NaNoWriMo: The Runaway Queen, Day 1

This November I’ve decided to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time in 6 years. The last time I did it, I worked on a previous version of this story (there have been many over the past almost 20 years). I’ll be posting everything I write in full here, going back to the roots of this blog as it was started in 2010 as a place for me to store my writings after losing my first NaNo novel in 2007 when my computer crashed. In Denmark. Three weeks before I would be going home. So, please, enjoy!

The wind played with her, plucked at her, begged her to come with it. All her life, it had done this. The more forceful the wind, the more demanding it was. Sometimes she had been tempted to relent and go where it willed. But that was silly. It couldn’t take her anywhere. It was wind.

Sometimes the breezes carried whispered words too indistinct to understand. Sometimes they carried a melody. Sometimes they carried stories. As a child, she had listened intently, enthralled by stories of a far off, imaginary world called Sairon, where a wizard and his wife ruled and kept a power hungry queen from his land. As she had aged into adulthood, she recognized the stories were more likely springing from an overactive imagination and they had almost completely stopped.

But on days like this, when the wind seemed to plead, she wished Sairon were real. What would it be like to be swept off into another world, one full of magic and queens?

Almost wistful, Cassidy Matthews tightened her arms across her chest and tucked her head down, thankful she’d braided her too long and a tad too wavy ginger hair. She picked up her pace, weaving around fellow students as she fought them and the wind to return to the apartment she shared with a childhood friend  after a long day of classes.

Grumbling as someone in a hurry knocked into her, she wondered if her twin sister was having any better luck navigating the streets of New York City. Cass had wanted to go to New York with Allison, but their parents had said no. She had wanted to go to Washington D.C. with their childhood friend Arnold Witherwork, but her parents had said no. She had wanted to stay in California, attending the likes of Stanford or UCLA, but her parents had said no.

But to Harvard they had said yes.

Why was beyond her. But it was March of her senior year and she was stuck on going wherever she wanted after graduation. Wherever that was.

She didn’t worry too much about it. After all, her roommate was intent on sticking by her side, so she would never be alone.

Now fully wistful, her steps slowed as she thought of Jonathan Verglos. She and Allison had known him all their lives because their mothers were best friends. He had always been glued to her side and, as children, Allison would tease her and say he had a crush on her. But, when adolescence had hit, it was Allison who pounced on him, though their relationship had been short-lived and mostly all in her head. Perhaps he did have a crush on Cass, but Cass was afraid of ruining their friendship.

Sighing, she turned a corner. Her apartment building loomed just two blocks down and she couldn’t wait to get out of the wind.

“…almost time, Talone. We’ll see her…”

” …the Star Queen? Her magic… ”

“It doesn’t matter! She must be ready!”

She was used to the whispered bits the wind blew in her ears, the frequency ebbing and flowing over the years, but that last piece, practically shouted in her head, had her stopping in her tracks and gasping.

What could that have been about? It wasn’t the first time she’d heard of this Star Queen, but it was the first she’d heard the male voice sound so forceful. She almost felt sorry for the Star Queen, even though the woman couldn’t possibly exist.

A sudden powerful gust had her crying out and holding herself tighter, and glad her backpack was weighted down with textbooks so she couldn’t blow away. Grumbling darkly about the wind, she started walking again, this time hurrying down the two blocks.

With a sigh of relief, she pulled open the door and hurtled herself up the stairs to her second floor home. Well, hurtled herself as much as she could considering she carried what felt like fifty pounds on her back.

Jonathan must have beaten her home because the door to their apartment flew open as her heavy steps and labored breathing echoed down the hall. Sure enough, a head of unruly dark hair poked out and stormy gray eyes darted up and down the hall before  they rested on her.

She could see his eyebrow quirking as he stepped out into the hall to meet her.

“Is someone after you?” he asked, the sonorous timbre of his voice cascading down her spine like a bubbling brook heading downhill.

Cass came to a slow halt in front of him and looked at him crossly before sliding her backpack off and slinging it at him. Well, she imagined slinging it at him. In actuality, it was more of a grunting heave. She was satisfied when Jonathan grunted and staggered when he caught it.

Smiling sweetly up at her tall friend, she sauntered past him and entered their blissfully wind-free apartment, noting with satisfaction that he had at least started dinner. Even if that meant yet another evening swallowing overcooked spaghetti. Brilliant biology major who would make an excellent doctor one day, cook he definitely was not. Even though she was better in the kitchen, after the day she’d had, she wouldn’t say no to an evening off from cooking.

With a sigh, she collapsed onto the beige couch while Jonathan dropped her bag on the hardwood floor.

