Archive for July, 2008

29
Jul
08

Foodie, Chapter 10

written by Danielle

“Evan?”

Malorie spun back around to Jack.

“Jack.”

Both men stared at her, waiting for her reply.

Malorie’s mind was racing. She could not make eye contact with Evan, but at the same time, instinctively knew that she must.

“I…….Evan…” Malorie trailed off. She meekly reached out to touch his arm as she attempted to raise her eyes to his face. Strong, broad chest. Thick neck. Perfectly shaped chin with a tiny dimple. Fleshy, kissable lips.

Malorie turned on her heel, walking briskly away from the two men, before she could summon the courage to reach his eyes. As she turned the corner and began running, she heard both Jack and Evan calling her name.

***************

Malorie barely made it to her car before the panic attack seized her. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she heard someone sobbing, vaguely aware that the pained sounds were coming from her own throat.

Fumbling in her large, trendy purse for her keys, she began cursing herself.

Damn purse. Why did I buy this stupid thing any way? I can’t find shit in it! Why did I let Jack convince me to meet him for dinner? Why didn’t I let Evan know where I was? Why can’t I get in my damn car??

After finding her keys, and dropping them twice trying to unlock her car, she pulled open the car door and slid in. Closing the door, Malorie laid her forehead on her steering wheel, and tried to calm her breathing. Her hands were clammy, and sweat was forming along her brow. She pulled her hair off of her neck, and closed her eyes.

Mind scrambling, Malorie put the car in drive when she was able to breathe. She picked up her cell phone as she maneuvered her way out of the parking lot.

The phone rang four times before the voicemail picked up: “Hi, you’ve missed me. Leave me a message and I’ll give you a yell when I can.” Beeeep.

Malorie took a deep breath, and spoke:

“Mom. Where are you? I really need to talk with you. Jack told me you gave him my contact information. Mom….he told me why he left me the way he did. I need you. I think I’m in love with Evan, and he just, oh Christ, he just saw me hugging Jack. And I don’t know what to do. Please call me.”

Malorie tossed the cell phone onto the passenger seat. What the hell do I do now? I can’t just expect Jack to explain everything to Evan. I can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. I can’t easily forgive Jack.

The warmth of Jack’s hug came back to her full force as she drove aimlessly down old neighborhood streets. His smell began to intertwine with Evan’s, and her mind was having trouble separating the kisses with Evan from the past with Jack.

Malorie found her way to the Culinary Institute. She sat in the parking lot for a while, re-playing the conversation with Jack and that one night with Evan. Tears welled in her eyes as she confronted herself, fully realizing that she was so afraid of hurting both men. Malorie could not figure out what to do, how to make the situation bearable, how to decide.

In the passenger seat, her cell phone began ringing. Malorie glanced over at it, only to see Jack’s number. She held her breath, and began to reach for her phone, only to bring her hand back to her chest when it went silent.

It began ringing again, and this time, it was Evan’s number. Again, she reached for it, only to withdraw again. She found herself growing light-headed, and let out a huge sigh.

Malorie took the keys out of the ignition and stepped out of her car with purpose.

It would hurt, but there was no other way.

Malorie entered the building and knocked on the door of Professor Talbot’s office. She could hear murmuring behind the door, and decided to wait it out in one of the chairs in the hallway. As soon as she sat down, the door opened, and Celine Richelieu walked out of the professor’s office.

Celine glanced at Malorie’s tear-streaked face, and gasped.

“Oh, honey, what’s wrong? Burn a soufflé?”

Malorie squinted at Celine, opened her mouth, only to close it again. She had no snippy reply, and didn’t have the energy to care at this point. She stood up and pushed past Celine to enter the professor’s office. She shut the door behind her, briefly leaning against the door frame.

“Malorie? What is wrong? Please take a seat.” Professor Talbot stood up behind his desk.

Malorie melted into the office chair, and hung her head.

“Professor Talbot, I have to withdraw from the program here.”

Professor Talbot sat down heavily. “What are you talking about? You are so talented. You have worked so hard! You’ve come so far. Why would you choose to leave the program?”

Malorie sat in silence, thinking of the pained look that would surely appear on Evan’s face when she tried to explain why she couldn’t live with him or be with him. Close behind, she thought of the look on Jack’s face when she tried to explain why she couldn’t ever talk to him again. She simply could not do this to either man. No.

Professor Talbot had made his way around the desk, and was leaning down in front of Malorie.

“Malorie? Malorie? Are you okay?”

