Promise began a hundred different ways. And I really don't think I'm exaggerating. In some of the false starts, it opened with Alexis already at college. In some, she was at the bookstore with Sophia, helping her paint and clean. It always began with her starting college in Florida, far away from where she'd graduated high school, but the actual location of the opening scene changed many times. As did the place from where she came.
In some drafts, she'd moved from Denver or Chicago. For a long time, she'd come from Minnesota. I've never been to Minnesota, but it didn't matter because there wasn't actually a scene in the Land of Lakes. I didn't need to know many specifics.
When I decided there needed to be an opening scene that brought in the bad guys sooner, though, I realized I needed a location I was familiar with. It was a no-brainer as soon as the whole scene played out in my mind. I imagined it on the street where my best friend in high school had lived. I "saw" Alexis walk by her house before all hell broke loose. That scene belonged in Arlington, Virginia. The place I call "home."
You probably already know, but in case you don't, I moved around a lot as a kid. From 12 years old until 20, however, I lived in Arlington. That's where I did most of my growing up. I loved living there - not quite in the city but not exactly suburbs either, right across the river from D.C., where we spent much of our free time. I'm sure I complained of being bored, but I look back now and realize just how much there is to do there.
I miss it. I didn't leave because I wanted "get out" as many young people do when they leave home. I left out of necessity. I've only been back a couple times since leaving in the early 90s, with the last time in 2004. Even then, though, we just did a quick drive-by, getting a glimpse of my old stomping grounds as we headed downtown to eat crabs and watch fireworks.
In a week, I will be headed home. And I am so freakin' excited. I'll get to see some people I haven't seen since...well, some since high school graduation. Including that friend whose house showed up in the opening scene of Promise.
I'll also be doing a signing! So if you happen to be in the D.C./Northern Virginia area, I'd love to meet you. The signing will be Tuesday, 9/6, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Eclectic Threads, 2647 N Pershing Drive, Arlington. I'll have the new edition versions of Promise and Purpose available for purchase, too.
Unfortunately, the trip won't be all fun and laughter. The main reason for going is to lay my grandmother to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. My aunt and I are calling the road trip up there "The Farewell Tour." We'll be visiting some of Grandma's favorite stops between here and there - the ones she always was sure to stop at when she used to make the semi-annual drive as a snowbird. So I'm sure there will be some tough moments along the way.
Overall, though, I think it will be a good trip. We'll relive old memories and create new ones. We'll say hello to old friends and good-bye to a special lady. And knowing my grandmother, she'll be pleased to have such a tour in her honor.