Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Story-Time Tuesday - Writing Fiction

Jenny Matlock
If you missed where this story started just click here to read it or simply click on the Story-Time Tuesday link at the top of my blog to take you to previous chapters.

Writing Fiction - Chapter 19

Here's where Chapter 18 left you.

His voice interrupted me, softly. He sounded almost gentle for a moment, “Lady, listen, I get it. Listen. Ummm… let’s have coffee and talk this over, okay?”

I started babbling, “It’s kind of late in the morning for me to have coffee…sometimes when I drink more than a cup or two I get all jumpy and…”

“Alright, okay. Breathe,” he said, “I’ll drink regular, you can drink decaf…”

“Well, you know decaf doesn’t mean no-caf, it means…”

He sighed.

I shut up.

He sighed again, “Yes or no? You can drink water, I don’t care. I just wanted to tell you about Spot? If it’s too much, though, we can discuss this another time over the phone. Or we can just forget the whole thing.”

“Water it is.” Then he named a coffee place I’d seen quite a few times on a busy downtown street. I’d never been there. My husband had always been outraged at the price of fancy coffee, so we’d never gone. Not even once.

I started thinking about everything that had happened with Edgar/Spot in such a short time. I was really curious how this guy was going to justify his horrible behavior. You’d almost think he was…

I had no time to ponder possibilities, though. We were meeting for coffee (and water) in less than two hours and I still had to try and find something I could sausage myself into beforehand.

And now, Chapter 19 begins...

A long time ago, a friend smugly informed me I had ‘unrealistic expectations about life’. Okay, perhaps I should rephrase that and say an EX-friend told me that. As I tried on and discarded all the clothes that hadn’t fit me a few days ago, I wondered if she might have been right.

I’m not sure why I thought the events of a few dozen hours would make me magically skinnier, but I did.

Sadly, I was relegated to putting on the sweat pants with the slimming stripes down the side.

I tried to apply natural looking make-up that would make me appear NOT angry, NOT emotional and NOT irrational. I looked at myself from all angles and was fairly well satisfied that I looked calm, in control, and like a responsible, respectable dog owner.

Since I didn’t want to late for my date…I mean…ummm… meeting, I quickly finished getting ready and headed downstairs.

“Okay, Pearl. Be calm,” I told myself.

Keys? Check.

Hair combed? Make-up on? Check. Check.

Coat? Check.

Shoes? Acccckkk! I ran back up upstairs to change out of my slippers.

Feeling reasonably confident that I was appropriately attired, I headed out to my car. For a brief moment, I thought the car wouldn’t start. Then I realized it was only because I hadn’t turned the key all the way.

“Pearl! Focus! Get a grip! You’re acting like a moron!”

I took a few deep breaths before starting the car and heading for the downtown coffee shop. The street was crazy busy and I had to circle the block several times, trying to find a parking place that didn’t require the torture of parallel parking. The minutes kept ticking by and finally, in desperation, I found a double spot! It required only basic maneuvering to park the car and, just to ensure I didn’t get a ticket, I dropped change into both meters.

Before I turned the corner by the coffee shop, I took a moment to compose myself. “Deep breath, Pearl. You can do this!”

I walked confidently through the wooden and glass front door into a sunny room with several round tables, no customers and a perky-looking girl standing behind a long counter. “Can I help you?” she chirped at me. “I’m waiting for someone,” I replied and took a seat on one of the wooden chairs by a table close to the window.

I waited.

I looked at the list of coffee drinks. Wow! They sounded delicious!

I waited.

I read the menu board behind the long counter, unsure what half of it even meant.

A lady came in and ordered something in a foreign language. It sounded like “halfa-decaffa-soy-mocha-latta”. I was impressed.

I waited.

Another lady came in. The chirpy girl said, “The usual?” and after a few seconds of some strange hissing sounds, she handed over a styro-foam cup brimming with foamy milk. It smelled delicious even after Miss Chirpy put an adult sippy cup top on it.

I waited.

I finally decided to get a drink so I walked up to Miss Chirpy, whose name tag said her name was really “Walden”. Walden? Do you think that’s a last name or a first name? My good manners kicked in and I didn’t ask, but I must have appeared to be totally lost looking at the coffee ‘menu’ because Walden took pity on me almost immediately.

“What can I getcha, sweetie?” Sweetie? I looked around, but no one else was there so I realized she was talking to me. I hemmed. I hawed. I looked confused.

