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Chapter One- Bella Carter

by starryknightt

Hefting a crate of beer bottles, I pushed the bar door open with my hip and slid inside. Sweat and stale alcohol filled the air around me, mixing with the loud clamor of obnoxious voices and football turned way too loud on the TVs. It used to give me a headache, back when I’d first gotten the job. I’d had nowhere else to go, and my father had put in a good word, so the owner would overlook my young age. Father had forced me to apply here only because he was friends with the owner, who more than likely gave a considerable amount of my pay to him.

I’d considered quitting the job many times, but each time I’d shut the idea down. I’d even gotten as far as disrespecting the owner- Mr. Swain- and had come home that night to Father waiting for me. With a belt.

From then on, it was always sweet smiles and hidden threats with Mr. Swain. Both of us fully aware of the falseness behind the attitude.

My sneakers squeaked past drunken men as I neared the storage room behind the counter, and Swain gave me an evil, greasy smile. Ignoring him, I set the crate down- roughly, hoping some of the bottles would break- and turned around, ready to start serving drinks. Swain stopped me, licking his lips, and said, “Looking nice today, Bella.”

I almost gagged as I met his muddy gaze. His stench was overwhelming, like he bathed in cigarette smoke and mildew. Swain was a tall, skinny man with greasy black hair that clung to his scalp like a wet rat. His sharp nose was unnaturally pointy, and the scraggly stubble growing on his chin suggested sloppy behavior. It didn’t help that his clothing was always rumpled and unbuttoned, as he just gave off general shady vibes.

I fixed him in an icy glare, knowing that he wasn’t just giving a dirty compliment. My clothing bugged him because it was my way of breaking- or at least bending- the rules in defiance. All of the other barmaids wore crop tops and booty shorts, complete with caked-on makeup and suggestive smirks at the men on the barstools, but I refused to comply. I hadn’t chosen to work here, and I wasn’t going to lower my standards just because it was considered normal. They could all go kiss-butt on the next waitress.

Reigning in my anger and disgust, I gave Swain a sugary smile. “Thanks!” I said.

He scowled at my dingy blue hoodie, worn jeans, and converse sneakers.

I smiled again and grabbed a little notepad and pen, heading to the table farthest from him. Four men sat there, round in girth and sporting dirty beards. They reeked of delirium, and it was clear they’d been here for a long time. I kept a smile pasted on my face.

The man closest to me noticed me waiting for an order and said heavily, grinning stupidly, “Tequila, lovely girl.”

I couldn’t keep the smile, and it vanished into a scowl. All four men laughed, and I spun on my heel, walking away. The man slapped my butt as I was leaving, and they all roared, like it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. It took every ounce of my willpower not to retrieve my concealed-carry and blow his face off. I clenched my fists and stalked away. Someone else could take their order.

I neared a different table, this one containing a giggling woman and a muscled man in a tank top. The woman leaned over the table, sequined dress showing far too much cleavage like she’d forgotten how to sit up straight. The man had his arms folded, hands subtly pushing up his muscles like he was trying to be impressive. I tried again, pasting on yet another smile.


I left the bar smelling nasty and feeling dirty. It was pitch black outside, and- I checked my watch- after midnight. Hopefully, Father would be asleep.

A chilly breeze tossed my hair, and I pulled my hands into the sleeves of my hoodie. The sidewalks and trashy allies were practically empty, except for the shady bystander every now and then. I pulled out my phone as I walked to the neighboring parking lot, dimming the brightness so I didn’t blind myself.

I pulled up a news page, as I always did. At least once a day. It was habitual, and it took the stress off my shoulders for reasons I wasn’t sure of. Any big events, strange occurrences. I had to know because I could help. I had knowledge that others didn’t.

I remembered Olivia.

I remembered the uniformed men from five years ago, with the gas masks and strange words.

No one else in my family remembered, but I did. I remembered my older sister. The gas masks had been made to help us forget, but it hadn’t worked on me. Mother had left us a few months after, and Father was still horrible. But ever since Olivia left, Father had turned his anger to me, and I now had the scars to prove it.

