Well, we sort of got behind in our posts this week. Unfortunately, we've had an ugly flu rip through our house and guess who got it right after each of the kids did?
Oh well, with all of us on the mend again we'll get right back into it.
A few weeks ago, I shared the Prologue from the next book in my Watcher series (Dark Water was the first). Today, I'm going to give you another little taste with our first chapter that introduces the main character.
We might share one more snippet, then we'll have to hold back until the rest is published (yes, I am that evil. HAHAHA!!).
In this segment, we are introduced to Alonzo and given a little glimpse into his history, as well as hint to his contribution to the story. For those who have read Dark Water, you'll also recognize his subtle connection to one of the characters from the first book. Feel free to read the Prologue we posted earlier (link above) to get back into the story.
Without further ado, here is Chapter One from Still Water. Enjoy!
A couple of months later…
“Mom, stop fussing over me,” Alonzo Sanchez said to his mother, Martina. “I’m seventeen, not seven. I can hear you over there. I can pack up my own stuff.”
“I know you can,” Martina said. “I was just trying to help. There’s so much to remember to take up for the summer and I—”
“It’s fine. I’ll do it myself.”
Alonzo spun his chair around, and pulled himself up. As he stepped forward, he ran his fingers along the top of the desk’s smooth surface until he got to the edge. From there, he knew it was only five short steps to get to his bed.
The last year had been tough, to say the least. Alonzo was one of the top Canadian water skiing champions. He had won almost every local and provincial competition he’d entered since he was eight in the categories of slalom, trick and jump. His room was filled with trophies, medals and other awards. His dream came true the year before when he’d qualified for the National Championships in Abbottsford, British Columbia. He was kicking butt in all of his categories. Then, the unthinkable happened.
During his last trick jump, his ski caught on the top of the ramp and it was yanked off of his foot. He had the consciousness to let go of the tow rope, but not before being tugged down into the side of the ramp, and tumbling into the water. The worst part was that as he came up for air, his ski crashed down on him, plummeting into the back of his head.
He was in a coma for weeks with a massive brain trauma. His family and doctors had no idea the extent of the damage that was done. Until he woke up and realized that couldn’t see. The force of the ski hitting his head had ruptured his optic nerve. Ironically, when he finally woke up from the coma, all he saw was black. Well, he saw glimmers of light occasionally, but his brain surgeon told him that was normal in such cases and didn’t imply his full sight was going to return.
“At least you’re alive,” his mother kept saying to him. “Thank Mary, Joseph and the Saints you are still with us.”
“And you can still ski,” his dad, José, also reminded him on a daily basis. “There are people out there skiing with missing limbs or other hurdles. You can re-learn.”
He appreciated his mother’s prayers. She was a devoted Catholic, something deeply engrained in her Hispanic roots. She was there in the hospital every night from what he’d heard, rubbing her Rosary beads and praying. She did the same through his recovery and therapy.
And he knew his dad was just trying to stay optimistic but, seriously. Alonzo knew his skiing days were through. There was no way he was going to be able to do what he did before the accident.
And no one was going to convince him otherwise.
He was a champion.
Now he’s blind.
Washed up at seventeen.
With step number five, the tips of Alonzo’s toes touched his bed sham. He reached out and fingered the rough material of his duffle bag, then patted around the bag until his palms hit piles of clothes.
“You folded everything?”
“Well, it fits in the bag better when it’s all folded. I knew you’d have just shoved everything in there, as usual.”
“And you would have taken everything out and ironed it all, as usual.”
He picked up the pile closest to his hand, and heard his mother snickering behind him. He smiled. It was nice to hear her laugh. Their family had gone through so much the last couple of years. And that day was particularly difficult for his mom.
“We leave for Uncle Mateo’s remembrance service in ten minutes. I want to light a candle before it begins.”
Alonzo slipped his hand under the top shirt to feel the sleeve.
He thumbed down the pile, counting ten, then placed them into the open duffle bag. “Are they honoring Lieutenant Colonel Worth this time too?”
“No.” His mother’s voice sounded closer, and on his left. “They only did that the first year to honor both tío Mateo and the Lieutenant Colonel for their brave work in Afghanistan. Mr. Worth did all he could to save our Mateo. He should be honored each year as well. But it is our family’s tradition to celebrate life on the anniversary of a death. Maybe their family has a different tradition, yes?”
Even though his parents had been in Canada for just under twenty years, their Puerto Rican accents were still quite strong. They’d learned English, but always spoke Spanish in the house. A few years before Alonzo was born, his dad gotten a job offer to manage one of the bakery plants in Winnipeg, a position he’d never would have been able to get in his homeland. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he couldn’t have passed up. Of course, it meant leaving each of their families behind, but they’d brought their culture with them.
