Friday, November 13, 2009

Novel Excerpt: Carlotta's Flashback

My Dear Reader,

The following is a snippet of what I've been working on for NaNoWriMo. (I'm writing a Star Trek-thing, in case you forgot. This story takes place in that universe.) It's a flashback that takes place about seven months before the main story. The main character's name is Carlotta Esposito, whose family runs an Italian restaurant called The Stradivarius, which has been in San Francisco since the 1950s. In this excerpt, her brother, Mike, has just left her in charge of the restaurant (against the rules) so he can get an engagement ring for Eva, his girlfriend who is with Carlotta in the restaurant. Earth is at war with the Breen, and she was carrying bags of flour into the kitchen when an announcement of an impending Breen attack threw her to the floor. Later, the story shifts to the point of view of Peter, Carlotta's friend who comes to rescue her. Feel free to ignore any Trek references you don't get. And please, please tell me if it just sounds silly.

Carlotta's Flashback
By Cecily Jane

Carlotta stayed on the ground after she fell, after the announcement had told her that there was an attack on Earth. The voice had said that the Breen were coming for Starfleet Headquarters, and if that was true, the entire restaurant could be flattened along with it. Where was Mike, now that she needed him most? How could he leave her in charge when the world was coming to an end? Crippled with fear and covered in the flour she had been carrying, Carlotta thanked God that her brothers and sisters were out of the city and pleaded with Him for the strength to do what only she could. Then, she forced herself to jump up and take command.

“Everybody, quiet!” Living in a large family had required Carlotta to learn how to be loud. The patrons and employees turned to look at her, a small teenaged girl standing on top of a counter, shouting orders at them.

“There is an emergency shelter underground, if everyone will follow me . . .” the crowd, scared for their lives and hungry for relief, started running at the back of the restaurant in chaos. Carlotta took a deep breath. “I'm the only one who can open it!” she boomed, her voice ringing against the pots and pans and stopping the stampede in its tracks. She got down and she led them to the shelter, giving each person she met as threatening a glance as she could muster. It was a look that had been forged by countless hours of babysitting, a face that told people to behave or else. She tried to hide her surprise when it worked on adults as well as it had on children.

She led them all to the door of the vault, quickly and with order, and put in the code to open the doors and let the others in. She would be the last. It was something she had always imagined doing but never thought would actually happen—opening the door to the bomb shelter her great-great Espositos had built back when the Earth was split into nation-states and every day was filled with fear. They had built it with their bare hands, and through the centuries, other Espositos had kept it stocked with food and supplies, just in case. This would be the first time since the Bell Riots that it would be used.

The crowd, about fifty in all, took no time getting inside. As they started pouring in, she remembered the protocol her father had taught her in a family meeting, when she was bored and complained about the uselessness of learning such procedures. With the door closed and everyone inside, she was now to check the restaurant and make sure that no one was left behind. As the only Esposito in The Stradivarius, it was her duty to make sure everyone was safe. The kitchen was empty, but when she went out to the front entrance, she found Eva sitting at a table, staring hopelessly out of the large windows.

“Eva, come on! We have to go now!” Carlotta grabbed her hand and pulled her up, noticing the tears that were in Eva's eyes.

“Mike, he's out there.” Eva's desperate words made Carlotta pause. He was out there. How far could he have gotten? Was he in a safe place? What would Mike do if he was in her position? She didn't have much time to think.

I know, Eva. But he'll come back. He knows the code to the door, he can get in even if we close it up behind us. We'll all be safe there, and there's enough food for us to survive on for years. We'll wait for him, and when he comes, we'll wait out the attack.” Carlotta took hold of Eva's hand a second time and pulled her away from the windows. Eva struggled to stay where she was.

No, Carly, we can't leave him behind. I won't!” Photon torpedoes might explode on them at any moment, and there they were, playing a desperate tug of war. Carlotta looked at the woman who was soon going to be her sister and already was in spirit, the woman who knew her well enough to have to privilege to call her by her favorite name. Carlotta had learned to love her like her own sisters after Eva and Mike started dating seriously—he had seen to that. She had to save Eva now; Mike would want her to. She would force Eva in the door, and go looking for Mike herself. She just had to get her in there.

It must have looked strange to a passerby—both women were thin, but Carlotta was small, and Eva was almost a foot taller. If it weren't for the hours she spent training for soccer, Carlotta probably wouldn't have had a chance, but as it was, she was making progress. Eva was wearing heels, and she was too frantic to focus on her freedom from Carlotta's grasp, but she had managed to dig her heel into a groove in the floor, and Carlotta was pulling on Eva's sweaty, slippery hand harder than she had ever pulled anything before.

