Archive | November, 2012

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 10

30 Nov

To celebrate the last day in November, here’s the next chapter from my new book, Semester of Thursdays, set to be released in December!

New to the story?  Click HERE to start at the beginning!

* * *

CHAPTER 10

“I can’t explain in words how happy I am that you changed your mind about tonight,” Lena said, bubbling over with anticipation.

“Uh huh.”  Changed your mind really meant gave in to my incessant coercion.  If I were to keel over now all I would be remembered for is my proximity to Lena Whyte and general spinelessness.

Tonight Lena had decided to try a new bar making its debut on Main Street.  The Bobcat Lounge’s grand opening promised a huge crowd—which was apparently a good thing.  She had yet to convince me that more people meant more fun.  To me, the larger the audience meant the more eyes taking in my unconvincing performance of: Meredith Westbrook is Enjoying Herself.

Sure enough, when we pulled up to the bar there was a line of eager students wrapped around the corner two blocks down.  Sections of the line were bloated by the mass of bodies huddled together against the frigid night.

“Ugh,” Lena groaned from the seat beside me.

“Do you want to go somewhere else?” I suggested hopefully, eyeing the snow as it coated the miserable queue.

“No way!  I’m just anticipating how long it’s going to take to get drinks.”

“We could always come back next week—”

Three more people joined the row.

“But everyone will be here this week!” she whined.  “What if something major happens and we miss it?”

Heaven forbid something happen in Frostburg and us not be present; a grave injustice indeed.  We would never live through the regret.

“Fine.”

I parallel parked, reluctantly got out of the warm car, and prepared to wait in line as snow piled into drifts around us.  This had definitely been the wrong night to wear a dress.  The boots I wore did little to stem the cold seeping into my bones; my exposed knees began turning purple.  After twenty minutes of waiting—and one mild case of hypothermia—the doorman recognized Lena and waved for us to skip past the fifteen people ahead of us.

“Thanks, Hemmy,” Lena said in a sweet voice as we swept past the unfortunate grumblers.

When we entered the stuffy room my stomach dropped.  The entire crowd could have been categorized into three groups.

Group One: The little girls wearing microscopic outfits trying to score free drinks and a bed for the night.

Group Two: The men who were dumb enough to buy a round for the members of Group One.

Group Three: Us.

“Lena, you do realize we’re too old for this place, don’t you?”

She snorted. “No one is ever too old for opening night and ridiculously cheap beer.”

“How much do you want to bet that the majority of the girls here had to use fake ids to get in?”  I wouldn’t have been surprised if some of them hadn’t graduated from high school yet.

She took stock of the throng and grimaced. “True,” she confirmed in a shaky voice.

“Lena, what’s wrong?”  Her tanned skin had turned a shade of jaundiced yellow.

“This place looks like a scrap yard.”

It took me a moment to realize what she had meant by the cryptic comment.  Most of Frostburg was at The Bobcat Lounge so it made sense that there would be former “accidents” all around.  Every man close enough to notice Lena in the crowd leered toward her; some with looks of interest, others with lewd knowledge or past indiscretions.

“Do you want to leave?” I asked a little too brightly.  Home was sounding better as the seconds ticked on.

“Not yet,” she said, debating.  “Maybe soon though.  Stay close, will you?”

Where did she expect me to go?  If I left her now I wouldn’t be able to find her for the rest of the night amidst the too-crowded rooms.  Besides, I never left her; she was the one who had ditched me every Thursday thus far.

“I will.”  To demonstrate my loyalty I took a step closer to her.  “Anytime you want to go just tell me.”

Lena had never acted like this before.  Usually her previous exploits didn’t bother her enough to show outwardly.  What had changed?

She made a face; on anyone else it would have been unflattering but Lena still managed to remain stunning despite looking like she was going to vomit.

“Maybe we should go.”

I turned to agree, and she was already ten feet away, pulling her jacket from the pile of discarded garments that wouldn’t fit on the too-few hangers.  I had to run in order to catch up to her before she reached the door.

We didn’t speak after we got into the car.  If Lena wanted to talk about her wild over-reactions then I would listen.  Her continued silence proved that wasn’t the case.  She stared longingly out the window, oblivious to anything but the cotton fluff drifting to the ground.

It was a blessing that the weather was lightening up; if it continued to blizzard all night then I’d have a headache of cancellations in the morning.

“Where are we going?” she inquired, piercing the silence.

“Home?” Blessed home.

Why are we going home?”

“You said you wanted to leave…”  The rest of my sentence fell with the snowflakes.

“But I don’t want to go home!  When your boyfriend asks you what you did tonight you aren’t going to tell him that you got all gussied up just to go to bed.  We are going to go out and have fun!”

There was no point in explaining that my having fun at this point was impossible “I really don’t mind.”

If she would remember correctly she would recall that I had gotten “gussied up” to go out with my boyfriend.  The longer this night wore on the nicer the oblivion of sleep sounded.

“No way!”

“Fine.”  She wouldn’t let me rest anyway if we were to go back to the apartment.  “Where are we going, your highness?”

“Bowery Street?”

Bowery Street pub was empty except for a handful of regulars, one old man falling off his bar stool, and two gorgeous men in the far corner.  The square space was far too empty for me to hope Lena hadn’t seen them or that Alec’s sharp eye hadn’t spotted her.

“Well, would you look over there,” Lena said, her good humor returned.

“Where?”  Feigning ignorance was childish but she didn’t need to know how aware I was of the pair.

“In the corner.  It’s your best friend.”

