I’ve been fiddling with this scene for weeks because I’ve got When Are You? on the brain again, and I can’t help thinking that I should have done something different for the beginning of the book. This is what I’ve come up with, and it’ll have to suffice as a bonus scene that we can imagine could be inserted perhaps as a prologue or a different first chapter before segueing into the rest of the story.
It’s by no means necessary for the story, of course, but I think it’s a fun and interesting addition to it, and might better get the reader into the correct mind set for what the story is actually about. While I think the blurb clearly does that, the existing start of the story seems to sidetrack some readers into thinking the book is all or primarily about the MC’s romance rather than their relationship playing a big part in the story but not being the story.
It pairs nicely with the existing bonus scenes (Lucas’s Return, Parts 1-4), since this scene also features that fun yet minor side character.
Lucas, Millennial New Year’s Eve
As he threw back his head to laugh at his best friend Anthony’s joke with far more gusto than it merited, Lucas Schmidt had no inkling of the mindboggling turn his life would take in just a few short minutes. Unlike The Princess Bride’s Vizzini’s misuse of the word, this would be truly inconceivable to anyone who wasn’t a science fiction junkie.
The authorities investigating Lucas’s disappearance would never consider the truth. It wouldn’t occur to them, nor to his family. It would be considered only by fringe conspiracy theorists at whom the bulk of the world’s occupants would scoff with heavy derision if those musings were uttered aloud.
Nor did Lucas realize how much the last words his father had said hours earlier would haunt his thoughts over the coming year, long after he’d forgotten Anthony’s lame pun. His year of personal growth, as he would come to think of it. Eventually.
Well, it would last a year in his own personal timeline, but the flow of time became a bit muddled when disorderly rifts in its fabric got involved.
“Lazy punk,” Dad had grumbled, only partially under his breath. “You’re never going to amount to anything if you don’t get an attitude adjustment.”
“I’ll get them tomorrow, I promise!” Lucas had casually thrown over his shoulder as he’d loped out the front door and broken into a jog toward the park. It wasn’t like the dandelions were going anywhere. If not tomorrow, then he’d yank them the next day if he could get away with avoiding it a little longer. Damned things grew year ’round in the Pacific Northwest, and Dad refused to use weedkillers on his yard.
Likewise, back home in his easy chair, waiting for the Times Square ball to drop and usher in the new year—the new millennium—Lucas’s father had no idea his son was about to undergo said attitude adjustment. Or how much he would come to regret that harsh criticism, imagining, for the next twenty years, that they’d been the last words he would ever say to his son.
Two other men who were about to become an integral part of Lucas’s coming year also had no clue that the phenomenon that would one day consume their lives was beginning thousands of miles from where they currently lived. In this moment, they were tweens who would have far more in common with Lucas’s little sister, Miranda, than with Lucas.
In fact, years down the road after they’d married and moved to this area, they would become good friends with Miranda, who would sometimes babysit their young son. Eventually, she would tell them the story of her beloved big brother’s disappearance in the park, decades earlier, on the Millennial New Year’s Eve.
* * * *
Oblivious to the vagarities of time and to the reality that he was about to embark on the most strenuous year-long, let’s-toughen-this-punk-up program his dad could have conceived, Lucas refilled his red Solo cup at one of the kegs.
Lucas winced and briefly considered dumping it. This was one more thing for Dad to be mad about when Lucas came home staggering after a few too many. He sighed and glanced over at the bonfire where his girlfriend, Allison, was laughing with her friends.
Fuck it. With any luck, Dad would be asleep by the time he got home. Lucas snorted, took a hefty swig, and hitched his head for Anthony to follow him toward some bushes where they wouldn’t be overheard. He’d had enough liquid courage now to broach a certain subject with his best friend.
“So…” Lucas cocked one eyebrow in a manner he hoped resembled an accompaniment to a sophisticated query but more likely was a good match for the involuntary smirk twitching at the corners of his mouth. “Who are you crushing on these days?”
Which was, at the same time, both a chicken-shit sidetrack from the subject he wanted to steer toward, and a dick move. It was a dick move because Lucas knew damned well that Anthony was crushing on Lucas’s girlfriend, Allison, but was a good enough friend not to make a play for her.
Anthony blinked, and his mouth flopped open, but no noise came out.
“Naw, fuck it.” Lucas waved a hand to dismiss his idiotic question. “I wanted to tell you about who I’m crushing on.”
“What?” Anthony continued his blink-fest. “What are you talking about? You’re dating Allison, for fuck’s sake.” Anthony’s words were said with the tone of one who couldn’t fathom how anyone who’d met her would not be worshiping every strawberry-blonde strand of hair on Allison’s head.
