So here is a clip from the novel I’ve been writing for over 3 years now. This is a piece of chapter 11. The furthest chapter I’ve gotten to writing so far. I edited it this piece a little bit from its original, but still needs some work. This is just to give everyone a glimpse into my novel 🙂 Enjoy and leave comments if you like it! Any criticism is welcome and appreciated too!
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There he was sitting at the back of the cafe drinking out of a wide chocolate brown mug. There was something different about him though. I noticed it immediately. The scruff on his chin and around his jaw was gone. He was clean shaven. His hair was still messy but it looked good. He still had on some ratty jeans but he had on a long sleeved grey collared shirt with buttons at the top that he had undone, and he was wearing a black scarf that hung loosely around his neck. He even had different shoes. Instead of those big ugly work boots he had on some black Chuck Taylor converse shoes. And beside his chair on the floor of course was that big back pack that he seemed to carry around with him everywhere. I noticed the big headphones hooked onto the outside of it. That was Simon alright.
I walked inside and slowly walked over to him. He was fun to watch from afar. There was this really relaxing jazz music playing in the background that seemed to set the mood perfectly. I watched his lips sip the coffee out of the mug while his other hand was placed on the table, his fingers tapping along with the music. It was like slow motion. I felt like I was in a movie. I was about to have a date with the handsome main character and enjoy every minute of it. The music started to pick up beat a little bit, and as it did my heart rate started climbing, with excitement. I was about five feet from him now and he turned and saw me. He put down his coffee mug and straightened in his chair. That smile of his appeared gracefully across his face and his eyes followed me to the seat across the table from him.
“Hey.” I said, practically blushing. I had to try hard not to embarrass myself tonight. This date had to be good. No…it had to be great.
“I’m glad you were able to come.”
“I’m glad too. I wasn’t ready to go home quite yet.” I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I hoped he didn’t notice.
“Did you want something to drink? It’s my treat.” He pushed the drinks menu over to me.
“Sure.” I looked through it not really caring much for anything. I decided to get what I usually got when I was there.
“I’ll have a cafe mocha. Extra whip.”
“No problem. I’ll go get it for you.” I watched him as he headed to the front counter. I don’t think it was possible for me not to be in a good mood around him. I had to remember to ask him a lot of questions. I wanted to know more about him.
The way he presented himself that night seemed to change everything. Now I knew that he cleaned up well. He had a great sense of style. He looked like a vintage rock star who did some modeling on the side. I never met a guy who could pull off a messy and classy look at the same time. Alright Natalie, that’s enough. He started walking back over with my drink in hand.
“Here you go.”
“So how was work today?” The conversation began.
“Oh it was alright. It was pretty slow. How come you didn’t come by today?”
“Oh, well I missed the earlier bus, the one I usually take. I had to take the late one and I didn’t get here until five. So I figured I’d just give you a call and see if you wanted to come hang out.”
“Oh okay. Well it was perfect timing. This is probably the best time to be here too. They play the best music in the evening.” I said taking a sip of my especially frothy drink.
“You’re right. I love jazz. It just seems to take you off into another world full of peace and relaxation. It’s like being in a dream.” He said while still tapping his fingers to the beat.
“Yeah it is isn’t it? This is the kind of music my uncle Ralph plays all the time. We go and visit him and Aunt Sylvia every year and he’d always have it on. It kind of grew on me.” The warmth from the coffee mug felt good on my cold hands. But not as good as the warmth that was radiating out of Simon’s eyes when he looked at me.
“I should take you to a jazz concert sometime.” He grinned before taking another sip of his drink.
“I’d love that.” I smiled. He was already practically asking me on another date.
“So what are you drinking?”
“Oh it’s called cafe borgia.” This is actually my first time trying it. I usually try everything on the menu at least once.”
“That’s good. It’s always good to be open-minded and try new things.” Alright we had enough of the small talk. I wanted to dig deeper. “So what else do you like to do besides read at my library and make wine?” I asked casually, before delving into the more personal stuff. He gave me an amused grin.
“Well, as you know I love music. I also play now and then.”
“Really? What do you play?”
“Oh just guitar; nothing fancy. I just teach myself how to play different songs.”
“That’s awesome. Do you write any songs yourself?”
