Blog Stop: ‘The Breakup Plan’ by Tia Kelly

breakup+plan+2000x3000meet drew.

Drew Wilkerson is a dangerous man. Not in the physical sense. Well, yeah, technically it could be related to something physical, but he’s the type of man that could get away with the most ratchet of offenses and walk away from the incident both unscathed and with two more women fighting to give him some.

Six three. Runner’s build. Colgate megawatt smile with the charm to match. Can wear the heck out of a suit, jeans, basketball shorts… damn near anything and everything. After-hours radio voice. Hell, any time is the right time for that voice. And did I mention the brother has blue eyes? Drew says they’re hazel, but if that’s the case, it’s not the usual green-meets-brown version. When he wakes in the morning, all you see in them is a sea of crystal-blue depth. Piss him off and they remind me of steel. Whether you want to say they’re hazel, blue, gray-blue, or whatever, those bad boys are intense. Staring into them for more than five seconds will pin your ass to a wall so fast you’ll want to cosign turning over all your good credit for anything he could ask for. Although that wouldn’t be necessary.

Did I mention he’s loaded? Just dropped seven figures on his crib in Philly (and before you assume, I’m not talking about low, barely-reaching-million-dollar-status numbers, either), and that’s before the contractors were instructed to turn it into the home of his dreams.

– Avery Coleman


meet avery.

My Avery. I turn around to see her standing in the entry to my room, but she brings a smile to my face simply from the sound of her voice and the warm vanilla bean and coconut scent filling the air. She never can decide which is her favorite smell, and to be honest, I like the combination on her.

The smile on my face is there because I haven’t hugged my girl in weeks, and I’ve missed her, but it doesn’t take long for it to slip off.

“Hey.” She pauses mid-stride toward my open arms and frowns. “You okay?”

I should probably explain. I didn’t expect to see Avery looking the way she does. I’ve seen her hair in countless ways, from her usual Freddie on A Different World go-to style, to weaves, to bohemian braids hanging past her ass, to the small cornrows on the side with a mass of curls piled high on top vibe she’s going for now, so her curly ’hawk look doesn’t surprise me.

It’s seeing the roundness of her adorable caramel apple cheeks slimmed out and revealing a hint of cheekbones, making the diamond and pearl studs I gave her stand out a little more. Hell, it makes even her mouth look…

Sh*t, I don’t have time for a sexual harassment lawsuit, so I better not say. But what I can mention is the mustard tank she has on shows off shoulder blades that are more defined than the last time I saw them, when she wore a single-shoulder gown to a fundraiser a few months back.

And her waist. Jeans hug curves, but these curves aren’t hers. She still has one of those asses folks sing about, saying a beat was made for, but that’s not why I sometimes catch myself staring at her.

I do just because she’s Avery.

– Drew Wilkerson


REVIEW:

Avery Coleman and Drew Wilkerson have been best friends for a long time. And she’s also his personal assistant, and a friend-of-the-family. They’re so close that she is privy to just about all the parts of his life that would normally remain private – his email account, his residences, his charge cards and even gifts sent to him from his lady-of-the-moment. Still, as tight as they are, Drew is not necessarily as up-to-speed on what’s happening in Avery’s private life as he might believe he is.

Ahm … he has no clue that she is about to get married. And soon.

The news throws self-assured Drew for a loop and after a brief period of being a supportive best friend, he decides that what he needs to do is break up the wedding. But in doing so, will he also break up this friendship that has lasted more than a decade and been a cornerstone of his life?

While both Drew and Avery are flailing about and struggling with their obvious-to-all-but-them emotions, we slowly learn that there are a million tiny pieces from their past that help explain why their bond as strong as it is. Drew was with Avery during the lowest point in her life, and she has been with him since well before he was the handsome and in-demand playboy that he now is. The wedding, we realize, is just a catalyst for the inevitable reckoning with their pasts and their feelings that Drew and Avery were always going to have to do.

