Note that The Untitled Book – Chapter 0, which I have deleted, is part of the same story, but I ended up not including it in the actual book. After all, who would read a whole prologue just describing the character??
This is the very first draft of Chapter 1 of this book, just saying — it’s very far from what the end result will be. I’ve done about three words of editing, if that. But I’m not saying that in a way that I’m ashamed of that or anything, of course. I strongly agree with the saying “write now, edit later,” although (for me, at least) it’s really difficult sometimes.
Note that this story switches perspectives every chapter, so that’s why there is a name at the top of this one.
I’m no fortune teller, but I’d bet anything that the sweaty hand yanking me out of the alley is about to wildly change my life.
My day began as normal. I woke up at around 5AM in the alley I typically call home. I stood up and rummaged through my few belongings, making sure no one stole anything while I was asleep. Half a loaf of bread, a can of fruit, gloves, a hat, and my guitar. Everything’s here.
Two years ago, I found a broken guitar in a dumpster. Fascinated, I cleaned it, learned how to fix it, and started teaching myself to play. I’ve had it ever since.
A few hours later, when more people were out, I grabbed the neck of my guitar, slung my backpack over my shoulder, tucked my hair behind my ear, and went out into the street to play.
I sat on the side of the road, sandwiched between merchants selling various things, with horses and pedestrians in front of me, and homes and shops behind. Like every morning, I carefully set out a hat a few feet away from me, ran my fingers along the strings, and began to play.
When I play, I forget that anyone or anything else is there. I close my eyes and let my sense of touch take over. I don’t listen to myself play, just feel my fingers gently release the strings and my long nails stroke them. My other fingers pressing into the neck, pinning down the strings and creating a beautiful, intricate harmony.
I feel my soul exit me in the form of the music, and I release whatever always burdens me. How I don’t know anything about my parents, my birthday, or what my real name is. How my first memories were living with my Uncle Aran, only to find out from police officers who came to our house that his real name was Ilten Bay, and he was a criminal who planned to do “bad things” to me when I “came of age.” How I was suddenly ripped away from the one person I knew without even a chance to say goodbye and placed in an orphanage. How the Crrenian government pays no attention to the poor whatsoever, so I ran away from the orphanage and took my chances in the streets. And how I’ve been like that ever since, barely managing to scrape by, making what I can playing my guitar.
I finished with a final bold strum, exhaling loudly (apparently I’d been holding my breath all that time) and nearly breaking a nail in the process. I opened my eyes and peered in my hat. Seeing what was in it, I smiled in disbelief. One hundred yrises! What a nice surprise. This would buy me breakfast for days.
Now, I doubt that breakfast is what I’ll be spending them on.
After my first performance of the day, I went a few blocks to our meeting spot. In a few minutes, at ten o’clock exactly, I saw Mabel walking toward me and I smiled a little.
Mabel Maun is the only thing (besides music, of course) that will make me smile. She is eleven years old, lucky enough to know that, and when she was five her parents died in a car accident. She was in multiple orphanages for a while, and two years ago she was adopted by Lia and Oryo Maun, who lived here in Chash. They know that she spends most days with her best friend, but they don’t know that her best friend is the pickpocket with the guitar. I can’t imagine what they would do if they found out. But she’s like a little sister to me, even though we’ve only known each other for a few years.
“Hello,” I said as she walked past me.
“Mabel.” I caught up with her. “What’s wrong?”
Mabel shook her head. “Don’t want to talk.”
I sighed. Mabel learned in her time as an orphan to bottle up her feelings, and she is pretty good at it. But anyone who knows her well knows that she’s not perfect at it. No one is.
I considered telling her that she was chewing her hair, which means she’s angry and nervous, but that would only have made everything worse — she really tries to hide her emotions, and I could tell she was in a bad mood. “Okay.”
We walked silently to the alley in which I slept. Once we got there, Mabel went briskly to the end and sank down on the ground, grinding her curly reddish-brown pigtail between her teeth. I sat next to her and asked, “You sure you don’t want to talk?” She didn’t respond, so we sat in silence.
Several minutes later, I stood up, twirled my hand toward her, and said, “Would you care to dance?” It always makes me feel better, and she knows it.
Mabel rolled her honey-colored eyes but took my hand and let me pull her to her feet. I swung her down the alley, and soon she was giggling, her hair bouncing and her skirt twirling. We danced to the intersection of the alley and the street. I was facing the end of the alley, and she was across from me. She let go of my hand and spun around on one foot, facing away from me, and that short moment is when the sweaty hand grabbed my arm from behind and dragged me away so quickly I didn’t have time to cry for help.