Thursday I mentioned that I want to start working on a book.
I’m toying with the idea of expanding the story line and featuring the characters I used last year in a writing prompt. The prompt was posted by the moderator of an online writing group I’m a member of.
These were the guidelines:
SHORT STORY – 1000-2000 words
Deadline – July 3rd, 2011
TOPIC: July 4th
1. NO FIRST PERSON (example I, me, my)
2. Do not go over 2000 words
3. Do have a PLOT
4. Do leave it hanging
5. Nothing sexually explicit. We aren’t doing porn, thanks
6. FINALLY: You must use these ten words at least once somewhere in your story:
BOY, DODGE, INTRINSIC, INEVITABLE, VALUABLE, ORANGE, SPACESHIP, CHEESECLOTH, FIREWORKS, ANIMAL
This is the story I submitted. Please give me your opinion.
Alexa looked nervously around the room and compared her attire to that of the other ladies.
She’d worn dressy jeans with a bright orange linen tunic. Originally she’d planned to wear an animal print blouse, but later decided against it because she thought it would look too busy. Even though it was the 4th of July, she definitely didn’t want to go with a red-white-and blue color scheme – that was way too cheesy. Stilettos were normally her shoe of choice, yet this time she’d opted for low-heeled, caramel-colored leather mules. The brochure for the three-hour cooking class cautioned attendees to wear comfortable shoes. Be stylish – not stupid, Alexa had said to herself when she pushed past boxes of high heels and settled on the mules. Besides, she didn’t want to look like she was trying too hard. She’d completed her outfit with large hoop earrings in yellow gold. Alexa hoped the outfit looked as good on her as it had on the store mannequin.
After scanning the other women’s outfits, Alexa was satisfied that she’d been able to dodge the “overdressed” bullet and achieved the look she desired. “Less is more!” Mama always said, and this time Mama was right.
Alexa sighed inwardly. Mama never said there’d be days like this, she thought. She was 32 and still single. Born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, Alexa had graduated from Florida A & M University with a bachelor’s of science in marketing. She’d landed a job with Texas Instruments and moved to Dallas right after graduation. Five years later she’d marched across the stage at Texas Women’s University, MBA in hand. That degree had afforded her a valuable and enviable amount of leverage, and she’d used that leverage to climb the ranks of her company. Alexa loved learning; for her it was an intrinsic quality. Setting her sights on a PhD was inevitable. With her fast-paced work environment, enrolling in online classes at the University of Phoenix seemed like the perfect solution.
What good is it to have a wonderful career, a ton of education, and no man? Alexa thought ruefully.
Well, that’s why you’re here, Alexa Renee’ Patterson, she said to perk herself up. Alexa received e-mail updates from five popular dating blogs and read them religiously. She’d learned that she had allowed her career and educational pursuits to consume the majority of her time and attention, leaving her little to no room for a social life or dating.
“Ladies, you have to get out to where the men are! A good man won’t drop down out of the sky in a spaceship,” the bloggers admonished.
One blogger whom Alexa greatly admired swore that she met her dream man at a cooking class. When the Whole Foods Market Alexa frequented started offering Monday night cooking classes, she viewed it as a sign and paid for a month of classes. The first Monday in July was the 4th, but the store held to the schedule, so here she was. Alexa thought it was an interesting way to spend the holiday. Tonight’s theme: Italian Delights.
Alexa scanned the room again, this time to see if any men were present. Three men were in attendance; two White and one Asian. One of the White men was with a woman who was obviously either his wife or girlfriend; ditto for the Asian man. The other White guy’s back was turned to her so Alexa couldn’t see his face. She definitely couldn’t miss his blonde hair or his height, though. He was at least five or six inches taller than the other two men. Eyes narrowing slightly, Alexa looked around at the other people in the class. Suddenly, she realized that she was the only Black person in the entire room.
Oh boy! so much for meeting a man, she thought.
“Everybody partner up,” the stout, bearded chef with “Bob” printed on his name tag said cheerfully.
OH. NO! Alexa thought. She’d tried to get one of her three home girls to come with her, but each had refused.
“Cooking classes? You’re taking cooking classes – for a month??!” Carmen had exclaimed.
“They’re only from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., so come on,” Alexa wheedled.
“Um, I think I’ll be b-busy,” Carmen stammered.
“Alexa, are you sure that’s a good way to meet real men?” Robin had said doubtfully. “What kind of men take cooking classes???”
“Girl, I’m not tying up my Monday nights taking some freakin’ cooking classes,” Valerie, Alexa’s bestie, had snorted. “I already know how to cook. But you knock yourself out, though!”
So here she was, in a cooking class without another brown face in the place – and no partner. Great, Alexa thought. She could hear Carmen, Robin, and Jackie hooting now!
She squared her shoulders and looked around bravely. The classes were limited to 10 and excluding the instructor, 10 people were present. She would be paired with somebody.
Bob peered at her name tag. “Um, Alexa? Gary here doesn’t have a partner. Why don’t you two partner up?”
“Gary” turned out to be the tall blonde. Alexa looked up and stared into a pair of deep blue eyes. Gary’s face reminded her of Harrison Ford in the first Raiders movie. He was even built like Harrison Ford. Goodness! Why was her heart pounding?
“I’d love to be your partner,” Gary said, his eyes twinkling. “Do you mind?”
“Why, not at all,” Alexa heard herself saying. Gary towered over her petite, five feet, one-inch frame, but she didn’t care. A little dazed (and more than a little breathless) she forced herself to listen to the instructor.
