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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kissing Fish (Nano 2012) - Emily and Alex, part 4

The rest of Kissing Fish may be found here.


When she returned, I took the glass of wine she handed over and said, somewhat guiltily, “You know I haven’t told Nate about St Andrews job yet, right?”

Faye stopped with her drink hovering before her mouth. “What do you mean, you haven’t told him?” she demanded. “I thought you accepted the job already!”

I winced. Yeah. There was a reason I felt guilty. “Yes. Sit down before you fall down.” I leaned on the armrest and sighed. Humbug. I seemed to be doing a lot of sighing this evening. To be perfectly honest, I wished I hadn’t mentioned the St Andrews job; I was excited about it, but the fact that I hadn’t told Nate about it yet had been bothering me for weeks. If I’d stopped to think about it I probably would have clocked that it was because I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t told him yet. I mean, why not? “I haven’t found a chance to tell him. Nate hates Scotland.”

“Yeah, but it’s only for a year, right?” Faye said. “Anyway, you better tell him soon. Aren’t you guys thinking about buying a house?”

Don’t remind me… “Yeah…kind of…” I frowned. “Well, he wants us to buy a house.”

“Well, you don’t want him to start looking for one — or, you know, put down an offer — if you jetting off to Scotland might put that on hold for a year.”

“True…” I looked down at my wine glass and discovered it was empty. Shit, how had that happened?

Faye frowned suddenly. “You don’t seem all that excited about the idea of buying a house with Nate. I don’t know, isn’t it kind of a big deal? It’s like you’re turning into a grown-up.”

“Hah,” was my intelligent response.

“Come to think of it, you weren’t exactly leaping for joy when you two got the dog, either.”

“Bad back, you know,” I drawled.

She ignored the reference and poked me in the arm. “Are you happy?”

My eyes flew to her face. “Of course I’m happy! I love Nate! Why would you think I’m not happy?”

“Jeez, no need to get defensive, Fish, it’s just a question,” Faye said. “Just sometimes you don’t really seem like you particularly want to be with him.”

I scowled down at my empty wineglass. Surely it had been full only a minute ago. “We’ve just been so busy lately and things are really tight so we’ve been stressed. I’d say you know how it is, but since your relationships are more of the ‘hit ’em once and run for the hills’ kind…”

“Oi,” Faye said. “I resemble that remark.”

Frowning, I continued, “Nate’s been trying to find a permanent job, but you know, he’s been commuting to Leeds and back every day for that teaching position and so he’s tired and irritable all the time. And I have my part-time post at Trent, which is, you know, fine, but Nate keeps pushing and pushing for me to find something full-time because our finances are so tight.” I paused. “Which means that really he ought to be thrilled about the St Andrews job, because even if it’s not permanent it’s at least full-time.” I sank further back into the sofa and turned the wine glass in my fingers. “That’s why I didn’t want the dog. But Nate
really wanted her, so we went ahead and got her, and of course dogs cost money to keep, and you have to walk them, and since Nate has to leave early in the morning for work and doesn’t get back until late, I’m the one who ends up walking Gatsby… I mean, I love Nate, of course, it’s just that I feel sometimes like I’m the one who ends up having to everything with the house and the dog and everything else because Nate is never home, and when he is he just wants to crash. Of course he’s working really hard and he’s exhausted so it’s fine, it’s just…” I trailed off and shook my head, feeling miserable. Which was stupid. I was in a committed relationship with a wonderful man. Misery should not be coming into the picture.

“Hah,” Faye said. “I’d attempt to offer some sage advice regarding where Nate can stick it, but we’ve had this disagreement before and I know you’ll only defend him, so…let’s talk about this St Andrews thing instead.”

I blinked furiously, pushing back the tears threatening to spill over. No, I was not going to cry. Back, you bastards! “I kind of assumed, since it’s only a fixed-term post, that I’ll go up for the year and find a place to let while I’m there, and come down as often in the meantime. And hopefully in the meantime he’ll find a permanent position somewhere, and we can move there and maybe buy that house he wants so much, and then when this St Andrews post is up I’ll look for a permanent position that’s within a commutable distance from where we’re living.” I sniffed. “That sounds good, right? I mean, I’m not being unreasonable?”

“Come here,” Faye said, taking my wineglass and putting it on the table. She flung out her arms. “Fish needs a hug.”

When I resisted, she dragged me over until I was half on her lap, cuddled me until the tears had dried and I no longer felt like crying, and then proceeded to tickle me until I was giggling and breathless and we’d begun to attract attention from several other guests.

“Fuck men,” Faye said eventually, resting her head on my shoulder. “You and I can run away together and live on an island and be lesbian lovers. Except for the sex part, because I love you but not like that.”

I laughed. Oh yeah, I loved Faye. “Deal.”

365 Days of Rain, part 1

I have been advised to post the beginning of Katy and Ryan. Apologies that it's now out of order. You can go here get the next part as well as the rest of the story.


