Fiction Fridays: Discord at Dance Practice

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

The following weekend at dance practice, Patrick delivered the promised DVD to Brigitte during one of their many water breaks at the clubhouse bar. Brigitte accepted it, beaming at his thoughtfulness and the opportunity to be a part of his life in some small way.

“You remembered,” she cooed.

“Of course. I told you, it’s only the greatest movie of all time.”

“That’s a bold claim.” Maia snatched the case out of Brigitte’s hands. “Reservoir Dogs?” Her upper lip curled into a sneer. “Never even heard of it.”

“You should watch it with Bridge then,” asserted Patrick.

“Pass.” She rolled her eyes and handed the DVD back to her friend.

Ignoring Maia’s rebuff, Patrick turned his attention back to Brigitte. “You have to watch it tonight.”

“Okay, sure.”

“Seriously. Let me know what you think.” His eyes connected with hers.

“Okay,” she laughed, a subtle blush creeping into her cheeks. Margo could tell her sister loved the attention. “Did you watch my show?” asked Brigitte, as she placed the DVD case on the bar.

“Oh yeah, I did.” Patrick nodded coolly, his eyes darting to the bottles of liquor behind the bar. “Watched a few episodes online.”

Brigitte took a sip of her water with an unsteady hand. “What did you think?” Her doe eyes studied his face, as he continued to avoid her gaze. Continue reading

Fiction Fridays: Oh, Brother

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

When she got home, Brigitte immediately locked herself in her room to call Maia and tell her all about the auspicious turn in her luck. Yet once Maia answered, Brigitte quickly reconsidered. She did not want to jinx what she and Patrick had going, and in truth she did not entirely trust Maia.

As best friends, they shared everything with each other, tales of boy drama included, but Maia also had a big mouth when it came to Basque people. If she told Maia about lunch with Patrick, Brigitte feared the entire dance group would know in two seconds. With Patrick being a private person, that would surely put an end to their budding friendship.

So she held her tongue and asked Maia what was new with her.

Maia sighed. “Just failing history and got into a huge fight with Joe the other day.”

“What about?” Brigitte already knew about Maia’s dismal grades. Unlike Brigitte, Maia did not place much importance on schoolwork. She was the type of person who would much rather go out or do something fun than try to focus on academics, or any of her other responsibilities, for that matter.

“He found out I made out with his friend Rob. Do you remember me telling you about that kickback from a few weeks ago?”

“I think so. You mean the one at the empty house with the pool? The guy with the long hair?” Brigitte ventured a guess. Maia went to a lot of parties.

“Yeah, that one. It was no big deal, and Joe was too busy macking on some drama geek all night to even know what I was doing. But someone told him and he freaked out.”

“What did he do?”

“He just ranted about how he was never going to take me anywhere with him again, that I didn’t deserve to hang out with his friends. He called me a slut like a million times.”

“That’s so ridiculous,” Brigitte empathized. “What’s his problem?”

“I don’t know. This was only the second friend of his I’ve hooked up with. It’s not like I’m going around trying to steal his bros away from him. We were just having a good time.”

“Totally. He way overreacted.” Brigitte pressed the phone to her shoulder and picked at her nails.

“Yeah, but it still sucked to have him talk to me like that,” Maia continued. “That was on Wednesday and he hasn’t talked to me since. He just walks around the house pretending he doesn’t see me.”

“That’s so messed up,” Brigitte judged.

“Totally. And there’s nothing I can really do about it.”

“Have you tried talking to him?” Bruno jumped down from the window seat and stalked over to the bed. He nipped at Brigitte’s foot dangling over the edge of the bed. She shook him off and brought her legs in to sit cross-legged.

“Yeah, but he just blows me off—he’ll say something rude or just walk away. I mean, I know he’ll get over it eventually, but it’s just so weird. It’s not like he and this guy were super close, so I really don’t get why he feels entitled to be pissed. Like I did something to him.”

“He’s just pissed. I’m sure he’ll come around. And hey, at least your brother used to talk to you. Adrien just locks himself in his room all the time, playing video games and God knows what else.”

“That’s still going on?”

“Yeah. At first I thought he was just really into this new game, but it’s been months now.” Bruno snuggled up to her side trying to make peace, and she stroked his back forcefully. “I try to talk to him when I see him, but he’s always so grim. It’s like everything we say or do annoys him. We only really see him at dinner, but even then he just rolls his eyes at everything.”

“Well, puberty was bound to catch up with him at some point,” Maia concluded. “Maybe the middle school attitude is just kicking in now.”

“I don’t know if it’s puberty though,” Brigitte worried. “I wonder if something else is going on. I know my mom’s stressed about it. She always looks so sad when Adrien goes back up to his room.”

