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A.L. Collins

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Scarlett's
by A.L. Collins   

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Books by A.L. Collins
· Bastion - Prequel To War
· TWINED
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Category: 

Inspirational

Publisher:  CreateSpace ISBN-10:  1475032013 Type: 
Pages: 

241

Copyright:  March 1,2012 ISBN-13:  9781475032017
Fiction

An Inspirational Story about a girl named Jaime Williams who searches for happiness, love and acceptance as she works at the diner Scarlett's.

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The Book of Scarlett's

Chapter 1: Just Talk to the Robot Lady

 

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

 

*Beep*

 

“Hi, it’s Lori. Can’t get your call at the moment. Please leave me a message at the beep and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks! Bye.”

 

*Beep*

 

“Hi Lori its Jaime. I was just wondering what you’re up to. I kind of needed some help with something… but you’re not answering, so it’s all good. I know you must be busy. Well, just give me a call when you have the chance. I’m not doing much so you can get a hold of me anytime. Plus I just discovered a mountain of cookie dough and I can’t get salmonella all by myself. Enticing right? Okay. Well just… you know. Give me a call. Yeah. Okay, bye!” *Click*

 

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

 

*Beep*

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hi, Bryant? Finally someone answers! It felt like I was the last person on Ea-”

 

“How are you doing?”

 

“Oh me? I’m… well I’m good I guess. Nobody has been answering their phones. But anyway the reason I’m calling is I need-”

 

“Hah! Got you! You totally fell for it! Well I’m not here right now. Leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. Peace.”

 

*Beep*

 

“What? Hello? What… seriously? That’s your answering machine? What the heck? That is not funny! That’s not funny at all that’s… that’s borderline evil! That’s up there with shaving kittens for fun and giving… giving diet soda to someone when they order regular and telling them it’s regular. But they have a long ride home with nothing else to drink and it’s actually diet! Do you shave kittens for fun? You might as well after leaving such an evil voicemail. You’re an ass. Now I don’t even remember why I called you. You suck… I’ll find you. I swear I will find you. I have Mapquest.” *Angry Click*

 

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

 

*Beep*

 

“Hey it’s Noel. So sorry I couldn’t get your call! Just leave me a message. I’ll talk to you soon. Thanks! Bye.”

 

*Beep*

 

“Hey. It’s Jaime, also known as the shunned. You’re not answering. It figures. Nobody ever answers me. Is it because it’s me? Did I do something wrong? Is my hair too brown? That was an unintentional Beatles reference by the way. I have literally called EVERYONE in my contacts list. EVERYONE. I feel so hated right now. Do you guys know when it’s me? Like, do I have a special ringtone or something so you know not to pick up the phone? What am I doing wrong? You need to tell me about these things! Does my breath stink? I have Halitophobia, you know that right? That’s the fear of having bad breath. Why would you not tell someone with Halitophobia if they have bad breath or not? Especially if that’s the reason you won’t answer their phone calls! I… I love you. I’m… I’m gonna go… call me?” *Pitiful Click*

 

Ring. Ring. Ring. R-

 

*Click*

 

Hello?

“OH MY GOD!”

“What? What?”

“You answered. Somebody answered! Wait… wait a minute. Are you a machine?”

“If that’s your way of asking if I’m perfect, then yes. Yes I am.”

“That was absolutely hilarious Ashton, my God. I’m rolling down my steps, laughing. Hysterically.”

Yeah right, Jaime. What’s up?

“Sorry to bug you. You busy?”

No not at all. Why?

“Nothing… I was just wondering if I could call in a favor.”

Shoot.

“Well I’m… I need your help packing.”

What makes you think I know what you should wear?

“What? No, no. Not that kind of packing.”

Well if you need two people to pack, you may want to consider taking a little less luggage.

“Ash I’m being serious. I’m not going on a vacation.”

Oh. Then why are you packing?

“…”

…Hello?

“I’m here.”

What’s up Jaime? Why are you packing?

“It’s a long story. I just need some help getting my things together. Some of the boxes are too heavy for me to move by myself.”

Well tell me what’s going on.

“I will… can you come over first though? I don’t really want to do this alone.”

Yeah… yeah okay.

