From Day 1—Maybe
Monday, December 3
Teaser to teaser: Today’s teaser is perfectly suitable for work. I’ve decided to begin your seduction with prose. Setting the stage. This is how chapter one—day one—begins…
Fuck. I close my eyes. Turn this way, that. Open them. 5:01 a.m. Well. This is productive. I get up—give the alarm clock a resentful stare. Go downstairs. Ponder making coffee—making that first pot is a sign of surrender to the morning, an admission that I will not go back to bed.
I make the coffee. Sullenly at first, then with just the slightest tinge of happiness as the grinder whirrs the beans. I breathe in its scent. And I listen to the quiet of the house—everyone’s still sleeping upstairs. I am awake and I am alone. I let go of the “why did I get up so early when I didn’t have to” resentment and relish the feeling of being. Awake. Alone.
Eight minutes later, I’m on the couch, curled up with a cup of coffee and my laptop. Check email… seven minutes later, when Alex comes down the stairs, I’m working.
“What are you doing up so early?” we say simultaneously. Laugh.
“One of my idiot partners in Toronto scheduled a conference call for 8 a.m.,” Alex says, stretching. “Eastern. I’ve got to be in the office in 45 minutes. You?”
“Just couldn’t sleep,” I say. “As it turns out, some idiot in Toronto is having a panic attack and desperately needs me to review this business study. For 9 a.m. Eastern. So you know—the insomnia was fortuitous.”
He laughs. Kisses my forehead, grabs a cup of coffee. Heads back up to shower, mug in hand. I read, think, type. I have three, less than three, really, hours until the little people start making their way down the stairs and claiming my attention. Focused. Fast.
Alex is back down the stairs in 20 minutes. “Bye, love,” he calls as he rounds past me to the front door.
“Bye, love you,” I call back, without a break in the typing. “Going to be home in time for dinner tonight?”
“Unless some idiot in Toronto screws it up,” he says as he slips into his coat. “Will text you.”
By the time I’ve made my way through most of the second pot of coffee, the kids are coming down. Cassandra, my 10-year-old, first—shocked to see me up and awake before her. And then, as appreciative of the silence around us as I am. She curls up on the couch beside me, with a bowl of cereal and a book.
The peace and silence end when the boys stampede down. Henry’s seven. Eddie’s six. Together, they sound like a platoon of baboons. Even at 7:15 in the morning. Cereal. Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix. Annie, the four-year-old, bum-slides down the stairs at 7:45, and my day’s work is done—parenting begins as Annie starts her day by cuddling in my lap for half an hour.
You cannot be cuddled by a four-year-old and be as brutal as my clients need me to be. I hold her. Drink coffee. Check Facebook. New messages.
“What are our plans for the day?” Cassandra asks. “This is a weird school day, right?”
“You’ve got that pioneer Christmas thing at the Farm, and then we’re watching Marie’s kids in the afternoon,” I tell her. She whoops in delight and races upstairs to get dressed. Annie follows her. I have to holler at the boys to do likewise.
The first message is from Marie.
// – We still on for this afternoon? I’ll see you at the Farm, right? //
// Maybe. Never was a word so full of potential. I’m glad you wrote me back, I was worried there for a while.
For a decade. //
My lips curl into an involuntary smile. I won’t write back. Not yet. I’ll just enjoy knowing he’s in my inbox.
“Mom! Eddie’s wearing my favourite shirt!” “Am not!” “Mom! I have no socks!”
I climb the stairs slowly, cooling coffee mug still in hand. Mondays. Really, not that much different from Sundays.
“And you’re of course welcome to participate if you like,” the Laura Ingalls Wilder look-alike who checks us in at the Farm tells me. “Parents welcome!” I look at her in horror. The thought of spending the morning churning butter, milking cows, making candles, splitting wood or whatever it is the pioneers did to prepare for Christmas is an experience I’m willing to forego. Happily. If the four-year-old lets me… but she’s already gone, holding on to her sister’s hand. “We get to make candles!” she calls out to me over her shoulder. I give her a thumbs up. The boys have already found their friends. I beat a retreat to the cafeteria.
Marie’s already there, two coffee cups in hand.
“I got your mocha for you,” she says. “An advance thank you for this afternoon.” I accept. “Thank God you’re here too—I was having a I’m-the-worst-mom-ever moment,” she continues. “Look at all those women crowding around the gingerbread table. For Christ’s sake, don’t they do enough of that at home?”
“Have you ever made gingerbread at home?” I ask Marie.
“No one likes gingerbread at my house, thank god,” she says. “I’ve made chocolate chip cookies. You’ve even eaten them, bitch. Stop ragging me. Drink.”
That’s Marie-speak for I need to talk. I look at her and wait.
She makes an extravagant gesture with her hands, but before she says a word, she is interrupted. A chattering herd of women, mothers of our children’s friends and classmates, enters the cafeteria. We’re an incestuous community. They know us. We know them. Our kids go to the same alternative “private” school. Too many of our husbands work together—for each other—against each other. For all its urban pretensions, this is a painfully small town. A subgroup of them meanders to our table. We exchange meaningless pleasantries.
The conversation flows down well-trod tracks. Christmas. Field trips. Anyone doing the Christmas at Heritage Park day? No? Why not? Shopping. Someone’s got the flu. Someone else is just recovering. Someone else is getting divorced, have you heard? Another revealed affair. A sense of ennui, almost overpowering, envelops me. I’ve had this same conversation… last week. And the week before.
I pull out my phone. Email. Panicked client. Another emergency. Ah, not going to happen today. Maybe for tomorrow. Not acceptable. This is a real emergency. Please. Double my fee. Anything. Fine. Your inbox, tomorrow a.m. Ecstatic client. How I’m going to accomplish that, I’m not sure…
The women’s voices around me rise and fall. Marie and I exchange looks—”Later,” hers says—but she falls into the conversation enthusiastically. I haven’t the desire.
// Maybe. Never was a word so full of potential. //
I check Facebook. I’ll write back. Maybe.
NEXT WEEK: She writes back. What? That should have been a spoiler alert? Come on. What sort of a story would it be if she didn’t write back?
Teaser ender: did you enjoy that? I did. So much, I’ve, in this moment, changed the master plan. I’m going to give you all of Chapter 1/Day 1. In bytes. Because how else are you going to get a proper taste of what’s going on? Right?
TOMORROW: Confession 2—I’ll tell you how a story gets made
Do you want to read the book?
“God, yes! Where, how?”
“Soon, soon! Coming from Mischief, the erotica imprint of Harper Collins UK, in March 2015. In the meantime, sign up to follow this blog? Teasers (taste Tell Me) coming every Tuesday. And… a deeper taste, here.”