The tram hummed through the tunnel, the fluorescent lights on the ceiling flickering almost imperceptibly. Red text announcing the next stop scrolled above the doors, first in English and then in a progression of Asian scripts: Chinese, Japanese, Korean. Early evening on a Sunday, the car was almost empty; a teenage Japanese hipster leaned against the wall at one end, scrolling through music choices on his iPod, and a man sat in the seat next to the doors, his daughter asleep with her head pillowed on his shoulder.

I stood in the centre of the tram and watched the pipes flash by in the tunnel outside, my fingers wrapped around a metal pole. The car surged and I braced myself as it began to slow.

The intercom pinged and a calm female voice said, “
Next stop, Baggage Claim and Main Terminal.

As the tram came to a stop, I shifted my weight and adjusted the strap of my bag over my shoulder. As soon as the doors opened I was out into the foyer, dragging my suitcase behind me. Without thinking about it I veered left; I’d been through Sea-Tac Airport so many times that I could walk the route from the S-Gates to Baggage Claim on autopilot. As I rounded the corner, I smiled at the bored-looking TSA agent and stepped onto the first escalator.

My smile grew bigger and more genuine the higher the escalator rose. As I stepped off the second escalator into baggage claim I was almost bouncing on my toes with excitement despite my exhaustion; my head swung right and then left as I searched for my parents’ familiar faces. Although they usually waited for me right at the top of the escalator, they were nowhere to be seen. My smile began to fade. I’d really been looking forward to seeing my parents, getting my bags, getting in the car…and going to sleep…and having parents to take my mind off of Erik…

Wondering if they were waiting in the wrong place — it had happened before, they were getting old — I pulled out my phone and began to walk towards the other end of baggage claim. My phone beeped. Ooh, stellar. Low battery. And a voicemail.

Hey bub, it’s Dad. You’re home!” He cheered, and I heard traffic in the background. Where the hell were they? “We got a flat around Poulsbo and since your old man forgot to replace the spare — ” An unintelligible, but clearly annoyed, interjection from Mom interrupted him. “ — we’re pretty stuck until AAA gets here. Sorry, kiddo, it’s gonna be awhile. It’ll be great to have you home, though. Your mom says hi. Love you!

I faintly heard Mom shout something at the phone before it squawked at me and the battery died. Feeling unexpectedly deflated and very, very tired, I stood with my phone in hand and stared blankly at the moving carousel for a long moment before finally turning and heading back across baggage claim.

365 Days of Rain, part 3

The rest of this story may be found here.


I woke with a start, disoriented, as the truck turned and bumped over something. Sitting up, I realised Ryan had pulled into my parents’ driveway; the headlights illuminated the pots on the front porch.

“I’m home,” I said stupidly, brain clogged by sleep.

Ryan was grinning beside me. “Yes, unless you moved and forgot to mention it. You fell asleep, you know.”

“Baaaaah.” I unbuckled my seatbelt and pulled my tote up into my lap. “I was tired.”

“Did you know you snore?”

“I do not!” Actually, I did know that. Not loudly. Just a little. Not that I was going to admit that to Ryan. Erik had always been after me to get the doctor to give me something for it; he’d hated it. My mouth twisted at the thought.

“It’s cute,” he said. “It’s just a little catch — ”

“Shut up now, please,” I said, opening the door. Epitome of grace that I am, I promptly tripped on the step and tumbled out of the truck. My tote hit me over the head on the way down. Sighing, I sat on the driveway and examined my hands. No blood, just loose skin and damaged pride. And wet clothes.

“You okay?” Ryan asked, extending a hand.

“I’ll survive,” I said, letting him pull me up. “Nothing broken. Just bruises. At least this time I’ll know where they’ve come from. I’m always waking up with odd bruises and no idea where I got them.”

He turned my hands over and brought them up level with his eyes. “Hmm,” he said. “I think you’ll live. Are you always this clumsy? Or is it just my presence that makes you trip over your own feet?”

“Smartarse,” I muttered, snatching my hands away. I discovered a hole in the knee of my tights and bent to examine it so I could avoid looking at him. “I’ll have you know your truck is a danger to humanity.”

“Good thing I haven’t invited humanity to ride in it, then,” he replied, sounding amused.

I glanced up. He was smiling down at me, and I suddenly felt tongue-tied in a way that hadn’t happened since, oh, god, high school. With him. Shit. “I’m always clumsy,” I said, just for something to say, and then added, “Would it be imposing too much to ask you to help bring my stuff inside? I know you’ve probably got somewhere to be, but I can probably offer you a cup of tea. I know, terribly tempting, but — ”

“How British of you,” he said, turning and starting to undo the knots on the tarp. “It’s not a problem. I’m not collecting the dog from the neighbour until tomorrow, so I’m not in any hurry to get home.”

