantly sense the outlandishness in the place surrounding me. The boringness was everywhere, I knew. I didn’t need to glance around any longer because I already knew what I wouldn’t see: San Francisco; so I let out a groan of small horror and frustration, and then I rushed up into the house.

Through the garage, I found myself in the kitchen. It had a hard, wooden floor with an island counter in the middle and lots of cabinets surrounding it. After the kitchen, I roamed around until I found the stairs. I passed a dining room, a living room, a closet, and a bathroom along the way, I recalled. Most of them were being furnished by the movers, so I continued on up the stairs to not to be an obstacle for them.

After I climbed the stairs, I began glancing into every room. All of the rooms were already furnished the way my mother had instructed the movers before we left, so it was easy to find mine.

It was painted a pure, pearly white, with a black, fluffy carpet to boot---the curtains were checkered to match the color scheme. All of my CDs were placed on a shelf with my small stereo under it, and my laptop was set up on the desk by the window. My gaming systems were already hooked up to my television, waiting to be toyed with. My bed was in the corner of the room, covered with black sheets; and all of the other junk that belonged to me was either on the shelves, in a dresser, or in the closet. Everything was fit to my taste, I concluded.

I wanted to kick off my shoes, crawl onto the bed with my laptop, and check my email; and I did just that.

I had about thirty new email messages from my friends, and then another hundred or so that were ads or commercial things that wanted me to buy their product. It took me about an hour to read the important ones and reply to them. Most of them were asking me how my new home was and what it was like. But regardless, I was a slow typer. I pecked at the keyboard at a slow pace (which explained my F in typing class). But after I was done, I went to Google and searched up Hale, South Carolina. I wanted to get some information on the place. Was there some secret hangout that I had not seen on my way in? Was there secretly a Stepford wife thing going on here? I could only hope. But according to the web, there was only one unique thing that helped explain Hale better: at the local video store, if you rent two movies, you get the third free on Mondays, according to their advertisement. Wow, how exhilarating that bit of information was!

Irritated with my research, I logged out and put the laptop to sleep. I laid it down on the bed’s soft sheets and went to the window, opening up the blinds. The sun was going down, and I could see everyone on McGregor Street: men mowing the front lawn, children playing Hop-Scotch on the sidewalk, people going for a jog and walking their dogs, and old couples resting on their front porches in rocking chairs, watching the youth roam with energy.

The warmth that the sun provided as it sunk lower, as if seeping into the Earth’s surface, was unusual to me. Back in San Francisco, it was just warm enough to get by, if not cold or cool. The weather would be another change for me to have to adjust to. The colors, however, were remarkable. They streaked across the sky, surrounding the sun, as if a small child had been messing with paints and mixed bright, vivid colors together to produce the scene before me. I had to admit: it was magnificent; but then I remembered where I was and the current predicament I was in. I looked away in repulsion.

Glancing back through the view, my eyes detected that the movers had apparently left. I also noticed a single tree in our front yard that reached a little above my window, providing shade. I liked that, because I loved the dark. It was my home, like it was a shield for me and it protected me.

Interrupting my train of thoughts, came the loud laughter of my mother. Happiness spurred inside of me because my brain couldn’t remember ever hearing my mom laugh since…since before things changed. Then confusion busted in my skull because I didn’t have the faintest clue as to why she was even laughing. I closed the blinds of my window and crept down to get a good look.

She was talking to a man and a woman who looked like they were in their middle thirties, I observed. The woman was wearing a dark-colored skirt and a pink top; the man was wearing a pair of khaki pants and a blue sweater. Great, I’m officially surrounded by a pile of preppy, rich, snobby people, I mentally said to myself. I also noticed that my mother was holding something that was either a casserole or a cake. But just as I was observing the scene from the stairway, my mother saw me and said, “Evan! Come! Meet Mr. and Mrs. Woods! They are your aunt and uncle. Your dad’s brother and his wife.”

I came out of hiding, walked on over casually like I hadn’t been snooping, and I shook their hands with reluctance, but hiding it well.

“Hello, young man. I am Daryl Woods. And this is my wife, Sarah Woods,” the man said as neighborly as possible.

Honestly, I had never thought of having an aunt or an uncle or any other kind of relative. It just didn’t seem important in my San Francisco life. My mother had never talked about having any relatives, so I had never asked. So standing here, facing this man who was claiming to by my uncle, was awkward.

“Hello, I am Evan. Evan Woods.” I tried to put on a grin for them; but it looked a little too forced, so I pushed it away.

“Yes. I have heard all about you. My brother’s son, and my nephew no doubt,” Daryl said. “So what grade are you in, son?” 

