first royalties check? CHECK.

Y’ALL.

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So CreateSpace (Amazon’s company that published my novel) has a $100 threshold on royalties.  Once you’ve hit that, they send you a check.

After two years and three months… my little baby finally hit that threshold.

And, dang, do I feel accomplished.

Let’s ignore the fact that it took that long, the fact that it’s “only” $100, and the fact that it’s “just” a self-published novel.  Because, dang it, I need something to be proud of.

(I’m finishing college less than a month and I’ll celebrate that, too.)

But here’s my dilemma – I have no idea what to spend it on!

I want to be able to look back – when I’m a famous author giving interviews alongside other famous authors – and be able to proudly say what I spent my very first royalty check on.  But I have no earthly clue what that should be!

Current ideas are: a trip somewhere (hello, Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway), a new laptop charger cord + battery (necessities, plus that’s writing-related, right?), or invest it/put it in savings for later.  The first is exciting but expensive, and the last two are boring but necessary.  😄

HELP A SISTA OUT.

(Also, I finally got on The Book of Faces.  Friend me!)

love week | excerpt from that book i’m writing.

Hello all!  Welcome to the week of Valentine’s Day, which usually finds me and my single friends eating chocolate and watching sappy movies.  (The same can probably be said of you, too, if you’re single – don’t even try to lie to me.)  This week, I’m going to be indulging in all things romantic, because even if I’m not in a relationship, I can at least enjoy the fictional people who are, right?

You guys seem to like that book I’ve been working on.  Have another excerpt.


“You always smell good,” I tell him.

David grins, outshining the sun.  “Why do you think that?”

“I dunno…”  I grin back, twisting my hair around my finger.  “Do you wear much cologne?  When you’re not around me, I mean.”

“Not really.  Special occasions… church… whenever I’m gonna see you.”

“That make it, like, every day,” I say, gently ramming my shoulder into his.

He copies my action.  “I guess so.”

“But you even smell good after a game,” I tell him, a little bewildered.  I look up at him.  “All guys sweat a ton during lacrosse games, so how come you always smell amazing?”

David laughs a little.  He holds his hand out and I tightly intertwine my fingers with his, never wanting to let go.  He swings our hands in front of and behind us, back and forth and back and forth.  Then, he stops abruptly, pointing to a painting in front of us.

“What do you think about this one?” he asks.

I stand still, staring at the painting.  It had been “our thing” to go to art galleries for about three months now – six months into our official relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend – and we both enjoyed stopping in front of random paintings and talking about them for a while, going off on tangents and eventually trying to tie it all back to the painting.

“I don’t know,” I say, staring at the random lines splashed on the canvas.  “Isn’t this kind of art, I dunno, kind of meaningless to you?”

“Not really.  There’s an art to that kind of art.”

 

I shoot him a look as I shove my free hand into my pocket.  “And you would know that because…?”

“Because, believe it or not, I used to take art lessons.”

I look up at him, slightly surprised.  “Really.”

“Really.”  He smiles and squeezes my hand.  “Now tell me something about you that you’ve never told me before.”

I stare at the painting, trying to think.  It feels like I’ve told David everything about me.  He knows me better than anyone in the entire world – even better than I thought I knew myself.  I can’t count the number of times he’s helped me come to a conclusion after I ask him a question, always adding to the end of his suggestion, “But you were already going to do that, weren’t you?”  And it always made so much sense that I didn’t understand why I didn’t think of it before.

Eventually, after studying a certain congregation of yellow splatters for a few moments, I decide to delve into the one area I hadn’t talked to him about very much.  I take a deep breath, then look at a line in the wall beside the painting as I say, “I don’t care about my mom.  I mean, I don’t care that she’s… gone.”

David doesn’t say anything for a minute.  I don’t know how the information struck him.  Maybe in a bad way?  He’s always had a good relationship with his mom and dad.  The idea that someone couldn’t care about the whereabouts of their mom is probably really foreign to him.

For a few moments in the awkward silence that falls, my heart starts to pound as my mind starts coming up with all the reasons why he’s going to hate me now.  There’s a reason I’ve never told him this before, I think, my breathing starting to go haywire.  Now he thinks I’m an awful person for not caring about my mom and he’s going to break up with me and-

Then David smiles at me, squeezes my hand, and looks around, then points towards the other end of the room and says, “Let’s go sit on that bench.  There’s a painting over there that I want to look at.”

Splattered lines on canvas again, I note as we sit down.  We stare at the painting, my heart pounding and our hands still clasped together, his thumb caressing mine.

After a while, he quietly asks, “Why don’t you care that your mom left?”

I stare down at our hands, my heart rate finally starting to relax.  I swallow.  “Well, I just never liked her that much, so it was easy to not care when she left.”

“Why not?  I thought you never really got to know her.”

“She was here for twelve years,” I say, finally making eye contact.  “She was there for me ’til I turned twelve.  And then she was just gone.  Left my dad for another man.  I had no idea.  Either I was a totally oblivious twelve-year-old, or she hid it really well.  Dad and I have never been the same.  My dad drowns himself in work and women and I drown myself in school.”  I smile a little.  “And you.”

David doesn’t smile back.  He just looks confused, and more than a little pained.  Again, I understand why.  “But… didn’t you love her for those twelve years she gave you?  I mean, it doesn’t excuse what she did, but…”

I shrug and turn my gaze towards the painting again.  “‘At least she was there for twelve years.’  That’s what I told myself.”  Furrowing my brow, I stare at a cluster of red dots on the painting, remembering those days of self-blame and self-hatred.  “For a while.  Then, I got to thinking about how much she really wasn’t there, even when she was living with us.  She was detached and disinterested.  And, after a while, I realized that she must’ve been lying to me the entire time.”

It hurts to tell him this much, but I feel like I can.  Even though I’m here in the middle of one of Atlanta’s most popular art galleries, I feel like we’re more alone than if we were in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

I exhale slowly.  “She must’ve been lying to me, right?  All those things she said about how much she loved me… they weren’t true, were they?  Because if she really loved me, she wouldn’t have left.  She wouldn’t have left my dad and she wouldn’t have left me.  And I was really sad about it for a long time and blamed myself so much.”  I swallow and frown, avoiding David’s probing, sympathetic gaze.  “But then when I remembered all of the lies she told me, I didn’t feel anything but hate for her.”  My chin quivers a little and I rub my nose with my free hand.  “I don’t want her back.  At all.  Not if she’s going to lie to me like that again.  I’m better off without her.”

Sighing, I let out a short laugh.  “I’ve never told anybody any of this – not even my dad – so don’t go blabbering off to your parents or Kyle or any of your other friends or anyone, okay, or I’ll dump you.”  I sniff and swipe at my cheek, turning my head a little so David can’t see the tears welling in my eyes.  “And that’ll be the end of that.”

A silent moment goes by.  I bite my lower lip and try not to cry as I think about what David must think of me now.

What does he think now that he knows how I really feel about my mom?  There must be verses in the Bible that talk about loving your parents even when they mistreat you…

But I really don’t care that much.  My mom took me to church when I was little.  Some good it did her.

I’m about to just ask David what he thinks when I feel him reach across my back, lightly grab my shoulder, and pull me towards him.

“I’ll never leave you,” he quietly tells me.

I look up at him and he smiles down at me.

excerpt | the art of letting go.

