Crash, p.11
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       CRASH, p.11

           Pepper Pace
 
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  His body was so hard and tight. And then he adjusted his weight slightly and his pelvis was positioned against her belly. Alarmed she could feel that he was indeed very hard. She saw his beautiful face lower to kiss her again and her breath came out in a gush.

  “Please don’t!”

  He paused, his stormy eyes searching her face. Then he slowly released her.

  “I’m…sorry.” He ran his hands through his hair and drew in a shaky breath. Taking a step back he scanned the room for something to focus on. “I’m so sorry.” Then he turned and walked out of the room and out the back door.

  Sophie slumped into the armchair. She was trembling and she still couldn’t breathe. She stood up, feeling as if her legs would not support her and headed for her bedroom for the aspirator that she kept around for emergencies. She could barely catch her breath. That hadn’t happened in a long time.

  Chapter 11

  Sophie took to her bed after taking a few painkillers for her throbbing wrist; or at least that is the story she told herself. It was dark when she felt a slight dip on her bed. Her eyes opened and Lucas was sitting there.

  “Are you okay? You’ve been asleep for hours.”

  She reached for her glasses after rubbing her eyes and then she scooted up in bed. “Uh…my wrist, I took a painkiller.” Or two. She noted with relief that he seemed far from angry with her because of their earlier discussion. His eyes were just filled with concern.

  “Well dinners ready. Do you want me to just make you a tray so you can eat in here?”

  “No, I’ll be in there in a sec.” She avoided meeting his eyes when he lingered, then he got up and left the room. After using the bathroom and splashing her face, she joined Lucas in the dining room where he had placed all of the food buffet style. He was waiting patiently.

  “Everything looks great.” She said politely.

  The ribs were sliced apart and piled on a platter. He had thawed out greens, made cornbread and she was surprised to see baked sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar and butter.

  He stood up and pulled out the chair for her. “I hope you like sweet potatoes. We had them at home all the time.”

  She thanked him and sat down. “I love sweet potatoes. I haven’t eaten one in forever.”

  They ate in silence and she knew that she should say something. She was the adult here; he was just a misguided kid. But for the life of her, she didn’t know how to broach this uncomfortable subject. She focused on eating. It wasn’t hard for her to hide behind the delicious meal.

  She looked up suddenly. “This is really good.” And she saw that he was watching her while he ate. He just nodded and allowed his eyes to drop down to his plate.

  Damn. “Lucas…we should really talk.”

  He nodded quickly. “About the book.”

  He licked his fingers and stood up, hurrying to the office. He returned holding papers in his hand. “I want you to read these changes.”

  She took the offered papers in surprise.

  “I had to make a big change, Sophie. And I need you to look at it.”

  She was done eating and pushed her plate aside, fanning through the big document. “What changes?” Whatever she would have said before, disappeared in the light of this new thing; this thing called BIG CHANGES.

  “That’s the first six chapters.”

  “Six?”

  “I had to double it. Candace said she didn’t like the point of view being from Eric only so…I also wrote a point of view from Toya-”

  “Toya?”

  He made an apologetic face. “That used to be Sara. I changed her name to Toya.”

  Sophie scowled.

  “Not good?” He asked nervously. He had pulled his chair around and was sitting next to her as he nervously explained the changes. “I got it from a show on BET; The JoJo and Toya show.”

  She shrugged. It wasn’t a bad name. Ethnic…at least it wasn’t Shaquista or something like that.

  “It’s a good name.”

  He sighed in relief. “So, I used your notes and outline to change the beginning of the story to start with Toya’s point of view.”

  He’d changed the beginning. The beginning was the hook. He wrote a hook?

  “Would you read it?” He was really nervous, his face was even pale. “You can change it all.”

  She looked at the first page.

  Toya was starting to get agitated watching the way her best friend Phyllis was out on the dance floor with her short dress hiked high enough to see a flash of her black panties--and of course, black panties made it look like she wasn't wearing any panties at all.

  Toya blew out a tired breath, then sipped her gin and cranberry juice. It was always at about this time of the night that she would start asking herself...why am I here? Invariably, Phyllis was going to end up running off with some flashy young dude, leaving her to worry all night about it. The clubs brought out the worst in the girl. It was funny how in school Phyllis was a totally different story. Not even a hangover kept her from going to class. But give Phyllis a drink and stick her in a club and she turned into a straight-up Hootchie Momma!