And Lucas did adore her. She was funny and smart as well as beautiful. But hell, he was seventeen. And…curious. Bi-curious and wondering what his best friend would think of that. Not that Lucas was likely to do anything about it anytime soon, or possibly ever, because, as Anthony had said, he was dating Allison.
“I know, I know. We’re not breaking up or anything.” Lucas swallowed then blurted, “But do you ever wonder what it’d be like to make out with another guy?”
Anthony stopped blinking and stared at him with widened eyes. Was he imagining Lucas was talking about the two of them?
Lucas rushed on. “I never did before, but shit, Mr. Gardener is fucking hot.” Mr. Gardener being a first-year English teacher at their high school whose clothes fit close enough to be tantalizing without being snug enough to overstep the bounds of acceptable teacher attire.
Anthony barked a laugh that rang with a tone of relief. “Fuck. Point, dude. Goals, right? Have the sex appeal to turn fucking everybody’s heads.”
This time when Lucas threw back his head to laugh, it was with far more sincerity than his earlier guffaw at Anthony’s already forgotten joke. He spread his arms and spun.
Everyone who’d brought one had turned on their flashlights, and they were waving them in the air like beacons beckoning in the new millennium. It must be getting close to countdown time.
Lucas stopped spinning to watch the high-spirited fun as one of the kids tapped another, yelled “Tag, you’re it!” and the group scattered in all directions as the tagged girl chased after them.
“Awesome.” Lucas turned to Anthony. “Wanna?”
Then without waiting for a reply, Lucas ran into the inky void, away from the bonfire. He yelled, “Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m…” He stumbled his next few steps as he hit an unexpected downward slope. “…the gingerbread man!” He finished the nursery rhyme with gusto then tripped and fell. “Ouch. Dammit!”
He stood and did a slow turn to reorientate himself. About the time he’d stumbled, the familiar buzz of his classmates’ chatter had stopped, and a rhythmic beat and hum of voices had replaced it, coming from a different direction before drawing to a sudden stop. Weird.
And what the actual fuck? “Hey assholes,” he yelled. Turn your flashlights back on!”
Lucas rotated as his eyes adjusted to only moonlight. Again, what the actual fuck? “Where the fuck did you guys go?” And seriously, had these been here all along… “What’s with the funky tents? This isn’t funny, assholes!”
He spun toward a grove of trees to his right and tripped and fell on his ass again as two men wearing little more than loincloths emerged holding torches, running toward him.
Oh, surely not. Lucas lifted his face to the sky and yelled again. “I told you guys I didn’t wanna drop acid. I’m gonna kill you fuckers!”
“Lucas?” One of the men called.
They were figments of his imagination, so of course they knew his name.
“Yeah, trip dude, what d’ya want?”
Whatever. Nothing he could do about it now, so he might as well go with the flow.
* * * *
Intriguing as Lucas’s little adventure is, this story isn’t about him, though we’ll see him again–and revisit the tail end of this scene from a different perspective. This tale is about those two men approaching Lucas, torches in hand, to guide him through his year of personal growth.
Nor is this story about that particular year any more than it’s about Lucas.
Confused yet? Never fear, all will become clear in good time.
Come, let’s leap forward about eleven years from Lucas’s drunken Millennial New Year’s Eve run through the park and take a hop, skip, and a jump through a handful of pertinent events in those two men’s lives and look for clues as we lead up to the real drama of this story.
Blurb & Links
They have to find him…but how?
As a former member of an elite military special forces unit, Leo Bailey can handle anything life throws at him, except maybe approaching a certain gorgeous, purple mohawk-wearing, heavily pierced artist. But, one look at the mouthwateringly muscled, military buzzcut-sporting man with the endearing blush, and Vincent Noland is in love. Or at least in lust. Love comes later. Then marriage…and sweet, adorable Oscar.
Leo and Vinnie’s lives are perfect—the stuff of fairytale happily ever afters—except for Arthur Fletcher, whose unsettling reactions to them threaten to upset the happy balance of their lives. But it isn’t Arthur who throws their lives into turmoil.
A freak event causes Oscar to go missing and leaves both men frantic to rescue their son. As they piece together the clues, they discover that Oscar isn’t somewhere. He’s somewhen. And Arthur Fletcher holds the key—or rather the glass beads—to their one chance of finding Oscar.
Will Leo’s training, Vinnie’s determination, and Arthur’s knowledge help them rescue Oscar, or is the little boy doomed to spend the rest of his life at the mercy of a primitive civilization? Could there be a third possibility?