It took me several tries to write (what I felt was) the right beginning to TMC. But I saved the others and am curious which you like best. (Take note, these are just excerpts of the alternative beginnings. Would love to hear your thoughts! To read the real beginning, click here.)
He eyed the clock on the nightstand: 11:59pm and thirty seconds.
In the moon’s muted glow, Luke sat crosslegged on his bed. He was now staring, or rather squinting through the semi-darkness, at two piles of Shweetz Candy. He’d saved months for this celebratory stash. And had kept it well hidden. Not from cats, kids, or ants. But from her. Mrs. Hall.
His eyes flickered back to his clock. Twenty seconds.
Anything that dared welcome grins in her adoption ward, she’d snatch away faster than cockroaches fleeing light. So he had learned to be crafty. Wrapping the candy in the only spare pillow case he owned, Luke stashed the bundle behind a loose brick in the wall adjoining his bed. Not only candy, but all kinds of items classified “off-limits” in the ward—pencils, soccer articles, coins. Even twigs, crooked with personality.
Just ten seconds and Shour Shugar Worms would tingle his taste buds.
Nine seonds and he’d vessel a secret not even Mrs. Hall could discover. With darkness as his veil, Luke convinced himself he’d slip unnoticed from her probing Eye. Having his bed tucked deep in the back of his and his nine roommates’ bedroom—resembling more of a twisting cavern—helped, too. Plus, she’d have to deduce he’d plot something for his birthday. But that required remembering it, which she never did. Not once.
At the adoption ward, birthday’s were as ordinary and as forgotton about as old socks.
Six seconds and he’d turn—thirteen. Nothing different from twelve, he assumed. Still scrawny. Still chore-bound. Still an orphan. But perhaps a pinch fuller. Mrs. Hall’s Mush three times a day satisfied nobody’s stomach for long. So he concluded two Shweetz stack’s would soften the edge for at least twenty-four hours.
Three seconds. He grinned, fingers ready to disrupt the piles. Two.
It happened faster than Luke could tickle the Worm piles. The darkness he had coveted as his birthday-feast curtain began to melt away. He watched awestruck, fingers hovering over the candy piles, as everything around him became doused in golden hues. Like watching an artist smear yellow paint over dark canvas, Luke oggled the effect as if cast inside the painting.
Someone was drawing up the lights, he was sure. Until he remembered the bedroom only functioned off of candle light.
Lowering his arm, Luke scanned his nook—both wicks hung limply on his nightstand, not a spark in sight. And yet, honey highlights spread all around him. Between his nightstand and bed, his skateboard gleamed as though greased in butter. But where was this coming from?
Anxiety was no longer a stranger to Luke’s heartbeat as it began pumping faster and faster. He looked outside, almost hoping to see someone standing there with a flashlight. No one. He’d move to the edge of his bed, but he wasn’t sure his legs would work. They seemed stuck together. Though, what he was looking for, he had no idea. He stared back at his candy, which no longer looked tempting. His mouth had gone dry.
Suddenly, he heard something tap at the window. He threw another look outside and saw an incredible thing—it resembled a bird, with small white wings, flapping in the blackness outside, and a slender beak pecking at the glass. But as Luke untangled his legs and edged closer, his eyes grew as large as dinner plates. It wasn’t a bird. It was a floating key, nudgging the window as though hinting at an invitation inside.
“Wake up!” came a raspy voice.
He must be dreaming. It had to be early morning, as in still dark out. He decided to believe himself and kept his eyes shut. But the voice came again. This time, a little louder.
“Lucas!” Someone started shaking him. “I said wake up!”
Go away, he moaned to himself. But the shaking persisted, and he knew he had to open his eyes. With great resistance, he pried them open, one by one.
There in the muted glow of candlelight stood a lumpy woman, her hair wrapped around pink curlers. A smaller head peeped out around her bulging build and Luke could only guess it was her son.
This better be good.
Slowly, Luke scootched up against the wooden headboard. Once he had showed signs of being awake, the woman began moving about his bedroom nook.
“What time is it?” he said, not sure his voice was working properly.
“Tell him, Stanley,” said the woman.
“Four in the morning.”
“Four?” Luke rubbed at his eyes, trying to keep his anger at bay. He still had a good two hours left to sleep. Then again, why shouldn’t he be surprised at this early-morning wake up. After all, it was just the kind of thing Mrs. Hall would do. It was her adoption ward and that meant she determined the rules. He’d heared that before, an earful amount of times.
“Here, take this.” Something was suddenly thrown on the bed.
“But that’s my duffle bag,” he said. The light from the candle bounced off the small nook’s brick walls, illuminating a beat up brown bag. The woman began tossing clothes from his dresser to Stanley, who then stuffed them into his bag without care.
Luke pushed back his sheets and scrambled off his bed. His feet curled as they touched the cold floor. “What’s going on?” he tried. But no one answered him.