First of all, I can’t believe I’ve been doing this Wednesday feature for six weeks now. It seems like just yesterday…
The following is a short excerpt from my third attempt at writing an opening scene. While I initially wanted to write this story as an epistolary and therefore first person narrative, I decided last week that third person might be a better option. I was honestly worried that writing from the perspective of a person struggling with depression would be limiting. The last thing I want is to alienate readers or render Ruth a “whiny” and unsympathetic narrator (although I’ve been called whiny more times in my life than I could even begin to count, so maybe there’s something there).
Anyway, thanks for reading, as always, and let me know what you think in the comments!
As she and Hannah stepped out to the driveway in the brisk October air, Ruth tried to remember a time when she’d gotten along with her sister. She supposed there were brief months of happiness when they were both in elementary school. Back then, Hannah had been a little less rule-obsessed, a little more fun. They’d even shared some of the same friends in childhood, mostly other little girls who’d attended Trinity from the start.
Somewhere around Ruth’s entry into middle school, though, things had changed. Hannah became intensely competitive, winning the all-school spelling bee in fifth grade, getting accepted into any sort of early advanced program the school offered, and seeming, from Ruth’s perspective at least, to take pride in out-doing her older sister in everything possible. While Ruth’s teen years brought acne and an awkwardness that came with towering over people two grades ahead of you, Hannah seemed to blossom out from age twelve, becoming one of the prettiest, most naturally popular girls in her class. Her bright blonde hair was in stark contrast to Ruth’s dishwater blonde or mouse brown, and Hannah’s eyes were a clear blue while Ruth’s were somewhere between green and hazel. Hannah even had noticeable boobs, something Ruth was still waiting rather impatiently to acquire. While Ruth’s interests were limited to running and reading whatever books she could get her hands on, Hannah was involved in over half the clubs in school—she was even a shoe-in for National Honor Society next year, as Liz was constantly reminding them. She was even dating a terribly attractive basketball player from her sister’s grade, while Ruth was still single, with no idea how to change it.
It wasn’t for lack of trying, she thought bitterly as she drove the car out onto the main streets of town. She’d spent most of last year pining over a guy in her Biblical Studies class, Kyle Kramer. Never mind the fact that he was three years older than her, that he was the star of the basketball team and the front member of an indie band. He also happened to be one of the few guys tall enough for Ruth to realistically date. Except he hadn’t even known she existed, and she’d been too terrified to really do anything about it.
As her best friend Lila was always reminding her, it didn’t do Ruth any good to pine after guys like Kyle who were obviously out of her league. Lila was even more stumped by the fact that practically all Ruth’s friends at school were guys. She didn’t seem to understand that none of Ruth’s guy friends even saw her as a girl.
Deep down, Ruth knew her best friend was right. It wasn’t enough to go after a guy because he’s cute and tall and popular. Ruth needed a guy who was on her level—which, granted, eliminated approximately 90% of the school. She needed someone who wasn’t afraid of talking about something a little deeper than the weather, weekend plans, the school’s football team, or who was throwing a party that weekend.
She needed, she thought as they crossed into the northern part of town, someone who wasn’t afraid to see her—all of her.
As she paused at a stoplight, she glanced at her sister out of the corner of her eye. Hannah had her eyes glued to the screen of her phone, rapidly texting someone, while her head bobbed slightly to the pop song blaring through the car’s crackling audio system. It was a Top 40 radio station, the exact last thing Ruth would’ve put on, but changing it would’ve required actually having a conversation with Hannah, which she generally avoided at all costs.
Finally, after twenty silent minutes broken only by the sound of what Ruth considered the worst music in the world, they pulled onto the broken-down street that led to the school.