“Thanks… I’ll explain everything once you get here.”

Alright. I’ll be there in ten.

“Okay. Bye.”

See you soon.

 

*Click*

 

A knock came at her door almost exactly ten minutes after the phone call to Ashton. Jaime, dressed in a sweater, pink tank top and yoga pants, set a box down and proceeded to her door. It was a journey in of itself to get through the mound of newly rediscovered knick knacks that littered the floor of her duplex. No one ever told her that the amount of furniture you owned when you entered the house magically multiplied by the time you were ready to leave. It had always felt like she had the same number of things now as she did when she moved in. Apparently that wasn’t the case.

            She pulled the door open so that none of the boxes crowded around her would get smashed in the process. That didn’t happen. Every box got smashed in the process. As she looked through her doorway, to her subtle joy, a young man the age of twenty two stood before her. He smiled at her while scratching his short black hair. Jaime returned a smile faintly and motioned for a hug. To the man’s surprise she weakly wrapped her arms around his torso. He gripped her back firmly as he wondered what exactly was going through his friend’s mind. This lack of energy was unusual, especially for Jaime.

            “Hey.” He said softly.

            “Hello beautiful man.” She replied in an even quieter tone.

            He gently pulled away and looked at her as she stared to the ground. Her light brown hair was up in a ponytail and to his shock she hadn’t matched her clothes for once. Her mood seemed dismal, defeated.

            “So what’s up Jaime? Why are you packing up all your stuff?” He leaned to his left, looking into her home. But she put her hands in his face and obscured his view. She didn’t want him to see inside.

            “No, don’t look at it Ashton.” Jaime whined, “It’s atrocious. I know I didn’t buy half these things. My sweaters invited friends, my books reproduced and my posters invented a cloning machine. I swear that’s what happened.”

            Ashton peered over her hands. He saw several boxes stacked on top of boxes. Nothing was showing beneath the mess, not a glimpse of flooring. Even her bed was littered with books, magazines and Star Trek memorabilia. Things were almost literally crawling up her walls.

            She sighed, “These books are more numerous than the number of Dr. Who reincarnations.”

            “It looks like a herd of gazelles ran through your room.”

            “Gazelles? You mean those awkward bird things?” Jaime asked.

            “What…? No. They’re like deer. Antelope. And they’re actually quite graceful.”

            “Oh well sorry. Not everyone gets the Animal Planet station, alright?”

            “Well if you want my help I’m going to see the mess eventually.” He said in response to the embarrassment over her living space. He leaned further into the doorway and his eyes widened at the pure disorganization.

            “Look at all these books. It’s like a lost library.” His gaze swept all around the room.

            “What are you looking for?”

            “The angry shushing librarian?”

            “Oh. Ha. I forgot you were funny.” Jaime’s sarcasm came out.

All in all it… well it was bad. As he tip-toed as far as he could into her room the clutter really started to stick out. He was in the center of the storm here. He was at the eye of the Jaimecane.

            Jaime walked next to Ash as he whistled a high note, “You really aren’t packing for a vacation, are you?”

            “Tell me what your first clue was,” she quipped back.

            The first clue may have been the pyramid of laundry on her kitchen counter. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t right at all and Ashton knew it. And it wasn’t even the mess that really got to him. He wanted to know why. He wanted to know what this symbolized, what the purpose was. “All right spill your guts. I want to know what’s up.”

            The girl sighed and her hands flopped to her sides, “What does it look like, Ashton?” She shuffled past a large accumulation of makeup items on the ground and turned around to face him further within the mess.

            “I’m packing… I’m packing to move.”

            Ashton, floored at this realization, reeled his head back in unpleasant surprise, “What, are you kidding me? Since when?” he asked with volume raised. He had no idea where this was coming from. She hadn’t said a word about this to anyone. She hadn’t even put in her two weeks notice at work.

            Jaime’s eyes squinted. Pointing a skinny finger at him she asked, “Outlandish question for ya. What are the off chances of you helping me pack without me telling you the reason why I’m moving?”

            “Obvious and irritated response; zero to freaking none. Start talking.”

            She nodded, “Okay… that’s fair.”

