So I said I post it; here it goes!
Chapter 1 of “Find Her, Keep Her: A Martha’s Vineyard L.O.V.E Story”
Remember, this is an un-edited version. It will go to the best of the best for editing on July 1st!
I do love writing this novel and that’s always a good sign…
Hope you enjoy!
Without further delay:
Find Her, Keep Her
(A Martha’s Vineyard L.O.V.E Story)
Coming On Strong
My eyes ache.
Ever since Wednesday of last week they’ve been stuck in two modes, weeping or sleeping.
The reason why?
Well – my best friend is now engaged to my boyfriend.
Apparently this happened while he and I were on a break. But it doesn’t stop there – I heard about the blissful event by way of Maya’s, the best friend in the equation, Facebook status update. As soon as I fully absorbed what my eyes beheld, I typed “You snake,” cursed new technology, slammed my laptop shut, climbed into bed and that’s when the waterworks began.
It’s a blur how I ended up from there to here, at a quiet table for one at the Day Harbor Café in Edgartown, Massachusetts on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Early yesterday morning, I rolled out of bed and slogged to my home office. After sleeping away seven consecutive days it was time to at least check email, not voicemail–I wasn’t recovered enough to hear any voice besides the one in my head that constantly moaned and groaned, why me?
Each message was more of the same.
What a bitch…
What a dick…
Are you alive? I’m on the way.
You’re phone is off, turn it on, call me back.
I knocked. No answer. Are you in town?
And then one from the perpetrator herself – Daisy, I’m sorry you had to find out this way. We should talk, don’t you think?
I deleted that one.
After that, I decided to not open another email. I couldn’t take all the “poor you” sympathy. My eyes skimmed the sender and subject of the remaining four hundred until they landed on one from Dusty Burrows of Golden Destinations magazine. It was a reply to an article I pitched over a year ago. Part of me was afraid to open it because I didn’t want to suffer another rejection. But then I thought – at least it wasn’t pity. So I clicked on it. There in black and white was my justification for escaping.
I’m a travel writer, and Martha’s Vineyard is the one island in the United States that I never visited – leisurely or work-wise. It wasn’t because I lacked the urge to jet out and explore it. Another island or city or majestic countryside always took precedence. Funny, I was thinking about contacting Golden Destinations to follow-up on my query before all hell-broke loose. That’s why I saw this message from Dusty Burrows as a gift from God:
I apologize for the tardiness of my reply.
We are fans of your “Stumble Through In A Taxi” series and will like to host an article in next year’s spring issue.
We’ll like to offer you the feature story. Please respond ASAP so that we can discuss this further.
Needless to say, I accepted the offer, even if I felt a certain way about it. I pitched the idea to them before finding a tiny amount of acclaim. They were capitalizing off my budding popularity. When I first pitched them, I really needed the money. It would’ve been nice to politely decline their offer this time around. However, I let my instincts convince me that Martha’s Vineyard was the best place to go and hide from my life. Preliminary research revealed that the island had plenty of beaches, high cliffs just in case I wanted to jump off one and it’s early November – still a good time of the year to visit weather-wise.
So now I’m here, sitting in front of a blank screen, alone at a table in a classic New England styled café. From the moment the ferry docked, I wiped the tears from my eyes, put my work cap on and decided to stop letting the image my brain conjured of Maya and Adrian going at it like dogs in heat loop in my brain. I made a vow to stop doing the math, trying to figure out how in the world they had time to first stab me in the back and then fall deeply in love enough to get engaged. Adrian and I broke up only three months ago! And it wasn’t a real break-up. We had dinner, like usual he indirectly complained that I travel too much for my job and then he said we needed to take some time apart for a while.
Three months ago!
“You’re going to stab that fork clean through the table.”
I jump in my seat and look up to see who said that. It’s a guy but my eyes can hardly focus on him at the moment, especially since I’m beyond pissed off at the opposite sex.
“Sorry,” I say and drop my fork. It clinks as it bounces on the white marble.
