Contemporary Fiction

I know I should be writing right now. I have a goal to write at least three pages per day. But today I am too wound up to concentrate on anything other than that stupid party Tanya wants me to go to.

“It will do you good to get out and see people,” she says.

“I don't want to see people,” I reply.

“Stop kidding yourself, you want to see people,” she counters, her voice betraying her irritation with me. We had this talk multiple times and it always ends the same.

Ha, Tanya doesn't know I can be very difficult if I don't want to do something. And I don't want to go to a party. The last time I went to one was over 5 years ago, and that's when I discovered Jim was cheating on me. The mere thought of going to a large gathering brings back a roller-coaster of emotions that I do not wish to feel again. Plus, what if Jim is there too, with his current girlfriend? I couldn't bear that pain and embarrassment. I am not going.

Now, back to work. I haven't written anything and my two hours are almost up. Time to focus.

Sherry looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her black hair was perfectly plaited, her lips in a perfect pink pucker, her nails nicely.....

Oh heck, I'm writing in alliteration again. I tend to do that when I'm upset. Got to focus!

The ball wouldn't start for another three hours, yet Sherry couldn't help feeling she was running out of time. She regarded her reflection critically. Was her hair right? Did she pick the right shade of lipstick or was it too bright? Sherry slumped down into the chair near her vanity and …

There is a knock at my door. I look up from my laptop, the anger building in me. I take a deep breath, trying to calm down. Everyone knows to leave me alone during my writing time, and if a person needs reminding it is posted on the door. I debate ignoring the knock or yelling at the person knocking. I decide to ignore the knock.

The sound of knuckle against wood echoes through my thoughts. Angrily I push back my chair, ready to yell at the intruder. I hear a quiet voice say “Emma, I know it's your writing time. Can we talk when you're done?”

It is my younger sister, Carmen. I sigh. “Yes. I'll meet you in the living room in 20 minutes,” I say. I hear her walk away. My attention returns to the project at hand.

...started to sob. The tears came fast and furious, her mascara streaming from her watery eyes. Why was she going to this stupid ball anyway? She hadn't seen those people in 10 years, she doubted she would recognize any of them. Too bad Mr. Williams, her guardian, didn't have the foresight to just drive her to each person's estate and reintroduce her to society that way. Oh, but the cost of time and resources prohibited it. It was best, in his eyes, to just get it over with in one fell swoop and damn the consequences.

I run the paragraph through my spell checker and my grammar checker and make the needed corrections. Time ticks slowly and I realize I had barely written a paragraph, much less a page. Why can't I keep my attention on this? I guess I should be grateful that my writing isn't my only source of income or I'd be in deep trouble. OK, back to the project.

Sherry straightened up and surveyed the damage to her makeup. It appeared as if she had just been in a struggle and her face lost. Reluctantly, Sherry decided she would need to remove all of the cosmetics and reapply everything. That would take some time. She glanced at the windup clock on her vanity and sighed. Would she have enough time?

My alarm goes off, signaling the end of my two hours reserved for writing. I save the document on my laptop and then close the machine. When I am productive, the two-hour mark is a little sad. Today, however, I am relieved.

Carmen is waiting for me in the living room. She is seated on the brown sectional sofa, sipping on a soda. I take a deep breath, smile, and walk over to my sister.

“What brings you to my humble abode, little sis?” I ask as I sit down on the sofa next to her.

“I am concerned about you. Tanya said you refuse to attend any social events. That's not like you.”

I shook my head. That Tanya is a blabber-mouth. “I don't need to have you tell me I have social anxiety, so put that degree back in your briefcase and leave me be.”

“You can't hide forever,” Carmen says, her face stern and concerned.

“Who is hiding? If anyone wants to visit with me they can call me, or text me, or message me on Facebook, or contact me on Twitter or Discord or email or even drive over to my house and visit with me face to face.”

“I'm not talking about not being found. I am talking about hiding from the pain you felt at that party where you found out Jim was cheating on you. Emma, you have to move on.”

I stand up off the sofa and glare at my sister. “I don't want to. I don't want to go to any social situation where I might see HIM and whoever's heart he is going to break next.”

“You don't have to worry about that, Emma. Tanya made sure he wasn't invited. She's done that for every social event she's asked you to attend just to elevate that chance.”

“Really?” I ask, not sure if I believe her.

“Yes. Ask Tanya yourself.”

I flop back down on the sectional. Carmen had just taken away my biggest concern. I breathe in a deep, cleansing breath and face my sister. “OK. If Jim isn't invited to this shindig then I guess I will go,” I acquiesce. Carmen flings herself at me and gives me a huge hug.

“Wonderful! I promise you are going to have a great time!”

I extract myself from my sister's grip. “OK. Now what? I don't think I have a thing to wear!”

Carmen helps me pick out a nice outfit to wear to the picnic tomorrow. She points out I should wear sensible shoes since it's to be held at a park. I hug her and send her on her way.

