Anywhere But Here, Chapters 1–3

a young adult novel, posted 3 chapters at a time


Author’s note:
This novel is a work in progress. An experiment, posting three chapters at a time, and inviting feedback. Want to join me on this serial-novel-posting journey?

I want to know what you like, what you don’t like, what makes you laugh, and what makes you roll your eyes. Will you tell me? And if you want to read the next 3 chapters, hit that recommend button at the end. ❤

all chapters


Chapter 1: Sandra (1998)

“Go where, Drew, it’s seven in the morning?”

“Just for the day?” A slow mischievous grin widened across his face.

Sandi looked down at his old college t-shirt she wore, stained by breast milk. She hadn’t showered in four days.

“But…?” Sandi swept her hand in a wide arc around the tiny living room. Baby clothes were draped over the back of their cheap IKEA cloth couch. A pile of laundry took over the corner. Clean or dirty? She didn’t know. Dishes had overcome the sink and were threatening to occupy the finite counter space.

“It can wait. All of it can wait.”

Sandi surveyed the domestic disaster, frowning, as she bounced Emily on her hip. A tickle of something, almost unrecognizable, started in her belly. Hope? No, not as subtle as hope. Excitement. Possibly delight. She looked at her husband, already showered and dressed, “Okay, but where?”

Drew’s smile was full of promise and mystery, “Anywhere but here.”

Chapter 2: Emily (Summer 2012)

My life sucks! I am being abducted against my will, being driven at seventy miles per hour. This is WRONG! This is TYRANNY!

Emily wouldn’t say the words out loud, their poison yielding an internal slow agony.

The population sign for her home city disappeared in her rear view mirror. Goodbye Folsom, she thought. Goodbye life, goodbye friends, goodbye house, goodbye new high school, goodbye ... everything.

“I hope you packed a sweatshirt. You’re going to be cold in shorts and a t-shirt,” her Mom said.

Cold. In the summer. Seriously?

She peeked at the outside temperature gauge on the dash. Eighty-nine degrees. I’m leaving summer warmth, and for what? A place where I need a sweatshirt? In the summer? Of course I packed a hoodie, I’m not stupid, mother. But she wouldn’t put on jeans, no force of reason could make her put on jeans, when the predicted high at home was 99.

Before they left this morning, she looked out her bedroom window at blue sky that stretched endlessly over the rooftops of houses that were nearly, but not quite, identical to hers. Her room was an empty void now, except the ceiling. Emily swallowed down tears. Some other kid would be enjoying her ceiling unless it got painted over to become a guest bedroom. What a waste, she thought.

Her mom was driving like she was escaping a homicidal maniac wielding, what, a kitchen utensil? Emily imagined a tall, gangling man, dressed in a dirty taupe trench coat, burn scars on his face, riding a yellow scooter and shaking an OXO spatula. “Come back with my potato masher!” The imaginary foe called, his moped falling behind in the distance.

She glanced in the passenger side mirror. If only it was true. If only she could re-wind her life six months.

Chapter 3: Sandra (January 2012)

“This guy acts like he’s the Prince of England!” Betsy claimed. Sandra grinned and nodded at her coworker, motioning for Betsy to transfer the call to her. The entitled customers were her favorite challenge.

Sandra cleared her throat, preparing for the challenge as she picked up her headset and pressed the button on her phone to answer the call. She’d have to hear the voice first to know how handle this caller. She hadn’t escalated a call to her boss in two years.

“Sandra speaking, how can I help you?” She wondered if the Prince would be irate, sedate, or charming.

“Sandra,” A male voice oozed with gentility and comfort, like a cognac, which Sandra personally hated. She scanned his computerized record: Parker Rhodes. His name sounded familiar, but they all did after ten years in customer service. “Can I call you Sandra?” The voice sounded native Californian, without the twang or cadence of a foreign accent. A whisper of British, maybe Irish? Hard to gauge whether it was cultivated or innate.

