Dawn dreams of adventure and art. When Justin arrives, he convinces her to find inspiration on the back of his motorcycle.
On the road, maybe she’ll find a friendship renewed, art, or even love. Or perhaps she’ll find all three wrapped up in a different kind of inspiration.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Dawn on the Road
By Lea Waterhouse
CrossLink PublishingCopyright © 2016 Lea Waterhouse
All rights reserved.
I HAVE ONE DREAM. I WANT to be a professional artist. Right now, that dream is fizzling.
"I'm sorry," he said, barely glancing at the prints in his hand. "I'm afraid we just don't have a place for your photographs here."
"You said they were very well-composed."
"Well-composed ... for a teenager. That's what I said."
I drew in a deep breath, trying to hide my disappointment and control my emotions. Allowing my eyes to well up with tears was not the smartest way to get this gallery owner to take me seriously. I needed him to see me as an artist who happened to be sixteen, rather than a sixteen-year-old who happened to have a camera.
"So that's it then?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so. You know, Miss Berlin," he said, finally looking up to meet my eyes, "you come in at the end of every weekend with prints you want me to display. May I give you some advice?"
"Yes, please do," I answered quickly. A professional critique of the photographs I brought him wasn't as great as having them displayed, but it was a win. It would also be a first. My enthusiasm each week was usually met with a prompt decline and a quick turn away to assist one of his wealthy patrons. I might as well take advantage of his rare empty gallery and even rarer full attention.
"Finish high school next summer. Work hard to get into an art school. Get some real experience and tutelage. That's my advice. Follow it and maybe — just maybe — you will be a real artist someday. You are simply not one at this point in your life."
My mouth dropped open, but no words came out. He continued before I could think of something to say.
"It is not an insult to say you are still just a kid. I am only stating the facts. With enough instruction and time and further experience, however, you might very well become an artist. I hope you realize that itself is a compliment."
As though an afterthought, he handed me a flyer.
"What's this?" I said, choking on my words, trying hard to keep it together.
"I show some pieces from graduates of this school. Your work may not be up to par for the school yet, but you may wish to consider applying anyhow. This flyer is advertising their preview weekend. You might want to attend it. If anything, you'll see what you're up against in applying to art schools. Please, though, no more bringing me your photos and trying to get me to show them in my gallery until you are an adult and have gone through a proper art school program."
So, you're telling me to grow up and go to college. How original. I sulked as I took the flyer and walked out into the sun. Not only that, you're not even sure I can get into an art school. Thanks so much for your vote of confidence!
The street was bustling as I squinted into the sun, my eyes adjusting after the dim gallery. Boutiques and cafes lined the master-planned downtown, connected to a suburb of San Diego. This was the downtown for our little town to use instead of driving half an hour to The Gaslamp District, a real downtown. The street was lined with patios upon which upper-middle-class parents lounged, sipping lattes. The sun beat down on the lot of them, rays dancing with the cool breeze to culminate in perfect Southern California weather.
Across the street, my gaze fell on a hottie dismounting a silver and black motorcycle. He removed his dark sunglasses and hung them on the collar of his black leather jacket, before pulling off two thin leather gloves and setting them on the motorcycle tank. When he yanked the black helmet off of his head, and I could feel the blush rising in my cheeks. He ran his fingers carelessly through his dark hair. Thank goodness he didn't notice me staring.
Then he looked up, his icy blue eyes meeting mine. I gasped. His features looked so familiar.
My gosh, do I know him? I thought. If I've ever met him, wouldn't I remember that face, those eyes?
I was not going to stand around gawking at this hot guy, trying to place him though. So I averted my eyes, adjusted my folder of prints under one arm and my apron in the other, and quickly crossed the street, not making eye contact when I passed him.
I could see his reflection in the glass door to the coffee shop where I was heading. He reached for the key in the bike's ignition, pulled it out and stuffed it into the front pocket of his jeans. He watched me the whole time. I pulled the door open, losing my secret view of him, and came around the counter.
"You're late," my colleague, Carl, griped. His thinning hair stuck to his head with the sweat on his brow, and his clothes were rumpled.
"Like three minutes late," I said, rolling my eyes as I reached into my apron pocket for a rubber band. When you have a giant mane like mine, you must always have a rubber band handy. I found it, and pulled my long hair into a messy ponytail.
"Try ten minutes late," Carl quipped. "I have places to be."
"Just a second, let me wash my hands and clock in." I disappeared into the back. I heard the door chime, and I knew Carl must be annoyed now to get one more customer before he could leave. I clocked-in in a hurry, and scrubbed my hands at the sink.
"Is that your motorcycle out there, son?" I could hear Carl asking from the front counter.
I wondered if the biker guy had followed me in, my cheeks warming. On one hand, I'd like to meet him. It would be flattering if he had come in after me to meet me, not just for coffee. On the other hand, he might think I was such a dork for having stared at him earlier.
"Sure is," he answered.
"Your folks bought you a motorcycle?" "My folks didn't buy it for me."
"You — you stole it?" Carl asked. I could hear the shock in his voice.
"I bought it myself."