            Ashton awkwardly goose stepped over the boxes near the door, “I’m serious. I’m not lifting a finger until I know what’s going on.” He said in shock, “Why are you moving?”

            She shrugged, “Why do people move?”

            “People move because they have no friends, no career or no passion where they are. None of which apply to you.”

            “People can move just because they want a change…”

            Ashton raised an eyebrow, “Are you moving because you want a change?”

            “No.”

            Her quirky responses got a small grin out of him. However he quickly hid it, “Well then why is it? Come on, stop dancing around my questions and just answer me for once.”

            Jaime sighed. She walked over to her island and pulled a chair out causing a stack of papers to fall over. They spilled and multiplied onto the disaster that already existed beneath her feet.

            “Oh insert expletive here.” She “cussed” at the papers, sighed and then sat on the stool next to her, in that order. “I’m not moving because of any of those reasons…”

            “Then why?” Ash questioned, insisting on an answer, “Why are you leaving?”

            “Please don’t say leaving. Leaving makes it sound like I’m doing this willingly… and I’m not. I’m not moving because I want to.” She shrugged her shoulders, “And the reason is simple really. I’m… broke.”

            “Broke?”

            “Yeah. I can’t afford to live here anymore.” She said simply, “And that’s just the truth of it. I’m broke. The economy and I had a disagreement. Harsh words were said, we scuffled and in the end we decided it was better if we saw other people.”

            Ashton grimaced like he took a physical blow. It figures the one thing he couldn’t help Jaime with was the reason she was moving. But the fact that she was leaving Heightway tugged at his heart. Jaime was everything to him. And for this to come up all of a sudden… he was just short of not believing it entirely. Rather he didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t.

 “I wasn’t blind. I knew I was losing.” Jaime sighed, “I just didn’t know that I’d already lost. Or how it would feel when I did.”

“You haven’t lost. We can still do something. We can keep you in Heightway, we just need to… to…”

The girl laughed softly, “That’s so sweet to hear. And as much as I love miracles, I don’t see that one happening.”

This wasn’t a side of Jaime Ash had seen before. To see her lost, defeated… he barely recognized this girl in front of him. He gave her an empathetic stare but she waved at him as if she was trying to shoo the look away.

            “Oh please don’t give me that pity face. It burns me.”

            “I’m… I’m sorry Jaime.” Ash said, “I had no idea you were losing the duplex…”

            But all Jaime did was smile slightly and shrug her shoulders again, “Only half of it.” She took it with a grain of salt she did.

            “If I’d have known…”

            “You’d have poured all your savings into me. And in three months we’d both be losing our homes.” Jaime replied. And in truth her theory wasn’t too far off.

            “How much longer will you be here?” Ashton asked with sadness in his voice.

            “Oh for a good while yet. They still have to find a new tenant and everything so it’ll be at least a month or two.”

            “Noel’s going to be heartbroken.”

            “Noel doesn’t know.”

            Ash sighed, “I don’t want you to go.”

            Jaime gave him a stinging smile. She hid her sadness behind it, “I know… I don’t want to either.”

            Ash rubbed the back of his head, still soaking up the unfortunate fact that the best friend he’s had for years was going to be out of his life in a matter of months. “Where are you moving to?” A question came, “Where will you go?”

            That one hit home for Jaime. Ash knew she couldn’t go home, not with the state she left it in. He knew she didn’t have the best relationship with her parents and he respected that enough not to bring it up. If a person was suffocating, the last place they would go is underwater. At home Jaime would indeed be suffocating, crushed under the pressure… because to her, “home” was located six leagues below sea level.

But really with her duplex gone the only thing she could do was live out of her car again, and Ash didn’t want to see that happen.

            He wondered what happened. How things went downhill so fast.

            But this time Ashton, speaker of all advice, was speechless. All he could really say was, “What can I do to help?” and that question really applied to anything at this point.

            Jaime brushed a bit of her hair back and wiped her forehead. She surveyed the damage… and there was a lot of it.

            “Well I still need to sort out all this kitchen stuff…” she said, looking over the island. She surveyed all the appliances scattered about, “I need this junk put into boxes… and there’s also the matter of all the food. I want my Star Trek tapes and my books all safe though.”

            “All right…” Ash found it was obvious that the most important parts of that entire sentence were the tapes.

