Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Between the Pages: Chapter 3

A few days later I'm sitting across the booth from my best friend Meg as we recount our weekly woes. Meg and I have a standing lunch date every Sunday at Willow Tree, a small cafe in between our apartments, that make the best grilled cheeses in the city. They also have six dollar bottomless mimosas.

I've already given her the rundown on my worst day at work to date and she joined me in complaining about the patron accordingly. Nothing like the loyalty of a best friend. I nonchalantly mention that there was a cute (devilishly handsome), (seemingly) nice, youngish guy at the archives on Friday, which piques her interest. But then I tell her that that's really all there is to it and she's possibly more disappointed than I am. Meg has this notion that I'm going to meet the man of my dreams during one of my shifts in the reading room. I, on the other hand, think of patrons like Mr. Heading, and have my doubts.

Since there's nothing more of interest on my end, we move on to her. She had a date on Thursday -- I know because I helped her choose her outfit -- and I've been anxious to hear how it went for three days now. Unfortunately, it seems like it was a ginormous flop. Meg's a great storyteller, so she manages to make the tale of how he showed up an hour late to the restaurant wearing workout clothes an epic. Then she delivers the coup de grace: "He didn't say a single word to me the entire night. Actually, he didn't make a peep at all. Even when I kicked him underneath the table!"

Some of my mimosa sputters out in a laugh. "You kicked him?"

"In the shin." She looks at me as if she doesn't understand what's wrong with kicking your unresponsive date. She finishes off her drink and then sighs heavily. "I might as well have been on a date by myself."

I make an appropriately sympathetic face.

"What would you give it?" Meg asks me as she catches the eye of our waitress. Mimosas are only until three, which is in thirty minutes. "I'm rating it a two-star date out of five."

"Oof. Thanks." The waitress sits our mimosas down and runs before we can ask for anything else. She’s probably irritated that we've been camped out for two hours and so far only spent twelve dollars apiece. "He's worse than Booby Boy then?"

Meg groans.

Booby Boy had been one of my more disastrous dates. And believe me--between the two of us, we'd had some doozies. This had started off great. He'd shown up early, dressed impeccably, and with flowers. It wasn't until halfway through dinner that things started to get weird. He'd spent twenty minutes telling--very passionately, I might add--about his job as a plastic surgeon. It all sounded fine and dandy until I'd asked him why he'd pursued medicine as a career.

His answer: "So I can touch women's boobs all day and get paid for it."

Facepalm.

It was a downward spiral from there. After we sat there in painful silence for a moment, Booby Boy then tried to salvage the date by describing to me -- in excruciating detail -- all the naughty things he wanted to do to my breasts. It might not sound bad, but trust me, it was horrifying.

"No one is worse than Booby Boy," Meg finally concedes. "Okay, your turn."

I snort. "I haven't been on a date in almost a year."

Meg rolls her eyes. "Yes, I know, and at the rate I'm going: lucky you. Don't you think no dates are better than bad dates?"

I shrug. Truthfully, I'd rather have a terrible date than no date at all. Maybe I have a warped sense of self-worth or something, but even knowing that a pervy plastic surgeon was thinking about my boobs or that some gym rat enjoyed something about my company enough not to leave halfway through a date quickly going downhill makes me feel less pathetic than I do when it's a Saturday night and the only company I have is Rook (my fifty pound German Shepherd) and a bag of take-out. It's not like I'm not one of those women who need a partner in order to feel fulfilled or anything, but...

Look. I'm thirty-three. I want kids someday. A husband too. And I've already got the dog. But, the older I get the more I feel the possibility of that happy ending slipping away. I know I'm not like some decrepit old lady who knits while she waits on the bus or anything (yet), but I feel like I'm close. Of course, the fact that my baby brother is getting married in four weeks really doesn't help the situation. Actually, I think that wedding is what's making me wish I'd kept Booby Boy's number on file, rather than literally burning it.

Meg launches into another story, but I don't pay much attention. I spend the rest of brunch taking advantage of my bottomless mimosas while I can, and trying to remind myself that I'm way better off without the likes of men like Booby Boy.

***

Monday morning dawns bright and early. Too early.

Rook wakes me up every day. He likes to sleep curled up on an oversized doggie bed underneath my own, but every morning around 6:15 he jumps up next to me and noses my hair until I'm awake. I usually swat at him and pull the covers over my head, hoping he'll go away, until he starts barking. It's ten times better than having an alarm clock. Seriously! If you don't have a frisky three-year old German Shepherd, you should definitely get one.