"You know, you're gonna kill yourself on that death machine, son."
"Thanks for your concern."
It was interesting though. Carl spoke of danger and poor judgment, but underneath it all, I sensed a current of envy in his tone. Maybe the middle-aged man was even a little impressed. He would certainly rather be out on a motorcycle instead working behind the counter of a coffee shop.
"I'll bet you ride fast," he said, his voice dropping low and betraying his admiration. "How fast have you taken it?" "Fast."
"Kids always think they're immortal," the man replied wistfully. "When you're my age, you start thinking about how little time you have left, and maybe you can't do everything you want to do."
The conversation was getting dark, and not at all appropriate for a customer. When the young guy didn't answer, Carl seemed to take a hint from his silence.
"Well, anyway, what can I get you?" "Just a medium hot chocolate, I guess."
"A hot chocolate?"
"You have that here, don't you?"
"Yes, but ... seriously? What? Are you eight years old? Order coffee like a man."
"Coffee is bitter and chocolate is awesome. Why do you have to be eight to like chocolate?"
"Whatever," Carl muttered.
While he filled the cardboard cup, muttering something about how there wasn't an age restriction on coffee, and how he didn't have to resort to a child's drink, I heard the customer ask casually, "You know, I just saw someone come in here that I know and I don't see her now. Is she in the back?"
"That was probably Dawn," Carl answered, and I could hear the scowl in his voice. "She's in the back washing her hands. She's late, again. I have places I could be other than here at work, you know. If you're her friend, maybe you could tell her to get here on time once in a while."
"Are you her boss?"
"No. I was just saying ... Oh, forget it. So you're her friend?"
"Yeah. No. I mean ... it's complicated."
"You're not a stalker or something, are you? Just because the girl annoys me with her lack of punctuality doesn't mean I want her stalked by some creeper."
I quickly came to the front.
"Okay, okay. Here I am," I told Carl without looking at our hot customer. "You can go now. Sorry again about being a bit late."
"Oh, yeah, like saying sorry just makes it all fine. I ought to tell Marla that you're always late when she isn't in. She'd fire you right away, or at least write you up."
"I really am sorry," I said, trying for sincerity after overhearing him stick up for me just a moment ago. "Believe it or not, and not that it is a good excuse, but I had a reason for being late. I was over in the —"
"The gallery, right?" Carl removed his apron, bundled it up, and tossed it over his shoulder. "You were trying to convince them to sell some of your pictures, right? And I'm guessing they said no again, like always, didn't they?"
All good feelings and appreciation gone.
He pulled out a cell phone and began texting, slowly and fumbling with the keyboard. He was still punching buttons as he spoke.
"Why don't you let them reject you after work, next time?"
The hottie stepped forward to intercede, but I picked up a rag and started winding it as though I might go on the attack, defending myself first.
"What do you know about art, Carl? You're a perfect example of what happens when they cut art funding in schools."
Carl didn't look up from his texting.
"You're a perfect example of what happens when we get hippy liberals in Washington." He snapped his phone closed. "I'm outta here."
I still didn't look directly at the fellow on the other side of the counter, holding his hot chocolate.
"Sorry about that. He's just a bitter old guy."
"Don't worry about it," he answered, setting his motorcycle helmet on the counter. Out of the corner of my eye, I could tell he was watching me, as though daring me to make eye contact. "I'm sure he has his reasons."
Placing my hands on my hips, I looked toward the door Carl had just left through. "I was seriously only three minutes late."
"I didn't mean that. I meant I am sure he has stuff going on that we don't know about that put him in such a bad mood."
"I don't know," I said, shrugging. "So, you got your order okay there?"
"Yeah, I have it. Thanks."
So, what now? I wondered. Should I ask if we know one another? That's just going to sound like flirting.
Instead, I turned my attention to the flyer in my hand, trying to get my head back in the clouds where it belonged, instead of in this awkward situation. When the hottie didn't move toward the door, I looked up again.
"Um ... is there anything else I can get you?" The déjà vu set in again. "Okay, I'm just going to ask it. Do I know you?"
"You used to."
My eyes traced the contours of his face, the fullness of his lips, before locking into the icy blue eyes. My voice caught in my throat.
He caught my surprised expression and smiled. "I guess you remember now?"
"It can't be."
"It can," he said, laughing.
I didn't move. Instead, I took in the entirety of him. The broad shoulders covered by a black leather jacket. Beneath the open jacket, a white t-shirt that tugged at a solid chest. Dark brown hair, the waves of it highlighted with warm, caramel streaks from the sun. Ribbons of hair falling casually into his eyes.
There were no mistaking those ice blue eyes.
"You do remember me."
"Of course I remember you! I just didn't recognize you. But ... well, of course I remember you. We were best friends."
"Until you didn't want anything to do with me."
Justin adjusted his helmet on the counter. He dropped the leather gloves on top of the helmet. They slid off and hit the counter with a light slap.
"I'm sorry, Justin," I finally said quietly. "That's all I can really say. I was young."
"Well, yeah, it was middle school. People tend to be young when they're in middle school."