            “This is why I need you. My whole problem is that I unpack all this stuff and then… lose the motivation to sort it into the boxes.”

            “I’m surprised this place didn’t end up like this sooner to be truly honest with you.” Ash kicked a makeup case out of his way, “You only clean when you’re angry.”

            “What? I can clean. I don’t have to be mad to do it.”

            “Yes you do. And you’re docile, so it never gets done.” He said matter-of-factly, “Remember when you missed that book signing because of that girl? I came over and you had this place spotless.” Ashton laughed in remembrance, “You were flipping and cursing… it was the first time I ever saw you angry.”

            “What? Me? Curse? Ridiculousness… is that a word? Oh well anyway, I had a reason to be upset. She totally stole an opportunity for me to meet my favorite author.”

            “I’m not saying you didn’t have a reason. I’m saying you were upset. You were angry and frustrated so what did you do? You cleaned. I guess it’s a stress thing.”

            And then it hit her, “Maybe you’re right.” She looked at her hands with her mouth hanging open, curling into an embarrassed smile. Her expression was like she just saw her fingers for the first time, “So that’s what my trigger is. I’m an angry cleaner.”

            “And you’re welcome.”

            She grinned at him and gave the young man a fake stern look, “Well come on then. You know what you need to do.”

“I do?” Ash asked a question that he didn’t even want to know the answer to.

She nodded, “Make me mad, Ashton!” she goaded him as she bounced on her chair, “Make me oh so grumpy.”

            “Seriously?” Ash sighed as he walked carefully over to her, “You need to be mad right this minute? You can’t just clean?”

            “You said it yourself. I need to be angry.” Her chest stuck out at him, “Come on, do it! You big…” she looked at her friend and gave him, what she believed, was a very painful poke in the chest, “Pansy!”

            She then retracted her finger, “Ow, ow, ow…” she looked at her nail, “Ow. Those are hard.” She said in reference to his chest muscles.

            Ashton just shook his head, grinning to himself. Despite how hard Jaime tried to become cheery, they both began to slowly realize that these were the kinds of things they wouldn’t be able to do much longer. If they were apart then they couldn’t have as many good times together. And that was a reality that neither of them could bear to face.

But just in case there really was nothing they could do about Jaime leaving, they came to a silent agreement. Rather than stew about and mull over the fact that things may not always be the same, they joked and laughed. They would enjoy the time they had left.

Together.

            So Ash shrugged, “Well… if we have to clean… I think maybe we should enjoy it.”

            “Please tell me you’re joking.”

            “Oh no.” Ash said as he stepped closer towards Jaime, “I think we should make a day out of this place.”
            Jaime looked up at Ash, “What are you doing?”

            He inched closer to her.

            “Don’t… don’t you dare.” She said.

            Ash nodded and grinned, “Yes?”

            “No.” Jaime shook her head, smiling as she slinked back in her chair, “Ashton I’m telling you. I’m warning- Ash!” he poked at her, “I will murder you and hide your body in an ice cream truck!”

            “That’s a little morbid.” He picked her up and she started screaming as he tickled her sides, “What would the children eat?”

            “ASHSICKLES.”

            “Sounds gross.”

            “Ashton! Ash! I have Geliophobia! Pteronophobia! Wait, that’s only the fear of being tickled by feathers… ASH! Stop tickling me! I’m going to seize! I fear I will seize!”

The day went on and soon several hours had passed without either of them noticing exactly how time had flown by. Thanks to Jaime’s tendency to clean while ranting (and she had plenty to rant about after Ashton tickling her to near tears) they managed to get a little bit of the room organized again. At least now they could see a portion of the floor clearly. But even that little bit of progress was quite the feat.

            But once the hardwood flooring was revealed Ashton noticed something blue and furry next to him. He reached down and to his dismay found something that belonged not to Jaime, but to him.

            “You’ve got to be kidding me!” he cried out as Jaime looked over to him. She scratched her nose as she set down the makeup she was boxing away.

            “What?”

            Ashton turned around holding what seemed to be a tattered jacket. It was torn to shreds and covered in hair.

            Jaime grabbed a lollipop out of her pocket and unwrapped it, “Oh… by the way you left that here.” She pointed to it with her candy.

