Wounded Soldier

Damn. Another pothole. Don’t professional drivers take courses in smooth driving? My father had hired the man to get me to my destination smoothly, with no problems along the way.

I will not be tipping him.

The slick Cadillac cruises along the road, maneuvering between the congested New York City lanes. I stare out the window from my seat in the back as my head bobbles on my neck when the driver collides with yet another hole.

Well what was one more bumpy ride? Derek and I sure hadn’t had an easy journey getting to this day. Quite frankly, it had been hell.

September 1997

Fairfield University. Home of the Stags. A Jesuit university located near the Long Island Sound in Fairfield, Connecticut I selected following a long and arduous college hunt. The deciding factors? They have a great English program, adorable street signs, and even the name is a giant FU to my father.

My roommate, Anne, threw back her head and howled at that one.

“No way, seriously?”

“Seriously,” I replied over the commotion. I slid passed a wiry boy with glasses trying to make his way to the Student Science Association table at the outdoor student activities fair.  Initially, Anne and I had not wanted to go, concerned that it would be like the mother ship for dorky freshmen, a title we did not want to stick on ourselves during our first week of college. A few of our hall-mates convinced us to check it out with them and we agreed on the grounds that staying inside the dorm on such a beautiful day would have been sinful.

“You’re a riot,” Anne told me, pausing at the Anime Club table. Oh no, was she one of those people? Whatever, we’d gotten along impeccably so far.  Everyone had his or her quirks.

“I have to be a riot to survive in my house,” I said as we continued perusing. “My dad’s a lunatic.”

“I’m sure he’s not that bad.”

“He is.  Do you mind if I stop here and join the newspaper?”

“Go for it.”

I added my name to the sign-up list and then stopped with Anne as she joined an enormous crowd waiting for the chance to snag a time to audition for the Glee Club.  Man we had less in common than I thought.

“So why was this school as slap in the face for your dad?” she inquired when she’d grabbed a slot.

I smirked remembering the look on my father’s face when I informed him of my decision.

“He went to Sacred Heart.”

“Oh, you’re bad,” she said, grinning.  “So basically you picked here because it’s the arch rival of his alma mater.”

“Go Stags.”

“He must have wanted to die.”

I wanted to die when we were touring Sacred Heart and he wouldn’t shut up about his sixth sense telling him that it was the school for me.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I wish.”

“He wasn’t joking?”

“Nope.”

Anne pursed her lips and cleared her throat. “Let’s see what else they have, hm?”

“It’s okay, you can laugh. Everyone at Sacred Heart did.”

“No, no, I’m over it. Could you maybe do me a favor though?”

“Sure.”

“Could you use your sixth sense and tell me which club is calling to you?”

Now who’s being bad?” I said with mock scorn. I turned on my heel stomped away from her.

“OW!”

“Oh my god! I’m so sorry!” I said to the guy on whose foot I had just stomped.

“Those heels should be illegal, they’re practically a weapon.”

“I’m really sorry. I was just trying to make a point to my friend over there.” I waved my hand in Anne’s direction and found her doubled over with laughter.

“I’m thinking friends over,” I said.

“Whatever,” she replied flippantly. He’s cute, she mouthed to me before whirling around to join another club. When would she study with all her extracurriculars crammed into her day?

Giving my full attention to my victim, I noticed Anne was absolutely, one hundred percent correct. He was more than cute in fact, downright handsome. He stood a full head taller than I with very broad shoulders. I had no doubt he could effortlessly lift and throw me across the lawn if he were so inclined to take his revenge. His black hair was cut stylishly but neatly, emphasizing his sharp facial features. I wondered which of us had more freckles. It was a close battle, yet after a few minutes of contemplating, I concluded I had him beat.

“What’s with the uniform?” I asked to cover the fact that I was silently admiring his physique. “Are you in the Army?”

“ROTC. Interested?”

“Not a chance. I don’t do guns.”

“It’s not all guns. It’s early mornings too.”

“Yeah, you’re barking up the wrong tree here.”

