Last month, we challenged our Young Writers to submit a 400 word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novels. From over 500 fabulous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and four Runners-Up. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!
“About Tea” by Noelle H. — Grand Prize Winner (14-18 age group)
On Tea Henshaw’s second day, she hit Calvin in the jaw. I don’t know what he said to her to make her do it, but I saw her knuckles connect with his skin. I saw him take it like a dog: first shocked and timid, but then bouncing back at her with big eyes.
You wouldn’t hit a girl, we said. You wouldn’t. Not with all these adults around, with all these authoritative eyes watching. Oh, but look—they’re not. They never are. We’re beyond their jurisdiction here, outside, on the edge of schoolyard and town. (And of course Calvin would hit a girl, we reminded ourselves, drawing our jackets tighter around blue autumn arms.)
We said all this from behind the fence. Chain-link. Along the rough line between grass and gravel.
They fought in the road.
She was wearing overalls, like a contractor or something, and they were cuffed all the way down at the ankles even though it was still eighty degrees out. Her work boots were gone, but that fringe remained. (When did she do it? Was it freshman year, maybe, that she cut her bangs?) It was an enduring mark of childish impulse.
She was no rabbit; she was slow and strong. Later when she stood beside me, she made me a dandelion beside an oak tree. She wasn’t really that tall. She just seemed it, because she hit Calvin.
We wanted her to hit him again. We wanted her to pummel him, to knee him in the nuts. We wanted to see him vomit on the ground. We wanted to breathe him in when he crumbled. We wanted to stand in her shade.
When Calvin hit her back, she shrank six inches.
He jabbed her in the stomach and she keeled over. He stood over her with his auburn hair eating the sun— absorbing it, folding it into a halo like in Renaissance paintings.
We don’t know what he said to her. She made no answer at first, just gave a tiny cry that maybe no one heard but me. I recognized that sound. It made us the same.
Tea Henshaw was born, and learned to walk, and spoke her first words between the same two bright yellow lines. (No passing, the lines said. Everyone passed on that road.)
She said, “Nice to meet you,” and they shook hands.
The September light was red.
Special guest judge Kat Zhang had this to say about “About Tea”: “I’m a sucker for a bold, unique voice, and I kept thinking about this excerpt long after I read it. The words paint a lovely, vibrant scene.”
Noelle H. is a high school junior who enjoys writing, painting, swimming, and playing the violin. She has always loved stories. She has written one full novel (which is eternally in the editing stage), and hopes to finish a new version of it sometime this year. She plans to go to college for Art and Design, and dreams of working in animation.