In the Wait: Carter

In The Ugly Truth, Carter is one of Seth’s best friends. Soccer teammates, Carter shows up a few times in Seth’s story as a part of his journey. One of Carter’s most important scenes is in the cafeteria when Seth takes his big risk. But he’s an underdeveloped character. This made me wonder how he would feel learning that his best friend and teammate had been in a life threatening car accident. How would he respond? Here is Carter’s In the Wait vignette. Like Sara, I wonder what kind of social repercussions will occur because of his actions…

A series of vignettes to go with characters in Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth

A series of vignettes to go with characters in Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth

Carter

Williams’s text has thrown me off, in a big way. I’d planned to get to school early and work out. It’s what I do, after all, because I’ve got goals. My phone went off a few minutes before my alarm and when I opened my messenger app to read it, I figured it was a prank.

Williams: Seth’s been in an accident

Me: FO, you prick

Williams: Srsly bro

I’d sat up in my bed, brought my knees up and rested my elbows on them, phone in my hands.

Me: For real?

Williams: Yea dude. My dad picked him up early this morning. Alive. Said it’s bad

Me: WTF!?!?

Williams: I’m shook

Me: hospital?

Williams: Yeah. Headed there soon. Texting team

Me: C U there

I scoot to the edge of my bed still looking at my phone to try and find information and rereading the texts. Then I sit on the edge in shock, figuring something’s off. I scroll through IG. Several videos of Seth and Gabe’s fight the day before are there. Twitter. Someone’s posted: 

Peters in critical. WTF? #Freakchallenge messed him up. #crucifydaniels

The idea of Seth in the hospital isn’t adding up in my head. I get up, drawing on some joggers, a t-shirt and my team jacket. 

After brushing my teeth, I go downstairs.

“Morning, Carter,” my mom says from the kitchen bar. “You just missed, Dad.”

I back up and glance through the doorway. She’s holding a cup of coffee. 

“Something wrong?” She asks as her brows shift over her eyes.

“I just got a text from Williams. He says Seth is in the hospital.” Saying it out loud doesn’t make it any more real, less perhaps. I picture Seth - team captain, scoring leader, jokester - full of life. He’s my best friend. There has to be a mistake.

“What?” My mom sets down the coffee mug. “Is it serious?”

“I don’t know,” I tell her and step fully into the doorway instead of leaning around the jam. “He said his Dad took Seth in and it’s bad. I’m going to the hospital now.”

“I needed you to take Michelle this morning-” Mom starts referencing my little sister and then shakes her head. “No. That’s okay. I got it. Want me to meet you there?”

I tap the door jam with my fist. “No. That’s okay. I’ll text you.”

“I’ll call the school and let them know.”

I pause not having thought about that. I nod. “Yeah. Okay.” I turn and grab my keys from the dish in the hallway. 

“Text me,” Mom calls after me. “As soon as you hear something.”

When I get to the hospital and find out where to go, I’m numb, like I’m not in my own skin but just watching my body walk through the spaces. The hospital is teeming with people, but they’re all faceless entities. When I step into the waiting room, I see a lot of people. Matt Kaiāulu - freshman on the varsity team - gets up from a center group of chairs and walks toward me.

“Hey,” he says and holds out his hand.

I take it and we offer one another a one armed hug while our hands are still connected. 

“This is messed up,” he says as he draws away. He has an accent in his voice which I think has something to do with being raised in Hawaii, but it isn’t because he speaks Hawaiian. 

“Heard anything?” I ask him.

“Not yet.”

“Williams just said it was ‘bad.’”

“Yeah. That’s what I heard too.”

I glance past him and see his sister, Abby. She’s curled up into herself and holding onto their dad. I recall the fight yesterday, the instagram stories - Gabe and Seth trading blows - Abby on the periphery of it.

“There’s room,” Matt tells me, and I follow him into the chair grouping. He introduces me to his dad. 

