~~~
Day’s Verse:
The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Romans 4:23-25
~~~

Her bright mood carried Summer through the rest of the day’s work. After a brief bathroom break, the stacks of obits diminished almost magically beneath her red pen. An incredible number of people died whose families simply had to advertise the fact in The Herald, and Summer accompanied them through the entire process. She told herself that her cheerful voice on the phone when they called in an obit might brighten an otherwise extremely dark day; even so, she never signed off with “have a good day,” feeling that might well exceed the bounds of good taste.

Carrying the stack of edited obits downstairs—the higher the rank, the closer to the ground floor you worked—Summer moved along with a smile on her lips. She’d finished all this work in barely an hour, meaning she’d be able to leave at 5:00 with everybody else, rather than lingering on this Friday to suffer through silent, sorrowful, poorly-written tributes to departed loved ones. Walking through the halls, Summer nodded and smiled at a fair number of people; after five years here, she recognized nearly all the faces except for the newest rookie journalists. She remembered back when she’d come out fresh-minted from college, eyes bright and ready to expose the evils of the world to a listening public. She would change the world, one hard-hitting article at a time, winning the Pulitzer prize on the way, along with the admiration of all the great editors of the age. She would write as a correspondent for the New York Times from war-torn Africa, the Middle East, or China. But when she accepted her first job, she suddenly learned that the real world didn’t take new college graduates and launch them into fame and fortune.

Continue reading.Then, of course, came Lance and the move to Seattle and thinking about a career here. But none of the local papers looked at her resume; one even sent it back unopened, with a note to try again another time. But Summer didn’t mind, because she found volunteering work and she had Lance to support her.

Suddenly Summer realized she’d headed down the wrong hallway off the stairs. This was the second floor, and somehow she’d ended up in the Home and Garden department section of the building. She didn’t recognize any faces as she looked around, although one dark-haired, well-built man a few years older than her looked up from his desk within a small office, a kind look in his eyes. She glanced around, wondering how to find her way out of the maze of cubicles and offices, and he stood up.

“Can I help you? You look a little lost.” He was tall, too, slender but athletic. Summer noticed, with a journalist’s probingly observant eye, that his shirt fit across his broad shoulders in a very appealing way, and his khakis hinted at solid muscle in his legs. Most of all she saw his face, which was broad and strong, with truth-telling blue eyes that had smile-crinkles around their edges. He wore thin-framed glasses that looked slightly lopsided, as if they’d been sat upon or had seen heavy use, and they gave a studious look to his otherwise non-academic face.

Summer liked him at once. She often made snap judgments based on her overall take of a person, and although it occasionally landed her in trouble—a thought of Lance flashed across the back of her mind—it usually proved true. After all, she and Chastity had built a friendship based on Summer’s impulsive decision to speak to her classmate.

“I just need to find the first floor,” Summer told him, half wishing she’d straightened up more thoroughly in the ladies’ room on the way down. Surely she’d at least neatened her hair? “I was on my way down but got distracted and here I am.” The good mood, combined with the desire to come across well to this man, brought a ready and real smile to her full lips.

“Oh, OK, well just turn around and head down that hallway—” he pointed, and Summer glimpsed a hint of well-defined muscle beneath his shirt as the sleeve pulled with his movement. “—take a left at the intersection, follow it around the corner and you’ll get to the main stairs.”

“Thank you very much,” Summer told him, and then added on impulse, “I’m Summer Robertson, by the way.” She almost added, “Obit writer and editor,” but somehow didn’t like how that would sound to him.

“I’m Chandler Anderson, Home and Garden editor. Good to meet you.” They shook hands, Summer feeling his rough but warm hand envelop hers with the appropriate pressure to suggest pleasure at their encounter.

“Nice to meet you, too,” she said almost breathlessly—why should she be breathless?—“Guess I’ll see you around. If I find my way out of here.” Again her grin came readily, a marvel considering her earlier mood.

“I’m sure you will,” he told her, already sitting down to his computer, the job at hand clearly taking over his attention once more.