Shortly after getting their Canadian status, his Uncle Mateo, his mom’s younger brother, had joined them in Canada. He’d worked at the plant until he’d received his Canadian status, then joined the military. Although the family was rather shocked at first, they had been proud that he’d felt such gratitude for his new country by fighting for it. He’d jumped at the opportunity to go to Afghanistan on a Peace Mission. It just sucked that his time had been cut short in such a horrific way.
Alonzo shrugged in response to his mother’s question, then picked up the pile his hand, recognized as hoodies.
“Guess so. I’ve never talked to them. But I heard about all the stuff that happened to them last summer.”
“Oh, Madre de Mios. That poor family.”
Alonzo pictured his mother doing the sign of the cross over her torso.
“They have suffered so much. We must add them to our prayer list today.”
He felt his mother’s eyes on him as he packed the rest of his clothes, shoes and toiletries into his bag, then he zipped it shut. He knew it must have been excruciating for her to stand there just watching. The therapist told his parents to back off, and let him do more for himself.
He knew his parents loved him, but it was starting to tick him off how they hovered over him every second. At one point, they wouldn’t even let him go to the bathroom on his own. He finally had to complain to his therapist, who took his side and told them, as gently as possible, that they were hindering his progress. It finally worked.
“By the way, Mia called you a few minutes ago.”
Alonzo closed his eyes.
“You told her I was busy, right?”
“Alonzo, mi querido angel. Why do you push her away? She is such a beautiful girl and so in love with you.”
“Because she could do better.”
“Than you? Never.”
Alonzo sat on the bed. “I’m not the same guy.”
His bed creaked in response to his mother sitting with him. “You stop that, now. I will not listen to this. Just because your eyes don’t work the same does not mean you are a different person. You haven’t changed one bit. Only how you see the world.”
“Mami, I appreciate your optimism, but this is none of your business. Mia is…amazing. But I’m thinking of breaking up with her.”
“Oh, Alonzo, no. She has been there for you every day since your accident. You can’t just push her away. You know, your father and I have had very tough times too, but we made it through. She’s a keeper, my son.”
He didn’t answer. She was right, of course. Mia was the most amazing girl in the world. She was there for all of his competitions, she supported him in everything he did and she came to the hospital every day during visitation hours when he was in his coma. His mother even arranged for her to be able to visit on off-visitor hours when she couldn’t come because of her job. He loved her. He was ready to tell her before his accident.
But things changed.
She was truly the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Her long, caramel-colored hair, blue eyes and perfect freckle-kissed skin made his heart race, even after over a year of being together. And whenever she smiled, it lit up her whole face. She has always been able to cheer him up, even on the darkest day. But he’d never see her beautiful face again. And she deserved someone else.
“It doesn’t matter anymore. She deserves the best.”
“You are the best.”
“Just let it go, Mami. I can deal with this myself. It’s my decision.”
After a silence of several seconds he felt the mattress shift, then his mother’s hands touched his knees.
“I understand. But she will be up at the lake tomorrow too. I told her we were going up after Tio Mateo’s ceremony. She was looking forward to seeing you.”
Wish I could see her, he thought.
“I was a little surprised when she told me that you hadn’t returned her calls in the last little while. She was worried that something else had happened.”
“You see? That’s why I stopped calling her. She’s always going to worry. So will you. Jessie is the only one that hasn’t changed towards me. Well, not as much.”
Jessie Motto and Alonzo had been friends since Kindergarten. They did everything together, including competing in water ski events. There was never any animosity or jealousy between them.
Just pure friendship.
When they were younger, everyone thought they were brothers, not just because they were always together, but more because they had the same dark hair, slim, but muscular, body type and Ricky Martin-styled Hispanic features that the girls swooned over. The only differences between them were that Jessie was slightly taller and had deep, brown eyes while Alonzo inherited his father’s green eyes. And Alonzo was less of a lady’s man, and a bit more reserved than his best friend.
His mother rubbed his knees, then leaned on them to stand up. “I know, love. Jessie has been so incredible. But Mia loves you too. And you cannot keep pushing people away who want to be close and who care. It saddens me to see your heart so filled with bitterness. This is not my Alonzo. You have been through so much, but all of the goodness you had before the accident is still here. Don’t let it go because your pride is guiding you. Listen to your heart. That’s where Mia should be.”
Alonzo didn’t respond. He waited until he heard his mother shuffled to his bedroom door, and closed it. Then he flopped back on his pillow, and closed his eyes. Tears flooded under his lids as he sputtered a short laugh.
How ironic to close his eyes. Most people do that to shut the world out for a few moments. The world looked the same to him whether his eyes were open or closed.