We talk about soccer which seems a strange thing to grab onto, but is like grabbing hold of the earth when gravity just failed. It’s like I’ve touched a live wire and everything around me, movement, sounds, visuals, are bursting like cartoons. I don’t feel like I’m here.

I glance at Abby when I pass her on my way to a seat. She doesn’t offer me any words but raises her dark eyebrows over her brown eyes in acknowledgement. We haven’t talked much before, so I don’t interpret her interaction as rudeness. I’m reminded again how pretty she is - her soft brown skin, cute freckles across her nose and those brown eyes - and understand why Seth has it bad for her.

I remember when we all first saw her, the way we laughed and teased one another, because she was new and mysterious. Seth trying to be nonchalant but looked like an opened-mouth fool. The memory makes me smile. Then I think about her walking through the hallways with the Freak lately, sitting with him in the cafeteria. I frown. My boy’s been hurt, and because of that, my loyalties lie with him.

Matt and I sit and talk and as we do more people arrive.

Sara - who looks like her world has been crushed - gives Abby the evil eye when she walks in. I look at Abby again, who isn’t even paying attention to Sara, but I know they’ve got bad blood. Abby went after Sara after the video was shared. I didn’t get it from Sara, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it started with her.

Coach arrives, teammates and we clump up in the center grouping of chairs. Waiting.

“He said that the front of Seth’s truck is crushed,” Williams says. “Head on collision with another car. They had to get a second ambulance for that driver. Seth wasn’t responsive.”

I swallow down the nausea climbing the walls of my stomach into my throat hearing the details. It’s easier not to know. “He was alive though?”

“Yeah.” Williams nods.

“Any news, yet?” Someone asks.

Someone else says, “no.”

Silence descends, and I figure we’re all contemplating the big What If. I know I am. What if Seth doesn’t survive?

Someone changes the subject to school - wrestling and basketball tryouts coming up. Safe.

I see Abby jump from her seat out of the corner of my eye and look up. Gabe Daniels has walked into the room. My stomach dips toward rage. I don’t know why, really. Daniels has never done anything to me (we were once friends), but I’m thinking about that fight yesterday. I’m thinking about the way he’s got his arms around Abby and his head buried against her neck. I’m thinking about my boy, Seth, who’s fighting for his life, and it isn’t fair. How does this guy get to be walking around and acting like he fucking cares. It makes me want to puke.

I stand and my teammates' faces swing toward me which I suppose is how things will go for a while. Seth is captain, and with him down, someone has to take the lead. “I don’t like what I’m seeing,” I say. “It makes me sick.” I move across the room. The team follows. 


In the Wait : Sara

Sara is one of those characters in Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth that is easy to hate. She’s petty, vindictive, self-centered and does some really shady stuff. But I’ve been wondering why she’s like that because while I think there are probably instances of people just “being bad” I don’t think that’s the case all of the time. Experiences shape perspective for the most part. This made me curious about Sara. Here’s a snippet from Sara while she waits in the hospital. (I do wonder, what kind of consequences will be set in motion because of the choices Sara makes).

In The Wait Cover.jpg

Sara

I slump into the green chair against the ivory wall of the waiting room. My mother sits down next to me. I push a hand through my dark hair and move locks around to find a place the strands feel perfect that way if anyone is watching, it can’t be said I don’t take care of myself. I glance around the room to see who’s here. Many of the faces in the waiting room are strangers but many are not. Carter is by Freak 2 and it makes my stomach churn with hatred. Maybe if I’d put out a slutty video of myself on the internet, all the guys would like me too. Anger slithers through me looking at her, rolled up into a ball on her seat, her head against a large man’s shoulder - her dad probably - if she has any right to mourn Seth. She looks like shit. Her dark hair drawn into a messy bun, dressed like she just rolled out of bed. I don’t understand why Seth - 

But I push the unfinished thought away. I don’t want to think about that now. I’m sitting in a hospital where Seth is and I don’t know any more than what Britney’s call had told me this morning: Seth was in a car accident. He’s at the hospital. I’m here to be what a girlfriend would be - even if that isn’t what we are. Right now.