Goosebumps raised on my arms and I shook those thoughts away.

I neared a Jeep Wrangler, and the headlights flicked on, the engine roaring to life. Its vibrant red paint began to sparkle in the newfound brightness, and Bianca - my best friend, well, the only friend, really- leaned out the window and hollered at me to hurry up.

I turned off my phone and broke into a jog.

I slid into the pristine black leather passenger seat and shut the door. “Hey, Bee,” I said, buckling my seatbelt.

Bianca tossed her curly black hair over her shoulder and gave me a smile, olive-skinned hand on the steering wheel. “Hey, girl,” she said in her silky, heavy tone. Her voice was naturally deep and velvety, and it always gave the guys at school a run for their money. “How was it tonight?”

I leaned back in my seat, the mere mention of the bar giving me a surge of anxiety. “The usual,” I said eventually.

Bianca pulled out of the parking lot. “Hm,” she said thoughtfully. “And that weasel… the owner?”

Bile rose in my throat. “Oh,” I said hoarsely. I coughed. “As I said, the usual. Nasty, overlarge ego.”

She nodded. “About right.”

It was silent for a little while, and I was vibrantly aware of the tension woven into the quiet. Bianca was the only one in the whole world who knew of my Father, and of his abuse. Only she knew where the bruises and scars came from. She’d been super protective over me when I first told her. She almost never talked about it, not unless it was particularly bad. In those situations, I had to calm her down before she called someone. Like the police. That couldn’t happen. It would only make things worse.

She’d known for about a year now, and I was surprised she hadn’t abandoned me yet. That was what usually happened.

That was what Olivia had done, after all. Just… left.

Sure, I had many so-called “friends” at school. Bianca, being a year older than me, wasn’t around much. Meanwhile, I surrounded myself with airheads, perky girls who’s biggest problems were what would happen when their boyfriends dumped them. I had my fair share of guys who gawked when they thought my back was turned, who every now and then got up the nerve to ask me out. Some of them were actually kind of sweet. It was a shame I could never say yes. Father’s wrath was mine and only mine to bear.

I blinked, barely realizing that I’d been zoned-out this whole time.

“You okay?” Bianca asked.

“Yeah,” I replied. The silence kept dragging. I’d never been able to stand silences like this. “How have you been?”

She shrugged, her shoulders making her long, gold-chain earrings brush together. “Parker took me out a few hours ago.” Her hazel gaze was still on the road, but I saw it go soft and warm at the thought of her boyfriend. “To that buffet a little south of the school.”

Honestly. Bianca and Parker were couple-goals. Parker, the sweet, soft-spoken guy with a surreal talent on the violin. He somehow managed to melt Bianca like chocolate, something that I had never seen before. Bianca was usually all tough, rough teasing on the outside, protective and loyal on the inside. She was a hard shell to crack. And yet Parker managed it quite well. It almost made me wish I did have a boyfriend.

“Awesome,” I said.

Bianca nodded. “Yeah, he’s pretty great.”

“You have any plans for this summer?” I asked.

She beamed. “Yes, actually. Parker and I want to go for a vacation at the waterpark hotel downtown. You know, you should come. Think you can get yourself a boyfriend in the next month?” She turned a mischievous smirk in my direction.

I cocked an eyebrow at her, matching our two levels of sass. “I think I'll be busy,” I said.

Bianca huffed and turned back around. “You can’t be alone forever,” she pointed out.

“I’m only sixteen, Bee.”

She was quiet. Then, “What are your plans for summer?”

I bit my lip. She was clearly bothered about my opinions on romance, but what could I say? I veered as far away from that subject as possible. “I want to travel,” I said.

Bianca frowned, confused. “How? I mean, your dad…”

“My father will never let me leave,” I agreed, “but that doesn’t mean I won’t find a way.” My throat felt dry as I saw the true meaning in my words. If I could travel for a little while, away from home, what would inspire me to come back? Nothing. I wouldn’t come back.