“Lena, he’s not my friend,” I hissed through my teeth.  Remington was simply a mystery to the world—one I didn’t care to solve.

“All I’m saying is that you two sure do like being antisocial together.”

“Maybe if you didn’t constantly ditch me for Alec then we wouldn’t get stuck together.”

I was getting ditched a lot lately.  By my boyfriend, by my best friend, and by even the most remote of acquaintances.  What was going on?  Who had I wronged to deserve this treatment?

“No one makes you two converse,” she pointed out.  I laughed humorlessly; Remington and I didn’t really converse per se.  He sat in silence or made rude comments, I got annoyed, and eventually he walked away.  “I wonder…”

The inner workings of Lena’s mind were almost as much of a mystery as Remington.  “Wonder what, Lena?”

“If you didn’t have a boyfriend, do you think—”

I interrupted before she went further with her speculation.  “Moot point.”

She pouted for a second before smiling broadly at the topic of our discussion.

“He never smiles,” I mused aloud.  My face flushed as I remembered the last time I had made a similar statement.

“He’s broody,” she corrected.

I frowned at him from across the room; Remington wasn’t paying us the least bit of attention.  “It doesn’t matter.  He’s not much fun.”

“He doesn’t need to be when he looks like that.”

Alec ran to meet us, and Remington stayed right were he was, not even bothering to acknowledge our existence.

“Hey, ladies.  We figured you both would be out at the new place.”

“We were, but Lena wanted to come here so she could see you.”  She glared at me, and I grinned mischievously.

Alec’s smile broadened impossibly.  “I’m glad you did,” he said, directing his full attention to my best friend.

As the night wore on a few other groups trickled into the pub.  Some had gotten tired of the packed opening-night crowd but most had been refused admission to tonight’s hotspot.  Remington had stared at me as I had taken my seat next to him.  He had been crouched over his bottle of Bud Light like I was going to snatch it from him if he didn’t protect it.  Now he would take a drink, look at the wall, and then take another gulp.  I stared at the spot he was looking at but saw nothing interesting in the plaster—at first.  After an hour a flower appeared out of the abstraction like a magic eye puzzle; ten minutes later, a luna moth.

Two women came through the door, their hair crusted with snow.  It looked like someone had dumped flour on them.  The taller of the two girls leaned against the bar, her legs bare despite the frigid temperatures.  Of course I couldn’t judge her; I too was in extremely impractical attire.  The girl was doing her best to chat up a young man whom I recognized from the University’s baseball team.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the games people played; there was no mirth to the sound.

Remington looked sidelong at me.

“People who try to find the love of their lives in a bar make me laugh,” I explained, not caring if he responded or not.

“Why?”

“Because they honestly think they can meet someone in a bar.”  The last word came out more condescendingly than I had meant.  After all, Lena had met Alec in a bar.

“You can meet someone in a bar.”

“But there is very little hope the relationship will last.”

“I worked as a bartender to put myself through undergrad.  One of my coworkers met his wife through work.”

It took me a minute to recover from the shock of his forthright response; it had been the most personal information he had volunteered in the entirety of our acquaintance.

“That doesn’t count,” I contradicted.

His eyebrows came together in confusion.  “Why not?”

“Bartenders are traceable.  The same goes for people in the band and bouncers.  Now the creepers on the other side of the bar, they’re the ones you need to worry about.”

“You know, you’re not making a very good case for yourself.”

In my peripheral vision I could see the corner of his mouth lift into a half smile.

Wait.  Remington was smiling?  Again?

I turned to face him full-on.  He kept the crooked smile in place.  For the second time I admitted that it was a good thing he didn’t do it very often; it was distracting.  “Oh, I’m not on the market,” I explained.

He sobered quickly and turned back to his spot of plaster.  “That makes two of us.”

I couldn’t drag my eyes from his face.

“You are unbelievably sexy.”  The compliment sounded like an accusation.  Remington thought I was sexy?  Impossible.  The guy didn’t even like me, why would he say something like that?  His face registered no emotion as we judged one another.

There was only one explanation: he hadn’t said anything at all.  I must have imagined the bizarre sentence.

A boisterous yelp from the entrance caught my attention, pulling me unwillingly away from his eyes.  When three boys stumble into the bar my stomach sank.  My body’s involuntary reaction both frightened and confused me.  Why was I getting ill at the thought of seeing my boyfriend tonight when only hours ago I had been thrilled by the prospect?

Then it dawned on me: for some unknown reason I did not want Holden meeting Remington.

It was probably because Remington was rude, and I didn’t want to deal with Holden’s reaction to a snubbing.

When Holden saw Lena, he gave her a bear hug.  She smiled warmly, her animosity from earlier had either vanished or been expertly concealed.  Alec frowned at him, standing up straighter to make himself appear taller.  From over Holden’s shoulder, Lena’s eyes met mine; hers widened as she waited for my reaction.

I stood and took a few steps toward them, hoping to avoid a confrontation.

“Mary!”  Holden twisted, catching me by the corner table.

There was no one else around me so I couldn’t feign conversation with someone besides the model in the corner.  Then it struck me that I shouldn’t have had to explain myself.  I had been speaking to a mutual acquaintance, doing nothing wrong.  Just staring at plaster and talking—and there had not been much of the latter tonight.

“Hey, Mary, come here!”

I kept a tight smile in place but it faltered slightly.  Holden was drunk; he couldn’t imagine how much the nickname hurt.  It wasn’t a big deal when Lena said it; she wasn’t being malicious.  But when my boyfriend called  me “Mary” it felt like he was disappointed in my choices that had ultimately affected him.