“That’s too bad. Love Estelle.” The line sat silent for a moment. “Why did Adrien quit the dance group again?”

“I don’t know. He just quit everything all at once—dance, soccer, basketball, track.”

“Weird.”

Brigitte sighed. “Yeah, it was unexpected.”

“And your parents let him?”

“What could they do? He refused to go to any practices.” Brigitte thought it was a shame that he quit everything. If he had quit to do something else, that would have been one thing. But instead he chose to waste away in his room.

© 2013 Anne Marie Chiramberro All Rights Reserved

Fiction Fridays: McDonald’s, Part 3

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

“Why don’t you have any friends?” Brigitte’s tone conveyed a deep concern.

Patrick furrowed his eyebrows in confusion and let out a soft, nervous laugh. “What do you mean?”

“Wow, that came out wrong. I’m sorry,” Brigitte quickly apologized, her face flushing a deep red. “I just mean that you get along with everyone and you’re super outgoing, but it doesn’t seem like you have many actual friends.” Patrick’s expression went blank, and Brigitte worried she had lost him. “I mean, you hang out with people, don’t get me wrong; it just doesn’t seem like you’re very close with any of them.”

Patrick sat in silence for a long while, looking out the windshield into the half empty parking lot. He squinted a bit due to the sunshine’s reflection on a nearby sedan, the only car near them at this point. The lot had cleared out in the time they had been sitting there. It was nearly three o’clock, long past the lunch rush.

“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” he finally mustered, dropping his gaze to his hands. “But Daniel’s my buddy. He’s really the only guy I trust.”

“What’s that about?” prodded Brigitte. “Didn’t you used to have more friends?” She searched his face for the answer but could not read his expression. His eyes darted around the cab of the truck nervously, as if he desperately wanted to escape the discussion. Yet he sat still.

“I did have a buddy all throughout elementary school—Jack Sanders. Once we got to middle school though, things changed. He started hanging out with these other kids, the popular crowd, you know. Completely left me behind, like I didn’t even exist. He acted like we were never friends.”

“I’m sorry. That’s really rough,” Brigitte sympathized. On the one hand, her heart went out to Patrick as someone who had also experienced the sting of rejection, but on the other she was thrilled by his response. This was the most information about him he had ever shared with her. This was deep and this was real. He was sharing his problems. He was vulnerable.

“It’s okay. What can you do, right?” Patrick shrugged off her sympathy. “That just sucked, so I decided to never let that happen again.”

“It’s not like it was your fault though.”

“No,” he agreed. “But I let myself think he was my friend. So now I just have lots of buddies, guys I can hang out with, have a good time. But if one of them gets busy or finds new friends, it’s not a big deal.”

Brigitte’s heart leaped at the breakthrough. She was beginning to understand a little bit more about this boy who had intrigued her for so many years. But the more she learned, the more she wanted to know. She felt sad for him. It did not seem to her that removing oneself from the possibility of friendship with others was the way to go, even with his sad tale about Jack Sanders.

“I guess that makes sense,” replied Brigitte with reserved approval. She was not about to tell him she thought that was a very sad way to live. “Something similar happened to me when I got to high school. One of my best friends from camp–well, you know her. Frankie from Salt Lake.”

“Oh yeah. That was the girl who got left behind at the water park during Reno camp, right?”

“Yup. That was her,” nodded Brigitte. “Anyway, we kept in really close touch after that camp. Called each other once a week and talked for hours. But then once freshman year started, she stopped calling, stopped texting, didn’t return any of my calls. Totally fell of the grid, like she was stonewalling me. And I had no idea why.”

“People suck,” Patrick declared matter-of-factly. He took the straw out of his empty cup and chewed the end of it. The red and yellow striped plastic tube stuck out of his mouth like a farmer’s stalk of hay.

Brigitte beamed at how simply Patrick summarized it all, yet she recognized the blanket statement as an attempt to end the personal nature in which the conversation had turned. His reluctance to talk about anything of importance amused her now that she had small piece of privileged information. She wondered if Daniel knew about Jack Sanders.

Patrick pointed out the time.

“When did it get so late?” Brigitte exclaimed in surprise.

“I know. Time flies,” Patrick remarked. “I should be getting home though.”

“Yeah, me too.” Brigitte felt like she could sit with him for many more hours, but she was not going to be one of those needy people. She recognized that Patrick probably had other, better things to move on to.

“See you next weekend.” Patrick leaned in for a hug, and they embraced in one of those awkward seated car hugs. Despite the odd angle, Brigitte was ecstatic. It felt like an act of charity for him to hug her—one that she wholeheartedly welcomed and appreciated. It was the perfect end to their illuminating conversation.

