"What's gotten into you?" Charlene swiveled on her bar stool to face Maura, meticulously tweezed eyebrows knit together by puzzlement. She cocked her head to one side, making her long golden earrings jingle softly.

"Hm?" Maura glanced up, jolted from her reverie by the sound of a familiar voice.

"I said, 'What's gotten into you?' You haven't said a word in fifteen minutes, and you're stabbing that cherry like you want to see it bleed."

"Oh." Looking down into her drink, Maura noticed that the fruitin question was now in pieces at the bottom of the glass. "Huh. I guess you're right. Oops."

Charlene sliced the smoky air with a downward sweep of her hand, as if to say 'Yes, of course I'm right, let's move on.' "So what's up?"

Maura released her straw, letting it descend to the murky depths. "My mom came over to give me a belated birthday present yesterday."

The older girl nodded knowingly, assuming as usual that she understood the problem before she'd heard it. Her mascara-lined bottle-green eyes widened. "Oh. Late again, huh?"

"And," her friend continued pointedly, "she gave me Ken's new book."

"Right. So?"

"So." Maura repeated, feeling the heat of fury burning her insides, "it's called Memphis Sun."

"Oh, my God." The eyes were wide again, and the mouth too. Char leaned forward as though she were hearing a recap of a particularly climactic scene from Passions, gripping the edge of the counter so that she wouldn't topple off her stool. "But isn't that—"

"What I called my book, yeah." Maura tipped back her glass, screwing up her face against the burn as the vodka went down. It wasn't her book, really, she'd never written it. More accurately, it was the story she'd had in her mind for a year and a half, the plot and characters she fall asleep honing and sharpening in her mind while she waited for the chance to write them out. Her stomach twisted with revulsion.

"Shit, honey. I'm sorry."

"Me too." One side of her mouth turned up in a bitter half-smile as the memory flooded her for the hundredth time.

She was sitting at the kitchen table, a blindfold tied firmly over her eyes. To her left, she could hear the clink of plates against the kitchen counter, the groan of the oven door, the flare of a match. Excitement bubbled inside her, making her giggle. "What are you doing?"

"You'll see."

Finally, plunk, something was set before her, and the blindfold was removed. She inhaled sharply as her heart filled with warmth. The candles flickered softly, casting the meal—and Ken's handsome face—into partial darkness. He sat across from her, dark eyes alight.

"I figured you'd be tired of serving other people food by now, so I thought I'd do the honors. A little role reversal, if you will." He flashed the smile that made her weak.

She could only whisper her 'thank you'.

The meal was delicious—pasta and sausage, with a side of buttered garlic bread, and wine—nothing they served at Cecilia's. She complimented him continuously; he just smiled. After they had eaten, he led her into his den, where they sat on the big blue couch and talked. Eventually, as they always did with Ken, the conversation turned to writing. Leaning against him, wrapped up in the comfort of his arms and the warmth of his wine, she confessed her secret.

She had a story, she told him, and it had been there for a long time. In her head, that is. It was a heartwarming tale, a real, honest story, about a girl named Susannah Wilcox who goes to live with her aged and isolated grandfather in Tennessee after her husband of twelve years decides that he "just doesn't feel the same way anymore". While there, she learns about love and self-sufficiency, and discovers that maybe being "let go" wasn't so bad after all.

He didn't a word at first. She began justifying and clarifying left and right, desperate for someone to see its potential. He silenced her with a long, deep kiss, and whispered that it was gold. Pure gold, and so was she. She was elated, woozy with his compliments and his kiss. The next morning, she woke up in his bed.

After that, she had become his muse, the "living remedy" for every bout of writer's block. He came to the diner more than ever, leaving little notes on his checks ("Hey, beautiful—dinner tonight?") and constantly shooting her that incredible smile. She'd floated through her days, grinning and glowing at every turn. Then, about a month ago, he'd disappeared. She'd tried calling, but got no response. He was gone.

Now she knew why.

Back in the bar, Charlene was still ogling at her. "So, whatcha gonna do?"

Maura shrugged, and attempted to drown her emotions in another swig of vodka. "I don't know."

Char shook her head, tsking. The light bounced off her long red hair, making it shine. "Damn. If I were you, I'd go Black Widow on his ass."

For a second, there was nothing. Then, all at once, Maura slammed her hand down on the bar counter. Charlene jumped, and shot her a reproachful look.

"Don't scare me like that!"

The younger girl grinned, ignoring the startled outburst. "Charlene Hayward, you are a genius."

"You're going to kill-"

"No, no, no." Maura waved her hand through the air, tossing her friend's concern to the wind. "I've got something much better than that."