Chapter One: Just Say No!

Guideline One: Remember when your mother, or maybe a D.A.R.E Officer told you that when in doubt, just say no? It applies to pretty much everything actually, not just sex, drugs and rock n' roll. Remember that, always.

The dessert menu at Le Fleur Amour was, at best, average. It was quite unfortunate really. The apple tart Madeline Joe Price ordered was a staggering $12 and made with too thick, rock hard crust and dry, obviously Red (not so) Delicious apples. The offending dessert was made even more unappealing by the solitaire diamond ring nestled in apple goo in what Madeline assumed was supposed to be a creative and romantic gesture. It sparkled up at her innocently and not for the first time that night she wished she had ordered the chocolate cake instead. She hoped, for a moment, that maybe they brought her the wrong piece; maybe, just maybe some other poor and unfortunate soul was to be the recipient of the choking hazard in her tart.

She glanced around the overpriced restaurant. Just off of Santa Monica Pier, it was supposed to be one of the best up and coming French Restaurant's in Santa Monica. It wasn't. She looked anywhere but at the man sitting across from her. A young couple, obviously on their first date, two different pairs of men, an elderly couple fondly gazing in each other's eyes and a young man who looked like he wanted to be anywhere but here and his hopeful looking date were scattered around restaurant at tables meant for two, identical to hers. Madeline couldn't help the sigh of disappointment that escaped her mouth as she finally brought her gaze to meet her date's expectant and somewhat nervous eyes. The tart, complete with the choking hazard was, in fact, hers.

She chewed on her bottom lip and winced as she chewed a bit too hard. Steven Wright, her soon to be ex-boyfriend, winced in response. He was sort of unassuming in his looks, the kind of face you might not notice in a passing crowd. He had dark, almost black, hair that was going pre-maturely gray, an oval face complete with nose and ears that were just this side of too big. But his eyes, Madeline had always loved his eyes. They were, she was loath to admit, the reason why she dated him in the first place. It wasn't the color (boring brown), they shone with a light of mischief, like he was already planning the next prank. She felt her stomach drop as that light began to fade and a worried crease formed on his forehead. She hated this part.

"Madeline?" he said timidly.

She adopted an apologetic look and opened her mouth to say…well she didn't really know what she was going to say at all but it would have been full of apologies and 'It's not you it's me' speeches but then their abominably perky waitress chose that moment to attend their table with the biggest and most disgusting grin that Madeline had ever seen. She really had the most horrendous timing ever. The girl, Bambi or Barbie or something, looked expectantly between Madeline and Steven. Her eyes were bright, almost feverishly and Madeline could have sworn that the chit was positively bouncing in excitement. Madeline groaned loudly, closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. She knew what was coming. So did Steven.

"Congrats you guys!" Bambi or Barbie said cheerfully. And loudly.

Heads swiveled, Madeline could feel the stares of the guests at the other tables. She sneaked a glance at anywhere-but-here-guy. He practically had his face in his soup, butternut squash she guessed. His date, on the other hand, had this horrifyingly wistful smile on her pretty face. Madeline sent the man sympathetic vibes. Steven cleared his throat softly.

"Yes well…" he trailed off and cast a stricken look at Madeline.

"Um, could you please bring the check please?" Madeline asked as sickeningly sweetly as she could. She even batted her eyelashes at the girl.

"Of course!" the waitress beamed. "You'll be wanting to go out and celebrate privately I'm sure!" She winked coquettishly at the almost ex couple.

Madeline watched as the waitress bounced, yes she actually bounced, away. She turned to Steven with a sad smile. His face was serious, his mouth turned down at the corners in an almost petulant frown. The mischievous light that Madeline so loved about him was gone. She stared into flat, brown eyes. She sighed forlornly.

"She certainly had poor timing didn't she?" she said lightly.

Steven's frown deepened. It suddenly reminded Madeline of a little boy who was refused candy on Halloween. She sighed again, this time wearily. It almost angered her, his audacity to propose. Really, what on earth was the man thinking? She hadn't even said the dreaded "L" word to him and he actually thought that this would go his way? He was crazy.

"Are you crazy?" Oops. She didn't actually mean to say that. "What on God's great Earth made you think that I'd be amenable to this?"

She gestured sharply to the poor excuse of a tart but instantly felt bad for the sting of her words. Steven visibly wilted, but that only made Madeline even more irritated. She tugged at a thick lock of her wavy, brown hair in exasperation.

"Look, I like you. If I didn't like you I wouldn't have started dating you in the first place. But you've got the wrong idea here."

"That's not true Maddy!" Steven licked his lips nervously. He was starting to get desperate, not good. "We're good together, and you're perfect for me. So maybe it's only been a few months…"

"Four" Madeline interrupted crossly. "And don't call me Maddy. I don't know how many times I've told you to not call me that, but this is the last one."

