Hi friends! Me, again. With yet another excerpt from this … thing I wrote! 🙂
This time it’s Chapter Four
, I think. Yeah, that’s it, all right! Because here’s Chapter Three! 🙂
So onward and … upward, right?
Yeah, sure. You betcha!
The church’s basement reeked of overheated coffee and bleach. Despite my total lack of interest, I’d called my therapist back and promised to make an appearance. I walked into the meeting room, surveyed the small group clustered around the coffee and donuts, and stifled the urge to pump my fist and yell, “Let’s get this party started!” Woo hoo.
Susan Findley, the group leader, spotted me as she arranged chairs. Abandoning them, she walked toward me, waving.
“I’m so glad you’re here, Erica,” she said. “I’ve been worried about you.”
I forced a smile. “Don’t worry, be happy.”
She leaned toward me and touched my arm. “Is this really so hard? I think you’ve come a long way since your discharge. I’d hate to see you backslide into using again.”
Susan was in her early thirties, maybe a few years older. She had shoulder-length, wavy blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a creamy complexion. Today, she wore a green tunic and black leggings with short black boots. She looked like she’d never suffered a sleepless night.
“Think I’ll go get some bad coffee,” I said. Anything to keep me awake.
Susan laughed. “Okay. We’ll get started soon.” She flitted off to fiddle more with the seating.
I crossed the room to the refreshments table. My support group of seven had grown by three more members in my absence. People were scattered about, chatting among one another. Two of them—one Army grunt and a Marine—had also served in either Afghanistan or Iraq. As I poured a cup of the dark brew, I felt a presence at my side.
“Hi. My name is Nick. This is only my second meeting. You just join?”
I looked up to see a man of about thirty, with unruly brown hair and dark eyes.
“My name is Erica, and this isn’t my first time. It may be my last, but I say that every time.”
Nick grinned and shook his head. “Wow, don’t hold back on my account.”
“I tend not to sugar coat my views.”
“I’ll do my best not to piss you off,” he said. “May I say that you are very pretty?”
Oh-kay. “Sure.” I gave him my happy face. “It’s the high cheekbones, you know. Everyone used to tell me I should be a model.”
“I take it you aren’t?”
“Hardly. I don’t think it’s a good idea to build a career on your looks.” I sipped my coffee. Less burnt-tasting than I’d expected. “My cheekbones are the happy result of a few Cherokee genes.” No one in my family talked about it, though. One of my grandmothers brought the topic up, only to have it dropped for good. I hoped mightily that my Anglo ancestors hadn’t raped a native.
“Dare I ask how you feel about the Redskins?”
“The same way I feel about football. I couldn’t care less.”
He flashed another smile. “What do you do?”
I leaned toward him. “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” I winked at him and walked away.
Chairs scraped the floor as everyone took seats. I grabbed one, leaving an empty one on both sides. Within seconds, Nick sat next to me. “Hello, again,” he said. “Fancy finding you here.”
I suppressed a sigh. “I’m no good at small talk. Sorry.”
“Neither am I. But I’m intrigued with what you’ve said so far.” He extended a hand. “My name is Nick Baxter. And yours is?”
“Erica Jensen.” I placed my hand into his warm, firm grip and shook his hand. He had a direct, if piercing, gaze.
Was he hitting on me or just terribly curious?
“I used to be a Washington Post reporter,” he said “I’m working freelance now. Or trying to. I’m a victim of layoffs. Right now, I also work part-time as a night manager at Olive Garden.”
“Are you a freelance editor or writer?” I asked.“Both. I’m taking whatever work I can get.”
Uh oh. That explained his curiosity. Guard your tongue, Erica. “Best of luck with that. Things are tough, huh?”
“Let’s talk about you instead. Seriously, do you work for the government or what?”
“Okay, let’s get started,” Susan piped up, in the nick of time. “Would anyone like to share first?”
Nick gaze lingered on me. I mouthed, “No.”
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