Malorie stood up quickly, mumbling an apology to the professor as she stumbled out of the office. She could not control her tears as she ran out of the Culinary Institute, and across the large parking lot. Through her tears, she noticed that the moon had risen. She ran through cars, trying to find her own. She could hear the professor calling out to her across the parking lot. Her mind did not register the sound of screeching tires as she ran out from behind one row of cars towards the next.

Her mind exploded into a million bright stars as she felt the impact of the car. Her body skidded across the pavement, and the last thing she saw before her eyes fluttered closed was the moon, rising full and fat, glaring down on her.

17
Jul
08

bit of business

Howdy folks! How do ya’ll like the story so far?

Yeah, I don’t know why I’m talking like that either. It might be the shock.

See, I’m hoping we might see a few more visitors here soon, via ALLTOP! That’s right if you head over to books.Alltop you will find ChapterBytes listed. Seriously, how cool is that?!

If you ARE new here, wondering what the heck this place is, I should direct you to these early posts, and to the “rules” (like we actually follow them or something!) and I will say:

  • we’re still looking for authors, email me, catnip35 at gmail dot com or chapterbytes at gmail dot com
  • the next book will be scifi and I’m taking names now!
  • we will be moving to a self hosted url before we start the second book
  • we love comments! Every writer wants feedback don’t they?

Okay, I also wanted to announce today that in addition to giving out info over twitter, (what do you mean you’re not following us on twitter?!) I have started a NING group for us. That way we can have discussions about anything we want to without interrupting the flow of the story here. Before that will work, you ALL have to join. Not just authors, but readers too. Some come to our ChapterBytes Ning and say hi! Start a discussion or something, cause I don’t wanna be the only one talking over there!

15
Jul
08

foodie, chapter 9

written by Heather

“Mal, I need to apologize to you for the way things ended,” Jack began, obviously searching for exactly the right words even though he’d rehearsed this for weeks prior. “I hate to use the phrase ‘it wasn’t you, it was me’ –“

“Then don’t.” Malorie cut him off. She wanted to stop him before he went any further.

“No, Mal, I need to. I need to tell you this. I need to talk to you about this. It’s important to me,” he continued.

“What about what is important to ME!? You walked out and left a message on my answering machine. You threw away everything and didn’t even have the decency to tell me to my face that you didn’t want to be with me. The CDs that you left really made up for just walking away… going to London for some business trip and never returning. It took me a long time to move on and just when I start to rebuild my life – just when I am finally HAPPY again, you waltz in and want to “talk”. Well you know what, Jack, I don’t want to know what you have to say. I don’t want to know why you left. I don’t want to know why all you cared about were your stupid books, so if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back home and help my roommate.” She pushed her chair back ready to stand and make her dramatic exit when Jack grabbed her hand.

“Mal. Please. Please sit down and let me explain.” He pleaded. “Please?”

And there it was. With one simple word, Jack had managed to evoke memories that she had worked so hard to repress. It was the way he looked the first day they met outside the laundromat when he asked her to tell him when she would be back to do more laundry. When she refused, he looked at her and uttered, “Please?”

It was the same look that he gave her when they again ran into each other once again and he asked her to attend the benefit dinner his company was hosting to which he needed a date. When she refused to be “arm candy” for a complete stranger, the look in his eyes kicked in when he again spoke just that one simple word… please.

She couldn’t resist it then and it was apparent that she couldn’t resist it now, all these years later.

Malorie, be strong. Don’t give in. You’ve come so far. Evan is at home and he needs you. Don’t risk everything to get sucked back in by someone who only cared about books, someone who didn’t have the decency to say goodbye.

Losing to the inner struggle, she again took her seat. “What, Jack? What is it that you have to tell me? And so help me, if you tell me that you want that Ulysses book…”

He laughed, his dimples appearing. “No, Mal. This has nothing to do with the Ulysses book. Can I just ask you to listen to me, without interrupting? Please?”

There it was again. She nodded, as the server appeared to take their order.

Jack ordered for her as he typically did. Prime rib, medium rare, hollandaise sauce on the side, asparagus as a side, grilled, of course, and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jack looked at Malorie as if to seek her approval for taking the liberty of ordering for her and she nodded slightly, appreciating his selection.

Jack always did know how to pick a restaurant and my meals on dates… Date? That’s not what this is, right? No, it’s not a date. A date would be if I wanted to be here with him and not at home with Evan…. Is Evan okay? Did I leave the remote on the end table next to the chair so that he didn’t have to hobble over to get it himself? Evan…

“Mal?” Jack interrupted her thoughts of Evan. “May I continue?”

Malorie nodded and Jack began, “Mal…when I left, I never meant to hurt you. I really didn’t. I know that you don’t believe that, but it’s the truth. Things weren’t right for a long time –“

“What?” she interrupted him with a look of shock and disbelief. Surely he was not sitting across from her telling her that the demise of their relationship was apparent and she was too dumb to see it.