Madeline stood up from the table and roughly grabbed her purse off of the back of the chair. She was an average sized woman in both height and weight with a curvy figure that she rather liked; if sometimes found it difficult to find proper fitting clothes. Steven looked up at her forlornly and with almost a spark in his eyes that might have given her some hope for the future if this had been just a regular fight. But it wasn't and while she was certainly content to keep dating him, at least she would have been had the tart fiasco not occurred, he was not marriage material. Well, that wasn't true or fair to him. He probably was marriage material, she just wasn't and she had no idea why so many men seemed to think that she was.

"Sorry" he said with his eyes downcast. "Madeline, maybe I am rushing things here". He reached out and grabbed her wrist as she slung her purse over her shoulder. "But I just feel like we have this great, intense connection and I really don't want to lose that. Maybe we can just table the whole marriage thing for awhile and you know, keep it in mind for the…"

Madeline jerked her wrist out of his grip and cut him off. "I don't think so Steven." She bit her lip again and then knelt in front of the still seated man. "I'm sorry Steven, really. I think you know in your heart that this wasn't meant to be. You'll find someone who loves you and someone who you actually do love, because no matter what you think you feel for me, it isn't love. Goodbye Steven".

She stood, turned from him and walked straight out of the restaurant without looking back once. She did chance another glance at anywhere-but-here man on her way out. He was eying her with marked interest, a slight smirky smile on his face. His girlfriend was looking at her with open disapproval. She smiled and waved at them, just to be cheeky. She walked out the door and across the small parking lot to her baby blue Prius with her head held high. She even made it all the way to the Albertson's parking lot before she broke down. Resting her head on the leather steering wheel she wanted to cry. She wanted to start sobbing uncontrollably. But she didn't, she felt too empty inside. She lifted her head up and looked at the neon Albertson sign. Well, there's nothing better to fill up a depressed stomach than ice cream.

She got out of her car feeling slightly uplifted at the thought of her second favorite treat (second favorite next to her boss Rose's pumpkin-oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie). The walk to the freezer section was a complete blur; honestly she wasn't even sure how she got there. One minute she was in the parking lot and the next rows upon rows of ice cream. Opening a freezer door to that initial blast of ice cold air was one of Madeline's favorite sensations; it felt especially good on a hot summer day like today in Southern Cali. At The Sweet Tooth, the bakery where Madeline worked, she had ruined several frozen treats by standing in front of the open freezer door for too long. Rose, the sweet and man crazy old lady who owned the bakery would chide her but then Madeline would catch her doing the same thing but with her shirt off.

Madeline had a pint of Ben and Jerry's Double Fudge Brownie nestled under one arm and a pint of Chunky Monkey under the other. In each hand she held Cherry Garcia and Mint Chocolate Cookie and was trying to decide between the two. Her roommate, Greg, usually went for the Cherry Garcia but she wasn't really a fan . Did she really want to eat three whole pints by herself? She wavered and in the midst of her contemplation someone tapped her on the shoulder. Startled, she turned and her eyes widened at the sight of a tall, freckle face teenager who looked like he just came in off a surfboard in an Albertson's smock.

"Can I help you?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

He gave her a grin that she supposed was meant to be charming. "Yeah, I couldn't help but notice you here…alone" he actually waggled his eyebrows at her "and I was wondering if maybe I could have your number or something?"

She put the pint of Mint Chocolate Cookie back into the freezer and shut the door. She turned around and looked the kid over again. Maybe he was a bit older than she thought, but still not old enough to be hitting on her.

"You've got to be kidding me, right"?

He looked around, "Um…no?" he said in the form of a question.

"Huh, well then that makes you an ass." She gestured with her one free hand to the three pints of ice cream on her person. "I'm clearly in the midst of the infamous 3-pint breakup and you're asking for my number. On top of that, you're like what, 18? Yeah, I thought so. I'm gonna go buy my ice cream now. Have a nice evening".

"Wait!" he called out.

She halted in the ice cream isle, her heels clicking on the linoleum floor. She looked at him incredulously and raised an eyebrow at him in response. Putting her hands on her hips would have been ideal, but considering her hands were full, an eyebrow would just have to do.

"So um, is that a no to getting your number?"

She shook her head and turned back down the aisle and stalked all the way to the self-checkout register, paid for her ice cream and then left feeling somehow even more depressed than she had upon arriving at the grocery store. Sliding back into her car, she pushed in the start button and slowly maneuvered home.

It wasn't long before she got there, her keys jangling in the door of her luxury apartment in the Plaza at the Arboretum apartment complex. She opened the door to a shirtless Greg playing Halo in the living room. He looked up at her with a smile bright on his face that instantly faded when he saw the brown paper bag with tale tell ice cream pint bulges.

"Shit. Another one bites the dust. How did this one taste"?

Madeline dug out the pint of Cherry Garcia out of the bag and threw it at his head.

A/N: Yeah, so this is my nanowrimo this year and I'm having a bit of trouble staying motivated. I thought I'd go ahead and post it up here on fp to see if it garners any responses. Please be aware that since this is nanowrimo, this story is not edited and it is barely proofread so beware any mistakes.

I actually really like this plot, which is fully fleshed out. I hope you enjoy it to!