            “Why is it torn to pieces?” Now Ashton was the one seething with anger.

            Jaime shrugged, “I guess Pitters got to it.”

            “Your freaking cat?” he shook the jacket in front of her, “Jaime this was a hundred bucks! It’s the one thing I splurged on and you let your cat use it as a makeshift scratch blanket?”

            “I didn’t even know it was here…”

            Ashton let it drop to the floor, “Where is Pitters?” he asked in a dark tone.

            And as if it was called, the gray and overweight tabby Pitters came in from the bathroom. It walked over to Jaime and purred nicely as she smiled, scratching it on the ear.

            “Hello freaking Pitters.” Ashton gritted his teeth.

            “Aw come on Ashton.” Jaime held the cat in her lap, “He’s adorable. Just look at his face.” She held up his paws and forced him to punch the air, “Ready? One, two and three… sassy cat dance!”

            “I’m going to shave him.”

            “Don’t you dare!” she cried, “Pitters is my little man.”

            Ashton growled and grumbled as the cat sat in his friend’s lap, still purring like an innocent bystander. Suddenly the microwave dinged. Jaime turned and quickly stood to her feet as the cat jumped out of her lap.

            “What’s that?”

            She looked over to him as she went into the kitchen area, “Instant noodles are ready.”

            As Jaime’s attention turned to the noodles Ashton turned devious. He smiled to himself and looked down the hallway next to him that led to the bathroom. It was clear of trash and only hardwood flooring showed. So Ashton took Pitters and stuffed him into an open box. The cat’s head poked out as Ashton bent down to his knees, grabbing the box with one hand and holding himself up with the other.

            “Mess with my stuff, huh?” he spoke to the cat as if it could understand what it had done wrong, “Say goodbye you little bastard.”

            And as he grinned to himself he pushed the box forward with much force. The box spun in circles as it slid down the hallway rapidly. The cat meowed in discomfort as he twirled around and around as if he was caught in the spin cycle of a dryer. Soon the box came to the bump that separated the tile from the hardwood. The box flew forward. It hit the tub and fell on its side as the cat fell out. It scrambled like mad and jumped into the bathtub safe from Ashton and his scorn.

            Ash laughed to the point of weeping at the hilariousness of a spinning cat. He’d never heard a sound like that come out of any animal, awkward gazelles or no.

            “Are you two playing nice?” Jaime asked.

            “Hm?” he glanced over, “Oh, yeah. Sure. He’s adorable.”

            “Oh right. You hate my cat.”

            “Ailurophobia… right?”

            Jaime laughed, “Yep. Oh wow you’ve been hanging around me way too long.”

            Well, he wouldn’t argue with that statement.

            Ashton lifted up his foot after he stepped on something plastic. A thick folder had fallen over after he picked up the box he stuffed Pitters in, “For good reason. Just look at my jacket,” he said back to Jaime while he opened the unmarked folder and shifted through it. He didn’t have any idea of what it was but they’d have to sort it sooner or later. He just wasn’t sure where it went. He wasn’t sure where a lot of this stuff went in all honesty. Most of today’s progress could be described as “random crap inserted into containers”.

However stapled inside of this particular folder were several packs of printed paper. They all had paragraphs and paragraphs of writing on them. Ashton looked them over, reading the words.

            At first he though he had found someone’s school assignment or a diary. But as he read on he found that this story was about a fictional character. He hadn’t found a diary. He found a printed book.

            “Hey Jaime, what’s this?” he looked behind him to see where his friend had went, but she was nowhere to be found. “Jaime?”

            Thinking she must be in the restroom, Ash decided to flip through the binder himself. He became impressed at the number of pages in his hand. He read the title and it caught his attention. The End of Searching it was called. He’d never heard of it and there was no author listed anywhere in the pages.

            Curiosity had peen piqued. He took a break, sat on his butt and skimmed over the first few words. As he scratched his chin, he realized that what he held in his hands was a very, very good book. The main character, Katy Sams, was a frail girl with light brown hair, reminded Ashton somewhat of Jaime. The book started out with her making a wish on a dandelion seed. She was making a promise to herself, claiming she wanted to find the on person in her life that would make everyday exciting again. Before Ash knew it twenty minutes had gone by and he was enraptured. The beautiful wording and the amazing description made him feel like he was right in the book itself.

