It’s hard sometimes, rewriting this book. Locations move around, characters change – characters DIE. It’s impossible to know if I’m really on to something here, and whether or not all these words will someday be in a book and make someone think, smile, or simply survive a dull evening. But every once in a while a paragraph or two comes along that makes me feel like I’m slowly pinpointing the tone of voice, the characters and the story. An echo of what is to come, of what this book could be. And suddenly – it’s all worth it.
L.A. model booker Nora Starke has lost her job and her boyfriend Johnny on the same day, forcing her to visit her former best friend Sam, who lives on the other side of the continent in a trailer park.
From chapter three:
Night envelops the trailer park, the stars overhead the only source of light. The lake echoes their pale mirror images back up at them, swaying when a fish ripples the water near the shore. A clean, metallic smell clings to the wind that has blown across vast empty stretches of land and trees. In her small single bed in the guest room of Sam’s trailer, Nora finally sleeps, her phone next to her head, fingers curled around it like a starfish.
L.A., across the continent, is awash with light: an orange glow spreads like a dome over the city, and even out on the beaches you can’t see the stars. The streets downtown are lined with people and laughter and shouts and litter, while a plastic bag meanders over a deserted highway only a few miles farther south.
On Johnny’s dashboard, empty food containers shove from one side to the other with each turn, a horseshoe-and-skull lucky charm on the rear view mirror swinging to the rhythm of a faster metronome. Johnny is high on coke and wind and music swooping through his convertible, driving up on the coastal road with the tangle of long blonde hair of the girl next to him lashing at his bare upper arm. He hasn’t taken any of Nora’s calls. Yet. He’s not ready. His new agent is screening them for him, Lucy, the one Nora helped him get. Before they started dating, about five months ago, Johnny’s agent was a gaunt, bleached blonde named Jennifer, who used to do lines off her wrist behind the tour van.
Nora never wanted to ride with him in the convertible, calling it a tasteless way to showcase herself. The memory burns in Johnny’s stomach like acid, and his hands clench on the wheel. The girl next to him never notices, but her hair strokes his arm when she stands up to yell in the wind, and he chooses to interpret that as comfort. Every day he tricks his guilt into subsiding a little further, but it’s harder than he would have suspected. And that, in a weird way, is satisfying, like pinching a bruise can be satisfying, because it means that he loves Nora deeply. Even if he behaved like an asshole. He shakes his head and steps on the gas and the blonde girl lets out a long whoop, that trails behind them in the dark long after the convertible has disappeared from sight.
At the same time in Crescent Lake, Nora turns in her bed, murmuring. She hasn’t spoken to Johnny yet, but she managed to convince the bank to return her last payment, and soon, she’ll have a car, and then she’ll start to plot her revenge. It is all she can think about, but she doesn’t dream about it now. In her dream, she stands naked in a boxing ring on top of a bare, brown hill, waiting for an adversary that never shows up. Words sound in her head, spoken in Sam’s voice. ‘Maybe you are your own worst enemy’. She grumbles and twists in her sleep, thinking of how corny dreams are and why it is that, even if she can think that thought, still she can’t wake up.