Tomorrow is the first day of #ExcerptWeek, and I thought I’d get a jump on it by sharing one of my own excerpts today, thus keeping it out of the way of all the others that will be forthcoming.
Filled with guilt and despair as the result of a terribly tragedy, Hunter Painter has disappeared. No one in the little town of Riverbend has any idea where he’s gone, but most fear the worst. Only Willow Greene, who has loved him for years, still has faith he’ll come home to her again, though his middle brother, Forrest, is trying hard to believe she’s right.
“Forrest, what was in the box Hunter left with you?”
He gazed at his empty plate. When he looked at her again, his puzzled eyes were dark with sadness. “Things I never knew he had. Family mementos. Photos from vacations. Stuff Jackson an’ I never paid no attention to. I couldn’t believe he’d kept ‘em. Pictures from a trip to Disney when we were kids. The three of us buildin’ a sand castle at New Smyrna Beach. Ticket stubs from concerts. Sea shells, marbles, an old miniature train engine …”
He took a drink of tea, cleared his throat, and went on. “It made me feel sad … an’ sort of ashamed … to see how much value he’d put to memories Jackson an’ I’d taken for granted. Like he didn’t want to let go of those times, while I was rushin’ to get through ‘em, an’ grow up.”
He shook his head, marveling. “Found a couple of things of mine he must have taken out of the trash. I couldn’t believe it. They hadn’t meant anything to me, but Hunter saw something in them. I guess he left ‘em with us, because he knew we were the only ones who would recognize them. Or maybe … maybe he left ‘em so we wouldn’t forget him.”
Willow could picture Hunter carefully rescuing those small bits of his childhood, tucking them away in closets and drawers. Holding on to his memories as hard as he could. A familiar ache wormed its way through her heart as she thought about the little boy who never quite felt like he belonged, but who still wanted tangible evidence that he’d been there—when this thing happened, or this one, or that.
She rose, blinking back sudden tears, and patted Forrest’s shoulder as she passed his chair. “Be back in a minute. I’ve got something to show you.”
When she returned to the kitchen, Forrest jumped to his feet. “Here, let me take that for you.”
“I’ve got it. I’m stronger than I look. But could you move the dishes to the sink to make more room?” She put the oversized basket on the cleared table, then took her seat again.
“What’s all this?”
“This is what Hunter left me. Did you know your brother wrote?”
He looked blank. “Wrote who?”
She sighed. Had no one ever known who Hunter was?
“He wrote, Forrest. Poems, and short stories, and essays. He’s been keeping journals or notebooks since he was a child. They’re filled with beautiful writing. Observations. Descriptions. Words upon words about life, and love, and fear, and loneliness. And he left them all with me.”
Smiling, she ran her fingertips across the soft leather cover of the top journal. “He left you his memories, and he left me his heart. And you and I are going to be the caretakers of both, until he comes home to claim them again.”
My Inspiration for Hunter Painter