Chapter One

Withdrawal Symptoms

They climbed back into his car, soaking, from the rain which had come down seemingly out of nowhere. They had run from the coffee shop as fast as they could and chased each other down High Street, and they legged it to the car park.

"Okay, this is good so far, I can work with this! What could happen to them next? Think! You have a deadline! You need to print this ASAP and get it to the Boss so he will give you the thumbs up and commission you to go ahead with the rest of the book."

Slowly, Sarah looked over at Harrison, breathing heavily from their strenuous exercise. Not that she was could possibly been the best date that she had ever been on! The rain wasn't a dampener, it had just brought out-

"This is rubbish. This is a pile of rubbish, no! A rubbish tip!" I thought, staring at the computer screen blankly. It was my fifth attempt at actually writing a decent taster of my writing for possible investors and I was having quite a severe case of writer's block.

The blue light from my monitor was starting to burn my eyes and there was a bitter taste in my mouth from heaven knows what. "What you need is a good place that inspires you," I rambled to myself, "Something that just lets the words… flow… Think…"

I had been this way for two weeks now. I know, the whole situation is sad. I mean I was one of the youngest New York Times Bestsellers at only 19, had my novel published in 15 different languages and it was still selling more than 12 million copies a year, yet somehow I was skint. Out of pocket. My whole fortune had dried up and left a kind of white flakey puddle in my bank account. Every invoice from the bank seemed to be laughing at me. "Look who has no money! Yeah thats right! The Writer of our Generation, Daniel Brown! That's who!"

It wasn't all bad. I shared an office with TV cook Larissa Smith. She was the only positive word I heard in that place, often walking in and seeing my bashing my head on the monitor, as if somehow this word get the words from my brain to the page.

"Hello gorgeous!" She chirped, warming up the room with her Gloucestershire accent (just an hour East of my hometown if you are interested) and that glow that old people just seem to naturally radiate. She was honestly the only thing that kept me going sometimes.

"Hey Larissa. How was your dinner?" Larissa had an interested investor from a supermarket come and see her the night before. Her plan was to make him a full five course meal, all of the recipes of course were in her cook book and all ingredients bought from the man's store. The deal was that if he liked the recipes and her writing that went into the book then he would give her a small grant and free food from the supermarket so that she could finish her book without dying of starvation and afford to keep going on with her project. He would then sell her books in all of his 75 outlets and they would all sport a lovely supermarket logo on the back cover. But for some reason she didn't mind having his brand all over the book. 'Its the passion that lets me do it dear.' she would say 'Besides, without the passion for what we do, why do we do it at all?' 'Sometimes I wonder.' I replied.

"Oh it was smashing dear!" she said, smiling at the memories that seemed to be playing in her head. "I served him the Leak and Potato Soup you're so fond of! Next I served a light dose of my Toasted Salmon Corners and Loved them! Next up I served a Roast Chicken with a nice gravy and Roasted Herby Potatoes. Next I served a lovely Roast Beef with my famous Salad, you know, the one with the little tomatoes and the parsnips? I still have to get a name for that one before I publish. Finally…" She sort of started gazing up at the ceiling by this point, dreaming of food, a mesmerised look on her face complimented by her trademark TV smile and she was almost swaying. Her love of knew no boundaries.

"And the dessert!" She smacked her lips before continuing, "I made a three layer chocolate mousse, topped with home whipped cream and a cherry. We simmered down afterwards with a good stovetop brew. It. Were. Smashing." and with that she returned to the room.

That's why I loved Larissa. Everything she cooked took you on a journey. It was simple yet it took you to places you didn't think were possible.

"A BREW!" I burst up from my seat, startling Larissa and nearly giving her a heart attack.

"Good Lord! I nearly died!" She gasped, clutching her chest.

"I'm so sorry Larissa but I've had a great idea. How would you like to come to coffee with me for breakfast?" I asked smiling and holding out my arm.

"It would be my pleasure!" she said linking her arm through mine, "But make sure we go to a real cafe okay? None of that Starbucks or Costa or whatever they're called these days."

Unfortunately for Larissa, cafes that are not chains aren't usually open at six 'o' clock in the morning, so the only place we could find was a small McCafe. When I suggested it I felt bad, but Larissa said she didn't mind, claiming it to be 'a new experience' and 'an adventure'. That woman has spirit if ever I saw it.

The noise of the fryers and stoves seemed to be like walking into a solid wall of noise. "So why exactly are we here?" asked Larissa, clutching my arm and looking up at me like a scared child.

"I need inspiration for a new character, a hard working, Average Joe with a sop story and a hard career. And where better than the streets themselves?!"