“You’re leaving?” she asked. “To where? When?” She left the last question unasked: How long?

The more I thought about it, the more terrified I became. The instinctual fear that had been drilled into me through childhood spiked and a chill went down my spine. The mere thought of running away was so unthinkable. So daring. Risky. I’d never considered it with such open arms before.

But I knew where I wanted to go. I’d known for a long time now.

“New Mexico,” I said, with such conviction that it scared me. “As soon as possible.”

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314 Reviews

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Tue Sep 03, 2019 4:58 pm
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mellifera wrote a review...

Hey starryknightt! I'll be swinging by for a review today! :)

Hefting a crate of beer bottles, I pushed the bar door open with my hip and slid inside.

As far as first lines go, this one really doesn't catch my attention? There's not much of hook to draw your readers in yet.
When you're starting out a story, you want to have something that immediately pulls your reader in. You want them to read your work! Find that sentence that's going to rope them in, that intrigues them. It's hard to find the right sentence, trust me, I know. But think of it, at the very least, as one sentence that's interesting. Especially if that sentence forces a question for the reader- then they have to keep reading to find the answer!
Right now, this is just the description of an everyday occurrence. Another angle could be to pretend you're a reader. Ask yourself why should I care about this character/setting? and if you don't have an answer, find a way to change it until you do!

I'd even gotten as far as disrespecting the owner

This sentence bugs me chiefly, I think, because it's vague. It's also only loosely connected to the last sentence (in my opinion), because quitting a job is not synonymous with being rude to your boss. Back to being vague about it though, what did she do? Did she make a snarky comment? Did she leave a mess she was meant to clean up? Did she undermine his authority? It's easier to gloss over these things, but it's also lazier. It gives more character insight if you explain what she did to disrespect him.

I'm going to bring up the hook once more, as it's not only present in your first line. It's also your first chapter. Usually, when you start in the middle of action, or set off the inciting incident right away, it's intriguing. The readers want to know more!
What you have right now is information that can easily be sprinkled in later, once we've gotten a chance to get into the meat of the story and who your MC is.

My sneakers squeaked past drunken men

Since her sneakers are not autonomous, don't describe it as if they are. She's the one moving, not her sneakers. Something like "My sneakers squeaked against the floor as I brushed past drunken men", then it's describing the noise while still maintaining control with Bella.

I LOVE your description of Swain, and how much you're leaning into Bella's feelings on him in relation to his appearance. It's makes me squirmy and uncomfortable, and it's great.

All of the other barmaids wore crop tops and booty short, complete with caked-on makeup and suggestive smirks at the men on the barstools

Okay I am starting to wonder if this is an actual bar. You haven't mentioned any women that don't work in the bar yet, which seems? Odd to me? Although, in your defense, I would also be hyperaware of all the men as well, especially in a situation like the one she's in.

I know that Swain and Bella are like, passive aggressive to each other, but I have to wonder... why? Bella's the one who "stepped out of line" (I say that in quotation marks because I am 100% on her side of this, to make that clear), so why is Swain also being so fake-nice to her?
Follow-up: if he's unhappy because she's wearing more modest clothes/what she feels comfortable in, why would he "compliment" her in the first place? Like, he compliments her, she says thanks, he gets all scowl-y, but like... why? All the information you've given about them contradicts this interaction.

It took every ounce of my willpower not to retrieve my concealed-carry and blow his face off.

whoa that,,,, escalated quickly. she carries a gun?? her dad allows her to carry a gun??

While this isn't necessarily a "must-change" or anything, I have to wonderwhy literally everyone that has been introduced, besides Bella, is so horny? Like, it's all been leering men or women who are trying to give the Optimum Bust View, which, okay, maybe it's something in the air, but it seems odd that everyone seems to be of the exact same objective (to get laid??). I don't know, that sticks out to me a little more than it should.

I left the bar smelling nasty and feeling dirty.

