Friday, May 6, 2011

Love and the Placebo Effect, Teaser #5

For the past few days, I have been trying to focus my writing efforts on The Book. This is a project that I would really like to finish, so it has been at the forefront of my mind and at the top of my To-Do list. The following is an excerpt that I have been editing today. Please forgive any formatting issues, I copied/pasted, and now am going to go back to the editing.

Packing for Martinique 


Jane strode down the hall to Cassie’s room, as she had so many times before, the carpeted floor muffling the sound of her approach. The door was open, and Cass was standing in front of the closet, open suitcase on the bed, and clothes strewn everywhere. Cassie had the look of a tornado survivor sifting through the wreckage of her mobile home, overwhelmed by the destruction around her. Jane watched for a moment while her friend talked to herself, obviously upset. Jane softly rapped on the door, to make her presence known. Cassie gasped and turned around quickly, the look of surprise on her face briefly replaced by a thousand watt smile which instantly deflated as she crumpled to the bed, tears streaming from her eyes, all in the blink of an eye. Stunned by her friend’s metamorphosis, Jane rushed to her side, reaching out to embrace the sister of her heart.
“What’s the matter Cass? Are you okay?” Jane asked anxiously as Cassie let loose, sobbing in her arms. Jane, joining her on the bed, patted her back and made soothing sounds, waiting for her friend to answer. She had been prepared for shouting or possibly the cold shoulder, but Jane had not been expecting this. “Cassie, why are you crying?”
 “I don’t know!” wailed Cassie, sobbing harder.
At that moment, Nik walked into the room with a bigger suitcase and froze three steps in, taken aback by Cassie’s tears. To Jane he asked, “Uh, what’s with Niagara Falls? She was fine a minute ago.” Scratching his head, Nik was unsure of how to proceed. He looked to Jane, a question on his face. Cassie continued to cry on Jane’s shoulder.
I have to do something. What would New Jane do? she asked herself as smoothed a strand of snot covered hair out of Cassie’s face. New Jane would not shrug her shoulders and wait for someone else to fix things, New Jane would take control of the situation. Decided on her course of action, Jane suggested, “Nik, why don’t you set that suitcase down right here and go get us some wine? I think we both need to unwind.” Cassie sat up and nodded to Nik, still unable to speak. Jane slipped out of her shoes and stretched her feet, tucking them up under her where she sat on the bed beside Cassie’s luggage.
By this time, the sobs had diminished to sniffles as Cassie tried to get a hold of herself. “I’m sorry Janey, I don’t know what happened. I was stressing about this trip, and all of a sudden I was crying my eyes out. Ugh, I hate crying. I’ll be right back.” She got up and went to the adjoining bathroom and turned the faucet on so she could splash some cool water on her face and take a moment to pull herself together.
While Cassie was out of the room, Nik came in with the wine, already poured into three large glasses. “She’s in the bathroom,” Jane answered his question before he could voice it. He surveyed the room as if to reassure himself that Cassie was really out of earshot, then handed Jane her glass.
 A smile on his face, Nik put a hand on her shoulder, whispering conspiratorially, “Cassie doesn’t know, but I’ll be joining her in Martinique. I’ve been working so much lately that we’ve practically become strangers, so I thought I’d plan a little stranger seduction to celebrate the end of the damn project that’s been taking up all my time.” Jane grinned, surprised that Nik was confiding in her; they weren’t that close. She knew Cassie, however, and was certain her friend would be thrilled with the surprise. Jane and Nik touched glasses to toast the trip. Maybe she had been wrong about their marriage, they weren’t having problems: they just missed each other. The thought made Jane feel hopeful.
“Does this mean you will be back to your regular work schedule?” Jane inquired, whispering back.
“Yes, thank God! I think I aged ten years in the last two months,” he confessed, his relief at the prospect of more home time palpable. At that moment, Cassie joined them, giving the conspirators a sideways look; she was suspicious, but she probably just thought they were talking about her uncharacteristic tears. Nik walked across the room to his wife, handing her a glass and pulling her into an embrace, with a chaste but passionate kiss. Jane had watched them kiss since the 8th grade without knowing how sweet a kiss could be, but she finally knew what that felt like, and her face grew warm with the memory of Adrian’s ardency.