"Sorry love, all of that kind of went WHOOSH!" she said waving her hand over her head. "It's nothing personal or anything but information just seems to go in one ear and out the other for anything that's not food. It's one of the many reasons why I was kicked out of my Hospitality Class… Twice."

"It's okay!" I said, laughing at her sincerity, "I do it all the time if it's my mother talking! So, lett's get some grub, eh?"

For someone who didn't like chain cafes, Larissa took every opportunity she got to try something new. She had a Iced Mocha, with a blueberry and white chocolate muffin and a raison scone. She downed the Iced Mocha quite quickly, as the Summer heat was already arriving. Next she sampled the muffin, which to my disappointment, she didn't finish, and lastly she had the scone, cutting it neatly in half and spreading the sachet of butter in with her expert hand. I literally blinked and it was gone, and the she was, dabbing her mouth with the napkin like the thing had never existed.

"See anyone you like dear?" She asked. She folded up the spare napkin before looking around and making sure no one was looking and popping it in her purse. The dear thought she was stealing it and I couldn't help but giggle at what she had dubbed 'The naughtiness of it all!'

"No, not really. I need…" I paused to think, "I need to be struck by inspiration when I see them. Then I'll grab my notebook and write them a backstory. Something normal, with a pang of sadness and a hint of change in the air."

"See now I understand! You're speaking my language!" Said Larissa, intrigued.

"Yeah, I am! For me, making a character is like making… Uh… a PB&J! You got the base, which is the bread, the backbone of the character. His-"

"Or her!" Said Larissa curtly.

"Yeah," I nodded, "Or her history, that makes them who they are. Their personality, and their hopes and dreams. Then you have the Peanut Butter, the turning point the character had that makes them sad and causes the problem for them in the story. Finally you have the Jam, which is the solution for them, what fixes them up and ends the story. You can make a sandwich with more than Bread, Peanut Butter and Jam, but the base ingredients have to remain for it to be a PB&J."

"You my good man," said Larissa smiling at me "Should a Cooking Show of your own!"

I opened my mouth to reply but my phone started ringing. I reached into my pocket to get it, saying to Larissa "I don't have to answer it, we can keep talking."

"No no dear!" she said, patting my left hand, "Take all the time you need."

"Are you sure you don't mind?" I asked, now holding it on the table, "It can probably wait."

"Don't take the chance." she said, as I put the phone to my ear. Answer it! She mouthed at me, slapping my wrist.

"Hello?" I said winking at Larissa as I answered my phone.

"Ah, Mister Brown!" Boomed the voice of my Literary Agent.

I shuddered. Mr. "Bagsy" Moneth was not a force to be reckoned with. He was a man that got what he wanted, and when he didn't, somebody lost their job. I guess it was his way of 'sending a message' to his writers that if you didn't keep in line, didn't make enough money for him, didn't kiss up to him enough, he would clear out your office, and blacklist you to all of his contacts and investors. I wouldn't say its impossible to do it without him because most authors do publish their books without the help of any sort of Agent or whatever (this not quite statistic includes me) but once you become dependent on them, it feels nearly impossible to get anywhere.

"I need you in my office stat!" He said in his heavy New Jersey accent.

"I'll be there ASAP." I said, trying not to show my concern to Larissa.

"Is that cooking I can hear? Where?! Did you go out with that Larry woman again? I'm tellin' you, the old hag is gone soon, so don't get to attached to her."

"And why's that?" I asked, genuinely shocked as I was sure that this would not only be news to Me, but also to Larissa.

"She aint sellin' the book to anyone yet and there aint enough dough to keep her on."

"But she had the meeting with a potential investor-"

"I don't care if she were dead! She may as well be cos' she aint cuttin' it in the produce isle if you know what I mean. Now leave me be while you get here and I'll call you into my office when you return with freak show."

I sighed deeply before hanging up.

"Right!" I said, as merrily as I could to Larissa as I stood up, "We need to get back to the office."

"Oh well," she said smiling back, "I needed to get back to Bagsy about the meeting last night."

My food seemed to want to come back up at this point. How could I keep what was going on from this sweet old woman?! She never did anything to hurt me! Yet here I was, not telling her that her literary agent said she was dead to him.

The walk in the sweltering city heat was enough to make me lose more fluid than I had had in my smoothie. When one wanted to make a giant concrete oven, an architect from New York certainly knew how to turn up the heat. I swear the whole in the ozone that the Americans are making is nearly as bad as the whole in Bagsy's favourite suit, from which his multitude of fat has this way of bulging out from.

The five minute walk seemed to talk five hours, but it was incredible, I was sweating buckets, while Larissa was taking it in her floral printed stride.