‘The Breakup Plan’ was on the one hand a lighthearted and humorous look at two people bumbling their way toward admitting a love that has always been there; and on the other, it was a glimpse of some of the darker and deeper things that might prevent someone from asking for and getting the love they want.

I especially liked the backdrop of the complicated and sometimes messy extended family dynamics—the sibling rivalry, the differences in relationships with parents and friends, the blurry boundaries, and the undercurrent of shared history. All of that made it believable that Avery and Drew could go so long having said so little about how they truly felt. Although there were some moments when I might have wanted to know more about Avery and Drew’s journeys—separate and together—at the end of the day, I enjoyed them and felt invested in seeing them find their way toward each other. I think you will too.

THE BREAKUP PLAN is available NOW!

Amazon: http://bit.ly/TheBreakupPlan

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‘The Breakup Plan’ by Tia Kelly

breakup+plan+2000x3000

A man without a plan is a shell without purpose.

Which is why I sat down almost nine years ago and put pen to paper mapping out my ten-year plan. I meant business. Everything that could set me up for a lifetime of joy had to go down on the list, and every day I worked my ass off to fulfill it.

Open my own sports agency. Check.

Earn first million by my thirtieth birthday. I did that a week before I turned 26.

Negotiate the most lucrative contract in Major League’s history. Did that, too. Then went and broke my own record. (Thanks big bro!)

I could go on, but this isn’t about bragging. It’s me admitting in the midst of drafting something that helps shape and mold much of my success, I made a costly mistake.

One day I realized all those entries with corresponding checkmarks are pointless if I never factored into the equation the most important goal of all. Avery.

Perhaps way back then I wasn’t ready to see how much my best friend of fifteen years deserved that number one spot in my life. Maybe I was blind since the whole settle down and get married scenario wasn’t my thing since, well, forever. But now that I’m aware of the role I need her to fill in my life, there’s no such thing as letting go until I can convince her to be mine.

Considering she’s about to marry someone else does make winning her heart a little bit dicey. But if there’s anything you should ever know about me is that I always play to win. And losing Avery is non-negotiable.

The Breakup Plan.

A best friends to enemies romance.

He ruined her wedding day and he’ll do it again until she’s his..

The Breakup Plan by Tia Kelly – On Sale TODAY at 10 PM (EST)!!

tia+kelly-watercolor+copy

Tia Kelly is the author of contemporary and women’s fiction. She is known for her candid way of capturing life, love and relationships… one story at a time.

Author Website: www.tiawithapen.com

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Goodreads Author Profile: http://goodreads.com/tiakelly

Add Book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41508689-the-breakup-plan

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tia-Kelly/e/B00B7AKXGI/

‘Behind the Pen’ is back!

Behind the Pen 2018 FlyerI only started doing book signings and public appearances about three years ago. The first one I did was my own, ‘Wine with Writers’. After that, I tested the waters with a couple others, and once I realized that I would not spontaneously combust from all that … interaction, I was all in. To my neverending surprise, meeting people who read my books is not at all like most social interaction. Large groups of people can be draining for me. Meeting readers is by contrast, energizing, inspiring, and a great motivator. Not to mention talking to people who remember details about your characters and stories that you’ve long forgotten, and who took even the smallest bit of encouragement, or found empathy for different points of view just because of something you’ve written … there’s nothing like it. It makes me humble, and grateful that I write.

So, this year, I’m doing it again, at ‘Behind the Pen’ in New York, on Saturday, August 11. Organized by the Sistah Girls Book Club. Behind the Pen was created by Sistah Girls founder, Sharee Hereford, to celebrate black independent authors and the readers who love their work. What started out as a small digital conversation has turned into a growing community (over two thousand members now!) of authors and readers who enjoy literature.