“You don’t like when they call you that,” a husky voice said from behind me.

“It doesn’t matter,” I responded flippantly, embarrassed at being so easily read.

“Yes, it does.”

Holden moved closer to me but continued ignoring my neighbor.

“Mary, come play pool with me.  Joel and Grant want to play doubles, and I can’t think of anyone I’d like to be my partner more than you.”

“I really don’t feel like it.”  It felt like I was going to pass out or throw up.  Who had jacked up the thermostat?

“Why do you call her that?” Remington asked with quiet authority.

My boyfriend looked at Remington, judging him with unfriendly eyes.  “Because it’s her nickname.”

I held my breath, praying Remington would choose this moment to completely ignore Holden and allow the conversation to drop.  If he took this opportunity to make his customary hasty exit, I would be forever in his debt.

“She doesn’t like it.”

Of course he would finish this conversation.

Holden looked between me and the man behind me.  I knew exactly how Remington looked without having to peek back; he was staring a hole through my boyfriend’s forehead, unsmiling and intimidating.

“Really?  It fits her so well though,” Holden sneered meanly.

“Come on Holden, I’ll play pool with you,” I choked, grabbing his arm.  The pool table, my escape, suddenly seemed a light year away.

“Why?” Remington asked, his voice low enough that only Holden and I could hear.

I dragged my boyfriend away before he could answer.  His arm was tense as I tugged him toward the adjoining room.

“Because she’s a virgin,” Joel snickered loudly.  The entire bar went silent, waiting for my reaction.

But I couldn’t react.  I deflated as I made my way to the pool table and picked up the closest cue.  They weren’t lying so I couldn’t argue the point.  I just didn’t feel like that was a fact I wanted the entirety of Bowery Street Pub knowing.

Holden snickered with his friends, only stopping when he saw my pale face.  The man standing beside me was not the one I had fallen in love with five years earlier’ that person never would have reacted like this.

“I’m sorry, Mer.” He pulled me in for a hug.  I kept myself rigid in his arms, not ready to forgive him.  He tipped my chin toward his.  Before my numbed mind realized his intentions he pressed his lips to mine.

“Woah!  What are you doing?”  I felt like wiping off my mouth as I jerked away.

“Kissing you,” he said with a playful smile; there was an edge to the obstinate look.  Holden’s eyes were focused on a point above my head—or behind me.

“Okay, let’s try this again.  Why are you kissing me?”

“Mer…” he began.  I jumped back as he reached for me, keeping my hands as a barrier between us.  “I was kissing you because you’re my girlfriend.”

“You know how I feel about PDA.”  Right now I was relieved I had never been big on public make-out sessions.

“Yeah, the same way you feel about sex.  You don’t want any.”

My face went paler—if that was possible.
“Look, I just wanted to kiss you, okay?” Holden ground out, angry at the public rejection.  Personally, I would take rejection over humiliation any day.

“You weren’t compelled to earlier today.”  He had been too preoccupied with his controller and big screen TV.  “Why now?”

“I’m through with the interrogation tonight, Meredith.”

With that said, I escaped, making my way back to Lena.  Before I said a word she had her coat and purse in hand.  Alec nodded tightly, and I ignored the motion.  He was best friends with the rudest man I had ever met so he probably wouldn’t even notice the slight.

When I thought of Remington my eyes lifted involuntarily to capture one last glimpse of him.  At first he wasn’t looking at us, but his jaw was ticking angrily.  He didn’t register any emotion when our eyes connected but he rarely did so that was no surprise.  Lena touched my shoulder, bringing me back to the situation at hand.

My best friend and I had made our way to the door when my boyfriend shouted toward our backs.

“Hey!  Wait!”

We didn’t stop or slow down as Holden had commanded.  He mumbled something unintelligible to his friends as the door slowly closed behind us and we became enveloped in the numbing wind.

Numb was good.

After dropping Lena off at the apartment, I drove straight to Holden’s place with him still in the back seat.  What I should have done was leave him stranded along Highway 68… without his shoes.

“Who was that guy?”  His question marked the first time he had spoken to me since we had left the bar.

“Which one?” I asked unnecessarily.

“The one who made the comment about me calling you Mary.”

The nickname painted my vision red, rekindling my fury.  It was a struggle to see through the haze long enough to answer his question.

How did I explain Remington?

“That guy’s name is Remington.  He’s… one of Lena’s friends.”  That worked.  After all, it was her fault I had even met the frustrating man.

“Ohhh…”  Holden’s comment was full of vulgar speculation.

“No, not that way,” I clarified.  I wasn’t sure why my boyfriend’s assumption had bothered me—or why I felt compelled to explain further.  “He’s a friend of one of Lena’s ‘Oh’s.’”  The distinction mattered.

“Whatever you say,” he snickered.

“What does that mean?”  He wasn’t forgiven for the display at the bar and was teetering on thin ice.

“It means that it’s only a matter of time before he succumbs to her … charms.”

“Not everyone succumbs.”

Holden laughed loudly, vibrating the windows.

My face remained impassive as I focused on not intentionally wrapping his side of the vehicle around a light post.  Although, it was awfully slick out…

“I don’t like that guy,” he said suddenly, just as I pulled into the driveway of his former frat house.  The paint on the gingerbreading was beginning to peel, aging the wooden structure.  “Remington?  What a stupid name.  Is his dad the president of the NRA or something?”

“Why don’t you like him?”  Hundreds of obvious reasons popped into my head.

