I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
Note: Chandler Anderson has become Douglas (Doug) Anderson.
Summer didn’t stay very long hunched against the door crying. After a few minutes, she picked herself up and went into the bathroom to lean against the sink and stare into the mirror. Her reflection showed a face that had attained a blotchiness only available to the recent weeper, and in last night’s wrinkled dress, with her disheveled hair, Summer looked like six-week-old road kill.
“Lord,” she muttered. “Guess I’d better clean up.” Summer was a great believer in First Things First, and to her mind—even in its foggy, hungover state—a shower looked like the first order of business. So she dropped her dress in a heap on the floor in her closet to await dry cleaning on some indeterminate future date. Then she showered, paying particular attention to her cigarette smoky hair, and then she vigorously brushed her teeth and applied a facial masque. Her green face looked significantly more appealing to Summer than the face that had looked back at her thirty minutes before. Too bad the face’s head still pounded with the echo of a thousand-person African drumming band. She also took a couple aspirin, pouring them almost indiscriminately into her palm and swallowing them dry. Lately she’d had to take sleeping pills, since the Lance and Charmin fiasco. Of course, the last two nights she had needed no help of any sort. Summer hoped the aspirin would defeat the worst of her terrible headache, maybe stuff some cotton around the drums.
Continue reading.Then, because Summer felt clean and wanted her home to reflect that state, she binge-cleaned her apartment for the rest of the afternoon. Summer neatened her house, vacuumed, did two loads of laundry, stripped her bed and remade it, washed all her dishes and dried them by hand, and then she dusted. The cleaning, aside from bringing the apartment into line with her emotional state, also had for many years served as Summer’s outlet when she felt upset or stressed. The vigorous exercise warmed her blood and focusing on achieving perfection in cleanliness helped her stop worrying. The afternoon passed in a haze of cleaning, scrubbing of toilets and sinks, dusting of rugs, taking out of garbage and recycle, and a thousand other tiny tasks that had slid by the wayside. Summer even put on some clothes and went food shopping after making a list of her meals for the week, starting with salad tonight and ending with macaroni and cheese on Friday evening.
Late that afternoon, Summer slumped down in front of her computer, exhausted at last, but glowing. The exhaustion felt good, clean; looking around her apartment, Summer felt a deep satisfaction at the job well done. Her tiny pad glittered and shone, with every knickknack and rug in place. Not a speck of dust cluttered flat surfaces. She had done well, and the whole time she’d hardly thought of Lance—or, more difficult, Hunter. The sinking feeling that she’d alienated Hunter forever with her crazy performance the night before and that morning still sat like a boulder in Summer’s stomach, but over the course of the day she had come to sadly accept that she’d probably lost Hunter as quickly as she’d found him.
No sense in dwelling on that, though. Briskly, Summer logged on to her work email to see what had happened over the weekend. That’s when she skimmed a message with the subject “Job Opening in Printing” and thought again of the notice posted on the wall in the Home and Garden department.
“Oh man, yeah,” she told her monitor. “I meant to apply to that. Do you suppose it’s even worth it, really?” Though the cleaning had dispelled her sorrowful mood, Summer still felt vaguely doubtful about applying for the job. What if they talked to Fred or her coworkers? They hated Summer, and wouldn’t hesitate to pass their prejudice on to an interviewer. And even if they didn’t, why would Home and Garden choose her, Summer, even if she did have some experience? It was almost not worth thinking about, honestly.
Then the phone rang, and the fear that Chastity had decided to find out about the previous night suddenly struck Summer like a blow between the eyes. For a moment Summer’s hand hovered uncertainly over the phone; she didn’t want to talk to Chastity, or hear her incredulity at Summer’s utter stupidity (in Chastity’s eyes) of turning down Hunter. Then, too, Chastity would probably want permission to go after him, and Summer didn’t exactly want to give that permission yet. Although she told herself she’d lost him, she hated to think of Chastity and Hunter together so soon—or at all. Then the phone rang again, and she answered automatically.
“Hello, Summer Robertson speaking.”
“Summer? Hi.” The hesitancy, however slight, sounded wrong in Hunter’s trained voice. “I just wanted to call and be sure you were OK. About this morning. And, well, I wanted to see if you’d be interested in doing dinner tonight.”
Bells! Lights! O fabjoyous day! Summer contained her excitement and said, “I don’t know…” with reluctance that stemmed more from concern over what he thought “dinner” might entail than lack of enthusiasm. After all, he had described the previous night as “a party,” and although he seemed to know most of the people there, Summer would have described it as something between “a rave” and “a wild orgy.”
