So I guess I shouldn't have decided to publish my last chapter at like…five thirty in the morning? But what can I say y'all? I had the itch to start typing and I did. I read over it twice in my sleep deprived state and then I loaded that hot mess as fast as my shaky fingers could. It wasn't bad. It wasn't good either! But I mean…I've done worse first drafts.
I hope whoever reads this enjoys it! If you see any typos that are just simply distressing, please don't hesitate to call a girl out. I might even fix it!
"You are seriously screwed. Royally….God I still can't get over how ridiculous you are! For someone whose 'got their shit together', you've got a knack for making things hard for yourself!" the journalist couldn't wipe the grin off her face even as she took another swig from her beer.
Scarlet jumped to defend her bruised ego, "What are you talking about? ...'Making things hard for yourself'…I seriously have no idea what—"
"Remember that time," Tiffany began as she swiveled on her bar stool, "you lied to your parents about having an apartment when you first got out here? When they wanted to visit you, you had to convince them that you were recovering from some ridiculous disease. You're lucky you found that little place on Franklin Street when you did!"
"Well I couldn't let them be right! They figured I would be procrastinating and bumming around or something!"
"Scarlet you lived on my couch for almost two months. Oh! Also! Remember that time you invited to Lucile to a movie premier that you didn't have tickets to during your phase when you wanted her to like you?"
"Excuse me," Scarlet's perfectly manicured hand tapped the counter as she tried to flag down the bar tender, "could I get another?"
"You MANAGED to convince her that the director had tried to use you and nearly took advantage of you; you've never even met the man! Then she tried to get you to do an article on it…" Tiffany scoffed.
"She still rattles on about that! Doesn't she get that I am emotionally scarred? Or at least I would've been… Anyway, you have to admit that it's insane that I haven't met him yet considering how many people I do know. What happened to that 'six degrees' theory or whatever? You know it doesn't even matter it was just some dumb, indie crap anyway…"
"Let's not forget!" the journalist continued as she drilled her finger enthusiastically in the air, "That time you borrowed one of my favorite shirts without telling me, spilt red wine, all down the front of it AND THEN, tried to hang it in my closet and act like you've never seen it!?"
Scarlet squeezed her eyes shut, pinched the bridge of her nose and mumbled, "Ugh God let it go! I paid you back!"
"Not the point! The point is, oh…Tab please! Listen, I love you!" Tiffany reached out her hands, dramatically placed them on the brunette's shoulders and urgently shook them, "But you have got to be more honest with others! You're never going to just be yourself if you keep, well…making things up!" Her card and receipt suddenly appeared in front of her and she hastily stuffed them into her jean's back pocket.
"Girl, I gotta head out now, I need to go to sleep. Thanks for that number earlier, I totally owe you! Text me when you get back to your place?"
The quirky friend then placed a fleeting kiss on Scarlet's cheek and whirled out of the building. The young professional, with everything going for her, now was alone in the dark bar. As Scarlet sat there, flustered and slightly humbled, she began carefully chewing on her straw and Tiffany's words.
'She is completely right,' Scarlet thought as she stabbed at the defenseless lime wedge in her glass, 'I am a total fraud! I wonder why it's so hard for me to just…stick to the truth. Jesus, am I really THAT insecure with myself? I'm not unhappy with my life! Life is a ball right now! Why do I feel the urge to…" Scarlet cocked her eyebrow as she mentally searched for the word, "to flourish myself like that…'
She wasn't sure how many moments passed when a body breezed past her.
"Uh, miss? This is the last call…?"
"Damn it!" Scarlet banged her hands on counter and cried out into the bartender's face, "See if I ever help that brat ever again! If it wasn't for me, she would've been fired a long time ago!"
"… I think you should head home for tonight," was his reply as he swiped up her nearly empty glass and strode away, clearly desensitized from his work.
