|Random by Charong Chow.|
My wife, Charong Chow's debut novel, Random, has just been published on Kindle. A contemporary teen noir mystery and love story set in Los Angeles, it was profoundly influenced by the drug-related death of Charong's best friend from high school - who first introduced us on Miami Beach.
Written with an energy and razor-sharp dialogue that mixes teen angst and ennui with the shadows of a Hollywood long past, Charong surprised me with the power of her writing, the force of her emotion - and the raw and uncompromising teen world she creates amid the shadows of LA's suburban landscape.
Please note that you don't need to own a Kindle to read Charong's novel, Random - or the Kindle edition of my novel, The War Zone. There are free Kindle apps for Macs, PCs and most phones - and you can do anything with them that you can do with a regular Kindle: highlight passages, add your own comments, buy new titles, etc. Just Google "Kindle for Mac or PC download" or search your phone's app store for "Kindle" - or click on the links in this paragraph.
Here are the opening pages of Charong's novel, just to give you a taste...
I knew he would be desperate to meet me. As I approach from Pacific Coast Highway, a crescent moon frowns over the glow of the Ferris Wheel and other amusements on the pier. Tom is standing outside his truck, as I park my mom’s car.
He lays out his pleas against our breakup as we walk past the rides.
“We’re too good together. You’re not the type to listen to what others say. I was angry when I said those things. I never meant them. I’ve never loved anyone like you before, even if I am only seventeen.”
I nod without much beyond my poker face. He stops walking and faces me.
“Are you going to say anything to me?”
“Can we have a hug?” I ask, causing a tender smile to break across his face.
He immediately clasps his long arms around me, almost taking my breath away. I hope for an emotional sense of anything. I feel nothing, no sadness, no happiness. He understands he doesn’t have a girlfriend anymore.
“Why did you ask me to meet you here?” he says.
“I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to know if it was really over.”
“I don’t want it to be, Tierney.”
I walk to the end of the pier past the Mexican restaurant and a lone fisherman gazing at the crashing waves. Tom follows silently. It’s dark and deserted. I walk down the farthest deck, three steps below the rest of the pier.
“My dad used to bring me here all the time when I was a girl,” I start. “We tried fishing a few times… I know this place like the back of my hand.”
“Catch anything?” Tom asks.
“No, just some seaweed once,” I reply.
“It’s nice here.”
“Maybe I wanted closure?” I say, looking over at him. I put my arms on the railing just above the rough murky water.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“For what?” I ask, with an intense look.
“I don’t know. That it turned out this way.”
“The moon looks beautiful tonight,” I say, pointing up.
“It’s not as beautiful as you, you’re glowing in it’s light,” Tom says to me.
“When I was little, I would call that kind of moon a banana moon. My parents thought that was so cute.”
His dark brown eyes look pitiful and sad, full of desire and longing, completely opposite to when we first met on that fateful morning, his first day of school.
I remember that Friday. My mom saw Jeremy’s fancy birthday present when she dropped me off. We had just arrived at school as Jeremy was getting out of his new red Audi station wagon.
“Mom, stop over there, to the right. I see Jeremy.”
“Great car he has there.”
“He just got it for his sixteenth birthday from his dad.”
She stopped the car and I jumped out with my school things.
“Yeah, but he’s never here for him. He didn’t even give the car to him. He had the dealership drop it off at J’s mom’s place with a big red ribbon. Bye”
I walked over to Jeremy, who immediately smiled.
“Hello, I need to ask you something.”
“Whether or not we should bail today?” Jeremy laughed.
“No, not today, we have a math test.”
“When did that ever stop you?”
I gave him my disapproving look. “I was going to ask what have we been doing in class lately?”
“Yes, Miss Tierney, I’ll give you some notes.”
We walked towards school, watching a black pickup truck pull up to the student parking lot. Jeremy pulled me back, and I stopped in my tracks. Then I saw him.
“Is he new?” I whispered to Jeremy.
“I don’t know,” Jeremy said, staring just as intently as I was. “We should ask him. Let’s go.”
“No, I don’t…”
But it was too late. Jeremy walked right over to him. The new boy’s chocolate brown hair and guilty smile seemed to beckon me. He was wearing the uniform of all the guys I knew, cargo pants, Undefeated T-shirt, and a black hoodie. He had a strong build that looked as if it would be good at any sport, if he cared. The features in his face changed from every angle, but he was definitely someone you could spend your days dreaming about. Jeremy, of course, practically drooled as we approached.
“Hey, there. New to school?”
“Yes, actually I am.”
Standing behind Jeremy, I was embarrassed and somehow intimidated by this stranger. I didn’t fully understand our destiny yet. He looked at me, almost reading my mind.
“I don’t bite,” he said, smiling. “I’m Tom.”
Jeremy cut in, “Well Tom, I’m Jeremy and this is Tierney.”
“What’s your name again?” Tom asked me, obviously puzzled.
“It’s Tierney… I’m named after Gene Tierney,” I said.
“The Hollywood actress?” he asked.
“Yeah, my parents were fans.”
“It’s nice. I like that.”
We were standing there…and Jeremy busted out: “We’re thinking of ditching today. Wanna come?”
“We can’t, Jeremy. We have a math test, remember?” I reminded him.
“It doesn’t matter. We can make it up.”
“Well, it is my first day,” Tom said. “Maybe I should go to school today.”
“Okay, you are both goody-goodies,” Jeremy pouted. “We’ll stay.”
I laughed and pulled Jeremy to the main building, wanting our conversation to end. Tom followed us, causing Jeremy to continue with the twenty questions.
“Where did you come from?” he began.
“East Coast, huh?” Jeremy chuckled.
“My parents got divorced and my mom’s from here. So we moved to my grandparents’ house,” explained Tom.
As we approached the main door and all the other plebs at school, Maya dashed out. She grabbed Jeremy’s and my arms.
“Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“What’s the hurry?” I asked.
“It’s Friday, why does there have to be a reason?” she replied.
Tom reluctantly waved goodbye, not really understanding what was going on. Jeremy stopped Maya and curled his finger at Tom with a come-hither gesture.
“You’re coming with us. No choice in the matter.”
“Who’s this?” asked Maya. “J’s new boyfriend?”
Tom looked affronted. “Maybe,” smiled Jeremy.
“No,” said Tom, a little too sharply.
“Let’s go before anyone sees us,” I told them all firmly.
(Extract from Random Copyright 2011 Charong Chow.)