“I don’t like his condescending tone.”

“You barely spoke to him.”

“We don’t need a full conversation for me to see that he thinks he’s better than everyone else.”

“He just comes off that way.”

I agreed with Holden wholeheartedly so why was I defending the rude man?  It was probably because my boyfriend didn’t know Remington.  Not that I knew him either, but I had spoken to him more often.  Well, more than once, anyway.

That had to account for something, right?

 * * *

Remember to swing by next Friday for Chapter 11!

Traitor

27 Nov

In high school I was a yearbook photographer for 2.5 years.  Back in those days, we used 35MM cameras, black & white film, and dark rooms to capture, develop, and print our yearbook photos.  My senior year, Southern Garrett prepared to make the switch to digital photography.

At the time I was against the change.  My biggest grudge against digital cameras was that they eliminated the need for printed photographs.  The majority of my friends who owned digital cameras no longer printed their pictures for albums, they simply logged them away in forgotten files on hard drives and cd’s, which made for lousy sharing practices.

Reluctantly, I caved and purchased a digital camera (which has become my lifeblood), but promised myself that I would continue to have the quality photographs printed so that friends and family could enjoy them without a computer.

Today I must admit that I have become a traitor to traditional print mediums that have previously defined the written word and purchased a…. Kindle (DUM DA DUM!).

I have no clue if I will like this flat-screened doodad that poses as a book on steroids, but the convenience and cost-effectiveness has become worth the risk.

For those of you nay-sayers–whose ranks I have only just abandoned–here is my promise: when I purchase a book on my Kindle, and deem the story a worthy investment, I plan on continuing to support bookstores by purchasing the novel in print.

After all, my new home in Ireland has many bookshelves longing to be filled with something besides surplus copies of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall.

 

-Jenny

Do YOU own an e-reader?  If so, do you love/loathe it?  Do you refuse to buy an e-reader?  Why?

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 9

23 Nov

What’s the verdict?  Are you still food-drunk after the turkey and stuffing?  Were you up at the crack of dawn for some crazy deals?

Either way, here’s Chapter 9 from my second book, Semester of Thursdays.  Hopefully you’re not too busy with Black Friday sales to enjoy a few quiet minutes of mediocre prose.

Happy reading, writing, and shopping!

-Jenny

New to the story?  Click HERE to start from the beginning!

* * * 

I would forgive Remington for his impoliteness and penchant for walking out if I ever saw him again.  But that wasn’t likely, at least not for a while.  Holden was coming home and we had a romantic weekend planned.  Quality time with my boyfriend was just what I needed to get my mind off Remington.  It was irritating that my subconscious had allowed the obnoxious man’s smile to disturb me all week.

But now my boyfriend was going to be in Frostburg.  My entire world would be aligned after I saw him.  Being together was like re-charging my batteries, sharpening my focus.  With Holden around there would be no room for elusive smiles and conversations with rude, beautiful men.

Holden Brown had always been cute.  Back when he had first come to my high school I had thought him gorgeous, unattainable.  When I saw him now I felt happy, but it was a comfortable happiness, free of the electric shock of adolescent love.  The comfort wasn’t a bad thing; we were just at ease with one another and confident in our solid relationship status.

A number of people had asked me if the distance had been hard on our relationship.  In hindsight, I could honestly say it hadn’t.  It helped that I trusted Holden implicitly and had never considered other women a threat to us.  I actually liked it when other girls ogled him or gushed about how hot he was.  It allowed me see him through their fresh eyes; Holden felt out of reach again yet I knew he would be taking me home at the end of the night.  The rush of winning him over and over was exhilarating.

Sometimes the compulsion to channel someone else’s feelings worried me.  Was that the way it was supposed to be?  What more could we expect after so many years together?

“Hey, Mer.”  Holden’s familiar voice made me feel warm inside, like the gooey center of a truffle.

I ran to him without hesitation and pulled him in for a welcoming hug.  He was a foot taller than me, a football player back in the glory days at Mountain Ridge High School.

When I wrapped my arms around him I felt like a child holding onto an adult.  I released him momentarily so I could tug on his neck.  When we were face to face I gripped his cheeks and pulled his lips to mine.  The familiar pressure was reassuring, soothing.

“I’ve missed you so much.”  Missing him when he was away was normal but these past few weeks seemed infinitely worse.  There had been a solid void left by his absence.

“I can tell.”  He smiled.  “I’ve missed you too,” he added as an unnecessary afterthought.

“Tell me about your week?” I asked.  It had been unusually busy at the salon.  I had ended up staying late to cover for one of the girls whose grandfather had passed away.  As a result, our dialogue had been scripted, brief, and halted by exhaustion.

“What’s there to say?  Training is going well but I’ll be happy to see the end of it.  I can’t wait to get back to Cumberland and stop living out of a suitcase and sleeping in hotels.”

There was no sense in pushing for more information; those two sentences served as the extent of his communication about his job.  Holden hated spending what little time we had together talking about work, fixating on things that were “irrelevant” to our relationship.

“So what’s the plan for our weekend?”

Over the phone we had discussed a myriad of options: a weekend ski trip at the Wisp Resort or a road trip to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to visit his sister and her new husband.

“I don’t know.”

“Did you decide if you want to go to PA or go skiing?”

“Actually, I thought maybe we could just stay around Frostburg.”  He looked at me sideways, judging my reaction.  “I mean, after travelling all this way I kind of want to stay put.”

