OK, so I just read that it’s National Novel Writing Month. I have been trying to write a novel for several years now with some rocky starts and unfinished stuff. But there’s one I’ve been working on now that I think I can actually finish. So, I’m going to start posting chapters here everyday I would love some honest comments and constructive criticisms. Please forgive the roughness- I can’t proof read my own stuff very well and I know I get a little comma-happy! And the title is is just for me, too. I’ll come up with a better one when it’s finished.
The story is about a woman in a small town who breaks up from her long time boyfriend and the next day she finds a mushy good-bye letter from some other guy to his girlfriend. With this on her mind she tries to sell a newcomer a house and ends up kissing him. All the while she’s having trouble with mysterious mistakes in her checking account and weird things happening at her house. There’s also some trouble going around town- mugging, robbery, vandalism. Who’s doing these things to this small country town?
There is something vibrating beside me. I know I’ve felt that before, but I just can’t place what it is. Ok, think. I’m in my bed; I have a splitting headache and the taste of bitter limes on my tongue. What happened last night? I open my eyes and see my chocolate lab silently staring, practically buzzing to be let out.
That’s when it hits me. The vibrations are the shock waves of my Jack Russell Terrier’s tail.
Groaning, I stumbled down to the kitchen where I let the boys out in the back yard to do their business and grabbed a couple aspirin. That’s when I remembered why I was hung-over; I broke up with Parker yesterday only to have a one-night stand with Jose. Cuervo, that is.
Parker has been my boyfriend for 6 years. I finally realized yesterday that I only stuck around because it was what I was used to. It was getting a little tiresome, though, to be honest. It’s a lot of work to be with Parker. He is the epitome of “granola.” Long hair, a vegan, wears no materials made by little foreign fingers, no artificial colors, flavors, etcetera, and etcetera. He works for the local vet’s office and Humane Society as a veterinarian assistant and would be an active member of PETA if he had any money. Or a car. I was tired of acting like I agreed with him on everything, and I was tired of hiding my obsession with prime rib and sneaking over to Claudia’s, my sister, for eggs and bacon every Sunday morning. I also would love to buy these really cute, strapped sandals with a short, skinny heal that would look great with a pair of capris I saw. They were both “made in China,” probably with little Chinese fingers for a nickel a day. It’s not that I don’t care. Really.
Plus, I would like to get married one day. And have kids. Parker doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage. But the biggest reason: I’m twenty eight years old and my clock is ticking.
The realization that I was single instantly dulled my headache. The coffee was already gurgling, the aspirin was kicking in, and it was sunny outside. It’s going to be a good day.
I looked out the back window and watched the dogs race around the small fenced-in backyard. The big chocolate lab is named Nomad, who I’ve had for 5 years, and the Jack Russell is one-eyed, three-legged and a Hurricane Katrina survivor named Ding-Dong. Parker and I went down to New Orleans to volunteer in Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescue and I brought him home to patch him up. That was before I found out a major nerve had been severed in his leg and his eye was infected. The vet assured me that it would be a lot easier on him to learn to walk on three legs than to try to fix it with no guarantee that he would still keep the leg. Watching him try his first few steps with one eye and three legs was so funny I had to name him Ding-Dong, Dingy for short. Despite his disabilities he could still run faster than Nomad in the tight circle of my little back yard.
I feel something silky wrapping itself around my leg. I know who it is before I look down. It’s Sylvie. Oh, yeah, I also have two cats, Ernesto and Sylvie. Sylvie is social butterfly; she’s a silky, shiny, black cat who, if you could call a cat sexy, she would be it. She usually positions herself in my front sitting room so she can watch the stairs and both the front and back doors, ready beg for attention. She also loves the dogs and thinks she owns them.
Ernesto is perched on top of the refrigerator. He is always in a corner or perched somewhere, sulking, watching, waiting for the day when he can finally carryout his plan to do away with the dogs. But when the other animals are in parts of the house unknown, he’s my favorite lap-cat. I can tell by the way his stripped orange coat is bristled that we had disturbed his royal highness’s beauty sleep. All is forgiven when I get the cat food out.
I ran upstairs to shower, find my cutest springy top and dig out my spring jacket. I love springtime. I love when those last remnants of snow finally melt from the square in the center of town from the where the snow plows have piled it up. I love seeing the first of the daffodils poke through the ground the welcome the coming Easter season.
I make sure I grab a pair of running shoes for my lunch-break walk with the boys and strut to my Honda Passport parked in front of my house. Then it hits me. It’s cold and windy outside. Really cold. I grumbled at the sun for deceiving me on my happy day.