“Tonight’s theme is ‘Italian Delights,’” Bob boomed. “We’re going to make rigatoni with sausage, peas, and fresh ricotta. Now, ricotta is a delicious, creamy cheese. We’re going to make this dish just the way they do in Italy, which means we’ll strain the ricotta cheese through something called cheesecloth. . . . “
The rest of the class was a blur. Alexa and Gary laughed, talked, and cooked together like they’d known each other for years. The highlight of the class was sitting down to eat the meal, complete with a wine paring, after everything was prepared.
Gary lifted his glass of wine and turned to Alexa for a toast. “To a wonderful cooking class, with the best partner a guy could hope for,” he said, looking Alexa directly in the eyes. She nodded happily, and raised her glass in return.
Gary’s eyes didn’t leave her face. “I hope you don’t think I’m being presumptuous, but I really don’t want this evening to end. Class is over in about 15 minutes; would you like to go for coffee? The Starbucks on McKinney Boulevard stays open until midnight.”
Wow! Alexa thought. She felt the same way Gary did; she also didn’t want the evening to end. She had never imagined that she’d ever feel attracted to a man who wasn’t Black, but the chemistry between she and Gary was undeniable. She could follow her head and hold on to old patterns of thinking, or she could follow her heart and launch out into the deep. Alexa already knew the answer.
Inwardly, Alexa took a deep breath, and jumped. “Of course,” she said, smiling warmly. “I’d love to.”
Three hours later, Alexa was quite assured that she hadn’t jumped alone.
“When I saw you, it was like real fireworks went off,” Gary said. “I tried to see if you were there with someone. You didn’t notice, but I maneuvered my way around the room so I could be your partner.”
They talked, and laughed, and talked some more. This would be the first interracial relationship for each of them. They decided to take things slow, enjoy their time together, and see where things led.
Gary walked Alexa to her car and made her promise to call and let him know she’d arrived home safely. Once on the freeway, out of his sight, Alexa shivered. What would her home girls say???
Incredulous that Alexa followed through and went to the cooking class – and actually met a “real” man – her posse of three made sure to get every little detail before weighing in on the prospect of her dating interracially. Their responses ranged from yes, to maybe, and hell no.
“Girl, does he have a brother???” Carmen squealed. “ I’ve wanted to swirl for the longest. Tell Mr. Gary to hook a sista UP!”
“ Hmm . . . Alexa, I don’t know about this,” Robin said reluctantly. “I guess I’m happy for you, but I’m worried at the same time. Are you sure this is what you want to do???”
Telling Carmen and Robin was a piece of cake compared to telling Valerie.
“Aw hell, Alexa, this is what I get for letting you go to some lily-white cooking class by yourself!” Valerie exclaimed. “You met some White dude and came back crazy. It will never work!”
WHOA, Alexa thought. She could definitely understand Carmen’s desire to hop on the interracial dating bandwagon. Why not be willing to try a different dating option? She could even understand Robin’s reluctance; she wanted Alexa to exercise caution because she didn’t want her to get hurt. Those responses made sense.
But Alexa was stymied by Val’s reaction. Why did Valerie say Alexa had to be “crazy?” And why did Val automatically think it wouldn’t work?
Valerie had a laundry list of reasons why: Too many cultural differences. His family and friends wouldn’t accept her. It would be too uncomfortable for Alexa to fit into “his” world, and him in “hers.” White boys can’t get-it-on like brothers can.
And the clincher?
“Who the hell do you think you are, anyway?”Valerie said.
‘Who the hell do I think am?’ Alexa thought.
“Val, who do YOU think I think I am???” Alexa asked angrily.
They stood there facing each other, hands clenched into fists. Alexa was amazed at the incredible amount of negative energy in the room. She was also amazed at the depth of the feelings she was experiencing. Alexa wanted what Val and any other woman wanted – a good, solid relationship with a wonderful man. If Gary fit the bill, then why should his being White present a problem to Val or anyone else?
“Alexa, the hell if I know who I think you think you are,” Valerie said, exasperated. “That’s why I asked you!”
They glared at each other; breathing heavily, faces full of fury. Suddenly, inexplicably, the foundation of their friendship, which had been rocky mere moments prior, carried them into a safe, familiar place.
They both burst out laughing.
“Girl, you’re always doing something – you make me SICK!” Valerie exclaimed as the tension left the room. “How can you DO this???” she asked. “I’m telling you now – I’m not going to go off into the deep White waters – but you – Girl, you have to tell me how YOU can!”
Slowly, quietly, and with a lot of laughter sprinkled in, Alexa told her best friend that she was terrified – but determined. She and Gary had clicked all during the class, and even more so as they later drank coffee together in Starbucks, undistracted. They shared similar values; each possessed definitive goals, and wanted the same things from life. Of course Alexa had met men with goals and values. Yet, she and Gary experienced a connection that even in those first hours seemed to transcend their ethnicities. Alexa was willing to explore the connection further, and so was Gary.
“So Girl, THIS is what I want to know,” Val said slyly. “You sure you’re gonna be able to ‘do that thang’ with him???”
Alexa’s jaw dropped, and then she shook with laughter. Leave it to Valerie!
Before Alexa could muster up a response, her cell phone rang. It was Gary, and his voice sounded strained. Alexa’s heart plummeted. There was something about the tone of his voice that made her very uneasy . . . .
Join in the Fray: What do you think of this story? What do you think happened to Gary?
Copyright © 2013 Michelle Matthews Calloway, ASwirlGirl, All rights reserved.