“Careful,” she sang out as she kicked her shoes off and under the coffee table alongside his. “Don’t leave a dent.”

“Then don’t carry a library on your back,” came his retort from the kitchen. “Seriously, Cass, what do you carry in there?”

“Says the guy who lugs around heavy biology and chemistry books every day!”

“Do psych majors really carry around that much?”

“Yes! Same as any other student!”

Before Jonathan could tease her anymore, the phone rang and Cass jumped on it, calling out to him to check the spaghetti. If she could avoid another night of mushy pasta, she would do whatever it took. Short of hopping up and into the kitchen, of course. That wind had really zapped her energy.

“Hello?” she said, wincing as she heard Jonathan drop something in the kitchen.

“Is it as windy over there as it is here?” a voice not unlike Cass’s demanded.

Cass’s eyebrows rose. “I don’t know, Allison. How windy is it over there?”

“The freaking Empire State Building is about to be blown over!”

Cass sighed. Help Jonathan in the kitchen or deal with her drama queen sister? The sound of a pot or two clanging had her gripping the phone. Only Jonathan could make cooking spaghetti sound like he was in the middle of a war zone.

“Don’t be so dramatic, Allison. It can’t be that windy.”

“Okay, maybe not, but it sure felt like it wanted to carry me away.”

Cass perked up. Allison had always denied the wind seemed to speak to and play with her the same way it did to Cass. Maybe she was finally experiencing what Cass always had.

“Really?” Cass asked, perhaps with a little too much enthusiasm and interest.

“Oh, don’t be silly, Cass. I just meant it was strong enough to knock me off my feet.”

Cass stifled a sigh and settled back on the couch. She could practically hear her sister’s eye roll. “Why, exactly, are you calling?”

“Mom called. She wants us to go home for Spring break. She said she tried to call you, but only got your voicemail.”

“I must have been in class. Okay, thanks, Allison. We’ll be home. Did she say why?”

“No. I was too busy to ask.” Allison paused. “Bye, Cass. Don’t get blown away.”

Allison hung up before Cass could respond. Not that she thought she could.

All their lives, Allison had thought she was nuts whenever she talked about the wind. She would tell Cass not to get blown away and roll her eyes, like it was nothing more than a joke. But, this time, Allison had sounded serious, and maybe a little disturbed.

Whatever it was, Cass shrugged and rose to find out what was making so much noise in the kitchen. She would be home soon enough and could ask her sister about it then. Though she did wonder why Alyssum Matthews wanted her daughters home. Usually, she was happy to let them stay in New York or Massachusetts or go wherever they wanted.

“Don’t come in here!” Jonathan shouted as she neared the kitchen.

She stopped in her tracks, debating whether to listen to him. She teetered on her toes, but the thought that she really didn’t want to see what he had done to the kitchen kept her in place. She had seen the aftermath of his cooking more than once over the past couple of years and knew it was downright scary. How he managed to use both pots and the frying pan to make spaghetti was beyond her.

Deciding it was safer to stay in place for the moment, she called out, “Do I want to know why?”

“No!” came his shout, followed quickly by something heavy and metallic dropping.

Cass winced. “Are you sure? I can help.”

“Nope. Dinner’s ready.”

Grinning, Jonathan emerged from the kitchen bearing two bowls filled to the brim with red sauce. Cass eyed him, catching sight of a strand of spaghetti draped over one shoulder and a large swath of red in the middle of his chest and dripping down towards his legs.

“Is there any spaghetti in the bowls?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.

He gave her an affronted look before walking past her to put both bowls on the coffee table.

She threw her hands up and spun on her heel to follow him. “What? I appreciate you cooking, but, seriously, it’s always messy and sometimes you make questionable meals.”

Jonathan settled himself down on the floor with a sigh and patted the space next to him. “I swear, Cass, there is spaghetti in there.”

As she eyed the bowl and sat beside him, she thought she heard him mutter, “Though not much.”

Choosing to ignore him and not hurt his feelings any more, she picked up the fork and scooted the sauce over as much as she could.

“Some wind today, huh?” she said.

“Crazy,” he replied. “I felt sure it was going to blow me away at one point.”

Her hand stilled, but not because she had finally found the spaghetti under the mound of sauce. Now she was wondering if Arnold had felt the same way.

Her fork clattered onto the table as she jumped up and lunged for the phone.

“Hey!” Jonathan cried out as he was lightly sprayed with the sauce. “Cass, what’s the matter?”

“I’ll tell you in a moment,” she said as she furiously dialed Arnold’s number.

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