Chapter 1 - The Sea-Green Book

Chapter 1 - The Sea-Green Book

A Chapter by Susanna F

Grandma gives Lara a gift.

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This is a previous version of Chapter 1 - The Sea-Green Book.

The farmhouse was cold, despite the pine and oak logs Grandpa had piled on the roaring fire. Lara huddled close to the hearth, the heat burning her face and warming her straight sandy hair, but going no deeper. Outside, snow flurried against the windows. She shivered. 


Most winter vacations Lara would be playing in the farmyard with her brothers at every chance, but things were different now. She pushed away the unwelcome thought and looked up from the fire.


Dad and Grandpa sat on the couch, intent on the football game on television. Their cheering was subdued as their favorite team scored a touchdown. Grandpa's pipe sat forgotten in his hand, the wisps of smoke dying as Lara watched. Grandma and Mom spoke in low voices in the kitchen, all but inaudible over the television. Still, Lara knew they were talking about Paul.


Mom came into the living room, wiping her hands on a towel.


"Lara, would you like to help decorate some sugar cookies?" she asked.


Lara sighed, reluctant to leave the fire, but got up slowly and joined them in the kitchen. It was actually warmer in there than in the living room, thanks to the busy oven. It was also much bigger than the dark, cramped living room. Christmas music played softly on a small CD player set up in the garden window over the sink.


"I'm getting a little old for decorating cookies," Lara said, but rolled up her sleeves. She realized that despite her half-hearted protests, she was glad to have something to occupy her mind. Maybe it would even help her feel something for the upcoming holiday. It seemed like months since she'd felt anything resembling joy.


"Nonsense," Grandma said. She smiled and patted her granddaughter’s arm as she set out a jar of tiny silver orbs and another of snowflake sprinkles.


"Fifteen is still young," Mom said. It sounded like she meant to say more, but she stopped there. She smiled too, but it wasn't convincing. There were dark circles under her eyes, and her wheat-gold hair hung limp from its ponytail. She fussed about the kitchen, sticking dishes into the big double sink and wiping flour off the vast shiny wood counters and island. Grandma patted her arm as she walked by, trying to give her daughter what comfort she could.


Lara and Grandma sat down at the kitchen table to frost and decorate. Lara stuck a few silver orbs on a green-frosted tree shaped cookie. She remembered doing this last year, with her twin brother, Paul. He ate more sprinkles than he put on the cookies, and laughed when Grandma scolded him. Lara’s eyes began to burn.


"What a wonderful holiday this will be," she said with a short laugh, then realized with horror how sarcastic it sounded. She had never been good at faking cheerfulness or any other emotion.


Mom sighed and put her hand to her forehead. "Lara, we're all trying to make the best of it. You could at least try."


"I'm sorry," Lara said, her voice quivering. She put the cookie on the huge platter that was already almost full. "You're right." She lapsed into silence, wondering why they had bothered to include her at all. They should have known better.


Just as Grandma finished detailing the last cookie, Lara’s two younger brothers came bursting through the front door, pulling off beanie hats and snow boots and puffy jackets. They were laughing, and snow went all over the entryway carpet.


"Boys, settle down!" Dad yelled from the living room. "We're trying to hear the game."


But Alan and Michael didn't care at all about the game. They headed straight to the cookies.


"No, no, lunch first," Mom said, and pretended not to see that they had each already grabbed one.


"I want mac and cheese," Alan said, his fat cheeks bright pink from the cold.


"I want more of Grandma's chicken pot pie from last night," said Michael, the older one. His dark hair was dripping onto his sweat shirt.


Grandma obligingly got out the food. "Are you hungry, Lara?" she asked.


Lara was eager to leave the room. She couldn't understand the boys’ unflagging spirits. "Not now. Maybe in an hour or so. I'm going to find something to read, if that's alright."


"That's fine, honey. You go relax and we'll finish up."


Lara took Dad and Grandpa their own plate of cookies to mollify them as she squeezed by, momentarily blocking the television.


A massive bookcase took up one of the living-room walls. Its shelves were mostly covered in board games and Christmas decorations, with a few condensed novels, magazine back issues and westerns. Lara sighed. She should have brought books from home. Her favorite reading was fairy tales, poetry, stories of faraway places and other worlds. None of her grandparents' reading material looked at all interesting.


