an Author's Life - Plotting & Writing
When interoffice mail delivered my pink slip, I cried and remained an emotional wreck for days. My parents smothered me with “there-theres” and useless but well-intended advice, while my go-to person, Great-Aunt Julia, repeated one of her maxims. “Count the signs, sweetie. If you get to three, bad luck might be in the cards.”
I wasn’t a superstitious person. Not at all, but it was understandable why people in my family were. We were a history of theater people. Actors, prop designers, costume designers, screenwriters, playwriters, makeup crew, cameramen—it was a very long list. Theater people were typically dramatic, imaginative, and superstitious. Some might consider these traits as a stereotype. However, my view was to take each situation in life as it came. Sometimes, the signs weren’t signs, and sometimes, well, let’s leave it at that.
At the top of the next grade, the dense woods cleared a bit. I smiled as rooftops of stores on Sierra Pine’s Main Street came into view. While cruising through the first intersection, I considered my career options for the umpteenth time—how life was so unfair, and what did I do to deserve this—when a dark, blurry blob sprang into the street. I stomped on the brake pedal of my SUV rental, tires screeching, and barely missed the cat as it sauntered across the road. A black cat. My hands gripped the steering wheel as I leaned closer to the windshield and squinted. Not completely black. It had white paws and a white chest. Maybe this was one of those nothing-to-worry-about moments. Then again, if I was to believe such a thing… I shook my head as one black tail swished in the air and the jay-walking kitty stepped into Lucinda’s Beauty Parlor.
I rubbed to soothe the knots in my neck. After leaving New York’s LaGuardia Airport this morning and flying for hours to reach Sacramento International Airport, I was exhausted. Adding to that was the hour-long drive to town. I struggled to keep my eyes open. In another block, I’d reach my destination, Sierra Pines B&B and a much-needed visit with Aunt Julia and the Bellwethers. I chuckled. If I told them about the cat, they’d fuss and might want to do something hokey like hold a séance or perform an exorcism to banish any bad omens. Maybe I’d not mention it. Why ruin a perfectly fine reunion? It had been a year since my last visit. We had a ton to catch up on, and, right now, I ached for any conversation that didn’t include the words pink slip.
Sunlight burst from behind a cloud and played its beam across the pavement. Fallen autumn leaves in rustic colors splashed along the sidewalk, giving the scene a warm glow. In the distance, the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains outlined a majestic background. I loved the town and the quaint shops, with their scalloped canopies and clever names like Bagels and Buns and Meeka’s Mementos, all nestled together in three short blocks. The people were kind here. They always had nice things to say. This slow-paced, easygoing atmosphere gave me peace.
Swerving around the last hard hat and work truck, I picked up speed along the road that bordered Chautauqua Lake. Rays of evening sunlight sparkled like tiny jewels on the cobalt blue water. I glanced at the tranquil scene of boats and bathers lazing on their docks along the shore. Lifting my chin, I sniffed the fresh piney air. For a brief moment, I wondered why I ever left, but then remembered my dream had been to conquer New York.
The sudden shrill ring of my phone blasted from the car speakers and made me gasp. Seeing the name on the screen, I grinned and pressed the button on my steering wheel. “Hi, Izzie.”
“Hi, yourself. What’s taking you so long? You should be on our doorstep right this minute so we can be talking face to face.”
I laughed. “Calm down. I’m only five minutes away.”
She hiccupped. “Thank goodness. I worried you’d changed your mind.”
“Sweetie, I swear New York City and all its baggage are only unpleasant memories, and I’m sure as heck glad I left all of it behind.” At least, I kept telling myself as much.
Around the next bend, a welcome sign announced my arrival to Whisper Cove, New York, population four hundred thirty-nine. I smiled. The number hadn’t changed in two years, which was fine with me. Staying here for a while, surrounded by familiar sights, folks I’d grown up with, and a cozy atmosphere would be a huge relief.
“You’re a life saver, Chloe. I’ve mentioned that, right? Of course I have.” Izzie hiccupped once more. “Sorry. My nerves are frazzled, and my brain’s turned into goo. Did you know four out of five businesses fail in the first year? I do. I researched it. Yet, here I am, taking the leap, and that's huge for me. Lord, I hope this isn’t a huge mistake.”
I swerved to miss a fallen branch. “Take it from me, the queen of huge mistakes, your plan is practical and well thought out. You were stuck in a rut at the bakery, working part-time and only snagging a commission here and there to paint somebody's portrait. Besides, you’ve got Mom and Dad backing you, and don’t forget about me. I’ll be your dutiful servant for however long you need.” I chewed on my bottom lip. I projected as much enthusiasm as possible. “Your shop will be the biggest hit since Gwen Finch opened Go Fly a Kite twenty years ago.”