“Definitely.” They pulled away, and Brigitte dug through her bag for her car keys. As she held the handle to open the door, she turned to remind him to watch her show on Wednesday night. He smiled and assured her he would tune in.

© 2013 Anne Marie Chiramberro All Rights Reserved

Fiction Fridays: McDonald’s, Part 2

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

A large man with two small children in tow, resplendent in the delight inspired by their Happy Meal toys, walked in front of the truck. Looking over, he noticed the two teenagers in the front seat and eyed them suspiciously. He gathered his children and quickened his pace.

Brigitte smiled at the man’s uneasiness. A warm glow spread over her as she imagined he probably thought they were a couple, hanging out in Patrick’s car because they would soon be making out. Her eyes darted to Patrick’s soft lips and passed over his distracted eyes the color of a deep lake covered in a layer of early morning fog. She wondered what it would feel like to kiss him, as a wave of arousal passed over her. As quickly as the thought entered her mind, she tried to forcefully push it out. Those thoughts were good for nothing more than making her nervous, and she needed to act like a cool and, more importantly, normal human being so as not to embarrass herself.

“I don’t think you ever told me… What are your plans for next year?”

Patrick’s eye twitched slightly at the question, and he fixed his gaze on a spot outside the front windshield. “I don’t know. Probably just go to Chaffey. I don’t really know what I want to do, so I don’t see the point to spending a bunch of money on a four year school.”

“Sure. Makes sense.”

Brigitte started ripping up the spare napkins, amassing a little collection of confetti in the sandwich wrapper in front of her, while Patrick changed the subject. It was a mindless job that subconsciously helped her focus on the present moment, redirecting her attention to the situation at hand. She needed the distraction, as she had the tendency to let her thoughts get the better of her—fantasizing and imagining what should be happening or what she wished Patrick would say, panicking over what she should say next to keep the conversation going, or falling into despair, thinking that he was only being nice to her because she was probably the only one free to hang out that afternoon.

“Would you stop that!” Patrick cried in frustration, stopping abruptly midway through the story of his homecoming dance sophomore year. He lunged at her and ripped the napkin out of her hands.

“Hey!” Brigitte cried in protest, stunned at his outburst. “What gives?”

“I’m cutting you off. It’s really annoying to watch you do that.”

Brigitte smirked and picked up one of the bits of paper in front of her. She pinched it with both thumbs and forefingers, threatening to rip it.

“Don’t you dare,” Patrick warned sternly.

She raised her eyebrows and ripped the piece in half, keeping her gaze steady on his face. He threw his head back and groaned, as if it were tortuous to be in such tight quarters with her. At this reaction, Brigitte laughed with glee.

“That’s what you get!” she gloated. Continue reading

Fiction Fridays: McDonald’s, Part 1

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

On her drive home from dance practice one day, Brigitte got a text from Patrick: “Meet me at McDonald’s.” Her heart skipped a beat, she replied “K” in agreement, and she made a U-Turn immediately, without question. Her imagination worked on overdrive, overwhelmed with anticipation on the short drive to McDonald’s.

Pulling up into the parking lot with sweaty palms and a queasy stomach, she found Patrick leaning against his dad’s white pick up, hands in his pockets and looking up at the sun. His tan was captivating to fair skinned Brigitte; it was truly the defining feature that completed his tall, dark, and handsome frame. To look at him, one would never guess he was half Irish.

Brigitte thought of him more as a rugged Spaniard, a ranchero from times past, in turquoise Converse.  His fashion sense left something to be desired, as his color blindness meant his outfits rarely matched. Patrick wore T-shirts in bold colors no one else would dare—yellows, oranges, reds, and aquas. Today, it was a vibrant shade of kelly green. Brigitte did not mind the shirts, for she was more focused on the toned body underneath. In her eyes, he was perfect.

Patrick drew his attention away from the sky only once Brigitte parked and approached.

“What’s up?” Brigitte greeted him. She tried to act cool, but that was rather difficult with images of the two of them making out against his truck flashing to the forefront of her mind.

“Just dying for a Big Mac,” he replied, taking off from the truck and stepping to cross the parking lot. Brigitte followed.

“Why’d you tell me to meet you here?”

“So we could have lunch.” He walked through the door to the restaurant and turned slightly until she caught up.

“Yeah, I get that. But why me?”

