Eli sat at the table with his arm draped across the back of the booth, his legs open and one resting on the booth beside him. He was lounging and after the night he’d had, he was sure that he deserved it. Abby, on the other hand, was silent as she flipped from one page to the next; her eyes locked on the words as if they might run off without being properly digested. Elijah watched her reactions almost as intensely as she read the page, until at long last she shuddered visibly and put down the manuscript. Her arms all covered in goose pimples set his heart racing. She was horrified by what she’d read, he could see it in her eyes. She was deeply effected by it emotionally and no matter what you thought of the subject matter, emotions that came off the page in that way… well, it sold books.
“I don’t know what you did Eli,” She picked up her cigarette from it’s resting place and took a drag of it, like a woman desperately trying to recover from an hour or three between the sheets, before speaking in an exhale of smoke, “but baby, you are DEFINITELY back!”
“Really?” he laughed nervously, a false modesty he couldn’t help but express.
“Oh shit… I mean this stuff is raw. The first person from the point of view of the killer, I mean, who does that? Now a days I read about a dozen ‘good guy vampires’ and ‘dark antihero’ stories a week, but you… your guy isn’t apologetic, he’s a complete narcissist. I hate him and yet I have to know where this is going. I mean, what he makes you feel it’s truly frightening – it’s like…” her eyes look up and to the right ever so slightly, “It’s like the first time I read Lovecraft or… Wells… or…” She blinked rapidly and laughed. Eli laughed with her.
Standing up she gathered the manuscript once more and walked over to kiss him on his cheek softly. “You’re going to make a lot of money with this one Eli. I’m serious.”
“Thanks Abby.” He said, feeling relieved and relaxed for the first time in months.
“No. Thank YOU. When I hand Roberts this, he’s going to send me somewhere warm and sunny for a vaccay on his dime, I’m sure of it and I owe it all to you.”
Eli shook his head, outwardly dismissing her lavishing of praise but inwardly basking in it.
“Now all you have to do is get started on the sequel.” She waved to him as she walked away from the table and into the crowd by the door. Slowly the face splitting grin faded from Eli’s face. Victory here wasn’t a destination arrived at long last – finally to be enjoyed; it wasn’t a finish line where all worries he had were finally gone. Instead it was only a brief pause before it all would began again. The avoidance. The distant knowledge that a new date was fast approaching. The attempts at putting words on the page only to find them as pathetic and the ones he’d written all the times before. The growing worry. The veiled threats from Abby, as if he didn’t know the cost of missing a deadline.
Eli pulled his hand through his hair. He could feel everyone in the room looking at him, talking about him. He was a fraud. They could all see it. They weren’t fooled by the hipster glasses, the purposefully purchased clothing in that ‘outcast’ sort of style. He’d crafted and image, an illusion of this sort of author he wanted to be, but it only took someone with a desire to know and they’d see right through it all. The over-price name-brand laptop and writing software, the exotic coffees and … and… all of it was lies!
Standing up he scrambled to throw a twenty on the table as fast as he could before rushing out of the restaurant and away from the accusing eyes that surrounded him.
“You have to give me another story.” Eli rubbed his hands together as he paced in front of the radio, his words echoing off the empty walls around him.
“Caller, do you have a romantic dedication you’d like for me to read on air?” The DJ’s voice offered
“Not a love story, I’m not a romance author. You know what I need.”
“You could win a romantic get-a-way for two to sunny Acapulco!”
“I need another story about him.” Eli said, stopping at the window to look out on the city lights that were just coming up. “They’ll want a sequel.”
“So turn down the lights, bring your lady friend down on the floor by the fire, and curl up to the dulcimer tones of -“
“NOT A ROMANCE!” He screamed at the radio.
The radio sat silent. Eli’s heart thundered in his ears. Had he offended it? Was it gone? What if it never told him another story? “I’m sorry.” He whispered, walking closer to the old wooden device, extending a hand fearfully towards it. Tentatively he stroked the dusty cover, “Look, I’m just under a lot of pressure, you know? You’ve been so good to me. Abby says …” his voice trailed off. The radio couldn’t mean her? A romantic get away… to somewhere sunny… a vaccay?
“Abby?” He questioned, a tremble in his tone.
The light behind the dial snapped on again and it was as if everything suddenly made sense – a horrible, wretched kind of sense which he could not forgive himself for even considering. “Night times with Darla” The radio jingle played and a female disk jock came, “That’s right listener. You know what time it is. It’s time to settle down with that special someone and make a connection with them that they’re never going to forget.”
“You… you want…” He had to wonder then about the words he’d written. The killer… the horrible things that he’d done to that couple. Was that someone who’d listened to this radio before him? “I can’t.” He sobbed, already considering the fact that maybe, if he had to, he could. What he couldn’t do was go back to the life he use to lead. Was there really any other choice if this was the only way to make the words come?
“Don’t turn away from this opportunity. Make magic with your loved one … tonight!” Darla’s words echoed in his skull.
“Tonight?” He questioned.
“Love Them Tonight.” The jingle came on and the radio then went into sappy 1980s love ballad.
Eli stumbled backwards. Abby had always given him a hard time. She had no idea what it was like to be the person who had to create under pressure. The way she would just swoop in, all demands and … but could he really … kill her for that? He knew her. They were, if only nominally, friends. And yet, if he was successful in writing a second book, there would be other agents. Maybe better ones. Other friends. Other women.
He scoffed at the thought of how she was already putting demands on him for another book while she was planning how best to drink away the profits he made her on a beach. Eli looked to the radio, “She really is a bitch, isn’t she.”
(( to be continued ))