  She gave him a surprised look. “Hootchie Momma?”

  Two bright red spots appeared on each of his cheeks. “That’s how you described her in the outline. You said she liked flashy young dudes, had frequent booty calls, and she danced so hard sometimes that her black panties showed…which of course made it look like she wasn’t wearing any panties at all.”

  She chuckled. Yeah she had written that. But she would have never put it in her story. But somehow, his words sounded like hers. She gave him a surprised look.

  “This is good.” The relief showed on his face. “I’ll read it.” She stood up and went into the office where she settled into her comfortable reclining chair.

  Toya's head was bent over her physics lab book and she was having a tough time with it right now. When she had decided to take up Architecture, her thoughts were that she'd do a lot of drawing and constructing little model houses and buildings. Well after a full year of college and just entering her second year, Toya had yet to build anything. There were classes on Speech, Trig and algebra, Microcomputer applications, Surveying and labs and labs and labs! Five years of this?! It was like nothing she had expected! She found herself preoccupied with finding study time. She studied during work breaks, after school, before school and for at least twelve hours on the weekends. It wasn't any wonder that she didn't have a man.

  "You're really into that book."

  Toya jumped. Ned, her Crew Leader was standing behind her looking over her shoulder. "Oh my god, Ned! You could be a hit-man for the Mafia the way you sneak up on people!"

  "Sorry."

  "My breaks not over is it?" She glanced at her watch, but saw that she was only about fifteen minutes into her twenty-minute break. It was easy to lose track of time, and she didn't want to ever take advantage because Ned was gracious enough to allow her to study in the manager's office.

  "No. Not at all. I didn't mean to disturb you; I just haven't had a chance to talk to you about that bartender’s position. Are you still interested?

  "Definitely." He sat on the edge of the desk, one leg only inches from her hand. She gazed at him thinking that he wasn't half bad looking for a white boy, or a Latino, or whatever it was that caused him to have that olive skin tone and deep brown eyes. He was her height, dark wavy hair that he wore tied back with a ponytail holder. But Ned's problem was that he knew he was cute. Half of the girls that worked at DEL CASA MEXICANA wanted to screw him-the other half already had. She wasn't getting into all that. She'd only been working here three months and it was by far the best restaurant she'd ever worked in. Those fast-food joints worked you hard, than hardly paid you. But sit-down dinner establishments were less constricting. She swore that she'd never flip another greasy burger.

  "Well, our full time Bartender is going on vacation next week so we can start breaking you in."

  "You mean I don't hav
e to go to Bartending School or anything?"

  He smiled. "No. With this being a Mexican restaurant, you're basically going to be serving a lot of margaritas. Don't get me wrong, we have 8 different varieties of margaritas to keep straight, but it’s not like a, quote unquote, bar."

  Ned put his hands together. "Actually, tomorrow. I can start showing you the lay out, and get you out mixing some of these drinks. Do me a favor. Reach into that bottom drawer to your right. Yeah, that’s the one. There should be a yellow booklet--that’s the one. Read that over tonight and it'll give you the make-up of each specialty drink we carry."

  Toya weighed the thickness of the pamphlet in her hand, not meaning to look so obviously perturbed at having another assignment. She was surprised to hear him suddenly chuckle.

  "Don't worry. It’s mostly for reference. Besides, I'll be training you--and this is not brain surgery.

  He glanced down at her school book, than picked it up. "Physics." He looked at her with admiration. "I'm sure you won't have any trouble picking up any of this bartending stuff."

  "Well I actually do have a little knowledge of bartending." Ned raised his brow. She quickly added, "I mean, I've never tended bar or anything--but...I've been to enough of them." She could have kicked herself for saying that. The first thing she thought of was Phyllis, and god forgive her but she didn't want anyone comparing her to the likes of that. "I mean, I'm not trying to say that it’s all I do-"

  "Everybody goes out." Ned interjected.

  "Yeah." She smiled, relaxing.

  "I'll get you a couple of Tuxedo shirts before you leave. And all you have to do is supply the black pants, no jeans, and skirts are fine."

  "Sounds good." She glanced at her wrist. "I guess breaks over. He handed her back the physics book. She gathered her things and placed them into her book bag.

  "Man, if you carry that thing all day, you'll never need to work out."

  "It is kind of big, ain't it?"

  "Kind of big? You can put a Mini-Cooper in there."

  I guess I'm used to it." He looked at her.