'Great,' Scarlet thought as she fished around her purse for her wallet, 'Now I'm a liar AND a complete loser.' She slid a twenty on top of her bill and stood to leave, figuring the poor guy deserved at least a decent tip after suffering from her alcohol laced breath assault. She slipped on her light jacket and headed for the exit. She took in a breath of fresh air, but immediately gagged when she caught whiff of something rancid. Grumbling about how disgusting the street was, she started walking down the sidewalk towards her place.
'Man, what am I going to do with myself? Maybe I should just come clean about the whole thing via text? It's not like I will HAVE to ever see him again or anything?' She thought about how good he looked in his suit tonight. '….Maybe he is incredibly forgiving? I mean he probably wouldn't date me, but another friend is always a plus? If he keeps someone as openly aggressive as Cindy around, he must be pretty laid back, right? I wonder if he even noticed how obnoxious she was...'
Scarlet continued to dwell on the small, sexy details of Trent Blackburn as she walked. She thought about how the dim lights reflected in his deep auburn hair, and how the faint lines around his eyes creased when he found something funny or enjoyable. She faintly could recall the woodsy, musky scent of his cologne when he had told her goodbye. Hell, she even noticed his delicate, braided leather bracelet revealing itself from beneath the sleeve of his shirt.
When she reached her apartment building she stopped and abruptly banged her head against the door. Man she really felt like he was it, "the one". He was the exact, totally adult, completely capable kind of guy she was ready to settle down with, and she had to ruin it with some stupid lie. As she pushed the key in to the lock, she paused. She didn't want to have to keep meeting guys at parties and bars. She couldn't accept the idea that Trent was off the market because of one silly blip. This was a person she wanted, no needed in her life. Damn it, she was going to make it happen! Then it struck her, she didn't have to keep being a liar.
'… Maybe I'll just make my little fib…sort of the truth?' Scarlet looked up at the dark and blank night sky, wondering why she didn't think of this sooner.
She would just have become an outdoors-woman.
Scarlet couldn't convince herself to crawl out of bed. Certainly staying here beneath her wonderful, warm sheets would be better than facing real life.
Unfortunately, she knew she had to get the day started, and the sooner the better. Scarlet reached for her cell that she had left charging on her nightstand. She already had ten new emails and several texts and it wasn't quite seven in the morning. She sighed deeply and eventually coaxed the sheets off of her legs and turned so that they were hanging off the side of the mattress. In a surge of energy she heaved up on her feet, scooped her robe off the floor and bustled in to the kitchen as she covered herself. As she flipped the on switch for her Keurig, she leaned her hip on the counter. Her phone buzzed, alerting her of either another text or another email. She cracked her neck as she decided that now was a good a time as any to go ahead and get started on her replies.
Her job had become pretty fantastic. She rarely had to be at the office before ten and was usually out of there by four. Not that her work was actually 'over,' it never was, but she liked the fact that she spent so little time in a desk and more time communicating with different people. When she saw how prosperous the magazine was, she couldn't help but feel a sense of pride knowing that she was one of the causes. It was a long and tiring process, getting to this point. When she first interviewed for the job, she had never wanted anything so badly. Everything was working out; she had graduated college, moved to a big city, and was going to work for a small fashion/beauty magazine. Her blood, sweat and tears were in her career now and she loved it so much, she often found it hard to remember her existence before she had Splurge.
She had dealt with her share of failures, everyone involved had, but now look at where they were! The craziest part was that it was just as frivolous and brain-washing as other publications, nothing much different. All it took were the right names and the right marketing, and their (once) humble magazine figured out the formula.
An aroma of French vanilla trickled in the air, giving the gratifying signal that the coffee was ready. After proof-reading email number one-of-many, Scarlet placed her phone down, wrapped her fingers around the ceramic surface of her cup and sighed at the warmth.
Her phone buzzed again, eliciting a heavy sigh. Her fingers expertly glided over the screen to see a text message from Trent.
Any remaining sleepiness was quickly swept away as her eyes darted through the words.