She said, “Well, what are you in the mood for?”

I hemmed and hawed some more.

“Walden,” I said in a hesitant voice, “I’m going to be honest here. I don’t know what any of this fancy stuff is. I guess I just want a cup of decaf. With cream.”

I think Walden took my confession as a personal crusade to convert me to the fancy stuff, because she started asking me all kinds of questions. “Do you like minty? Chocolately? Creamy? Sweet?”

“Yes,” I replied, and before I knew it she was slinging glass bottles around, making machines hiss and foam and then she handed me this over-sized white mug covered in white froth and decorated with little dots and squiggles of creamy brown.

I looked at her. I raised my eyebrows. “Double peppermint mocha latte with extra foam,” she explained and then, without even pointing a gun at me, she told me the price!

I sputtered and said, “I just wanted to buy a coffee, not the whole store,” and she had laughed gaily and retorted, “Oh, sweetie, you are a funny one!”

I took my double something-something back to my table by the window.

And waited.

But this time while I waited I was transported to someplace wonderful. What was this heavenly concoction Walden had gifted me with? I was enchanted to think that coffee could taste so amazing. I thought I would go on a coffee diet. Coffee didn’t have any calories, right? I could just drink these delicious things all day long and soon my jeans would fit again. My bank account would be depleted but…

My train of thought was interrupted by the little bell jingling over the door. Certain it was HIM, I pretended to be busy sipping coffee and scrutinizing my napkin and spoon. I reviewed all the things I wanted to say, but after a few long seconds went by, no one came to my table.

I peeked up to see two men, neither of them the dog snatcher, ordering coffee. They were chatting away to Walden and holding hands. With each other. At the coffee shop. In public.

I felt embarrassed, so I looked away. The shop was small, though, so their animated conversation bounced around the space. I realized I didn’t know what they were talking about. It was just like the lady who’d ordered coffee earlier. They were speaking in a foreign language. I looked out the window pretending not to listen, but I couldn’t help myself. They talked about ‘hot spots’ and ‘blackberries’ and lots of other things that made me realize they weren’t conversing about Florida and fruit.

I felt old.

When had all this happened? When had coffee developed into an art form? When had men decided to hold hands with each other? When had people started naming their daughters Walden? What had happened to blackberries?

My face felt hot. I felt strange. Out of place. I looked down at my tennis shoes and the stripes on the sides of my sweat pants. I looked at people walking down the street dressed kind of the same, but the differences seemed blinding to me. Their shoes were different. Their pants were different.

I looked at my reflection in the window of the coffee shop. My hair was wrong. It was fussy and frizzy and out-of-date!

I was out of date!

While I’d been raising my family and being a wife, the world had passed me by!

I listened to the background music playing in the coffee shop. I didn’t know who was singing. Was it even singing? It was a woman kind of talking, set to some simple music without much of a beat. When my kids were still at home, I’d kept up with music, but that was a long time ago. I had no idea what ‘music’ was playing in this warm little shop that sold trendy coffee at exorbitant prices.

The now familiar feeling of rage washed over me. My husband had abandoned me to a world I didn’t know, couldn’t find my way through. The safety of my marriage, and a relationship that had created a haven in an ever changing world, had been ripped away from me. How had this happened? How had I morphed into one of those women I used to feel sorry for…you know the ones? Wearing last year’s clothes to the PTA meetings? Looking frumpy and tired at holiday parties? Or maybe I hadn’t morphed. Maybe I had always been that woman…I just hadn’t realized it because I was protected by the security of a relationship built around ‘in sickness and health, until… until… dea…dea… ‘He past his sell-by date’ do we part.”

My coffee no longer tasted good, so I had pushed it away and watched the foam slosh down the side of the mug.

Keeping my head down, I stumbled to the door. Walden chirped out, “Come again soon, sweetie!” I just kept going, without a backward glance.

I was done with coffee shops, done with dogs, done with Mr. Grumpy.

I did all but run toward my car. I was headed home to spend the rest of my life on my couch. I was going to buy some boards to nail my doors and windows shut. I was going to disconnect my phone lines and…

As I was hustling around the corner toward my car, I stopped short. There was the silver SUV. Parked at the curb. The driver’s side was toward me. As I started to pass it, I looked up and saw him sitting there. With his head down.

While I’d been waiting and waiting in the coffee shop, he’d been sitting in his car…probably laughing at the idea of standing me up. He’d been sitting in his warm, cozy, cocoon of a car. And that made me so angry.