Ok. Now what? We stood there, awkwardly staring at each other like middle schoolers who only associated because their mothers were friends but in reality had very little in common. I felt gangly an uncoordinated. What a way to meet someone, by stepping on him. He must think I couldn’t control my own limbs. And now that I had nothing to say … I was both a pubic menace and dumb on top of it.

“Sooo,” I said dragging out the word while my brain desperately searched for a topic of conversation, “if you’re in the Army, how come you’re not tough enough to handle a woman’s shoe?”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly expecting an ambush in Connecticut. You definitely took advantage of the element of surprise.”

“That’s me. All about tactics.” I could hear everyone who knew anything about me laughing. I barely thought through what I should have for breakfast.

He snorted, his baby blue eyes sparkling. My insides turned over.

“I’m calling your bluff.”

I laughed and shrugged. “At least I’m not scared of a shoe.”

“I think any man would be on my side with this one. Besides one time I saw this CSI show where a crazy woman killed her husband with a stiletto.”

“Maybe that’s why I don’t have a boyfriend. My shoes scare any potential wimps away.”

Or maybe I didn’t have a boyfriend because Joe used to …

No, Candace. Don’t go there.

He crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow. Oh no. Maybe that last comment would soon produce an undesired pick up line. I wasn’t ready for the dating scene yet.

“No boyfriend, huh? Maybe you’re better at tactics than I thought.”

“Not following.”

“You knew I have a soft spot for redheads and, being single and sensing that I myself am also single, mutilated my foot on purpose.”

I blushed and gathered my hair into a ponytail to keep his soft spot in check. This ROTC boy might have a soft spot for redheads, but I had no desire to acquire another boyfriend after the disaster that had been my last relationship. Unexpected pain slammed my stomach like his fists used to. I shook my head. Why wasn’t I over this?

“Don’t flatter yourself. There were no tactics employed, I can assure you.”

“So I shouldn’t ask you out right now?”

He scratched his chin and looked at me through those sky blue orbs long enough to shake my convictions. All men weren’t sleazeballs; I knew that on some level. Besides, this was college, the time for reinventing yourself and trying new things. Why not step out of my comfort zone and give this nice, handsome, older man a chance? There was the odd chance that I he wouldn’t make me cry every night. He might be a gentleman. He might.

One of his friends, also in uniform, saw him talking to me, sauntered over to us, and clapped him on the shoulder. “Atta boy, Derek! Make me proud.”

Well. That was why he would not be receiving the benefit of the doubt. He, being a man, handsome or no, was only after one thing. There were no gentlemen left in the world.

“Cool your jets, soldier. Gotta try harder than that. I’ll see you around.”

With that, I walked back to Anne.

Copyright Rosemary Lauryn. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Wounded Soldier

  • G

    Biddie, this is very well done. Much much better than the last time I read it. And realistic too. I’m proud of you babykins. Anne seems like a cool character 😉

    • Aspiring Novelist

      Why thank you, Babykins! Yeah, when I reread the other chapter I nearly barfed and felt horrid for giving it to anyone (aka you and Ralph) to read. This is a serious imporovement. Thank you townhouses and Glee parties!!

  • highheelsandslippers

    Hi -I really enjoyed this! Loved the way you set the scene – the pacing was great too. Candace has a clear voice which kept me hooked. I also like the relationship between Candace and Anne. Derek Kennedy seems total dish (!) and loved the way he saved her from yukky guy in the car. A true hero – but am wondering if too good to be true…or what happens to them along the way to “Become Mrs Kennedy”
    Are you going to publish more chapters on the blog? 🙂 Ella

    • Aspiring Novelist

      Thank you very much, Ella! Coming from a fictional character about my own fictional character that means a lot 🙂
      I am debating whether or not I will be posting mor chapters. Maybe one or two more, just to keep my beta readers happy 🙂 What is more likely going to happen is the book will be on fictionpress eventually … but I’m still unsur about that too, so we’ll see. I’ll probably put up an excerpt from a different novel soon as well, just as soon as I find time!

