A Friday Snippet on Saturday

My day job, as they say, is that of an independent software contractor and consultant. This work supplements any cash I earn writing. (And it’s a lot of cash. I earn much more per hour as a software consultant than may even be possible as a writer. But that’s another blog post.) Because I’m self-employed, I pretty much get to set my own hours, and I pretty much get to decide what I’m going to work on. And that means, I can allocate time to write… sort of.

You see, one of the best things about having paying clients is that I can always pay the bills. Paying clients are one of the easiest and surest ways to make quick cash. However, one of the worst things about having paying clients, is that I have to choose between earning a living and writing. And right now, with tax season coming up, earning a living is top on my priority list.

What little time I’ve had each day to write, I’ve spent it writing The Conscience of Abe’s Turn. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough, and I’m behind on posting new chapters. I wanted to begin posting the next episode yesterday. I didn’t, even though it’s a most special episode, an episode that begins to tie together loose threads left hanging from previous episodes, and an episode that delves into the character of Ted Jackson. He has a secret that not even his wife knows.

There’s other stuff happening, too, of course. And in honor of romance (February being the month of Valentine’s Day), here’s a steamy, Valentine’s Day snippet from this chapter.


UPDATE: I’ve edited the snippet below to reflect what actually got posted at AbesTurn.com. (The original post was a “draft zero” sneak peek.)

Mira had agreed to meet in a cozy coffee shop on the corner of Main and Commons, and she had promised herself she wouldn’t get her hopes up, because the last time she did that, she ended up hurt. She drove in from the city to meet him for just a casual lunch at the Commons CafĂ©. The atmosphere smelled of coffee, and in the background, Mira heard the clanking of glassware. The shop’s several rooms were arrayed around a central counter. Small tables dotted the floor plan, and comfy couches and chairs lined its boundaries.

Black purse in hand, she crept timidly toward the counter, scanning the faces of the patrons. It didn’t look like Ike had arrived yet. But it had been months since she had seen him, months which seemed like years, and she wasn’t sure she would recognize him. Her heart was beating faster than normal, and she had trouble breathing. She felt as if she were in a dream, as if everything were not quite real. She studied the menu, neatly printed in colored chalk on a large, slate blackboard overhead. It described a selection of coffees, baked goods, and sandwiches. She finally decided on a coffee and a ham-and-cheese bagel sandwich.

“Hello, Mira,” said a sweet, soft, masculine voice just behind her.

Mira swung around and gazed up at the smooth face of the man she had been waiting for. His sandy hair had grown out a little, and he had parted it neatly to one side. His presence smelled like mild aftershave, and his dark eyes looked like chocolate. He wore a thick sweater of blue and beige and burgundy and green, and Mira wanted to squeeze it to see how soft it was, or rather, how soft he felt in it. And if it were anyone else, she probably would have. But right here, right now, she wasn’t sure of herself. Mira didn’t know whether a hug would be friendly or whether it would betray feelings she had promised herself she would not feel.

So instead she said, “Aren’t you cold out without a coat?”

He grinned. “I don’t know. Aren’t you hot dressed as the Michelin Man?”

Mira suddenly noticed the bulging, blue winter coat she was wearing, and she felt her face flush hot red.

Ike said, “Can I hang up your coat for you?”

She unzipped it and slid it off, revealing a tight-fitting salmon sweater over a white blouse. She felt sheepish under Ike’s radiant gaze.

He took the garment. “Get whatever you like. It’s on me.”

They brought their food to a table and sat and ate. They eased into conversation. Had she ever eaten here before? No, she hadn’t, but she was enjoying herself. Was he still working? Yes, and things were going well for him. But the roofing business was slow over the cold winter months, and he had arranged to take a vacation day. Because once spring hit, with its melting snow, driving rain, and abundant roofing emergencies, there would be far too much work and not enough manpower, and he would not be able to get time off. How was work for Mira? Fine, but she couldn’t talk about details, because of counselor-client confidentiality. How was the Committee? Slow. They were working toward a ballot question for the 2008 November election, but that work would not begin in earnest until April. The big part of that was to form a separate committee just for the ballot question. They called this the Committee to Replace Sam Baedes, which just happened to be run by and consist of the same people behind the Committee for a Fairer Future. Yeah, politics makes no sense sometimes. This process had actually begun some months ago.