“Well…sort of…they aren’t any good though,” he looked down at his drink. “What do you like to do for fun?” He looked back up at me smiling.
“Oh, well…hmmm. I actually don’t have many hobbies. I’m not a very interesting person.” Sure I could have told him that I paint now and then, and I used to sing. But I didn’t want to hear about me. I wanted to know more about him.
“C’mon everyone has something they’re passionate about. Don’t be shy.” He looked genuinely interested in what I had to say. I decided I could tell him something.
“Well, I’ve always secretly wanted to be an actress. But I don’t tell many people that. It’s more of a dream than anything. I don’t think I’d ever have the guts to go to acting school or anything like that.” I took a stir straw and swirled it around in my drink, watching the whipped cream blend with the coffee.
“Acting? That sounds exciting. Why don’t you go to acting school? I think you have more courage than you think.” A smile formed on his face.
“Courage? No no. I’m not the brave type at all. I usually just sit back and watch everyone else fulfill their life goals.” I giggled in embarrassment.
“Oh c’mon. I’m sure that’s not true. You were brave enough to ask me out for coffee. Not a lot of girls do that.” His smile was flirtatious. I tried to refrain from blushing, since I clearly seemed to love to do that around him.
“I guess your right. I’m not really sure where I got the guts to do that. I’ve actually never asked a guy out before in my life.” He grinned at me and then laughed quietly.
“What’s funny?” I asked.
“Oh nothing. I just haven’t been on a date in a really long time. I apologize in advance if I’m horrible at it.” He confessed. Well, at least now I knew that I wasn’t his first. But at least it wasn’t something he did often. I didn’t want to be just another girl on his list.
“Well that makes the two of us. I’m we are at a cozy cafe and not somewhere too fancy. I’m not really into dressing up.” I laughed.
“Same with me. I don’t really have any nice clothes. I like to be comfortable.” He said tugging at the cuff of his shirt. I nodded in agreement.
“So what would you normally do if you were going on a date with someone? What’s a typical date for Simon?” I gave him that curious expression. He shifted positions in his chair. He got quiet and he looked like he was debating on whether or not to tell me.
“I actually don’t really have anything specific in mind. I’m not sure. I’m really rusty when it comes to dating.” He was tapping his fingers restlessly on his coffee mug. I must have made him feel awkward. I seemed to be really good at doing that.
“You don’t have to answer that. It was a dumb question.” I said shaking my head.
“No it wasn’t dumb. I’m sorry. The last time I went out with a girl was when I was in grade 12 and the relationship lasted about a month. We broke up because she said I didn’t open up enough. This is probably the first time I’ve even been interested in anyone since high school. And to be honest, if you didn’t ask me to go for coffee and give me your number, I don’t even know if I would have asked you myself.” He was blushing now but his eyes were on mine and not staring off at something else. So I knew he was being honest, even though he was embarrassed about it.
“Hey, I totally get it. I’m not one to judge, so don’t worry. I’m just surprised I guess. I mean, that first day in the library when we met you automatically had me interested in you. And doesn’t happen easily to me.” I kept my eyes on him as I spoke. I felt like we were heading in the right direction. He was opening up a little more. He was making eye contact. Simon Bristol had me hooked. He was scruffy and really awkward at times, but he had me hooked and I couldn’t tell you how or why.
“Believe me, I get less attention from girls than a toothpick. But that’s probably because I don’t give them any attention either. I’m really antisocial. This is way out of the ordinary for me. So I’m surprised that you’re still here.” He laughed at himself. But his smile was genuine and I think that maybe I was helping him come out of his shell. Maybe that Simon that everyone could very easily love was shining through again.
“I think you’re actually better at this than you give yourself credit for. I definitely want to get to know you better. And I’d love to do this again sometime.” I hoped my smile and my words were convincing enough. He was quiet for a second, just looking at me.
“I wouldn’t mind getting together again.” And that smile was back. Now that I knew there would most likely be another date I could be patient about trying to find out more about his personal life. There would be more chances.
We were both quiet for a couple minutes sipping our coffee and listening to the soft sounds of saxophone and piano. I watched Simon fidget with the sugar packets on the table. He furrowed his eyebrows. He was contemplating telling me something. Then he brushed back his hair with his hand and looked at me.
