I left John alone in the apartment and found Sam huddled in the poor lighting of a pier a dozen blocks from the apartment. He sat at the edge, tossing tiny rocks one by one into the still water below. They lay gathered in a pile near his crossed legs, collected on his walk towards the bay. It was a fascination he had carried with him from his childhood, gathering rocks in moments of his life, one for each experience to hold onto the memory a little longer. There were rocks in his room that looked to be just ordinary pebbles to the unknowing eye, but held secrets that only he knew every time he looked at them. He could tell where each rock was from and what he was doing in the moment, even years after collecting the insignificant pebble.
He never felt younger than he did as he sat alone on the pier away from his depressing home. In that moment he was five years old, lost and needing some guidance in the confusing reality of being fifteen. Trying to let go of the hurts that tore at him, he watched as each pebble dropped from his hand, taking its memory into the blackness of the water and disappearing. I was surprised to see my face among the images he included in his tally of life’s unfairness. But at the front of the list was his father, John’s likeness making numerous appearances as the list grew longer and longer until everything disappeared except for him. – Excerpt from A Symphony of Cicadas, Chapter 10, pages 123-24
When I first started writing about Sam, I wasn’t sure how big of a character he was going to be. I figured he would just make a few appearances as the typical difficult teenager, and that would be that.
But Sam had more to say than that. And Sam became another surprise character that became one of my personal favorites in the book.
As I was writing, different things began to develop with this character. He was worried about what other kids thought of him at school. He was still hurt over his parents’ divorce. He felt rejected by his mom. He wished his dad would pay more attention to him. He had a hard time getting to know his soon-to-be stepmom and stepbrother… A lot had changed in Sam’s world. The only way he could control any of it was through his reaction. And even in that, he was losing control.
In this scene, Sam and his father have just gotten into a fight – the first time emotion has been shown since Rachel died. To try and rid himself of his wounds, Sam dedicates his hurts to each rock he finds and then throws it into the bay.
I mentioned Sam’s habit of placing memories with rocks because this is a practice our family does. Whenever we go on vacation or do something cool, a rock from that day manages to slip into one of our pockets and come home with us. There was one time, in my days as a single mom, that I even scored a 15 pound rocks from a trip out to the ocean with some friends. I carried that sucker up a small cliff and then lugged it up a steep hill to our beach house. I brought it home and placed it in our backyard with a pile of other memory rocks. And they stayed there, serving as a reminder of some great times I had while I lived there. When I moved from that apartment to the larger one next door, I decided to not take them with me, but leave them there for the next tenant. I don’t know what I was thinking. As soon as the new tenant moved in, my decision was sealed. All that effort of collecting those rocks, wasted. And the worst part, the new tenants probably just looked at those rocks as….a pile of rocks – not the collection of memories they were.
Luckily, I now have a new collection of memory rocks. The ones from our first vacation to San Diego as a blended family. The ones from Costa Rica, where we went on our honeymoon last year. The one that a friend gave me with the words “You are enough” printed on them. The one after a fantastic women’s retreat with new friends that reminds me to have courage…
I still wonder if those rocks are still in the backyard of that first apartment. But those belong to a different chapter of my life. I have many new ones now to take their place.
This is just one of several posts to come that dives into the chapters of A Symphony of Cicadas, and the inspiration behind the story. For all sneak peeks at the novel, CLICK HERE. To purchase the book, go to http://amzn.to/17ayBAP.
Stay tuned for more!