Last year, my author besties Rae Lamar, Jacinta Howard, Lily Java, and Tia Kelly were there, which made it super-fun. After the event our little band of writer-friends had dinner afterwards, and dissected everything (as writers are prone to do) with a motley crew of moms and daughters, friends and one very special reader; and the main thing we talked about was how amazing it was that people even gave a crap about meeting us. Then we moved on to how incredibly well-organized ‘Behind the Pen’ was. For a maiden voyage, they thought of just about everything, and there were no glitches that I could see. Every writer was treated like a VIP, and every reader had the time and space to interact with us in a meaningful way. There was food, drinks, music, fun and a great view of Lower Manhattan. It fueled the work that I did for the rest of the year. I think, for sure, it made me write more … and better.

This year, I think you still might be able to make it. Tickets for Behind the Pen are still available here for a mere $25. But if you can’t make it, you can order signed copies of some of my favorite books, below.

I hope you see you at Behind the Pen, but even, if not …

Happy Reading!

~N~

 

Freeform

Just WriteSometimes I overshare about what I’m working on. And it’s kind of cool because the responses to the sharing are always positive, and motivating and reassuring. But there’s the other side. Sharing also leads to requests for timelines–which I then provide but rarely keep–then there’s disappointment from readers, and contrition from me because the last thing I want is for readers to be disappointed, even when in disappointing you, I may be satisfying myself. So, I tried, and continue to try to plan my releases, and have at least somewhat of an idea of when something I promised might be available.

This year, I have some ‘Have-To-Write’ books in my head, and God willing, they’ll get written. But I’m finding that the timeline I’ve set isn’t working. And that’s because something else is going on with me. I’ve been freeform writing a lot lately. Characters, stories and ideas are coming out of nowhere, and I’m just letting them come, not asking them to wait in line behind others, and not censoring them in any way. Most have been unusual, unformed, even unlikable and in a lot of ways uncharacteristic of what I’ve done in the past, and that’s been incredibly exciting. At least for me.

Writing evolves. I don’t want to write the way I wrote two, or three, or five years ago. For readers of romance, relationship-focused or women’s fiction, that can be scary, or even irritating when their writers change course. And I think many writers know this, so they disappear into their writing labs, and experiment in isolation, and agonize over hundreds of pages before they feel confident enough to release something that first and foremost satisfies them, but also satisfies their target readers. (I don’t believe for a second when writers say they write only for themselves. That’s what journals are for, not novels.)

But that’s a delicate and sometimes impossible balance. To satisfy your personal creative growth impulse and that of an audience who wants most of all, for you to give them what they know they will love. Imagine for a moment that you make a delicious pot roast with fingerling potatoes and a side of wild rice. Your family tells you it was the perfect meal. And then, every day, for the rest of your life, they demand that you make pot roast with fingerling potatoes and a side of wild rice. As delicious as you found that meal, as proud as you are of having made it, one day, you begin to loathe pot roast, cringe at the sight of fingerling potatoes and vomit if you have to eat wild rice. So it is with writing; at least for me.

The only cure is to step away from the pot roast, at least for a while, and experiment with, say, chicken marsala. That’s what I’m doing for now.

And I realize that produces some disappointment. The dread of your disappointment made me even consider, for a hot minute inventing a second pen name, something to hide behind so that I could keep the expectations and positive equity intact with the other things I write. But y’know what? I’m not going to go that route. I’m going to trust you to hang with me while I write stories that surprise you, or shake you up, or make you mad, or frustrated, or sad.

Wanderer - High ResolutionSo … what that means is that before I return to pot roast–which I have no doubt I will do from time to time–I’m doing chicken. And lamb. Pork even. You don’t have to like them. I mean it, you don’t. But do this for me? Judge them on their own merits. Don’t expect them to taste like pot roast.

And you know me … I’ll tell you everything as I go along this journey; probably more than you care to know about ‘process’. That’s all for now. Back to cooking ….

~N~

P.S. You know I have an online book chat about ‘The Wanderer’ coming up in a couple of days, right? Join the online book club ‘Because My Heart Said So’ here, to participate in the chat THIS WEDNESDAY, May 30th at 7 PM.

