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Excerpt# 18: Princess Laser Tag

“Where are we going?”
“Just two streets. I promise.”
“You said that two streets ago, Ray.”
“You know at the rate you complain we should just change your name to the whiner.”
“Oh really? Fine I will stop complaining if you tell me where we are running off to.”
“Nope.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”—–“Why is it that on every date we end up running to someplace?”
“Because. I gotta keep you on your toes princess. If I don’t you might actually stop to think and try to ruin this.”
He was right.
“Do you think I am fat?” She changed the topic.
“What?!”
“Well with all this physical exertion, I am wondering if it’s your way of telling me I need to lose a few pounds.”
He shook his head. “You’re ridiculous.”
“Nope I’m your little miss sunshine. I like the princess by the way.”

“Speaking of princesses, we are here.”

They were facing an Italian pastry shop decked out in Christmas lights, beautiful music and fairytale vibe.

“Wow.” For once she was speechless.
“Wow, for once are you actually speechless?”
“Shut up while you’re ahead.” She hushed and grabbed his hand.

They walked into the restaurant hand in hand and sat down.

“You know next time, if you want, instead of running around I can think of other physical exertions for our next date.” He grinned, she looked at him for a long second “I know what your thinking and I am totally for it.”

“Yeah?”

“Of course. Laser tag here we come.” His groan and her snicker could be heard mingling with the music.

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Excerpt #18: Date 2- Order of Sushi with a Side of Stubborn

Women can’t resist the lure of good sushi.

Their second date was founded on Ray’s wholehearted belief of this concept.

“A dragon roll please” she ordered.
“Let me guess. That’s what you usually order.”
“Yep.”
“Why not try something new?”
“I am. I am eating it with you.”
He chuckled, “Cheekiness. I like.”
She batted her eye lashes at him, “And what, pray tell, do you dislike?”

He bought out her weird quirks…including defunct phrases and terrible accents.
“Why? So you can annoy me?”
“It only seems fair. To return the favor and all,” she blurted out. She didn’t know what the fuck she was doing. Here was this amazing guy and here she was trying to ruin it.

He stared at her intensely for a moment.
“It won’t work you know.”
“What?” She said nonchalantly.
“You, trying to ruin this.”
She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. She looked up and grinned, “Darn and here I was trying so hard.” She meant the statement as a weird kind of apology. Miraculously, he must have understood because he nodded and dropped his seriousness.
“Come on.” He said as they finished.
“Where?”
“Just come!” Having paid the bill, he grabbed her hand and dragged her out of the resturant.
“Ray! Where are we going? I didn’t sign up for exercising. You promised it would only be sushi!”
“Oh, come on you big baby.”

It was a beautiful summer night… the kind of night in those romantic movies that all girls dreamed out. And here she was, walking alongside Ray to God knows where. It was a while before she realized he hadn’t let go of her hand. She decided not to remind him.
“Ray…where are we going?”
“There was a lake here somewhere.” He mumbled as they kept walking.
“We are trying to find…a lake? In the middle of the city?”
“Okay not a lake. A body of water of sorts. Just a bit farther.”
They kept walking. After a while they came across a row of apartments and a shifty neighborhood.
“Ray…I don’t think there is a lake this way.”
“What?”
“We are, by the looks of it, in the projects.”
Ray swore when he realized the truth and she laughed. His desire and grand failure at finding the elusive and romantic lake was endearing.
“Well…on the bright side… it’s no lake but there is a puddle by the broken fire hydrant there. That looks promising.”
He stared at her again trying to gauge her. When he realized she was teasing him and not being mean, he hugged her, laughing. It was so effortless that she didn’t even realize when a piece of her shattered heart began to put itself back in place.

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Excerpt #16: Asking a Girl Out 101 With Ray Fyodor

When she had suggested they go out for coffee, it had been her gut reaction. She didn’t want, or need, a rebound guy. Ray certainly wasn’t the rebound type either. So when he called her the weekend after their first meet in the train she was determined to turn him down. But somehow, she ended up with a coffee date.

Earlier in the day

She was binge watching Criminal Minds when her phone rang. She picked it up, not checking the caller ID as she continued to lust after—ahem—watch Spencer Reid do something brilliant on her screen.

“Hello?”

“Hey Little Miss Sunshine.” A smiling male voice replied.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s Ray from the train? Remember me?”

She was so engrossed in her show, she didn’t respond.

“Ray… the artifact, remember? Cradle, Russian, ring any bells?” Comically he mentioned the highlights of their conversation.

As it dawned on her who this Ray was, she sat up straighter.

“Uh, yeah hi Ray the artifact, what can I do for you?”

“If I recall correctly, we had a coffee date.” he said ignoring her jab.

“If I recall correctly, you are a budding alcoholic.” She said vehemently, trying to offend him.

Instead, he laughed.

“As I told you, I am Russian, alcohols in our blood.”

“Yeah, yeah. Look I am actually really busy at the moment…”

“Is that Criminal Minds I hear in the background?” Indeed she had forgotten to turn off the show.