Now I'm seriously blushing.
I had made plenty of mistakes in my sixteen years, and what I had done to Justin Devenport was just one of many. However, it was a mistake I had thought about often in recent years, and always it left me with an ache in the pit of my stomach. It wasn't wrong of me to feel how I did, or rather, not feel what he felt. It had been wrong of me, however, to excuse his feelings with so little grace.
"It's just that," I started, knowing already that there was no good excuse, "I was so busy getting used to the new school and classes and everything ..."
Justin only nodded, seeing past my words, and I continued to stumble through.
"I had this idea of how things should be, and I wasn't open to anything outside of that. You were my friend, and that was all. I couldn't see you as anything else."
"You could have just said you weren't interested in me as more than a friend. You could have said exactly what you just told me now. People do that, you know. One friend expresses feelings and the other says they want to remain just friends. You didn't have to cut me out of your life altogether."
"I panicked and didn't know how to be friends with someone who wanted more."
I thought of the day he asked me out. He asked me to be more than friends, and bared his feelings. All I could think about as he told me was Jules Dubois who sat in the desk in front of me in science. Jules was the first foreign exchange student I had ever met, and the first boy with a French accent. Jules was your usual thirteen-year-old boy, not yet interested in girls, and certainly not in me. Justin on the other hand was interested, but he was ... well, he was just the messy-haired buddy from childhood. He certainly wasn't a cute French boy.
"I know being young is not a valid excuse, Justin, but it is a truth that played a huge part in this. I handled the situation gracelessly. I've thought about you a lot since then. We've missed out on so much fun, and I'm so sorry for how I acted."
"I shouldn't have told you how I felt about you."
"No, we were friends. That's where the best romantic relationships are supposed to start, right? That's what they say anyway. If you couldn't have told me, then what good was our friendship?"
"Well, I couldn't tell you, remember?"
I looked at the counter, picturing his light blue eyes and the way his then-pale face blazed pink as he fumbled through an awkwardly romantic speech. He had looked so geeky back then, and so uncomfortable, and I had just been entirely turned off by the pronouncement. I decided then that not only would we not date, I would avoid him after that. The last thing I wanted was another one of these pronouncements. If he felt as much as he said he did, well, I had assumed it would not be so easy to go back to what we had been before. Always underneath would be this lingering question: Is he cool with just hanging out as friends or is he about to burst into a love song?
So I focused my efforts on Jules entirely. Besides, if I could get one boy to like me, surely I could get the one I wanted to like me too. It was a waste of time. Plus, my fear of being uncomfortable around Justin made me waste our friendship.
I shook my head, looking at the counter still, before reaching across and touching the back of Justin's hand, lightly, with just my fingertips.
"I'm sorry. I was wrong. You were more emotionally mature than me back then. Things have changed, though. I know you won't feel the same as you did before, but we can be friends again. I mean, look! You're back in town! Are your folks around? I would love to see them again. Are you guys moving back?"
Justin pulled his hand away as though it burned where my fingertips touched it.
He seemed to think through any number of responses, but only replied with a question of his own.
"So, you're into photography now?" He gestured to the flyer in my hand.
"Yeah. I'm not a professional or anything. I just really like it. I took a class freshman year and have been taking pictures since. But, well, this flyer ... I got it from the gallery across the street. The jerk owner was trying for once to be nice, as though I had never heard of this school. I've dreamed of going here ever since I heard of it. I stalk their message boards."
"He gave you their flyer?"
"A flyer for their preview weekend."
"Oh, like a chance to tour the campus and all that?"
"Not just that," I said, remembering the email I had received by being on their mailing list. It had even more info that this silly little flyer. The flyer just poured salt in the wound of not being able to go. "You get to be there all weekend, get to stay in the dorms, go to one of their art shows, meet current students, and go to the working studios of local alumni. You can sit in on at least one class if you stay for Friday or Monday. The most appealing part is that you can have a meeting with an admissions counselor who will look at your portfolio and tell you what you need to work on before you apply to have a chance at being accepted."
Excerpted from Dawn on the Road by Lea Waterhouse. Copyright © 2016 Lea Waterhouse. Excerpted by permission of CrossLink Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
At 108 pages, Waterhouse’s debut YA novella showcases a quick peek into contemporary teen decision-making with eternal effects. Sixteen-year-old Dawn is about to start her senior year of high school. With high-achieving Ivy League parents, Dawn is pressured to conform, and she longs to be out from under that label. Meeting up with a motorcycle-riding junior high crush and not only lying but involving her best friend in a lie is not a positive choice with happy results. Even though the crush is a surprise on all fronts, and there’s no blood from the fallout, Dawn takes the consequences of her actions and turns them into blessings. Dawn on the Road is a vignette about answering the invitation God makes to all of us, and facing our true identity. Dawn chooses for herself, and the reader is encouraged to continue the journey. Told in first person throughout, the reader meets and bonds with Dawn through all of her curiosity and impatience and attempts to hurry the process of maturity. Nicely done. Readers who enjoy a vignette about a turning point moment in teen life will find much to enjoy in this short book.