            Jaime walked over with her empty cup of noodles, sipping on the broth. She looked at her friend as he squatted over a pile of papers, a green folder in his hand. As he turned to the next page she called to him.

            “Did you hear what I said?”

            Ashton blinked. He looked up at Jaime as she stood over him, “I’m sorry, what?”

            “I asked if you wanted anything to eat or something.” She repeated, “You’ve been helping me all day. Got to be hungry right?”

            He shook his head no and returned to his reading, “No I ate before I got here. Jaime, what is this?”

            She bent down, “What is what?”

            “This folder of papers… I think it’s a book.” He said as he showed it to her so she could see the writing clearly. He assumed it was perhaps a printed version of a famous author’s writing… maybe she downloaded it from somewhere. But much to his surprise Jaime’s eyes suddenly widened and she gasped.

            “That’s my writing!” she said to him, “Where did you find that?”

            “Your writing?” He emphasized that first word as he handed her the folder, “Are you telling me you wrote this?”

            “I’ve been looking for it everywhere. I thought I’d lost it forever!” she flipped through the pages and smiled warmly to herself. She looked at Ashton and then set the folder down, giving him a huge hug.

            “Thank you so much Asthon! I can’t believe you found this. Where was it?”

            “It fell out of a stack of folders. I stepped on it after I moved the box that I stuffed your cat in.”

            “Oh how fantastic…” she replied seriously. She obviously overlooked the part about Ashton flinging her pet halfway across the duplex. Her eyes never left the plastic folder. It was obvious that not even the fate of poor little Pitters mattered to her at this point.

Rather something else mattered to Ashton in particular. And that was the question of why she never mentioned this to him before.

            “Jaime I can’t believe you wrote this. This is good… I mean it is really good!”

            Her expression just completely changed, “What? You think so?”

            Ashton nodded, “The part about the girl’s father… the writing really is beautiful.” He didn’t add in the small detail that what happened in the story with the girl’s father sounded identical to Jaime’s own home situation.

            The girl shyly shrugged her shoulders, “Oh… well thanks.” She laughed softly, “How much have you read?”

            He shrugged, “I’m like… I think I’m at chapter two. I’ve been reading it for the last half an hour.”

            “You lie to me, funny man.”

            “Jaime I thought a real author wrote this.” He said, impressed at what his friend had seemingly created, “I was about to ask you who wrote it and where you downloaded it from so I could get a copy.”

            She seemed to blush slightly, “No… no downloading.” She rubbed the binder, “This got me through a lot of tough times. I wrote it about a year ago. It’s got a lot to do with my everyday life really. Lots of stories from work are in here.”

            “Did you take any writing classes?”
            She shook her head no, “Just the required English courses in high school. I never went to college for it or anything.”

            “You’re telling me you wrote this without any sort of tutoring?” And at this, Ashton could only sit on his rear and ask her one more thing, “So tell me this then. Why the hell are you working at a diner when you can write like this?” he said in shock, “Why in the world haven’t you gotten published?”

            Her reaction was akin to the way to act when one meets an alien for the first time. She had never even considered poetry club in high school, let alone becoming a genuine author. “Ashton I can’t get published, are you crazy?” she said skeptically, “Who would want to read this?”

            “Me!” he reminded her of his past actions in the last half an hour.

            She laughed at him, “You have no idea how hard it is to get published.”

            “And you do?”

            “Oh yeah.” Jaime said as she sat next to her friend with her arms resting on her knees, folder in her grasp. “I heard that the Way of the Wizard series was rejected sixteen times before a publishing company finally took it.”

            Ash raised his eyebrow, “Sixteen times? But it’s such a hit now.”

            Jaime knew that didn’t mean a thing, “Nobody wanted to take a chance on her. The author, I mean. She got her start writing on napkins I heard.”

            Ash was amazed. He could never imagine the author of Wizard writing on napkins.

            “And the only reason the last publishing house took it was because the daughter of the head executive read the manuscript and loved it.” Jaime continued, sighing, “That’s what I was told anyhow. Could you even imagine no Way of the Wizard?”

