Starting a New Business

Remember when I used to post Friday Snippets here? I used to enjoy reading what other writers were writing. Unfortunately, the meme faded out of use. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still post a snippet here.

This is the opening scene in From the Ashes of Courage (my newly released novel, which you can download free for only 2 more days), where we meet Gail and Ann and their new venture.

Gail Bishop eased open the door and basked in the newness as it washed over her. She had visited the suite only once before, when she and Ann had set it up last week, every last piece of furniture in place. Very little in the room, in fact, they had bought new. New paint, and the air still smelled of it. New, colorful posters lined the walls. A new telephone, new stapler, new office supplies. But the desks, file cabinets, office partitions they had purchased on the used market—complete with scratches in the paint and nicks on the corners—from among the many poor businesses that had been going under. The computers they had gotten off eBay and craigslist. Even in the diagnostic meeting room, set off with a closed door for privacy, their nasometer, the children’s picture books they used there, and the other specialized diagnostic equipment, almost all of it they managed to find pre-owned.

But it all felt new to Gail. And that’s what she had told Ann, but Ann didn’t seem to understand.

She had started a business only once before, and at the time it excited and sickened her. Excited her, because she had known she was accomplishing something that mattered, because she would make a happy difference for untold hundreds of children. Sickened her, because she had known she could fail.

That was then, this was now. This time the newness almost felt familiar, comfortable. But despite the fact that her future did not hold the uncertainty, it still excited her beyond mere words. Because even though she knew where to look, there was still the seeking. And in the seeking, there lived her passion.

When she had told Ann this, the sweet, sensitive blonde replied with a vacant smile, that “I know what you’re saying is a profound revelation to you, but I just don’t get it” expression. Gail appreciated her fortune in landing her as a business partner. That was new, too: Gail had never had a business partner before. Ann’s unmitigated kindness and infinite patience made her an excellent SLP, though a novice businesswoman. But Gail had confidence that she would soon get it.

“You going in? Or you just gonna stand there and admire the place?”

Gail recognized Ann’s voice from behind her. She turned and beamed at her new business partner.

“You look happy,” Ann said, smiling back politely.

She and Gail stood opposite each other like black and white, literally as well as figuratively. Gail’s curly, raven hair was always poufing out in the wrong direction; Ann’s straight, blonde hair seemed to trickle like water over her shoulders. Gail stayed inside out of the sun, because otherwise her ghost-like skin would fry up like a strip of bacon; but Ann always looked tanned. Gail looked out from behind brown eyes, and her eyebrows, though well-defined, were too straight and flat, almost like a man’s; meanwhile, Ann’s blue eyes stuck out, the most dazzling feature on her flawless face, because of the arch of her pale brows. Gail always watched calories, because they always turned her thighs into lamb shanks; Ann’s super-model figure never wavered, no matter how much or what she ate. Gail had barreled her way through school through single-mindedness and hard work, and as a result she rarely dated; in school, Ann had always had a thing going with some guy or other, and she almost never studied. And after Ann graduated with honors and passed her certification on the first try, she married a simple but genuinely attractive man, worked for a couple years, then had kids and dropped out of the workforce. Now she was looking to get started again. Gail couldn’t even imagine living a life like that.

Despite their differences, the two women had become fast friends from the moment they met in a graduate course on voice disorders. Gail didn’t understand why or how it had happened. They had said “Hello” one day, began chatting, started spending time together. And no matter how much distance came between them, physical or emotional, they remained fast friends.

So when Gail’s business in Worcester started to bore her, and she began looking for a change, she turned operations over to Clarice, her friend and manager there, and she moved back East, to team up with Ann in a new venture.

“I love this!” Gail gushed. “It’s like— Like you’re finally free.”

Ann nodded politely.

“Like nothing can hold you back. You know what I mean?”

“I know,” Ann said. “You said that before.” She was smiling, half with joy, Gail was sure, but half from how silly Gail must have seemed to her. Gail knew, because she had been there before.

Ann continued. “You looked lonely for a long time, every time I saw you. It’s good to see you this way again, like the person I remember from back in college. It’s the first time you’ve seemed happy since you moved back. You should go out more,” Ann said. “Go out and meet new people—”

Gail interrupted. “I don’t think we’ll have time for much going out, Ann. There’s too much work to do.”

Ann sighed. “Yeah, I get that. But just one night, after work. I mean, we’re not going to be working all the time, are we?”

“Pretty much,” Gail said, “at first.”

“You can’t spare time for just one date? Come on. Bob has a friend who’d love to meet you.”

Suddenly, it struck Gail what was going on. A blind date. She shook her head. “Ann,” she said. “I don’t go on blind dates. You know I don’t go on blind dates. I’ve never gone on blind dates.”

You never go on any dates,” Ann said. “And I know you. You can make time to take a night off.”

“I don’t need a guy in my life right now,” Gail said.

“This isn’t about a relationship. It’s about having fun once in a while, so you don’t implode.”

“Well, I don’t need any fun, either.”

“He’s a nice guy.”

“Not interested,” Gail sang, walking toward her desk.

Ann followed. “His name’s Eddie. He’s good-looking, easy-going, fun to be with, and he won’t try any funny stuff, I guarantee it.”

“How do you know?” Gail asked, facing her friend across the desk.

“Well,” Ann reconsidered, “not unless you want him to.”

“This is ridiculous!” Gail was reaching the end of her patience. She sat and turned her attention to some papers on the desk. She didn’t care which papers, as long as they served as a distraction from Ann’s hassling.

“Okay, so he likes to date,” Ann said, “a lot. But he’s a gentle guy, and he won’t take advantage of you. Not unless you want to, anyhow.”

Gail leered at her.

“Sweetie,” Ann said, “you have to loosen up a little!”

Gail returned to her fake paperwork.

Ann sat on the edge of Gail’s guest chair. “I’m going to keep badgering you,” she said, grinning, “until you give in. So you might as well agree right now and save us both a lot of annoyance.”

“Why do you do this to me?” Gail said. “You did it in college—”

“I never did it while you were married,” Ann corrected her.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Gail said. “And you’ve done it every time I’ve visited since then.”

“It’s in my nature, and you’re my friend, and I’m tired of seeing you lonely all the time.”

“You want me to have sex with a stranger.”

“I just want you to meet someone, who’s fun to be with. And he is. Have a good time. The rest is up to you.”

Gail said nothing.

“I promise,” Ann added.

Still silence.

“Please?” Ann put on a pouty expression.

Gail took a deep breath and sighed it out. “Okay. Just one date. But then will you leave me alone and let me work?”

“Yes!” Ann beamed from ear to ear.

“But,” Gail added, “I won’t promise to have fun.”

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