They were almost to the hallway when the first volley of attacks came, shaking the earth harder than an earthquake and breaking the beams that supported the ceiling. Three seconds later, and Carlotta would have had the two of them safe in the hallway. Thirty seconds later, they would be safe inside the shelter. But when the first strike came, the crumbling beams started to collapse, one of them less than a meter from the two women. Out of the corner of her eye, Carlotta saw the beam coming at her, like a tumbling column from the Parthenon, and she put all of her strength into one last tug.

It wasn't enough. The momentum that Carlotta achieved in her last push to safety had gotten her out of the way, but the beam had crushed into Eva head on. Carlotta was thrown to the floor and hit her head, but she got right back up again, and turned to face the sight that would haunt her the rest of her life.

Eva was lying underneath a beam so heavy that countless bones had been crushed. Was this what Martirio Esposito had looked like after the car crash? Carlotta had never seen so much blood, didn't know there could be so much, and she felt her self shut down at the sight of it all. Eva's broken body, her legs and arms in an unnatural position, the life spilling from her . . . Carlotta heard a thump! in her brain, and she felt her knees become numb and buckle, taking her to the floor. Her strength was draining out of her faster than Eva's blood, and soon, she would be in oblivion. She was slumped on the ground, her eyes only centimeters away from Eva's, which looked at her as her lips formed the smile of the dead.

You have to find him, Carly. You have to bring him back,” Eva said with her last breath, her hand stroking Carlotta's soft hair before the darkness overcame the young Esposito.

Eva's dead body was the first thing Carlotta saw when she came to, and she screamed so hard she thought her throat was bleeding, but was filled so deeply with horror that she couldn't stop. Peter was there, burying her in his chest, stroking her hair as Eva had, when Carlotta heard her final words. Peter shielded her eyes and dusted off the debris, hoping the relief he felt at seeing her alive would be enough to soothe her fear.

She had looked dead when they got there, lying in a pool of blood next to Eva. Both women were still and pale, and Peter couldn't help weeping uncontrollably when he saw them. His father had run with him all the way, though the streets where shrapnel was flying from every direction. By the time they got the The Stradivarius, the attack was over, and the city was quiet and cold. It took the two of them to force the doors open, and to create a path through the destruction to where Carlotta and Eva were. Now, he was cradling his friend in his lap, and wailing like he never thought he could. Howling like an animal. His dad was standing over him, eyes full of sympathy, and he leaned down to close the eyes of the deceased Eva and comfort his son with a warm squeeze. Peter saw him, distorted by tears, as he gently picked up Carlotta's arm and started to examine her.

Peter wait, a pulse! She has a pulse!” He looked at his dad in disbelief, and feeling for himself that it was true, felt himself fill up with joy that dispelled the anguish. He wiped the tears away.

What? A pulse? But the blood . . .”

The blood is Eva's. Carlotta must have passed out. I'll try to get us some help.”

The medical team seemed to take forever, but they came. They found Peter still holding Carlotta as if she were a child, singing her a song she had sung to him whenever he was very sick. He tried to sing it as sweetly as she had, but there was too much emotion going through him for him to keep his voice steady. How many times had she picked him up when he had fallen? How many time had she hugged him when he was sad? Memories of finger paint and finding worms after the rain were filling him when she woke up, when she started wailing with the same force he had at first, except with a violence that only true suffering could bring. He pulled her closer. He'd teased her a thousand times about blood, but he knew that her fear was real. He'd never seen such agony on a face before. He would protect her from that, since he couldn't protect her from the Breen. Since he had already failed her once that day. He wasn't sure how long they had sat there, holding each other while his body muffled her screams, when the medical team pulled her away from him. She reached for his hand, and he didn't let go. He would follow her as long as she needed him.

“Mike! Mike, come back!” Somehow, Carlotta had escaped from the people who were trying to examine her and was tearing out into the street, calling for her brother. It shocked Peter, but he recovered quickly and went after her. She was standing in the street, surrounded by crumbling building and covered in blood, looking as lost as a women starved in the desert. Once again, Peter pulled her in and wrapped his arms around her, and for the second time he could remember, she was soaking his chest with hot tears.

“I saw, him. I saw Mike,” she said.

“Where?” Peter looked all around, but saw no one. “Are you sure you saw him?”

“He hates me for what I've done. I killed her. I killed my sister!” She had lost all her control, all of her strength, and Peter didn't know what else to do but stand there are give what strength he could to the sobbing girl who was, in all intents and purposes, his sister.

Regards, best wishes, and 15,201 words,

-Cecily Jane

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