            “I know.” Ash said, awestruck, “What would you have done for the last three years of your life without it?”
            Jaime hit him on the shoulder with the folder. Ashton laughed and said, “Careful Jaime! That could be the next Way of the Wizard you’re beating me with.”

            She rolled her eyes, “Ash I could never send this to anyone. I’m barely okay with you reading it. No publishing house would want this. And it is so nerve wracking for other people to read your writing. Talk about a window into your soul.”

“How poetic.” Ash smirked.

“Besides, everything I want to do professionally doesn’t have any source of income involved in it. There’s no career in being a writer, not for people like me.”

            Ashton took the folder from her and looked through it, “You don’t know that. They rejected Way of the Wizard and now it’s a phenomenon… maybe these guys don’t exactly know what they’re doing.”

            “You can’t expect them to discover every breakthrough book.”

            Ash shrugged, “Why not? Someone did. Why couldn’t it happen to you?” He handed the folder back, “Besides, I bet those sixteen publishers are really kicking their own asses right about now.”

            Jaime laughed at him and Ash joined her. Even through all this heartache Jaime was feeling it was at least nice to see her smile. For Ashton, knowing that he could at make such a dismal time for her slightly uplifting was all that he needed.

            And Jaime knew what it meant to have a true friend. She thanked him with her heart… and with a silent stare into his eyes.

            “Do you want to just stay here tonight?” she asked. It’s not that he was against the idea, because he was about to say yes. But he stopped himself. Something else popped in his head instead. Something he had to do.

            “I… no.” he said suddenly, which surprised her. “I don’t think I can… tonight.”

            “Oh…” Jaime sighed and then took a moment to ask, “Is it because you think I’m offering for other reasons? Because I’m not. I know where our relationship is.”

            But Ashton winced at what she said, “I’m not ready to hear that yet, Jaime.”

            “Oh… sorry.”

            “It’s okay. And it’s not that. There’s just something on my mind.”

            It’s not that Jaime wasn’t a beautiful girl. She was. They had gone down this road before. And they had both gone down this road again after they promised each other, and themselves, that they wouldn’t. But even that wasn’t the reason for his denial of her request.

            And as terrible as felt for thinking it, all he wanted was a way to get her out of the room.

            And almost as if fate had demanded it, Pitters let out a sharp meow from the bathroom. Apparently he had gotten stuck inside the tub after Ashton sent him on his little joyride. They both looked over and Jaime quickly stood to her feet.

            “Is that the cat?” Ash asked.

            “Yeah I think so.” She walked down the hallway, “Hang on one sec.”

            And just like that opportunity presented itself to Ashton. And he, being no fool, took whole advantage of it. He quickly grabbed the thick green folder and all of its papers she had left on the floor and wrapped it in his jacket.

            “Hey Jaime?”

            “What?” she called over as a sharp meow rang clear, “Hang on. Pitters is being a jackass. I mean jackbutt.”

            “Actually I kind of have to get going. I need to be at the gym with Wyatt early tomorrow so…”

            “Oh really? Oh. Well can I call you later tomorrow? I think I need a ride to work and we both have night shift.”

            Ashton grinned, “Sure. I can do that.”

            “All right.” She yelled again. He could sense just a hint of confusion in her voice. Most likely it was directed at Ash’s sudden want to leave so quickly. But she didn’t question it. She merely said her goodbye, “See you later Ash. Thanks for the help!”

            Ashton opened the door, “Of course. Let me know if you need anything else.”

            With that he exited the duplex and sighed to himself. He smiled against the cool breeze and looked at the thick green folder in his jacket. He really did it. He stole her binder. All of the work she had cherished and lovingly crafted, he had taken.

This is how Jaime was. She could’ve been the woman that created the Mona Lisa and still would have hidden that damn painting in her basement, covered in plastic never to be revealed. No matter how good her writing was in actuality, in Jamieality, it was garbage. But from what Ashton had read in that green binder, he knew this was something substantial.

Jaime’s writing had to be published. He knew it had to be. His head spinning with ideas, he could only really manage a single phrase.

            “Thank you Pitters.” He said through his grin.


Excerpt

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