“Malorie. Let me finish. You promised that you wouldn’t interrupt.” Malorie slouched back in her chair, crossed her arms, and let him continue. “When I say that things weren’t right for a long time, I’m not talking about between us – I’m talking about with me. I wasn’t honest with you. I hid things from you. I took a lot of “business trips” and you were just so trusting. You would help me pack my clothes, often packing little notes into the sleeves of my suit coats, or pants pockets when I wasn’t looking so that I would find them and think of you while I was gone.”

“You were always so thoughtful, caring, and all I could do for you was pick up some cheap trinket in the airport gift shop to make up for the fact that I didn’t call while I was gone. And you? You accepted that. You were so happy to see me when I got home and it was easy to use the excuse that between the time zones and all the meetings that I was in, that I wasn’t able to call.”

“I kept doing it. I kept going on these trips; I looked for trips to volunteer to go on and sought out the promotions that would allow me the most travel time. I wanted to be on the road and not for the reasons that you might think. It was not because I didn’t want to be with you or that there was someone else.”

He paused and took a deep breath.

“Mal, I wanted to take these trips, I could be me. And by me, I mean I could use.” He stopped.

Malorie stared at him waiting for him to continue, waiting for him to explain what he was talking about. When he didn’t say anything, she asked, “Use?”

“Well mostly cocaine, but sometimes there were other drugs involved…some weed, ‘shrooms…” He explained.

“Drugs?”

“Yeah and a lot of them.” He looked down, not able to look her in the face.

Malorie didn’t move. She didn’t speak. Did he use drugs when he was with her, when he was at home? How often had he used and she not known? How could she not have known? Was she that stupid? She had so many questions, none of which she was sure she wanted an answer to. She wasn’t sure what to say, how to respond and after several minutes Malorie broke the silence. “Do you have more to say? I’m sorry. I’m not following where this is all going, why you needed to talk to me now.”

“I’m clean now. I’m working a 12 Step program and I’m up to step 9 – making amends. Actually, I half assed worked the steps a few times, but I never truly made the amends that I needed to. I always thought of you whenever I heard step 8 but when it actually came to making the amends, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face you. I couldn’t look in eyes and tell you why I left the way that I did.”

“Jack. You still haven’t told me.” She explained to him, still in shock that she was even having this conversation.

After their meal arrived, Jack proceeded to detail the events leading up to the trip to London and the last time that Malorie would see him before that fateful answering machine message. He told her about arriving in London and his brother meeting him there. He described what it was like when his brother found out that he was using again, and by again, he explained that he had been through rehab and the program when he was 18. Jack continued by telling her that his brother checked him into rehab and the phone call he placed to her, the message that he left, was all he could muster. He knew that he couldn’t explain to her in a message everything that had happened and left it at that. He wasn’t coming back.

Malorie asked the questions that she had over dessert and Jack answered them honestly. When the check was delivered, Jack paid, got up from the table and crossed over to Malorie extending his hand.

She took it and rose from the table. As they began to walk toward the entrance of the now almost empty restaurant, Jack squeezed her hand and smiled at her.

Once outside, Jack turned to Malorie, took both of her hands in his, looked into her eyes and asked her forgiveness.

“Mal, I don’t know how I can make it up to you. I need you to know that I loved you with all my heart and I hate that I hurt you. But I felt that to cause the least amount of pain would be to do what I did, to simply make something up. If you want to never see me again, I’ll respect that.”

He reached for her to embrace her and as he did, she remembered how warm and comforting his hugs were. As they lingered there, arms around one another, he whispered in her ear, “I’d really like to see you again, though.”

For a brief moment, she forgot all about Evan, home, in a cast until she heard someone call her name.

As she pulled away from Jack and turned around she felt her heart drop past her stomach and onto the sidewalk below.

It was Evan.

11
Jul
08

foodie, chapter 8

written by Christy

Malorie heaved a long, heavy sigh and pressed her back into the door, as she closed it behind Jack. They had all finally decided to call it a night, and Malorie could not have been more relieved. She could hear Evan in the other room, inching his way toward the kitchen using his crutches. She knew he was probably trying to clean up before she could get back in there to help him, but she just stood there, feeling all the stress of the evening beginning to seep into her; she was exhausted. Oh, my aching head. She closed her eyes and began massaging her temples in an attempt to ease some of the tension of this seemingly endless night.

“Well, that was an absolute disaster” Malorie said quietly as she moved away from the door. She opened her eyes, and was startled to see Evan standing in the hallway with her.

