All right, dear readers. I validated my novel on Tuesday (63, 418 words), but since I wasn’t finished with the story yet, I kept updating even after validating.
Still not done yet. Looks like it won’t get finished within November, so I’ll be taking the first few days of December to finish the story, then move on to reading about Bristol’s ports as research for my historical fiction WIP ahead of re-reading, gnashing of teeth, and outlining.
But anyway. This is your last AbsoluteWrite NaNoWriMo Blog Chain excerpt. Enjoy.
The door opens. Emma glances toward the door and sees a young woman in a very nice tan coat, similar to one of Lily’s coats, pick her way around the full tables to the counter. There’s something familiar about her, but Emma can’t place the woman. She grabs a menu and leaves it near her.
“Hi, welcome to Henry’s. My name is Emma. Can I get you a drink to start?”
The woman looks at her, tilts her head, narrows her eyes, and says, “Emma Foster?”
“Oh, my God. We went to elementary school together.” The woman hesitates. “Samantha. Samantha Johnson.”
Emma feels like the wind has been punched out of her. Other than Ailey and a few others she keeps up with via Facebook, Emma doesn’t keep in touch with her elementary school friends. Especially with Samantha. Emma remembers taking particular glee in rejecting Samantha’s Facebook friend request years ago.
Emma lets a small, plastic smile cross her face. “Hi.”
“Oh, my God! It’s been such a long time!” Samantha goes on. “So you work here?”
Emma nods. Her molars grind.
“Cool,” Samantha says in a tone that clearly means the opposite. “I had a meeting on Tenth. I work in PR. Oh, this is so weird! Um, how about a coffee?”
“Both, please,” Samantha says. Emma turns around and gets her coffee together, praying that Samantha won’t linger long. She puts the cup, milk, and the container of sweeteners down near Samantha and goes back to check on Colin.
He nods, munching.
“You want anything else?”
Colin points to his cup.
“Coffee or tea?”
He swallows. “Coffee’s fine. I make exceptions when I’m this tired.”
She smiles, grabs the coffee pot and gives him a refill.
“You okay?” Colin asks.
“I’m fine,” Emma replies, stepping to the back counter. Rosita comes back to ring up a few checks. Emma fills up the dessert case. She leaves Colin a cookie. “On the house.”
“I love you!” He says.
Emma takes a discreet breath and forces herself to check on Samantha. It’s her job, after all.
“Do you want to order any food?” Emma asks.
“Um,” Samantha says. “I’ll have the Cobb salad. A small one.”
Emma nods. “Anything else?”
“No, thanks,” Samantha says. Emma turns around to enter the order. “So…what have you been doing since?”
Emma’s teeth grind again. She wants to sink into the floor, but that isn’t possible, so she answers in as few words as possible. “High school. College. Job.”
“You know, I read your book,” Samantha says. Emma’s eyes slide to Colin, who is definitely listening, though he’s acting like he isn’t. “That one character—was she supposed to be me?”
“Yeah…but I don’t know, I just thought. I mean, writers steal from real life, right?”
Henry rings the bell. Emma turns around. Sweat trickles down her back. Ew. She feels stressed out. In a city of eight million people, how did Samantha happen upon Henry’s? How? Surely there’s a Starbucks nearby. That seems to be more Samantha’s speed. Or some other café-like eatery with pretentious names for coffee and milk mixtures.
Emma places the salad in front of Samantha. What else can she do? Talk to Colin, which is fun. But she feels wound up now. This isn’t how she would have chosen to meet Samantha again. Maybe a book signing, where Emma could ignore Samantha. Not that Emma could ever picture herself doing a book signing. Terrifying thought. No, when they went to different junior highs, Emma had rejoiced that she never had to see the queen bee again.
“Hey, Em? Can I have another cookie?” Colin asks. Emma walks to the dessert case. “Any cookie is fine.” She takes two M&M-studded cookies and hands them to Colin. “Thank you.” He looks at Samantha. “How do you guys know each other?”