You guys are amazing and so sweet and I love you all dearly and because I love you, I’m going to give you an excerpt of The Art – the opening scenes.  *Jeremy Jordan voice* But first a story…

I worked on my novel for three or four hours at Starbucks last Friday and – y’all.  Y’allllll.  It was actually so much better than I remembered it.  The little things I loved about it, the general idea of it in my head – all of it was still there.  Obviously, there was a little to work on.  Wording that I rolled my eyes over, phrases that just needed to be cut because my readers aren’t stupid (and I hate it when authors write down to their readers and don’t want to become one), etc etc.  I got through the first two chapters, reworking the beginning to include a scene I wrote for a course last semester.  And it turned out pretty dang good!  I’m really excited about continuing to work on it over this semester – and not nearly as nervous.

So, I was going to write an update post on Sunday (because I was busy watching La La Land, meeting Veronica Roth and getting her to sign her newest book, Carve the Mark, for me, then talking to the owner of a bookstore about working there – as you do on a Saturday).  But then I got my first grade back from one of the last college courses I’m doing (the TESU Capstone, which is kind of a big deal)… and it was pretty bad.  Not only that, the professor said he was “personally disappointed” in me.  To say the least, I was pretty low for a few days.  That night, I ate ice cream and watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which was amazing), then, the next day, got back to my school again.  I had to focus really hard on the next paper – a ten-page literature review *rolls eyes* – but I got it done and the immediate pressure is over so I’m back to write this super late update.  (Also, a friend of mine read The Art and loved it, so that makes me feel a whole lot better.  {pleasedon’thatemeforgivingittoher.})

AAAAAAANYWAY.  It’s been a rough week but it’s almost over, and in celebration of that (and, again, as thanks for being such amazing followers), here are the opening scenes from The Art of Letting Go.  Enjoy.  🙂


The Art of Letting Go | Chapter One – April 12th, 2012.

My eyes flutter open at six-thirty, and I lie there, watching the sunrise slowly light up my room, waiting. Five minutes later, right on cue, my phone buzzes. I smile, roll over slowly, and pick up my phone.

‘Morning, Peach! <3’

My smile widens a little and I yawn before replying, ‘Good morning! Get your workout in?’

The reply comes seconds later. ‘Yep. So ready for Friday!’

‘You’ll crush them, babe.’

‘No duh! Now go get ready!!!’

I drop my phone on the bed beside me, sit up, and stretch. Good morning, world! I toss the decorative pillows back on my partially-made bed and head downstairs, cautiously looking around for Dad. He’s not around – probably already at work – so I check my social media while my single cup of coffee brews. When it’s done, I bring it upstairs and start on my makeup, thinking about my outfit and the day ahead as I brush and blend.

I put my earbuds in, even though I’m the only one in the house – what can I say; it’s a habit – and start up an episode of Thyme Traveler on my phone. I’ve already seen all of the available seasons, so I’m rewatching the whole thing before the next season starts in the fall. I make sure to pick a more lighthearted episode. The last time I did this while putting on my makeup, I watched a season finale and cried. Mascara went everywhere. What a mess, I remember, grinning.

Twenty minutes later, I glance at the clock beside my bed and stop the episode before I get sucked in any more. I finish up and quickly pull on my favorite pair of jeans, then switch them out for shorts, remembering how warm it’ll probably be. Yanking a tank top over my head, I slip into some sandals and pull my messenger bag over my shoulder. I barely have time to transfer my coffee to a to-go cup before running out the door.

I drive to school with the radio up and the window down so the wind can blow in my hair. I’ve done this nearly every day of my junior year and I know it’s made a vast improvement on my perspective on the day. With a little over a year of school left, I can’t imagine not doing this every day. How hard is it to just leave the building you’ve spent most of your waking hours in for the last four years? More than that, to leave and head off into the unknown? True, I’ll spend the next four years after that in another series of buildings… but it seems so different. So much more adult.

My grip on the steering wheel tightens, but I force myself to take deep breaths to try to relax.

I stop at a red light and close my eyes. I’ve got David. We’re going to college together. Everything’s going to be okay. It’s not that big of a deal. Time to grow up.

I open my eyes and mouth this over and over again as I drive the remaining mile. It’s become my mantra over the past few weeks. David helped me with it. Every time I feel the anxiety start to rise, I just repeat it a few times. It usually helps. As David’s graduation date approaches – and mine still remains a year away – it’s getting a little harder. But David is always there to calm me down.

He really is the best boyfriend a girl could ask for, I muse, finally starting to calm down as I pull into the parking lot. I make a mental note to buy him something special on our date tonight.

I enter the building, a smile on my face. The halls are overrun with teenagers, all laughing and teasing and kissing and shouting and running, standing in poorly-formed circles or small groups. All are enjoying a few final moments of freedom before the bell rings.

“Daniella!”

I feel a hand on my arm and turn with a smile. “Hey, babe.”

“Morning, Peach,” David says, wrapping his arms around me. I bury my head in his chest, inhaling the sweet, spicy smell of his cologne. “Sleep well?”

“Mm-hmm.” I close my eyes, soaking in the moment. I could stay here forever.

The moment ends a few seconds later when I finally pull myself away from the security of David’s arms. The cheerful, warm-and-fuzzy feeling stays with me, however. It always does.

We walk down the hall towards our lockers, side by side. This is how we first met. Daniella James and David Jamison. Our lockers have been next to each other ever since I changed schools two years ago. David was the first person to greet me, the first to help me find my class, and the first to make me feel welcome. We’ve been friends ever since. Last year, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I’ve been in a constant state of bliss ever since.

“Are we still on for tonight?” he asks, taking my hand, his fingers entwining with mine.

“Of course,” I answer, swinging his hand back and forth and feeling myself get hypnotized by his Jolly Rancher green eyes.

“Good.” He flashes that billion-dollar grin of his that lights up his entire face and, in turn, the rest of the world. I smile back, once again realizing how lucky I am.

“Think you’ll win the game on Friday night?” I ask, letting go of his hand to get my geometry book out of my locker.

“Absolutely.” He folds his arms across his muscular chest and leans against his locker, facing me. “Peachtree City High has been an easy win for the past four years. I wouldn’t count on anything changing.”

“Me, neither.”
“And you’ll be cheering me on from the sidelines, right?” he asks with a wink.

“Absolutely,” I reply, shutting my locker door. I spin the lock and turn to face him, tilting my head a little. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

David’s smile softens and he leans forward to rest his forehead on mine. Then, he whispers, “That’s why I love you.”

In an instant, I melt. “I love you, too.”

David quickly kisses my forehead before straightening up. “See you at practice?”

“See you,” I reply.

He waves and vanishes into the crowd. I smile and watch him over my shoulder as I walk away. Suddenly, I feel my books being knocked out of my hands. “Hey!” I exclaim, staring at the books.

“I’m so sorry,” the guy replies, kneeling down to pick up my books.

I recognize the head of hair below me and roll my eyes. “Kyle, you’re such a klutz.”

Kyle looks up, relief plainly written on his face. “Oh, it’s just you.” He grins sheepishly. “Sorry, Danni.”

I put a hand on my hip and raise my eyebrows. “Just me? Excuse you.”

“I was worried that it was, like, some new kid or – even worse – a hot girl.”

Excuse me?!”

Kyle stands and puts the books back into my hands. “You know what I mean.”

I squint and lean into his face. “I hate you.”

Kyle smiles with that lopsided grin that is uniquely his just as the first bell rings. “Same to you. Hey, are you gonna be able to come to the photography showcase tonight?”

I frown slightly and start walking towards class. Kyle keeps my pace beside me and waits expectantly for an answer. “Why would I come, Ky? Besides seeing your beautiful photographs, that is.”