I dragged the first suitcase up to the door and went hunting in the underbrush for the spare key. Where the hell had Dad hidden it? Oh, right. It wasn’t in the underbrush at all, it was behind the loose brick. Why couldn’t I have a father who hid the spare key under the mat like a normal person?

“You know,” I said over my shoulder as I unlocked the door, “I forgot to ask where you live. It’s not awfully out of your way to bring me home, is it?”

“I live in downtown Olympia,” Ryan said, lifting my remaining two suitcases up the steps with enviable ease and setting them down on the front mat. “I’m renovating the apartment above Wind Up Here.”

An image of Ryan sitting in Wind Up Here surrounded by toys popped into my head and I burst out laughing. “Is the location choice for convenient access to the toys?”

“Why else?” He stepped past me into the front hall. “I have to find some way to amuse myself when I’m not in the store. Where do you want these?”

“Ugh. Set them down anywhere. I have to go through and dig out a ton of stuff before I can take them upstairs.” Shutting the door, I wandered through to the kitchen. I stopped and stood for a moment, soaking in the feeling of home. Mum’s kitchen was blue and yellow and brown and always smelled of fresh-baked bread. I had a sudden craving for pot roast and quickly disguised this fact by calling out to Ryan, “What kind of tea can I get you?”

“I’m not much of a tea drinker,” he said, joining me in the kitchen. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any coffee?”

Good question. Had Dad finally stopped drinking coffee? I opened the cupboard beside the stove and rummaged around. “Hmm,” I said. “Let’s see. Nope, that’s flour. Ground chocolate. Coconut flakes — coconut flakes? What the hell?”

Ryan appeared at my shoulder. “Do you actually know what coffee looks like?”

“Thanks, your confidence in my ability to find coffee in my own kitchen is reassuring. Here.” I thrust a bag of Batdorf and Bronson coffee at him. “You’ll have to make it, as I’ve no idea what one does with coffee to make it drinkable. You do that and I’ll go put on pajamas.”

He paused in the process of scooping coffee into the press, one eyebrow lifting. “It’s only eight o’clock.”

“It’s four in the morning in England, I’ve been awake for almost thirty hours, and I’m exhausted.” I smiled cheerily and went to dig pajamas out of my tote bag. Oversized flannel pajamas, rock my world.

Kissing Fish (Nano 2012) - Emily and Alex, part 3

Click here for the rest of Kissing Fish.


The door opened behind us, letting in a draft of cool air and the smell of wet pavement, and the unpleasant expression on Sarah’s face immediately vanished as she switched into hostess mode. “It’s a free bar,” she told us, beaming, “so please help yourself, and if you want to dance, just follow the music! Just do try to stay off the tables,” she said with a titter, and then brushed past us with a “Good evening!” as she captured the newcomers in a hug.

“‘Just do try to stay off the tables’,” Faye mimicked under her breath. “God, I always forget how much I dislike that woman.”

“I think the feeling’s mutual,” I said, watching as Sarah tilted her head and laughed. “You have to admit, though, she’s got the social mask down pat.”

“I never could work out what Alex saw in her,” Faye said. “I mean, Christ, I see Sarah practically as much as he does and the cow drives me up a wall.”

“Chemistry is a funny thing,” I replied.

“What chemistry?” Faye demanded. “They don’t
have any. They’re just a…I don’t know, a pretty matched blond couple with pretty blue eyes and pretty smiles.”

“Wow,” I said. “Alex would be hurt at your assessment of him as such a shallow creature.”

“Oh, you know what I mean.”

I shrugged. “Anyway, they must have
some chemistry.” I watched Sarah for a moment and then added, “They’ve been together for almost six years now, and seeing as neither of them is exactly floating in money I think you’d be hard-pressed to say either of them are sticking with the other in the hopes of marrying rich…”

“They’ve only been together six years if you count the ‘off’ parts of their relationship as well,” Faye objected. “And there’s been a hell of a lot of the last six years that’ve been ‘off’.”

“Meh,” I said. “I want booze.”

Faye twirled her hand and pointed with a flourish. “To the bar!” She offered me her arm with a grand gesture. “My lady?”

Laughing, I slipped my arm through hers and allowed her to escort me through to the bar, which was full of masked individuals who were clearly already well on their way to drunk. Dinner had obviously come with plenty of drink.

Having successfully battled our way through the masses to the bar, we retired to one of the couches by the window to watch as people milled about, armed with two large glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. The members of the dining party had already lost any inhibitions and awkwardness incumbent in the wearing of the masks, but it was entertaining to see the others trying to work out how to interact with unidentified individuals. Certain unspoken rules seemed to apply; clearly it was a social faux pas to ask any identifying questions. Names were off-limits, as were questions about occupation if they might give away the person’s identity. For some time as people continued to arrive, Faye and I played a game of ‘spot the wedding ring’, which grew more entertaining as we began to spot those individuals guiltily sneaking their rings off their fingers and into their pockets once they realised others had already done so. Emboldened by the anonymity afforded by the masks, there were several bold flirtations occurring, several of which involved individuals who were very definitely married, and not to each other.

