Friends! Thank you for ... reading? supporting? encouraging? All of the above! This novel has gone nowhere yet, but finishing a book is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Below is an excerpt from chapter 4. I wrote every chapter number you asked for on a separate piece of paper. For those of you who asked for all of it, I wrote a random number of my choosing ;) Then I had my mother-in-law randomly choose a piece of paper. Keep in mind:
- This is part of the chapter, not the whole thing.
- This is part of the working draft, which, like your cable television bill, is always subject to change without notice.
- The title is also in the works, so no reveal for that yet.
- Feel free to guess plot points and to share what you like/don't like (really!).
- Don't mind the formatting. A writer I am; a web format manipulator/expert I am not.
- This is a work of fiction, which means any resemblance to real-life is coincidental. Fiction is an amalgamation of a writer's real-world experience and his/her imagination.
“I can’t believe this! How are you?” His untamed animation seemed to go unnoticed in the bustling terminal of still-stuck travelers.
“I’m well, Adam, how are you?” The words pushed out of me like forced wind out of a tunnel.
“I’m fine, fine. What are you … what, where… I mean,” he laughed and reached in for another hug. “I just can’t believe that after all this time, I see you when we’re stranded in an airport,” he said, his voice dipping lower as he held his hug an extra moment before pulling back. “I thought I might see you back at the house, but I wasn’t even sure about that. Jake said you’re not home to Hart’s Landing all that often.” He touched my arm.
I shook my head. “This is my first time in three years,” I said.
“Well lucky me then.” He smiled without reservation. It tugged at a place in my heart I didn’t recognize. “Are you going to be home for a while, or just for the holidays?” he asked.
The man standing before me looked only half like the photos I’d seen on his social media over the last five years. He must never have posted a full photo of himself, because his pushed-up sleeves revealed two fully-tattooed arms that I could not wrap my head around. I peeled my eyes away from figuring out what the designs were so I could look at the rest of him. In high school, Adam wasn’t known for his high fashion sense. Comfort over cool, that was his motto. Clearly, a decade had reframed his view, as he now stood before me in an incredibly sleek black-shirt-dark-jeans combo with dress shoes to boot. Who was this boy? This man, whose eyes and smile and hug I recognized, but the list stopped there?
“I’ll be home for a while,” I said. I gave a cursory explanation of the trip and my parents’ pending move to Harbor Cove before returning the question.
He scratched the back of his head before answering. “I will be home for a while, actually. I have some work to do up there for about six months.”
After basically resuscitating my heart, I asked, “Family work or career-job work?”
Adam smiled. “Well, it’ll probably end up being both. But I meant career work. My organization works with some churches in the area, and since Hart’s Landing is my hometown, the pastor made it my turf. I’ll go back and forth between here and there, but mostly I’ll be here.” He shifted gears. “I assume you’re on the flight that’s been indefinitely delayed?”
I smiled and confirmed. A nearby traveler would forever be my hero as he stopped directly in front of Adam and looked confused enough to prompt Adam to offer help. I stood to the side and tried to file what felt like fourteen-hundred thoughts flying through my conscious. The same head-on Adam of my youth stood before me, while I bobbled between his lit-up smile and being incredibly too interested in the cranky toddler behind him. I blindly grabbed inside my bag for my phone, wanting nothing more than to do a Girl-9-1-1 text to Natalie. It would’ve gone better had I realized that my phone was upside down, which explained why the screen stayed blank no matter how many times I hit the bottom center of the phone. Adam gently reached over and turned it right-side-up for me. I looked up briefly, enough for our eyes to meet and my breath to catch.
“I guess that would help,” I said with my eyes back on my phone as my fingers flew around the keyboard. I looked back up after sending the text. Looking in his eyes felt dangerous, like a too-close call with a match you didn’t mean to light. He seemed unafraid, though, breaking eye contact only for the USO guy and one errant sneeze. Some things never change.
“Well, it looks like we have some time,” Adam said. “Would you like to go get a late dinner? My treat.”
That stowaway option to Los Angeles was looking better by the minute. I looked back over to the little corner of the airport I had made my home for the last six hours. Every face was worn and irritated. The marquee still scrolled Delayed until further notice, and Mr. Cologne and the screaming toddler had it over all of the gates within earshot and smelling distance. There were worse things I could do with my time than have drinks with a former soulmate.
Weaving through the throng of people was as much fun as it sounds. I had taken Abbey out of her travel bag and even though she was on a short leash, getting a fourteen-pound pup through a thick forest of people was less than fun. Every child wanted to pet her, all the other dogs wanted to sniff her, and all she wanted to do, Little Miss Obedient that she was, was to get to wherever I was taking her. The food vendors had stayed open and with the thousands of stranded travelers the terminal felt akin to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Too many elbows brushed, even with Adam acting as our blocker as he led us to the in-house pub. Somehow, we were seated within minutes and had our drinks – me, a glass of white wine and Adam an ice water and a decaf coffee – in short order.
