Well, Courage’s story is a long, long way from being finished and it’s waaay too early to start posting unedited snippets….but here’s a sample of where I’m going with this story. (The heroine has just come home to what should be an empty house and has discovered that someone is in the shower.)
“You have a gun?” he asked, not like he was afraid but more like he was interested.
“Yes, I have a gun,” I answered loud and clear.
“Like Annie Oakley?” he asked.
I got the feeling he wasn’t taking all of this very seriously. “Just like Annie Oakley,” I told him. “Except my gun’s bigger. With a full load of shot.”
“Okay,” he called. “I’ll come out as soon as I’m dry. Just…don’t be alarmed when you see me.”
I lifted the barrel another notch. “Don’t you come outta there with no clothes on,” I warned him, my voice squeaking a little more than I wanted it to.
A soft rumble of laughter echoed in the bathroom. “Don’t worry. I have some clothes in here with me. That’s not the problem.”
I jerked my chin upward. “Then what’s the problem?”
“My face,” he answered quietly…and a little ominously. “I-I don’t want you to be shocked.”
So I didn’t know what to make of that but I took him at his word and braced myself for whatever shocking thing I might see next. But despite the warning, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when he opened the door.
Have you ever seen Phantom of the Opera? The one with Gerard Butler? Because the boy who opened the bathroom door looked pretty much like that…except a lot younger. And a little more modernly dressed. He was wearing a pair of my brother’s faded blue jeans and his sneakers from freshman year…along with a remarkably fashionable black leather vest.
But the right side of his face was an ugly mass of melted skin. No eyelashes. No eyebrow. And his eye didn’t close properly, which gave him a crazed look. The hair on the side of his head was gone too, just a little blond stubble lifting from his scalp above his deformed ear. The rest of his hair had been hacked off short to match the length of the sad stubble.
But if you could look past all that and focus on the other side of his face, you could tell that he had once been a nice looking boy. A nice looking boy with ice blue eyes and dirty blond hair. And a leanly sculpted jaw. And a mouth that looked like it was used to smiling. Only, it was hard not to fixate on the mutilated side of his face. It was just so…hideous.
“I did warn you,” he said a little defiantly.
“I’ve…seen worse,” I managed to choke out, which was a total lie. I’d never seen anything that bad before. Not even in movies. Not even in horror films.
“Really?” he challenged me, tilting his head slightly. “Do you work at a morgue?”
“No,” I answered, sucking my lips between my teeth and locking my self-conscious gaze on the blue tattoo inked onto the side of his neck. It looked a little bit like a wing. Or maybe a tattered flag whipped by the wind. “But once a month I volunteer down at the hospital.”
“Then you need to work on your poker face,” he suggested.
I thought I caught a trace of a smile on his lips but I couldn’t tell for sure because of the way his mouth stretched downward on one side. “Poker face?” I questioned him.
He pointed a long, thick-knuckled finger at my face. “Judging by your expression, I guess I look pretty bad.”
“You look terrible,” I agreed awkwardly. What could I say? I wouldn’t have brought the subject up if I’d had the choice. I know how to be tactful when I need to. He was the one who was insisting on talking about it.
The boy’s gaze drifted from my face to the barrel of the shotgun. “Well, if you use that gun on me, it probably won’t improve my looks,” he said with a snort of sarcasm.