There's very few situations where "feeling" should be used. I'm sure you've heard the phrase telling vs. showing, as it's something you do want to keep in the back of your mind.
When you describe a character as "feeling" something, it's telling (can't tell you how many times I've been caught doing this haha). Instead, describe how their feeling is. "I left the bar with the thick stench of alcohol lingering on my clothes, unmentionable grime clinging to my skin and hair." <-- See how much more visceral that is? It gives the reader much better insight into how she's feeling, rather than just telling them how she feels dirty.

I also have to wonder how old Bella is? Cause, uh, child labour laws are A Thing.

I pulled my hands into the sleeves of my hoodie.

While there's technically nothing wrong with this sentence, I had to read it a second time to realise what you meant. I think it would work better if you switched it around ("I pulled the sleeves of my hoodie over my hands").

I remembered Olivia.

I remembered the uniformed men from fives years ago, with gas masks and strange words.

Yes!! Here's what I was looking for!! This caught my attention. Now I'm wondering who these men are, who Olivia is. This is the kind of hook you want to start out with.
Essentially, is there a reason that you started out at the bar? Besides showing how terrible her life seems to be right now(?), I can't find any purpose to it? But maybe I just don't know enough either. Still, ask yourself why you started where you did, and if that was the right place to do so.

The gas masks had been made to help us forget, but it hadn't worked on me.


But ever since Olivia left,

Did Olivia leave though, or was she taken?

I neared a Jeep Wrangler, and the headlights flicked on, the engine roaring to life. Its vibrant red paint began to sparkle in the newfound brightness,

This doesn't really work if it's the headlights that turned on. The headlights are shining on the car, they're shining ahead of it, so it wouldn't light up the car.

the mere mention of the bar giving me a surge of anxiety.

Instead of "surge of anxiety" (because it tells us what's she feeling), what about "the mere mention of the bar turning my stomach"? Everyone experiences anxiety/discomfort in different way, so saying "oop I was anxious" isn't really... that descriptive?

Why did Bianca ask about Swain? She asks and then doesn't really say anything about it? It just feels forced, like you needed them to have more of a conversation but didn't really know what they should talk about.

So Olivia DID leave. I'm super curious about that now.

I blinked, barely realizing I'd been zoned-out this whole time.

What "whole time"? Also, why is this what she thinks about when she zones out? It's a bit info-dumpy. I definitely do not contemplate the aspects of my life when I zone out.

The silence kept dragging.

But she,,, just talked,,,,

her shoulder making her long, gold-chain earrings brush together.

I'm sure you meant there's multiple dangling bits on her earrings but you wrote it like the pair of earring brushed together, which is anatomically impossible unless they're absolutely massive earrings (in which case I don't think one would be able to hold them on your ears??).

"I'm only sixteen, Bee."

Okay so, yeah. Child labour laws are a thing. Are you telling me not a SINGLE patron of the bar thought about calling CPS or the cops about it?? Not one person thought it's strange that she's working there???

She was clearly bothered about my opinions on romance,

YOU'RE SEVENTEEN BIANCA how many relationships you have in your teen years PAN OUT ANYWAY. guess what comes later in life? emotional maturity my dude.
thank you, Bella, for being more sensible about it (sorta not really but a little).

I veered as far away from that subject as possible.

You don't need this line in here. She's changing the subject, we can see that. This line is redundant.

My throat felt dry

Don't pad this with "felt". Again, it's telling. "My throat grew dry" or "My throat was dry" is the same thing but without telling.

If I could travel for a little while, away from home, what would inspire me to come back? Nothing. I wouldn't come back.

Wait, this is the first time this has occurred to her? Like, running away Isn't Good but neither is living with an abusive father and a sucky job so like,,, why didn't she think of this before?

I'd never considered it with such open arms before.

But she has considered it, so... why did you write the part where she has this sudden epiphany about it?

I said, with such conviction that I scared me.

You already said she was terrified. Either describe how she's feeling scared, or don't repeat it.

The whole plotline with Bella's sister and the men in gas masks is really intriguing to me. I think it would work better if you introduced that dynamic earlier, but you did a good job with establishing what the inciting incident was in the first chapter (Bella decides to run away and leave for New Mexico). And I love that Bella is an active character as well (making that decision like that).

