Intended Audience: New Adult (18-30 years)
Length: 80-90k words
Logline: Ashlyn Holland, a mute woman haunted by the tragic loss of her father, learns that sometimes she must let people close in order to heal the wounds of her heart and move forward.
Since losing her father to a violent storm, Ashlyn’s struggled with the emotional pain it caused. Finding comfort in her silence, she withdraws from people to protect her heart.
When Ashlyn meets Derek, their newest fisherman, he doesn’t withdraw as she expects. Guided by the secrets he keeps, Derek refuses to be pushed away, and Ashlyn can’t help being curious why this gentle guy with the warm smile cares.
Pushing people away had always been easy, but when Abel, the closest thing she has to a father, suffers a heart attack, Ashlyn’s walls shatter. There amongst the broken mess, Derek finds her and provides the comfort she desperately needs. Exposed and no longer capable of shutting him out, Ashlyn’s resistance weakens. Derek continues to push back against every wall she builds, something he failed to do when his friend needed him most. Motivated by his need for redemption from his guilt, Derek remains patient, and it doesn’t take long to see a breakthrough.
When he says ‘I love you’ her fear returns, drowning her hearts whispers. Just as Ashlyn manages this fear, a ghost from Derek’s past arrives projecting their guilt, and Derek re-acknowledges his guilt and transfers it into trying to fix Ashlyn. Secret appointments and betrayals amount before the truth comes out, and both are forced to acknowledge what holds them back.
Having always struggled to get past all the hurt and grief of losing her father, it takes Derek pushing her to see a specialist for Ashlyn to acknowledge these feelings and accept that the only way to move forward is to finally let go. Ashlyn realizes her grief affects more than just her, and she doesn’t want to be held back anymore. She wants the joy and hope that Derek’s love has given her. So she resumes her therapy, finds healthier methods for processing her grief, and with some help from her family, she finally accepts what happened and looks ahead.
After twenty years, Ashlyn feels a weight lifted, and the only person she wants to celebrate with is Derek. But then Derek says he must leave to face his own demons. Her doubts return watching him go, not knowing when, or if, he’ll be back. Two weeks pass as Ashlyn anxiously awaits his return while preparing for the approaching storm.
When the storm arrives, Ashlyn’s relief over Derek’s safety is short-lived when she learns he had returned early that morning and is out amidst the storm. Watching their fishing boat try to port safely, Ashlyn is confident of only one thing; she won’t lose Derek.
Braving the turbulent waves, Ashlyn steals a boat and rows out to help, desperately trying to find her voice. A large wave flips her boat before she makes it and Ashlyn is thrown into the ocean. Several men, Derek included, witness this and jump in to help. Help arrives shortly after.
Once safely back on land, Ashlyn speaks for the first time, telling him she loves him.
Ashlyn’s journey as she moves towards finding closure in what happened to her father and acknowledging that she has allowed her grieving to control her life ever since, closing her off from the people who love and care for her.
Derek’s search for redemption after he failed to be there for his best friend through his illness. Derek regrets not fighting harder to be there for his friend when he needed him most and starts to believe the only way to be freed from his guilt is to ‘save’ someone else, which reflects in how hard he pushes Ashlyn at times. Through the story, we experience his journey towards realizing his need for self-forgiveness.
Ashlyn’s exploration of the friendship that grows between her and Derek, and the eventual realization she has that she loves him.
Ashlyn has psychogenic mutism, initially bought on by the trauma of witnessing her fathers fishing boat go up in flames. With time she found comfort in not speaking with people and the extra distance it created between her and others, that she chose to continue not speaking into her adulthood.
Ashlyn’s journey through her grief, and similarly Derek’s understanding of his guilt and search for redemption, factor heavily in this story. I also seek to highlight the importance of a loving and supportive community and how it can impact a person on their journey.
This story is currently a work in progress. I have begun writing this and am a third of the way into the planned plot.