“Whoa baby,” Jane laughed, fanning her face comically. “Any steamier and I would have had to leave the room.” Nik smiled as he walked out, leaving a glowing wife in his wake. Cassie giggled, momentarily buoyed by her husband’s affection, and then her eyes turned serious again.
“I’m sorry Jane,” Cassie said softly.
“For what?” Jane looked at her blankly.
“You were right about all that stuff. It was my insecurities and my hang ups. I was being overbearing. If it’s any consolation, I really do like Adrian. He seems a great fit for you,” Cassie offered, sincere in her apology. She had done a lot of thinking in the past week, and too much of what Jane said had hit home.
“It was my fault too, Cass. I was sending you mixed messages. I was being a passive-aggressive wimp and just letting things happen instead of taking control of my own dating life. I’ve learned my lesson. And I don’t think things are going to work out between me and Adrian anyway, so don’t even worry about it,” Jane replied with a sigh, not even wanting to think about that mess.  
“Why? What happened?”
“Well… let’s just say Harriet got to him, among other things…” Jane answered, not meeting her eyes.  
Cassie stared at her, disbelieving, waiting for more. “Harriet?” Cassie gasped, shocked. “That woman…”
“I caught them in the file room, Harriet was on her knees in front of him, and it was pretty obvious what was going on.” The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to believe the possibility that Adrian had been ambushed. She had looked, she couldn’t help but do so, and although his pants had been unbuckled, there had been no sign of arousal. And it wouldn’t be the first time Harriet had tried to prove herself the better woman by going after Jane’s man. Whatever had happened, Jane was still mad as hell, and she wasn’t ready to forgive him.
Cassie’s eyes narrowed. She really hated that woman, and Adrian should have known better, the lowlife. “I’m sorry Janey, you really seemed to like him, and he seemed like a great guy. Do you want Nik to take Phil and go have a little ‘talk’ to him?” Cassie asked, her protective instincts kicking in.
“No…” Jane sighed, looking forlorn. “Honestly, I have no right to be upset. I mean, we had kind of broken up already when Harriet happened, if you can call it a break up when were weren’t really dating in the first place.” Jane shook her head as if to rid herself of a bad mental image, then smiled back at Cassie, who was giving her a sideways look.
“Something’s different about you Janey. There’s something you aren’t telling me,” Cassie probed, concerned for her friend. For the first time, she took a good look at Jane, taking in her sexy shoes and short skirt. Had she worn that to work? No, Jane would never show cleavage at the office. She must be getting ready to go out. But with whom? Was she keeping her date a secret? Cassie wondered if Jane would ever trust her again after the debacle of a dinner last Sunday.
“I think there are things you aren’t telling me too, Cass,” Jane evaded. “For instance, when do you decide to leave the country without so much as a phone call? I mean, I know I was a bitch on Sunday, but this is big. Martinique, Cassie. We spent years as kids pretending we were living there in a mansion by the sea; I know it means something to you. Why are you going to Martinique?”
Cassie’s eyes filled with tears, realizing that she’d been so caught up with work and the kids that she hadn’t even shared her travel plans with her best friend. Swiping the errant tears away, Cassie grabbed a tissue from the bedside table and blew her nose loudly.
Jane didn’t know what to make of all these crying jags. Cassie was the strong one; she must be devastated to be boiling over with tears like a pot that had been left on the stove for too long. “Cassie, you never cry!” she exclaimed, feeling guilty all over again for the hurtful things she had said. “I didn’t mean to say such hurtful things. You know I love you, you’re my family. The only family I have ever relied upon.”
“Oh, Jane, you know that I love you like a sister. I got over that days ago. I’m sorry I didn’t call,” Cassie apologized, wiping off the last of her tears. She busied herself folding clothes to be packed in her oversized suitcase for a moment. “Do you remember that guy Steven that I told you about a couple weeks ago?” she asked, looking up from her packing.