New Release! The Wanderer

Wanderer - High ResolutionHere’s the deal with 2018. I decided to write with no fear. You ever meet a writer who says they know their stuff is really good, then one of two things is almost certain to be true:

  1. They’re projecting confidence they don’t entirely feel (i.e., they lyin’); or
  2. they’re not as good as they think they are

Writing is a fearful, fetal-position-at-3am-sobbing-into-your-pillow kind of thing, believe me. Sometimes I write a paragraph I love. Sometimes I write a book I like a lot. I have never, never, ever written an entire book I loved. That’s the high I’m chasing. I feel like it might take me a lifetime to get there.

The fear is what makes me write slower than I might otherwise write, and also, strangely, release things on impulse, almost to purge them from my head and set them out into the world where, occasionally people will validate how terrible I thought they were to begin with. And sometimes people will tell me I was mistaken, and it wasn’t terrible after all. Of course, the latter is by far the preferred outcome. Fear of the former stunts you. I think you have to fail a lot in order to succeed.

So, this year , I made myself a promise. I would write more, write more carefully, and write without fear. By that I mean, I’m going to write entirely what I feel, and just let it go. I think, I’ve done that periodically, but not nearly as often as I would have liked to. So this novella, one of my ‘Shorts’ is where I’m marking time with that. If things I release, sound and feel different, if you sense I’m going someplace really different for a minute with a book, or series of books it’s probably true. But ride it out with me … I think we’re going to have fun.

Oh, and ‘The Wanderer’ is available now! Check it out, exclusively on Amazon.

The Wanderer: The ‘Shorts’ Series

I have another of my ‘Shorts’ coming out in the next few days, so I thought I might take a minute to explain again what they are. In the interim, between writing longer books (say 275-425 pages) I sometimes get story ideas that I’m not sure I want to develop into full-length novels. Or, I get inspiration to develop characters that just won’t leave me alone. So, I write them. Sometimes these characters come to me in first person, sometimes in third. Sometimes they are wordy and introspective, sometimes they’re whimsical and not that deep. Either way, I’ve started putting them to the page, with no expectations about how they might be received. If received well, and if I still have something to say, I may continue the story in yet another ‘short’ like I did with the ‘Coffee Date’ book. Or, a single story may be all there is.

The ‘Shorts’ are generally under 200 pages in length, but I hope, not short on detail and characterization. They’re my way of freestyling–a riff committed to the page, that might work well, or not at all. They’re essentially my way of letting you into my mind. At the end of last year I decided that if I think of a story, I’ll write it. I won’t agonize, ruminate, or marinate … I’ll just write it. The ‘Shorts’ will always be priced between 99 cents and $2.99 because, well, they’re short. And I am not sure yet whether I will release them in print, because who wants to buy a pamphlet for $8.99, right?

This one, ‘The Wanderer’ came to me as I was writing something else, and rather than shove it aside, I decided to complete it. It’s different in theme, and a little bit in tone from what I generally write but was kind of a cool bridge for me, from one project to another, and helped me renew my ‘write every day’ pledge to myself. So … I hope you enjoy.

Here’s an excerpt from ‘The Wanderer’:

Wanderer - High ResolutionI am messing around with one of Rain’s computers when the doorbell rings. For a few moments, I have no idea what it is, because it peals like a musical note. I pause, thinking it’s a phone ringing somewhere in the house, or that Rain is back and playing an instrument. I finally realize what it is and go down to answer the door.

Outside, a FedEx guy is holding a package. He looks surprised when he sees me.

“Hey,” he says. Then he hands me a box and asks me to sign for it.

As I am scratching out my signature he asks after my brother by name. I look up.

“You know Rain personally?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he says. “I deliver here all the time. This is my regular route.”

“Oh.” I hand him the tablet I’d signed on.

He pauses, like he wants to say something more, so I lift my eyebrows, prompting him to speak.

“You must be his sister,” he says.

“Yeah. He told you about me?”

That possibility pleases me. I have been invisible in Rain’s life for so long, it would be cool to think that at least I was on his mind, and that he talked about me.

“No,” the FedEx guy says. “But you look alike.”

