Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

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Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

CaseyDembowski
This is the full opening scene from My Mannequin Year. It's a bit longer than the moment I used in Lesson 2.

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I met someone.

The thought hadn’t left my mind since he’d uttered it a month ago. It repeated at the most inopportune times. Andrew’s face full of excitement, but also a little wistful, would come into focus, and any healing I’d achieved would falter.

“Zoey?”

I tuned back into reality. I was in a small office, sitting on a plush leather chair. One of the school counselor’s waited on my answer. Her hand poised to write down notes on whatever I said next.  She was young—a graduate student—but I’d never been to a psychologist before so I really couldn’t tell the difference.

“Sorry, Annie.” That’s what she had asked me to call her. It felt less professional, but again I was new at this. I wracked my brain trying to remember what she’d just asked me.

She chewed on the bottom of her pen. “Where did you just go then?” She had a slight Southern accent that I couldn’t place.

I met someone. I wasn’t going to tell her that. Not yet. Her question popped into my mind—what had I been doing in my car last night?

“I like to drive around when I’m a stressed out,” I said, ignoring her last question. “I drive around, find someplace to pull over and write out my thoughts.” My eyes traveled past her to the walls filled with inspirational art and one diploma from Duke University—so that explained the accent. “Except here I don’t really know any spots yet. So I wound up back in the parking garage pretty fast.”
It was the truth, but campus safety hadn’t wanted to hear it. And my RA, along with the Honors Program director, had commanded me to talk to a counselor today. They feared I was overwhelmed or maybe even a danger to myself. All because I’d fallen asleep in my car. I hadn’t even been drinking.

“What stressed you out last night?” she asked.

I sighed. I could lie. There were plenty of reasons I could be stressed out. I was a college freshman, just two weeks into the new semester—though I’d been on campus for almost four already—and I was in the honors program. Instead I decided on the truth. It had the fewest ramifications—I didn’t need to be kicked out of the Honors Program or told I couldn’t continue with Greek Life recruitment.

“I saw a picture of my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend online.”

She narrowed her eyes in thought. “Was it the first time you saw them together?”

Did she ever not ask a question? I shook my head. “It wasn’t the picture, exactly. It was…” I took a breath and met her eyes. I was about to label myself a cliché. “He said he loved her.”

I knew Andrew had moved on. He’d told me to my face—I met someone. But he was also still texting me occasionally. Nothing indecent. The other day we’d talked about rush and pledging—we were both in the throes of it. But it had to mean something.

I looked at the clock hanging above Annie’s desk. It was 11:02. Sorority bids were being handed out right now, and I was stuck in here.

“So after you drove around you parked in the garage and wrote out your thoughts. And then you just fell asleep?”

I thought about her question. “I was waiting on a call from my best friend—Maddie.”

It had been just after one. I knew Maddie was at a party. She’d been sending me ridiculous pictures for over an hour. Despite her fairly tame personality in high school, Maddie had already taken to the party scene at the University of Florida. I looked around the small office again. I was starting to wish I’d gone to Florida with her. Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania was causing me trouble already.

She wrote something down on her pad. “Did she ever call you?”

“Yeah. At 3 am. I missed the call. I was already back in my bed after public safety found me.”

Annie nodded. “How long were you and Andrew together?”

It seemed we were switching topics. “Three years.” My leg started involuntary bouncing. I wanted to find out if I got a bid. My roommate, Haley, said it was a done deal, but I needed to know. She was a sophomore—it was an honors program thing. All freshmen got paired with sophomores from the program. I imagine it was harder for the sophomores than the freshmen, but I hardly minded having a roommate who already knew all the ins and outs of Bellewood. It had certainly made the last four weeks highly entertaining.

“And how long have you been apart?”

Well, that was complicated. “Technically? Two and a half months.”

She looked at me skeptically. “Technically?”

Dammit. I bit my lip and looked back at the clock. “Do you mind if we reschedule?”

She actually smiled. “May I ask why?”

My fingers tapped a beat on my knee. I looked up at her annoyed. “It’s Bid Day.”

“What sorority are you hoping for?” Her smile grew.

I sneaked a look around the room again. There on her desk, her coffee mug—Phi Sigma Sigma. We didn’t have a chapter on campus, but I’d heard a lot about them since they had one just across town at Lehigh, where Andrew attended. I’d almost gone there, too.

“Delta Omega Sigma,” I said.

She nodded. “The DeltaSigs are a great group of women. I think you’d fit in with them well.”

I started to stand, but refrained. “So, I can go?”