I start the Passport and run back in to the house to grab a sweater, my winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and hang my spring jacket in the closet. The car’s not really warm enough, but it’s only four blocks to work. I know, it’s not very Green of me, but I need to have my car readily available to take customers to look at houses. Besides, I usually walk home during lunch to take the dogs out. That cancels out my gas usage.
I live in a small town that’s not developed in anyway except for the small community market and the bank. We have everything we need on Main Street and no housing developments. With farmland surrounding the entire town of Wallace and only a secondary state route leading in and out of the town, this makes my job kind of slow on most days. That’s fine by me. It seems like most of the sales that go on are the current town residents just trading houses for different needs. Occasionally a farmer will sell a lot or two, and there are some old farmhouses that have been for sale for years. Sometimes a city slicker will buy a fixer-upper only to put it up for sale after their first winter of drafty floorboards and creaky steps.
Wallace Realty is a storefront on Main Street. I pull around the back of the building and see Tiffi’s car, a little silver Focus. I bet she anticipated a call-in from me since she drove me home in my car last night. She’s such a good friend. We’ve been friends since our moms were in the same Lamaze class together. I’ll have to make it up to her for having to walk home last night.
As I walk up to the back door I can already see that Tiff has salted the step. I thought this was supposed to be spring? I thought that groundhog didn’t see his shadow. It’s been six weeks; where’s spring!?
“Hello? Tiffi, why is the step salted?” I called and walked through the narrow hallway to the front room where our desks were side by side facing the front door.
“Hey, Kat. I thought you weren’t coming this morning,” she said and gave me a once over. “Didn’t you see the weather? We’re supposed to have ten inches this afternoon when a Nor’easter blows in; about four more tonight. I thought for sure you’d be in bed today. How’s your head?” Tiffi said. She was taking off her snow boots and putting on her brown loafers that she kept here during the winter. She wore them everyday. Today she was wearing dark brown cargo pants and an oversized blue sweater. Typical. Apparently she already salted the front stoop, too.
“Actually, my head feels ok. I think I’m high on freedom. That and I downed a tumbler of coffee with two aspirin,” I sat at my desk and started up the computer. I saw that my voicemail light was blinking. Only a new customer would leave a message after hours.
“I wonder how Parker is taking it this morning,” she asked, feigning a pout.
“At the moment, I don’t really care. He didn’t even try to stop me from leaving or ask why I was breaking up with him. He just said, ‘Okay’, so I left. I think I would have taken it better if he would have fought for me a little. Maybe it was just better this way. No drama, just completely severed, like ripping off a band-aid.”
“Ha! That’s a good one,” she threw her fuzzy blond hair back. Then she thought for a moment. “Maybe he was just in shock.”
“Well, maybe. I didn’t really lead into it. I just blurted out, ‘I think we should break up,’ and he said ‘Okay.’ So I left. I’m going to have to find a new vet now. I don’t think I can look at him for a while. It would be too awkward.”
“I know what you mean,” she said. “Unfortunately I think there’s only one vet in our little ’burg.”
Just then we heard a retching cough from the back door. Mr. Strogal was the owner of Wallace Realty, on the verge of retirement. Tiffi and I were saving up to buy the business from him and become partners. We already ran the place in every way but one- we didn’t sign the paychecks.
“Good morning, ladies.”
“’Morning,” we said simultaneously.
“Anything new? What’s on for today?” He coughed again; forty plus years of cigar smoking were taking their toll on him this morning. He quit about 3 years ago when his first great-grandbaby was born. He said he wanted to make a good impression, but we think he actually wanted to see the little guy grow up a bit.
Tiffi inhaled as if she wanted to spill my recent events, but I threw a crumpled post-it at her and she said, “Oh- Nothing new. Might get some nasty weather later, though.”
“Yes, I saw that. I have a meeting with my attorney at eleven and I will be taking the rest off the day after that. Is there anything you girls need before I take off?”
“No, but don’t forget the closing on the Bridges’ property at the attorney’s office in an hour,” I said.
He nodded and went to his back office and shut the door. He always asked us if we needed anything, but we always said no and then reminded him of his appointments. This was our understood daily routine. I didn’t know about the eleven o’clock appointment, though.
We went about our typical morning. I checked my voice mail and was surprised to have someone from the city looking for a fixer-upper in the country and he left his number for me to call and schedule an appointment for today. The number was local, not a cell.
“Hey, Tiff, I got a slicker wanting a fixer-upper and he’s already in town. He wants to look at a few today. Do you think the weather will hold?”
“Where’s he staying?”