'Good Morning! I'm heading for the airport now, and I just wanted to send you a quick hello before I boarded. It was really fantastic talking last night to you and I'm looking forward to seeing you in a few months. '
The emoticon! If there was any indication that Trent Blackburn wanted to get it on with her, it was found somewhere between that playful colon and the parenthesis pairing. She effortlessly sent a friendly reply and added her email, just incase.
He was already sending morning texts and they hadn't even gone on a date yet? It was almost too easy; the poor man was hooked.
Now she decided it was time to begin mapping out her plan of action. How hard could learning how to 'backpack' be anyway? The activity was made out of two components, a backpack and walking. Easy as that! With the help of the internet and an outdoors store, she was going to be business in no time! But for now, she would get ready. Scarlet was in and out of the shower quickly so she could properly style her hair into her signature lush, classy waves. For her outfit she decided to go with a form fitting emerald sleeveless dress, her walking friendly nude heels and finally paired it with a classic khaki trench coat. Her makeup was simple, a cute winged liner and a peachy lip. She decided that she would accessorize in a long gold chain, to bring out some of the yellow flecks in her hazel eyes. When she was done she gave herself of quick once over and decided she looked pretty, clean, and approachable. These were all good qualities for anyone in PR and she was satisfied. She checked her time and still had an hour before she had to make an appearance at work.
As she packed her leather messenger bag, she figured she had enough time to check out the book store that was close to her building. Scarlet wasn't actually particularly interested in the books; she had an e-reader of course, but 'The Cottoned Cat' had some of the best homemade pastries in the city. Scarlet left her building and started an enjoyable stroll towards the store. She would grab a Strawberry Bun for Tiffany, a Maple Bacon Biscuit for herself and the day would have a very lovely start. She took a right, walked for about two minutes dodging and weaving through the crowd and soaking in the energy of the morning. When she had first moved from the suburbs, all of the sounds and sights were distracting and sometimes overwhelmed her. She barely even thought about it after living here for a few years, and actually now found silence much more bizarre.
She stopped at the entrance of the store and briefly glanced at the sign. The letters were wooden cut outs painted a cheerful light blue, each one slightly crooked or ill-proportioned. Directly above the sign, in the same wood but painted white, was an outline of a cat leaping across the letters. Scarlet strolled in and first saw a long table off towards the left side of the slightly over-cramped space. A banner hung over the edge depicting an expansive violet mountain range the sun barely peeking over the top. In yellow it read, "Alaskan Dawns, a man's personal epic tale of travel and enlightenment in America's last frontier! Written by New York Time's selling author, Rex Higgens".
'Must be a signing…' she thought and headed straight for the back, where the small but always busy bakery was located. An older, cheerful and very curvaceous woman stood behind the counter calling out customer numbers. When she spotted Scarlet she smiled, "Well where have you been? You haven't been on one of those silly diets again have you? Tad! Look at what the cat dragged in!"
An older man with a long white braid trailing down his back peeked from around one of the customers at the register and laughed, "Scarlet! You're too skinny! Men like a lady with curves! Luckily for you, the Maple Bacons are about to come out of the oven! Hot 'n' fresh!"
"Tad! Stop spouting nonsense at me! And Miss Mimi I really don't appreciate you jabbering on about my eating habits in front of strangers!" Scarlet scolded the baker playfully as she got in to the line with the said strangers who were all too busy with their phones or their own conversations to care. When she reached the register she made her order, paid and then scooted towards Miss Mimi.
"Sorry about this Scarlet, but the Strawberry Bun? You're going to have to wait about ten minutes. Is that okay?"
"Not a problem. It will be worth it, without a doubt," Scarlet flippantly waved her hand in the air.
"You know you could always go check out the book store right? NUMBER 65!"
She passed the order to a young mother smiling and then switched back to her on-again-off-again regular, "We own that part too."