“Are you okay, Babe?” My mom asks. She places her warm hand on my arm.

I shake my head and whisper, “No,”  instead of what I want which is to scream: NO! Seth is in the fucking hospital. MY SETH. That bitch doesn’t deserve to be here!

I close my eyes shutting out what’s around me and picture him: his beautiful golden brown eyes, his brown hair streaked with sunlight. His dimpled smile. I remember that night - our first night together - when he’d finally seen me. It was all I’d ever wanted: to be seen by Seth Peters. It had been at a summer party - end of June - at the lake. I’d ridden up with Cara. Drank. Danced. Bumped into him. He’d smiled at me.

“Hey there, Sara,” he’d said and leaned forward to give me a light hug. He smelled spicy and my heart leapt being so near him. He’d been wearing a white t-shirt stamped with a rainbow and the word Hawaii; the cloth stretched around his lean body, the cotton taught in all the right places. I was sure he could hear the breath catch in my throat.

I offered him my own version of his smile. “Hi,” I’d said. “I haven’t seen you at any other parties this summer.” I’d pressed my lips against his ear to tell him because the music was loud. It hadn’t actually been necessary, but it allowed me to get closer to him, my hand on the bare skin of his arm. His hand was on my waist - my skin exposed to his because of my cropped top - and the warmth of his hand on me caused sunbursts to explode in my chest and heat my nerve endings. 

“You’ve been looking for me?” He asked, the whisper of his breath on my cheek. I could smell the alcohol spinning a magical spell between us. 

I leaned back so I could see his eyes and smiled. I didn’t care that he knew I’ve wanted to see him. We were both alcohol loose and I wanted to jump into this ride and follow the loop-de-loops. I wanted him. I’d wanted it for so long. He was the reason I’d attended every party I’d ever been to. Seth. He was looking at me.

He tugged me closer, and we danced. He held my hips to his and we moved with a rhythm I’d once only imagined. The music wrapped around us like a blanket and everyone else seemed to disappear. The stars were out, bright and twinkling in the night sky. I thought about the water of the lake, and other revelers  in it, doing their own dance and wondered if Seth would ever see me like that - as someone he’d want to slip into the cool water with. I’d been infatuated with him since eighth grade when my girl-clan had clumped at the edges of the basketball court watching our crushes and hoping they would look our way. That night he did, both of us tipsy. His hands slid over my body and I wanted him to. I kissed him so he wouldn’t wonder about my want. 

Opening my eyes, I return to the hospital waiting room from my mind and glance around again. The bitch who messed up everything is across the room. Abby with a-last-name-no-one-can-even-pronounce. More of the soccer team has congregated around her while I’m alone against the wall with my mom. They should be with me instead of an internet whore. I’m popular and he was MY SETH, not hers. 

Tears burn against my eyes and then fall. My mom holds out a tissue to me. I take it and press it to the corners of my eyes. 

Seth and I had been fine before she showed up.

That first kiss had been everything I’d imagined. The feel of his tongue. The rhythm of the way we could work together. It turned out I was a girl that Seth could see slipping into the water with. It hadn’t happened that night, but at a summer pool party I’d thrown a week or so later. After everyone else had left or passed out, we slipped into the pool and then up to my room. My heart still trips around in my chest thinking about his hands on my body, the way we connected, the cadence and sway of our bodies together. Then I became the girl he held at every party after that. And sometimes - when I invited him over - he’d show up at my house and we’d find one another again in the frenzy of want. Always us. Seth and Sara. Sara and Seth. Exactly as it was supposed to be. Sure - we were always drunk, but it made it hotter and sort of perfect.  He was finally my Seth just like I’d always wanted. All summer and into the first weeks of school. 