“Uhhh… the real estate hottie?” Jane asked, narrowing her eyes in disbelief. “You are not still trying to set me up with him, after all this!”
Cassie choked on her wine as she dissolved into hysterics, doubling over with mirth, nearly spilling her glass on the white carpet. Jane just stared at her with a bewildered expression on her face until her friend finally managed to gain some control. “No, no, Jane, it’s nothing like that,” Cassie laughed. “Steven is the reason I’m going to Martinique. His real estate company is partnering with the magazine on a new venture. He wants me to go to Martinique and help him research some properties for a client, and in return he will buy ad space and we will do occasional write-ups on international properties from the buyer’s angle, as opposed to the vacationer’s. It’s a win-win, really,” she explained, downing the last of the wine in her glass.
“If this is such a great opportunity, why are you bawling your eyes out?” Jane asked skeptically, taking a sip from her own glass.
“Well, if I’m going to be spending time in paradise with a deliciously sexy man, I’d much rather it be with Nik. I mean, he’s been working his ass off lately, getting up early and staying at the office all hours. In the last eight weeks, Jane, we have had sex two times. Two times! And now that we are finally reconnecting, I have this work thing that is taking me out of the country, thousands of miles away from my husband. I always wanted to go back to Martinique, but not like this, and not now!” Cassie gesticulated emphatically with a pair of socks as she spoke.
“Oh, Cass… You don’t think that—”
“No. I don’t. Nik loves me; he would never cheat on me. But heck if I know why work has suddenly taken over his life,” she shrugged exaggeratedly, the wine obviously having kicked in, tossing a pair of shoes into the open bag.
“How long will you be in Martinique?” Jane asked, straightening up Cassie’s clothes in the suitcase.
“Just a few days, a long weekend really. But who knows what could happen while I’m gone? And the kids…” Cassie took a deep breath, staving off another crying spell before it could begin. “I’ve never been away from them for so long. I know Adel is a good mom and a wonderful aunt, but what if something happens and I’m not here? Oh, Jane, I don’t know if I can handle it,” she wailed.
“Of course you can. You are Cassie Wagner, the girl who kicked Johnny Paxton in the nuts in the 10th grade when he said that Mandy Higgins looked fugly in her headgear. You are the woman who single-handedly led an email campaign and circulated Facebook petitions against the school board to get healthier lunches in the cafeteria and won. You, my friend, never met a bull you couldn’t ride. You can handle this. Before you know it, your kids are going to be asking to go to summer camp, and you’ve gotta be ready. Think of this as a baby step in that direction. They are with someone you trust who loves them almost as much as you do. Adel has got this. And as far as Nik goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? I’m sure when you get back he’ll find some time to welcome you home properly. You need to go to Martinique, you may not get another chance,” Jane finished, feeling like a coach at half-time, giving the pep talk that would win them the game. Cassie had to go to Martinique, she couldn’t chicken out now, not after Nik had planned to meet her there and do penance for his workaholic neglect.
“You’re right. I just need to put on my big-girl panties and do this,” Cassie responded, pulling her best friend into a grateful embrace. Jane smiled, knowing that Nik’s surprise would be well-received. They spent the next 45 minutes digging through Cassie’s closet and the box of summer clothes Nik had brought down from the attic, trying to put together the perfect travel wardrobe. It would be warm in Martinique, unlike here where it felt like a heat wave if the mercury rose above 40. Jane tried not to be jealous of Cassie’s getaway; she would seriously like to run away herself, but she would put on her big-girl panties too and sort out the mess she had made in her own life.

2 comments:

  1. I would vote great! Consider at least one copy ordered!! Great job!

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  2. Thanks, Annie! I'm almost done with my initial editing, then I will send it off to some people for constructive feedback. After that, more editing, then I will see what I can do about finding a publisher :) We'll see how it goes.

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