Today's Monday, which means it's a jogging day. I groggily throw on some running clothes and then begin to search for Rook's leash. I alternate between jogging and cycling in the morning throughout the week. I don't really care for jogging--I much prefer cycling-- but Meg likes to run 5ks and 10ks and I usually get cajoled into being her running buddy. I run a pretty slow pace, so I usually try to take Rook with me. He could definitely use the exercise and energy release. In retrospect, having a German Shepherd occupying a tiny little apartment on Bay Street might not have been the best idea.

But, I tell myself, as we're out the door and finishing up our first mile thirteen minutes later, Rook doesn't seem any worse for the wear. He's just trotting alongside me, tongue half out of his mouth, grinning like the goofy goober he is.

I love Savannah in the mornings. You know, before it's miserably muggy and the gnats are attacking in droves. While the squares are still mostly empty, save for the occasional person, and traffic isn't yet horrendous. In the mornings I can relax a bit. Enjoy the architecture. Appreciate the history.

My run takes me down Drayton Street, around Chippewa and Layfayette Squares, around Forsyth Park, and then back home again. The entire loop equals about three and a half miles and usually I'm home within the hour. I don't even like running, but it's easily the best forty-five minutes of my day.

Rook collapses in his doggie bed as soon as we get home. I laugh. "Lazy bones."

I put on some coffee and make a smoothie for breakfast, then hop in the shower. As I'm getting ready for work, I'm surprised to find that I spend a little more time on my hair than usual (read: I'm actually trying to tame the unruly curls rather than letting them fly away freely). And I know the reason is that I’m hoping to see Max.

I feel silly, really. After all, I'm primping for a guy that I've had two conversations with and might not even be there today. But, he's so attractive. He seems really nice too. I go ahead and throw some mascara on too. Just in case.

Of course, in true Monday fashion, I'm late to work. I blame it on the makeup and hair taming. Barry gives me that look -- you know, the one your boss gives you that says, "really, Inez?"-- as I slink into the office and slide into my chair at my desk. The look kind of irritates me because I'm usually never late to work. Stupid boys.

Surprisingly, the day flies by. Before I know it, it's time for my reading room shift to start. With unfamiliar butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I open the door and walk inside.

To an absolutely empty room.

"Aarrggghh!" The ugly groan escapes from me inadvertently before I can stop it.

No patrons in the reading room. While that means I can sit in here and work on my own stuff in blissful peace, it also means that Max probably finished conducting his research on Friday...and that he won't be back.

A full five seconds pass before I finally notice Sharon side-eyeing me. "Anything wrong?"

"No," I lie quickly. I'm just DEVASTATED my crush isn't in today. "No, I just realized I left my to-do list at my desk."

"Well, I think you'll have time to go get it," Sharon tells me with a wink. She gestures at the empty room. "I'll hold down the fort for a few more minutes."

"Eh, it's okay." I wave away her offer. Pfft. There is no to-do list. Sharon looks at me for a moment before she signs off the computer, and I squirm a little bit under her gaze. She's in her fifties and has three daughters all around the same age as me. Very quickly she looks at something on the lending materials software. When she makes a satisfied little "hmn!" noise and smiles as she exits the program and then starts to leave, I realize I haven't fooled her at all. She knows the to-do list was a fib. Honestly, the fact that I'm wearing makeup today probably didn't help my little story either.

I sigh despondently and look out the window at the darkening sky. The day started off so promising. Now, I'm alone in the reading room AND it looks like I'm going to get rained on. Fantastic.

Just as I'm starting to really get my pity party going (I'm moved on from the weather, to the fact that I burned water while cooking last night and how I'm generally failing at life), I hear a gentle rapping on the doors of the reading room. Because of the sensitive materials sometimes kept inside, you have to scan an employee ID card to be granted access. There's a little button under the desk that unlocks the doors so patrons can come and go. Fully expecting it to be a disgruntled, ID-less coworker at the door, I press the button without looking up. Then, my stomach drops through the floor as I notice a peculiar kind of movement and flash of metal out of the corner of my eye, and suddenly I'm face to face with a gorgeous pair of hazel color eyes framed by a smart pair of tortoise shell glasses.

I can't help the smile from spreading across my face. He's back.

And--holy shit!--he's standing? Propped up and supporting himself on two aluminum forearm crutches, the tips of which are planted firmly just in front of his feet. Looking down at me. There's a small grin playing on his lips.

"Uh...c-can I help you?" I finally manage to stammer out. God knows how long I sat there grinning like a fool before I did though. I'm not the sort of person who ever finds herself speechless, but at the moment I feel like an unwitting cast member in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Or Punked. Because standing -- rather than sitting in a wheelchair -- in front of me is Max the Lone Researcher and object of my most current (and obsessive) crush. How and why?