As Summer walked back down the hallway, her thoughts swirled like a thousand Monarch butterflies in their great migratory cloud. He seemed nice enough… She hadn’t seen a wedding band, but that didn’t mean much; many husbands didn’t wear theirs. Lance hadn’t. She distinctly hoped to meet Chandler Anderson again, and resolved to perhaps even invite him to lunch some time. She could do with some friends besides Chastity sometimes, and he’d seemed like what Anne of Green Gables would have called a “kindred soul.”

Glancing to the side, a flyer with Chandler Anderson’s name caught Summer’s eye. “Huh,” she said to herself, pausing to read it. “Job posting,” it said. “Home and Garden sub-editor—Apply with Chandler Anderson by November 1, 2006. Interviews starting December 1.” A job description followed, and Summer felt her heart leap. She met all the credentials, with seven total years of journalistic experience between her first newspaper job and her time at The Herald; she knew editing, with this horrid obit job; she even knew gardening, having spent many hours in her Bellevue home’s garden. And the idea of working under Chandler Anderson instead of the misogynistic and hateful Fred sounded like a slice of heaven to Summer. She’d apply on Monday, she decided. This could be a great opportunity. Heart even lighter, she walked down the hallway, turned right, and got lost again in the photography department.

* * *

Summer whistled a cheery tune as she entered her small apartment that evening. Sure, it was full dark and she’d hardly seen the sun all day. Maybe she had lost her home in Bellevue and her skuzzy husband had left her for an air-headed secretary. But Summer had gotten the editor to put James P. Quinlan’s tribute on the second page of the Local News section in spite of Fred’s hostility, closer to the front than she had ever written before. Glancing over at her phone, Summer saw the red message light blinking and thought of Chastity. Probably she’d called before going jumping, to see if she could goad Summer into doing it with her for the first time. In this mood, Summer might even have considered it if she hadn’t also wanted to be sure she’d have an unbroken neck next time she met Chandler Anderson.

Dropping her coat over the Salvation Army couch and her purse on the couch table, Summer sighed with relief. Another week done, with 48 Fred-free hours dangling tantalizingly before her. She pressed the message button and picked up a pencil
and paper, just in case it wasn’t Chastity.

It wasn’t. It was Jack Bain himself, calling on behalf of Lance Robertson regarding their divorce settlement. Calling, in fact, to inform Summer that their court date had been delayed another three months and that she would have until 6:00 that evening to get back to him on that date. He hoped to hear from her and if he didn’t would assume that date would work for her and her counselor. Summer looked at her calendar: February 3, 2007. She had bought tickets to Long Beach, California for that week, to celebrate her parents’ anniversary and her sister’s birthday.

Glancing at the digital clock on her stove, Summer saw it was barely quarter-past six. Maybe it wasn’t too late; she dialed, and waited through to Jack Bain’s secretary’s voicemail. “You have reached the office of McCab and Bain, attorneys at law. Jack Bain is not available right now. Leave your name, phone number, and a brief message, we will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you. Beeeeeeeeep.”

The good mood drained from Summer as water swirls away through a hole in a Styrofoam cup. She hung up without even leaving a message and slumped onto the couch, feeling miserable again. Even Chandler Anderson dimmed in her mind to just another taken nice guy who probably slept with his secretary, too. It seemed like nothing went Summer’s way, not even the tearing-apart of her life. What would the point of applying for the Home and Garden job be, anyway? She’d probably lose it to a more experienced, attractive candidate—who would be anybody but Summer Robertson. For all she knew, they had a note: Do not give this job to Summer Robertson, obituary writer. Heck, it seemed like God had a similar note: Do not give this good life to Summer Robertson.

The ringing phone jolted Summer out of her fug, and although she initially refused to answer, it just kept ringing. Persistent salesperson, to just keep calling back but not leave a message. Finally, more to get them to leave her alone than anything, Summer answered.

“No,” she said, “I don’t need new vinyl siding, mortgage refinancing, or a new roof on my house. And I won’t vote for you.”

Just as she went to replace the receiver, a voice squawked tinnily through the speaker, “SUMMER! DON’T YOU DARE HANG UP!”