As we approached the Taylor Courts, which is the massive office complex, of which we work on the 64th floor, from our tiny office that Bagsy had provided. We walked into the lobby through the revolving doors and we hit by a blast of cold air. The air conditioning was on full and we both stopped and sighed with relief before making our way across the marble lobby to the stairs. The stairs took us up to the second and third floor landings, from which you had a view of the three story floor to ceiling windows of the lobby and the traffic outside. The first three floors of the building were recreational facilities for the staff who worked in the building. A gym and pool on the first floor, the Starbuck and various other chain food outlets on the Second floor, and the Bonsai Garden/lobby/zone of tranquility (as our receptionist on 64 described it).

I put my keycard into the lift door and it swung open. The lift was brand new and would take you to the floor you worked on as soon as you swiped in your card, which was why you had to walk up three flights of stairs to get to it. It was nice and swish, but I dreaded going down in it. I drop as fast as you can go with out your feet leaving the floor, and since we are nearly at the top floor, we have a long long ride down. I have this tendency to hold my breath the whole 45 seconds down, and so, as you can imagine, I usually reach the third floor in quite a state.

I went to the receptionist on our floor, Samantha-but-call-her-Sammy-she-insists, to tell her that I needed her to buzz me in to Bagsy's office. To my annoyance, she was having one of her many "Funny Turns" and needed to use the bathroom, from which I could hear her giggling merrily before pausing to gasp the word "CATS!"

I picked up the phone and dialed 702 to Bagsy's office. He picked up and there was the sound of munching and many grunts. I waved at Larissa as she headed back to our office and then put my ear back to the phone. Bagsy must have heard my ear brush the phone and so knew I was there and made the first move in conversation, much to his annoyance.

"Samantha! I can hear you breathing into the phone! Are you..? Id you're having another on of your funny turns then I'm just going to hang up!" I then realised I needed to talk and went for it.

"Oh Mr. Moneth! Hi! Me! Daniel! Yeah Samantha couldn't make it to the phone I was wondering if you could buzz me in?"

"Oh! Your late Brown! Come and take a seat." he said, putting the phone down. I heard the buzz and then a click from the end of the hall. My queue to enter.

Bagsy sat at his desk eating a foot long meatball sub, his and my favourite, which explain the weird noises while I had been on the phone. He smiled an italian tomato saucy smile that only a sandwich could produce and motioned for me to sit down.

"I would have ordered you a sandwich too but I forgot you were coming and to be honest I couldn't be bothered going online again." he said, taking another massive bite out of his sandwich.

"Don't worry sir!" I said "I just had a Chia Latte Frappe and a touted bagel."

"Fancy!" He replied, "But but no bagel could fill the void a footlong meatball sub can."

"Words of wisdom!" I said, Just get this over with! I thought.

"I have called you in today," Said Bagsy "Because I have news back from the investor who read that 'American Dream' style 40,000 word Chapter you sent in."

"What did he say?! I need to publish again! I swear sir! I am beginning to have withdrawal symptoms from not publishing and it's killing me." I exclaimed. This was it. This was make or break. This would save my career.

"To put this lightly…"

"He hated it… Didn't he…"

"Couldn't read past the first three paragraphs without his eyes bleeding."

OUCH. Way to deliver the blow lightly. I honestly wanted to cry… This was it. My last chance. I couldn't recover from this. I would be homeless, living on the streets… No. NO!

"Please sir! There must be something I can do, something I can change? Anything!"

Bagsy looked at me like he was eyeing up the runt of the litter. Then his little beady eyes seemed to soften slightly, he groaned before talking again.

"Listen… Since your first book did so well and it delivered… I can be nice-"

I started sucking up to him before I even knew what he would suggest, "Thank you sir I won't let you down I promise I-"

"Since you are one of my most successful beginners… well were anyway, I will give you the chance. You have two weeks to write me a whole book. If by the end of that you do not have a book and an interested investor… You can stay. But I want just under half of whatever you earn… Do we have a deal?"

"Tt…two… weeks? I… I can't do that! I can try but to get… I…" I couldn't help but splutter. Writing a book in two weeks is impossible for the most experienced author, but getting it edited and getting on and investor and and publisher interested and…

'It can't be done.' I thought 'It simply can't be done.'

"No exceptions. I can trust you. I have grown fond of you like a son. Like the son I never had!"

"Sorry Sir!" I interrupted, "But you have three sons. I met them at your Mansion Warming Barbecue last July."

"Yes," he said, grimacing "But I hate all of them. Anyway! I believe you can get this done so don't prove me wrong! I have looked for alternate employment for you, but for some reason no one seems interested, even with your current credentials... Now get outta my office!" He wheeled over to me in his office chair and pushed me out of the door.

"Two Weeks… Two Weeks… I can do this!" I said… Deep down I knew though… That I almost certainly could not do this.