“You came into town yesterday, didn’t you?” he asks.
“What?” I’m frowning, quite irritated that he’s speaking to me so casually. Can’t he see my broken heart through my clothes, through my chest cavity?
“You came in yesterday on the four o’clock ferry. You were rolling an orange suitcase. That’s why I noticed you. My brother has one like that.”
I’m really trying to focus on the stranger but I can’t see or hear him. There’s too much clutter in my brain.
“Hey, so, I have a birthday party tonight…” He slides a business card out the pocket of his navy blue sweat pants. There’s a class ring on his finger. The stone is red. The card is gray. It’s in my hand. “…Feel free to stop by. It’s a good way to start a vacation. Are you here visiting friends?”
I think his eyes are hazel. I only notice them because the color is rare.
“I’m sorry,” I say for clarification. I already forgot everything he just said, or did I ever hear him?
“Are you here visiting friends? Late vacation?”
“Work,” I reply dully.
“Oh,” he says but his hazel eyes are examining me. “So you’re here alone.”
Suddenly I remember how awful I look. As soon as I picked up a rental car at the shop across the street from the Steamship Authority in Vineyard Haven, I drove to the gray-shingled colonial styled house I’m renting that’s right off the Atlantic Ocean in Edgartown. I climbed into bed, swaddled myself in blankets and continued doing what I’ve done for seven days at home, on the airplane from LAX to Boston Logan, in the taxi to Woods Hole, which costs an arm, a leg and my first-born son, and then across the Sound on the ferry—I slept. If it weren’t for the sound of birds whistling and clucking in the high trees outside the bedroom window, then I think I would’ve slept in today too. I didn’t find their noises aggravating. On the contrary – the smooth song of nature reminded me that I’m not at home and I have work to do. Therefore, I forced myself to rise and shine, shower and finally wash my straightened and limp hair. After drying off and wrapping myself with my pink kimono robe, I looked out the window to check the day and then slipped into an ankle-length snug sweatshirt dress. At least it’s red.
However, at the moment, my naturally wavy hair is all over the place. Normally I straighten it with a flatiron but I lack the stamina to stand in front of a mirror for an hour to do it. My face is makeup less and my eyes are red and puffy. Yet even in the unsightly condition that I’m in, it’s clear that the stranger is getting fresh with me.
I’m finally able to see that he’s very well put together. The navy blue tank top he’s wearing shows off his sculpted shoulders and biceps. He’s not bulky but is in very good condition. His light brown hair is tousled like a wanna-be movie star who sits outside of The Coffee Bean on Sunset Blvd on a Friday night or Urth Café on a Sunday morning. He’s very good-looking and seems to know it. I’m certainly not his type. One look at him reveals that he’s high heels, short skirts, tight jeans and hair extensions.
“Wait,” I say, suddenly remembering. “Didn’t I see you on the dock yesterday. You met the blonde. Girlfriend?” There’s a bite in my tone. He must know what I’m insinuating. The way they hugged and kissed on the lips, equaled girlfriend.
The strange chick with platinum blonde stripper hair, who despite all the open benches on the top deck of the ferry, chose to sit right next to me. I thought, maybe she saw me crying and wanted to make sure I didn’t jump off the plank. She kept glancing in my direction but I was hiding my red puffy eyes behind a pair of dark aviators. After a certain number of minutes into the crawl across Vineyard Sound, I closed my eyes and tuned her out. All I know is that I didn’t want human contact then and I certainly don’t want it now.
But the stranger is smirking, amused. “No,” he says easily. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Okay,” I sigh indifferently. I’m seriously done talking to him and certainly don’t believe him.
“Come to the party tonight,” he insists. “You’ll have fun. There’s going to be a bonfire. You haven’t lived until you’ve gone to a Vineyard bonfire.”
I can’t deny that I’m intrigued that will be a nice element to add to the article.
“I’ll think about it,” I finally say, studying the card.
