Valerie M CarioMembers
Massage therapist to ER Nurse, but always a writer. Stories are everywhere. Loves cats.
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Story Statement/ Logline: A thirty-five-year-old housewife trapped in a controlling marriage takes the train into Manhattan and is sent back in time on a mystical NYC subway voyage to revisit her relationships of the past. Antagonist: The most dangerous type of people are those who believe they can do no wrong. From the outside, Nick Stratham is the perfect man: a charismatic, 6’2” neurosurgeon who performs free surgeries in his spare time and lavishes his wife with expensive gifts. But Nick is the type of man who is used to getting what he wants. For most of his life, every card has been dealt in his favor. Raised by wealthy parents in Connecticut, Nick is good looking, athletic, and incredibly intelligent. Despite a lack of struggle, Nick believes it’s his hard work and determination that have landed him where he is. Up until now, he’s reached every one of life’s milestones on his terms, exactly on time and exactly the way he’s wanted. Every problem solved with money. But on the inside, Nick has a temper. He has secrets. Nick feeds on control. Believing its time to have a baby, he’s even taken control of his wife’s fertility. His impressive gaslighting abilities leave everyone in his wake believing they’re the one with something wrong. But he truly believes he’s a good guy. And so does everyone else. Genre and Comparables Women’s Fiction Midnight Library by Matt Haig meets Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty Titles 1.Train Tracks 2. Midnight Train Home 3. Last Train Home Conflicts and Core Wounds On the outside, Sofia has a gorgeous home, a handsome neurosurgeon for a husband, and everything provided for her, but something is missing. Her husband’s insidious gaslighting through the years has isolated her from friends, family, and the career she so loved. While Sofia intuits that her husband may be keeping secrets from her, she’s also been keeping secrets from him. Petrified of the consequences and simultaneously riddled with guilt, Sofia has been secretly thwarting any attempts at becoming pregnant by sabotaging IVF treatments and taking birth control. Believing her life was better before her marriage and fearful of confronting her controlling husband, Sofia sets up a secret job interview in NYC in the hope of once again finding freedom. She gets an unexpected jolt when she encounters a mystical stranger who sends her back in time on the NYC subway to different relationships of her past. The rules are simple: get back on the train before midnight to avoid getting stuck and losing any chance of making it back to the present. After recovering from the initial shock, accepting that she’s not undergoing a drug induced hallucination, Sofia begins to take advantage of her situation. Because she already knows the outcome, she has no problem telling off an old boss, righting a wrong, or reliving magical moments. In fact, she begins to enjoy her seemingly repercussion free journey, gallivanting around the NYC of her youth. It’s only when Sofia rekindles an old love affair that she decides she may not want to leave. After being heartbroken in a way she was too afraid to experience in real life, Sofia realizes that if she doesn’t make the midnight train, she may destroy her future, miss her job interview, and end up exactly where she started. It’s only then, she begins to seek the real answers, hopefully before it’s too late. During a zany and eye opening journey, Sofia relives love affairs with men, NYC, and eventually herself. TRAIN TRACKS, a women’s fiction novel, asks the much debated question - Are we truly the orchestrators of our own fate? Primary Conflict: Will Sofia be able to make it back to the future to land a job that will give her the confidence and financial security to leave her husband? Will she be able to get the physical evidence to prove her husband is bad as she thinks? Secondary Conflict: Debating staying in the past with an old love only to learn the true, debilitating pain of a broken heart. Inner conflict / Core Wound: Raised by a mother who based the quality of one’s life on a man and an undependable father who she misunderstood, Sofia has always used men as indicator of her self worth. When faced with having to get out of a toxic marriage and find a way to support herself, Sofia must return to her past to find who she is all along: a strong woman capable of relying on herself. Setting: Act One: The setting opens in Sofia’s beautiful, expensive home she shares with her husband in Connecticut. The house is renovated - modern, sleek style, parts of which make Sofia uncomfortable. They live in an idyllic Connecticut town - reminiscent of Gilmore Girls meets Stepford Wives. As “perfect” as the outer setting is, Sofia is miserable on the inside and the weather is just as bad. At the end of Act 1, Sofia travels into Manhattan where she walks by a dingy, old apartment building she used to live in where the ceiling leaks brown water. She reminisces about it fondly, but a friend states that the building itself violates health codes. Despite the garbage, urine, homeless people, and reckless cyclists, Sofia remembers a different, more free version of herself from her days in the city and is thrilled to be back. Act Two: Sofia’s journey throughout her past in NYC is told predominantly by visiting different old boyfriends. Each boyfriend is unique like each neighborhood of NYC. Starting with famous landmarks like Grand Central Station, the Church Missions House (Fotografiskia Museum), and Trinity Church, she also travels further - water taxis to locals only parties in Rockaway Beach, raves in Bushwick warehouses, haunted brownstones in Bedstuy, Irish pubs at 4am in Woodside, the Mandarin Hotel. Each place holds significance about the person she’s with and the lesson she needs to learn. She will visit a $2 Million piede-a-terre and a basement of a dive bar in Chinatown. Rats on subways, scary motorcycle rides over bridges. But each setting highly reflects each part of the story. At the beginning when she is still idealizing the past, the weather is amazing - sunny days and warm breezes. As she transitions more as a character, weather becomes worse again. Act Three: She’s back in present day Manhattan where her journey back in time began. Weather is moderate - sunny. Nothing is too good or bad. It feels more normal than it has the entire story. Public transportation is running smoothly. Sofia makes the decision to face her husband but we leave thinking she will come back to NYC.
