It’s a bit long, but I’m looking for help. Here are two unedited versions of beginnings for Hunter’s Gazelle. I’m asking for your opinion on each. Comments are closed so I’ll put a contact form for you to privately send your opinion. I’d appreciate the constructive critique.
Sweat trickled down her face as she slowed to a jog. Her feet made a satisfying clopping sound as they pounded the pavement. The heavy beat of the music streaming through her iPod, serving as her focus for the run. Should have been her moment of Zen, but she was far from relaxed. Her illusion of calm shattered into dust over one innocent letter.
She’d completed five miles through the neighborhood and felt her muscles protest at pushing so hard. Turmoil drove Gazelle out the door earlier even with the realization that it marked two months since her last run. Frustrated energy demanded an outlet that only physical activity could give her, and she obliged that inclination. The beautiful day and colors of the neighborhood should have accomplished what the run itself could not, but not even that drew her attention. Her frustration bloomed like a storm cloud in her mind and nothing could dispel it.
The bright red mailbox at the end driveway came into view as she turned a corner, and she knew she had a half a mile left. Her music changed to a driving beat as she pushed herself into a hard run. No thinking; only the stretch/pull of her muscles and the pulse of the music filled her head.
Halting at the edge of her house, Gazelle placed her hands on her knees and panted to catch her breath. The pounding of her heart in hear ears threatened to drown out the song, but nothing drowned out his face in her mind’s eye. She straightened up and walked in a circle, hoping to slow her pulse. Useless when more than just exercise caused her heart to race.
After a quick stretch, she trotted up the driveway and entered her cheerful yellow-brick split-level. No matter how out of sorts she was feeling, walking into her new home still brought a smile to her face. She walked up the stairs comforted in the fact that she’d finally gotten to the place where she had something that was hers alone. The house reminded her how far she’d come, but she still felt regret that refused to go away.
Entering the bathroom, she stripped out of her clothes and stepped under frigid water. She allowed the spray to run over her head, soaking her hair and rippling her skin with goose bumps. Not even a perfunctory wash held off the heat she felt thinking about him. She closed her eyes for a brief second and leaned against the tile.
“Don’t, Gazelle,” she chided herself for allowing her guard down. Pushing away, she turned off the water with a snap of her hand and pulled the towel in for a rub down.
Pulling on her robe, she padded into her room and sat at her vanity. She needed to go out tonight, spend some time with a friend, anywhere but sitting in her house thinking. Her resolve lasted through picking up her cellphone and searching through her contacts.
Gazelle tossed her cellphone on the countertop and sat back in the padded chair. Glancing at herself in the mirror, she examined her face for any signs of the frustrations she felt inside. Her shoulder-length black hair shined in the lights of her room, revealing the brown highlights. Tilting her head, she took in her high cheekbones, wide mouth with plump lips, almond shaped hazel eyes, and straight nose. Other than her knitted brow, she looked the same.
Just Gazelle. The same face that stared back at her every morning for the last thirty years. Only something was off with her today.
She looked down at the comfortable bathrobe she’d thrown on after her shower. When had her Friday nights progressed from fun parties to slumming at home in her robe? The answer to the question was obvious, but she chose to ignore it. An impossible task considering what had arrived in the post that day.
Lifting the postcard, Gazelle pressed a hand to her stomach in a vain effort to quell the butterflies. She’d read the invitation twenty times since she’d picked up her mail after work, hence her unease and lingering melancholy. Tonight was Hunter’s annual party and he’d sent her an invite.
Her hand started to shake as she gazed at his handsome face. Hunter still appeared the same, a tan-faced, athletic man with piercing blue eyes and a smug smile. That face mocked her, a reminder of what she walked away from.
Three years had elapsed since she’d seen him last, and while she’d gone on to do amazing things – a successful career as a travel agent that allowed her to see the world – she still thought about him, wondered if he ever thought about her. It was like nothing had changed even if life continued on.
Going tonight would make her confront what she’d run from.
He’d probably sent her the invite to toss in her face how his life was going. Their mutual friends made a point to alert her to what Hunter was up to, who Hunter recently hooked up with, who Hunter took to parties. Gazelle snorted at their attempts to get a rise out of her, but inside she mourned the fact that he moved on.