“Well, that, obviously, and because you’re a cheerleader and that’s what they do – come to photography showcases and cheer for their favorites. Right?” I laugh and he elbows me. “Right?”

“Right,” I say, checking my phone. A second later, I put my phone back in my pocket and elbow him back. “If I can get off work early, I’ll come. Eight, at the library?”

“Yup,” Kyle says, stopping in front of a classroom. He waves to someone inside, turns to me, points his index finger at my face, says, “Be there!” and saunters into the classroom.

I roll my eyes and head off to class.


Thoughts???

coffee session | i’m gonna start working on my novel again and i’m super nervous.

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(for le blog aesthetic / not mine)

You know how sometimes when you’re writing, the thing you’re writing is, like, so beautiful and perfect in your mind and you’re just like, “Yes, this will win all the awards and have a film adaptation and will make me super famous and people will come from miles to get writing advice from me, the author”? (#whyyesimhumble)

Well.  It’s happened to me.

In my mind, The Art of Letting Go (read more about it here) is pretty dang good.  I know it’s got it’s flaws, but – thanks to like three drafts and a ton of mind-plotting – they’re few and far between.

Thing is, I have no idea if this is true.  Why, you ask?

Because I haven’t touched my novel since July.

*cue freak out mode*

Before you get on me for being a bad writer, here’s the reason: I’m a full-time college student.  In order to focus on school last semester (including the four [+/-] writing courses I’d be doing), I put it down.  I just couldn’t justify spending my entire day doing school and then working on my novel whenever I had free time.  Daniella and David and Kyle and Matt and all of my characters deserved more than that.

So I made the really hard decision to put it aside.  Believe me, it was torture.  On one hand, I was relieved to not have it constantly pestering me, poking at me in the back of my mind whenever I finished school for the day.  But on the other hand, it felt so good to just take a break and not have to wonder if I had enough time to work on it.  I didn’t want to take away from my school or my characters, so I focused on the more pressing one – school.

Anyway, I always told myself I’d pick it back up when I graduate in March.  Turns out, I’ve got a big creative project to do for my last course (in addition to a fifteen-page paper and a slideshow) and guess what I picked to submit.

That’s right, my little novel.

All that to say, I’m going to Starbucks tomorrow to work on it, and every Friday after that until it’s finished.  (I’m finally one of those writers who works on their novels at Starbucks.  YAY.)

I’m so. incredibly. excited. to be getting back to that world – that oh, so emotional world that made me cry the last time I tried to edit it at a coffee shop. (#yay)  I’ve had that world teasing at the back of my mind ever since I started writing it (wayyyy back in 2014), and I’m always adding to its Pinterest board. (Click the linky.  I’m such a proud mama of that board and this novel.)

But I’m also nervous.  I’m so scared that I’ll open it, read the first few pages, and go, “What is this absolute garbage?!”  I’m scared that it’ll be clunky, unreadable, and, worst of all, a total waste of time.

I want to find an agent for this project.  I want to get a book deal for this project.

But what if it’s not good enough?  What if my characters are flat?  What if my story doesn’t make sense? What if it needs so much more work than I have time for?

What if it doesn’t sound as good on paper as it does in my head?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the scariest part about writing.

I can stare at a blank document all day long and not get worried because I know I’ll eventually get something on it.  I can give my writing to people and get criticism.  I can even publish a mediocre novel and then not talk about it for the rest of my life.  (*cough* Becoming Nikki *cough*)

But not knowing that what I write is actually good?  That’s mind-numbingly horrifying.

{I’d appreciate any feedback, but I’m not asking for compliments or anything, lol.  This was honestly just my way of getting my thoughts out while updating you guys on where I am with my writing right now.Thanks for listening.}

year in review: 2016.

{this post is finally done.  i feel like it’s taken me forever to write it, and it’ll take you almost as long to read it.  so i’m sorry, and if you read the whole thing… bless you.}

Can we agree that 2016 was just an all-around bad year?  I mean this for the world in general.  So many deaths and shootings – not to mention the atrocity that was the US presidential election.

{Side Tangent: In a previous draft, I said something about Carrie Fisher being okay.  Well, that’s not true anymore (for Debbie Reynolds, either) and I don’t know how to process that.  I’ve thought about it a lot and I think the reason there have been so many celebrity deaths this year is because God’s reminding us that our time here is so limited.  When we were young, we felt so infinite.  The days were long and death seemed so far away.  But that’s not true.  I’m not going to remind you to spend your time wisely because I know you’ve heard it before.  So just… cherish it.  And know that we’re all a little less infinite than we think we are.}

My personal year wasn’t quite as bad, and I think it ends up fitting with my year-long prayer, taken from this song:

“God, it has been quite a year-
I’ve lived a little bit and I’ve died a little more.
I know that I’ve asked it before,
But please let the scale tip here in my favor.”

I think it has.  This year has been full of disappointments and things that stress me out (pretty sure I had a full-on anxiety attack back in July and let. me. tell. you – that was not fun).  Even so, this year has been full of really good firsts – first crush I’ve told people about, first trip to Universal (and two trips to Disney whattheevenheck), first girls-only trip…  It’s been good.  Though I’ve had my fair share of bad things, I know I’m better for it.  While I wish some things hadn’t happened, I’m glad they shaped me into the person I am today.

Regardless of how terrible the year has been, at least we made it this far, right?

As always, this yearly review is mostly just for me to look back on throughout the year, and you can read the whole thing or just skim it.  (And, if you’re interested, here are the links to the other years I’ve done: 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015.)

January

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my siblings and i // first day at disney

February

  • Studied a heck ton, nannied a heck ton
  • Younger siblings went to a retreat, so I had a special time with my older sister and my parents, watching movies that they’re not allowed to watch yet and talking about Stuff.
  • Hosted a single-girls Valentine’s Day party (where we ate cookies and watched Julie & Julia) and chaperoned (from afar) as my sister got roses from a guy.
  • Discovered About Time – aka one of my favorite movies ever.
  • Went to Disney World for the first time in 15 years with the fam
  • Met the Taylors
  • Studied: American Lit CLEP (1/16-2/16) // Principles of Marketing CLEP (2/16-3/16) // BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16)
  • Read: More Happy Than NotThe Help, and Me Before You
  • Favorite Blog Posts: my thoughts during a Starbucks study session and my unplanned Valentine’s Day series – twelve ships I ship, a mushy snippet from my novel, and my thoughts on love

March

  • Again, studied and nannied a heck ton
  • Bought Jordan Taylor’s album (because I felt more connected after meeting him, duh)
  • Rediscovered Sherlock (long story)
  • Freaked out about all of the Mother’s Day posts on Instagram, only to discover that it was just Mother’s Day in the UK.  (However, since I was out of the house, I bought flowers and surprised my mom with them.  I’ll definitely be doing that again this year.)
  • BECAME A SENIOR
  • Ups and downs with my sleeping habits (definitely something I’m going to fix next year)
  • Discovered Downton Abbey and Mission Impossible
  • Watched the livestream of Daddy Long Legs, one of my favorite musicals
  • Uploaded first video to YouTube (you’ll have to hunt it down bc I’m not leaving the link here LOL)
  • In charge while Mom & Dad went to a marriage conference for a week (during which I watched too much Downton Abbey and stayed up too late)
  • Studied: Principles of Marketing CLEP (2/16-3/16) // BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16)
  • Read: The Boxcar ChildrenFar from the Madding Crowd, Frindle, A Thief in the Theater, Red Rising, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikryand The Bronte Plot
  • Favorite Blog Posts: my big post about my thoughts on Harry Potter, my “flatmates” story, my thoughts about romanticizing the past, and my 5-years-in-the-making blog post, “movies i don’t like.