He nods and his grin widens. With the light bouncing off of him from a different angle today, I notice some faint highlights of red in his otherwise chestnut colored hair. They're especially prominent in the neatly groomed, thin beard he sports. "This is probably a bit...unorthodox."

I laugh, nervously, and wait for him to go on.

"So, I'm finished with my research here." A-ha! I knew it. "But luckily, I'm in town for a bit longer,"
He pauses here and shuffles his weight between his crutches. Luckily? What does he mean by that?

"Because,” he continues, “I realized, due to the hullabaloo on Friday, I neglected to grab a card from you. Or even catch your name."

All at once my heart soars and then it sinks. Then it hits rock bottom. All he wants is my friggin' business card? REALLY?!

"Oh," I respond very cleverly. I'm focusing on trying to not let my (totally unfounded) disappointment show. Opening the desk drawer and rummaging around for a stack of my business cards provides a welcome distraction. Extending the card, I offer it up to him. "Um, yeah, here you go."

But taking it from me seems to be a more challenging task than I anticipated. Max is an awkward distance away from the circulation desk. Close enough for a polite conversation, but too far to easily reach out and grab my business card. Plus, his hands are kind of occupied by the forearm crutches. I watch as he moves his crutches forward about a step, and then propels the lower half of his body forward using the strength in his arms. Which are massive. I notice that his legs move slowly and minutely.

He repeats the process again--crutches followed by body--until he's right at my desk. Shifting his crutches to one hand, he sets them aside for a moment. Then he leans forward slightly, grabbing the edge of my the desk for extra support. Once he’s situated, Max smiles ruefully at my blatant staring, and finally takes the card from my still outstretched hand.

"Inez Carter," he starts thoughtfully as he reads from the business card. "Assistant Director of the DeVinn Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, huh?"

"Yeah." Man, my responses are on fire today! "That's me."

Max reaches into his back pocket, pulls his wallet out, and sticks my card inside. "Thanks, Inez," he says as he gathers his crutches. He flashes me another movie star smile (seriously, that smile equals money. His teeth are SO straight!) and sort of waves goodbye. As he turns to leave, he says, "Hopefully, I'll see you around."

I watch as he exits the reading room. This time the movement is different. More of a quasi- walk. First come the crutches, followed by his body. It's slow, but not as slow as I'd expect. I'm mesmerized and intrigued. But, a moment later he rounds the corner to the elevator, and disappears out sign. And this time, I’m afraid he's gone for good.

18 comments:

  1. Yikes! Poor Inez!
    Too bad we have to wait a week.

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  2. Really enjoying this!

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  3. Loving it so far, I can't wait for the next chapter.

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  4. Ahhhhh so good! But still no date! I love the crutches twist!

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  5. Loving it too!

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  6. Yeah, thank you so much for this chapter and a little background! I really hope that Max will contact her soon (otherwise it would be too hard for Inez, right?) but it was a good idea from Max to test her reaction first... Can't wait until next Monday!

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  7. This story is getting better and better, great writing!

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  8. now you're just teasing us...
    You can go ahead and post the next chapter(s)
    thanks for writing this
    I absolutely love the prospect of it

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Loving the story and she's really a hoot. I was thinking the same, that he was testing out her reaction with the crutches

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    1. Bluesky..didn't u write once? And it was unfinished?
      Would you consider resuming it?

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  11. No. No no no. You can't just stop here :(
    Waiting for next week

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  12. This chapter was just perfect. I liked the sweet interaction with Meg - the best friend, descriptions of Inez's morning routine (absolutely adore the German Shepherd!!), loved the way she made her beautiful for Max and how she finally met him. Crutches were a real surprise! :)
    You're developing the story nicely and I hope that when it's once completed, you'll start considering publishing it! :)
    Thanks and looking forward to the next week!

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  13. Everything about this is perfect. I love the writing style, and the humour. I can absolutely relate to the way she clammed up and reacted like a bit of a goofball to him. Looking forward to more (and yes, I did just devour this all in one greedy sitting).

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  14. Love the background detail, great writing. Waiting patiently for the next chapter and hopefully some background on Max ;)

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  15. Ugh! Get the number dude! Slow is OK though. Means more chapters.
    Tc

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  16. I would have asked him out, myself. I hate to miss a good opportunity to get to know a hot hunk . . .

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  17. Yeah, I would have acted just like Inez, probably worse...very nice turn of things with the walking part, I feel kind of like her German Shepard running with its tongue out when thinking about the crutches and all, :-)

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