Name: Janett Serrano
Category: Women’s Fiction
Title: Remember It Differently
Word Count: 83,000
Themes: Immigration, #Ownvoices
35-word Pitch: A heartbroken woman visits Cuba and falls for a charming local. When he is implicated in a conspiracy and their relationship is thrown into question, she must decide whether to trust him or walk away.
First 500 words:
Part One: Home
Falling in love was a lot like discovering your new favorite book at a second hand store, its pages dog-eared, its cover slightly warped by a reading in the tub, its most inspiring words underlined, highlighted, and starred. You are still grateful to have it, but you can’t shake the feeling that someone else discovered it all first. Someone was moved deeply by this book before you even knew it existed.
Gabriella sat out on the balcony considering whether Henry would be able to read the just one book for the rest of his life. He certainly thought so a few short hours ago when he proposed to her. One minute they’re sipping wine quietly, watching the silhouette of a sailboat cast a swift, black drag across the sunset, the next he’s sitting at her feet so suddenly she couldn’t help but let out a little yelp of surprise. It was like he’d been struck by the idea, instantly moved to action. The ring he held wasn’t what she would’ve picked and she was already thinking of the uncomfortable conversation they would have to have in the future.
From below, a burst of half-hearted clapping could be heard as the sun did what it has done for billions of years, though the crowd that gathers at Mallory Square each sunset continue to clap as though it were the first time.
“I can’t,” she said. His chest visibly collapsed as though beneath his rib cage his heart had snapped in two. But she couldn’t say yes. Not yet.
He got up off of his knees and dusted them off, then slumped down low in the wicker chair beside her.
“What are you talking about, Gabriella. I thought you wanted this?” he said, mournfully.
“I did. I do,” she corrected quickly. “You’ve just caught me off guard. We have a lot going on right now, don’t you think?”
She looked over at him, unsure if the red flush in his cheeks was a result of a sun-filled afternoon or the sting of rejection. She tried everything she could to hide the prickle of heat beneath her own cheeks. That, she knew, was caused by the memory she kept in her pocket like a worry stone.
Rubbing until the corners were smoothed out and the stone itself radiated heat.
It wasn’t even her memory. It was woven from the stories of him and his ex-wife, Lucia. Basking in the afterglow of sex one night, their lowered inhibitions allowed them each to divulge secrets they only faintly recalled having said in the morning. Supported by a glimpse of a picture she came across the other day that had slipped behind a drawer as she helped him pack. Henry, in a pressed shirt and slacks, his pale ankles visible as he knelt before Lucia like a knight courting a princess, overcome with emotion. Of the shaky handwriting that praised her kindness and beauty in a ten year anniversary card.
And look how that turned out.