My face fell slightly.  I had been looking forward to getting away from the monotony.  Instead of voicing my disappointment, I focused on the fact that we were together; the setting was irrelevant.

“Okay.  Do you want to do something in town then?”  I offered, trying my best to be subjective.  As he had said, he had been traveling all day and was justifiably worn out.  When the adrenaline from our reunion wore off I would probably be just shy of incoherent from lack of sleep.

“Maybe,” he hedged.

“We don’t really do anything anymore,” I said quietly, trying not to sound whiney.  It would do no good for us to spend our brief time together arguing.

“What are you talking about?  When I came in for Christmas we went out to eat.”

“We went to wing night at Smiley’s.”

“You love wings.”

“We went with your friends,” I clarified, attempting to keep my voice even.  Wings were great but quality alone-time was even better.

“So?”

“So, what I meant was that we don’t really go on dates anymore, just the two of us.”

“Mer, we’ve gone past the whole “date” thing, haven’t we?”

My initial response caught in my throat.  Of all the things he could have said this was the last response I had expected.

“I don’t want to be past the whole date thing,” I said in a strained whisper.

My parents still went on dates for goodness sake.  If the passion and enthusiasm was going to die this early in our relationship then what was the point?

For the first time in my existence I could see the vague attraction of Lena’s way of life.  The exhilaration of never knowing who it was you were supposed to end up with, heart palpitations on a first date, nerves over whether or not he would kiss you.  Did you want him to?  Did he want to?  Even bad dates would be a sorely needed break from the repetitiveness of going nowhere and doing nothing.

“Are you still with me, Mer?”

“Yeah, sorry.”  This issue wasn’t worth a fight.  Holden wasn’t listening to what he had said or aware of the way it had sounded.

“If it bothers you that much maybe we could grab something to eat and see a movie.”

My mood brightened.  “Do you want to go to the new sushi place across from the mall?”

“That sounds great, honey.”

“Five o’clock?”  My mind was going a thousand thoughts per second.  What movies were coming out?  What would I wear?   Would Lena let me raid her closet?  Did I want to raid her closet?

“Sure thing.”

“I usually pick Lena up from class at four-thirty.  I should be able to swing by your place at a quarter till five.”

“Perfect.”

I dropped Holden where he was staying then rushed home to start the lengthy beautification process.

What I looked like typically didn’t matter to me; I had no one to impress.  If it weren’t for Lena, I would have gone out on Thursdays in yoga pants and various sweatshirts.  But tonight felt different.  I texted Lena for permission to enter the realm of her closet.  She agreed enthusiastically and suggested her new red dress for the occasion, even though there really was no “occasion.”

The deep v and bold color of the suggested garment were daunting, but I was alone so I dared myself to try on the expensive dress.  The material couldn’t stick to my non-existent curves as it would have on my more voluptuous friend, so the outfit had an entirely different effect on me.  I was thin but not in an athletic way; I had been blessed with skinny genes and a boyish figure.  Still, the dress didn’t look half bad.

“Oh, I love it!” Lena gushed from her doorway, startling me.  “It makes your boobs look fantastic.  And to think, before today I wasn’t sure they existed.”  She grabbed me beneath my armpits and pushed my chest toward my neck.

“Stop it!”  Her hands dropped to her sides.  “My boobs, Lena?  Come on!  You’re being outrageous.”

“I’m honest.”

“And I’m going to change.”  Boobs, indeed.  I was practically flat-chested.

“No, you’re not.  I love it.”

Of course she would love it; impractical was her middle name.  It didn’t matter if there was a foot of snow on the ground or that I needed to wade through drifts to get inside the restaurant.

“You should wear it with your black boots so your legs don’t freeze.”

“We are just going to the mall for food and then to a movie,” I explained.  We would be spending the better part of our date in the dark.  Revealing red dresses were for romantic getaways and staff Christmas parties, not The Country Club Mall.

“So, what?  You look stunning.  What are you going to do with your hair though?  It looks kind of dead.”

“Nothing.”  And I wasn’t going to leave the house in the dress.

“You should curl it!  Oh! And let me do your makeup.”

“Am I going on this date or are you?”  At present she was more excited than I was.  “Don’t you have class or something?”

“I can skip.  We’re reviewing for some test next week anyway.  I just have to stop by and drop off my study guide.”

As with every other time Lena had some extravagant plan in her mind, she became a force to be reckoned with.  I curled my hair—as suggested—while Lena worked diligently on my face.  The brown strands were healthy since I wasn’t an avid dyer—a fact that went against my occupation’s creed.  All too often, hairdressers got bored and experimented together; I never allowed myself to get bored within one-hundred feet of the salon.

When Lena finished the skin around my face felt tight and heavy with the creams, paints, and polishes she had applied.  But I had to admit that the overall effect was pretty good.  Holden was going to freak when he saw me!

“Oh, Mer!  You look perfect!  I’ll grab my coat and you can take me to Tawes Hall then we can see if Holden approves.”

I didn’t miss the tricycle scenario she had concocted.  “I’m not sure if I can go out in public like this.  Someone’s going to go snow-blind with all my paleness exposed.”  I tugged the shoulders of the garment so the neck lifted a comfortable inch.  My immodest friend pulled it back down.

“I don’t know,” I hedged, genuinely unsure.

“Perfect.  Let’s go.”

The drive was over in ten minutes, too short a time for me to compose myself.  A mirror wasn’t needed to tell me that embarrassment had colored my skin to match the dress.  The nerves were a surprise; I had believed myself past all of the giddiness and uncertainty.