“So that was him?” he asked, leaning over her with his chin propped on one of his crutches. “That’s the guy that took off without so much as an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’?”

“That would be him, yes.” She studied Evan for a moment before looking down at the floor and trying to catch her breath. She wasn’t sure how much of this story she was prepared to rehash just then. She had told Evan about Jack—sparing him most of the gory details, but now that Jack had shown up, Evan had a name and a face to place with the story of the guy that didn’t even have the courtesy to inform her that she was being dumped. “What?” Malorie questioned, noticing Evan’s sideways glance.

“I don’t know. It’s just…don’t take this the wrong way or anything.” Evan stammered a bit and then grinned, “I guess I just wasn’t expecting him to be so nice.”

Malorie felt her chest tighten a bit; a sure sign that she was about to play defense. “Oh, he’s nice all right. Just a little uncommunicative is all.” She knew that her words came out sounding a lot more sarcastic than she had intended them to, and she averted her eyes from him. Why did I use that tone?

Evan pulled her chin up so that she had to face him and gave her a wry smile. “Hey…you wanna know what I think? I think a couple of years have gone by, maybe Jack has grown up a little bit, and he realizes what a shit he was to you. My guess is that he wanted to stop by as a gesture to set things straight, and maybe give you some closure.”

“That’s very generous of you, but I’m not so sure he’s that deep” Malorie said, suppressing a little laugh.

——————————————

The next few days went by without incident. Professor Talbot had given Malorie and Evan some obscure recipes to create menus around as part of an exam, and Malorie tried to remain focused. She didn’t want to allow Jack and that piece of her past to be an intrusion into her life and her work at the Culinary Institute but she was failing miserably. It was almost all that she could think about. And the situation brought up and endless amount of questions. Why would he show up out of the blue like that? What was he playing at? What did he really want? She had a hard time believing Evan’s theory that Jack simply showed up to make amends and then intended to run along on his merry way. That didn’t seem quite his style—at least, not the style she remembered. But then again, she thought maybe it just is what it is—people change, Mal.

Later that week, Malorie spent the afternoon at the library, pouring over 19th century cookbooks and doing research for their exam, when her cell phone rang. She looked around quickly, embarrassed that she hadn’t remembered to silence her phone when she came in. She grabbed the phone, abruptly flipped it open, and whispered a distracted, “hello?’ into the receiver.

“Hey. Malorie, it’s Jack…obviously. Uh…I wasn’t sure you’d pick up, honestly. Listen, I really need to see you. Can we maybe meet, later tonight? No chaperones this time?”

“Jack?” Malorie questioned. She didn’t want it to be him on the other end of the phone. She felt her pulse quicken a bit, and her palms were sweaty. That familiar feeling in the pit of her stomach had returned…it had been so long, she had almost forgotten about it. This is not good, she thought to herself. Not good at all.

——————————————

Malorie meandered down the sidewalk toward the restaurant where Jack had suggested they meet. All she could think of on the entire walk over from the library was what the hell his motives could be. I shouldn’t be here. I should be with Evan. She admitted to herself that she was more than a little suspicious of the possibilities, and she was in no great hurry to get in there and find out. She approached the entrance to the restaurant and hesitated a moment before ducking inside.

Once inside, a smiling hostess greeted Malorie. “How can I help you?” The hostess asked eagerly.

“Uh, I’m meeting some—“ Malorie started.

“You must be Mr. Finnigan’s guest.”

The hostess led her through a warm and dimly lit room filled with cozy little tables for two. Malorie felt uneasy. The two of them finally stopped at the very last table in a far corner of the room near the kitchen. There was Jack. He thanked the hostess as she hurried away and gestured for Malorie to sit.

Malorie sat quietly, not at all certain what to expect. She didn’t have to wait long before Jack began to explain his sudden appearance.

“Listen. I’ve been waiting a long time to say this, so I’m just going to get to it. I was hoping we’d have a chance to talk the other night when I came to your apartment, but you’re roommate was there; it was awkward…and he wouldn’t leave us alone. I need to tell you…”

“Evan is more than a roommate. He’s my…well…he’s a really good friend.” Malorie interrupted. She knew that those words sounded lame as soon as she uttered them. She hoped that Jack wouldn’t pick up on the reluctance in her tone and assign some self-satisfying meaning to it. She needn’t have worried—he didn’t seem to notice. He held up his hand to silence her and continued with his speech.

06
Jul
08

Foodie, Chapter 7

written by Jennifer

The apartment that Malorie shared with Evan was on the third floor of a renovated pre-war building. There was an elevator, but in a stroke of poor timing, it had been under repair since the week before his accident. When he first came home from the hospital, he could barely manage the painful climb on his crutches. Now, he was still slow, but he had managed to cut his time almost in half.