“Ten---Tenth grade,” I stammered out. I only stuttered because a sudden blast of strong scent extended from this man before me. It was like putting cologne on so much that it smelled really horrible. And I mean it; this guy seemed as if he used three bottles in the process.

“Yes, you are a Woods indeed,” he chuckled, examining me thoroughly. He zoomed in on me so disturbingly that I almost thought he was going to munch on me like a piece of meat.

“So the move is going well, then?” Sarah asked with such a soft and gentle-like voice towards my mom.

“Oh yes. Very much. Evan has been in his room since we arrived. I think he really likes it.”

I didn’t feel like arguing with her, so I just ignored her comment by letting out an incoherent sigh.

Then Daryl glanced down at his watch. “Well, I hate to cut this introduction short, but Sarah and I have to go pick up Derek and Michael who are at a friend’s house expecting a ride home. So you’ll come then, right?” He looked as if he would miss looking at me, like I was a prize possession that he wanted to make sure he really wanted.

Then he looked at my mother expecting a response for his question.

“Umm, yes. Saturday, right? At one ‘o clock?” she answered and questioned simultaneously.

“Yes. We’ll see you then, Elana. It was very nice to meet you for the first time, Evan. But we’ll get to know more about each other on Saturday. I’ll see you two there. And if there is anything you need at all, just give us a call!”

“And I hope you really enjoy the cake! It was nice seeing you, Elana, and nice meeting you, Evan. Bye,” Sarah said while following her husband out the door.

Then Daryl and his wife Sarah were out of the house.

However, I looked out the window just to make sure before I asked: “Saturday? What’s Saturday?”

She stalked off to the kitchen with the gift from Sarah in her hands, ignoring my question.

Of course, I was very persistent so I was determined to get that answer out of her. I wanted to know what dumb, preppy, waste-of-my-time thing my mother had just pushed me into. I followed behind her.

“What’s Saturday?” I questioned again, anger beginning to rise in me.

She was placing the pan---which had the now-realized cake on it---, into the fridge. Then she turned and looked at me like she was depending on how to answer me.

Well?” I said with a bit of accusation in my voice.

“Oh alright, Evan, seeing as how you can’t leave anything alone. Saturday we are attending a family cookout over at the Woods’ place. Both my family and your father’s will be there. There. Satisfied?”

“No, I’m not satisfied, and I’m not damn going.”

“Watch your mouth! And yes. You. Will. Evan Woods. That is the whole reason we came to this town: for you to meet and get to know some of mine and your father’s relatives.”

“Don’t say ‘we’ as if we both decided to move here to this hell hole! You and I both know that you made this decision, not me. Besides, like I wanna meet some people that are allegedly kin to me.  I’ve never even heard of them my entire life! And I’m sure I can continue my life without them!”

“Evan Woods, we moved here for a good reason. And these people are not allegedly kin to you, either. They are kin to you, and you will go whether you like it or not.”

I scowled at her. I gave a grumbling sound out of frustration, and I stormed out of the kitchen to my room.

I plowed onto my bed when I got there and dug my head deep into the pillows, letting out a roar to help relieve the stress. How could she? Who did she think she was?

Oh, right, my mother. Duh, I thought.

Of course I loved her, but sometimes she just made me so…so…ill!

I let out another roar into my pillow. And another. And then three more after that. I was starting to feel a little better now, although my throat was not.

So many changes…

So many new things…

So many head spins…

It was all just too much of “so many” going on right now.

Then, releasing my head from the containment of the pillow, I thought: what’s the day?

I searched my brain for a moment and realized that it was Thursday. So I had two more days to convince my mother that I was not going to that cook-out thing.

Two more days to prepare for the worst.

And two more days to cope with the fact that I was indeed going to have to go to that dumb thing Saturday, no matter how much I wanted to resist and ignore the incontrovertible cold, hard fact.

How bad could it be? I pondered to myself.

Then, weirdly enough, I fell asleep on my still-odd-to-me bed, not being able to answer my own question that was nagging at me consistently.

© 2010 Joshua Donahue

Author's Note

Joshua Donahue
Please leave any kind of feedback (good and bad). Oh, and do you think I should provide this much information towards the beginning? After all, I feel that it's important for the reader to know Evan's past before he/she can understand his future.

If I receive enough positive reviews per chapter (after chapter 3), I will continue posting chapters up for ya'll to read. But when the reviews stop, I stop. Sorry. I just don't see a point in continuing if no one will read them.

*If you review my stuff (good or bad) I WILL review yours. If I haven't reviewed it within a couple of days after your review, please message me.

Featured Review

Suggestion one... change the font size. It's a little hard ta read.

