Sunday Storytime: “You’ve never asked me this before.”

For these fiction posts, I toy with the idea of doing something cute, like voice-posting so you can hear me reading my excerpts out loud, except I don’t trust myself to get through the whole passage without tripping over some words, which would be distracting for the listener. Also, I’ve done a test voice post, and it works, but pronunciation is not ideal. For example, the name of this blog, The Monster’s Ink, is not entirely clear when I record it to WordPress’s MP3 service. That’s not a good sign. So, for now, we can’t lose with the trusty old plain text. I’m a writer, not an actor.

The sample below the jump is from my second novel, User Assembly Is Required, which is contemporary women’s fiction. I have a complete rough draft, but it hasn’t been through any substantial editing, so I can’t really predict whether this conversation will even be present in the final draft, and if so, how different it’ll be. For now, though, I like it and I want to share it.

Pauline and Isabelle are roommates. Isabelle just had a date last night. Pauline wants to hear about the date, which is unusual for her.

Despite the fact that it was Saturday and she had nowhere to be, Pauline woke up by eight o’clock. She couldn’t imagine why, but either way, she couldn’t stay in bed.

“Wakey McWakersons!” she announced upon stepping into Isabelle’s room with two mugs of cappuccino in an awkward handle-grip in one hand.

“Paulie, I’m still asleep,” Isabelle moaned.

“And I come bearing caffeine, so rise and shine!”

Isabelle struggled out from under her covers and propped herself up on her elbows. “What’s going on?” she demanded as she accepted a mug from Pauline.

“Scooch your butt over and tell me all about it,” Pauline ordered.

“What in the hell time is it?” Isabelle muttered as she slid closer to the wall.

“Tell me about your date with Murray,” said Pauline. “I want details.”

“It is eight-thirty-seven, Paulie! What the fuck?!”

“Drink your ‘cino and cough up, girlie! What happened with Murray?!”

“We grabbed a quick dinner at Thai Me Up, then he took me to see Paintbox Highway at the university, and after that, we went to Morton’s for drinks, then he brought me home. You’ve never asked me this before.”

“Did he drive drunk?”

“He just had one beer, it was fine.”

“How was the show?”

“It was pretty stupid. The choreography was better than the music, but the music was terrible. Murray didn’t see it before last night, so he didn’t know it sucked so bad.”

“Well, aside from the University of Greater Podunk’s theater program, how was the date?”

“It was a nice date, despite the Podunk Theater. Now, why are you asking me all this?”

“I don’t know, I’m just curious about this guy,” Pauline confessed.

“You’ve never been curious like this before.”

“Well, this one seems different from the others, so tell me about him.”

At this, Pauline knew she was treading into tricky territory, but Isabelle visibly perked up. “You should have seen him get all apologetic about the show; it was so cute.”

Pauline knew that taking Isabelle to see a musical for a date was a deceptively risky idea. She had majored in Musical Theater in college and concentrated in Dance, so she always had a lot to say on any musical she saw. Although she lived too far from any major city to audition for anything, she kept up her skills with regular dance classes, which also kept her in much better shape than Pauline had ever achieved. Any outing to enjoy a musical could result in Isabelle analyzing everything from the dance numbers to the costume design in language so professional it left even Pauline stricken dumb.

“Is he from around here?”

“Yeah, he grew up near the cannery in Lassiter. What else you wanna know?”

“How old is he?”

“Thirty-two.”

That much was okay; Isabelle was only twenty-seven, but five years was not the largest age gap she had yet experienced, nor was it a wider gap than Pauline considered acceptable. “Family?”

“Both his parents are alive and still together. His dad’s a retired engineer, his mom still teaches sixth grade, and she loves her job.”

“Siblings?”

“Two younger sisters, named—wait, it’ll come—Kate and…Laurel.”

“And how does he get along with them?”

“He’s very close to both of them.”

“Good.”

“Yes. Ask me something else.”

“What does he do for a living?”

At this, Isabelle took a gulp of coffee and looked straight ahead, not at Pauline. “He’s a Registered Nurse.”

“Really. In what field?”

“Would you believe he’s a neonatal nurse?”

“Now that’s hot.”

“You don’t need to get sarcastic with me, Paulie…”

“I’m not being sarcastic! I really think that’s sexy.”

“No kidding?”

“Why not? How often do you meet a grown man who chooses to look after new babies for a living?”

“Okay, I could get used to it,” Isabelle conceded. “We know who’s paying his salary, right?”

“Right. Always remember the value of honesty.”

“Yeah, I know. Better a nurse than a plastic surgeon, huh?” Isabelle suggested and laughed shamelessly. Pauline found the quip uncomfortable; Isabelle’s brother, Maxwell, was about to complete his residency in plastic surgery.

“Yeah, that’s one way to look at it,” said Pauline. “Where did you meet the RN?”

Isabelle resumed the same wondering, slightly critical expression. “At the library.”

“Since when do you go to the library?”

“Well, you asked me to return those books for you, remember?”

“Oh! Right. Yes, I did. Do you have another date lined up with him?”

“I’m gonna see him again next weekend!” Isabelle replied, bouncing where she sat.

“All right! Where’s he taking you next?”

“Not to a college musical,” she answered, at which they both laughed. They sat there for a moment, both drinking their cappuccinos without words, before Isabelle asked, “Do you really think he’s special?”

“I didn’t say he was special, I said he was different.”

“But it’s the same thing, pretty much,” Isabelle argued.

Pauline chose not to contest the point. “There’s something about him that sets him apart, even putting his job aside.”

“I think so, too,” said Isabelle with a smile, “and I like that. All this time, I’ve obviously been doing something wrong—you know, in trying to find the right guy? But this time he’s really special.”

“Slow down; you’ve just had one date with him.”

“But you just said yourself how he’s so different from the rest.”

“And that’s certainly worth a try, I’m just saying it’s a little early to count your chickens.”