I held fast to the splintered railing as I climbed the ice-crusted cement blocks that served as steps.  When I reached the door I knocked once, but there was no answer.  Muffled laughter seeped beneath the uneven doorframe.

“Holden?  Are you ready yet?”  I shouted, announcing myself to the empty hallway.  One never knew what she was in for when entering a fraternity house.

The laughter continued, louder now and punctuated by bursts of profanity.

“Holden?” I repeated.

“Hey, Mer! We’re in here!”

Holden was sitting on the ripped-up couch in a pair of sweaty gym shorts and a tattered FSU football t-shirt that should have been thrown out years ago. Two of his former frat brothers, Joel and Grant—both of whom were on the ten-year plan at Frostburg—sat beside him.  The trio’s casual state made me feel even more overdressed and idiotic for listening to Lena’s fashion advice.  I was grateful for the trench-like coat that I wore to cover my ridiculous choice of attire.

“Hey, Joel.  Hey, Grant,” I greeted as cordially as possible.  My effort was wasted; the boys didn’t even offer me more than a slight bob of their ball-capped heads in greeting.  “Holden, can I talk to you?”

“Just a second.  I’m almost finished this level.”

I waited for him to put down his controller long enough to notice that I was miles beyond livid.  Ten minutes later Lena came in from the car to see what had delayed our departure.

I stood in the corner of the living room with my arms crossed, still waiting for someone to acknowledge me.

“Hey, Mer.”  She took one look at my face, saw murder in my eyes, and raced to my side.  “What’s wrong?”

My gaze locked on my boyfriend, mentally communicating my fury.  Her eyes followed mine and she hissed through her teeth, recognizing the situation instantly.

“What’s up?” Holden asked, finally looking at me but still holding tightly to his plastic controller as though his life depended on the strength of his grip.

It had taken me three arduous hours to get ready.  I had even plundered Lena’s intimidating closet in order to look my absolute best for him.  He stared at me with a blank expression, searching his mind to figure out why I was all dolled up and subjecting him to the death stare.

“I thought we had made plans for tonight.”  I made no effort to keep my voice low.

Joel and Grant exchanged panicked glances and escaped to the safety of the kitchen.  Lena silently supported me like a bodyguard packing heat.

Holden winced and smacked his palm against his head.  “God, babe, I’m so sorry.  Joel, Grant, and I went to play some ball and when we got back we sat down to play this new game they got for Christmas, and then….”  The explanation died on his lips.

“That’s fine.”  We wouldn’t make the movie but dinner was still feasible.  As if to emphasize the direction of my thoughts, my stomach moaned.  “Go shower and let me know when you’re ready to go.”

“Ummm…”

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“The rest of the guys are coming over in an hour to watch the game,” he admitted sheepishly.

We hadn’t seen each other in almost a month and he wanted to spend the night with his friends?

“You’re more than welcome to come, Mer,” Holden added.

The laughter from the other room stopped with his invitation.  Something in his tone made me think, “More than welcome,” really meant, “I guess you can come if you want to ruin the fun for everyone with a penis.”

“That’s not exactly what I meant when I said I wanted to go on a date,” I explained slowly, as if speaking to a child with a hearing impairment.  I was in a dress for this man!  And not just any dress—Lena’s dress!

Holden’s “brothers” were great in their own right.  I had known the majority of his pledge class since our first semester at college.  Most of the Omega Epsilon brothers were funny and entertaining but hardly the company I wanted tonight.  How was I supposed to rekindle a flame with beer, pizza, and a basketball game?

“I know its not, but I promised them.  Besides, this is their last semester so I have to make the most of it.”

“I know.”  But why did that ultimately mean I was the one who had to be taken for granted?  Why did this option leave me planless for the second week in a row and in a dress on a Thursday night?

“I mean, when they graduate who knows where they’ll end up?”

First, Lena had already used up my patience for this feeble excuse.  Second, we both knew exactly where his friends would end up after they finally got their diplomas (the tentative date was scheduled for this May, but I would believe that when I saw hard evidence).  Joel would be twenty minutes away, working at the ballistics facility where he had interned for the past four years.  Grant would be working on his master’s at West Virginia University in Morgantown, exactly one hour away.

But I didn’t point out the obvious and ruin the weekend with a fight over this; according to the bigger picture this single incident was trivial.  We had tomorrow and Saturday to do something together.

“I know.” I relented too easily to be deemed anything but a pushover.

“You and me, we’re the constant, the sure thing.”  The happy realization that he considered me permanent in his life was far eclipsed by the fact that he was ditching me again.

“Okay.”

“Go out and have fun tonight.  I’m sure Lena would love your company.”

“Of course I would,” she said sharply, cutting him off.  He didn’t bother to look at her.  “A sane person would give anything to spend as much time as possible with this beautiful girl.”

“I’ll talk to you later, okay, Mer?” he dismissed, already looking back at the TV set.

“Okay.”  I let my one-worded replies die with my hasty exit.  The poster-ridden walls felt like they were collapsing in on us.  There was no point in arguing with him, I reminded myself.  He had made plans with his friends.  My voice would go hoarse before he would even consider changing his schedule back to the original plans we had made beforehand.

Thankfully, Lena didn’t make any comments as I drove home.  Listening to her brash opinions wasn’t what I needed.  She muttered some harsh words under her breath, but I wasn’t paying attention.  I was too impaired to drive, preoccupied as I was; when we made it home I couldn’t even remember the route I had taken.

* * *

Swing by next week for Chapter 10!