“Yes, of course, and your name, sir?” She scanned further through the notes in his file to predict the reason for his call. He had regular exams, no prescription meds except vitamins. Vitamins? She didn’t know anyone aside from pregnant women who got an Rx for vitamins. Maybe he thinks he’s pregnant? She grinned.

“Sandra, my name is Parker Rhodes, and you are my last hope. Can I tell you my tale of woe?”

Seriously? Sandra heard her daughter’s voice in her head. “Please, Mr. Rhodes, go ahead.”

“Parker, please call me Parker. Mr. Rhodes sits in his bathrobe all day and drinks generic beer out of a can. He hasn’t seen his feet in a decade.”

Sandra tried to stifle a laugh. Unsuccessfully. “Please, go on.”

“Sandra, I have poor vision. Horrible myopia, and after years of suffering through the inconvenience of contact lenses, and glasses, the slur to my vanity, I spoke with my doctor about Lasik. I cannot suffer through one more evening of squinting to see the hottie across the crowded room.”

This is going to be easy, Sandra thought, and fun.

“So imagine my chagrin, my utter agony, when my doctor reported that Lasik is not covered by my insurance. The insurance that I pay to your employer, HealthCo, on time every month, of which I seldom request any benefit.”

Except vitamins, Sandra smirked, inwardly. Parker Rhodes, the name tickled her memory, then startled her with abrupt recognition. “Parker?”

“Yes?”

“Did you go to high school in Yuba City?”

“Uh oh.” The cadence and charm dropped suddenly. “Yes.”

“This is Sandi Jameson.”

“San-dee! Sandra Dee!” The cognac dissolved, replaced by animation and glee. “Remember when we did that production of Grease and you refused the lead because you didn’t want to be called ‘Sandra Dee’ forever, but were anyway?”

“Can we just forget that? I even stopped going by Sandi over a decade ago. At least the only thing anyone had on you about ‘Parker’ was that guy on Hardy Boys.”

“Blue-eyed hunk of gorgeousness, how could I mind?”

“At least nobody, or everybody, once a day didn’t sing to you in a sweet-n-low falsetto ‘Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee, dripping with virginity.’ I wanted to tarnish my idyllic reputation to make them stop.”

“And you took the role of, what’s her name, instead? The slut?”

“Rizzo. Even dyed my hair black and cut it short. Didn’t help though.”

“Enough about characters and sobriquets. Dish, girl, what’s up with you? Please don’t tell me you’re still in Yuba City. Tell me you are reinforcing your method acting by answering insurance customer calls. Tell me you’re in New York and just played the understudy for Jodie Foster.”

“I’m not in Yuba City…”

“Well?”

“I live outside Sacramento.” It sounded dreary out loud, alongside her high school dreams.

“You live in a suburb of Sacramento? The girl who wanted to run away with the theater troop or move to Uruguay?”

“There was that cute foreign exchange student.”

“Turned out though, he liked me more. I even got to wear his soccer jersey during the World Cup,” Parker replied.

“I remember,” Sandra said, sarcastically.

“But we were talking about the suburbs, not Venancio. Don’t tell me you live in a cookie-cutter McMansion, with a weed-free emerald lawn, a handsome, fit husband, and have a litter of cute kids that look like a perfect blend of the two of you.”

“Only one kid.” Was her life a cliche? When did that happen?

“Happy? I hope?”

“Happy?” Sandra never thought about being happy.

“Okay, forget happy.”

“What about you, Mr. Take On The World, or at least shack up with him? Where are you these days.” Sandra crossed her fingers that it was more mundane.

“The City By The Bay, San! Fran! Cis! Co!” Parker paused, “Maybe I should say that with less enthusiasm?”

Oh, no. Sandra thought. Not San Francisco. I just got over you.

Keep reading!
Anywhere But Here, Chapters 4–6

Clicking that Recommend button below tells me you want to keep reading, and don’t forget to Follow me to see the next posts in your feed.

With gratitude to Jason Smith, Sand Farnia, Xavier Fan, and Jessica Jungton for editing suggestions.