Thursday, December 3, 2009

NaNoWriMo Excerpt: The Meet Cute

The following is an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo project, originally titled Choose Your Own Adventure. It is currently does not have an official title but its working title is When Vinnie Met Ellie.

The scene you are about to read is the "meet cute", the scene where the heroine and hero meet for the first time. The heroine is Lavinia Pryce, nicknamed Nia, or Vinnie. The hero is Llewellyn, nicknamed Lew, or Ellie. They meet at a bar where Lavinia (along with her roommate Susannah) is celebrating her newfound unemployment.

Hope you enjoy it...and just remember...we weren't supposed to edit anything and I didn't.


“This seat taken?” a man’s voice asks a while later.

I don’t look up. “Does it look like it’s taken?”

“No, but I didn’t know if maybe you had a boyfriend-“

“No.”

“Or girlfriend-“

“Oh, how very progressive of you.”

“Maybe using the facilities or something.”

“No,” I say, looking up finally. “That seat’s not taken.”

He’s tall with short dark hair and blue eyes. He appears to be the textbook definition of ‘tall, dark and handsome’. He has some stubble on his face. He’s wearing a tee shirt and jeans, both of which do a lot to promote his athletic build. He smiles at me as he slides onto the stool. His teeth are very white and very straight.

“So you’re here on your own then?” he asks as he signals to Frank.

“Just me and my friend, Jack.”

Frank comes over and my newfound, yet entirely unwanted, companion asks for a beer. Whatever’s on tap. He’s not picky. Frank pours Sam Adams. When the new arrival receives his pint, he throws some money down on the bar and takes a swig of the beer. Frank looks at me as he gathers the money. It’s a look I’ve seen before. Is this man bothering you, Nia? I shake my head slightly. Nothing I can’t handle. Frank nods and turns to the register.

“Jack?” the tall dark stranger asks as he sets his beer down.

Not too bright, this one. Probably gets by on his looks. He probably makes women everywhere crazy with those well muscled arms of his. He then dazzles them with his baby blue eyes and easy grin and (likely) washboard abs so they don’t notice his total lack of wit. Too bad for him that I’m immune to such manipulation.

I indicate my glass. “Jack. As in ‘Daniels’?”

“Oh,” he says and then looks at his beer. “I feel a little emasculated right now.”

“Do you?” I ask, not caring. “Frank? Can I get another, please?”

Frank nods and prepares my whiskey sour. He puts it down in front of me. I do not throw any money on the bar and Frank walks away to the other end of the bar.

“Frank?” the man asks.

“The bartender.”

“Oh, come here often?”

“Wanna know my sign next?” I ask. “Look, if you’re trying to pick me up, I’m not interested. Save us both some time and hassle, you know?”

“Who said I was trying to pick you up?”

“You certainly seem like you’re trying to pick me up.”

“Just making conversation.”

“Just checking.”

“I think I may have stumbled on to why you’re here alone,” he says.

“I’m sitting here at this bar alone,” I say. “But I am not alone in this building. I have a friend-“

“Besides Jack?”

“Who dances,” I say and point over my shoulder in the general direction of the dance floor.

“She’s over there.”

He looks over his shoulder. “You don’t dance?”

“Haven’t had enough to drink yet to consider it.”

“So you’re one of those.”

“Whatever that means.”

“So touchy,” he says. “You always like this?”

“Drunk?”

“Charming.”

“What do you care?”

“Are you new to the concept of conversation?”

“I didn’t ask you to sit here.”

“True.”

“Nor did I ask you to converse with me,” I say. “In fact, I think I’ve done quite a lot to discourage conversation.”

“Also true.”

“And yet,” I say.

He grins. “Here I am.”

“Yes, here you are. So, what are you? A glutton for punishment?”

“Not especially.”

“Lose a bet?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Someone put you up to this?” I ask, looking over my shoulder to see if Susannah is having a good laugh at my expense. She isn’t. She’s thrown herself into a very energetic, if slightly intoxicated, version of the Robot.

“You mean like a Taming of the Shrew thing?”

“He knows Shakespeare,” I say, feigning shock.

I choose to ignore the fact that I have been just likened to a shrew. It isn’t the first time, after all. It isn’t even the first time this week.

He shrugs. “He knows of Shakespeare.”

“Last book you read,” I say. “What was it?”

Da Vinci Code,” he says.

I mime vomiting over the side of the bar. Frank is not amused.

“Not a fan then, I take it,” my sparring partner says.

I tap my nose. “And a prize for the gentleman.”

“What was the last book you read?”

“You don’t want to play this game with me.”

“Oh,” he says. “Must be embarrassing.”

“And why must it be that?”

“You faked vomiting when I mentioned Dan Brown,” he says. “I expected to hear Proust or Tolstoy or something equally snooty come out of your mouth. Your reluctance to answer leads me to believe you last read something just as frivolous as-“

“Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales,” I say. “In the original middle English.”

“A bit of light reading then. That’s nice,” he says. “You wouldn’t lie to me about that, would you?”

“Why would I lie to you?”

“An attempt to maintain your supposed intellectual superiority?”