“Natalie…I want you to know that when you saw me on New Year’s; that’s not me. I wish you never had to see that side of me.” Stress seemed to be pouring out of his eyes. What was he struggling with? I could sense that Simon had some dark secrets that seemed to be tormenting him.
“I don’t understand. You were just enjoying some drinks for New Year’s, why are you beating yourself up about it?” I was trying to understand. He had some explaining to do, but I wasn’t sure if I should pry too much in case I upset him.
“No. It’s more complicated than that. I mean, for some people it’s easy to just go out and have a few drinks with some friends. But I can’t do that. Alcohol latches on to me like a demon. I become somebody else. Luckily the night you saw me I was only just getting there. I was still partially in my right mind. If you had seen me later that night you probably wouldn’t have even recognized me.” This time he wasn’t looking at me when he spoke. And it wasn’t because he was lying or hiding something. He was ashamed of himself. I could see the pain he was enduring just by watching his body tense up as he talked about it. I really just wanted to take his hand and comfort him.
“I’m sorry…I didn’t realize. I wish I could help.” I was at a loss for words. By now it was evident that I was horrible at consoling people. I couldn’t even seem to help my own sister. Even though deep down I was in agony by seeing her in pain. I still couldn’t seem to be there for her the way she needed me. With Simon, I knew ever since I met him that there was something mysterious about him. I was only starting to understand it now. I felt like I was permanently involved in his life now. I wanted to be there for him. But I needed some serious training on how to do that.
“I didn’t mean to dull things down. I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know.” He was looking back up at me now. His face was calmer.
“Don’t be sorry. You can feel free to talk to me about anything, anytime. Really.” I said as sincerely as possible. He nodded in appreciation.
“I actually should get going. My bus is going to be here soon. I’ll wait with you for your ride.” He said as he started to put his jacket on. Uh oh, how was I getting home? Home was not where I wanted to be. But I guess I had no choice.
“I don’t really have a ride. I’ll call a cab.” I refused to call my mom for a ride. I didn’t mind paying the ten dollar cab fare.
“I’ll pay for it. It’s the least I could do, since I don’t have a car to take you home myself.” He smiled.
“No problem.” And then we walked to the front door. He took out his phone and called a cab. I wanted to keep talking. We both stood outside the cafe waiting in the crisp cold. I bundled up inside my coat.
“Thanks for hanging out tonight.” Simon said smiling.
“No problem. Thank you for the coffee.” I smiled back.
“Hey I should give you my number too. It’s only fair.”
“Yeah you’re right. One second.” I pulled my phone out.
“Great. Thanks again. I had a good time.”
“No, thank you. I’m sure I’ll see you at the library very soon.” And before you know it the cab arrived. Right before I hopped in the car we turned toward each other. Our faces were close, but I knew it was too soon for a kiss. And I could sense he felt the same way.
“Goodbye Natalie.” He looked hesitant but had a pleased grin on his face.
“Goodbye Simon.” And without thinking I wrapped my arms around his neck. I couldn’t help it. The urge was there and I went for it. There was that unfamiliar courage kicking in again. After half a second of awkwardness he put his arms around me too; and I heard him laugh nervously in my ear. And before my cheeks started turning red again I jumped into the cab. That was my first date in a really long time. It was definitely a memorable one. Not in a fairy tale or romantic way but just in the sense that this guy really seemed worth the time and worth getting to know. It didn’t have to be fancy or have high expectations. It was just real.
The drive home was quiet and I was happy, content; Simon’s smile didn’t leave my mind. But then the cab came to a stop. I was home. It would be like jumping off of cloud nine into an uneasy atmosphere of solitude and frustration. I sighed and headed to my front door where loneliness and unhappiness awaited.
I headed inside. The house was pretty quiet, as usual. I heard some noise upstairs so I wandered up to check it out.
“Mom?” I peered into the bathroom and saw my mom powdering her nose. She was wearing a long black fitting dress. I hadn‘t seen her wear that dress since one of her and dad‘s wedding anniversaries years ago.
“Hey honey.” She said while putting on red lipstick.
“Why are you so dressed up?” I asked with a slightly intruding tone of voice.
“I’m just going to a banquet.” The way she was talking was like it was completely normal for her to dress up. This was frustrating me.
“A banquet? For what?”