“He didn’t say. Here’s the number, though. It looks familiar. Do you know it?” I gave her the post-it. That’s one of the perks of living in a small town. If you know almost everybody, you know enough numbers to at least narrow down where a person is staying. There were two motels close to the state route at the edge of town that catered mostly to truckers. But the number wasn’t either of those.
She thought for a moment. “Hmm. I know I’ve seen this before.”
She stared at her desk a moment and tapped an unpainted nail. Then she tapped the emergency sticker on her phone with her pen and smiled. It was number for the fire department.
“Hmm. This should be interesting,” I said and picked up the phone.
* * *
My appointment with a fireman by the name of Thomas D. Booker was at 1:30 and I was to pick him up at the firehouse. I had a four-wheel drive and it was starting to snow and all he had was a motorcycle. That sounds really sexy, but not very practical.
I did a few more small office chores and got online to pay some of my personal bills when I saw a huge mistake from one of my processed checks. Instead of the payment of two hundred and forty six dollars and sixty two cents it said two thousand and forty six dollars and sixty two cents for my gas bill. I went to my account on the gas company’s web site and saw that my account was up to date with no overcharge and a recent payment of the amount the check was written for. So where did the rest of the eighteen hundred dollars go? I called the bank and talked to Christy. She had been a year behind me in school and was practically a genius. It’s no wonder that she almost ran the bank here in town, but it got to her head a little. She always talked to me like I was a first grader. But it couldn’t be helped. I wanted answers.
“I’m so sorry, Kat, but I can’t do anything over the phone. You might want to go back several months to make sure this hasn’t happened before with any other companies. You’ll want to come in and pick up copies of your processed checks. I’ll send the information of your case on to the general manager. I’m sure this is just a misunderstanding.”
“Thanks, Christy. Can they be ready this afternoon after lunchtime?”
“Sure thing. I’m printing them as we speak.”
“See you then. Thanks.”
We hung up and I stewed for a few minutes. Stupid bank. Stupid gas company. Gas costs so much as it was, but they didn’t need to charge me nearly nine times that amount. This must be some kind of mistake. I wonder if there was a way to find out if the gas company received only the amount I wrote the check for or if they were lying about it. I can’t think about this right now. I’m sure it’s just a typo and Christy will figure it out.
With Parker out of the picture and no new prospects I thought about making a list of my goals for the next year and five years. I’m a list person. I hate to say it, I mean it’s not very feminist, but I do want to get married and have kids. I pulled out my planner and opened it to the last pages labeled ‘Notes’. I started my list:
1. Get new boyfriend / fall in love.
That was as far as I got for Year One. It’s going to be hard enough to find a man in this town I was attracted to who wasn’t taken and was good husband and father material. I mean, I either knew them already or I was related to them. Maybe I should skip Year One and make that my Year Two goal. Besides I wanted to be single for a while, too, right? Not sure if that was what I really wanted I realized it was noon and time for my break. Maybe I should just live in the now for the moment.
I walked briskly home to get the dogs for a walk. The wind was starting to get a little nasty, blowing the already falling snow, but the boys needed exercise or they would be insane with cabin fever when I got home later. Dogs must have a sixth sense because they were watching for me before I came up the walk. The anticipation sometimes gets to be too much for Dingy. I hurried in, grabbed the leashes hanging on the doorknob, and just got them snapped on as they burst outside. Dingy didn’t make it off the sidewalk. Lovely. Now what? I can’t hose it off or I’d have my own personal skating rink. I decided to leave it and take care of it later.
We usually walk to the park on lunch breaks so I can eat my lunch by this huge old burr oak tree by the creek while they lay at my feet taking in the scenery. Sometimes Tiffi joins me. Because the erosion was exposing the roots someone thought it was a good idea a number of years ago to pour concrete around it. It was a little unsightly, but it made for a few nice little cubbies to sit in.
I hope Parker is feeling as free as I am. I did love the guy, but he was just so… high maintenance. I hope we can be friends, as cliché as that sounds. He really is a good guy. I admire him for his convictions. He didn’t pick the easiest way to live, after all. I mean it’s pretty hard to get organic food in our small town. There’s just not enough business for it, especially when most people grow their own vegetables. In a way I am going to miss him. His soft brown eyes and easy smile always made me melt, and let’s face it; he was great in the sack. But lately it had gotten a little boring. He was unwilling to try anything new. We always had sex in my bed or his bed. Not too long ago I tried to join him in the shower and he said, “What are you doing? I’m trying to take a shower. I’m gonna be late for work.” When I tried to convince him with little kisses he actually pushed at me and said, “I’m serious.” That’s what got me started in the line of thinking that maybe we weren’t meant to be together.
