Day’s Verse:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:2

Sitting in his cluttered little office, fiddling with his pencil and doodling little stick people on the side of a page of notes, Doug pondered the Summer Conundrum. Doug didn’t know what to think about his interview with Summer Robertson, and this made his decision very difficult. He had hoped for a definitive answer one way or the other to make itself clear based on this interview, since his previous impressions of the woman had been so extremely mixed—first attracted, then repelled. Yet when he’d talked to her this morning, the interview had only muddied already dirty waters.

Doug decided to write a Pros and Cons list. Joanna liked things orderly, at least up in her head, and had exhorted Doug often to write things out if he needed help thinking about an issue. So he flipped the page in his slender Everything Notebook and wrote PROS across the top of the page. Then he stopped to think.

Continue reading.On the one hand, if Summer had come to the interview as a total stranger, Doug probably would have hired her—he had to admit that. Under PROS, he wrote “Technical ability.” She certainly had the knowledge necessary to competently, perhaps even excellently, fulfill the requirements of the position. Beneath that, he wrote “Experience,” because Summer knew the newspaper industry well and had done fairly well by it. She had the journalist’s perspective and she had spent years editing obituaries; even if she had gotten stuck in a dead-end obit job for a while, Summer seemed to have experienced a variety of other aspects of the business, too. After a pause, Doug wrote, “Personable.” He wasn’t so sure about this one, but throughout the interview she had maintained a consistently pleasant mien that would have come across well from a stranger. In short, Doug had no good technical reason to dismiss Summer Robertson’s application.

Next to PROS, Doug wrote CONS. This took somewhat less thought, perhaps because these negatives had been rolling around his head since last Monday.

On the other hand, Doug had met her before and had the measure of her from those experiences. The first time, two Fridays ago, he had found her quite attractive—more so than any woman in years, and that had been a strange, yet pleasurable, experience for him. The second time, last Monday, she had utterly repelled him with her aggressive attitude and excessive confidence. He wrote “Overconfident.” Oh, Doug didn’t argue that women shouldn’t be confident, that was all well and good. But a know-it-all didn’t win any friends. Then, too, his meeting with Fred and Summer’s coworkers had reinforced Doug’s sense that Summer wasn’t as socially able as she’d made herself appear during the interview. Although her coworkers were obviously unfairly biased against Summer for some reason, they had raised valid concerns, so he wrote “Not team player,” then added “Goes around boss,” and “Disrespectful/Talks back?” He wasn’t so sure about the disrespectful one, because that could have just been Fred’s unreasonable expectations. Doug would have to decide for himself what counted as disrespectful from an employee and he didn’t necessarily trust another manager’s assessment on that count. He also wasn’t sure he liked the phrase “talks back,” but that was what Fred had used.

It reminded Doug of a story Joanna had told him in the first year of their marriage. Cuddling on their ratty couch—they were just out of college, no money, with parents who didn’t help out much—Joanna had rested her head on his shoulder, her black hair spilling down his chest. She had her arms wrapped around him, and Doug remembered putting his left arm around her shoulders.

“You won’t believe what happened to me on the train today,” she had told him.

“What?” He had just wanted to make love to her—the memory brought a wince of pain from Doug in the present—but he’d listened because he loved her.

“On the way home this conductor came to sell me a ticket, and it’s $3.25, but all I had was a $20. I gave him the $20, and he said, ‘Don’t you have anything smaller?’ and I said, ‘No, sorry,’ and as he stood there punching my ticket, I thought about it and thought it would be funny if I said, ‘But I will when you’ve given me change.’ So I said that. And the conductor looks at me all pissed-off and says, ‘No more of your sass.’ My sass! Like I was some 12-year-old or something!” She snuggled closer to him, looking up into his eyes, and Doug had thought his heart would burst.

He bent his head, kissing her thoroughly. “Well, you’re definitely a woman.”

“I know,” she smiled and reached down, touching him suggestively. “But I’m still kind of afraid of that conductor. And he takes my ticket every day, the same guy.”

“You want me to beat him up for you?” Doug was joking, but the way Joanna was touching him, he would have done anything for her.

“No, but I would like something else…” They hadn’t talked for quite a while after that, but Doug had admired Joanna’s joie de vivre during their interlude. She loved him with abandon, both in bed and out of it, and he loved her even more for that.

The present Doug sat lost in a reverie, remembering Joanna, the brightness of her eyes and the warm softness of her skin, the way her hair flowed like water and shimmered like silk. A tear trickled down his cheek unnoticed. Sometimes, thinking about her, he ached so desperately for his long-lost little wife he would have done anything under the sun to have her back. In the picture on his desk she stood on the beach, arms upraised and face lifted, laughing, her hair flying in the ocean breeze. Doug had often looked at the picture, memorizing her features frozen forever in that joyful moment seven years ago, neither of them suspecting that a year later a drunk driver would destroy everything for them in a single moment.

Back to Summer. Wandering through sad-tinged happy memories and, oh Lord, crying; he wiped the tear from his face and rubbed his hand on his pants as if to erase the evidence of its existence didn’t make difficult decisions. Summer, right. Doug’s meeting with Fred and her coworkers had reinforced the sense Doug had independently developed, that Summer might be an attractive woman, but she wasn’t the kind of personality he wanted as his sub-editor. He needed a personable, easygoing, flexible coworker who could make friends, or at least amiable acquaintances, with his current staff—and they certainly included some difficult characters. Summer had come across as aloof during his last few encounters with her; she seemed self-contained despite her friendly exterior, as if she refused to allow anybody to help her. “Proud?” he wrote in the CONS column.

Looking at his organized paper, Doug pondered. Going by sheer number of positive versus negative items, he shouldn’t hire her. Yet he knew that he should weight the pros more heavily; her expertise and experience should outweigh the possible personality issues, unless those issues were truly egregious. Give her the job based on her experience and possibly regret it because of her personality? Deny her the job and always wonder if she really had deserved it?

Well, he had a couple days to think about it before he had to give HR a decision. He would continue to mull it over, and he would talk to Savannah about it. She was always a great listener.
Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.

One thought on “Romance Novel: Day 17

  1. Boring. Sorry, Katie. Doug’s voice is reasonably well characterized, but you just aren’t making me care about him.

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