  • Alpha Reader

    Bravississississississima!!!!

    What a glorious piece of writing; you’ve stolen my heart, Mrs. Kennedy.

    With utmost love, respect, and admiration,

    Your Alpha Reader

  • Hema P.

    Hello, Miss. Rosemary! (A positive step in the right direction, this putting your real name to the blog!)

    As for your novel, I really liked the setting! I like the chemistry that is slowly developing between the two protagonists, and can’t wait to see how it leads to her becoming Mrs. Kennedy (gotta be some twists in there — it can’t be too straightforward, can it?) :-). You may want to add your novel’s name to the copyright message in the blog, btw…

    There’s an award for you at my blog — in one of my posts from last week, titled: “And the Award Goes to…”.

    • Miss Rosemary

      Hema, I am flattered. I really only started this blog for my own personal use (and a friend or two here and there of course) and the fact that someone I have come to respect as much as you thinks highly of me is a fantastic feeling. Thank you for making my day!

  • Hema P.

    That is such a sweet thing to say, Rosemary (I have to get used to thinking of you as Rosemary as opposed to Aspiring Novelist :-))! Thank you! And you’re very welcome, and you do deserve the award. Whenever I visit blogs such as yours, Lua’s and June’s, I wish I had started down this path of writing a little sooner. But then, better late than never, right? 🙂

    • Miss Rosemary

      Absolutely! The goodthing about writing is it fits into any stage of life. People will always want to read and express themselves. And you can stillthink of me as Asprin Novelist. After all, I still am an aspiring novelist 🙂

  • Ollin Morales

    So finally. It has arrived. 🙂 I enjoyed it. I really did. You have a knack for the romantic, a la The Notebook.

    You did a great job of establishing Kennedy. He’s solid in my mind, and you did so without too much fluff, just the right amount of description, which as you know is hard to do. So congrats! 🙂

    I’m going to give you my constructive criticism as a reader. It’s all going a little too fast for me, which is actually a good sign. It means I want it to go slower so I get more into the characters, the setting, the world you created. Give me time to get to know the main character, what she’s like, why do I want to root for her to get with Kennedy? What’s this school like? I need more than the location, I want the mood, the weather, what the professors are like. I want to be walking down the halls with the main character.

    The almost rape scene was well done, didn’t see it coming! That’s a hard thing to pull off as well. I don’t want them to get together in the first chapter. There I said it. Also, I need some other thing to distract me from this relationship. I’m not sure what that thing is, but it needs to be what the main character is striving for. Maybe it’s just my personal belief, but I’d rather kennedy not be her alpha and omega, if you know what I mean.

    Transitions were wonderful (also a hard thing to pull of movement through time) and just everything having to do with setting the romantic mood was excellent, especially the last scene. Great job! Congrats on sticking with it, keep it up, and hope my notes help! Good luck with work! 🙂

    • Miss Rosemary

      Ollin, you’re one of my favorite people for constructive criticism … and you hit on most of the points that I was uncertain about myself. I do tend to make things go far too quickly, so your slowing down suggestions will be taken to heart.
      An explanation (excuse? lol) for the lack of school setting is because they are never there again. I didn’t want to go into too much detail for the first chapter and then have the rest of the novel never mention it, but you are right, I think I need more setting at least as far as the first scene goes.
      As far as your distraction, maybe I should add more about her strained relationship with her father …? I get itnto more in other chapters, but do you think it would work here in the beginning, or would that be too much going on?

  • krisceratops

    Constructive Criticism:

    I love the story you’ve set up for us here, it’s delicious and fast-paced, with lots of action right off the bat. Derek sounds like a total dreamboat, and the foiliness of Candace and Anne is very entertaining. It is precisely because of my love and admiration that I will offer you the following pieces of constructive criticism. Feel free to follow up on or ignore as much as you like :).

