What a powerful prompt and emotion regret is. Although it is an entirely useless torment, regret is like an illness. People will suggest you live without regret, but is such a thing even possible?
This idea of regret and overcoming the grief it brings was such a major concept in my novel, The Hereafter. In the novel, two teenagers find themselves on the other side of death, left with only their regrets that led to their demise.
Ultimately, they are faced with a choice. Would they change the decisions they regret the most, even if it means losing what they have found together.
Writing the novel, I became obsessed with this idea of regret and the price we pay to grow and move forward.
So, today I want to share an excerpt from The Hereafter. This scene is a flashback from Nin's life, a pivotal moment when her worst regrets would become the catalyst for even more regrets to come.
Nin stood in front of the window of a fancy hotel on Congress street. A giant chandelier illuminated the lobby and was reflected back by the shiny tiled floor. It bustled full of visitors and families all moving in or out, speaking to staff and waiting to be seated in the restaurant. A cluster of rich-looking young men sat in suits at the bar. Nin watched from the window dressed the nicest she had been dressed in years. She had on a knee-length sable-black dress with a lacy slip peaking from the bottom. She adored the dress with its boat-line neck that flattered her tiny shoulders and flat chest. Complimenting the dress, she carried a velvet black clutch which held only her dead cell phone, a debit card and two copies of her father's funeral program.
She didn't know why she was there or what she would do next. She felt like shit but she looked amazing, and hated the thought of it going to waste. Nin went into the bar because she wanted to be somewhere that felt fake. She wanted to be in a world where emotions were hidden away like ugly shoes in the back of the closet. She wanted to pretend for a moment that it wasn't a world where her father was dead. She didn't want to be the hummingbird that day. She wanted to be a swan or a nightingale. Anything but a hummingbird.
She gathered her courage and walked into the hotel and straight up to the bar. Normally, she would be too terrified to attempt something so insane, but she couldn't fathom a reason not to. What's the worst that could happen? They tell her to leave? They arrest her? Her father would still be dead. Nin looked the bartender straight in the face and ordered a gin, her father's poison of choice. The bartender looked her up and down, and she casually held his stare. Her makeup and dress aged her enough, but it was more likely the fierce look of grief that seeped from her pores that convinced him to serve her. He placed a napkin on the bar and followed it with a short glass which he filled a quarter of the way with the copper liquid. Nin nodded to him, then relaxed as he walked away.
She drank the first one quickly and the second one slowly. A dense fire rested on her stomach. She was only moments from walking away from the shiny, fakeness of it all when a smiling boy emerged from the cluster of men in suits down the bar and walked up to her. He looked so promising. He was only slightly taller than her. He had brown hair, combed to the side, but appeared tousled as if this were his casual mode. His teeth were perfect and his eyes were bright.
"Matthew," he said with his hand outstretched. He offered his introduction before she even had a chance to deny him.
"Nin," she said as she put her hand in his. Rather than shake it, he floated it to his lips and pressed a kiss to her knuckles.
"Can I buy you another drink, pretty Nin?" He was clearly already a few drinks in. He didn't look much older than her, but he was probably old enough to buy drinks legally. He pushed a soft curl behind her ear with ease and a charming smile. She couldn't look him in the eye, but she just nodded. There was no reason in her mind to refuse him.
"Tell me truth," he whispered when their glasses were near empty, after they had spent an hour with flirtatious small talk. "How old are you really?"
He had brought out something in her, or maybe it was the alcohol, but she couldn't stop smiling at him.
"Old enough," she replied as she leaned in, nearly sitting in his lap. He pressed his mouth against hers. It was a careless kiss that Nin didn't stop. His hand rested on her neck under her blond waves. She leaned in farther.
When the kiss came to an end, he spoke into her ear, "lets get out of here." She didn't hesitate or second-guess the invitation. She no longer thought about tomorrow or the next day. She only thought about the image of her father being swallowed up by the cold, dark earth.
It only took that one drink to get her to leave with him. She wasn't Nin anymore. She didn't make choices Nin would make. She didn't think about discretion or modesty. She didn't care what she was about to lose or if she even cared much about the boy she would lose it to. If Nin had any innocence left in her, she wanted it gone.
Thanks for reading and thanks to Vashelle and Mia, hosts of Write or Die for the inspirational prompt this week. For more information on The Hereafter, please click the tab up at the top. And go check out the rest of the submissions for this week's Write or Die link-up.