"…Yeah yeah yeah, I see. You're just trying to make room. I get it," Scarlet groaned as Miss Mimi rolled her eyes. Scarlet shuffled away from the small counter space and drifted in to the quiet aisles of the store. She paced through and observed the different titles and crept back towards the entrance of the store where the signing booth was. Instead of just the banner however, she now also saw the back of a very tall, wiry man. Scarlet instinctively found herself evaluating him. His hair was a mass of dark curls that seemed to morph into a grizzly five o'clock shadow. He had a very prominent nose that, though not unattractive, it certainly made a statement. He was dressed in a faded flannel shirt, with the sleeves rolled up quarter length and equally faded jeans and…converses. He dressed like some college asshole that would play the guitar at the student center. 'Just a stock boy anyway,' Scarlet confirmed as she watched him stack copies of the novel for, what Scarlet assumed, would be easier access for interested customers.
She found herself thinking about her new goal and began wondering if the book had any 'outdoorsy insight'. She silently advanced towards the booth. She stood behind the lanky gentleman, and seeing as how he didn't seem to notice her, she gently tapped towards his sky high shoulder, "Excuse me?"
His body jerked from surprise and he swung his head around. Beneath heavy black eyebrows, a pair of the lightest blues eyes Scarlet had ever seen in person locked on hers. Though such an innocent color, there was something incredibly serious reflected there and it took Scarlet aback. She blinked several times and found her thoughts.
"I was just wondering, have you read this book?"
He didn't answer immediately. Instead he just stared at her, and then cocked his head.
"Well I wrote it, so really I've read it quite a few times," he replied.
"You're kidding right?" Scarlet laughed instantaneously, causing and even more confused expression to cross the bearded face.
She continued, "You're… what is it…'Rex Higgens'? You're the New York Times bestselling author?"
Rex shrugged, "In the flesh," and then proceeded with his book stacking.
Scarlet fought the urge to demand who his agent was and advise him to fire the criminal for letting him leave the house this way.
"Well then," she continued, "you must be pretty proficient with activities involving camping and hiking?"
Rex laughed and sent her a strange look, "Yeah, I guess you could say I am 'proficient'."
Scarlet thought about what she had just spouted off and fought the urge to giggle at how ridiculous she sounded, "I am thinking about starting up and I just figured I would look for some resources. I happened to come to buy something from the bakery and walked by and it just seemed…ironic."
"Sounds like a bit of serendipity! I hope you enjoy it."
Scarlet silently watched him as he straightened his stacks.
"I mean…Would your book help me any?"
Rex, finally satisfied with his work, reached up and softly groaned into a stretch which made Scarlet feel slightly awkward as she reached out and examined a copy.
When he was finally finished (which was clearly taking his time on purpose) he answered, "Well, my book…It's more about the experience and what trails I took…Stuff like that. It isn't going to…teach you how to do anything directly."
He slowly started to step behind the table. Scarlet frowned and examined the spine. Near the edge of the book, she saw a small emblem of a leafy tree shape with the words "Juniper Publications" beneath it.
"I'll take one," she announced. Rex cocked an eyebrow and then nodded.
"Cool. Do you want me to…sign it or…?"
She stared blankly at him for a moment and then shrugged, "Yeah sure. That'd be cool with me."
He chuckled at her reply and reached out for her copy, "Wow, you're too kind."
As she watched him expertly swirl his name on to the inside cover, she couldn't help but feel like, if in another situation she might've enjoyed getting to know this person. He had a very calm air about him, and yet there was also something that Scarlet just couldn't quite put her finger on…
"Wait, oh man what time is it…?" Scarlet tried to locate her cell in her bag, but Rex just glanced at his watch and spat out, "9:55."
"Damn it, I'm going to be late…" Scarlet rushed off to the back where Miss Mimi wordlessly passed her a to-go bag.
"It was really great to meet you Rex! Word of advice, invest in clothes not meant for kids!" Scarlet rushed out after grabbing her copy of his book.
"Hey wait! We didn't meet! Hey hold on!" He stood and started trying to follow her out the door. But she didn't hear him as she joined the busy streets, racing towards the subway station.
Rex blocked the entrance of The Cottoned Cat and shook his head, "She didn't even pay for it…"