April

  • Watched the High School Musical movies with a friend
  • Went to the first wedding of the year (and first since 2014, I think)
  • Started watching more movies by myself (bc I’m tired of waiting on my siblings and bc I have a brother whose opinion we have to consider) (movies include 17 Again, 13 Going On 30, and Napoleon Dynamite)
  • Literally have a note in my journal that says “2pm-3pm – Question Everything.”  Basically, yeah.
  • Discovered The Great British Baking Show.  HECK YES.
  • Had coffee with a friend and talked about her recent engagement, told her I didn’t have any guys in my life and wasn’t going to be interested in any until I graduated, Discovered A Guy that night (again, long story)
  • Officially met one of my new best friends
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16)
  • Read: Roomies, All the Bright Places, After Youand Golden Son
  • Favorite Blog Posts: my uber- nostalgic “favorite childhood movies” post, the snippet from my novel, The Boy and the Theatre Girl, and my ranty defense of CollegePlus students
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me & the twins

May

  • Submersed myself in blog posts about singleness and contentment due to aforementioned guy
  • Changed DSST after studying for a month (a first and a last)
  • Texted aforementioned best friend’s younger sister (with whom I’ll become good friends but won’t meet ’til September)
  • Learned how to cheat the system with college coursework – aka befriend the prof and say yes when she lets you submit part of your novel instead of several different assignments.  FISTPUMP.
  • Started a tough time with one of my best friends (drama goes down)
  • Dad’s intern arrived for the summer
  • Started officially going to a church
  • Discovered Friends and Taylor Swift (entire discography instead of just the ones on the radio)
  • Made a summer bucket list for the first time
  • Enrolled in Thomas Edison State University
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16) // BYU’s Creative Writing (5/16-7/16)
  • Read: Golden Son, The Raven Boys, and The Rest of Us Just Live Here (which I loved enough to review on my blog as well)
  • Favorite Blog Posts: my reasoning behind taking off my purity ring (which got so much more feedback than I ever expected ohmygosh), my review of the gloriousness that was Captain America: Civil War, and my addition to the flame war behind that random dude’s “open letter to Rey” (which by the way, lemme say again, ugh)

June

  • Younger sister graduated from high school and we have a pretty awesome dance party
  • Taught myself how to play ukulele
  • Started going to Starbucks with my sister during the second hour of church (since there isn’t a Sunday morning class for college/career young adults)
  • Discovered Waitress during the Tony Awards (Hamilton won the other 11!)
  • Surprised with a weekend visit from one of my best childhood friends
  • Gave in to the stereotypes and got a Snapchat
  • Broke ground on our new house
  • Drove back and forth with my sister instead of staying at our grandparents’ for a whole week like we usually do (a first)
  • Had two entire days to myself, in which I did school, watched movies, cooked lunch for myself, and blasted Imagine Dragons
  • GOT A FRIKKIN LETTER FROM LIN MANUEL MIRANDA
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16) // BYU’s Creative Writing (5/16-7/16) // Marriage and the Family TCEP (6/16-7/16)
  • Read: The Rosie Project, Extraordinary, and The Rosie Effect
  • Favorite Blog Posts: fangirling about tøp after being a fan for a year and a short story I wrote for school (“my best friend’s brother”)
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our awesome car on the way back from WIT

July

  • Studied and wrote like crazy
  • WITAlive again, this time without my older sister and with a car of friends (and I was a co-leader at a table this year!)
  • Wrote some poetry for the first time (including a sonnet based on Gilmore Girls)
  • Watched my “little” brother star in The Pied Piper of Hamlin at a local theatre
  • Had a movie date with a friend every two weeks or so (during the entire summer)
  • Witnessed the beginning of my sister’s relationship with my dad’s intern
  • Finally started accepting and actually loving my body, even its flaws… and it wasn’t until then that I started losing weight
  • Forgot to journal for two weeks, so I completely don’t know what happened except I know a lot of studying was done and a lot of books were read.
  • Studied: BYU’s Creative Writing (5/16-7/16) // Marriage and the Family TCEP (6/16-7/16) // BYU’s Writing in the Social Sciences (7/16-9/16) // BYU’s The American Novel (7/16-9/16)
  • Read: Salt to the Sea, The Vintage Book of Contemporary Poetry, The Art of the Personal Essay, Imaginative Writing, The Marriage and Family Experience, If You Find This Letter (which became my favorite non-fic book by the fifth page and I literally bought four copies to give to friends for Christmas – seriously, READ. IT.), and Everything, Everything
  • Favorite Blog Posts: another post about love & waiting & purity & stuff, my first post on writing advice (“what do do when {you think} your writing sucks”), and another snippet from The Boy and the Theatre Girl

August

  • Dad caved and finally got Netflix for us – YESSSSS
  • Started reading classics for my lit course and developed a deeper appreciation for classics
  • Went book shopping one Saturday with my sister (to two bookstores) and then had a fries taste-test – a day that will be remembered with fondness in both our hearts
  • Took my “little” bro to his first co-op and greatly enjoyed getting stuff done so early in the day (although I didn’t enjoy getting up so early)
  • Hosted a surprise sleepover for my friend (my first sleepover since I was six)
  • Started meeting new friends at our new church
  • Figured out the situation that caused the anxiety attack back in July (something I highly recommend – figure stuff out, guys; save yourself the stress; even if you do. not. want. to, it’ll be so much better in the long run, I promise)
  • Repaired more friendships – YAY
  • Had some bro time with my “little” brother while our sisters went to a camp for a week (we watched movies without them #oops)
  • The Furies happened (and we continue to talk about feminism and movies and relationships and generally just kick butt in all areas of life and I’m so happy to have such a close-knit friend group like this)
  • Blew through so many classics in such a short period of time – such a good feeling
  • Volunteered to play in an orchestra concert… the day before
  • Shared my testimony for the first time in a class at church
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing in the Social Sciences (7/16-9/16) // BYU’s The American Novel (7/16-9/16)
  • Read: The Coquette, Hope Leslie, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Scarlet Letter, Benito Cereno, The Outsiders, Life in the Iron-Mills, The Problem With Forever, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Washington Square (DANG THAT’S A LOT OF BOOKS)
  • Favorite Blog Posts: fangirling about Stanley Tucci, a peek into my life, and some rambling thoughts about Friends and the validity of your opinion.

September

  • Started the month out with my car breaking down.  Yay.
  • Nannied three days in a row – including a 9am-11pm day (which was my favorite day of the three because I took the kids to see Pete’s Dragon with my sister and then put them to bed early and watched movies ’til their parents got back)
  • Started watching Stranger Things with my sister… at 11pm at night… all by ourselves…  (protip: not a good idea)  (still, we finished the show within a week)
  • Hosted some friends for a weekend and had an absolute BLAST
  • Saw a friend star in You Can’t Take It With You
  • Went shopping with some girlfriends and actually bought something.  And not just anything.  A DRESS.  I DON’T EVEN KNOW.
  • Got baptized : )
  • Started practicing music with friends for two weddings (and started calling ourselves The Last Page)
  • Introduced some friends to Lord of the Rings (which they loved, obviously)
  • Cut my hair super dang short (and loved it)
  • GOT A NEW PHONE HECK YES
  • Stopped journaling (haha whoops)
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing in the Social Sciences (7/16-9/16) // BYU’s The American Novel (7/16-9/16) // Marketing Communications TCEP (9/16)
  • Read: Ethan Frome, My Ántonia, Marketing Communications, Absalom Absalom, Pale Fire, and Writing in the Social Sciences.
  • Favorite Blog Posts: blogged the results of my summer bucket list, talked about bad boyz (even though my opinion on Jess Mariano has changed so much because he turned out to be the best guy for Rory), continued to ramble about love & feelings & stuff, and rambled about life in general (which y’all liked so I started doing it more)
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failing at a jumping pic with ‘the last page’