“Oh,” I say again. “Well … I’ll be sure to give him his …”

“Yeah,” the guy says. “Yeah. You have a good day.”

He turns to leave, and I watch his firm calves, and his muscular ass, visible in the shapeless shorts.

Before Jamaica, I was in Italy, where Black guys were fairly scarce. The only ones I ran into—with a few exceptions—were young Africans, who were hungry strivers, refugees, or menial workers who had left desperate circumstances and were unable to consider women, or relationships as anything more than a possible leg up in a society that still viewed them with suspicion. I didn’t object to their circumstances or even their desperation, but I knew that on some level they didn’t even see me. They were too preoccupied, most of them, with the more basic things on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—food, shelter, safety—to even think about esoteric matters like emotional wellbeing, or love. But I fucked a couple of them anyway, because in my own way, I was unable to think about emotional wellbeing or love either.

I watch the FedEx guy not because he is especially attractive, but because I am starved for the company of American men. Black American men, especially, with whom I don’t have to constantly explain myself, and who understand ‘where I’m coming from’ both literally and figuratively.

I take Rain’s box inside and set it on the foyer table, and then I remember Bryan. Even though I lost his number, it would be easy enough to find him, since I know where he works. I head back to the computer and look up Chaplin.

On the school’s website, in the ‘About’ section, I find pictures of faculty. And there is Bryan. He is one of only two Black members of the teaching staff. The second one is also male, and he is—no surprise here—the gym teacher.

In his picture, Bryan looks young, and hip. I can tell from the picture that some of the girls probably have crushes on him, and that some of the boys probably try to quote Jay-Z or Drake lyrics to impress him. I smile at the thought. Bryan would love that. He would encourage it.

And then he will later stand at a bar with his friends—all Black men themselves—and say things like, ‘I’m probably the only brother those kids will ever have an actual complete conversation with in all their lily-White lives.’

When we were in college, Bryan was the Black guy all the white guys wanted to befriend. Because he has a neutral, affable, ‘not-carrying-the-anger-of-my-race’ demeanor, that white people find approachable, and refreshing. He made them feel like they needn’t worry about their latent bias, because after all, they thought Bryan was cool, weren’t even slightly uncomfortable around him, and he seemed comfortable around them as well. So, that must mean they’re not racist, right?

Bryan is like Barack Obama was when he was on his first campaign for President. Unaffected and even affectionate around whites, but only letting his inner Black guy loose when he was with the fam. Otherwise, you might have thought him race-neutral.

I used to like that about Bryan; the ease with which he code-switched, and the almost shockingly racially-charged things he would say, in that nice, Northeastern accent of his when he was in a room where everyone was Black.

I find a phone number and dial it on Rain’s landline, asking the nice lady on the other end if she can connect me with Mr. Banks. She tells me he is in class, but that she will leave him a message. I ask her if she can see the number I called from, because I don’t know it by heart. She tells me she can.

“Great!” I say, my voice chirpy. “Could you ask him to call me back at that number please?”

“Certainly,” she says, equally chirpy.

“Oh,” I say. “And one more thing. What is the number I called you from?”

She laughs and gives it to me and I write it down.

I was only able to get to Rain’s from the airport because I took Uber and had his address in an email he’d sent me before I left Jamaica. I gave him the date and time of my arrival and asked him to be home in time to greet me. He had responded, asking no questions—as though I hadn’t last seen him almost three years earlier—in one brief word: sure.

That was my brother—a man of few words, unless he was singing.

Having gotten out of my way the whole issue of Bryan having a way to get in touch, I go back upstairs to take a late-morning nap, shoving aside the large duffle that I still hadn’t completely unpacked.

A picture falls from it. I turn it over onto its face, so I won’t have to look at the image. Then I curl up on my side and go to sleep.

The next sound I hear is the ringing of the phone. There is drool on my chin and I have that dazed, brain-numb feeling that often comes from sleeping too deeply in the middle of the day. I find and answer the phone in Rain’s messy master-bedroom and am not surprised when I hear Bryan’s voice on the other end.