“Emma and I went to elementary school together,” Samantha says. “She was always writing. Our teacher had a meeting with her parents because she was concerned that Emma was anti-social. Remember?” Emma gives a tight smile. “Have you written anything since then? Or are you just working here?”
“I have something out on submission.”
Samantha giggles. Ugh. That hasn’t changed. It’s still annoying. “So, are you married? Kids?”
“No kids,” Emma replies. It’s a fucking salad. Why can’t she eat faster! “Not married. You?”
“I live with my boyfriend in Brooklyn. Do you have a boyfriend? Or girlfriend?”
“I’m her boyfriend,” Colin steps in. He widens his eyes at her for a second before turning to Samantha. “I’m Colin.”
“Hi,” Samantha says with a giggle. Seriously. Annoying. “That’s good to hear. I mean, Emma never talked to the boys in sixth grade. I think she was afraid of them!”
“Emma has standards,” Colin says lightly. He reaches toward her. Emma puts her hand in his again. Within seconds, Colin’s thumb presses the center of her palm. Slowly, Emma unclenches her jaw and other muscles. Stupid to get so tense over Samantha popping in. It was a long time ago. They were different people now.
“So,” Colin says. “Sunday, right?”
Emma nods, summoning a smile.
“Queens or the city?”
“Doesn’t really matter,” she says. “I can come in and meet you somewhere.”
He nods. “That works.”
“What else are you up to this week?”
“Two shows tomorrow. Um…oh! I have an audition on Friday. Shit, I should really learn the sides for that.”
Emma laughs. “What’s it for?”
“Guest star on a procedural cop show. I think it’s for a crooked cop.”
“I don’t know if I’d buy you as a crooked cop,” Emma says.
Colin pulls a face. “Don’t typecast me, Em!”
“May I have the check, please, Emma?” Samantha asks. Emma pulls away from Colin and processes the check from the POS. She looks out at the floor while she waits for the printer. Rosita is asking Augustus something. Lunch rush is coming to an end.
Emma gives Samantha her check. A few minutes later, leaving cash under her cup, Samantha rises from the stool. “It was so good to see you again.”
“‘Bye,” Emma says. Samantha walks out. Emma collects the cash, rings it up, and sticks the tip in the jar. Then she clears the cup and plate away. Other than Colin, the counter is empty. Emma finds a towel to wipe up a tiny piece of lettuce that leapt off Samantha’s plate.
“Yeah, Colin?” Emma looks at him.
“Your emotions are so obvious in your facial expressions,” Colin says. “First thing I noticed about you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The first time I saw you, you were sitting in the second row orchestra during Storm. A cell phone was going off. The lights changed and I saw your face really clearly. You looked the way I felt.”
Emma puts the towel down behind the counter. “You were able to see me during your show?”
“Yeah.” Emma remembers feeling annoyed at that moment, her attention wavering between Tom Brauer singing and the cell phone going off three seats down. But she hadn’t realized that Colin was watching, that he saw her. She feels retroactively self-conscious.
“And now you’re my boyfriend? After, what, one date?” Emma is not experienced in dating, but she knows that kind of declaration is usually some time in the future.
“Two, if you want to get technical,” Colin says. “Back to my point about your emotions being very obvious; I told her I was your boyfriend because she was grilling you and you looked like you were going to murder her. Who is she?”
“We knew each other in elementary school. We didn’t like each other.”
“I could tell,” Colin says. “So, did you write her into your book?”
Emma smirks. “Yeah. The character ends up dying in a fire.”
“Whoa! Remind me not to piss you off,” Colin says. He lingers there a little longer, playing with his phone, before deciding to head over to the theater. He pays the bill and leans over the counter to kiss her cheek.
Emma wonders when he’ll kiss her on the lips.
Maybe she isn’t asexual after all.