I will be forever grateful to Winnie Kao for the Your Turn Challenge. I shared a piece of my novel and didn’t die. That’s the main takeaway – fear doesn’t get you anywhere but stuck. Friends and family asked me to share more. They liked it. It was such a huge boost for me. Thus I bid a very fond farewell to the Your Turn Challenge. It was designed to change me and it did.
Here’s some more about Eliza, this time a scene where she has dinner with two close friends after getting some bad news at work. The “bad news at work” beat needs some work so it didn’t make the cut. Funny thing about re-reading this dinner scene is how quickly the character of Leslie disappears from most of the rest of the book and Sonya takes over as the one BFF. We’ll see how it all pans out in the end.
What I want the book to be is a novel about a woman who is sexy, almost confident in her sexiness, unabashedly direct, and overweight. Eliza isn’t meek in any way. Sometimes while writing it I even thought “Ouch, really?” At the bottom of it all is the belief that she can be loved without changing the fundamentals of herself in the world. “Autobiographical?” friends and family may ask. A bit, but I want Eliza to be braver and even more outspoken than I am. And she really truly wants a partner, whereas I am quite happy living alone. Also, I am very adept at dressing myself and knowing my style. I love that Eliza’s a mess in this area. For my sisters – none of you are Georgia.
Eliza tapped her fingers on the red tablecloth and took a sip of water. Her glass needed a third refill already and the disconcertingly handsome waiter set a basket of poori on the table with a kind smile. She shrugged and said, “Thank you. My friends are not usually this late.”
“It’s OK. There is always time.”
Eliza disagreed with that sentiment, both generally and specifically, but she stopped pondering it when she saw Leslie dash in, waving frantically, almost taking out a waiter with a tray of mango lassi. “My god, I am so so sorry,” she said, taking off a pair of red leather gloves and tucking them in her purse. “I tried to text but Evan forgot to charge the phone, and, oh well, I made it.” She patted her cropped pitch black hair, pushed up the sleeves of an Isabel Marant blouse and rested her arms on the table, silverware clattering. “OK, I am here now. How are you? Where’s Sonya?”
“Take a breath. That waiter eased the sting of waiting, though he’s probably a little spooked by all my ogling. What’s with the red gloves? It was 75 degrees today.”
Leslie pulled one out of her purse. “Touch it. Put it on your cheek. So soft, like some little baby lamb’s behind.”
“Gross. Really, in an Indian restaurant?” Eliza took the glove and rubbed it between her fingers. “Shit, that is soft. Where did you get these?”
“Ebay. Just kidding, Barney’s. They cost $150.”
“I have never met anyone less reluctant to talk about how much something cost.”
“You’ve met my mother. This is all just reactionary backlash to her penny pinching. Evan just bought me a mink cape, really from Ebay this time, that I am going to wear at Thanksgiving. Plus I have to get this all in before So-so arrives. Isn’t she broke right now? I don’t want to appear unkind.”
“She is broke and you, Mrs. Disposable Income, are treating both of us to dinner. I may be broke in three months myself.” Eliza tucked her chin down, the last word garbled.
“Wait a minute. Are you crying? Crying is not good, especially not here in the restaurant.” Leslie looked around, wondering who’d noticed and saw Sonya walking in the door. She motioned her over.
“Liza honey, are you crying?” Sonya sat down and patted Eliza’s hand while whacking Leslie’s shoulder with a menu. “Leslie, what did you do?”
“Nothing, of course. It’s something about work. What color is your hair?”
Eliza looked up at Sonya and snorted. “Oh man, when you said ‘auburn’ on the phone last night, I didn’t picture this. It’s purple, or maroon or something. Not auburn.”
“I know. A colossal cock-up. What happened at work?
Eliza shook her head, took a drink of water. “I screwed up with our biggest client. He called, I was sick of hearing him complain about the software and I just told him the truth. We have other clients waiting on upgrades and every time he calls to ask Josh for just one little switch, it derails 100 other companies. He got quiet and then he hung up. I was so sure he was going to call me a fat bitch, so that part is good, that that didn’t happen this time. Then this morning, Josh tells me he’s hired a consultant, he and Mike could buy me out.” She stopped and looked up.
“Why would he call you a fat bitch?” asked Sonya.
“I’m not sure that’s the main issue here,” said Leslie. “Her impetuous phone call threatens to bankrupt them.”
“You sound like an extra on Downton Abbey. If money is your first thing, then yes, that’s the main issue. But if , you know, the feelings come first and some white pompous rich fuck gave Eliza reason to think he might call her a fat bitch, then that’s the main thing.” Sonya stared at Leslie.
“I am not apologizing for caring about money, So-so. Or for watching PBS.”
“Ah, so busy fighting over me that you forgot me.” Eliza said, tearing off a large piece of the poori and eating it in one bite. “At least I’m not crying anymore. That was fast. Back in the saddle.”
Sonya picked up the menu, “Let’s order and get back to this fucking consultant bullshit.”
“He might end up being cute, you never know,” Leslie said.
“Wouldn’t that be great, another cute idiot mooning over Carly.” Eliza snorted.
“Or mooning over you,” said Sonya.
“Stop it, please. Be useful, tell me what to say to Josh tomorrow.”
“Do you know what you’re wearing?” asked Leslie. Sonya nodded.
“No, not really. Well, not at all.”
“What about that navy blue wrap dress, you look great in that,” Leslie volunteered.
“It’s under the bed. I meant to wash it or dry clean it, but it’s under the bed.”
Leslie shook her head. “The mess in your place is like a vortex. Everything gets pulled into a snarl on the floor.”
“All right, no wrap dress. How about that charcoal knit pencil skirt with some kind of floaty top?” Sonya suggested.
“Can’t I just wear these black pants with a different top?”
“Not if you want to change the dynamic. You have to go in there tomorrow looking like today was but a minor setback. Don’t you dare slink in there with scones from JayBees and being deceitfully cheerful.” Sonya firmly believed in Eliza’s right to cantankerousness.
Eliza tried to think where the skirt might be. “I think I can find the skirt. And I do have this icy blue flaky sort of top. It doesn’t feel that good on, but the fit is OK and it’s on a hanger. And if anyone tells me to wear heels, I’m going to hit her.”
Leslie put her hands up, in surrender. “I have given that up. And honey, as for what you say tomorrow, forget about that. You’ll mess it up. I hate to say it, but you will. Do the opposite of your natural inclination – shut up and let someone else talk. I mean that with all the love in the world.”
“I hate to agree, as you know, but she’s right.” Sonya leaned over and her gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
Eliza sighed and squirmed out of Sonya’s embrace. “Muzzled again, the story of my life. Can we please order? A greasy samosa or two is just the thing right now.”