“C’mon out and have a drink, or a coffee, or something with me,” he says. “I’m free for the afternoon.”

 

SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘The Broken’ COMING SUMMER 2018

THEtakedown (1)

A lot of folks have reached out to ask me about Devin’s story. You may have met him in ‘The Takedown’. So I thought I’d give you a sample to let you know I’m working on it. This one is actually super-important to me, and I want to get it right. So, I’m projecting a late summer-early fall release. I work on it every now and then, when something strikes me about Devin. His story is not unlike that of someone I know and love very much, so I can’t screw it up. It will be a love story, of course, but with elements of two people learning to love themselves just as they learn to love each other. At the moment, I think I’m going to call it ‘The Broken’. Here’s a sample. Enjoy.

N.

From ‘The Broken’:

Half past midnight and well past drunk, Harper was sitting on the floor of her living room, pretending it didn’t matter that Matt and his boyfriend were cuddling on the sofa; and near her on the floor, his sister Sloan and her boyfriend, Ross were doing the same. They were watching a soulful French film that was non-linear and not at all conducive to getting drunk and high. The last thing one wanted to do when they had been drinking and smoking was read. And the second to last thing one wanted to do was feel like the fifth wheel. Harper was doing both.

All evening, she had been reaching for her phone, pretending to check iMessage, as though she had other options. But the truth was, she had imagined a very different kind of evening. She, Matt and his boyfriend had done the whole movies and chill routine many times, but it was easier with them, and more raucous. People stopped in at odd hours, bringing more drinks, more weed, and once in a while, even some harder stuff. And it would be fun and diverting, and Harper wouldn’t think, or even feel much of anything. The music would be loud, the television would be turned up to compete with the music and everyone would be practically shouting to be heard above it all. But this time, Matt had toned things down for his sister who was younger, and went to an artsy college. The French movie was her idea.

“Harper!”

She looked over her shoulder. Matt was talking to her, and she’d missed whatever it was he said. “Huh?”

“The door. Didn’t you hear it?”

“Nuh uh. Is someone out there?”

Matt looked at her with wide eyes. “Yeah. I guess. And I didn’t invite anyone else, so …”

Harper sat upright. Alert suddenly.

Please, she thought. Please. Please. Please.

Standing, she shook her head a little to clear it. It was almost one in the morning. She hadn’t even given it a thought that he might …

Devin was standing there when she opened the door. He was in jeans and a long-sleeved black t-shirt. He looked lean and rangy. And as always, he looked good. So, so good.

And Harper was surprised that she had the urge to hug him. If she did, he would probably recoil in shock. As it was, he was looking at her as though his being there was as unexpected to him as it was to her.

“Hey,” he said. He didn’t smile.

The corners of her mouth twitched as she tried not to do so herself.