Giving Thanks

22 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

As I’m sure many of you are doing, I’d like to share with you what I am especially thankful for this holiday–and every day.  I’m thankful for my husband, the support system God’s given me in my family and friends, and the opportunities I’ve had thus far.  I hope each of you have a safe and happy holiday.

Happy reading, writing, & feasting!

-Jenny

Meet the Characters: Men of the Semester

21 Nov

Continuing the exercise from Monday, here’s a quick peek at the rest of the characters from my second novel, Semester of Thursdays, scheduled to be released next month!

Click HERE to start reading their story.

* * *

REMINGTON KOVER

Remington Kover is every woman’s dream: he’s darkly attractive, wealthy, and a soon-to-be doctor with only one downfall: he’s perpetually angry. He’s been burned before by an unfaithful woman who has left him distrustful of the fairer sex.

When Remington meets Lena, he warns Alec to avoid her; a warning his best friend naively chooses to ignore.  To keep an eye on Alec, Remington agrees to accompany him on his Thursday-night excursions, which puts him directly in the path of equally broody–and unfortunately unavailable–Meredith Westbrook.

* * *

ALEC MILLER

Alec is nearly as handsome as Remington, albeit a lighter, happier version of his broody counterpart.  His carefree outlook on life meshes well with the most infamous–and most beautiful–woman on Frostburg’s campus: Lena Whyte.  Despite his friend’s suggestion to forgo an affair with Lena, Alec jumps at the opportunity to be by her side, aware their “relationship” could be very short lived.

* * *
HOLDEN BROWN

Holden Brown is a golden god among mere mortals… at least he was back at Mountain Ridge High School.  A former football star turned engineer, Holden is gainfully employed by CSX in sunny Jacksonville, Florida but still holding tight to the fraternity-lifestyle from his college years.  The long-distance between he and his girlfriend, Meredith Westbrook, has taken its toll on their five-year relationship, leaving both of them in relationship limbo.

Meet the Characters: Meredith and Lena

19 Nov

As a much-needed writing exercise, I’ve decided to introduce you to some of the characters from my second novel, Semester of Thursdays.  Who do you connect with?

 

 

* * *

MEREDITH WESTBROOK

Meredith Westbrook, the main character, is a twenty-two year old  Mountain Ridge Alum from Frostburg, Maryland, who dropped out of Frostburg State to become the lead stylist and sole owner of a hair salon in Cumberland. She’s currently in a five-year relationship with her high-school sweetheart, Holden Brown, and she lives in College Gardens off Broadway Street with her best friend Lena Whyte.

Meredith is straight-laced, work-focused, responsible, and… boring.  Although she rarely drinks, she can be seen out on Thursdays nights in Frostburg with an empty beer bottle in-hand, accompanying (aka chaperoning & chauffeuring) her best friend.

* * *

LENA WHYTE

Lena Whyte has been Meredith’s best friend since second grade.  She’s on the five-year plan at Frostburg State, studying to become an Elementary School teacher.  The story takes place on Thursdays–the most sociable night out in Frostburg–during Lena’s final semester in college.

Lena is promiscuous, dramatic, careless, gorgeous, and the impulse in Meredith’s life.  One fateful Thursday night, Lena meets a kindred soul named Alec, and the pair instantly connect.  The only problem is that Alec has a rude, broody best friend who insists on getting in the way of Lena’s wickedly pleasant plans.  In a rare moment of selfish brilliance, Lena introduces her own chaperone to Alec’s.

* * *

Stay tuned for more characters from Semester of Thursdays.  Remember, you can start reading Chapters from this novel for FREE via the “My Work” link!

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 8

16 Nov

Is anyone else in denial that we are less than one week until Thanksgiving, with the Christmas Holiday following soon after?  Crazy how time flies…

Without further ado, here’s Chapter 8 from my second novel, Semester of Thursdays.

New to the story?  Click HERE to begin at the beginning…

Enjoy,

-Jenny

* * *

“Hey, Mer!”

“Brian!” I greeted with a broad smile for the second time today.  Lena and Alec were barely visible from where they hid in the secluded corner, making out like fifteen-year-olds.  Alec probably hated his “friend” and was secretly hoping I would grow so annoyed that I would brutally murder Remington and take him off Alec’s hands.

“Fancy meeting you here, Mer!” he returned.

“What brings you out tonight?  I thought you said you had no plans and were free if I needed you.”

At the time I hadn’t had any plans either but with Lena that fact changed as quickly as a whim.  When she had received the call—from Alec, I’d stake my life on it—all of the sudden we’d had a strict itinerary and we’d been running behind schedule.  Lena had threatened to leave me behind if I wasn’t ready by nine thirty; the flimsy warning had sent me into a rare fit of giggles.

“I was bored sitting around looking at my biology homework and decided I deserved a night out in the big city.  Besides, no one called me with alternative plans to take advantage of my absolute freeness,” he said.

“Yeah, she tricked me again.”

“Too persuasive for her own good.”  He chuckled but it sounded forced.

Glancing to my left I noticed my neighbor staring insolently at Brian.  My friend looked between Remington and me with too much interest.  As much as I hated to do it, I introduced him—but not for Remington’s benefit.  I was simply making a lopsided attempt at cordiality to demonstrate courtesy to the man.  Perhaps he would learn a thing or two.

“Remington, this is my friend Brian.  We’ve known each other beyond forever.  Brian this is…” he wasn’t my friend, but the distinction created by the word acquaintance sounded snotty.  “…this is Remington.”

