Writing Exercise: First Page of a Romance Story

I don’t write romances. I don’t know why, considering how good I am at it. Just ask Her Highness how I propos-

Wait, don’t do that.

I am, however, an incurable romantic. Seriously, it’s terminal and millions of dollars of pharmaceutical research have yielded squat.

I need to see if this is something I can do. This is first draft stuff, folks, so all you are allowed to do is say, “That’s really great,” or “Wow, I wish MY life was like that,” or “I wept tears of tender heartbreak.”

Or whatever comes to mind really.

On we go. I debated first person and third person, asked Her Highness and then decided to go with third person.

*****

A girl’s scream, followed by a bunch of loud voices, cut through the drone of Mr. Hamakura’s lecture on Napoleon. It was like the room had been filled by wads of warm, wet cotton balls, but then suddenly cleared.

Every head in the classroom turned toward the windows, which faced the courtyard and the south wing of the school.

“Oh my gosh, she’s gonna jump!”

In the back of Caleb’s mind, he recognized it had been Ashley Blake that had spoken. He joined the rest of the class as everyone rushed the windows, which spanned the entire south wall. If the room had overbalanced and tipped, everyone might have fallen out the windows if they hadn’t been closed.

There. The first thing he saw was medium-length, dark brown hair, blowing in the spring breeze of the early afternoon. Then he saw-

No.

Nika.

Ganika Pradapan was standing on the edge of the roof, her oval face directed downward.

Caleb felt his heart drop like a cinder block. Suddenly his fear and worry about what she’d think, how she’d react, what everyone else would think, dissolved. It didn’t matter.

The door slammed into the corridor wall behind him, the noise reverberating off the concrete and metal of the ceiling and lockers.

No. Please don’t. He ran, pushing his body as fast as he had ever run in the 100 meter dash. He rounded the corner to the annex that connected the two main wings of the high school, bouncing off the heavy rail that followed the stairs downward. For the first time since learning that his last class of the day was on the top floor of the building, he felt grateful.

He willed Nika to stay, to somehow decide to wait. He wondered why she would want to do it. He had watched her since his first day of freshman year. For seven months he had watched the most beautiful girl in the school. With her friends. At lunch. At her locker. He had wondered why none of the other freshmen had asked her out, or even the sophomores or juniors. Plenty of guys dated younger girls.

He had never seen anything that should make her want to commit suicide. Of course he didn’t know what her family life was like. She had two older brothers…

Up. He had to get up there.

How had she made it up to the roof?

Had to be the stairs. At the other end of the annex, barely slowing to take the turn and grabbing the rail to anchor him, he spun and leaped up the stairs, breath coming fast already. He sailed over the landing and turned up the next flight. The door at the top was ajar!

Asking himself how she had gotten the usually locked door open, Caleb slammed through the door, yelling. “Nika! Don’t! Please!”

He didn’t see her.

She had jumped.

His strength drained out of him into the asphalt of the roof.

Wait. He blinked, shaking his head.

There. She was still standing at the edge. In the sudden brightness, she had blended into the air conditioning box behind her.

Caleb walked quickly toward her, not wanting to scare her. “Nika. Please don’t do it.”

As he approached, he saw that she was looking at him, confusion filling her soft, lovely features.

“Please don’t,” he said again. He raised his hand toward her, wishing he had the Force and could will her back from the edge.

He was forty feet away and still walking. She hadn’t jumped; she was looking right at him.

The old shyness started in his gut. He lowered his gaze, suddenly unsure of what to say, how to keep her from…

No. It didn’t matter.

Quit it, he told himself.

Maybe twenty-five feet separated them. Her eyes, the first thing he had noticed those months ago, were swollen and red. Why had she been crying?

Fifteen feet.

“Nika, please. Please don’t.” He pushed himself to meet her beautiful gaze. What could he say?

She opened her mouth as if to say something, but had to cough and try again. “Who are yo- …” She looked down for a moment.

She didn’t even know his name?

“No, I remember. You’re Caleb.” Why wouldn’t she stop looking down? Was she looking for someone among the group of students and teachers down there? “You stare at me sometimes.”

He felt a blush burn across his cheeks. But he had to stop her. He had to do it. “Yeah. You’re right.” His throat felt clogged. He worked some spit into his mouth. “I do. Look at you.”

She glanced up at him. He realized he had stopped a few strides away. But he could still see the tracks of tears on her cheeks. He wanted to dry her face and hold her and tell her it would be okay. He extended a hand again. “I do look at you. I don’t want you to do it.”

“Why shouldn’t I?” Her voice was defiant.

He heard grown-up voices behind him. He extended his other hand back and turned slightly, not taking his eyes from Nika’s face. “No. Stay back.”

“Why should you?” He wanted to smack himself. “I mean, you shouldn’t because I-” He didn’t want to scare her. But he had to stop her. “Don’t kill yourself. I love you.”

*****

And that is all. Fun exercise.

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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