Eventually Faye grew bored of people-watching and sprawled back on the couch. She eyed up a passing man, her eyes lingering on his arse, and then asked abruptly, “Do you think if I shaved my head Simon would notice?”

Bollocks. We were back to Simon. We always came back to Simon. If I’d had a choice, I would have challenged him to a duel, not to the death, but rather to the pain. Ah,
The Princess Bride, the things you taught me. I think I’d take off his dick to start with…

“Probably not a great move, babe,” I said, ruffling her hair. “I have a feeling he’d probably run from Britney as fast as he could.” I considered. “Actually, on balance, that’s a brilliant idea…”

Faye swatted my hand away. “Maybe if I went ginger…”

“Oh good, now you’re willing to give up your soul,” I teased. “Well, I guess to be fair I always knew Simon was the devil…”

“I could find myself another man?” She stared intently at the mask of someone standing in the doorway to the lounge.

“Definitely the best idea you’ve had all day,” I said cheerfully. “Far sight better than bald or ginger. And definitely better than baiting Sarah.”

“But baiting Sarah is so
fun.” She sulked for a moment. “Anyway, I mean to make Simon jealous. He has to notice if other men suddenly want me, right?” She considered and grinned. “Although a bit of man fun wouldn’t be so bad.”

“Oh.” Rats. We were still hung up on Simon, although far be it from me to object to man fun… “Well, if it’s to make Simon jealous I have to disapprove. He is a selfish, emotionally manipulative prick who’s only interested in himself and what the rest of the world can do for him. And you know as well as I do that dragging Simon’s attention back to you is a bad,
bad idea. By all means go for a bit of man fun…but for god’s sake, Faye, please don’t do it because of Simon!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Faye muttered, pulling herself up off the couch. “We can’t
all have the perfect relationship.” She tapped her glass. “Another?”

“Please,” I said fervently.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kissing Fish (Nano 2012) - Emily and Alex, part 2

The rest of the story may be found here.

The nearest entrance to the Staff Club, facing Hallward Library, was open. Light spilled out from the windows. The lounge area was already full; the restaurant had obviously already been closed, but a buffet had been set up in case anyone had an attack of the nibbles. There were flashes of light at the edge of my vision, alerting newcomers to the present of a disco masquerading in the deli area.

A tall, slim figure with long blonde hair swept up in a French twist and an intricate red and black lace mask that matched her dress (of course) appeared almost as soon as we came through the door, her arms flung wide. “Darlings!” she exclaimed, enfolding me in a bony hug. I hated hugging Sarah. Not because I hated Sarah, which was why Faye hated hugging her. No, I hated hugging Sarah because there was so little of her that it always felt like hugging a twig. Or one of those stick insects. She was so damn insubstantial.

“Hello, Sarah,” I said as she kissed me on both cheeks. Continental pretensions, check. Any bets on how long it would take her to graduate to three kisses?

“Sarah,” Faye said, her mouth stretched into some semblance of a smile as Sarah clasped her in an embrace and repeated the kisses.

“Faye, of course,” Sarah said, with that knowing little smile Faye despised so much. “Your smile is unmistakeable.”

Given that Faye’s smile currently resembled a grimace, that was hardly a compliment. From the strained expression on what little of Faye’s face I could see, I suspected she was contemplating knocking Sarah’s delicate little mask off her face and possibly breaking her nose in the process. That would have been entertaining, but alas, Faye had had too much practice at controlling herself around unpleasant people. Pity. The result might have been a change for the better; Sarah’s most recent nose job wasn’t an improvement over the previous model. She would have done better to stick with the nose she’d had when we were in grad school.

“Everything looks great, Sarah,” I said quickly, looking around at the decorations.

“Well, thank you so much, Emily,” she said, turning to me with a delighted smile. “It’s not so
very much, of course, but you know I do try!”

I managed to keep the smile on my face. Try, my arse. Sarah was worthless at organising things. We’d learned that the hard way a few years earlier when Alex’s birthday happened to fall in one of their on-again phases and she’d had the idea of throwing an elaborate party for Alex’s birthday. She had been supposed to take care of the details and had promised that everything was coming along perfectly, but almost everything had fallen through and in the end we’d all just gone out to the pub. Good night, but not exactly what we’d had in mind when Sarah had proposed a spectacular night out!

“I am
so glad you could make it, darlings,” Sarah was saying as I dragged my attention back to her face. “It just wouldn’t be the same without you!” Her pretty little mouth twisted into pout as she added, “I was so disappointed to hear Nate wouldn’t be coming. Come down ill, has he?”

“Ugh,” I said, making a face. “He’s got flu. He’s been sick all week, which has been god-awful to live with. You know men — they get a little sick and whinge like they’re bloody well dying.”