“Yes, go. Schedule another appointment with me before you head over to the UC, though.” She handed me her card with her business hours on it. “It’s not anything official, but I’m usually in the office on the weekends if you need me.”

I stood now, and grabbed my bag off the floor. “Good to know.”

“And Zoey, when you come in again, I’d like to discuss this technicality you mentioned.”

Crap.
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

Chris Adler
I liked this longer version, the longer conversation between the two. There were a couple of little things I didn't understand: "She was a sophomore—it was an honors program thing." What is "it" that she refers to here? The other was in this paragraph:

“Yes, go. Schedule another appointment with me before you head over to the UC, though.” She handed me her card with her business hours on it. “It’s not anything official, but I’m usually in the office on the weekends if you need me.”

It might be a good place to tell us what the UC is. And what does Annie mean by "It's not anything official"? That threw me a little bit.

I like Zoey's inner dialogue, learning her regrets and hopes and a bit about her past, what she thinks/feels vs. what she's saying. Good job.
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

Anju Gattani
In reply to this post by CaseyDembowski
Hi Casey,

I liked the previous version better. It moved quicker with more action and less thought. There's definitely more information here now... but I'm wondering what is more important to the story... the break-up with Andrew or something else?

The line 'Where did you just go then?' is fabulous! Double meaning for me... her drive the night before and her current state of mind.

When she bites her lip and asks to reschedule... that's a hint for something on her mind. Is the main focus of her issues trying to fit in? Or get over Andrew? Or perhaps both? Whatever you decide... Zoey has heavy-duty issues going on. And I can feel it! Loved it!
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

Rebecca Hodge
In reply to this post by CaseyDembowski
I liked this balance between internal thought and external dialog.  I think this is all coming together.

When she leaves, it may be helpful to give us a clearer idea of why she is leaving --- because of the bid? because she doesn't want to talk about Andrew?  because she doesn't want counseling regardless of the topic?  All of those issues are mentioned, and it's a little difficult to tell what the prime driver is (or whether it has required all three together to propel her out the door).

Enjoyed it!
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

ProfeJMarie
In reply to this post by CaseyDembowski
I liked this new version - but I'm torn with the idea of still keeping it shorter and therefore moving up the pace into the story. If you can balance this with the original one you shared, that might be the key.

At the beginning, you say "school counselor" and it might be useful to say "university" (or "college" if it isn't a university) instead of "school" because even though I already knew where Casey was, the first thought that comes to my mind with school counselor is middle or high school.

I got a kick out of the counselor enjoying the sorority bid. Definitely makes me feel like she'll be good for Zoey.
-ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist)
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

Kathryn (Kathy) Thoms
In reply to this post by CaseyDembowski
I lean toward the shorter version, but I think with a little streamlining this works. I would love for the counsellor to ask "Was he an ex-boyfriend at the time?" when Zoey admits to having seen him with another girl.

From the aspect of voice, the discussion of Zoey's technicality nicely raises questions about that relationship.

I like these characters, and I feel like you capture the sense of a new beginning complete with excitement and anxieties beautifully.
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

DonaldMaass
In reply to this post by CaseyDembowski
I like the tighter passage though I do think some voice is sacrificed to keep this moving.  That is perhaps something to address, as I found myself not bonding to this character as solidly as I might.  That's me.
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

ecuajess
In reply to this post by CaseyDembowski
I liked her SO much more in this one, and maybe it was reading the facts a second time, but I understood why she was there and what happened the night before much better, too.  If you are concerned about the streamlining as per other comments, there are some bits that could go - e.g. I'm not interested in the counselor's credentials or Maddie's partying, even though flitting over those thoughts seems realistic.  Or at least not as much as I am interested in Zoey!  Well done!
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

ecuajess
In reply to this post by CaseyDembowski
Oh, and I meant to ask what the journaling thing was about - did they think it was a suicide note?  Or am I reading too much into the mention of writing your problems down?
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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

Anne Feldman
In reply to this post by CaseyDembowski
This is a better version, I think, you get to the point quicker. I love this story, the premise and I am dying to see how it unfolds. And to meet Andrew.

I wondered if this went on a bit too long, if any tightening were possible (like cut the diplomas, a little less description of Annie and her movements at the very beginning).

You do a good job with her voice here. I hope to read more! Good writing.

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Re: Dembowski - My Mannequin Year

Casey Dembowski
In reply to this post by ecuajess
Just met to be journals. It something she does, so it pops up throughout the novel.

I think public safety was more concerned that she was sleeping in her car in the parking garage than anything else :)