About a month ago I shared this idea for a story about a little girl who loves cicadas and who’s having a hard time dealing with her parents’ separation. The girl’s name is Ada and she becomes seriously ill . . . hence the title, “Sick Ada,” cicada . . .
The story’s been gestating for a while as there were so many things to flesh out: How old is Ada? Why are her parents separated? Who left, Mom or Dad? Why? What’s the deal with her cicada fascination? How does she get sick? Most of all: Where should the story begin?
I considered writing this scene first: Near the end of the story, Ada goes into the hospital, sick enough that her recovery hangs in the balance. It is winter, when cicadas don’t sing, but she hears the heater rattling in her hospital room and believes it to be cicadas. She decides she doesn’t mind dying as long she can hear them . . .
But I am not starting there, and Ada will not die because my friend Kathleen interceded, pleading for the little girl’s life.
Amid much encouragement and a few thinly-veiled threats (thanks, Friends!), here’s the first draft opening scene.
The darkness began to change.
Strips of light glimmered between the blinds until a thin finger of sunshine pushed through, reaching across Ada’s rumpled bed to caress her cheek.
At its warm touch, she opened her eyes.
Ada sat straight up in bed.
It’s my birthday! I am nine.
She felt strangely old.
Sitting there in the grayness, Ada knew two certainties. Today the cicadas would start singing. They always started singing on her birthday; Daddy said it was their song of celebration for her coming into the world. He would sing to her, too, only this time it would be over the phone. He promised to call today. Next week when school was finally out, Mama would drive Ada to the airport, put her on a plane, and Daddy would be there to meet her when the plane landed. It would be her first flight.
Ada wondered if cicadas sang on the other side of the country.
The other certainty was that she wouldn’t get her biggest birthday wish of all, that Daddy would come home to stay.
So, Friends, that’s how Ada’s story begins for now, rough as it is.
For the record: The cicada is an ancient symbol of change or transformation and the name “Ada” just so happens to mean “noble.”