I always have a hard time deciding which excerpts of a book to share--something that doesn't have any spoilers, that will make sense out of context, and that is short enough to be read in a couple minutes. As as I was trying to decide which scene to share from Not Until Us, I chose this one, partly because bugs have been on my mind, since we had a slight (okay, it wasn't slight, it was massive) millipede invasion around here this summer. I mean, they were everywhere--on the ground, on the siding, even in the basement. Apparently, it was because it was a warm, wet summer--perfect millipede conditions. I can handle a lot of creepy crawlies--spiders, mice, snakes are all fine with me--but I just don't do well with millipedes (evidenced by the screams every time I saw one!).
In Not Until Us, Jade doesn't have a problem with millipedes (well, she probably would, but she doesn't see any in the book); instead, her problem is with ladybugs. I know, I know, ladybugs aren't creepy (at least to me), but this scene was actually inspired by one of my children (who shall remain nameless for their own protection), who is certain they were bit by a ladybug a few years back. Hey, I don't judge that child--I just use them in my fiction.
Just a note that this isn't the opening scene of the book (I'll share that on release day!) but I felt like it was too fun not to share. Just for context, this takes place at a church camp:
Dan plopped his small bag onto the bottom of one of the bunks and broke up a fight between two boys who each wanted the top bunk.
“Why don’t we―”
But his words were cut off as a sharp scream ripped through the open door of their cabin. Dan’s head jerked up. That was a woman’s scream. Jade?
He was already tearing out of his cabin, his feet pounding over the packed dirt trail that led to the girls’ cabins on the other side of the small clearing.
As he ran, he realized he should have grabbed the first aid kit. Or maybe a weapon. Who knew what was going on over there?
He burst in the door of Jade’s cabin without knocking. “What’s wrong?”
He pulled up short, a dozen girls gaping at him as he stood in the doorway gasping for air. “I thought I heard a scream.”
Everyone appeared to be in one piece, and there were no apparent signs of danger.
Until he spotted Jade standing on a rickety old chair in the far corner of the room.
“There are ladybugs.” She pointed to the opposite corner.
“Ladybugs?” Dan repeated dully. What did ladybugs have to do with anything?
“Miss Jade doesn’t like ladybugs.” Penelope let out a giggle, and the other girls joined in.
“Oh.” Dan raised an eyebrow at Jade, and she gave him a chagrined look.
“I got bit by one once.”
“By a ladybug? I don’t think they bite.”
Jade gave him an indignant look. “They do when you accidentally lay on one that has crawled into your bed.”
The girls laughed harder, and Dan pressed his lips together to keep from joining in.
“Who wants to help me save Miss Jade from the ladybugs?” He strode to the corner she had indicated. Sure enough, a dozen or so ladybugs were scattered across the wall and floor there. With the girls’ help, he scooped them up and transplanted them outdoors.
“There.” He crossed to the chair Jade was still perched on and held out a hand. “Now will you get down? I think that chair is more dangerous than all the ladybugs in the woods combined. It looks like it’s about to fall apart.”
She stared at his hand, as if afraid it was leprous. But he grabbed her arm as she wobbled. She might not want his help, but he didn’t need a camp leader with a broken neck.
He ignored the zing that shot from his hand, up his arm, and right to his heart at the feel of her skin under his fingers. It had been a long time since he’d held her hand.
She pulled away the moment she was on the ground, and he backed toward the door. “We’re going to do a devotion in ten minutes. Then how about a swim before lunch?”
The girls all cheered, but Jade looked panicked.
“Don’t worry.” He couldn’t resist teasing her. “There shouldn’t be any ladybugs in the water.” He waited for the look of relief on her face, then added, “Just snakes.”
I admit I had a lot of fun writing that scene. And the whole book, really--even the hard parts, the emotional parts, the parts where I ached for the characters. Because I knew all of it was part of their story--part of how God was working in their lives.
Just like he's working in ours. Today and always.