October

  • Started a course on theatre which is just *heart eyes emoji*
  • Started planning my very first girls-only trip with The Furies
  • Gilmore-bounded with my frens (which is honestly still one of my favorite events of the entire year)
  • Introduced my other siblings to Stranger Things
  • Lost enough weight to fit loosely into a dress that didn’t fit me a month before *sunglasses emoji*
  • Played in two weddings with The Last Page (twas lit)
  • Had an impromptu brunch with people who came in for aforementioned wedding and hosted almost twenty-five people
  • Deepened friendships and fell in love with people in general
  • Started planning a watch party with friends for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (obviously including soda and Chinese food and poptarts and all kinds of junk food)
  • Scott Gordon Patterson (Luke from Gilmore Girls) liked our Gilmore-bound picture (!)
  • Did Halloween for the first time in over a decade (thank you, younger adopted siblings)
  • Again, studied and read like crazy
  • Studied: BYU’s Intro to the Theatre (10/16-12/16) // BYU’s Playwriting (10/16-12/16)
  • Read: Writing in the Social Sciences, The Strangeness of Beauty, and Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour
  • Favorite Blog Posts: fangirled over Stranger Things, made a list of songs that make me happy, and rambled about life again

November

  • Studied like crazy – including writing three plays (!!!)
  • Talked to dozens upon dozens of people about the presidential election
  • Voted in the presidential election for the first time (but not my first time voting)
  • Read books on top of my car overlooking the mountains (heck yes I did)
  • Visited a friend at his college with my sisters and another friend and talked about hard stuff for over four hours (“It’s rough all over“)
  • Bashed around Charleston with mah girls
  • Visited a friend for a week, in which I stayed at their house and basically became a member of their family
  • Went to a movie theater and watched a recording of Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet
  • Went to Disney and Harry Potter World at Universal – and had an absolute blast
  • (Charleston, becoming a member of another family for a week, Hamlet, and Disney/Universal all happened in the same twelve days and it. was. magical)
  • Had the Gilmore Girls watch party with my frens
  • Studied: BYU’s Intro to the Theatre (10/16-12/16) // BYU’s Playwriting (10/16-12/16)
  • Read: The Cherry Orchard, Anything But Typicaland Hamlet.
  • Favorite Blog Posts: expressed my thoughts about the election, converted a play I wrote into a short story (and y’all loved it, which just makes my year), and offended some people after writing about courtship (lolz whoops)

December

  • Finished my schoolwork the day before my birthday – HUZZAH, AN ACTUAL CHRISTMAS BREAK FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THREE YEARS!!!
  • Turned 22
  • Watched Return of the King with friends for my birthday
  • Basically just chilled for the entire month.  Read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies and TV shows, but mainly just lived.  I made cookies and brownies with my baby siblings twice, and cleaned the kitchen and my room a lot.  It was really fun to just relax and live life without the pressure of schoolwork looming over my head.
  • Went to a young adults Christmas party at our new church and had such a great time
  • Realized that my blog turned seven – w h o a
  • Celebrated Christmas four times – with each of my parents’ families, my family, and an extended family Christmas (and had my sister’s boyfriend do Christmas with us, so that was An Experience)
  • Went to my grandparents’ house for an extended weekend before New Years and partied hard with my cousins and aunt & uncle (who talked with my siblings and I about stuff for hours upon hours, which was a blessing)
  • Rang in the new year with friends and a headache
  • Studied: BYU’s Intro to the Theatre (10/16-12/16) // BYU’s Playwriting (10/16-12/16)
  • Read: The Bad Beginning (Series of Unfortunate Events #1), If You Find This Letter (re-read bc I bought four copies for friends and wrote in them like my friend did for me), and Crosstalk
  • Favorite Blog Posts: hosted a Christmas movie marathon because I love movies and posted some Stucky fanfiction (part one / part two) that I wrote a few years ago

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    le fam (+ sister’s boyfriend) at church on christmas day


Whew.

Honestly, it always blows my mind whenever I write these posts and look back at all of the amazing things I did.  (And hOW DANG LONG IT TAKES ME OH MY GOSH.  This one took me several sittings over several days – and I know I didn’t over everything.)

Anyway, I’m always so blown away with what I’ve been able to do in a year.  Even though the year was ridiculously crazy at times, I wouldn’t trade any of the craziness for the world.  Even though the year was rough, it still had some amazing experiences for me.  I invested in friendships more than I ever have before (including at three people who are 5-8 years younger than me), I’ve learned more about relationships (the good and the bad), and I’ve learned to be authentic, to be honest, to give second chances, to know when to stop pouring myself into toxic relationships, to let go of grudges, and, obviously, I’ve learned how incredibly far I have to go.  I know I won’t ever get there, but it’s nice to look back on a year and know that I’m a better person than the selfish idiot who wrote last year’s Year in Review post.

2017 is going to be incredibly interesting and I can’t wait to see where God leads me!  My word of the year is “excelsior,” and I explained why on my Instagram, so I’ll just link to that and keep this from getting any longer!

Can’t wait to see where God has me at this time next year!

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continuing the tradition of taking pictures of myself in the bathroom mirror on new years day even tho i didn’t feel like putting on makeup or doing anything to my hair or fixing my christmas nails but i won’t apologize bc this is how i look kthxbye

fanfiction | christmas in brooklyn {part two}.

Christmas in Brooklyn

{Part Two}

{Brooklyn, 1942}

Christmas Eve dawned clear and bright.  Steve woke up before the sun and watched it rise out his bedroom window, wishing he could be somewhere else.  Anywhere else, as long as his mother and father could be there.

He got up when he felt strong enough – about an hour later – and whistled as he tidied the apartment.  It didn’t need cleaning, but he did it anyway.  The work was slow, due to the ache throughout his body from the beating he’d taken the day before, but he kept at it until the apartment was spotless.  Then, he made coffee and started cutting out strips of newspaper.  He hadn’t found the time ’til now… mainly because hadn’t felt like it.

His heart sank as he cut another link for the chain.  I wish Mother could be here…

He wondered where she was and what she was doing.  Was she with someone who could distract her from the war, or was she with a screaming patient who needed her help?  Did she even know that it was Christmas Eve?  Was she thinking of him?

Steve started pasting the ends of the links together, adding them to the chain one by one. It felt slightly therapeutic, but he didn’t feel totally at ease yet.  Somehow, he didn’t think he would ever be completely at ease again.

He knew he wasn’t alone with this clawing feeling deep inside his stomach.  He wondered how long the war would last this time… and if, after it was all said and done, another war would start up ten years later.  If that happened, he knew the world would be broken and no one would be able to fix it.

I need to help.  I need to do something to help end this war.  He frowned.  But is there anything I can do?

If Steve knew one thing, it was his limits.  Ever since he was a young boy, he had suffered from illness after illness, keeping him from having a normal life.  He still got sick more often than Bucky did, and it took him a long time to recover.

But he didn’t let that stop him from trying.

Steve set his jaw and stared at the strip of paper in his hand. I’m going to enlist.

After lengthening the paper chain a little more, he wrapped it around the tree and stepped back to survey his work.  A lopsided grin slowly grew on his face.  Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.

