Saturday, August 6, 2011

SOULMARK

For contest rules, go here.

Name: Jamie
Genre: YA Fantasy

Holly slammed the car door shut and wrinkled her nose. Usually the
scent of yuzu and fresh chestnuts spiced the air of the farmer’s
market. But today was Wednesday. Fish day.

Just her luck.

Located at the edge of town, the market was a shiny new structure of
red iron pipes and stretched canvas roofing that provided shelter. It
bustled with the usual morning activity. Vendors shouted and laughed
as they greeted customers, shoppers gossiped over shiny fruit. It
could have been any market in America.

Except it wasn’t.

She was back in Japan for another summer and now she had to get used to the place again. It had only been a year since her last visit, but it always felt so foreign, so alien to return, like stepping off a spinning merry-go-round and trying to stay upright.

And the older she got, the longer she took to regain her balance.

“Are you coming, Holly-chan?” Her grandmother raised an eyebrow before slinging the nylon shopping bag over her shoulder and gesturing for Holly to follow.

The scent of burning leather replaced the fish as they passed tables
strewn with belts and wallets. Men streaked with sweat hunched over
their tables, hammering designs into the glossy surfaces. Several
glanced up as she passed, their quick assessment of her easy to read
in their drawn brows and cold eyes.

Despite being half-Japanese, she was still an outsider. Everyone was
much too polite to say anything but she knew what they were thinking.

Hafu. Hapa. Half-breed. The terms were different depending on her
location, but the meaning was the same. She didn’t fit in anywhere.

But that didn’t mean she hadn’t tried. She tugged at her streaky
ponytail. She’d highlighted her hair last week before leaving for
Japan, but the sun-kissed blonde shade she’d picked out had turned an odd orangey-brown color. Mandy, her best friend back home, said it looked cool.

Too bad Holly didn’t believe her.

She sighed and pushed through the crowds behind her grandmother. At
the end of the aisle, Holly spotted her aunt haggling with a customer.
Affection settled in her chest like a nesting bird. Miko never
changed. This year she’d dyed her own hair cherry red and a diamond
stud twinkled in her nose. Even in grungy jeans and a tank top, she
still looked like a Japanese pop star. A pop star who owned a farm
that sold organic produce and fit in wherever she went.

“Holly-chan!” Miko called as they approached.

Holly smiled. She’d always loved the endearment her grandmother and aunt added to her name, even if it was usually reserved for little girls. For that brief moment, it made her feel like she belonged. She threw herself at her aunt, hugging her tightly.

“How have you been, beanpole?” Miko grinned up at her. “You’ve grown a foot since last summer!”

4 comments:

Sophia Chang said...

See, Jamie, I told you to start with Holly's chapter! :)

Ann Bedichek Braden said...

I love this! Your writing is so smooth, and I love the merry-go-round image. You did a great job of placing us in a different country and making it easy to understand -- a task I know can be hard (my entry is the next one up and starts in Russia.)

My only concern is that I'd want action to start fairly soon, but I'm sure it does.

Also, I already love the aunt.

Jenny said...

I really love Holly. You struck a great balance between her identity conflict and self-pity. Her struggle with that sense of belonging feels very real, but the love she has for her family keeps her from becoming whinny. I'd love to read more, just to see where the fantasy elements come in because right now, it reads as a wonderful YA contemporary. But I guess that's the trouble with only 500 words!

mrs.byles728 said...

I love this beginning. With the descriptions you’ve woven throughout, you’ve given me a sense of your main character’s world without bombarding me with unnecessary details. It’s a perfect balance that most don’t get right. I’ve already done my two required critiques for the contest, but I just had to let you know how great I thought this was. I’m sure you’ll go far with your writing. Good luck!