  "I guess you are." She looked at him.

  Her brow suddenly knitted. Oh shit! Was she getting vibes? 'Don't bring it to work, Toya.' She scolded herself.

  Sophie lowered the papers. It was good. But…how did he write so similar to her? This had her voice, it felt like her. She actually could have written something very similar to this had she been going in that direction.

  Sophie glanced at the clock with a yawn and a stretch. It was after 1 am. She had one more chapter to read; which she would do in the morning, but she wanted to tell Lucas how good this was. She found him in the living room reading one of his books. He looked up quickly, his face tight with worry.

  “It’s really good.”

  “It is?”

  She just stared at him in confusion. “You write so much like me. It sounds like I wrote this.”

  “I mimicked your style…you know, based on your other books and some short stories that I found on your blog.”

  She smiled. “Well you certainly did your research.”

  “What do you think about Ned?” He asked anxiously. “You didn’t develop him at all, except to say that he was a lady’s man. I just created a brand new character.”

  “I like Ned. He seems nice.”

  Lucas grinned.

  She hesitated. He wasn’t going to mention the conversation earlier? “Well, I need to go to bed. I’m still groggy.”

  “Goodnight,” he said simply.

  “Goodnight.” She used the bathroom and then went to her bedroom. The living room light was now off and she guessed Lucas had gone downstairs to bed as well. She sank into her bed feeling troubled. They hadn’t resolved anything; and right now they were pretending. Her brow smoothed. Pretending was good.

  The next day Sophie read the last chapter of Lucas’ changes. Then she sat down at her desk and stared at the blinking cursor. She was doing that when Lucas came in with a printout in his hands.

  “Candace sent you an email. Just basic chit chat, sales, reviews, and she wants to know if you have considered making Toya chose between Ned and Eric.”

  Sophie looked at him. “Have you thought about it?”

  He shrugged. “The story is about her and Eric finding their way together. But it probably wouldn’t hurt to allow Eric to see that she has other options. When she chooses him…” His words trailed off and he hesitated. “-it will be even more rewarding because he’ll know that nothing or no one else mattered.”

  She considered his words, examining all of the meanings that the simple statement could have. Then she focused on the subject at hand. It wasn’t the way that she had planned to write it but…what else was new. She sighed.

  “I’m too tired to think about it.” She stood up. “I’m going to hang out in the back yard and read. You decide.”

  “She wants three more chapters by the end of the month.” He said quickly.

  Sophie’s back stiffened. “What? She’s putting me on a timeline?” She stormed toward the phone and picked it up, stabbing out the number. Lucas was there in a flash and he slipped the phone out of her hands and hung it up.

  “You can’t call her, remember? Your mouth is wired shut.”

  “Oh…well.” She threw her hands up. The rage came out of the blue. “Fuck! I can’t deal with this!”

  “I’ll handle it. Do you want me to handle it as you, or as your assistant?”

  Sophie gave him a surprised look and then she relaxed. “As me.” She moved more calmly towards the door and to her backyard retreat. “Just tell her that I’m not going to be placed on a timeline!” The door slammed behind her.

  When she returned to the house a few hours later, Lucas was in the office typing up a storm.” It was strange to see him more productive than she had ever been. He had music playing but it wasn’t the ambient stuff she listened to, but some alternative, Indy, popular new type of music that she knew nothing about. And instead of hot tea he had a bottle of Coca-Cola on the desk next to him.

  He looked up. “Hey.”

  “What are you up to?”

  “Writing Ned and Toya’s first date.”

  She sat down in the reclining chair and watched him with interest. “Oh wow, where are you going to situate that in regards to her dating Eric?”

  “I figured it would happen the same week that she went on her first date with Eric. I like the idea of her having a dating drought and then all of a sudden two dates in the same week.”

  “That sounds good.”

  He smiled proudly. “Okay, I’ll put that in there then I’ll hand it off to you.”

  Sophie stood up and shrugged, her eyes becoming clouded. “I’m too tired. Plus my wrist hurts. I can’t type right now.” She walked out the room. “You write it.”

  “Uh…” Was his response. Sophie walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He was there in a flash.

  “You want me to write the entire thing? I mean, I was just going to knock out a few chapters…Sophie I can’t write an entire novel!”

  “Well I’ll help you. Sheesh, I don’t expect you to do it all by yourself. I’ll proof it. I’ll be your editor. How’s that?”

 
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