I stomped over to his car door and rapped loudly on the glass with my fist. He ignored me.

I hit the glass again, harder this time. And then he looked up.

I was shocked. His face was all scruffy, covered in salt and pepper whisker stubble. But that wasn’t what shocked me. It was his eyes. They were red-rimmed. He looked terrible. He looked like me on the mornings I felt brave enough to actually look in the mirror. Well, not the salt and pepper stubble part, but the rest of his face looked the same…all puffy and beaten and old. After our eyes met, he looked embarrassed. And then he looked away.

I tapped on the window again, a little more gently. He made a “go away” motion with his hand. I saw his other hand reach for the key to start the car and without thinking I quickly ran around to the passenger’s side and hopped in. I think it caught him by surprise. I think if he’d known that’s what I was going to do, he‘d have locked the door. I think if I had known that’s what I was going to do, I’d have taken a moment to think it through.

But he didn’t. And I didn’t.

I closed the door behind me and sat. Now that my butt was firmly planted on his gray leather seat, I wasn’t sure what to do.

To be continued, Tuesday, January 18th.

(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
This publication is the exclusive property of Jennifer R. Matlock and is protected
under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this post/story may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, Jennifer R. Matlock. All rights reserved.

post signature


Julie Kwiatkowski Schuler said...

ooooooh! I'm so excited!

Jocelyn said...

I'm excited too!!! Pearl is thrown into this world.....new can be scary...what will she do with all this new found information?

Who is this man...what is his story!!!

Thanks for sharing another Tuesday morning with us!!!! Made my day!!!

Wishing you a Fabulous Tuesday!!!

Ames said...

After being sick for a couple of weeks I didn't think I'd be able to catch up, I glad I did! Oh Jenny this story has grabbed hold of me. So magnetic! I am drawn to Pearl's character. I feel the same way she does. I haven't morphed either. And I and hoping this Mr Scruffy is feeling the same way too. I hope they get together. I hope he gives Pearl the dog. Do we have to wait until next Tuesday to know??~Ames

Susan Anderson said...

This is seriously like being tortured. I like to swallow my books in one gulp! But I'm having to sip this one like that double peppermint mocha latte with extra foam of Pearl's!!

You're doing a very painful job of teaching me self restraint...


Willoughby said...

Hmmmmm, I wonder what he's so upset about? I'm glad Pearl jumped in the passenger seat to find out.

I laughed out loud when I read the scenario in the coffee shop where Walden called Pearl "sweetie". It doesn't bother me at all, but my mom absolutely hates when someone (waitress, cashier, etc.) calls her sweetie, honey or any other term of endearment. If it happens while we're out together, she always rolls her eyes at me. She figures that at her age (she's 75) she's too old to be called anything other than m'am, I guess!

Anonymous said...

I am hanging here sweet Jenny, wanting so badly to hear what happens next. Poor Pearl finding herself in a new world. Can't wait until next Tuesday! Hugs

The Words Crafter said...

I've actually experienced this out of place feeling before. It's very disconcerting. And it makes you feel so alone and unnecessary.

I'm glad she didn't take the time to think...I can't wait for next Tuesday!

MrsJenB said...

This is fantastic! I just love your entire writing style, Jenny, and always have. So natural, so relatable.

Although I do have a bone to pick with you: Here I am, having given up Starbucks in 2011...and you bring up my favorite drink of all time in your story. Darn you. ;-)

Judie said...

Well, I can always count on you for a great distraction! I have read it twice now, hoping that the next chapter will miraculously appear!

Amy said...

Oooh, she has spunk! Even with feeling so out of place and alone, and full of grief she still has so mush spunk! I do declare, I quite like her. And now, I want to hear his sad story (the dog was his wife's and his wife recently passed away? That is why he is so attached and angry?), and see what Pearl is going to do. Ooooh, the possibilities, the adventures she could have. Can't wait to read more. And I didn't even cry this time.

H said...

Good for her! I like the way she is taking the initiative and I can't wait to hear his story.

Tina said...

That. Was awesome. As one of those people who frequent these coffee shops for hours on end to write or chat with friends, it totally made me laugh at Pearl's perspective of the whole enchilada. Kudos, Ms. Jenny, kudos. So glad I get the next part right away! (you know, being a week behind in real life and cyberspace and pretty much everywhere you look...has this one advantage!)

Lourie said...

Walden? hahaha. Heading to the next chapter!