Brian smiled tightly.  “It’s nice to meet you, Remington,” he offered, although his tone belied what should have been friendly words.

Waiting for Remington’s reaction was excruciating.  After a few seconds, he turned the full force of his gaze on Brian and nodded once.

My face flushed with embarrassment.  Who did this guy think he was?  Was it seriously that hard to say “hello” even if he didn’t want to?

“I’ll see you later, Mer,” Brian said, making a hasty exit.

If only I could follow him out the door.  What was stopping me?  There were no manacles rooting me to the chair.  It would be easy to get up, snub Remington, and go home to my bed.  But then I would be no better than he was.

Instead of taking the coward’s route, I whipped around to glower at Remington.

“Has anyone told you how rude you are?”

“Not today.”

“Well, allow me.”

He gave me a mean smile, exposing his white teeth.  “I may be rude, but you’re evil.”

The venom in his tone made me flinch as if I’d been kicked.

“I’m ev… evil?” I stuttered.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re stringing that poor guy along.” He inclined his head toward Brian’s back.

“That poor guy who you were just rude to? That one?”

Remington shrugged.

“For your information, Remington, Brian is my friend.  F-R-I-E-N-D,” I spelled for his benefit.  “A concept you obviously know nothing about.”  I tried to infuse as much derision in my voice as possible.  Of all the judgmental, insolent things to say—

“He thinks of you as more than a friend, Meredith.”

I had to hold my head together to keep it from exploding.  “Not you, too!”
“What?”

I did not need to justify myself to this guy; he wasn’t even someone I cared to see again.  Why was my mind already formulating an explanation?  I did not care what he had to say or his erroneous opinions.

My voice held a low warning when I responded.  “You don’t know me; don’t presume to speculate over the state of my relationships.  Brian has never been anything but a friend to me.”  And that’s all he would ever be.

“That’s because he’s biding his time.”

“And you can tell that from the entire minute that you saw him?”

“I didn’t need that long,” he said confidently.  His self-assurance was infuriating.

“What would you have me do?  Never talk to him again until I was sure there were no feelings on his side?”  Perhaps I had turned a blind eye, but what was the sin in that?

It appeared as though my frustrated question had caught him off guard.  I waited for him to answer, to say anything while he sat there, staring at me.  At least he didn’t leave—but he didn’t respond either.

What was I going to say to Remington to make him run away tonight?  The object of my thoughts sat stoically besides me, working on his fourth Bud Light.  Before Brian had interrupted I had been scrolling through potentially neutral topics, trying to find something to talk about that would help pass the time until it was acceptable to go home.

Since Remington was still there I figured I might as well try to converse with him.  He didn’t deserve my attention, but I was the bigger person.

Music or the weather?

It had snowed… again.  End of conversation.

“Wow.”  Remington craned his neck to see what had caused my exclamation.  “I wonder if the DJ realizes this isn’t a middle school dance.”

Would he take the bait?

“Yeah, it is pretty terrible,” he agreed grudgingly.

“Terrible?” I scoffed.  “He just played Babyface and slow danced with one of those drunken girls.”

“It’s not all bad.”

“No, you’re right.  The chicken dance really got people off their stools.”  All five of them.

“I’m pretty sure you were doing the moves from your seat.”

“I was mocking.”  Lena would have understood and joined in.

“Mocking or not, you were dancing,” he pressed.

“Anyway, this DJ is just playing his favorites from the glory days and ignoring the devastating effect the Electric Slide has on any venue outside of weddings.”

Remington didn’t laugh.  I didn’t expect him to; laughing was probably outside the realm of his capabilities.  He barely smiled.  And what constituted a smile for him was a sad looking half-smirk, revealing a dimple in his right cheek.  The motion was depressing and pulled at my unwilling, unwelcome sympathy.  Had he ever really smiled as a result of some honest emotion instead of pure disdain?

“Do you ever smile?”

“What?”

Had I said that out loud?  My face felt like I was standing in front of a furnace as he scrutinized me too closely.  “Nothing,” I said quickly, hoping he would let the issue drop.

“Did you just ask me if I ever smiled?”

“No.”  As the lie jumped through my lips my breath caught in my throat.  The corner of his mouth crooked up into a smile.  And then his expression went beyond a smile to a grin.  My lungs stopped working altogether as his face changed from brooding and mysterious to open and friendly.  He had always been gorgeous but this borderline-jovial Remington was unfathomable.

“No, Meredith, I don’t smile.”  Humor made his tone buoyant.  He covered his face with his hands; I stifled the urge to pull his fingers away so I could look at him some more.

As if he heard the direction of my thoughts his hands fell to the table.  And with the movement his humor vanished.  I wanted to ask him what was wrong but didn’t have time.  In one blink he was halfway to the door.

“How come he always looks like he wants to kill someone when he leaves you?” Lena asked, startling me.

Hadn’t she seen his smile only moments before his escape?  Would it have affected her the way it had affected me?  I turned toward her, and she lifted her perfectly sculpted eyebrow in question.  In that moment I realized there was no way she had seen Remington smile.  If she had then she would be as speechless as me.

“Hello?  Meredith?” my best friend prompted.

What had she said?  “What did you say?”

“Why does Remington always look like he wants to kill someone when he leaves your table?” she repeated, slower this time.

“Probably because he does.”

“That’s pleasant,” she drolled, frowning at the bottle of Michelob Ultra in her hands.

“And you wonder why I don’t have fun on Thursdays.”

* * *

Tune in next Friday, between bites of leftover Thanksgiving turkey, for Chapter 9!