“Oh a friend invited me. It’s a work thing.” She continued fiddling with make up in front of the mirror. She sprayed some expensive looking perfume on her neck and fluffed up her hair. I was getting more confused and frustrated by the minute. She never does this.
“Mom, I don’t understand. You’ve been going out a lot lately. All these random banquets or work gigs or whatever. It’s really confusing. Danika and I never see you anymore, and when we do you’re either sleeping or getting ready to go somewhere.” I kept my tone as calm as possible, though I felt anger building up slowly.
“I’ve just been busy lately. I’m sorry I’m not around much. The three of us could go shopping maybe this weekend?” So she was trying to make an effort hang out with us, now that I had to bring it up myself. Too bad she couldn’t have figured it out on her own.
“Well whatever. You still don’t make sense to me. How late will you be out tonight?”
“I’m not sure how late it will go. If I‘m not home before you go to bed I’ll see you tomorrow. And we’ll make plans for the weekend alright?” She never looked at me once while she spoke. She kept fiddling with her hair and makeup. It was driving me crazy.
“Oh by the way mom, it would be nice if Bridgett didn’t have to keep driving me home from work. Whatever happened to you picking me up? I know you are home from work before me. I know that you are perfectly capable of doing it.” I couldn’t hold my frustrations back anymore.
“I’m sorry Nat. You’re right. I’ve just been so tired after work these days. I’ve been taking long naps. I’ll pick you up the rest of the week.” I watched as she put on a fancy necklace that I’ve never see before and two silver bracelets. Mom never owned very much jewelry so I was trying to figure out where they came from.
“Okay, fine. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.” I said sourly. And then I headed to my bedroom. When I got there Danika was there trying on my clothes. There were clothes and hangers all over my bed.
“Danika? What are you doing? It’s a mess in here!”
“Sorry, I’ll clean it up. I just need something nice to wear. You never wear any of these old clubbing clothes anymore anyway.” She had out all the clothes that I used to wear out all the time when my friends and I went to parties or clubs; halter tops, tube tops, fancier shirts that were slightly revealing.
“Where are you going that you would need clothes like that?” I said pointing to the shirt that she just put on. Yes, my little sister had breasts, and there they were for the world to see. The shirt definitely didn’t look that revealing on me, but that’s because I would always wear a tank top underneath it.
“You’re not going to actually wear that are you?”
“Yeah, why not? I look good don’t I? I’m going to a party. Matthew Stevens is going to be there.” She was twirling around in front of the mirror looking at herself in every angle.
“You’re going to a party? Since when do you go to parties?”
“I’ve always gone to parties. What are you talking about?”
“Okay, like birthday parties and Tessie’s house for girl’s night. Not like get drunk, meet guys and dance to club music type parties.” I had my hands on my hips, acting like her mother. But I couldn’t help it. This was so out of the ordinary for Danika.
“Yeah well I got invited to go to this one tonight and I want to go. That reminds me, can I have a ride?”
“What? No I can’t. Mom’s taking the car. She’s going out to some banquet tonight.”
“Shoot. I’ll just walk. It’s only a couple blocks away.”
“Danika, are you going to be drinking? Does mom know you are going out?” Now I was really pushing it with the mom thing, but I had to be nosy. Especially with my little sister going to a party with alcohol and boys. Of course I was going to worry about her.
“Nat, don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine. Mom wouldn’t care anyways.” And just then we heard the door shut upstairs.
“See, she’s gone now anyways. I’m gonna head out. I’ll be home later.” She looked older than me with the extra makeup, hair all done up and the outfit she had on. What was with her?
“Fine, whatever. I’m not gonna tell you what to do. See you later.” I flopped down onto my bed as she headed out.
I heard the door close and I was alone. This life didn’t make sense anymore. I had been avoiding admitting the fact that I miss my family and I am deeply affected by everything that’s happened. But the truth was that I really was hurting inside. I’ve never felt so alone.
As I laid there I felt my emotions start to creep up inside me. I could feel a big lump forming in my throat and the sobbing pains trying to ooze out. My head felt hot and my hands were sweaty. Was this anxiety? Was it some kind of emotional melt down? I just knew I didn’t feel right. I sat up straight and lowered my head down to my knees and started taking deep breaths. It felt like there wasn’t enough oxygen in the room. The sobs hadn’t come out yet but silent tears were pouring down my face. How could I be crying after such a great night with Simon?