Supposed intellectual superiority?” I echo. “No, see, you’ve gone and misunderstood me. You’re working under the assumption that I would care enough about both you and your opinion of me to go to the trouble of lying. And I don’t. Care enough, that is. So, no. No, I wouldn’t lie to you.”

He laughs. “You know, I don’t know why but I kind of like you.”

I laugh at this. “I don’t know why either.”

“Can I ask your name?”

“If you’re asking me if you’re capable of forming the words which will form a sentence inquiring after my name, I think the answer is ‘yes’. I don’t know you very well but I have faith you could handle it.”

“If I asked you your name,” he says then, “would you tell me?”

“Ah,” I say. “Now there’s a valid question.”

“And the answer?”

I look him over and have a sip of my drink. “Nia,” I say after a minute. “My name is Nia.”

“Nia,” he says. “That’s nice. Unusual though.”

“It’s Welsh. Means ‘Bright’.”

“Put a lot of store in the meaning of names?”

“A rose by any other name,” I say.

“What?”

“What’s your name?”

“Lew.”

“Like short for Lewis?”

“Like that, yeah,” he says.

He looks over his shoulder again.

“Am I keeping you from something? Someone?” I ask. “Wife? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Your mother?”

He shakes his head and looks back at me. “I’m flying solo tonight.”

“Left your entourage at home, did you?”

“I don’t really know how much of an entourage it is,” he says. “No wife, no girlfriend.”

“Boyfriend then.”

“No boyfriend,” he says. “Although that’s very progressive of you.”

“I do try to keep an open mind.”

He snorts into his beer. “I do have a couple of friends.”

“Sam Adams and your man, Bud?”

“A couple others too,” he says. “But they’re spending the evening with their wives and girlfriends.”

“Wives and girlfriends?”

He shrugs. “They like to keep an open mind.”

“An example for us all,” I say. “And your mom? She had plans tonight too, huh?”

“Yes. To watch Jeopardy! with my father.”

“In the same room?”

“Sitting on the same couch even. They just might hold hands.”

“You’re the product of an unbroken home?”

“Strange, but true.”

“So, what’s wrong with you?” I ask.

“What’s wrong with me?”

“Yes,” I say. “Wrong with you. You’re good looking, you’re nice, fairly literate-“

“Fairly literate?”

“And yet, entirely single, apparently straight and free of any emotional baggage,” I say. “So what’s wrong with you?”

“Fairly literate?” he repeats.

“Are you a serial killer?”

“No.”

“Would you tell me if you were?”

“Probably not.”

“Are you a time traveler?”

He smiles, trying to conceal his confusion. “No.”

“Secret government agent?”

“No.”

“Superhero?”

“No,” he says. “But not for lack of trying.”

“So you’re delusional.”

“No more than any other comic book fan.”

“Ah,” I say as though I have just discovered gold in them dar hills. “Comic book fan.”

“So?”

“Live in your parents’ basement?” I ask. “Have a closet full of Star Trek costumes?”

"Star Wars,” he says. “And no.”

Now I smile.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asks.

“What makes you think something’s wrong with me?”

“You’re good looking, kind of nice-“

“Kind of nice?”

“A literature snob-“

“Well, yes, I am that.”

“And yet entirely single, apparently straight, yet broke from excess emotional baggage fees,” he finishes.

“And you still have to wonder what’s wrong,” I say.

“Maybe I’m just trying to be polite.”

“This is you trying to be polite?”

“Is this you trying to be polite?” he asks.

“Who says I’m trying to be polite?”

He smiles again and even laughs. “No one within earshot.”

“So tell me then,” I say. “What’s your story?”

“Why should I tell you?”

I shrug. “I’m asking,” I say. “What, are you unfamiliar with the concept of conversation?”

“And what will you do with my story?”

I shrug again. “Probably judge and mock you unfairly.”

“At least you’re honest.”

“Well, you are a Star Wars fan. A certain amount of mocking is inevitable.”

“Not at a sci-fi convention.”

“This look like a sci-fi convention?”

He takes a look around. “No,” he says. “Not enough pointy ears.”

“You really are a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?”

“Maybe,” he says. “So tell me, what are you celebrating?”

“Huh?”

“You seem to be celebrating something in your own twisted sort of way,” he says, indicating the emptied and overturned lowball glasses in front of me. “I’m curious to know what.”

“What will you do if I tell you?”

“Judge and mock you unfairly?”

Now I laugh. “I joined the ranks of the unemployed today.”

“Your idea or theirs?”

“Mutual, really, in the heat of the moment, but if anyone asks, theirs.”

“Probably not budget cuts then.”

“More like insubordination.”

“I’m shocked.”

“Everyone is.”

He takes a sip of his beer. “What did you do before the insubordination got in the way?”

“Taught English to a group of adolescent ingrates.”

“Well, that explains the Chaucer,” he says.

I laugh.

“An insubordinate English teacher?” he says next. “Don’t they usually make inspirational movies about you?”

“Not when you refer to your students as adolescent ingrates,” I say. “Sends the wrong message.”

“Molding young minds,” he says.