Then Mira asked the question she had been dying to ask, but had no interest in asking, because she was too ashamed to ask. “How’s your girlfriend?”

“Sophie?” Ike said. “She’s fine.” Then he added, “And she’s not my girlfriend anymore.”

“Oh,” said Mira. “I’m sorry to hear that.” She held her breath for a moment, involuntarily.

“Don’t be. It was good while it lasted.”

“What happened?”

“Well… I guess she just wasn’t the right one.” Then he asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”

“Not really,” she replied.

Not really? That was a deceptive way to put it. The truthful answer was an unequivocal No! She had been depressed about men in general, and she was beginning to wonder whether she should try lesbianism. If she had been one of her own clients, she would have told herself that you can’t “try” being gay. Life doesn’t work that way, because sexual experimentation can’t resolve deep-seated emotional issues. She would have advised herself to focus on the things in life that make her happy. And she would have worked with herself to adjust her image of romance to be more in line with reality, so that she could steer herself in a more positive direction. All this she would do if she were one of her own clients. Unfortunately, there’s no one more neurotic than a psych major. Doctor, heal thyself.

After lunch, Ike walked Mira to her car, which she had parked in one of the metered spaces on Main Street. Mira felt self-conscious about her unassuming, puffy coat, which left everything to the imagination. She told herself it didn’t matter, but for some reason, she cared nonetheless that she look attractive. So she put her arms through the jacket’s sleeves, but left the front unzipped. The air outside was nippy, but calm, and a strong, clear afternoon sun warmed everything it touched. Ike remarked how good the weather turned out, and how romantic the sun was. In response, Mira relayed a joke she had heard about a blonde who wanted to visit the sun. (You can’t visit the sun, because you’d burn up, to which the blonde replied, “Duh, not if you go at night!”) Ike laughed a polite laugh.

“Sorry,” she said. “I guess it wasn’t that funny.”

Ike smiled warmly. “Are you kidding? That’s a great joke. I have to remember that one.”

Mira reached her car and stopped walking, and without thinking about it, with her left hand she brushed her hair behind her ear on one side. “Uh, this is me,” she said, pointing to a bright red Nissan hatchback.

“Nice,” Ike said, peering through the passenger-side window. “When did you get this?”

“A couple months ago.”

“Well, it fits you.”

“Thanks,” Mira said.

Ike turned back to her and stared into her eyes. “Hey,” he said, with a sweet, tender voice. “It was really good to see you again.”

“You too,” she replied.

“I missed you.”

Mira hesitated. Then she squeaked, “Me too.”

She regretted those words as soon as she uttered them, but she couldn’t remember why. She felt as though she were in a dream, as though things were happening to her inside her mind and she couldn’t control them. It was as if part of mind had shut down, the part that directs one’s conscious thoughts, and her subconscious had taken over.

Ike took a step forward and ran his fingers through her hair where she had brushed it back. Cradling her head gently in his hand he brought his lips to hers. Carefully, tenderly, their lips touched. Mira felt a slight suction, and she closed her eyes and responded in kind. With his other hand, he reached inside her jacket, behind her, under her sweater, and caressed the small of her back with the tips of his fingers. With delicate motions, his tongue stroked the inside of her lips. His breath smelled of coffee, and his mouth tasted of sugar. For a moment, Mira’s whole body felt on fire, not with pain, but with the pleasure of satiated longing. Her nipples felt tender, her body, enraptured, her being, at peace. She groaned softly. Then, as seamlessly as it had started, it was over.

Mira breathed out a deep, heavy breath. She stared at the sidewalk. A sudden fear and guilt embraced her, deep in her gut, but she couldn’t remember why that would happen.

“This is wrong,” she said.

Ike was mute. She looked back at him. He looked dumbfounded.

“I’m sorry.” She shook her head. “I have to go.”

She ran around to the driver’s side of the car, rifling through her purse. By the time she reached the door, she had come up with her keys and opened the door. Ike might have been asking something. She couldn’t hear him. She just got in the car, started it, and drove off.

Other Friday Snippets

The way Friday Snippets works is that fiction authors can leave a link to their own snippet on others’ blog posts that are part of the meme. Many of the participating writers are using one of Mister Linky’s Autolink Widgets to streamline this process. See “Friday Snippets” at Holly Lisle’s blog for more information.