“Want me to walk up with you?” she asked.

“No, you go on up and let that cat know who’s boss tonight. I’ll be right up.” He kissed her then, his mouth full and soft on hers.

“You mean me, right?” She laughed as she pulled away.

He whistled after her as she sprinted up the stairs. She turned and grinned, then took the rest of the stairs two at a time. After a quick hello to Monterey Jack, who purred when she scratched under his chin but did not open his eyes, Malorie opened a bottle of Shiraz. She dashed into the bathroom for a quick hair and makeup check. Good enough. As she brushed her teeth, she heard a knock on the door to the apartment.

“It’s open, Ev!” she called out through a mouthful of toothpaste. Another knock. “It’s open!” She rinsed her mouth and went to the door.

“You just wanted to make me answer the door naked,” she flirted as she pulled the door open.

“Never could get you to do that for me,” said a man who was most definitely not Evan.

She blinked four or five times before she could speak.

“Well. As I live and breathe. What are you doing here?”

“Your mother gave me your address. I was in town, so I thought we might catch up.” He looked over her head into the apartment. “Nice place.”

She looked past him into the hallway. He must have passed Evan on the way up.

“You can’t be here.” She meant it as go away. But the impossibility of his presence in her door frame gave it another meaning. This isn’t real. How can you be here?

“Who’s this?” Evan appeared in the hallway.

How could she explain? She had a hard enough time explaining this man to herself, never mind to her new boyfriend. Boyfriend. Is that what Evan is now?

“Evan, this is–”

“Jack. Jack Finnigan.” He held out his hand to Evan, whose hands never left his crutches. After a long moment, Jack let his hand drop back to his side.

Evan looked past him and met Malorie’s eyes. “As in Monterey Jack?”

“Yeah.” She felt sick. “As in.”

Note to self, she thought. Never name a cat after an old boyfriend. It was bad enough that Evan figured out the connection right away, but now Jack would know she had done something so pathetic as to name a cat after him when he took off.

And that’s exactly what he had done. He just took off. Just packed up most of his things and left one day while she was at work. There was no official breakup, unless you counted one answering machine message a week later. She had it memorized, right down to the intonations and pauses.

“Hey, Mal. I’m in London on assignment. I guess you’ve figured out by now that I won’t be coming back when the job is over. So, uh, just keep the CDs if you want, or give them away, but if you could ship the rest of my books to my brother, I’d appreciate it. I left you the address inside Ulysses. Let me know how much it is, and I’ll send you a check for the shipping. Take care, Mal, and I’m sorry. I really am.”

Though she had shipped the books, she kept Ulysses out of spite. She could never bring herself to ask for reimbursement for the $200 worth of shipping.

And now, one phone message and two years later, he was back. Standing between her and Evan. Between her past and her future. As immovable as if he were a building or a bridge.

Jack spoke again. “Hey, is this a bad time?”

“Yes.” Malorie answered at the same time Evan said, “No, not at all. Evan Randall.” He stuck out his hand this time, and Jack shook it. “Go on in.”

Malorie knew her eyes flashed with anger and even panic when she looked at Evan, but he looked amused. Irritated, but amused. He raised one eyebrow at her as he limped past on his crutches. He was curious, then. She wondered if he was even a little bit jealous. But after their conversation in the car less than fifteen minutes before, she thought maybe he was above that sort of thing. Still, he was a man, and all the men she had ever dated had a way of becoming territorial when another man showed an interest in her. She thought they were all wired that way. Maybe women, too. Then again, what did she know about anything?

The two of them, Evan and Malorie, had discussed their past relationships one night over a second bottle of wine. But they had never named names. She wished now that they had. It would have saved her a good half of this embarrassment.

“I just opened a bottle of wine. Would either of you like a glass?”

“You know,” Evan answered, “I’m in the mood for a beer. How ‘bout you?” he asked Jack, who had settled into Evan’s favorite leather chair. The one with the ottoman, where he was used to resting his cast-bound leg these days. The one in which even Malorie had never sat.

“Sounds great, man.”

Evan took the sofa and lifted his leg onto the length of it, a position that gave him the appearance of an invalid. Malorie’s heart twisted for him, for the disadvantage he had in his own home.

She passed beers around and took one for herself. Wine seemed too elegant now, too romantic, for how the evening was turning out. She was disappointed that her night with Evan was ruined, or delayed at best. And she was mad. Two years worth of mad. She sat on the arm of the sofa, behind Evan’s head, declaring her allegiance.

“So,” Jack addressed Evan. “How do you know our Malorie?”