I'm kind of questioning Bella and Bianca's friendship? You said they were best friends, but that Parker seems closer to her exclusively because he's her boyfriend, which leads me to think that the "best friends" is one-sided, and they were only called that because Bella is an unreliable narrator, and that they aren't actually that close to each other. There's isn't a natural connection between them, Bella is uncomfortable when they're not talking to each other, Bianca closes up when she disagrees with Bella's opinion, and she won't open up/be vulnerable towards Bella but she will to Parker.

Anyway, that's all I have for you today! If you have any comments or questions, please let me know! I'd be happy to talk :)

I hope you have an amazing day, and Happy RevMo!


What an incredible critique! Thank you so much for your suggestions.

mellifera says...

thank you! and you're welcome :D

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12 Reviews

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Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:46 pm
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riotheselcouth wrote a review...

My little Star, Hi I'm Riothe.

Ahmm, while am reading your novel my mind explores of what I've read so it means i relate about the story of the novel and i really like it.

Let's proceed about your punctuation, grammar etc. ahmm u derived it well.

You as my fellow writer, i just want to say that keep in writing and keep it up.

—riothe selcouth 🍂

Thank you!

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Mon Sep 02, 2019 8:26 pm
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EternalRain wrote a review...

Hi there starry!

I think this was a pretty solid first chapter. It leaves the reader with enough to understand what's going on, but not enough info that they have to keep reading on to find out what everything is all about. I am certainly very curious about Olivia and what's so special about New Mexico. My favorite part of this chapter was probably Swain's description - it not only set a good image in my mind but coated the whole chapter in a nasty, dark tone (which hopefully was your intention!).

Definitely curious how dangerous it is for Bella to be working in a bar though. I mean - I don't really see the incentive for Swain to do it? He could probably get in a lot of trouble with the police if they found out a 16 year old was working there. Anyway, very troubling.

It's quite early, but I do want to know what Bella's father's motivation for his abuse is. I want to see his character developed and I don't really want the abuse to be in here "just because". It's still chapter 1 and everything, but I thought I'd mention it before you get too far down the road (and maybe this is what you had in mind already - just thought I'd mention it).

I hope Bella will be able to get herself out of this. It's clear she doesn't want the police involved - and I'm assuming that she's scared something bad will happen. But we'll have to see where her fear lies.

I'm guessing a majority of her story will be her journey to New Mexico, which sounds super fun. I'm a big fan of teen fiction stories where the teen travels alone! Anyway, I like the direction this is going in and I'm excited to read more! I absolutely have to know more about Olivia (is she in New Mexico?).

Is it possible you could tag me when chapter 2 is up? :D Have a good day!

~ EternalRain

Chapter two is up!!! Thank you.

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Mon Sep 02, 2019 6:56 am
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ShapeOfVoid wrote a review...

Hi Star! It's me again :)

You had excellent flow through out the chapter, so this was a pretty easy read. Good job on that :) I remember reading a lot of first chapters of your various projects, but is it just me who missed out on the next chapters? Nevertheless, do tag me if you decide to continue the Bella Carter stroy; I'll be looking forward to reading it!

I'm happy with how you started the novel; you didn't dump too much information; and you gave us just the required bit; the parts that will be sure to snag the reader's interest. You've got pretty strong charcaterization (like all of your other stories :)) There's a bit of darkness in here that I like, not too much and not to less; and I'm overall very intrigued.

However, I feel the setting as kind of typical? I mean, you have Swain, the slimy git; and then the loyal, headstrong best friend; and a MC with abuse and a life crisis. It's just, there's a LOT of books like that out there, you know? Bianca and Bella don't really scream unique to me, and I think that when you're writing a story such as this, it's important to have charcaters that'll stay with the reader. I've read tons of YA comtemporary, and there are only a handful of charcaters that I really remember; the rest just mash up together. When you're looking to publish, you NEED to have something that'll make the publisher sit up and go: oh yes, this can work. (which is also why I tend not to write in the contemporary genre, most of the themes have already been written on.)

