Bellflower Park: Then

January 23, 2023

Bellflower Park: Then


Three young women laughing together in a field of sunflowers.
Image: Antonino Visalli,

Bellflower Park is the working title of the novel I started writing for NaNoWriMo 2022. It was my first time ever attempting to write anything longer than a Facebook post since I graduated from college. I always thought there was no way I could write fiction, because I have always had a mental block when it comes to writing. This goes way back to my high school days. I would have ideas in my head of what I wanted to say in essays or research papers, but the process of translating that into the written word was just something I couldn’t master.

Over the past couple of years I tried to start on a novel, but it never really went anywhere. I had a character in my head, talking to me, but I couldn’t bring her to life on a page. So she just hung around, occasionally making some noise but mostly just sitting there patiently waiting for me to be ready to tell her story. And then, in early fall of last year, I sat down at my keyboard and just let her speak to me. I had zero plan in place for a plot. I wrote the first sentence and then just let my character guide my thoughts from there. Before I knew it, I had almost two chapters written about this forty-something woman, a sassy and sarcastic curmudgeon. I had no idea where I was going to go after that, so I put the project aside.

Then in the last few days of October, I decided that there was no way I was going to get anything done with this story without some kind of external motivation. With NaNoWriMo was starting a few days later on November 1st, I knew what had to be done. I signed up and on the first day I took what I had already written and started my journey to completing 50,000 words that month. I did meet that goal, but the story is far from complete. At the end of November I put it aside, to be looked at with fresh eyes after the first of the year. I haven’t yet started down the path towards completion of the book, but I am taking a look at what I’ve already written, hoping to get a spark going which will tell me how to fill in the gaps in the story.

Although the portion of Bellflower Park that I had initially written focused on my character, Tess, as an adult, I knew that I wanted to incorporate her backstory as well. So the book is divided into two parts, Then and Now. The portion shown below is from Then, in what I imagine will be the opening chapter of the book. Here, we meet Tess as an eighteen-year-old, writing in a journal that she, her sister Amy, and their best friend Maya had kept for several years. This first part of the book will be told entirely in an epistolary format, through these journal entries as well as letters, emails, and texts. In it we will see the three girls growing up together, BFFs through good times, bad times, and, eventually, tragic times.

This chapter is a bit of a downer, but I promise that the opening of the second half is much more light-hearted. I hope you enjoy reading this. Let me know what you think!

Monday, June 8

Dear Amy,

Today was your funeral. I know you said you didn’t want a big fuss made and just wanted a simple quiet ceremony, and I tried to remind Mom and Dad of that but they listened about as well as they always have. You’ll be thrilled to know that your funeral was pretty much the biggest social event of the season. Yeah, I know you’d say there goes my snarky streak again, and I know this is absolutely not the right situation for it, but that’s honestly the first thought I had when I saw all the people lined up to come into the church. Yes, the church. I’m sorry. I couldn’t convince Mom to abandon her lapsed Methodist roots. But hey, Principal Anderson canceled school today so that everyone could attend the service. I was kinda surprised that they all didn’t just take off to the beach. But no, most of the class was there. Even Bitch Sherri and her gang. They were such fake assholes after the service, feeding Mom and Dad some bullshit about how much they were going to miss you and how much they valued your friendship even though they spent the past six years making our lives as miserable as possible. I so wanted to call them out on it but knew Mom would put me in a casket right next to yours if I made a scene. But even though I wasn’t able to keep the funeral small, I did win on the closed casket. Mom wanted it open of course, but I reminded her that you were firm in your decision to have people remember you the way you looked before. I told her I would march down the church aisle and close the casket lid myself if I had to. She took everything else, so I was not backing down on this. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. 

I kinda thought everything would be done today, but I guess we’re having some other thing at the cemetery tomorrow morning, even though you requested to be cremated. I made Mom stick to that one too. But she insists on having a headstone to visit so even though the headstone isn’t even there yet we’re going to spread some of your ashes on the ground there or something. I just don’t think I can take another day of “putting on a brave face” like Mom keeps telling me to do. Right now I’m supposed to be at the house with the million other members of our family but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I snuck out when Mom was occupied with Aunt Susan. I didn’t even tell Maya I was leaving. I just wandered around until I found myself here at the treehouse. I’ve been here a while so someone is probably going to be out looking for me soon but I don’t really care. I’m sure Maya can figure out where I am. I’ve just been sitting here reading through this stupid dream journal of ours. We were so naïve to think we’d ever get to do the things we’ve been writing about in here. I wish I could go back and tell our ten-year-old selves that we were just wasting our time dreaming, because dreams don’t come true. If dreams came true you would still be here with me. If dreams came true you wouldn’t be in a box, or in an urn. If dreams came true you wouldn’t have spent the past two years in pain. If dreams came true I wouldn’t have to face the rest of my life without my sister. I don’t even know what the point of my life is right now. I mean, am I technically even a twin anymore now that you’re gone? How do I move forward when my other half is missing? I miss you so much already. 

I see Maya walking this way so I’m going to have to head back home. I guess this journal is useless now. I’ll bring it home with me and put it under your pillow. That’s where you wanted to keep it originally, remember? You said that we needed to keep our dreams safe and close to us or they would fly away. I guess you were right. 

2 thoughts on “Bellflower Park: Then”

  • I LOVE this! This doesn’t read like your first time writing. It’s natural. It flows. It has me intrigued.
    Tess’s voice is strong. I love the honest tone and sentiment of her inner dialogue with her twin, especially the tension of the funeral wishes. Very authentic. Especially when one has passed. I’m intrigued by the back story of Bitch Sherri and her gang. I’d love to know why Amy had her final preferences despite her parents (no church, no burial).
    I want to know what the journal looks like. Do they have a ritual and reason surrounding the one they share? Give me one descriptor for Maya so I can get a picture of her; what did she wear to her best friend’s funeral?
    I love the theme of the dream and the poetic mention of keeping it safe and under the pillow. Very evocative, symbolic. A great story point to build upon.
    I can’t wait to read more… ‘cuz I sure as heck hope you’re writing more for us to enjoy.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I will probably put the first chapter of the second part up later today. As an adult, Tess is way more like me. 🙂
      And please keep asking me questions about the characters and small plot points. It’s helping me fill in some details that have been missing in what I’ve written so far.

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