“AS I was saying, Spencer Reid and I have a standing Criminal Minds date on the weekends and you are disturbing our alone time.”

“Ah, Spencer Reid. Many a great men have lost to his boyish good lucks and his nerdy charms.”

“You watch Criminal Minds?” She narrowed her eyes.

“Yep, does that win me brownie points?”

“I didn’t know we had established a point system.”

“We hadn’t, why not start now?”

“Sure, can I go now?”

“Yep, so coffee next Friday at Martha’s downtown? Let’s say seven-ish?”

The team was about to face the perpetrator, “Yeah sure, whatever.” She said transfixed, whatever to get off the phone.

“Okay, cool! It’s a date. See you soon.” He hung up quickly, knowing he won.

She looked at the phone, episode forgotten. Wait, what?

He looked at his phone as he hung up. Thank you Spencer Reid.

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Giving Her Some Alone time: Marielle’s Story –Working out the Reasons

Marielle sat at her desk and rubbed her temples. It was the weekend and she was at her office perfecting the client’s presentation for Monday. She didn’t mind working the weekends as long as Norman, the head of marketing, wasn’t here. He had taken a liking to her and she didn’t like it one bit. He reeked of creepiness. But, since he wasn’t here, she was content with her current situation. Although…her sister kept accusing her of being a workaholic and it had stayed with her, echoing. It disturbed her that her own flesh and blood thought she was running away from life while clearly she wasn’t. This WAS her life and she loved it.

Suddenly, the phone rang, jarring her. “Hey Leo, where are you?”

Her assistant was late and it was unlike him; he loved his job as much as she enjoyed hers.

“Hey Mar, an emergency came up. I have to take my nephew to the hospital. I am sorry, I won’t make it.” She heard a honk and an expletive.

“Oh no, is he going to be okay?”

“Yeah, he will be fine. He just swallowed an eraser whole…one of those big Staedtler ones? How he managed to swallow the whole thing is beyond me. But I am taking him to the hospital to try to get it out. I have a feeling there is going to be laxative in his future.”

“Ew,” Marielle laughed and wrinkled her nose, “Well, I am glad it isn’t anything too serious. Don’t worry about work, I can handle one day without you.”

“Thanks Mar, you’re the best! Ian! I swear if you don’t settle down…”

She heard the phone click and her smile began to disappear. She had lied to Leo, she wasn’t sure she could handle one day alone at the office…the silence was a breeding ground for thoughts she rather not relive. Where was creepy Norman when you actually needed a distraction?

The room began to lose focus as she heard the familiar male laughter that usually bought out her own and grainy smiles; flashes of another time flickered in her mind’s vision. Images of piggyback rides, morning races and fighting about the mundane, began to bombard her in rapid succession. The good and the bad all began to mix into one seamless thought flow that abruptly ended as it reached a dead end in the form of the ultimatum that changed everything.

A generic, yet flowery, ringtone set her out of her reverie. She checked the time. It was 2 pm on the dot and her thoughts turned happier as she looked at the caller ID.

“Hey Missy,” she answered her sister’s call, “You’re calling again!”

“After the little debacle last week, with that friendtervention bullshit, I was afraid of what would have happened IF I DIDN’T call,” her sister said grumpily.

“Language Missy!” But she relaxed when she heard her sister’s voice because it reminded her of a saying that they both believed in whole heartedly. One that got them through some pretty tough spots: everything happens for a reason, sometimes we just don’t see the bigger picture.

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Excerpt #14: Obtuse and Acute

Senior year of college was definitely kicking her butt; it was late in the evening when she returned home to her tiny apartment above a Chinese restaurant. She shared the floor with the owner of the restaurant who lived in the only other apartment. She wasn’t really hungry, but Ms. Wong had noticed her lurking up the stairs and forced a container of lo mein onto her from the restaurant. Container at hand, she struggled to unlock her door.

“Is that lo mein I smell,” was the first thing she heard. It was lucky Judy took the container from her before she dropped it in shock.

“Thank God, you’re finally here, I was getting bored sitting around,” August whined.

“Hey Sweetie,” Marielle, waved from the donated couch where they were all sitting except…

“I don’t know why I am here,” Chase, who was sitting on a donated ottoman, held his hands up at her accusing glare.

“Why the HELL are you all in MY apartment?!”

“Do you really not recognize a friendtervention when you see one?” Judy said between mouthfuls of her lo mein.

“A what?”

“Friendtervention. It’s a friend intervention.” Explained August, looking at her incredulously.

“Okay…” They had officially gone insane. “First thing first: How did you guys get in?”

“The key in your cactus fertilizer? Seriously, that was probably your stupidest idea. A random cactus by your door, it obviously holds your spare key. Anyone can get in.” This was Marielle’s standing objection about her safety.

“How does the cactus survive? That’s my question,” Chase’s nerdy senses had kicked in.

“There is a window in the hallway, this building faces south and the people who come up here are screened by the Wong family first. I would like to see someone get past Mr. Wong…but that is not the point! You guys violated my cactus?! Please tell me you put the dirt back.”