“Okay.” He sounds hopeful. “I’m going to leave before you change your mind. By the way, I’m Belmont Lord.”
What a strange name.
His arm is outstretched.
Our hands touch. An electrical current energizes my palm. That was so unexpected that I draw it back.
“Hope to see you later, Daisy,” he says, grinning optimistically.
I force myself to smile, wondering if he felt that too. He turns to leave and I’ve already forgotten his name and the way he looks. The only face that fills my mind is that of my ex boyfriend, Adrian. He’s sitting across from me at Babel, the newest restaurant to elbow its way onto the Sunset strip. If memory serves me correctly, then I’m realizing he barely looked at me the night we decided to take a break. He said he needed time to figure “us” out. He said he didn’t like having an absentee girlfriend.
“I have a career; suddenly you’re not fine with it? What the hell,” I replied, which I admit was a little harsh for me but I had already downed two glasses of Chardonnay.
The young waitress with the deep regional accent and messy ponytail breaks my concentration when she sets the egg white, country style omelet down in front of me. I’m not hungry anymore but it behooves me to not miss another meal. I force myself to bite, chew swallow and repeat until I’ve eaten a sufficient portion of my breakfast.
The best way to dull the heartache is keep busy. This is what food in my belly helps me determine. I pay the bill, rise and leave. The house that I’m renting for two weeks came complete with an empty refrigerator, eating out for that length of time will certainly be expensive. I decide to head to the nearest grocery store to buy food for the next couple of days at least.
The app on my cellphone says there’s a Stop & Shop nearly a mile away on Main Street. I decide to walk instead of hopping on the number 13 bus on Church Street, believing the exercise will do me good.
I start up the narrow sidewalk, noting that every structure used to be a colonial styled home, the bank, the beauty salon, a lawyer’s office and even the local Dairy Queen. However, the exercise does the opposite of what I intended. All I can think about is Adrian and the last time we made out. It was before my trip to Turks and Caicos. He knocked on my door holding a bottle of red wine and asked if I wanted to get drunk and naked. Of course I accepted his invitation and we did just that. Sex and attraction has never been our issue. They say that writers are the worst verbal communicators on the planet. Well, we both are writers. He writes television sitcoms.
Adrian could never tell me what he wanted from me and I could never guess. Once he called me in Barbados incensed that I missed the premiere of his new Sunday night, cable show. When I told him that I recorded it on my DVR and would watch it as soon as I return he grumbled that I should forget he even mentioned it. And then he abruptly ended the phone call and that was that. I chalked his snippiness up to the time differential and his fifteen-hour workdays. Suddenly I’m not sure those two factors were the culprits.
As soon as I arrive at the Stop & Shop I pull a basket from the cart area and push it through the automatic double doors. The inside looks like any Albertson’s or Vons grocery store. The first section I go to is Produce and load up on fresh apples, pears, pomegranates, oranges, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, kale and salad kits.
My eyes are scanning the packaged legumes when I hear, “What, are you following me?”
I rotate them to the front of my shopping-cart and there’s the guy from the café, standing tall and wearing a devilish grin.
“No, I’m not,” I barely say. It’s still taking a moment for my brain to process that that was a joke.
“Don’t worry, you can follow me any-damn-where you please. I prefer it that way.” He’s still smiling.
“That’s nice,” I mumble as my mind wonders, why me? Like I said, I’m not Mr. Type A’s cup of tea. I like my men silent, mysterious and communicatively challenged, and those are the one’s who tend to like me too.
“Daisy, do you mind if I share your basket with you?” he asks to my surprise.
“I guess not,” I say hesitantly.
I would’ve said no but he said my name; how could I deny him after that?
He’s holding a case of beer in one hand and a big bag of Tortilla chips in the other. I want to blast him for eating like a frat boy but I keep my comment to myself. He puts both items into the basket and now he’s following me as I push the cart towards the seafood. This is nothing short of weird.
“So, um…” I say because I forgot his name, “…do you live here?”