Her eyes moved over his face again. That smile was still the same, still full of power and confidence; all things that drew her to him in the first place. Hunter’s smile revealed what lurked beneath, a man who demanded total submission mind, body, and soul. Things Gazelle could give him.
She smiled as she thought about him. Persistent from the beginning, he ignored her attempts to dodge him and carved a place in her heart.
The first time she’d met him played like a vivid memory in her mind. One of the local bars held a costume contest, requiring the women to dress up like animals and the men to come as hunters. Gazelle wanted to relax after a long workweek, but had no interest in the tiptoeing involved in the dating game. It always made her feel like prey with the sizing up, posturing, sniffing, and being bombarded by sleazy attempts. Hunter ruined that as soon as he’d sauntered in. The air of arrogance surrounding him drew women to his side like flies. She’d felt the pull, but refused to allow the attraction to sway her. He’d tracked her down; after he spotted her across the crowded bar and made a beeline right to her. He somehow managed to get her name and cracked some stupid joke about the irony of them, Hunter and Gazelle, meeting at a game party.
Her reluctance melted away as she talked to him, their conversation loosening her tongue but also revealing so much about him. Hunter hid wit and intelligence under his good lucks. He snagged her with his ability to carry on banter and make her laugh. It was nothing to turn a conversation into a date, and then two dates, and then a relationship where she found true understanding in his arms. Then why did she walk way?
Hunter had never prodded, and she’d shied away if he brought out ropes or hinted at roughness, but deep down she’d wanted it. The entire time they were together, she’d dream of him using her, every part of her, for his pleasure. She knew she would love it, and pushed him away. Facing who she was proved more than she could handle. The image of the good girl warred with the desire churning inside her. Indulging in that kind of behavior reminded her too much of her mother.
Regret churned in her stomach, but she ignored it. The time for regret had passed years ago. She made her decision and she had to deal with the emotional consequences of it.
She couldn’t go to the party.
Tossing the postcard back on the vanity, she rose to her feet, loosening the ties of her robe, allowing it to slide off her body. She’d call up Tracey and they’d go out tonight; a night of dancing and laughter would rid her of her dip into the past.
Her intention was to do just that, pick up her phone and put thoughts of Hunter out of her mind, but she found herself throwing back the covers of her bed instead. Without thinking about why, Gazelle lay on the cool sheets, her hands reaching up to cup her breasts. They ached, the nipples standing taut.
She closed her eyes and acknowledged the need driving her. It happened like this all the time, thoughts of Hunter overwhelmed her with longing and she had to satisfy it. She felt fevered as she tweaked her nipples, her cunt clenched around nothing as she imagining him watching her and egging her on.
Touch yourself. His words whispered across her mind. He had a way of gazing at her, demanding something of her that drove her desire higher. It worked not even though he wasn’t near. She skimmed a hand down her body, tracing the skin on her ribs and stomach, and causing a shiver as her fingers teased through her pubic hair.
The moment her fingers circled her clit, she arched. Sensation arced through her body at the first tentative touch. She imagined Hunter leaning against the bed, watching her every movement, and splayed her legs wide. Gazelle didn’t want slow build up; she wanted a quick, hard orgasm, needed it. While the fingers of one hand pinched her nipple, the other plucked at her clit then pumped into her wet pussy. She caught her lower lip in her teeth as her body wound up tighter and tighter.
Beautiful. Those words, the words he always told her when he made love to her, pushed her over the edge. It rippled, letting loose from deep within her then radiating up and out to the tips of her limbs. His name hovered on her lips, but she refused to give it voice. That didn’t stop her mind from longing to have him inside her instead of her fingers.
Gazelle lay still, her breath a low whooshing sound in the otherwise quiet room. As the soft flutters died out, she knew she couldn’t stay away tonight. All her good intentions, her desire to stay away, amounted to nothing when it came to him.
Rising from the bed, she walked to the vanity and picked up the postcard again. There he was, smiling up at her with supreme confidence as if he knew she would come. She couldn’t stay away no matter how much she tried.
“Did you get an invitation to Hunter’s party this year, Gazelle?” Her friend, Jeanette’s, voice dropped an octave at the question. The interest in her voice was hard to miss.