    The first four paragraphs (and the title, actually) already tell us that Candace and Derek end up together. So, the first chapter really should set things up in such a way that their getting together looks like an impossible feat. There should be obstacles left right and centre, and some very significant and obvious problems raised right off the bat. With the reader already knowing how things turn out, the first chapter should throw them such a curve ball that they simply must keep reading to find out how the heck they are going to pull this off. To sum up: I think there needs to be a LOT more conflict! Right now, with the structure of the first chapter closing almost all loose ends and having them ending up together this soon, the reader could almost just put the book down right here… It looks like a clear path to the finish from here.

    Right off the bat, I don’t see enough flaws in the characters. Derek and Candace both seem too good to be true. They are young, good looking, and mutually attracted to one another. So, what’s the problem? It is mentioned TWICE in the very first chapter that Candace is 110 pounds. Unless she has an eating disorder (which, by the way, could actually be a great flaw), I don’t really see why it needs to be mentioned other than to reinforce her attractiveness. As a reader who weighs… uh, more than 110 pounds, I don’t like being reminded that this is a situation that is not going to happen to me. Particularly in a romance, women need to be able to project themselves onto the character.

    Likewise with Derek… Candace’s aversion to men in uniform seems a little artificial–I just don’t buy it. She knew one guy who was a jerk… so what? The hints at the issues she has with her dad are great–hugely informative but still vague enough to keep us wanting more. This isn’t necessarily a suggestion, but if her dad were the military jerk that gave her the aversions she has, I think it would be a much more palpable and longer-lasting obstacle standing in the way of her relationship with Derek. Or, just leave the aversion as an intrigant: she’s sworn off men in uniform, but don’t tell us the reason why–merely that is a line she promised herself she would never ever cross under any circumstances! Suddenly I have to keep reading!

    I totally agree with Ollin about Candace having a distraction–an alternate goal that has nothing to do with her man. As much as I know we both admire Stephenie Meyer for certain things she has done (getting excessively wealthy and famous, for one), I think you want to be wary of an Edwardesque admiration complex that appears to be brewing.

    As a final note, I think the whole first scene is almost unnecessary. While the banter between Candace and Anne is great, it seems in places that the conversation is happening for the benefit of the reader rather than resembling an actual conversation. I love the line about the school being an FU to her dad. I think you could almost leave it at that, instead of elaborating so much on the school rivalries. That one short line says a lot.

    All in all, I think you have a great start here! I really hope you’ll let us read more! I’m sorry if my critique is too blunt, let me know if I cut too deep ;). It is a labour of love, I promise!

    • Miss Rosemary

      Not at all! This is what I need. And I’m so glad I didn’t post the OTHER first chapter which had much more Edward-like moments (not gonna lie though, I do love Edward!). I cut it for specifically that reason.
      I like the idea about her dad being a military man … but it doesn’t go with the rest of the story. I may make it the crazy uncle or soemthing though, for the reinforcement you mentioned.
      Thanks for pointing out the weight thing, didn’t realize I put it there twice. One has to go.
      Title – I’ve been trying to change it for years but simply CANNOT come up with a good one! I hate how it is obvious,and that was precicely why I chose it in the first place, to get rid of the WIP blaring at the top of my page and pretend like it would actually go somewhere. Any ideas?
      Conflict – gets very intense in the second chapter when we meet Derek’s mother. But as far as this chapter goes, I can’t (at the moment at least) think of any other real good scenarios to insert without seeming to outrageous and soap opera-y. Working on it though, and as I said before, any ideas you might have feel free to spit them out 🙂 I love critiquing!!