Prologue My eyes are open, but I don’t allow my body to move. There won’t be many more mornings like this one. Curled up on my side, I can hear his steady breath behind me. He sleeps on his back, his broad chest expanding with every inhale, falling with each exhale. The restful sleep of a baby. Calm, without sin. The clock on the wall ticks, indicating the passing of time. There are still a few more days until he finds out, but only a few minutes until he wakes up. Sliding my body off the California king like a snake, the blankets hardly move. When my bare feet press onto the cold floor, I hold my breath, tightening my abdomen. I don’t want to make a sound. He will want to do it for me. Ensure my technique is correct. Inside our large ensuite bathroom, on the counter next to the sink denoted as hers’, is where we keep the injections. My new daily ritual. I lock the door behind me. Privacy is part of the past. My breath releases, but my heart beats strong and fast as I withdraw an injection, removing the syringe from its exoskeleton of plastic. The crinkling sound from the packaging makes me shudder. I’m trying to mitigate all noise until my next doctor’s appointment, three days from now. The last appointment was yesterday. Everything went as scheduled. Under my nightgown sits three bruises, two purple and one fading into a sort of green. I choose a new spot on my hip. My fingers shake as I pull the cap off the needle. I hold the thin line of silver in front of me, my eye on the beveled edge. Instead of into its rightful place in my soft flesh, I shoot the contents of the syringe straight into the toilet. I want to cry, but there’s no denying the influx of relief flooding my system. Not everyone is made to be a parent. After it’s done, I throw it away exactly the way he showed me, needle straight into the small, red receptacle. I place a large bandaid where the puncture should be, covering up my indiscretions. The remaining packaging can go right into the waste-basket. Back in the bedroom, I slide right back between the covers like the way I came out. Any second now the alarm will go off and he will roll over to my side, hugging me from behind. A moment of peace before his day begins. We will lay like that for a minute, our bodies pressing against each other. He’ll kiss the back of my head before getting up. My husband loves me. But he also lies. Chapter 1 Even though I knew it was coming, the sound of the alarm scared the hell out of me. Fortunately, its effect was minimal since my stomach had twisted its way into a permanent knot for weeks now. Right on cue, Nick released his inaugural moan, a sound reminiscent of an animal in pain. Curled onto his side, he pulled me towards him, his hand on the back of my thigh. “How are you feeling? You want me to call in late today?” he asked. I could feel his breath in my freshly washed hair that I had already blown out in preparation for today. “You are never late.” I turned toward him, giving him a kiss, rolling promptly back over to my side to reach for my bathrobe at the foot of the bed. Even after all the renovations we had done, the house was always cold. Can’t fix old bones, the contractor had said, which made us laugh because that was more or less what my husband did. I took my phone off its charger, noticing two text messages and slid it into the pocket of my robe. “Sofia,” Nick called out as he did his morning stretch, “I forgot to mention it last night, but Josh called me after you left yesterday to reschedule your appointment to Wednesday.” “Wednesday? Why a day sooner?” I asked, a cold sweat beginning to make its way to the surface of my skin. “He thinks it’s better we keep a tight look at your hormone levels this time, that’s all. We’re maximizing time, minimizing error,” Nick said as I worked my way towards the door not wanting to delay our morning routine. Today required precision. “Are you forgetting something?” Nick asked, his thick eyebrows raised over dark eyes. “I already did it, if that’s what you’re asking,” I crossed my arms across my chest. “I’d just rather do it myself. I don’t want you treating me like one of your patients.” I took a step back. “It’s weird.” Nick came toward me. “It’s not weird,” he said, laughing. “We’ve tried for so long. We can actually be pregnant in just over a month from now if things go well.” We. The royal we. And men. Men can’t get pregnant. Some can’t even take care of the children they have. “And things will go well this time,” he added. I smiled, officially turning my back towards him, trying to avoid him seeing my eyes. “By the way, there’s something downstairs for you,” Nick said, staring at his reflection in the mirror, fingers brushing through thick hair that was just starting to salt and pepper. “I know yesterday was tough. And I don’t just mean the appointment or the extra hormones.” “I’m fine,” I said, exaggerating the word, thrusting my body out the door. Nick believed all problems could be solved with an expensive gift. Even the memory of dead dads. ****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************** Our morning routine was a methodically planned out science. Nick would enter the bathroom, throw his underwear onto the large, freestanding bathtub. Then walk into our shower that has a wall thermometer programmed to become freezing for the final two minutes. I normally waited for him downstairs where I prepared his green smoothie in our state of the art kitchen, ensuring that it was