Until that day in the hallway at school a couple weeks after classes started and he said:  Look Sara, we aren’t really together-together. My heart crashed into my chest and then he’d offered hope when he showed up at my house one more time. Hungry for me and what I could give him. Me. Then he stopped talking to me, stopped seeing me as if everything between us had dried out. He started seeing the bitch, brought her to a party even, and I tried to get his attention back, but even then, he was jaded by her.

I was left behind in the wake, floating untethered to anything as if a strong wave had rushed through and broke me. I couldn’t find anything to hang onto. I’d given him my everything - every part of me. I wasn’t ready to let it go, so when I found that horrible video of her. How could I not share it? I was certain it would bring Seth back - away from her. It hadn’t gone the way I imagined.

Then, unexpectedly, Seth showed up at my house. He’d thrown pebbles at my window to draw me out to the pool house. I’d been shocked but that part of me who still wanted Seth and Sara was elated. He’d talked strange and disjointed. That conversation a few weeks ago has been running like a loop in my mind since.  This was after his surfing accident, after I’d shared bitch’s internet shame that made her Freak 2, after everything had changed. He’d asked me that stupid question: Why do you like me? 

A fresh bout of tears start thinking about it, and faces in the waiting room swing toward me. I turn my face into my mother’s shoulder and her arm comes up around me.  

Why do I like me?

The truth was I couldn’t believe that he liked me, that he ever had, but when he kept coming back, I could feel the stitching of the parts of me fortified. I’d always liked him. He was Seth Peters. I’d written his name on my folder and signed my name as Sara Peters in my diary. I’d imagined he and I together because it just was what I’d constructed in my mind. He was perfect. Good looking. Popular. Athletic. Funny. And his question - his stupid question - opened up a fissure inside me because why would he like me? I’d thrown the same question back at him. And then instead of saying why he might have liked me, he’d said: I’m sorry I used you, for hurting you. The gap had widened and suddenly I was falling through. 

But I can’t believe it. I won’t believe it. He’s my Seth. Has always been MY SETH!

There’s movement across the room drawing me back into the waiting room, and I look to see who it is.

Freak 1 - Gabe Daniels - steps into the doorway and Freak 2 gets up and walks into his arms. They cling to one another like they have a right.

My eyes narrow. 

The rumors have been burning about them leaving everything else smoldering with smoke. Freak 1 and Seth got in a fight the day before. Was it about her? That stupid bitch who’s ruined everything. Why the fuck does Freak 1 think he has any right to be here? What if it’s his fault Seth is here in the hospital?

Freak 2 is clinging to him like she’s an extension of him. What about Seth?

I pull out my phone and text Cara and Bri: you wouldn’t believe who has the nerve to show up at the hospital.



The Ugly Truth: Read Aloud

First, April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month as well as Alcohol Awareness and Prevention Month. Both of these issues are heavy weights the protagonist of The Ugly Truth, Seth, carries through his narrative and contribute to his struggles.

That said, The Ugly Truth is the second book in a series of three inter-connected books of the Cantos Chronicles that follows Seth on his journey. The first book is Abby’s tale in Swimming Sideways (Seth and Gabe are important parts of her narrative). The third and final book in this series will be published later this year and will explore Gabe’s adventure. Ultimately, all three of these books ask us to understand that what we see isn’t always the whole picture of a person’s truth.

One of the difficulties of writing The Ugly Truth was the darker content which explained Seth’s perspective, a glimpse of what we were able to see in Abby’s story (Seth wrote a letter to readers which also provides a glimpse into this character. You can read that here). The following is an excerpt taken from two chapters which explore Seth’s relationship with his parents and the emotions which fuel his actions. Some things to keep in mind:

1) The narrative of Seth’s story isn’t told linearly. Instead, it jumps between the present and the past. This excerpt starts in the past and will return to the present.

2) In the present, Seth’s consciousness and soul is outside of his body observing the world happen around him and powerless to do anything to impact it.

The Ugly Truth Read Aloud

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