So moving on, I like how smoothly you introduced Olivia, or the lack thereof of a certain Olivia. I have a a feeling that much of the plot revolves around her (am i right? I am, right?) or at least, finding out what happened to her. I like the mysteriousness surrounding that area; again, great way to snag your reader.

You've covered the basics: the plot point (abuse, Olivia), companions (Bianca), target (Mexico), and character situation (not very good or priviledged). You need to add the eccentrics; the side comments and notes that make the story more real - like how there's a tiny scratch on the Jeep Wrangler, how Bella hates her shoes but love how they crunch on the gravel; maybe Bella likes art (basically, what is she passionate about besides Olivia and job-hating?). These are just examples, but you know what I mean. Maybe introduce a charcater that's absolutely crazy and will add a certain magic to the story, like Phoebe from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. honestly, the show wouldn't be the same without her, her character required a bit of genius.

Like I always say, you don't need much work on your language. Your vocabualry's perfect for a young adult contemporary, and I like the way Bella talks. There are a couple of nitpicks - sentences i feel that could've been structured better, but for a first draft, this is really good; and I'm sure once you come back to editing these, it will be perfect!

So happy reviewing, and keep writing!

Hey! Gosh, I really appreciate your review. Thank you so much for the kind words and suggestions.

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Sat Aug 31, 2019 8:59 pm
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Cici wrote a review...

Hi! This is my first review, so it might not be the best.

First of all, I really enjoyed reading this! It had suspense, descriptions, conflict, and an emotional aspect. You pay such close attention to detail; I could paint a vivid picture of the stuffy bar and the characters. You have a very nice foundation for this story, and everything is so well-written!

What I felt was missing was a setting-- I clear view about what place this took in. Are there trees and growing vegetation or is it desolate desert with cacti. You do mention some features about this area, and knowing the setting might not even be important, but it would be the missing piece of the puzzle for me if you added some more specifics. I could assume that this took place in the United States and maybe in the west(?). You do mention a chilly breeze, which suggests a colder place and is a nice detail.

You gave each character such distinctive depictions like Mr. Swain, the customers at the bar, Bianca, and Parker. Maybe give more details on Bella Carter's physical appearance? You do include personal elements that add to her character and her personality, which is great. Although, you do write that she is pretty, has scars, and is sixteen, maybe incorporate a height, hair color, skin tone? Of course, her physical appearance probably isn't as important as her disposition, which you do a wonderful job at illustrating!

This was such a delightful read, and I love all the detailed descriptions! You did amazing groundwork for this narrative, and I am looking forward to Chapter 2!


Chapter two is up! Thank you so much :)

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416 Reviews

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Fri Aug 30, 2019 11:51 am
Liberty wrote a review...

Hiya starryknightt!

Hope you're doing well today or tonight, depending on what side of the world you're on, obviously. I'm here to give you a review! Let's get right into it, now, shall we? Alright!

Okay, so you asked for critique, but I don't have much to point out. Nothing at all, really. You did a great job with: setting the plot, making us feel for Bella, your punctuation, spelling, and grammar! All of it was well done. :smt023

You tell us about her father a lot. And then Olivia: not so much. She ran away, and her mother left after that! Nothing more than that, am I right? I'm hoping you'll tell us mor in the next chapter. :)

...And then the anger is being taken out on poor Bella! Oof. Tough life. >_< Can't even imagine anything like it, but ya know, stuff like this is for real. D:

Another thing I really like is how Bee is older than Bella. I love it. Usually, in books, friends are the same age, which is not always like in real life, but over here they're different ages! Like in real life.

Anyways, I loved reading this and I can't wait to see what's coming up in chapter 2. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask me whenever. I hope this review helped. Also, d'ya mind tagging me for the next chapter? I'd appreciate it. :D

And as always...

Keep on writing!


Chapter two is up, my friend! Thank you so much!

Liberty says...

Sure thing!

If you run now, you will be running the rest of your life.
— Reborn