ready by the time he got out. Nick preferred to begin his days with chlorella and spirulina because unlike an early morning coffee, they wouldn't cause a midday crash. And Nick needed his stamina. Most doctors were hypocritical about health, but with Nick, it was practice what you preach. His days were long and even longer if he was doing a free surgery in the city for people who couldn’t afford it. A part of me wondered if it was helping people or the ability to play god that he loved. I placed his smoothie on the counter, sitting down on a barstool at our breakfast nook. Ahead of me was an aggressive, abstract painting gifted to us by one of Nick’s partners. An expensive eyesore Nick had refused to take down; its red, directionless streaks on a stark white canvas combatting the calm earth tones of our walls. Looking at it made me nervous. Directly in front of the painting, was a box. I listened for noise coming from upstairs while I examined the gift. Today was the fourth anniversary of my father’s death and Nick always got me a present to take away the sting. It was a thoughtful gesture to mark the occasion and the generosity of the gifts grew in accordance with Nick’s success. I was very clear of the fact that none of the success belonged to me. Even when he was only a surgical resident, Nick made more money than I did selling wine. But I loved what I did. Still when Nick wanted to open his own practice, I supported it. I had no idea that I’d end up here, trapped with no career and not much of a purpose. “Do you like them?” Nick asked from above, leaning down on our glass banister staircase that overlooked most of the open floor plan. Beautiful, sapphire earrings on a platinum setting. From where I sat, prisms from the cerulean stone could almost be reflected from the glass on the stairs. “Is there protein this time?” Nick asked, eyeing his smoothie as he came downstairs. “There is,” I replied. “Did you know my dad got me a pair just like these? They were fake of course. But he actually paid for them. They didn’t just fall off a truck, which was a big step up in our house.” I smiled thinking of the memory. After my parents split up, there were years where my dad had forgotten Christmas, not to mention thousands of dollars in child support. But there were also good times, when he’d surprise me for no reason at all. Nick nodded his head. Even if he was listening, he couldn’t understand. Nick’s parents were still married and had two homes. One of which was only a few blocks away. After I had resigned from my job, the commute being too far and my salary and self esteem being minor matters, Nick’s mother had asked me to join her charity society. Since then, there’d been a sense of impending doom in my chest. “Put them on,” he said. “They will look perfect on you.” Nick’s eyes were already glued to his phone. “Sofia, did you withdraw extra money from the account the day before yesterday?” he asked. “The guy for the gutters wanted cash,” I said. “And I took extra to carry around. You always say not to walk around without money.” Nick kept tight control of his income. At first, I admired how he budgeted. It was a skill that made me feel safe, something my father could never master. Now it was suffocating. Nick nodded. “Smart thinking,” he responded, still scrolling. I heard my own phone vibrate in my pocket, but ignored the urge to check it. I didn’t want to risk being asked who it was. He glanced at himself again in one of our mirrors. “Does my hair look different today?” he asked. “No,” I said, my heart racing a little bit as I tilted my head to stare at him, my thoughts on the sample I had secretly taken in his sleep a few days ago. It was safely in the mail now. I still didn’t know what he would have done if he’d woken up. Nick played with his hair again, this time checking his reflection in his phone camera. Nick was older than me, but in great shape. 6’2”, with lean muscle. His mother liked to brag that she took him for modeling when he was a baby. “Oh and when you’re at the butcher today, tell them I need a leaner cut,” he placed his smoothie down on the table. “Macros.” He gave me a thumbs up as he walked towards the door, popping in his ear buds. “I don’t know if I’ll have time,” I responded, but he was already on a call. “Love you,” he mouthed, heading out our French country doors that led to the back driveway and onto a slender roadway that took us right into town. Love you. I sat waiting to hear the sound of the engine as the car pulled away. I played with the box that contained the earrings. They were from a boutique designer in our town. Nick’s assistant had extravagant taste. Once I knew I was alone, facing away from any security cameras Nick kept for safety, I reached for my phone. Three text messages. Two were from my mother and best friend Tara checking in on me since I’d avoided their calls yesterday. Each year it always surprised me how fresh the loss of my father felt. But the real reason I avoided their calls was because there was so much I couldn’t say. I didn’t want to be talked out of anything and I was tired of being told how great my life was. It was the princess stuck in her ivory tower. The third message was the one I had been waiting for. It was from Danny. I hope you’re prepared for later. I’ve got a good feeling, De Luca Drinks after to celebrate if you don’t have to run back home? Now today felt even more real. I could start to imagine being free. Train Tracks Sample.pdf