I couldn't believe it. I was literally standing in front of Emily Burrows, my favorite author, in my favorite bar, in my hometown. If "a;sldka;fljg" was a possible noise to make, that's what would be coming out of my mouth right now.

"You're Emily, aren't you?" I asked. "Burrows? Writer of Nights?" I hoped I was correct, I really hope I did, and that this wasn't some weird doppleganger who looked like her. Or was it some kind of alien who tore into her flesh to take over her body? Because there's no way in hell someone as awesome as her would be caught talking with someone like me.

The woman before me smiled. "It is I." Her sultry voice confirmed. "You must be Mara."

"H-How did you know?" I stammered, surprised that she even knew who I was. PSYCHIC TELEPATHY? No you fucking idiot, you give off noob vibes, that's why.

"Just had a feeling." Emily grinned, her teeth were incredibly bright. "How are you doing?"

"I'm doing pretty fucking awesome, actually." I replied. "Soooo... What brings you here to Azul Falls?"

Emily shrugged, and looked around the bar. "I needed a change of scenery. Plus, I'm writing a new book on the dangers of gentrification." She looked pretty proud of herself.

"I literally just hosted a meeting about that today!" I gasped. "Holy shit, it's like our minds are connected or something."

Emily laughed. "Great minds do think alike, dear. My own hometown was very much destroyed by the rich and hungry. I want to speak out against it, and I see that you're already on the right path. Also, Igraine's Cockroach really inspired me to write about finding that soft beating heart within the rusted ribcage that is this world."

"..." I stared at her.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"You... you were inspired... by my work?" I could feel a lump rising in my throat.

"Well, of course." Emily nodded. "You do good work, Mara. And I'm impressed by your application, too. If I want anyone to be my apprentice, it's you."

Holy a;sldka;fljg.

"It would be an honor." I smiled, a little too widely. Emily laughed, as her and I stood there among a room of people drinking. I felt awkward, but I quickly pulled myself out of it and continued to speak with Emily.

"I think writing a book about what's going on is really gonna put things in perspective for a lot of people." I said. "Igraine's Cockroach is kind of supposed to be about surviving amidst a nuclear apocalypse. "

"What's going on right now is our own mini apocalypse. And we're all Igraine." Emily finished.

"Exactly!" I gasped. "That's so cool that you totally get the story. Not a lot of people do."

Emily's smile disappeared as looked behind me, and I followed her gaze. Over at the table, RJ, Bea, and Johnny were staring at me. "Are those your friends?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah, that's my brood." I chuckled. "Good bunch of people. But I will tell you one thing..." I leaned in to whisper. "The blond guy in the hat - that's my guy. My Aleos. The reason I'm writing. The reason for everything I do at this point."

Emily peered past me to look at RJ. She nodded, and looked back at me. "Swell-looking guy! I'm really happy for you. Have you confessed your love to him yet?"

I blushed. "Uh... I'm working on it." My heart skipped a beat. Her question was weirdly direct.

Emily put a hand on my shoulder. I was electrified. "Love takes time, but it also takes bravery. You'll find yourself at a plateau one of these days. When you reach it, you'll know. And that's when you make your move." She lifted her hand to reveal a large shimmering wedding ring.

My eyes widened, and I gave her a high five. "Noice!" I exclaimed.

"I proposed to him." Emily explained. "He cried fountains."

"Now, are you telling me to propose to RJ?" I asked, trying to keep my voice down.

Emily shook her head, and laughed. "Of course not, dear. That takes time. But it's the execution. He has the diamonds, I have the band. In a way, our relationship defies societal norms, and our kindness and love resonates with the people around us. That's because we allow ourselves to feel it."

I chuckled. "That's so sweet, Emily." I tried to imagine myself proposing to RJ. My heart skipped. Just imagining us on the beach, him in his puffy vest and cargo shorts and Nikes, in all his dudebro glory. Then getting heavily emotional once I pull out the largest carat ring I could mine from the Earth itself. Then, putting it on his finger. Then his finger snapping off due to the immense weight of the ring. Then a hospital visit. Then sex in a hospital bed. I've always wanted to have sex in a hospital bed.

"MARA!" Bea's voice shouted behind me, breaking me from my strange thought process. "SHOTS ARE HERE!" Peoples' heads turned when she screamed across the bar. I could already tell she was drunk.