“Oh, the poor thing,” Sarah said sympathetically.

“I think he’s on the mend now, thank god,” I said. “He gets so damn cranky when he’s ill!”

“Ick,” Sarah said, although she’d been nodding understandingly. “The poor dear thing. Well, we’ll miss him tonight, of course!” She glanced behind us and then said, very casually, “But where’s Alex? I thought he was coming?”

I exchanged glances with Faye. Neither of us could ever keep up with Alex and Sarah’s relationship. It was too damn complicated. I had a feeling that at the moment they were off rather than on, which made me wonder if a) Alex had arranged for that business meeting tonight to avoid Sarah and b) Sarah was supposed to know where Alex was if he hadn’t told her himself. Probably. She knew everything else about him, after all.

“He’s in Notts tonight,” I said after a moment’s consideration. “He had a meeting rescheduled at the last minute for tonight.”

“I’d have thought he’d have told you,” Faye said, casing the crowd for, I assumed, men with attractive personalities.

Sarah pouted. “He didn’t say a word! Are you
certain?”

“Uh…well, yeah,” I said. “I had a text from him this afternoon to that effect. But I haven’t actually seen him in, like, a week. We’ve all been stupidly busy. Faye?”

“What?” Faye started and dragged her attention away from a tall, broad-shouldered man across the room. “Oh. I’ve hardly seen him all week. I think I saw him briefly on Sunday, but like Fish said, we’ve all been stupidly busy the last couple weeks and I don’t think he’s been in the house much. Always buys loo roll, though, thank god.”

I laughed. “Mark of a good housemate! Nate never remembers unless I prod him about it.”

“Why are we talking about loo roll?” Sarah demanded.

“Sorry,” Faye said dismissively. “I forgot we were talking about you.”

“So Alex definitely won’t be here?” Sarah asked anxiously.

“Nope,” I said. “Not unless he’s got a body double at his meeting.”

Sarah gave me a funny look and chewed briefly on her lower lip. “Dammit.” She sighed. “We’re in the
off stage of our relationship again,” she said in a confiding tone of voice. Yeah. Surprise, surprise.

“We’re aware,” Faye said dryly, startling me.
I hadn’t known. But then, Faye lived with the man. Presumably she clocked the on and off periods based on when Alex was moody and when Sarah actually spent time at the house. “Trust me,” she continued, “We know more about your and Alex’s relationship than we’d ever care to know. Get him drunk and he spills his guts.” A malicious grin hovered briefly at the corners of her mouth and then vanished. “Believe me.”

“Oh.” Sarah looked disconcerted for a moment and then said, “Well, it’s just that I was hoping he might be here so we might be able to get back on, if you see what I mean.”

“You
poor thing,” Faye said solicitously. “How remarkably rude of whomever Alex is meeting to ruin your plans.” She patted Sarah’s hand and I hid a smile as she added, “They should have realised instinctively, of course that he had a very important party to go to. Drunken memories to relive.”

“Faye,” I said warningly, as Sarah’s expression grew stonier.

Faye rolled her eyes and let her eyes wander for a moment before returning her attention to the man across the room.

“Faye,” I said again, quietly.

“Hmm?”

I tapped my left ring-finger. “Wedding band.”

“Drat.” She considered for a moment, and then said hopefully, “Maybe he’d be up for a torrid one-night stand? He does have a nice bum…”

I choked back a laugh, half prompted by the ridiculousness of Faye’s comment and half prompted by the expression on Sarah’s face.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kissing Fish (Nano 2012) - Emily and Alex, part 1

Click here for the rest of the story.


This year I'm still horribly behind - this is the last week of NaNo and I'm about 20,000 words behind, but at least I beat last year's sad 7,000 words. I'm at about 23,600 as of this writing and will probably get at least another thousand in before the end of the week - more if I'm lucky.

So here's an excerpt from NaNo 2012 - Emily and Alex.


“You know, I like the Staff Club as much as the next person,” Faye said grumpily, eyeing a puddle and then hitching up her skirt before taking a flying leap that almost, but not quite, cleared the water, “but only Sarah would think of holding a reunion booze-and-schmooze there. I mean, surely she could have found a venue in Notts rather than on campus?” She stopped to wipe a few drops of water off her tights and to survey the damage to her three-inch stilettos. “Do you think they’re ruined?” she asked, sticking out a foot for inspection.

“Darling, you’ve had the same pair for three years,” I said, rolling my eyes as I looked down at her shoe. “Somehow it seems to me that you’re unlikely to go buy a new pair just because the colour might have bled.”

“I like these,” she protested. “They’re comfortable. Also I hate shopping. And these go with everything.”

“Water-damage and all,” I teased.

“Water-damage and all,” she agreed, cheerfully traipsing onwards past the library. Oh, the ugliness of Hallward.