Nomad started gagging and hacking and I saw a crumpled envelope fall on the ground.
“Ew, Nomad! No. We do not eat paper. Yuck,” I said sternly. He at least had the sense to look ashamed. Dingy, stimulated by the sound of my voice, started hopping around and anticipating the walk back. “No, Dingy. Lie down.”
I bent down to remove the envelope from Nomad’s reach. It was a blank security enveloped that seemed like it had been opened many times to read the contents. I gave in to my curiosity and opened it. It was a hand written love letter that looked a little worse for wear, but I couldn’t tell if the damage was old or from Nomad’s saliva. The words were a little difficult to read in the creases, like it had been opened and re-folded a million times.
I am writing this letter to give myself closure. I can’t seem to let go or move on, but I think this will help. I need to tell you how sorry I am. I should never have left you alone after our fight. It was my fault. You shouldn’t have had to pay for my mistake. You were right and I was wrong, but I know I can’t take it back now. We’re not together now because of my stubbornness. I loved you so much. I miss listening to you sing in the shower. I miss your cold feet when you come to bed. I miss your smell, your laugh, and I even miss tripping on your shoes when I come home from work. I miss just holding you. I want to die every time I think of that night.
I see you everywhere. Sometimes when I’m driving I think I see you on the sidewalk, or when I go past the deli I see you inside. But you’re never really there. I always wonder if you are thinking of me when I see you in those familiar places. I went to see you last month but I couldn’t think of anything to say so I left without saying anything. Did you see me? I have to do something, make a change, or I think I’ll go crazy. Everything reminds me of you.
Thank you for loving me, even that short amount of time. I would do anything to have a little more. I will always cherish the times we had together, but I am moving on now.
Wow. It sounded a little melodramatic but pretty intense nonetheless. What had Danny done to Beth that she left him forever? It didn’t seem like he cheated on her. What was that fight about? And why won’t she take him back? He’s obviously very sorry. What kind of heartless bitch throws away a perfectly good apology letter? Get over it, Danny Boy. She didn’t deserve you anyway.
The thick snowflake landing on my nose broke my reverie and I looked at my watch. Yikes! It was time to head back. I stuffed the letter into my purse and grabbed the dogs.
“Let’s go boys. It’s time to book it home,” and we took off.
* * *
The bank’s general manager assured me that this was some kind of typo and credited my account with the missing eighteen hundred dollars. Christy still encouraged me to go through my statements for the past year and handed me a bank envelope with a stack of copied checks. As if I don’t’ already do that on a regular basis.
“Again, Kat, I am so sorry about this,” she said, closing her eyes sympathetically. Her makeup looked nice with her eyes open, but when she closed her eyes you could see the blue stripe at the crease of each eyelid. She had a bright orange-red lipstick and her fuzzy bottle-blonde hair made her look clownish. “I hope this is just a one time thing, but you should still go through those checks and make sure you didn’t write them incorrectly.”
“Right. I will.” Right, like I have such a habit of writing checks for thousands of dollars that I must have done it my accident. I turned a started walking out of her office. The realty office was just across the street.
I looked down at my watched and realized it was 1:15. I turned the corner past the tellers to leave and slammed right into some man going just as fast as me.
My purse flipped upside down and completely dumped and the man dropped his envelope.
“Watch it!” He barked, grabbed his envelope and left.
I bent down and started gathering my things. I’m not good at using my wallet or the built in pockets so there was change, chap stick, my drivers license, credit cards, coupons, planner, pens, gum, wrappers, dog treats, and band-aids…
“Here, let me help you.” I heard a voice say. It was soft and deep and oddly familiar. I looked at the man crouched beside me, but I couldn’t see his face. He had dark brown hair and looked like he had a large build under his leather jacket. That could be almost anybody in our town. We had a lot of large corn-fed boys here. I noticed the broad hands and fingers scooping the loose change into a pile and watched him struggle with the dimes on the flat tile floor while I got everything else.
“Here let me get those. Thanks,” I said and leaned down to pry them up with my fingernails. He dumped the rest of the change into my purse and picked up a stray credit card. I thought I heard a small “hmph” before he looked up and handed it to me. He had blue-gray eyes and the longest lashes I’d ever seen. Why do guys get the pretty lashes? I would kill for those lashes. I didn’t recognize him. We stood up at the same time just staring.
“Well, um, thanks.” Was that my voice? It was much too squeaky.
“No problem. Later.” He walked out the door while I stood there for a second.
Snap out of it, Kat. You have work to do.
I walked out and ran across the street to the realty office. I didn’t want to be late for my appointment with the fireman.