Between one moment and the next, Summer felt her pulse begin racing. How much she wanted to laugh, jump, clap, cavort, generally celebrate that her stunt this morning had not totally alienated him! Relief, like a blood transfusion to a stab victim, flooded life back into her veins. All this came out in her voice as she hastily explained, “It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that I have work tomorrow and I usually go to bed pretty early, and I guess I just don’t want a repeat of last night. I can’t really sleep until 10:45 tomorrow. Fred’d kill me.” Why had she mentioned Fred? What the heck?
“Sure, I understand.” Fear struck at Summer, a knife to the gut: What if he took it to mean she wasn’t interested in him at all? He continued: “How ’bout we just keep it casual and early—say 6:00 at McDonald’s? My treat. You can even have a big order of fries if you want.” Summer could hear his smile over the phone line. She couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up, an overflow of the sudden relief of knowing he hadn’t given up on her. Of course not; he’d called, hadn’t he? Nothing had required him to call back, but he had.
“Sounds good,” Summer said, trying unsuccessfully to infuse some amount of deadpan humor into her reply. “The McDonald’s near your place or mine?”
“Oh, mine. That way I can walk there in reasonable time. It IS uphill both ways, and you don’t want yours truly to arrive late.”
“Hardly.” Then Summer had a real idea. “How does the Crab Cracker sound?”
“I don’t know, never heard of it.”
“It’s in downtown Kirkland, nice little seafood place, not too pricey but a fun atmosphere.” How tacky of her to mention cost. Who would actually pay for this, anyway? He’d paid for all the drinks last night, but then, she hadn’t intended to drink at all.
“Wellllll…” Now he sounded unsure, like he would have liked to say no but manners would make him assent.
“What, you don’t like seafood?”
“Well,” he said again, “You see, I don’t like seafood. I love seafood, and that means I eat totally immoderate amounts of it. It’s almost embarrassing.” Summer s
miled at the phone receiver. She really was falling for Hunter, because all his jokes sounded hilarious, although she had the feeling that they weren’t that good. In her present mood, though, Summer thought each quip would earn him fame on Saturday Night Live. Impeccable comedic timing.
“I’ll get you around six, then,” she told him, and after a heartbeat added, “Oh, and you don’t need to dress.”
His laughing goodbye was all she needed to reach the silver-lined cloud nine.
* * *
Hanging up the phone, a satisfied smile fluttered around Hunter’s expressive mouth. He had the measure of Summer Robertson now; it was only a matter of time until the club night faded from her memory. In the interim, he would call Juanita. She still had his raincoat, after all.
He picked up the phone again. “¿Hola, Juanita? ¿Qué tal?”
* * *
Monday morning, Summer woke before her alarm, a smile ready on her lips. She had very much enjoyed her evening with Hunter, certainly more than the previous evening.
They had taken advantage of the Crab Cracker’s paper table cloths to draw all over them in crayon, as if Summer and Hunter were a couple of 11-year-olds. Hunter had created a surprisingly beautiful portrait of Summer, which they had ripped off and taken away with them as they left. True to his prediction, Hunter had ordered all you can eat lobster and proceeded to produce an almost endless pile of picked-over lobster exoskeleton. Summer thought that he, alone among all people who ordered that meal, actually got his money’s worth. She, meanwhile, had munched on a salmon Caesar salad, vaguely thinking about atoning for all the calories she drank the night before.
Then they had walked across the street and ordered coffee at a Cup of Seattle nearby, chatting and drinking coffee—tea in her case—until the streetlights flickered slowly on. Throughout it all, Hunter retained his perfect propriety and sported almost chivalrous behavior at moments. He spoke wittily charmingly on all subjects, never noticing or acknowledging the few times Summer lost her train of thought and fell to just gazing at him in wonder.
For her part, Summer thought she had somehow landed in heaven. Then, the next morning, when she padded outside in her fluffy pink bunny slippers to get the paper—The Seattle Times, a competing paper; she liked to see what their obit writers said about their dead people—there lay a long, narrow box. Inside she found a dozen long-stemmed roses. No note, no indicator of who had sent them, but Summer knew, and her heart swelled with…could it be love? Surely she was inured to love, her capacity for love cauterized out of her by Lance’s cruelty and unfaithfulness. Yet that delicate place within her remained tender, softening with Hunter’s overtures.
So Summer arrived at work 15 minutes early on Monday morning, a cup of coffee in one hand and her resume in the other. She stopped briefly in her office and noticed that yes, people had continued to die over the weekend, and the weekend writers had done little beyond stack the notices on her desk. Shedding her overcoat and purse, she booted up her computer and left it thinking about starting as she headed confidently down the hall.