He pulled on his jacket, rolled the sleeves up a little so they fell at his wrists and not the end of his fingertips, and locked the door behind him.

As Steve walked down the street, he thought about what he was going to do.  He was resolute in his act, knowing full well what it might bring on.  Injury, death – at this point he didn’t care.  His father had given his life for his country.  Who knows what his mother would have to give.  All Steve knew now was that he was willing to do anything.

What man wouldn’t want to give as much as he could to his country?

He finally reached the first enlistment office.  Looking up at the poster beside the door, the old man’s finger pointing in Steve’s face right above the words “I WANT YOU,” Steve squared his small shoulders, took a deep breath, and pulled on the door handle.  Nothing. Steve pulled again, but the door was locked.  He peered inside, but couldn’t see a thing. The lights were off.  Oh, he realized.  Because it’s Christmas Eve.

Steve took a step back onto the street, his shoulders now slumped.  He thought about trying another office, but knew he wouldn’t have any luck there, either.  He started shuffling down the street, kicking a rock every few feet.  He tried to tell himself that it was okay – that he could try again another day – but it felt like a bad omen, almost as if foreshadowing what would happen after future visits.

“Steve?”

Steve looked up, a grin appearing on his face a split second later.  “What’re you doing out this close to Christmas?” he called out as he walked towards Bucky.  “I would’ve thought your mom would have you stuffing a turkey or something.”

Bucky laughed, rubbing his hands together to warm them.  “She’s got me out doing last-minute errands.”  He pulled a package wrapped in brown paper out from the crook of his arm and held it up.  “The bread for the stuffing’s right here.”

Steve chuckled and closed the remaining space between them.  “A little late this year, isn’t she?”

Bucky started walking, and Steve struggled to match his powerful stride.  “We couldn’t find some ingredients for the stuffing, so she didn’t want to buy anything ’til she knew she could make it.  I hear there’s a war on.”

Steve instantly felt his smile disappear.  He tried to smile again as he looked down and kicked a rock across the sidewalk, but suddenly didn’t feel like joking.  His parents’ faces flashed before his eyes.  “Yeah, I think I read something like that in the papers.”

Bucky didn’t say anything for a minute.  Steve looked up and saw an odd mixture of sadness, regret, and anger on his face.  He half-winced, half-smiled.  “Sorry, Steve.”

Steve shrugged dismissively.  “It’s okay.”  He clenched his fists in his pockets, partially to warm them and partially to keep his emotions at bay.

After a few moments of awkward silence broken only by their footsteps crushing the snow beneath them, Bucky slowly said, “So what’re you doing out so close to Christmas?”

Steve smiled a little.  “Trying to get into this war we keep hearing about.”

Bucky’s jaw dropped as he stopped walking.  “You… you what?”

“I tried to enlist, but the office was closed.  It didn’t hit me ’til after I got out here and tugged on the door a little that it might be closed because of Christmas.  You’d think they’d-”

“You tried to enlist?” Bucky repeated, his tone undefinable.

“Yeah,” Steve slowly replied, turning around to face Bucky.  He furrowed his brow a little and tried to determine Bucky’s thoughts.  “What about it?”

Suddenly, Steve could easily read Bucky’s face.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Bucky was mad.  Steve quickly tried to think of a time he had seen Bucky this mad.  He couldn’t.

“You tried to get into the Army?!” Bucky demanded, taking a step towards Steve.  “What were you thinking?!”

“I was thinking I’d try to do something for my country for once,” Steve countered, trying to keep his tone civil.

“Oh, you were?  Wow, what a load of good you’ll do!”  Bucky let out a deep, exasperated sigh.  “Why’d you think you’d ever get in?”

Steve frowned and clenched his fists again, now for a completely different reason.  “I thought I’d have a chance.  Thought I’d try my luck.”

“Steve, this is war!  You, of all people, should know the full cost of war.”

Steve threw his hands in the air.  “Me, of all people?!  What’s that supposed to mean?!”

“You saw the look on your mother’s face when she got the news about your dad.  Why don’t you take a wild guess at how she’ll feel if she gets the same news about you?!”

Steve’s gaze dropped to the pavement.  He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the memory of his mother’s sobs as she read the telegram.  He let out a deep breath, opened his eyes, and looked up at Bucky.

“Bucky…” he slowly started.  He paused, gathering his thoughts.  “I know you don’t understand.  You’re probably wondering why a skinny kid from Brooklyn wants to try to get himself killed somewhere in Europe.  But… ever since my dad’s left, I feel like I need to be over there.  I need to do something.”

“There’s nothing wrong with doing stuff here, Steve,” Bucky firmly protested.  “There are factories and-”

“And scrap drives.  I know, Bucky.  But I can’t stay here and take an easy day job while other guys are over there, giving their lives for my freedom.”

Bucky clenched his jaw and looked down, not saying a word.

Steve watched him, trying to determine what he would think.  He had tried to phrase his thoughts in a coherent way, but he still didn’t know if Bucky would get it.  He glanced at the ground, then looked up at Bucky.  “Can’t you try to understand?”

Bucky didn’t say anything for a moment.  Then, the half-wince, half-smile appeared again.  “Whatever you say, kid.  I won’t try to stop you.  Just don’t come crawling to me when you get your arm blasted off in a fight.”

Steve tried to smile back at Bucky.  “I won’t.”

Bucky put his arm across Steve’s shoulders and pulled him forward.  “Now that we’ve exhausted that topic, want to come over?  You can spend the night.  I’m sure Maggie will be more than happy to let you sleep in her room.”

Steve grinned. “Sounds great.”


Bucky put the cushions back on the couch as his younger siblings started appearing by the small pile of presents, giggling and letting out short shrieks of joy.  Peter and Timmy rough-housed on the floor while Maggie sat in Steve’s lap, taking in the pictures in the book Steve held in front of her as he read the the story.  The other three weren’t up quite yet, but Bucky knew they would be down soon.  He poured himself some coffee and added a little sugar, then a little more – after all, Christmas demanded it – and sat down on the couch, watching Steve.

He still had trouble thinking about Steve trying to get into the army.  Steve was skinny, but it was almost like he had a stronger, braver man somewhere deep down inside him.  He never backed down from a fight – in fact, he almost always started them – but he was never the one to end them.

Bucky couldn’t help but think that Steve didn’t know what he was getting into.  The trenches were more than a back alley fight – they were the symbol of all-out, no-holds-barred, fight-to-the-death war.

Bucky wrapped his hands around the warm mug, trying to warm them.  He stared at Steve. If anything ever happens to him, I’ll kill him.  And then I might kill myself.

“Mommy and Daddy are up!” Susie shrieked, thumping down the stairs.  “IT’S FINALLY CHRISTMAS!”

Several hours later, after all of the brown paper had been tossed into the fire and most of the gifts had been put away, Bucky slipped out the back door with Steve in tow.  “I’ll be back later, Ma!” he called, slamming the door before she could protest.  He tossed the end of his new scarf over his shoulder, smiling at Maggie’s uneven stitches.

“You don’t have to do this,” Steve told him, shoving his hands into his pockets as they walked. “I know the way home.”

“I know.  But I didn’t want the kids around when I gave you your gift.”  He pulled a small package out of his jacket pocket and tossed it to Steve.

Steve smiled lopsidedly, pulling an envelope out of his back pocket.  He handed it to Bucky.  “Here.  You first.”

Bucky grinned and ripped open the envelope.  He frowned slightly and took the tickets out.  Suddenly, his face lit up as he realized what they were.  “Wow, Steve.  Thanks!”  He shot Steve a wry look.  “Are there two tickets in here because you want me to take you, too?”