I felt awkward, and rubbed my shoulder. "I should probably get back to them."

Emily nodded. "Of course. I'm extending my aura to you, Mara. We will talk soon." She turned on her heel and walked away, black hair bouncing behind her as she walked. I could feel the raw romance radiating off of her - she was a walking Aphrodite. A pinnacle of love. I made sure Emily was able to leave through the doors safely before reclaiming my seat at the table with my friends.

"Who the fuck was that?" Johnny asked, looking offended. "And why the fuck did you just run over to talk to her?"

"That," I started, "was Emily Burrows."

"What?" Johnny looked at Bea, confused.

"It's this softcore porn writer that Mara likes." Bea drunkenly explained, sipping her drink.

"It's not softcore porn, it's romance!" I argued. "If you want softcore porn, read Fifty Shades of Grey."

"More like Fifty Shades of GAY, you dumb faggot." Johnny crossed his arms. "Only nerd bitches read." He took a swig from his bloody Mary, becoming ruder every time he drank.

I laughed, and looked at RJ, who was only slightly amused. I nudged him in a friendly fashion, and gave him a smile. I could tell he was put off by Johnny's humor, which I completely understood. He was an acquired taste for quite a lot of people. I looked down at my phone and began texting RJ, despite him being right next to me. Bea and Johnny chattered while I sent the text, asking him if he was ready to go. RJ looked at his phone under the table, and replied back with confirmation that he wanted to leave.

"I think I'm ready to pack it in," I said, rising from my chair. RJ rose from his seat, and put some cash on the table as a tip for the server.

"You bitching out on us?!" Beatrice whined.

"Yup." I answered, grabbing my satchel and adjusting my dress so it wouldn't bunch up my ass.

Johnny shook his head. "Typical cunts - leaving us when we're at the peak of our intoxication."

"Well, us cunts have to get going." I gestured to myself and RJ. "I had a good time kicking ass with you guys today. Seriously. We need to do this again sometime."

"Of course, bitch!" Bea exclaimed. "Our work is NOT nearly done yet!" She guzzled her drink some more. "The rich are still here, fucking things up, and we're not stopping until each one of them is OUTTA HERE! WHOO!" Peoples' gazes shifted to us again, causing me to feel awkward, so I turned my back and started to walk out with RJ.

As we made our way outside to our vehicles, and I kept glancing at RJ. That perfect fucking face was just packed with pretzels earlier. And his baby blues were shimmering like usual. Fucking beautiful.

"I'm kind of looking forward to this whole thing, is that weird?" I asked RJ. "Like, I'm weirdly excited about the fact that this is happening, and I get to be on the front lines. I don't know, I guess I'm just proud of myself for pursuing something more than just smoking weed and being a secretary."

RJ chuckled, his cheeks raising into a grin. "I think what you're doing is great, Mara. I wish there was more I could do for your cause."

"Are you kidding me? You helped make the posters, you're the one who made that eye-catching graphic. If that wasn't there, and the flyers looked bland, then no one would have come." I nudged him. "Give yourself some credit, Ryan."

He blushed when I used his first name, and scratched the back of his head. "I guess I could give myself some credit, huh?"

You made him feel awkward you dumbshit. Why did you have to go there with the first initial?

We made it to our cars, and I gave RJ a hug goodnight. "Call me when you get home safe." I spoke softly into his ear.

"You got it." He held onto the hug for a few moments longer, and pulled away.

I smiled, before holding gingerly onto his shoulders. I pecked him on the cheek.

His face lit up, and he smiled back. "Wow, okay. Heh." He scratched the back of his head, before getting into his Jeep and pulling away. I watched his vehicle exit, and I tucked my hair behind my ear. I recalled he time his lips made contact with my cheek, and my returning it. How he reacted to the reciprocation. Perhaps, he would take this as a sign.

I got into my car and put my air pods in, playing some Kelly Clarkson; the music of my childhood. I drove away, jamming out, proud of myself for multiple reasons. I interacted with Emily Burrows, I lead a town hall meeting about gentrification, made a dentist appointment, and kissed RJ's cheek... on the same fucking night!

I sang out, which is not something I did often. I was a terrible singer, but when I felt it, I belt it.

You feel me?