Today she had chosen her outfit carefully, working to impress this Douglas character with her professionalism and intelligence. She wore a beige skirt and white silk blouse with matching beige jacket; her hair she had braided in a complex, four-stranded twist that her mother had taught her. Summer always credited her first job offer to that hairstyle, and since then wore it when she felt her career could depend on it. Her well-turned calves, sheathed in sheer nylons, balanced above dark brown heels that balanced femininity with a businesslike attitude. Walking down the hall, she thought she caught at least a couple men turn their heads to take a second look. Putting her shoulders back, with a straight spine and poised head, Summer walked into Douglas’ office.
“Hi, Douglas.” She reached out her hand across the desk as he looked up from a thick stack of papers. He shook it, looking a tad confused. “I’m Summer Robertson, we met on Friday.” Summer didn’t mention the circumstances. No need to remind him that on Friday she’d been flustered, lost, and miserable.
“Call me Doug,” he told her for the second time, setting aside the red pencil that looked almost like a toy in his large hand. Summer thought of Hunter’s slender, almost pianist-fine hands and recalled that she had thought Douglas attractive only three days ago. Well, he was the kind of man she would have considered, with only Lance in her past and nobody in the future. Now that she had Hunter, Douglas just didn’t look as appealing. Although his broad, strong shoulders and clear, steady gaze did have their appeal as well. “I take it you found your way out again, or have you been lost in here all weekend?”
A humorist, eh? Nothing compared to Hunter’s wit, but then, few could measure up to his level of cleverness.
“I made it out, thanks,” Summer told him. “But on my way out I saw the posting on the wall for a position that was opening up here in Home and Garden. I’d like to apply for it.” She extended her resume and smiled, confident. “I think I’m pretty well qualified for the job. I’ve got XXX years’ experience in the newspaper industry, as you can see” —she pointed out her first job down at the bottom of the page—“and XX years here at The Herald.”
“Looks pretty good,” Doug agreed. He scanned the document quickly. “What do you know about gardening? I don’t see anything on here about that.”
“It’s one of my main hobbies,” Summer explained, hoping this weakness wouldn’t jeopardize her chances. “I’ve loved gardening since I was young, and maintained my own large garden with both flowers and produce for the last few years.”
“Really?” He sounded genuinely interested. “Where is this garden?”
“Oh,” Summer paused. She didn’t want to get into the sordid details of her current love life (which certainly would have made it onto the gum-popping secretary’s top 10 stories), but she had to say something. “That was at my old house in Bellevue. I’m in an apartment now, and I don’t have space for gardening.”
“Have you ever heard of community gardening?” She shook her head. You took turns watering and pruning? Wouldn’t that lead to a “too many cooks” scenario? “It’s a great thing,” Doug enthused, face lighting up, his square chin and broad cheeks with their black, smooth-shaved hairs growing in handsomeness as he spoke. “You basically have this community property and divide it up so anybody who wants a garden can have a little plot of their own land to grow it on. Right now I have people growing everything from peonies to peas. It’s also a community green space, so inner-city kids who don’t get to parks very often can come and spend some time with nature.”
“Sounds…” Summer was at a loss. “Sounds good.” What else could she say? She couldn’t imagine wanting a community garden, and certainly wouldn’t want inner city kids tromping on her prize-winning roses. “Well, I’ll be in touch to set up an interview for that opening.”
“OK, I look forward to it.” He was all business again, resuming the responsibility like a cloak. “Take care.”
“Thanks, you too.” Summer threw him a dazzling smile—teeth whitener did that—and swept out. She felt good about the meeting, even if he had gone off on community whatevers, leaving her rather speechless. He’d be an infinitely better boss than Fred. Summer couldn’t wait for him to offer her the job so she could show him what a stellar addition to his department he would be. Now, she had to contact HR.
Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.
2 thoughts on “Romance Novel: Day 9 (~700 Miles by the Odometer)”
Good! You’re back on track. Part that had me laughing: Fabjoylous.
I think your emotional highs and lows are too pointed for now. You want them to be able to get progressively higher and lower as the story moves along.
Too early for that Hunter vignette. In the context of a romance novel, he looks like a slime. Have Juanita call him about the coat, or omit the scene.
I’m trying to figure out whether Hunter, when with girls, is more inclined to chameleon-like imitate their preferences, or to use his personality to conform them to his preferences. He’s got a strong enough personality for the latter, but I think he knows when it’s to his advantage to do the former.
Good job with the Hunter-Doug contrast, but I think you made it a tad too clear. She shouldn’t be overtly comparing the two, but rather subconsciously judging him.
I don’t know what you’re planning to do with Hunter, but I think the scene should stay. It gives more insight into his character, because before he looked like a party-goer looking to get laid. With that scene, I saw a hint of something deeper within him that you haven’t revealed yet. Just a thought.