“No,” Steve replied, smiling a little.  “There are two for you to take a date.  Lizzie, maybe?” he added with a suggestive look.

Bucky smiled and put the tickets away.  “Maybe.  Your turn.”

Steve started untying the string, slowly opening the package so as to save as much of the paper as possible.  Bucky blew on his hands as they walked, deciding to make a fire the second they got to Steve’s apartment.  As soon as Steve pulled the paper away and saw what was inside, he gasped.

“Actual paper,” Bucky told him, tapping the notebook.  “Now your sketches won’t be ruined by headlines and boring articles.”

Steve stared at the notebook and set of three pencils.  “I can’t believe it.  I haven’t had an actual piece of drawing paper since… since…”

“Since we were in grade school; I know.  You were always the best in the class, and it’s not fair that you never get to draw anymore.”

Steve leafed through all of the empty pages as they started up the stairs.  He didn’t want to think about how much it had cost Bucky – and how paltry his gift seemed in comparison. After a minute, he softly said, “Thanks, Buck.”

“You’re welcome,” Bucky replied, a little dismissively, but inwardly happy because he knew how much it meant to Steve.  He reached the landing first and kicked the brick by the railing, revealing the key to Steve’s house.  “Let’s get in there and make a fire – I’m freezing!”

“You don’t have to do that,” Steve absentmindedly said, still staring at the gift.  “Don’t your parents want you home?”

“As soon as I get home, they’ll have me watching the kids or making dinner or something,” Bucky told him, fishing a match out of the matchbook.  “Let me have a few more minutes of solitude.”

“But I’m here,” Steve told him, laughing a little.

“You don’t count,” Bucky shot back, giving him a look.

Within minutes, the fire was crackling in the blackened fireplace.  Bucky plopped down next to Steve on the couch and dropped his feet on the coffee table, then leaned back and put his hands behind his head.  He closed his eyes and sighed contentedly.  “Man, you’re so lucky you don’t have siblings.”

“I don’t know…” Steve muttered, leaning forward.  He rested his elbows on his knees and started to sharpen his new pencil.  He blew the shavings off his pocketknife before continuing.  “Sometimes I’d like to have a sibling.  A younger sister, maybe…”  He flashed a grin over his shoulder at Bucky.  “After all, I’ve pretty much already got an older brother.”

Bucky smiled.  “Til the end of the line, pal.”

fanfiction | christmas in brooklyn.

Christmas in Brooklyn

{Part One}

{Brooklyn, 1942}

“I said, get off him!”

Steve felt the weight on top of him suddenly release, as if jerked away by a stronger being. He blinked away the darkness, trying to get his vision back, only seeing moving shadows.

“And stay away from him!” he heard his rescuer yell to the bully’s swiftly retreating figure.

Steve blinked again, feeling a mixture of anger and relief.  He knew that voice.

“Again?” Bucky asked, disappointment tinting his voice.  Towering above Steve, he held out a hand.

Steve grabbed it, pulling himself off the ground, then dusted off his jacket.  He spotted a rip in the right knee of his pants.  Another tear to mend.

“Why, Steve?”

Steve shrugged, fingering the hole in his slacks.

Steve.”

He let out an exasperated sigh and looked up.

“Steve, you can’t just pick fights like that!” Bucky said, exasperated.

“He was messing around with a girl who wasn’t interested, Buck,” Steve firmly told him.  “I had to stop him.”

“I don’t care!  Did you even look at him?”

“I did,” Steve shot back, rage filling his voice.  “And I saw him pressing up against her like she was-”

“Steve, he was twice as big as you!” Bucky protested, taking another quick step forward, suddenly inches away from Steve’s face.

Steve straightened up, defiantly staring into Bucky’s eyes.  “I’m not going to just stand around and watch something like that happen. I thought you would understand that.”  He kept hold of Bucky’s gaze, daring Bucky to contradict him.

Bucky’s eyes showed the same defiance for a moment more. Then, they softened and he chuckled, shaking his head and glancing at the ground for a moment.  “I get it.”  He clasped Steve’s shoulder firmly and offered a wry grin.  “Just make sure I’m around to help out next time, okay?”

Steve shook his head, smiling.  “Okay.”

“Come on,” Bucky said, laughter in his voice.  Draping his arm across Steve’s shoulders, he guided him down the sidewalk.  “Your mom left yet?”

In his mind’s eye, Steve saw his mother give him a final hug and kiss on the cheek before boarding the train that would take her to the warfront.  He watched her wave as the train pulled away, until his mother’s white nurse cap faded into the fog.  He swallowed, pushing the nervous feeling away, and nodded.  “Yeah.  Early this morning.”

“She’ll be back sooner than you know it.”  He pulled his arm away from Steve’s shoulder to tip his newsie cap to a passing girl.  Then, he snapped his fingers as if a thought had occurred to him.  “And Mother wanted me to tell you that you’re welcome to our house for Christmas dinner.”

Steve allowed himself a slight smile, stopping as soon as he felt a flash of pain in his cheek.  He put his fingers to his chin for a split second, seeing blood as he pulled them away.  He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and pressed it to his chin.  He didn’t feel like even thinking about Christmas yet.  What kind of mother leaves her kid all alone in Brooklyn the week before Christmas?  All he wanted to do on Christmas Day was sit in his mother’s apartment.  Nothing more.  “Bucky… I don’t know.”

“Come on,” Bucky said, punching Steve’s shoulder.  “It’ll be fun!  Besides, what else are you gonna do on Christmas Day?  Sit around, watching the snow fall on the factory roof outside your window?  Where’s the celebration in that?  Besides, she made me swear to make you join us.”

“Yeah, well…”  He should’ve known that Mrs. Barnes would insist on him coming.  Maybe I should go…  It might have a good time.  He shrugged.  “Okay. I’ll be there.”

“Good.  Say, what does your Christmas tree look like?”

Steve looked up at Bucky, his brow furrowed.  “Buck, I’m twenty years old.  I think I’m a little old for that kind of thing.”

“Nobody’s too old to get a Christmas tree.”

Steve rolled his eyes and shoved his hands in his pockets.  “I am.”

“Punk.”

“Jerk.”

“Come on,” Bucky told him, motioning with his head across the street.

“Where’re we going?”

“We’re going to get you a Christmas tree.”


Bucky kicked the door open with his foot, then backed into Steve’s apartment, yanking the tree behind him.

“Buck, let me help!” Steve pleaded for the millionth time.

“No,” Bucky firmly replied, for the millionth time.  Bucky rolled his eyes.   I doubt he could lift a branch, poor kid.  He glanced over at Steve as he pulled the tree to the corner of the living room, watching him shut the door and flick on the light.  I’ve gotta come here more.  He can’t be alone all the time.  I’ve gotta be here for him.

“If you won’t let me help, I’m going to make some coffee. Want some?” Steve asked.

“Sugar?” Bucky grunted, pushing the tree into a bucket.

“Nope.”

“No thanks, then.”  He held the tree steady, then slowly let go.  He grinned, thinking of how freaked out Steve would be if it suddenly fell over in the middle of the night.

Steve sat down on the corner of the coffee table, one of the few pieces of furniture in the sparse room.  “It looks so empty without anything on it…”

Bucky took a few steps back, surveying.  “Got any newspapers?  We could make some paper chains.”  He fell backwards on the couch, sighing with fatigue.  “It’d look nice.”

“I’ll do it tonight.”

Bucky stared at the tree in silence.  He didn’t want to tell Steve that he’d spent most of his weekly pay on the tree – the money he was going to spend on his own Christmas tree.

