Serena Casey grew up in the wild and beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the setting for "To Finish The Dance" as well as the novel she's writing now. She and her husband and their two lazy, non-mousing cats live just a bike ride from the shore of Lake Superior. She's been writing since she was old enough to put stubby pencil to lined paper but has only pursued it in a serious fashion for the last five years.
The following excerpt is from her novel "To Finish the Dance."
I wrote most of "To Finish the Dance" during two weeks in 2006 while recuperating from a health crisis. It had always been difficult to find good romances that weren't explicit but focused instead on the love story itself, so I decided it was time to write one!
It was an incredible experience. I did most of my writing between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. each night. It simply gushed out of me like a geyser, and I felt like I was just there to take dictation. I'm still not sure I'm the one who wrote it! :)
The story takes place in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a very rural and secluded area that's sometimes a few years behind the rest of the world. I have lived there all my life and always felt it would be a wonderful setting for a love story. Especially since it's where I married my own high school sweetheart and we're still going strong over 26 years later.
The main characters in the novel, Joe and Lucy, were childhood best friends and high school sweethearts, but they have not seen each other for over twenty years. This excerpt takes place immediately after they go to lunch to catch up on each other's lives. I hope you enjoy it!
TO FINISH THE DANCE EXCERPT
Lucy stood with her back against the studio’s cold brick exterior. She didn’t want to go inside and go back to work. She couldn’t. The last hour ranked high among the most emotionally exhausting of her life.
She called Callie from her house a few minutes later. “Cal, do you think you can handle things down there without me for the rest of the day? I don’t have any appointments, do I?”
“Not that I know of. You sound funny. Didn’t it go well?”
“Oh, I’m fine. It was nice, really. I’ll tell you about it later. I’m just…drained, and I don’t feel like tackling any more work today. I’m sorry to do that to you.”
“Worry not. You just take care of you, and I’ll take care of things down here. You sure you’re okay?”
No. “Yes, I’m fine. I’ll be there tomorrow as usual. Thanks, Callie.”
“No problem, see you tomorrow. Call me if you need to talk.”
While changing into jeans and a T-shirt, she replayed the poignant encounter in her mind. Her life had been going along just fine. Why did he have to come here and turn her upside down?
She couldn’t put her finger on why Brian failed to move her, while Joe had only to say a word or look at her and she was clay in his hands. He didn’t have Brian’s conventional good looks. In fact, some women might not have given him a second glance. He was by no means homely, but his attractiveness had more to do with the look in his eyes, his boyish smile, his quiet strength.
Lucy loved the way he looked, but it was him, his nature, that had always made him so irresistible. He was good with children, loved animals, and he always treated her with respect. Always her protector, he’d gotten more than one black eye from a bully in her defense. Wild at times, yes, but a trustworthy friend.
It didn’t matter that most of their classmates had viewed him as the class clown, the rebel, the one who could provide the most accurate description of the inside of the principal’s office, Will being his only real competition in that department. It didn’t matter that the teachers despaired of squeezing any impressive academic achievements out of him.
She knew the real Joe. So his light brown hair that shone copper in the sun, the way it began to curl so unruly at the ends, his lanky frame, and those penetrating blue-gray eyes became her physical ideal, and suddenly everyone else looked uninteresting.
As she wandered around the living room straightening up half-heartedly, she reminded herself that she had left him for a reason. And yet…
It appeared that the rebel had changed quite a bit, and for the better. He looked good, not the way one would look after a couple of decades of hard living. She would have bet money that he had the alcoholism well under control. He looked…mature, responsible, the very things she had left him to find so many years ago.
And now he had a man’s body, not a boy’s—-strong and beautiful… She shook herself. She had to stop this. She thrown him back in, and Shannon has caught him. And I’m a loose end, she thought.
“She’s really great.” That didn’t sound like a man who was looking to reignite an old flame. So why had he kept melting her with those eyes? Well, I’m happy for him, I really am.
She collapsed on the couch and had a good cry.
Joe drove back along the lake to Knowlton mentally scolding himself. You got what you came for. She’s happy, she has a boyfriend. And you’ve got your own life to live. Reminiscing was nice, but you can’t build a future on memories.
When he arrived back at the house, instead of going in he stuck his head in the door and told his parents he was going for a walk. He hopped the fence that separated the yard from the grassy field beyond and headed for the trees.
There was a boulder, about the size of a large kitchen table, just at the treeline. In childhood, he had often sat there to sort things out. He climbed atop it briefly just for old times’ sake but then went a half mile further through the woods to the railroad tracks that ran behind the property and walked along them for a while, asking himself whether he’d actually gotten the “closure” Shannon had mentioned, and hearing with every step No, No, No, No, No.
When he got back to the house, it was nearly dark. He broke the news that he was thinking of cutting his vacation a little short. His parents were disappointed and perplexed.
“I just got more stuff done on this trip than I expected to, and I’ve got some things I have to do at home. When the weather gets warmer, I’ll come back and we can go fishing, hey, Dad?”
“Sure, but we wish you would stay,” said Gus.
He needed to get back and start his new post-Lucy life before he started looking for reasons not to. Reasons were too easily found around here. “I know, but I really think I should head out. Unless you guys need me to do anything else.”
“No, it’s not that.” Grace sighed. “We just like having you home. But at least let me make you a good breakfast in the morning before you go.”
“That’d be nice, Ma.”
But when he went to bed that night, he wasn’t thinking about his post-Lucy life. He could only think about life before she’d left. There were so many good memories. So many. The waterfall. The “airplane day.” Prom. Graduation. It was going to be hard to leave all that behind. Again.
Being with her for just an hour had scrambled everything. This was a mistake, he thought, and he stifled a groan. I knew it would be, but I came anyway. What a fool.
He wondered what he was going to do now. Was it even possible to go back to the way things were before he’d come here? Not likely. He raked himself over the coals for another hour or so before he managed to fall into a troubled sleep.
"To Finish the Dance" is available for purchase at the usual outlets; see http://serenacasey.com for details.
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I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.