“Unfortunately no,” I say. “I didn’t use any swear words they didn’t already know.”

“Missed opportunity, that.”

“I know. You can really learn from those kids.”

Lew laughs again. “What are your plans now?”

“I’m going to get rip roaring drunk,” I say. “Then I shall sleep it off.”

“And after that?”

“Thought I might try to improve my own best minesweeper scores. Maybe play some online poker.”

“Going to try and parlay that into a career?”

“Tempting, but no,” I say, finishing off my drink. I turn the glass over and leave it next to the other ones. “I hear the professional scene is really cutthroat.”

“Thought that might be right up your alley,” he says. “Another round?”

He doesn’t wait for me to respond before signaling to Frank.

“Another for me and the lady,” he says.

I snort. Frank obliges and pours another pint. He mixes another whiskey sour and passes it to me. I toast him with the glass.

“Thanks, barkeep,” I say.

Frank rolls his eyes at me and walks away.

“Gotta love a girl who can shoot the whiskey,” Lew says.

“Country music or American Idol fan?” I ask.

“I can’t be both?”

I wince. “A country music fan,” I say, shaking my head sadly. “Well, that explains the Da Vinci Code.”

“I lose some points just then?”

“You are, of course,” I say, “now working under the assumption you actually had points to lose.”

“Apparently so.”

“This must be very sad for you.”

“Certainly isn’t going the way I thought it might.”

“Oh, pray tell, how did you think it would go?”

“Not like this.”

“How wildly vague of you,” I say. “Care to be more specific?”

“I think I’d rather plead the fifth, if you don’t mind.”

“Are you a lawyer or just a fan of courtroom dramas?”

“Neither, actually,” he says. “So you’re currently looking for employment?”

“Well, not right at this moment but yeah,” I say. “Since I’m not independently wealthy, I’ll probably have to find something else to do with my life. Bills to pay and all that. You understand, I’m sure.”

“No, I don’t, actually,” Lew says. “I happen to be independently wealthy.”

“Independently wealthy men do not spend their evenings talking to hostile women in smoky dives such as this,” I say. “No offense, Frank.”

Frank holds up a hand as he passes. No offense taken. Frank’s cool like that.

“You know that for a fact?” Lew asks.

“I do,” I say. “I read a lot, you know.”

“I don’t remember that lesson showing up in The Wife of Bath’s Tale.”

I am kind of impressed by that reference but I work hard to keep from showing it.

“Well,” I say. “Maybe you weren’t reading closely enough.”

“No doubt,” Lew says. “Will you look for another teaching position?”

“Probably not,” I say. “Different location, same problems.”

“What then?”

“Again, I am forced to ask why you care.”

“Don’t, really,” he says.

“Just making conversation?” I ask.

Lew doesn’t have the chance to answer as Susannah bursts onto the scene. She slams into me hard enough to cause me to spill my drink down my front. I swear and reach for a napkin with which to blot whiskey sour. Susannah doesn’t notice and stands there, hanging off my shoulder.

“You drink enough yet to come dance with me yet, Vinnie?” Susannah asks.

Lew’s eyes narrow slightly.

“Not by a long shot,” I say.

“Well, what have you been doing this whole-“ Susannah starts.

She stops when she sees Lew. She smiles and looks him up and down. He smiles back.

“Oh,” she says then. “So that’s what you’ve been doing.”

“No one is doing anyone,” I say.

Susannah pushes between us so she can belly up to the bar. She calls for Frank to make her another martini. Lew leans to his right so he can see me.

“Vinnie?” Lew asks.

“It’s a nickname,” I say. “Don’t your friends have a nickname for you? Boba? Jango? Vader? Jar Jar?”

“Jar Jar?” he asks. “Oh, because you find me to be annoying?”

I grin and nod.

“You know,” Lew says. “For someone claiming to not be a Star Wars fan, you sure seem to know a lot about it.”

“I do watch TV and I don’t live in a cave,” I say. “Are you not answering my question because your nickname is embarrassing? Or is it because your friends who are not beers are actually uncreative imaginary types?”

He smiles and looks away.

“Embarrassing then,” I say. “Do tell.”

Lew sighs. “They call me Ellen.”

“Ellen? Like the talk show host?”

“Yeah.”

“Because you’re a lesbian?”

“No.”

“Because you love to dance?”

“I love to dance!” Susannah proclaims as she pulls back from the bar, martini in hand. “So let’s get to it, Vinnie. You can come too if you want, Ellie.”

“Ellen,” he corrects.

“Because that’s so much better,” I say, grinning.

Lew grins back, looking slightly sheepish. The music starts up again. It’s playing some ABBA. Dancing Queen. It’s a sure sign that Susannah has been flirting wildly with the deejay. Susannah squeals with delight, downs her martini and puts the empty glass back on the bar. She bounces past both Lew and me.

“Vinnie, come on!” she cries.

I start to slide off my stool. “Well, Ellie,” I say. “It’s been a blast but I’ve gotta go. They’re playing my song.”

“Thought you looked like a dancing queen,” he says. “Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”

I spread my hands. “I should be so lucky,” I say as I walk away.


© 2009 by Melissa Jordan

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