As far as information goes.. sometimes, more often than not, it's easier and much more efficient ta break the expostition up amongst the first COUPLE'a chapters, instead of puttin so much right in the first one.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


I've just finished reading chapter one and loved it, keep up the great work!

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

So this has been here for awhile and you've garnered several reviews. I will tell you that I posted my first book here at the cafe in 2007 or so and it was published in 2008 - so - keep going. don't quit. Do those rewrites....keep polishing. So far - I enjoyed this but I am dreadfully biased as I am a writer too with a fondness for the novel...I do poetry but fiction is my "thing" and its a harder sell at the cafe. poetry is a quicker fix. Its hard to get poets to commit to more than one page ata time but it appears you've done well. Good for you! Keep writing.

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

very interesting read, seem he had a hard life though i think he should stop being a little selfish, anyway good work, hope to read more

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

wow. Hale sounds just like where i live
2 gas stations
1 stoplight
a million churches though
1 restaraunt
1 post office
1 grocery store
0 movie rental places
you get it

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This was a really good start to the book. At first, when I saw the description, I honestly thought it was going to be a "Twilight" rip-off. But then I got to reading it and I don't know how to put this without repeating myself. But it's an awesome start. You clearly presented your information and Evan's predicaments. And I can just envision that little town with the sun peeking over a green hill on the horizon. Awesome write!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

First off, I am no expert. What I offer here is nothing more than my opinions. I'm no bestselling author, in fact I don't even think that I ever even got an "A" in an English class. But I'll tell you what I liked and what I thought seemed a little off. I'm not trying to make myself feel important (I hate when people do that) I'm just telling you what I think. That being said, I'll go ahead and review:

1. Dialogue does not ring true. Try to make dialogue sound like
people actually talking.

2. "...however, it helped me overcompensate with the ruins that
my life seemed so miserably left in."

This sounds terribly awkward.

3. I noticed in a few places that you used two adjectives with
awkward effect. For example ...

"My too-overly optimistic mother tried ..."
"It was the only home that had the biggest front yard."

4. I notice that you seem to want every sentence to be dramatic
or to be a grand piece of literature with flowery language. For
example ...

"Happiness spurred inside of me because my brain couldn’t
remember ever hearing my mom laugh since…since before things
changed. Then confusion busted in my skull because I didn’t have
the faintest clue as to why she was even laughing. I closed the
blinds of my window and crept down to get a good look."

This sounds VERY awkward, this is a place where simple is better.

How about ...

"I was surprised to hear my mom laughing. This was something I
hadn't heard since my dad died. I slipped quietly downstairs to
see who or what was making her laugh. I didn't want to disrupt
her momentary happiness."

As far as the story goes ... it's too soon to tell. I know that I don't like Evan at all. he seems to be a selfish brat who manages only to think of himself. He doesn't realize that his mother's life has been disrupted just as much (if not more than) his own. But all he can see is himself. He makes no effort to acclimate himself and find something that he likes. he seems to want to be miserable. This being said, it could end up making for a great story. The best books have characters who affect us deeply and as you see, I was deeply affected by Evan. This could make for great conflict ... or Evan could be a character who undergoes a great transformation.

I shall read forward eagerly to see if this is the case.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I thought the description was really good, but the dialogue seemed strange. For example, you said "I am" instead of "I'm," and it seemed strange, since it was coming from a teenager's mouth." Also, the sentence, ". . . but Sarah and I have to go pick up Derek and Michael who are at a friend’s house expecting a ride home." seems like it should be separated into two sentences, like, ". . . but Sarah and I have to go pick up Derek and Michael. They're at a friend's house and expecting a ride home." It was still really good and I can't wait to see where the story goes.
PS. sorry it took so long for me to get to the read request. I've been busy all summer.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Just a few critiques
There was a couple phrases that I stumbled upon because they just didnt sound natural. 'Then his death occured' seemed a bit too direct, exspecially if the character is sad about it. And the ending of the first part ('Great, oh great) seemed kinda like it cut the ending short. (It's kinda hypocritical for me to say that but nevertheless) Other that that I would say work on your voice a little bit more, the depth of the character has yet to be written. But I really do like the story so far! I hope I helped and now on to chapter two!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

chapter one of Forbidden is written truly eloquent
You have painted a picture with your words on this readers mind
Of the ups and downs youth and great emotional
And beautiful imagery was captured
I love it !

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

strong title, imagery, sense of mystery
you have an intuition for the human psyche

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Joshua Donahue
Joshua Donahue

Jefferson, SC

UPDATE! 06.27.13 Hello, WritersCafe! I realize that I have abandoned my account since the summer of 2013. Since then I have started college, and I have experienced... a lot. However, this does no.. more..


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