“As far as Sarah goes…” I shrugged and twitched my pashmina further up my shoulders. Oh, Sarah. One of the remnants from uni days that I really wished had gone away a long time ago. “It gives her an opportunity to do what they did in, I don’t know, the Regency. She gets to invite the privileged few, also known as her favourites or those people with enough money for a second home and box seats at the opera, to dinner in the restaurant, and then the rest of us, whom she can’t quite bring herself to get rid of, can come along for the party. You’re supposed to feel honoured you got an invite at all, while also acknowledging that you’re not important enough to get an invite to dinner.”

Faye let out a mock gasp of horror. “Are you telling me we’ve been snubbed by Sarah? The shock of it all! The horror!” She rolled her eyes and said more seriously, “As if we haven’t been snubbed by Sarah in all the years we’ve known her. Quite frankly, I could have done with being completely ignored by the woman. The party will be bad enough. I think I would have jumped off Trent Bridge if I’d had to sit through dinner. She probably made a speech. I get enough of the bitch’s evil face when she’s at the house on the occasion she and Alex are in one of their on-again phases. I don’t need to see her pseudo-polite face.”

I laughed. “Stop being so dramatic. You didn’t have to come.”

“You
say that, but we both know it’s not true.”

“Neither Alex nor Nate are coming,” I pointed out.

“Yes, but both of them have legitimate excuses. Nate’s, you know, dying of man flu. And Alex is busy, again, with evening meetings.”

“Which does beg the question of why
we’re going when neither of us likes her,” I said.

“You’re going because you’re too nice to say no, and because she’s Alex’s girlfriend — sometimes — you’re determined to try to like her despite fucking years of her being evil to you in return. But what would my excuse for not coming have been? ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, Sarah
darling, but I just really, really hate you, you fucking bitch cow, go burn in hell’?”

I snorted. Faye’s dislike of Sarah was well-known and well-broadcast. “Bet she’d love that.”

Faye rolled her eyes a second time and struck out along the path again, almost tripping up the steps as she said, “Yeah, I don’t think so. But oh, it would have felt so good to say…”

A raindrop struck my nose and I glanced skyward, where grey clouds had been looming all day. Although it had poured earlier in the afternoon it had been clear for the last two hours. Now, however, the clouds threatened rain any moment, and my dress was not about to stand up to getting rained on.

“Hmm,” I said, cutting into Faye’s muttering. “I don’t know about you, but I’d kind of like to be inside before the heavens break open. So if you’re done bad-mouthing Sarah…”

“Never,” she said cheerfully, “but for you, I’ll pause for a few hours.” She looked down at the mask dangling from her hand and lifted it to her face, carefully tying the ribbons behind her head. “How do I look?” she asked, posing in front of the Staff Club windows.

“Like a sexy kitten,” I said as I tied on my own mask. Really, where
did Sarah come up with these ideas? What was the point of a reunion party if you couldn’t tell who people were because they were masked? I could only assume Sarah’s dinner party had donned their masks after eating, since otherwise the dinner conversation must have been supremely awkward. Although, given that this was Sarah, she had probably been bitten by an evil imp and insisted they all dine incognito, and then basked in the discomfort of her guests.

“Excellent,” Faye said cheerfully. “Maybe I’ll get myself a sexy tom.”

“Good luck with that,” I said. “With half their face hidden, you’ll have to judge on personality alone. And god knows that finding a man with an attractive personality is like trying to fish a raindrop out of a pool of water…”

She sighed. “A girl can hope.”

365 Days of Rain (Nano 2011) - Katy and Ryan, part 2

The rest of this story may be found here.


Because I haven't got anything else to post at the moment, I'm going to post some excerpts from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) from last year and this year.

Last year I totally failed to get past day 9, and consequently that story is stuck at just under 7,000 words. Alas. At least I tried, right?

So here we have an extract from my attempt to write chick lit for NaNo 2011.


As I sat on my suitcase, my tote at my feet, and waited for Carousel 1 to start spewing forth baggage from BA flight 49, I contemplated my options. I could wait for my parents, which would be hours. I could get a taxi, which would be extortionate. Or I might be able to track down a shuttle, if I was lucky.

Sighing, I dropped my head into my hands. “Gaaaaaah,” I said to the floor. “Grr…”

“Sorry to bother you when you’re having a crazy moment, but do you mind just…moving a bit?”

I looked up…and up. And felt myself go pink as I realised I was staring. A tall, dark-haired man, wearing jeans and a bulky charcoal-grey sweater that matched his eyes, was standing to my right, trying to manoeuvre past with a large, long tube and one of those awkward-to-carry folio things that artists were always lugging around. He was looking at me with an irritated expression on his face, and when I managed to take my eyes off his face I realised my outstretched legs were blocking his path.

