Places and Spaces — Gavin and Corabelle’s Roof + Excerpt

One of the most important spaces in Forever Innocent is the roof of the building where Gavin and Corabelle attend the star parties for their astronomy class.

I spent a huge chunk of my time at UC San Diego identifying which roof would be THE roof. I climbed 40 flights of stairs in two hours trying to get roof access any way I could. I didn’t let signs like this stop me:

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I realized some of the roofs I had researched online weren’t going to work because you couldn’t see the ocean from them, due to other buildings blocking it. This is something you can’t really judge from Google Maps.

Thankfully, I finally encountered two side-by-side dorms. They were shut down and undergoing maintenance when I was there, but I snuck up the elevator anyway. A few workers looked at me, but I acted like I knew what I was doing, and I had a clipboard and a camera, so as long as I looked official, they left me alone.

I was able to get this shot of the roof that I decided would be THE roof.

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Here is an excerpt from the scene where Gavin and Corabelle first realize they are both at the same star party for their class. For more excerpts and a “catch up document” that gives you all the chapters you’ve missed, join the mailing list. (Hint: there will be some SWEET giveaways for subscribers as we approach the book release on Oct. 1.)

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The building was one of the dorms on the extreme west side of campus. The city spread out in a twinkle of lights, the roadways like ribbons threading through. All of it was bordered by the black of the Pacific, as though it were a monster bumping up against the edge of civilization.

My star assignment was barely visible so I dug a tiny key chain flashlight from my bag. I held it between my teeth as I drew a line lengthwise on the measuring stick. Passable, but I felt I could do better with a straight edge, so I flipped the stick over to use the cardboard cover of a notebook to try it a second time.

That’s when I heard her voice.

Corabelle stood in the cone of light shooting up next to Amy. She looked like an angel, lit up from below, and her dark hair was bright to the tips.

Holy hell. Why was she here tonight? I had switched to avoid her, to help her out.

Then I realized with a sickening sensation — so had she.

I knew she couldn’t see too far past all that light. I could watch her a moment, so sad looking, so serious. Even doing something as ordinary as accepting a piece of paper, she looked tragic, like a fragile, beautiful doll.

Despite all my work to drive that need of her out of me, it roared back with an ache so powerful that for a second, I really thought it might be easier to swing my legs over the ledge and jump. I couldn’t have Corabelle, not anymore, and if I thought for a minute I ought to try, I had to remember all the things she’d eventually find out. I was simply setting myself up to lose her again.

She stepped out of the light and I was torn between focusing on my task or letting her see that I was watching.

But then it was too late, and she looked straight at me. Her mouth fell open in an astonished “o.”

I left my stuff on the ledge and hurried over to her. “I switched groups.”

She couldn’t seem to tear her gaze away from me, so I kept talking. “When I saw you were still in the class, I thought it would help.”

She closed her mouth finally and gripped her assignment so hard that it crumpled. I took it from her and straightened it against the leg of my jeans.

When I handed it back, she said, “I did the same thing.”

“I’ll talk to Amy,” I said. “I’ll switch back.”

Corabelle’s jaw clenched, and I had to resist the urge to run my finger under her chin, like I always had when she was upset.

“It’s going to be fine. I’ll be fine.” She spun away from me and headed toward the calibration chart.

Bloody hell. Life seemed to be throwing us at each other. Hadn’t it done enough already?