“Yeah, yeah, I wanted to let it die, but they wouldn’t let me.” Judy grinned.

“Of course we did, and we cleaned up in here a bit too,” Marielle said proudly.

Ignoring the jab, she continued, “Okay, secondly, why are you guys here? Intervention for what? I thought you guys were going to let go of my coffee addiction?”

“The whole ‘Him’ thing.”

“Guys I am fine!”

“Yeah sure, he’s obtuse but that doesn’t mean we are too. You have been moping all week,” August drawled.

“Have not.”

“Have to.”

She looked at Chase for back up and so did August. “I know nothing, as I said I don’t know why I am here.”

“As her friend you had to be here, to get her out of this funk!” August was on a roll.

“I am not in a funk or moping, maybe you guys are just acutely gauging my emotions for no reason”

“Really? When was the last time you spoke to Him?” Judy asked.

“A week ago or two ago?”

“Is that normal?”

She bit her lip.

“And I heard you have been trying to switch your classes, the ones with him…in the middle of the semester.” Marielle frowned.

“I just wanted a break! It’s been a tough semester.”

“Because of the subject or him?”

“Both!”

“Now we are getting somewhere.” Judy rubbed her hands.

“Guys I am fine, I just need some alone time to think okay?”

“Okay, take your alone time, but hurry up please, I need your ears to bore you about Anthony.”

“And I need you for our little shopping adventures.”

“I still have you as a gym partner, so no complaints.”

“CHASE!”

“Okay, okay, I want you to be your happy self.”

“And I need my little sister back for our weekly conversations, I missed them so much I had to come up here.”

“Gee, thanks guys. Nice to see you care about me and this wasn’t just a selfish endeavor.” She said sarcastically.

“Of course we care!” Marielle exclaimed, and they all nodded.

“Yeah, now that all that is over, can you get us more Chinese food for free? That lo mein wasn’t enough.” Judy was a bottomless pit. She ate everything and gained nothing.

There was a knock at her door. Wondering whom it was, she opened the door.

In came Ms. Wong with containers of food, “I heard growling stomachs downstairs so I bought up all your favorites.”

As they happily sat down she added sweetly, “That will be $40.00, only She eats for free and you (looking at Judy) pay extra, I can still see the stain from the lo mein on your shirt”

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Excerpt #13: When A Heart Breaks in A Ribcage

“I heard about Friday night,” He said while they sat in the park for their weekly meet.

“Yeah, that was weird.” August had obviously blabbed.

“What was weird about it? You’re pretty, it’s only normal.” He said offhandedly.

“Thanks?”

“Don’t mention it.”

They became silent. She didn’t know what happened, but something was wrong.

“You should have taken his number.”

“What?”

“You should have taken his number and seen where it might have gone.” He didn’t meet her eyes.

“So it wouldn’t bother you.” her heart beat painfully fast. This was the closest they had ever gotten to this conversation.

“No. Why would it? You should date whomever you want. We are friends…Right?”

He looked into her eyes then.

She recalled Chase’s words.

We men are not as complicated as you make us to be, if he is with her it’s because he wants to be.

“Right.” She made an excuse to leave early. She didn’t want the sound of her heart breaking anywhere near him.

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Excerpt #12: Look Me in the Eye

“Pst! Guys!” She whispered, “There is a guy two table away that keeps looking this way.”

“Is he cute?” August immediately sat straighter.

“Where?” Chase, who was sitting next to August and opposite of her, began to turn.

“NO!” Both girls started and August pulled him back.

“What the hell?”

“Chase, you don’t just turn around, he will know we are talking about him!”

“You guys ARE serious?”

“So, is he cute?” August reiterated.

“Yes, wait…he’s leaving with his friends. Never mind.”

Their food had arrived and all other thoughts fled their mind.

“Excuse me?” A strong male voice chimed about a minute later.

She looked up and it was the same guy they were just talking about.

“Hi, I am sorry to disturb your dinner, but may I speak to you for a minute?” He directed his gaze at her.

“Um, yeah” She took his outstretched hand to stand.

“I am sorry but you have such beautiful eyes that I had to come and introduce myself. My name is Mark, and I really like your eyes.” He spit this out rather quickly and then looked about ready to crawl under a rock.

“Thanks…I really like your…beard?” Her voiced hitched as she realized it was a goatee. August and Chase sniggered in response.

“Well listen, my friends and I are leaving, but I really would like if we can talk, can I give you my number?” He seemed sincere, but she hesitated.

“I’m sorry, I am with someone”, she fibbed, and your eyes are the wrong color.

Mark looked at Chase.

“No, not that one! Another one, Sorry!” She sounded like an idiot even to her own ears.

“Oh, well…do you love him?”

A familiar face flashed into her head, “Yes,” she said honestly.

He looked into her eyes and accepted the truth and said, “He’s a lucky man then, hope you have a great night.”

“You too.”

She looked back at Chase and August, “What the fuck just happened?”