“Not full-time,” he says. I wait for him to elaborate but he doesn’t, which leads me to believe maybe I got it wrong. He could be the communicatively challenged sort of fellow, which explains why he’s hitting on me. I attract them like moths to a flame.
“What about you, where are you from?” he asks.
“I thought I asked you first.” I’m surprisingly defensive.
“No, you didn’t. You asked if I lived on the Vineyard not where do I live.”
“Oh,” I say, “Right.” I’m satisfied with leaving it like that. I don’t need to know where he’s from and vice versa.
“But when I’m not here, I live in New York, Tribeca. Although I’m from Denver.” His smile deepens. “Now it’s your turn.”
We’re at the Seafood section and I scan the packaged fish.
“I live in Santa Monica,” I say as I put two packages of scallops, sea bass, salmon and a forty-count package of shrimp into the basket.
“You’re a woman who knows what she wants,” he says.
When I turn to look at him, he’s observing the items in the cart.
“I used to think so,” I mumble more so to myself as I push the basket forward in search of bread.
“And she’s cryptic,” he says as if he’s keeping a list.
Suddenly this feels extremely odd. I’ve picked up a tag-along in the form of a strange, fairly good-looking man, who put a case of beer in my basket.
“How long are you staying?” he asks.
“So far, two weeks.”
“You’re not definite?”
“Not this time,” again I mumble as we arrive at the bread and baked goods aisle.
He sniffs amused. “So what are you, a runaway bride or something? What’s your story?”
“What do you mean?” I ask as I snatch a loaf of bread off the rack, suddenly incensed by the word “bride”.
I think the cute stranger senses that he just hit a nerve because he’s examining the bruised loaf of bread.
He lifts his eyebrows. “What about eggs and milk?” I detect he’s purposely changing the subject.
“Eggs and milk?” I ask.
“You’ll need them for the mornings when you don’t eat breakfast with me. Although I’m sure I’ll be taking you to breakfast every morning. Dinner, lunch… whenever you’re hungry, I’m here.”
He’s still grinning, even if I’m showing him the opposite expression.
Really, who is this guy? He certainly is coming on strong and yet it seems as if he’s a million miles away. Since I travel a lot, I get hit on by many men. It doesn’t repulse me but I’m very good at politely letting the gentleman know I’m not interested. However right now, I want this guy to go away but I also want him to stay. He’s nice for sure but more than that he simply feels good. His voice. His energy. His smile. The intrigue in his eyes. He really feels good.
“My boyfriend is marrying my best friend,” I blurt out unthinkingly. “That’s why I feel like crap.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” He sounds genuinely sympathetic.
“Me too,” I mutter, avoiding eye contact. They say confession is good for the soul but I just feel worse. I start pushing the basket. “You’re right. I’ll need eggs, milk, pancake mix…”
“Hey,” he says softly as he takes the basket by the handle to stop my forward progress. “Sorry I didn’t mean to sound disingenuous.”
“No, that’s not it. You didn’t sound ‘disingenuous’ at all.”
Strangely, we’re staring into each other’s eyes and it feels like I’ve known him longer than for less than an hour.
“Come to my birthday party tonight,” he finally says. “It’s going to be fun. You’ll forget about this douche who made off with your skanky best friend.”
I sniff a chuckle. Hearing it put like that makes me feel better, even if he’s not a douche, although she may be a skank. The jury has always been out on that.
I shrug. “I’ll try.”
He crimps his eyebrows like he’s thinking very hard.
“You’ll need water,” he says as if that’s a novel idea.
When we get to the aisle with the water he puts three twenty-four pack of 16oz bottles in the basket. When I tell him there’s no way I can carry that back with me, he offers to drive me to the house.
Now it’s me who’s crimping my eyebrows. He weighed me down on purpose. And the only reason I go along with his little scheme is because I do need the water and since all the store clerks seem to know and like him, he must be harmless.
Copyright © 2013 Zuleika Arkadie
Scheduled to be released in full by July 31, 2013!
Hope you liked it!