After sleeping I awake and begin dressing for the picnic. Tanya will be here in an hour. I put on the light blue jean short shorts Carmen had picked out and the red tank top. I look at myself in the mirror and admire how it looks on me. I brush my long, brown hair out and tie it into a ponytail with a red scrunchie. Then I apply sunscreen to my face, arms, and all the exposed skin. Then I add a little mascara, blush, and lip balm to protect my lips from the sun. I put on the red ball cap we chose, and walk to the door just as Tanya rings the bell.

The drive to the park is quiet. I say nothing, Tanya says nothing. Frankly, I don't know what to say, I am surprisingly nervous. We arrive to see a large group of people all setting up for the event. I help Tanya take out her chairs, a cooler, and the pie she had made. I feel embarrassed because I didn't make anything to bring. Tanya hands me a fruit salad. “Here, this is your recipe, you can claim it as a contribution.” I smile my thanks, then place the bowl on the table next to the other salads.

I turn around and head back to Tanya, who I find talking with a nice-looking man who I have never seen before. I smile as I approach them. Tanya hears me and turns towards me. “Emma! Come over here and meet someone,” she calls to me, waving her arm.

“This is Blake, my brother's friend from New York.” Blake reaches out his hand in greeting. I take it. His grip is firm, his hand warm and strong. He shakes my hand a couple of times before he releases it. I find the interaction surprisingly stimulating. He has a warm smile, too, which is constantly on his face.

Tanya hits her forehead with the back of her hand. “Duh, this is Emma, my best friend,” she says to Blake. I can't stop staring into his dark brown eyes. I smile and whisper a faint “hi”. His smile broadens and he whispers “hi” back to me. I see Tanya's eyebrows go up as she watches the exchange. Blake breaks my stare and turns to Tanya. “Did you two bring anything else to the picnic that I can help you with?”

Tanya smiles. “Yes, as a matter of fact, we did. We need to take the sodas out of their cases and into the cooler over by the tables. I have to run to the store and get some ice so why don't you two get started on that project?”

“Gladly,” Blake says. Tanya then directs him to the 6 cases of soda in the back of her car. Blake and I each take two and carry them to the cooler. He then goes back for the other two while I start filling the container.

He sits down on the lawn chair next to me. “So, Emma, what do you do for a living,” he asks as he arranges the diet sodas into the left side of the receptacle.

I hesitate. I write, but not for a living. Should I say that? I look into his interested brown eyes and decide to take the plunge. “I don't exactly make a living at it just yet, but I am a writer of novels and children's books.”

Blake's smile widens even further. “I love books!” he exclaims. “What genre do you write in?” He leans forward to listen.

“I have two manuscripts in Fantasy and one YA Romance.”

“Wow, you have novels completed? That's exciting. That's the hard part I understand.”

I shake my head. “Oh no, that was the easy part. The difficult part is getting up enough courage to send those books out to publishers, wait for 6 to 8 months, only to get a form letter back saying it doesn't fit what they want at this time. So you read the book again, make minor adjustments, send it out again, and get more rejections. To continue to go through drafts and rejections and still continue to write is the hard part.”

“Which I assume you are doing? Are you continuing to write?”

I look into his dark brown eyes. “Yes, I continue to write, every day for 2 hours I write. Some days go well, others not so much, but I still write.”

His smile reassures me. “Excellent. I'd love to read one of your books if you trust me.”

I am taken aback by his offer. I look at his face, study it, wonder if I can trust this man sitting across from me. “OK,” I decide, “I will let you read one of my books. What genre do you prefer?”

He laughs, “I don't know anything about YA Romance. What about one of the fantasy novels?”

A feeling of relief washes over me. He actually was listening to me. “Sounds good to me. What is your email address so I can send it to you?” He takes my phone and adds his email, as well as his phone number to my contacts. He hands it back to me with a smile.

I feel giddy. To control myself I change the topic. “How long have you known Tanya's brother?” I ask.

“We were roommates in college and kept in touch. I just met Tanya two days ago when she stopped by to see Randy. She invited him to this picnic and suggested I come along. I had no idea she had a friend who is a writer, I may not have attended this event.”

My face falls. “Why?”

“Oh, I didn't tell you what my occupation is, did I? I'm an editor for a publishing company based out of New York. I took my love of reading and turned it into a career.

“You have no idea how many people I meet tell me they wrote a book and want me to read it. Most of the time I say no, and that I am too busy to read it.” He pauses. “But you didn't ask me to read your novels, and you were honest with me about the process. Despite getting rejections, you still write every day. To me, that means you are serious about your craft and a good indication that you write quality material. I want to read it.” He reaches out and takes my hands in his. I feel a flush come over my cheeks.

“Alright, I will send you one of my books. Perhaps you can give me some suggestions that will help get it published.”

He squeezes my hands. “I'd hope you'd let me publish it if that were the case.” I giggle despite myself.

Tanya arrives back at the park just as we finish putting the cans into the cooler. Blake helps her carry the bags of ice over to the tables and we all pour the ice in. I spend the rest of the day talking with Blake and get to know him better. When we leave, I promise him I will email my novel to him. I am glad I went to the picnic, which was nothing like I had dreaded.

May 14, 2021 17:28

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