“Hey.”

~~~~~~

Devin was up before anyone else.

Harper was still asleep next to him. Her apartment, her neighborhood, were so quiet, it was almost unnerving. Even though he had much nicer digs himself now, he still remembered what it was like to live in Brownsville, where he was accustomed to noise all night, just outside his window. Baseheads and other junkies wandering the street, shouting expletives at each other, sometimes getting high in the tiny alleyway just behind the building. Sometimes, he heard people having transactional sex, the grunts and groans cursory, sad, and sometimes theatrical, because the pleasure was being faked.

Harper’s bedroom was like sleeping in a cocoon. Twice he’d woken up, reminding himself of where he was by looking around. She had posters on the walls, like a teenager might. Of Tupac, Jimi Hendrix, and OutKast. And framed LP covers, from eighties artists like MC Lyte and Chubb Rock; artists who had been talented enough, famous enough, but who were mismatched and counter-intuitive. Devin had a feeling that if he asked her, she would have very specific reasons for why she liked each one, and maybe even specific memories associated with them.

She was an interesting, and strange chick. When she talked about music, it was with a light in her eyes that made him want to smile, because it was something he almost never saw in people who weren’t themselves musicians. That light—the way she looked when she talked about music—was what made him want to sleep with her that first time. He noticed that she was pretty, probably even beautiful, but he noticed that as an afterthought. The exteriors of people were sometimes the least interesting parts of them. Inside was where all the action happened; and in some people, it was where the darkness lived. You couldn’t trust anything that was on the outside.

But still, Harper’s outside appealed to him. He reached beneath the sheets and touched her. She moaned in her sleep and opened her legs a little wider. Watching her face, Devin stroked her. Her eyelids fluttered as she came awake, and finally her hazel eyes were visible, clouded over and unfocused. He kept his gaze fixed on them, moving his fingers in slow and then faster circles, feeling as she grew moist, then slippery, then sopping wet. Harper’s lips parted and she moaned, her hips lifting off the bed.

“Devin,” she said. She bit into her lower lip, and all the while, her eyes remained open, and she stared right into his. “Devin,” she said again.

He had the sudden and surprising urge to kiss her mouth. He still wasn’t used to kissing on the mouth when he was fucking. He had kissed Kay, when they had that kind of relationship, a long time ago, but no one since, except now, Harper. But with Kay it was because he had never just fucked her. What they had done was about love, and after her, he had loved no one else. Kissing was too intimate to do with just anyone.

He had been mindlessly stimulating Harper while his mind drifted, so Devin was almost startled when she lifted her hips even higher off the bed, and emitted a low, deep cry as she came. Then she was limp again, still looking at him, her eyes lazy and half-shut. She smiled.

“Good morning,” she said.

One corner of Devin’s mouth lifted at the unexpectedness of the greeting, at the irrelevance of it. Just as their greeting at her front door the evening before had been irrelevant. In the things they didn’t say, sometimes it felt as though he and Harper actually said a great deal.

~~~~~~

“Did you find an apartment?”

Harper was sitting opposite him in the diner down the block from her house. It was a faux-diner, really. Decorated to look old-fashioned, but in reality, brand spanking new. A breakfast of two eggs, home-fries and bacon cost fifteen dollars. Devin shook his head in disbelief and put down the menu.

“No?”

He looked up at Harper. “No, I mean, yes, I found one.”

“Where is it?”

“Couple stops from here. Near the bridge.”

Harper looked surprised. “Oh. Wow. Cool.”

She was wondering, as Makayla had, how he could afford it. But unlike Makayla, Harper wouldn’t ask.

The waitress showed up and Devin ordered the expensive two-egg breakfast, after Harper had ordered her own. And once their coffees were refreshed, their server left them alone again. The only other people in the diner were young families, couples with kids, cajoling them through waffles and pancakes, trying to keep their little hands away from the syrup.

“You want to come see it?” Devin asked, on a whim.

“You have the keys and everything already?” Harper asked. “You signed a lease?”

He nodded, and shrugged. “I’m not picky.”

Harper laughed. “I know. I’ve seen the place you have now, remember? Are you going to be able to get out of that lease?”

“Lease?” Devin laughed. “That place is barely habitable. They’re lucky I don’t report them for all the code violations.”

“I do want to come see it,” Harper said. She moved the salt and pepper shakers back and forth, like someone playing a game of chess and contemplating her next move. “But I have to … I’ve got someplace to be today.”

Devin leaned back, studying her. This was the first time in ages he could remember seeing her outside of his apartment in the cold light of day. Her eyes looked more amber than hazel. Her lips were pink. It was like she was suddenly in technicolor.

“What?” she asked.

He had been staring, and it embarrassed her.

“I was just wondering what it is you’re doing today that makes you not want to come see my new crib,” he lied.

“I do want to see it. This is just … it’s something I can’t get out of. Again.”

“So you’ve gotten out of it in the past?”

“Many times. But my chits have all been used up.” She shrugged.

“What is it?” he asked. “This thing you’ve gotten out of many times before.”

“I’d rather not say.”

Devin didn’t press. Because if it were him, he would not want to be pressed.

“But maybe after?” Harper asked.

Devin shrugged. “Maybe,” he said.

 

COMING SUMMER 2018