Gazelle’s heart squeezed so hard she lift a hand to her chest. Shifting her eyes to the bathroom mirror, she assessed herself. She looked the same; large brown eyes, dark hair, and olive complexion, but the mention of his name made her feel like she wasn’t herself at all. It was a struggle to tamp down her response upon hearing it.
“Is it that time of year again?” Gazelle strove for a bored tone, but her voice came out high and thin. It was impossible to pretend she didn’t know about the party. Once a year, invitation only soiree that still managed to admit more people than were invited. She’d been trying to ignore that date, but her friend wasn’t going to allow it to pass.
“I didn’t and even if I did, I wouldn’t go. Wouldn’t it be awkward going to an ex’s party?” There was no disguising the way her voice trembled at the end.
“Hm.” Jeanette’s vague response rankled her. She had something to say, but was being oblique, much to Gazelle’s displeasure.
She tried to resist the urge to ask, but the words were flying from her mouth before she could stop herself. “Did he ask about me?”
There was a long moment of silence. So long that Gazelle longed to scream in order to fill the empty space, but she stopped herself. She refused to make the moment worse by begging for information on him. They went their separate ways for a reason and she needed to behave as though she was over him like she claimed.
“I don’t know, but you should probably check your mail.” Jeanette paused again before continuing in a brusque tone. “Look, Gazelle, I have to go. Call you later?”
Jeanette disconnected before she had a chance to say goodbye. It wasn’t like her mind was on her friend’s strange behavior anyway. No, everything in her was focused on the fact that Hunter had sent her an invitation. What did that mean? Gazelle managed to convince herself that she would retrieve it from the mailbox and dump it straight into the trash. It wasn’t like she was entertaining the thought of attending anyway. Revisiting the past wasn’t smart.
The memories wouldn’t stay died as she walked out of the house to the end of her driveway. Every time they’d been together replayed like a movie in her mind’s eye. Lifting the laminated card from the box, Gazelle’s breath caught as she looked down at the man she hadn’t seen for twelve months. The response she’d tried to ignore exploded through her. A combination of need and pain rocked through her body and drew a gasp from her.
He smiled up at her from the glossy invitation, looking healthy and happy. His arms thrown around the two gorgeous blonde women gave the picture an air of smug that made her a little sick. The fact that he looked so good sent another lance of pain through her gut.
Gazelle turned to go back into the house, walking blindly up the driveway with the invitation clinched in hand. Her intention to toss it into the trash never manifested and she found herself back in front of her vanity staring down at him.
“I’m not interested,” she whispered, trying to convince herself that she was. “Leaving was the right decision for both of us.”
So why did the sight of him send her heart and her body into a tailspin?
The party began at 9:00pm that night. It was night one and would be a kick off of the three-day spectacle. She flipped over the card and there on the back was a message scrawled in his blocky handwriting. Come see me. Was that special for her or something he sent to his entire guest list? She couldn’t block out the whisper that told her it was special.
It was 5:30pm; she could stop in for a moment and see him…
“God, Elle.” She pushed away from the vanity and paced to her bed. “What is the matter with you? You’re a successful woman, you’re life is going great, why can’t you let him go?”
But she knew why. There was too much unfinished between them. The way she’d left, the way he’d let her leave, had all felt wrong. It still felt wrong a year later. And as much as she told herself she shouldn’t go, Gazelle knew she’d be there tonight.
She considered calling Jeanette and making her go along. The need for some kind of buffer sounded like a good idea. Not only against Hunter, but also against the outright debauchery she knew she’d encounter.
It was one night; she could handle the party for one night without falling apart.
Going to this party could be the catalyst that helped her forget him. Gazelle swallowed the laughter that bubbled up at the thought of her passing over Hunter for someone else. That was about as likely as her not attending tonight.
The past rose up like stinky perfume. Could she go and not feel overwhelmed? Her mother’s face flashed in her mind’s eye and she shuddered.
Gazelle needed to get out of the house. The invitation sat like a beacon on the vanity and the longer she lingered near it the harder it was to stick to her resolve. She’d made her choices at the time; she needed to stick to them.
A run was the one thing guaranteed to keep her mind clear and work off the nervous energy overloading her. Pulling on her shoes, she raced down the steps and out her door, letting the pounding of her feet on the pavement distract her.
But no matter how hard we try; it’s impossible to run away from what haunts you.