She didn't notice Grandma walk up beside her. "Lara, I have something you may like to read. Come with me."


Lara followed her grandma down the hall to the master bedroom, a room she'd rarely entered. The bed was spread with a lacy crocheted coverlet of deep burgundy. The antique headboard was entwined with realistic silk roses on vines, and the snowy light coming through the pink lace curtains made the whole room feel like the inside of a blossom.


Grandma walked over to a small wooden chest beside the bed. She opened it slowly, as if she hadn't done so in a long time and wasn't sure what she would find.


"Did you know that twins run in our family?" she asked. "I had a twin sister named Eleanor."


She lifted a girl's sailor dress out of the chest, laying it aside.


"Did she gone?" Lara asked.


"Yes. When we were nine years old, we both came down with a fever. I remember the strange dreams I had. Parents were superstitious back then. Ours hung a pair of scissors over our bed. I recovered, but my sister went into a coma and died soon after." Grandma's eyes never left the contents of the chest, her hands gentle on a satin ribbon, a black and white photo, a sea-green picture book.


Lara wondered if it was different losing a sister than losing a brother. After all, Paul had been her bear, her protector. As lanky as Lara was, he'd stood a foot taller than her, with broad shoulders and muscles that kept away the kids at school who usually picked on bookworms like Lara. But looking at the sad smile on her grandmother's face, Lara realized that it didn't matter what kind of relationship it was, such wounds always hurt.


Grandma held up the book. "This is what Eleanor was reading when she lost consciousness. It was brand new, a gift for us both. She loved reading as much as you do. I want you to have it, Lara, but please take care of it." She handed the book to Lara.


Lara hardly knew what to say. 'Thank you' didn't seem enough. She ran her finger over the cover. The title was "The Hills Where I Go," and was printed in gold. There was an oval cut out of the cover, painted to look like a picture frame, and inside was a miniature painting of a garden, about four inches across. It was beautiful. Lara knew this book was special.


"I love you, Grandma," she whispered, and was enclosed in those gentle arms. "I'll take good care of it."


Grandma held her tight, the scent of vanilla still lingering on her clothing.


Then Lara fled the box’s faded memories, clutching her new treasure.

© 2011 Susanna F


First person makes it easier doesn't it? cuuuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzzzz the first person can be wrong and only sees a part of what goes on then can twist it.

Posted 4 Years Ago

What a great chapter :) I almost had tears!
The characters were incredibly real and natural and they all reacted in very human way.
I could imagine this perfectly. This is so very engaging and I definitely can't wait to read more, I'm hooked! :) Thanks for a great chapter :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 7 Years Ago

Very nice. Lara's pain is so evident that the reader can actually feel it. Grief is not an easy emotion to portray but you have done it well.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 7 Years Ago

Wow, this is an absolutely amazing chapter. Your characters are so life-like, and your descriptions immediately suck me in.

Absolutely wonderful job, keep up the superb work! :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago

This is, hands down, the best first chapter I have come across on writers cafe, and perhaps the first story of this kind to grip me so strongly, right off of the bat, since I was a teenager myself. Well done, Susanna! If only I didn't have to get some sleep... Sigh. At least I can continue this journey tomorrow! :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago

a beautiful chapter, great character. I could feel the emotions of the character while reading the lines. Eagerly waiting to read the second chapter. This is indeed a great opening.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago

This was beautiful. I loved how you used so much imagery. Like Em said it had a nice horse too! Great job!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago

Of course I read this it had an awesome horse!! LOL I love writings that I can picture easy peezy...

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago

This is a great first chapter, you have such a way with words that make even the simplest word seem magical.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago

A most enveloped tale of secure minds breaking the normal adventures of life, does magic hold keys to which we know not, can't wait for oyur next installment, well done, great read.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Added on July 22, 2011
Last Updated on October 20, 2011
Tags: baroea, chapter 1, book, death, twins, family
Previous Versions


Susanna F
Susanna F

Private, AZ

My name is Susanna. I love writing, and have written stories since I could spell. I write mostly fiction and poems, and have had several poems published. As a full-time working wife and mom, I hav.. more..

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