Simon…there was only one thing I could think of. I grabbed my purse off the end of the bed and rummaged around for my cell phone. When I felt it in my hands I was frozen with relief. It was like I was choking and somebody just put air back into my lungs. I went through my contact list until I got to Simon. Would I sound desperate if I called him? I was just with him not more than an hour ago. I wasn’t about to let that stop me now though. He would be the only thing that could cheer me up right now. After about a minute of hesitation I hit the call button. My nerves began to calm as it rang. I was going to hear Simon’s voice any second now and everything would be better.
“Hello?” There it was. I let out a sigh of relief.
“Hey Simon, it’s Natalie.”
“Oh, hey Natalie. What’s up?” He sounded kind of surprised. Then I got nervous. What should I tell him? Would it be completely inappropriate to tell him the disaster that is my life? He wouldn’t want to hear about all that.
“Natalie? You there?”
“Oh hey. Yeah, I’m here. Sorry.”
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“Oh, I’m fine. I just…I just wanted to call you. I’m sorry. I guess I just wanted to talk.” I stammered. I felt so stupid. Just the sound of his voice seemed to make me feel better. But I still didn’t know what to say.
“Oh okay. Well is there anything in particular you want to talk about? I’ll listen.” He said with sincerity in his voice. I automatically felt at ease.
“Well…things are a little messed up with my family right now. I guess it’s getting to me tonight.” I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes while I spoke.
“Go ahead and tell me about it if you want. Vent if you have to. It might help.” His voice was kind and soft. I didn’t hesitate this time.
“Okay. It’s just that…my dad left us recently. It’s taken a huge toll on my mom, my sister and I. Things around here have gotten pretty bad. It’s like living in a pit of despair…” I started telling him everything. I filled him in on how awful the last month had been. I told him about how my mom was like a zombie, but now she has this annoying glow about her and was getting dressed up and going out all the time. I told him about Danika’s depression and now she was starting to go to parties. I told him how lonely I felt. I did all the talking. He just listened quietly. It was like venting in a journal, but saying it out loud instead of writing it. Everything that I was feeling I was able to tell him.
“Wow. I’m sorry I went on and on like that. I didn’t realize how much I had to say.” I apologized after not hearing his voice in quite a while.
“Don’t worry about it. Do you feel a bit better now?” He asked.
“Yes. I really do feel better! I had no idea talking it out like that would help. I’ve been holding everything in for so long.” I looked at the time. A whole hour had gone by. He listened to me vent for and hour and didn’t complain or say he had to go.
“It’s definitely healthy to get it out. Holding things in like that can cause you more stress than you realize. I’ll always be here to listen if you need me to.” He reassured me.
“Thank Simon. You have no idea what that means to me. Thank you for listening. I don’t know what it was, but I felt the biggest urge to call you. You have this really comforting effect on me, it’s so strange.” I laughed.
“I didn’t mind at all. I’m really glad we met.” This time when he said that, he didn’t seem to get shy or try and change the subject. There was just content silence on the other end of the line. No coughing or clearing his throat. He wasn’t embarrassed. It made me smile.
“I’m glad we met too. Will I see you at the library soon?”
“I hope so. I should definitely be in this week so I-” All of a sudden he stopped talking mid-sentence and I heard some noise in the background.”
“I gotta go Natalie. My dad’s home. I should go.” He sounded flustered.
“Oh okay,” I said, “Is something wrong?” His voice sounded worried.
“No, I uh-I just gotta get going.” He stammered and I heard rustling noises.
“Okay…I’ll talk to you later then.”
“Sorry. I’ll see ya.” And then he hung up. I shut my phone in confusion. I wondered what got him so worked up all of a sudden.
I shook my head and sat up in my bed. I decided to go find something to eat and then go to bed. I was tempted to wait up for Danika to get home, but if she came home drunk I wouldn’t know what to do. It would be too much for me to handle. It would just bring me back to that dark place I was in before I called Simon.
It was official. Simon was my fix. When I was feeling lonely and depressed Simon was my pick me up. It was the beginning of a crazy addiction which I hoped wouldn’t get out of control. He calmed my nerves and made me feel normal again. I wondered how long it would be before I needed my fix again.