Adam was taking care of something on his phone as we sat down. I took the opportunity to catch my breath and stare at him without his intent eyes staring back. If I created a present-day Adam based on his social media, I could assume he had a great relationship with Jack and Wendy and an equally distant one with his mom. He didn’t seem to have a girlfriend, and his spiritual life seemed to be alive and well, judging by the number of times “God” and “Jesus” appeared in some form in his online status. His work was a mystery, as was when he discovered a sense of fashion. And a sense of faith. And two full sleeves of tattoos.
What’s the rule in this kind of situation? Pick up where you left off? Apologize? Start in the here-and-now and fill in the decade-long gap as you go? Stick with pleasantries and small talk? We hadn’t said much to each other so far but I was pretty sure that was more on me than him.
I was thankful that I had a myriad of characters walking by our table to make it believable that I was people-watching and not actually doing meditative breathing exercises. I was sweating bullets under my scarf and sweater while trying to appear the calm, cool, and collected woman Adam had once known.
I wondered what he assumed about my life based on my social media. Hardly ever did I post something personal, and when I did it was usually Jake and me, or Abbey, or sometimes my whole family, parents and all, but we were so rarely together. My brother put my name on plenty of memes, those funny photos with clever sayings on them, but even from that you couldn’t tell much about me. Maybe that I was a child of the 90s, loved chocolate, donuts, and books, and have a good sense of humor.
“That’ll be fine. Thanks, Finn.” Adam smiled at me as he wrapped up his phone conversation. “Okay, sounds good. I’ll text you when I get there so you guys know I’m safe. Give Hattie a hug and kiss for me.”
Somehow, hearing him say another woman’s name made my airways close up a little. He ended the call and put his phone in his back pocket, and suddenly I had his undivided attention.
“Figure out what you want yet?”
Oh, right, food. “Not yet, too busy people-watching.” I opened my menu. There was hope for a more balanced concentration when I looked through the choices, all of which seemed especially appetizing after a lonely day and an overpriced salad. I settled on one of their specialty burgers for me and their arroz con pollo – rice with chicken – for Abbey. It was an all-culture pub; dishes were listed in Spanish, German, and French.
“Okay,” Adam said. “Tell me … everything.”
He took a loud deep breath. “Our last conversation was not our finest hour.” His smile was half apologetic, half nostalgic. “And now all I know about you is the limited photos and theatre stuff you post online.” He took a sip of water.
I nodded. “I once heard social media explained in this way: ‘What you post on your profile is like what you would post on your front lawn.’”
“Hm. Okay. Well then your front lawn would be littered with theatre promotions and the occasional brother-sister photo, and I think Jake mostly posts those,” he said. It was a warm observation that answered at least one of my questions. Still, my brain felt blocked from moving forward naturally.
WWND, I thought. What would Natalie do? She hadn’t texted me back yet. Wasn’t there some kind of sixth sense best friends had with these kinds of situations? I tried to think of what she would tell me: to breathe, order water instead of wine, and take it one step at a time. She might also note Adam’s tattoos. It would only be out of protection, always out of an instinct to keep me safe. And to be fair, she had seen me make my fair share of mistakes with men covered in tattoos.
“Yes, my theatre is my life most days, especially when we’re gearing up for a show,” I told him.
“I saw last fall’s show was ‘The 6th Grade Alton County Spelling Bee’,” he said. “I thought that was pretty cool. I actually thought about flying out for it.”
“I did. My church works with a few churches around your area, so I thought I could roll it into a business trip, but I couldn’t find an excuse to make the trek,” he said with a small laugh. “I looked for one, trust me, but at the time they were all set.”
“Well it was a lot of fun,” I said. “It was chosen by our season ticket holders, actually. Our founders wanted a patron-chosen show. They’re very democratic leaders. It was hard to cast just right, but once we got it, everything came together and it was actually pretty magical.”
“Yeah?” His warm eyes encouraged me forward.
This time I let my smile expand. “It was. The cast worked well together, the show was a huge hit among our regulars and it drew in a whole new audience, since it was a little more family-oriented than our other shows. Not that our other shows are R-rated, but you know, they’re not about a sixth grade. We got more interest from local schools than we usually do, and Betty and Leah were beyond pleased.”
We continued talking about the Addison until our meals came. We could see our gate from our seats; nobody had moved and the scrolling marquee declaring our flight’s current fate was either stuck on a technical error or really hadn’t been changed. Abbey’s food, on the other hand, had come almost immediately, and our waitress was much more interested in serving her than she was in serving us. I’m sure it had something to do with the extra affection Abbey showed once the pollo arrived.