      • krisceratops

        Hmm… well in that case why not set it up in the opposite way? Instead of giving us a don’t-worry-everything-works-out title and intro, use the title and intro to show that shit is going doooownnn later on! Then when we read the sunshiney first chapter, we will be wagging our fingers at Candace and saying “oh you poor girl, don’t know what’s coming to you!” I’m thinking of the intro in Twilight (I hate that I keep using this reference haha)–the lovey-dovey bits coming up to the climax work great because the reader knows it is going to be short-lived. I don’t think I know enough about the rest of the story to suggest any titles… I guess you’ll just have to let us read the whole thing!! 😉

        And I realized that the father thing would be a big change–it was just an example of an obstacle that seems to be completely insurmountable for her, something that Derek needs to be HELLA good at charming his way around. We want to see him work for it! Even if she had a close relative (uncle?) die in a war maybe (in some ridiculous way, friendly fire or something completely unnecessary?) and had to watch his wife and siblings grieve over him for years… so Candace swears to never get close to one. Just something a little sturdier than one guy being a jerk. Even if it’s two guys being jerks… hee.

      • Miss Rosemary

        I like the rest of the uncle idea and the menacing title. See this is what friends are for! Thanks girl 🙂
        And don’t worry about the Twlight references. I will be the first to admit that I love it, camped out for Breaking Dawn, saw all the movies at midnight and just bought the dumb little novellla she put out this weekend. It’s fine. We all have our giulty pleasures. And you’re right, no matter how many people profess to be haters, whatever she did OBVIOUSLY worked!

  • junebugger

    Great excerpt!

    I have to agree with some of the points Ollin and Kriscertops brought up. The pacing is way too fast. For each of those scenes divided by the ***** you could have made it into a chapter itself–with some elaborating to allow us readers to get a better sense of the character. The opening scene in particular needs to be slowed down a bit. From their conversation it seemed as if they were friends from before. I didn’t get the feeling that they had just met. Maybe if you added him checking her out, mayhap…his eyes travelling down her figure? There needs to be some kind of undercurrent of sexual tension in order to pull off the attraction-at-first-sight thing. Anyway, their interaction should be longer, allow us to relish in this scene–because I liked it a lot!…and felt it was cut off too soon.

    Also, about the heroine’s dislike for men in uniform. Why is that? I think you can go so much deeper with this. Give us a glimpse as to the reason behind it. Some past of hers that has left her scarred. Pain is one of the major factors that allows readers to feel more engaged in a character–imo.

    Anyway, I’m really just repeating what the others said. I think you already know what needs to be done 😉 I did enjoy this chapter, nevertheless. It’s just that as I was getting more interested each time, the scene ended, leaving me unsatisfied with my longing for *more*

    Keep us updated about this story!

    • Miss Rosemary

      Thank you June! I think I will take your suggestion about breaking up the *** bits and making them their own chapters. I think even the physical separation would help slow it down. Also, the chapters I am adding should pump the brakes a bit too (I hope). I think I’ll also make the opening conversation more awkward.

      As far as the aversion thing, I can’t think of any good REALLY good juicy reason for her to distrust him at first. I may just take out the men-in-uniform bit. My reasoning is I want her to be slwoer getting to know him but it’s not that important to the story as a whole. I think it would be frivilous to elaborate a great deal on something that won’t really come into play later.

      When I get home today, I’ll turn my attention to the first scene 🙂 Thank you for your lovely comments and help. (BTW if YOU can think of a really good reason why she doesn’t like men in uniform feel free to voice your ideas.)

      • junebugger

        So glad you took my suggestions so well!

        Okay, so what I thought up might be cliched/mediocre, but it’s what first popped into my mind. I read so many articles about soldierts who go off to war in the middle east somewhere and never return home to their family. I always wondered how their family would take it, how it would change their lives. Likewise, with your heroine, maybe she is the daughter of a father who was a soldier, and died serving his country. She is bitter against him, because maybe her whole life turned for the worst after his death. She might be bitter and unforgiving, feeling that he had somewhat abandoned them, how his family should have been first before his country. Something along those lines. So when she sees Kennedy she is immediately turned off. A man in uniforms carries with him a future of pain…

        ….You can completely ignore my suggestion. Haha. It might complicate your story too much. But hopefully it’ll give you some ideas.

      • Miss Rosemary

        It’s a wonderful idea … but it takes the story in a completely different direction. Lol. I’ll think of something, but thank you for working your noodle for me 🙂

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