“Oh,” I said, pulling in my legs. He attempted to squish past but knocked into me, causing the scarf bunched under his arm to fall to the ground. “I’m so sorry,” I said, picking it up and dusting it off. Getting up, I handed the scarf back to him and started to drag my bag off to the side. As I went back for my tote I noticed with some annoyance that he hadn’t moved; the irritation was gone and instead he was regarding me quizzically. I ignored him and dumped my tote on top of my suitcase.

“Katy Reynolds,” he said unexpectedly.

I turned around, feeling like a fish as my mouth open and closed without a word emerging. My eyes refocused on his face, on the grey eyes and the square jaw and the mouth that looked like it might smile at any moment, and suddenly my mouth snapped shut. After a moment I said, “Oh. Wow. Okay. Ryan Warner. Hi.”

He grinned, revealing the dimple that I’d really,
really liked back in eleventh grade but had lied about because my friends would have teased me until the end of time, and I wondered when Ryan Warner had gone from being a really cute teenager that inspired crushes to being a guy whose grins made a girl’s stomach flip-flop. I was suddenly incredibly conscious of how tired I must look. Leaning back slightly, I gauged the distance to the bathroom, wondering if I could make a run for it, do a quick primp, and be back before he noticed. No, probably not. The very nice lines of his thighs beneath his jeans suggested a hell of a lot of power. Surely he’d be able to intercept me before I could even move.

“You look tired,” he said.

Okay, so maybe he hadn’t changed that much. Surely that wasn’t the first thing you were supposed to say to a girl? Surely you were supposed to tell her
Hey, you look amazing! I love what you’ve done with your hair. Or no, maybe that was what girls did… I shook my head. Clearly sleep deprivation was getting to me. Realising he was still talking, I refocused my attention on his mouth and attempted to pay attention to the words, not the movement, something my sleep-deprived brain was not interested in doing.

“Where’ve you just flown in from?”

“England,” I said. How come he didn’t look like he’d just walked off a plane? He looked more like he’d just walked off the pages of a catalogue. Probably he had an advantage with the short hair. My hair turned into a staticky disaster after nine hours on a plane. And he didn’t have to worry about make-up. That wasn’t fair. My attention drifted momentarily as I stared at him. He had awfully nice laugh lines around his eyes…
Stop that, I told myself. Just because you’re lonely doesn’t mean you need to start eyeballing the first guy who’s talked to you since Erik! “Um. What about you?”

“D.C.,” he replied, leaning his two oddly-shaped pieces of luggage up against the wall beside mine and dropping his carry-on beside them. “What have you been doing in England?”

I shrugged. “Writing. Teaching.” Getting dumped after five years, but let’s not talk about that… “You look different. What’s in D.C.?”

“Booksellers’ conference.” He turned his scarf over in his hands and folded it. “Why are you back, then? I don’t think I’ve seen you in…” His face twisted as he thought. “What, five years?”

“Probably something like that.” From the expression on his face, he must have noted the fleeting look of sadness that crossed my face before I added, “I haven’t been home much in the last five years.” Let him think that that was why I was sad.

He studied me for a moment and then said, “So why
are you back, then?” He draped his scarf around his neck before folding his arms across his chest and settling his shoulders against the wall.

I perched on the edge of my suitcase and rotated the ring on my middle finger. “My visa was going to expire and I guess I didn’t really have a reason to try to renew it.” I glanced at the carousel, which had begun to cast up luggage. “Ooh.” Spotting my battered brown suitcase starting to circle past, half-buried under two other bags, I leaped to my feet and bolted for the carousel. As I started to reach for it a hand brushed her aside and gripped the handle.

“This one?”

Startled, I looked up into Ryan’s eyes. “Um. Yeah.”

He yanked it out from under the other suitcases and settled it on the floor. “There you go,” he said cheerfully, presenting me with the handle. “Is this the only one, or do you have more?”

“There’s one more — that one there, actually,” I said, pointing at the duct-taped beige suitcase floating past, one wheel pointing skyward and turning lazily like the wheel of a shopping cart. Ryan snagged it and set it down next to the first.

“Oof,” he said. “What do you have in this thing, Macy’s entire shoe department?”

“Oi,” I said, and then, feeling sheepish, said, “It’s not
that many shoes. And there’s books in that one too.”

He laughed. “You’ve got a lot of luggage,” he said. “Are you back for good? Or is this just a stopover to somewhere more exciting?”

I sighed. “Unfortunately, the three suitcases you see before you pretty much contain the entire contents of my life. I’ve got a couple boxes of books winging their way over right now — ooh, I’ve got a fabulous image of boxes with wings now — but really this is it.” I pushed my hair back from my face and made an unintelligible sound of frustration. “And I wish wish
wish this were a stopover to somewhere more exciting — like I might actually have a plan! — but no. I am actually back for good, somewhat distressingly enough. Even more distressingly, I’m living with my parents until I find a place of my own. And a job. Speaking of which — parents, not jobs…” Frowning, I looked around for a sign. Neon and flashing ‘SHUTTLES, THIS WAY’ would have been brilliant, but none appeared to be forthcoming. Alas. How had I been through Sea-Tac so many times and never had to sort out my own transportation? Gaaaah… “You don’t happen to know how to arrange a shuttle back to Oly, do you?”