“Why not you?” Patrick looked down at her and smiled. Dimples formed in his cheeks endearingly, and the charmingly boyish effect made Brigitte swoon. Continue reading

Fiction Fridays: Centro Basco, Part 2

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

Centro Basco was a gathering place for the local Basque American community. Serving traditional Basque food to its regulars and any others curious to try it since 1940, the restaurant and bar had been a refuge to Basque immigrants for decades. Many young immigrants from the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains, in what are politically the countries of France and Spain, came to the small cow town east of Los Angeles as early as the 1930’s to work on the dairies, while others spread around the American West, working as sheepherders and ranch hands. With little opportunity for individual economic growth on the family farms in the Basque Country and with fairly lax immigration laws for Europeans in the United States, many young men and women came to America to live the dream. They were eager to work and make money in their new homeland, despite not knowing a word of English. These Basques, so far away from everything they had known, took comfort in their communities.

They built cultural centers all over the American West. Wherever a significant number of Basques lived, there was sure to be a thriving Basque center. The Basque clubs hosted dinners and dances, put on card and handball tournaments, and most importantly, provided these immigrants with a comfortable place to meet others who spoke their language and understood their struggles.

The city of Chino had changed since the founding of the Chino Basque Club in 1967. What was once a small town full of dairies grew into a distant yet substantial suburb of the Los Angeles area. Many of the dairies moved north to Bakersfield and other towns in the Central Valley with the rise of the housing development, yet a few family operations still remained.

The Basque community in Chino had grown as well. The immigrants who settled there had families, and by the new millennium Chino had several new generations of young Basque Americans. They kept their parents’ and grandparents’ traditions alive through their folk dancing groups, which taught children and youth social Basque dances that had largely been the center of their elders’ socializing. Now, the dance groups served as the hub of bringing the descendants of these immigrants together, while Centro Basco remained the central gathering place for Basques in Chino.

On the evening of the Larramendys’ visit, a few cars dotted the parking lot next to the handball court behind the restaurant. Inside, the lighting was dim. Wood paneling and artwork depicting traditional Basque scenes covered the walls. Women raking in hay fields, dancers, market stalls filled with meats and cheeses. The smell of stew wafted in from the swinging kitchen doors in the corner. A sparse number of tables with red and white checkered tablecloths seated families and elderly couples, but the restaurant was nowhere near full; it was still early in the evening. Rumor had it business was not good. Brigitte wondered when the place would close. It seemed only a matter of time, as much of its old Basque patronage had moved out of Chino. Continue reading

Fiction Fridays: Centro Basco, Part 1

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

Brigitte sat in the window seat of her bedroom on a warm evening a few weeks later, overlooking the park across the street. She observed a couple strolling along one of the dirt paths, hand in hand.  They caught her attention, because they walked very slowly and casually while wrapped up in an intense discussion.  The man’s eyebrows furrowed as he avoided his partner’s gaze, while the woman spoke animatedly to his turned away face.

From a distance the couple might have appeared like any other pair walking in the park that afternoon, but Brigitte noticed the tension and relished in it.  Maybe the woman was upset, because he had made a snide comment about her family.  Maybe the man was distant because they had had this conversation a million times before.  Maybe the woman was berating him for having replaced a roll of toilet paper without adhering to her personal preference for the paper to come over the roll instead of under it, as her mother often harassed her father.  Suddenly the woman slapped her companion hard across the face.  Probably not about toilet paper, she figured.

Her tabby cat Bruno laid curled up beside her on a plush red cushion and purred contentedly.  She scratched his chin absentmindedly.  As the cat stared up at her with half-closed eyes, she wondered what he was thinking.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t be sitting here, she thought in response to the judgment she projected into her cat’s gaze.  I should be getting ready.

Brigitte looked back out the window, but the couple was gone.  With a sigh, she got up and walked across the room to her closet, tripping over a pair of sneakers along the way.  She opened the door and stared at the mess inside.  Brigitte cared little about what she would wear to the dinner.  After all, she was only going out with her family to Centro Basco, the same restaurant they always frequented.

Brigitte picked out an old pair of denim shorts she had had since the eighth grade and refused to throw out, much to her mother’s dismay, and a striped top.  She changed out of her sweats, looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror, and twisted her mouth into a grimace.

Ever since she had found out she was named after French supermodel and actress Brigitte Bardot, she thought it was a cruel trick on her parents’ part to name her after one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived.  Why set such high expectations right from the beginning?  Clearly she could never live up.

With mousy brown hair, perpetually cut short and uncombed, common brown eyes and fair skin that caused her face to be constantly flushed pink, she held little resemblance to Bardot.  Her short and curvy frame was a joke compared to the lengthy and gorgeous physique of the original Brigitte.  Round and petite, this girl in her striped shirt looked downright lumpy in comparison to Bardot.  She could only be grateful that the kids at her California school had no idea who Brigitte Bardot was.  That way, at least she only got made fun of for having an embarrassing French name, rather than being abused for the irony of it as well. Continue reading