“Dad, can’t we get one?” he had asked his father only two days before.

“Absolutely not.  It’s a frivolous waste of money.  The nation’s at war and you want to buy a tree and put it in our house?  Insane.”

“But Dad; the kids-”

“No, James.  Spend your own money on it, if you really want it.  Not a penny of my hard-earned pay will go to something that’ll be dead in a month.”

“Fine.”

Bucky glanced at Steve, smiling a little as he saw Steve taking in the tree, his eyes brighter than they’d been all day.  He averted his gaze back to the tree.  It’s worth it.  Dad’s right; we don’t need a Christmas tree.  Steve does.

“Well, I’d better get going,” Steve said, standing.  “Baker said he’d fire me if I’m late one more time.”

Bucky clasped his hands behind his head as he kicked off his shoes.  “Mind if I stay for a while? I need to get some rest before heading to the museum tonight.”

“You’re still at the art museum?” Steve asked, eyeing himself in a cracked mirror as he straightened his jacket.

“Yep.”  Bucky closed his eyes.  “All-night shifts take quite a toll.”

“Well, with the way Baker’s treating me, I might have to join you.”

The corner of Bucky’s mouth pulled up.  “Don’t.  You’d hate it.  Stick with writing movie reviews.”

“I don’t think that’s a good fit for me, either.  Everybody’s this close to getting Baker to fire me. Leslie critiques my grammar nonstop, and Paul gives me the classified section every Tuesday.”

Bucky chuckled and opened his eyes.  “Stick with it.  Who knows?  You may be the next Pulitzer.”

“Or not.”  Steve stared at himself in the mirror, his eyes saying what his mouth didn’t.  Bucky could clearly see that he wasn’t happy.  Steve huffed a little, then turned.  “Well, I’m leaving. Stay as long as you want, just lock up afterwards.  Two thugs tried to shove the door down the other day, but I had the chain on, so that kept ’em away.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t your commanding voice that did it?”

Steve smiled a little.  “Yeah.  I was hiding in that corner-” he pointed to the corner that now housed the tree- “with a baseball bat in my hands, scared to death.”

Bucky laughed and pulled his cap over his eyes.  “Have fun.”

“Something like that.”

Bucky listened as the door shut and locked from the outside.  Steve’s footsteps faded away, one slightly heavier than the other.  Must have gotten kicked in the leg during that fight.  He sighed. Steve, when will you stop picking fights with guys who are three times your size?

He dozed for an hour or two, grateful for the quiet.  Heaven only knew how loud it was at his house, what with all the fighting his parents did and the little kids wreaking havoc…

Before he left for the museum, he found a pile of newspapers in the corner, picked out a few that were all at least a few days old, and set them on the table beside a pair of scissors.


A few people around Steve were talking – mostly teenagers and younger kids.  Steve, however, wasn’t paying attention to anything else except the screen in front of him.  The newsreel kept his gaze riveted to the screen.

Images flashed.  War… destruction… chaos.  He couldn’t believe it was actually happening. Hadn’t the world just been through this?  Why did it have to happen all over again?

A year ago, he had thought that the war should stay in the other countries and didn’t want America to get involved.  Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor – a day that shook the nation. His father was drafted and died soon after.  Now the war had taken his mother, too – forever or for a few months, he didn’t know.

He hadn’t told anybody – not even Bucky – but ever since his mother had left, he’d been thinking about enlisting.  Every time he sat in the movie theater and the newsreel started, he thought about it again.  Sometimes, the thought of joining the army distracted him while the film was playing and he couldn’t write a good review afterward.  He still wasn’t sure about it, though. He tried to push it out of his mind, but couldn’t help thinking about it every time he thought of his mother, of his father, or of the war.  Maybe it could happen…

The film started, and he forced his mind to focus on the screen and not on the war.  He couldn’t afford to lose this job.  Not with his mother gone, too.

After the movie, he walked home – the long way.  He was usually able to think better that way. He outlined the review in his head as he walked down Brooklyn streets.  The movie was called Holiday Inn, and he had enjoyed it more than he thought he would – especially Fred Astaire’s patriotic Fourth of July number, complete with firecrackers and footage from the war.  He didn’t care for Bing Crosby’s voice, but he didn’t mind it, either.

As he played with the opening sentence of the review – something about a song in the movie called ‘White Christmas’ that was sure to be a hit – he walked past a shop window, then did a double-take and stopped.  Inside the window he saw a small paper advertisement for a traveling circus.  Steve rubbed his hands together and blew on them, leaning forward to see the ad better.  Bucky has always wanted to go to the circus…  I wonder how much the tickets are.  He blew on his hands again before entered the store.

Eight minutes later, he left the store, two dollars gone from his wallet, replaced by two tickets to the circus.  Bucky can find someone to take with him, Steve thought as he listened to the snow crunch under his feet as he made his way home.  It’ll be a nice date.  He chuckled, thinking of all the times Bucky had tried to drag him along on a double-date.  It never worked.  At least he always has a good time by himself – or so he always tells me, Steve thought, hoping Bucky would like his gift.  He didn’t have much money to spare, but he knew his best friend was worth it.


Two days before Christmas, Bucky left the museum as soon as the curator came to open up.  He waved goodbye to the man, wishing him a merry Christmas, and dashed home.  He tried to get a few minutes of shut-eye, but the kids kept him awake with their happy giggles about Christmas being so soon.  He gave up after an hour or so and started wrapping his Christmas gift to Steve.  He smiled as he tied the string, more than a little pleased with himself and his choice.  I just hope he likes it…

“James!” his mother yelled at him from downstairs.

“Yes?” he replied.

“Get these children out of here – they’re driving me crazy!”

Bucky straightened the bow, hid the present under his pillow, and grabbed his jacket as he ran out of his room.  “Come on, kids,” he called, thumping down the stairs.  “Anybody wanna go see a movie?”

Within seconds, all six of his younger siblings had swarmed around him, like flies to honey. His mother handed him few quarters and shooed them away, a little harsh in her eagerness to have the house to herself.  Bucky didn’t like the fact that she seemed so stressed, but dismissed the unsettling feeling as he stepped out into the cold.  He inhaled deeply, hoping that the harsh winds would wake him up enough to watch his siblings carefully.

“Come on, guys.  Ready to go?”

His siblings all cheered, jumped up and down, and giggled as they started on their outing. Bucky walked behind the group, keeping one eye on the kids and the other on two ladies walking the same way on the sidewalk across the street.  After a few minutes, he noticed them glancing at him, then whispering to each other and giggling.  He smiled and winked at them, then ran with his siblings for the final block to the theater.

As the newsreel played, he thought about the American men overseas.  Part of him wanted to join them, but the part that wanted to stay in America kept overpowering his desire to serve his country.  Most of all, he didn’t want to die.  And there was no guarantee that he could go to war and come back alive.

But isn’t that the point? he asked himself as he watched footage of a young man getting carried off the battlefield, his face contorted in pain.  To be willing to give your life for your country, not knowing if you’ll get it back?

He glanced at his siblings sitting in the seats beside him, then stretched his arms and dropped them on the backs of his siblings’ chairs.  Peter stuck his tongue out at Bucky before leaning over to whisper to Timmy about something, and Maggie cuddled into Bucky’s side, wrapping her arms around his waist.  He stared at the screen in front of him, but couldn’t focus.

How can I leave this?  Is my country really worth leaving all of this?  He mussed Peter’s hair and kissed Maggie’s head, then settled back in his seat.

Unless I get drafted, I’m not going.