Ryan grabbed the handles of my suitcases and started over to our collection of bags. “Sure I do. It’s just out that door. But I wouldn’t bother if I were you. I can give you a ride if you like.”

“Oh! That’s really not necessary—I mean—” I stopped, flustered, and twisted my fingers together. “My parents were supposed to pick me up, you know, and then they got a flat, and normally I’d call a friend or something but I don’t actually known anyone who lives in Oly anymore — ”

“Well, you know me,” he said, smiling. “And seeing as you’re stranded and in distress, I’m offering you a lift. I promise I won’t leave your body in a ditch near Fife.”

I felt heat rush to my face. “I didn’t think you would!”

“My mother would kill me,” he said cheerfully, picking up my tote and slinging the strap across his shoulder. “Now, can you get two of these? I’d offer to let you carry mine rather than drag the bags but I’m afraid my stuff’s pretty awkward to carry.”

“What’s in there?” I asked as he picked up the tube and the folder.

“New promotional posters I picked up at the conference,” he said. “And some ideas for redesigning the store. I’m out in long-term parking; shall we?”

I followed him up the escalator and out onto the skybridge, thinking. “So what is it you do, exactly?”

Ryan knotted his scarf around his neck as we exited the skybridge and dug his wallet out of his pocket as he set down his things in front of the paypoint. “I own an independent bookstore in downtown Olympia,” he said. “One of many, I know, but while Orca and Browsers are both general used books, and Whodunnit is mystery, I cater to a different audience.”

“What’s that, then?”

He grinned. “Romance and chick lit. Right, that’s taken care of.” He eyeballed me as we started walking again. “Might have to tie you to the roof,” he said. “I’m not sure everything’s going to fit…”

Upon discovering that he drove a rattling old pickup, I was less concerned about the amount of space available than I was about my bags getting soaked. In true Pacific Northwest fashion, outside the parking garage rain was pouring down in sheets, and I had no doubt that as soon as the truck left the shelter of the garage the bed would fill with water.

Ryan opened the door and tilted the front seat forward. Stowing the cardboard tube and the folder behind the seats, he pulled out a folded tarp and held it up. “You can wipe that anxious look off your face,” he said. “Here.” He tossed me the keys across the truck bed. “Get in and turn on the heat. You look miserable.”

I clambered up into the passenger seat and settled my tote between my feet, nudging a dog leash out of the way. Finding the right key, I turned over the ignition and turned the heat to full, tucking my hands under my legs and watching in the rear view mirror as Ryan loaded the bags into the back and strapped down the tarp.

Giving the side of the truck a final pat, Ryan swung up into the cab and tossed his scarf on the dash. “All set?”

“Yep,” I said. “Really, thanks so much. I really wasn’t looking forward to the shuttle.”

“Not a problem. You looked so pathetic, I couldn’t abandon you.” He draped his arm over the back of my seat and craned his neck around as he backed out of the parking space. “Besides, I’m a gentleman. I’d never abandon someone so clearly in distress.”

As much as I wanted to take umbrage at essentially being called a damsel in distress, the truth was I
had been in distress and he had come to my rescue, so I picked up my protesting feminist, thrust her in a box, and firmly shut the lid on her. “How chivalrous of you.”

He laughed and gave a mock bow. “Yes, ma’am.” He turned out of the airport onto International Boulevard and glanced sideways at me. “If you want to sleep, go ahead. You look exhausted.”

“You’re supposed to tell me I look killer,” I muttered, pulling up my legs and tucking my feet beneath me. “You’re not that much of a gentleman.” I snuck a glance up at his face, but he was looking at the road. “Not sure that should surprise me, though, you never were…”

“That’s hardly fair, you haven’t seen me in years! Has my mother been spreading stories about me?”

“No. But I remember when you put snow down my neck.” Vividly. It was really cold.

He looked baffled for a moment, and then, with an expression of incredulity, said, “You mean when we were
ten?”

I pillowed my head on my arm. “Mmhmm.”

He pulled onto the freeway and looked down at me. “In which case I think it’s only right that I point out
you’re hardly a lady. As I recall, you turned around and pulled me over your hip, in a very impressive wrestling move — how’s that career working out for you? — and threw me into a snow bank.”

I’d completely forgotten about that. “Oh, well,” I said sleepily. “It would never do for a girl to be dull, would it?”

“Go to sleep, Reynolds.”

I’d been up for almost twenty-eight hours at that point, since really, the two hours of dozing on the flight to Atlanta didn’t count, so I wasn’t inclined to argue. I closed my eyes and was out within minutes.