I'm trying to write my first novel. If you've tried this, you know it is lonely and a bit demoralizing under the euphoria. I am flying blind. I would love if anyone could read the first bit of the first chapter and give me any feedback you could. Thank you in advance.
September 5, 2005 Fortuna, California
"They found Richard's body," Hildy says before hello when Annie picks up the phone.
"He dared to come back to die then," Annie responds to her mom; no need to ease into it, and no need to ask Richard who. She holds the phone with a tense shoulder as she folds laundry: Jessie's Spiderman underwear, her striped tank tops, Miranda's new big-girl panties, and John's white T-shirts. That's all she buys John now; they're cheap and bleachable.
"No," Hildy pauses to lean into it. She has to be the one to tell Annie; she couldn't let her hear it from anyone else. "He never left. They think that man has been dead for thirteen years."
She waits for Annie to do the computation as she leans against her spotless marble kitchen counter. Usually Hildy bakes as she talks on the phone. Always bread, cookies if the grandkids are coming over, danishes for the business. But there's no multi-tasking now. One arm crosses her ample breasts while she props the cordless up to her ear with the other. "How specific can they get, after this long?" Annie finally asks, the connection surprisingly tinny for traveling only a mile. Pink and striped tiny panties flutter to the table. Annie's hands forget how to function.
"Word is," Hildy finds herself nearly whispering, "pretty specific. Since they found him under the fire department's equipment shed poured in that month." No need to ask which month. They listen to each other breathe for a moment; both thinking they had buried April 1992 long ago. Unseen by her daughter, Hildy chews a corner of her lip. Her blond, blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked bright prettiness seems gaudy today in contrast to her wan skin.
"Do they have any leads?" Hildy has connections with the Fortuna Police department. The chief jokes that her pastries donated to pie auctions over the years are responsible for the fourth squad car.
"Not who did it, just unnatural death in April 1992." There's a pause. Hildy continues to hug herself while she waits for Annie to process.
They talk on the phone several times a week, or at least, coordinate. Annie interrupts Hildy to ask her to pick up baby carrots from Costco or tell her about Jessie's T-ball game. Hildy calls to chatter about a new catering gig. Hildy sells her baking through her catering business, Love and Pastry. Annie does her books. Their phone conversations are hurried, practical, and done while they both juggle something else.
But not today. Annie has forgotten her laundry and stands in her living room holding the phone until she finally manages to breathe, continue the thread of the conversation. While she's inherited her mother's pink cheeks if not her Danish coloring, her pale cheeks now make her eyes and hair look even darker than her Dad's Italian background.
"How are they taking it?" It's somehow difficult for Annie to say his family's names.
Her daughter hears Hildy shrug. "I don't know, Annie. It's not exactly like they have confided in me since then. We barely manage polite avoidance. Polite small talk maybe next decade. No big public displays of grief, if that's what you're asking. And I wouldn't expect them to do anything to fan the flames."
Not that the flames will need help.