“Chastity? I thought you were a salesperson.” But even Chastity didn’t lift Summer’s dark mood. She’d never even get divorced from Lance cleanly, but lose everything valuable along the way.

“You brooding about Lance again?” Chastity asked, rather shrewdly. “You sound depressed.”

“Well…” Much as she hated to admit it, Summer had to acknowledge that Chastity had a keen ear for her moods. Especially the black ones. “I got a phone call from Jack Bain, saying they’d moved the court date to the week I was going to my parents’ anniversary, and I had to call by 6:00 or they’d just set it, and Fred made me look stupid at work, and I met Jenice bloody McCab who looks like everything I thought I’d be in fifteen years, and everything is AWFUL!” The last came out as a half-wail, half-sob. She buried her face into the scruffy couch, tears streaking down her face in a flood of misery.

“Fred’s a jerk,” Chastity agreed readily. “You know he only does that to get in Megan’s pants. Don’t listen to him, you know he’s dumber than a rock and he only looks smart by cowing you like that. I think you’re a great obit writer—hey, did you do that piece on Sylvia Kim?”

“Yes,” sniffled her friend, not ready to be comforted yet. “It was crap. Nobody read it.”

“I read it, and I thought it was good. Better than rock-head Fred could write, I’ll tell you that much. Hey, think, his kids really are chips off the old block.”

“If Fred’s rock, he’s granite. Something lame.” Summer sniffled again, wiping her nose with her hand. Not exactly ladylike, but who was here in this dark apartment to see her? Chastity was making her feel better, though.

“Pumice, maybe, all full of gas.” Chastity was taking geology at Cascadia right now. “Volcanic, too. We’ll just call him the amazing Pumice-man from now on.”

Summer laughed, a little shakily, and said nothing. She sat staring at the green digital clock and its shining light on the white gas stove, seeing the green-tinted gleam of the counters and stovetop, the clean dishes neatly racked and dry. Chastity’s breathing reminded her of nights laying awake listening to Lance sleep deeply, and Summer wondered how much of his sound sleeping came from hard days at work as opposed to the lethargy of the sexually satisfied. They hadn’t even made love the last few months before he left her.

“Let’s do something crazy tonight.” Chastity liked doing crazy things, and she didn’t do half-measure crazy things either. “Come jumping with me.”

“You know I’m not a fan of life-endangering activities,” Summer told her, shaking thoughts of Lance once more from her head. How many years would she spend forgetting Lance?

“What’ve you got to lose? Besides, this is a really great spot, it’ll be so totally safe and nobody will ever know. I swear. I even have extra gear.”

“Didn’t you say it was the Alaska Way Viaduct in your email? How can that be safe and private?” Privately, Summer felt more than a little dubious about the idea of the Alaska Way Viaduct. “Traffic, cops, heck buildings everywhere, it’s the middle of the city. You’re nuts.”

“Well, better than the Space Needle,” Chastity pointed out. “Did you know that of the last six people to jump of the Noodle, four were paid for some kind of publicity stunt and the other to ‘were arrested.’ That’s what Wikipedia says.”

“You’ll believe anything you read,” rejoined Summer, admonishingly. She didn’t trust Wikipedia, although she didn’t see why anybody would want to lie about that. People lied about strange things—like love.

“It’s on the Internet! It must be true. Now,” before Summer could object to the Internet comment, “are you coming or are you too wussy?”

“I’m not a wuss, I have a healthy respect for the danger of jumping off tall things with only a parachute on.”

“What else would you want? A full helicopter and a rope?”

“No, I wouldn’t jump in the first place, dork.”

“Wuss, wuss.” Summer held her piece, but Chastity wasn’t one to give up easily. “You never did it before ’cause that lame Lance didn’t like it. Now who cares what he thinks, let’s do it.”

And for some reason, if only to prove she was her own woman now, Summer agreed to base jump off the Alaska Way Viaduct that at 1:00 that morning. Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.

2 thoughts on “Romance Novel: Day 3

  1. Looking good! I was laughing my pants off all through the Chandler scene. Finally into true Harlequin romance territory!

    Your last names are completely uninspired, but I’ll think about it; the first names of some of the supporting females feel a little blah as well.

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