Full Ginger Circle
By Chris Garson
Copyright 2013 Chris Garson
The writer almost met his glow girl that New Year’s Eve. She captured his heart in a twinkle, her smile so bright against the dim light of other partyers. He stepped outside to collect his courage, and during his smoke she vanished like a dream washed away by sunrise.
“Who was that redhead?” he asked the host. “I’d like to meet her.”
“I’ll see if I can set it up.”
Several weeks later the writer’s phone rang. “She’ll meet you at Starbucks,” said the host, who knew her from her other life. “I told her you wanted help with your novel.”
“What?” The writer had entirely different intentions.
“She has an MFA and teaches at a local college. Her name’s Nora, by the way. The rest is up to you.” The host laughed. “Be careful, she’ll tie you up in knots.
Over coffee, the writer showed Nora his work. His zeal impressed her, if not his mastery of craft. “You do have potential,” she said.
“Can I hire you?” he asked, unwilling to let her walk out the door and his life forever. He breathed her in like ginger, pungent and sharply affecting.
“I’m not cheap,” she said, “but I’m worth every penny.”
“I’ll bet you are.” He would have handed her a blank check.
He held the door for her when she left. They stopped at the crosswalk for a red light. Nora put her hands on his shoulders, stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the lips. “I like getting that out of the way,” she said. The light turned green. She waved good-bye and headed to her ’98 eggplant Jeep Cherokee, a court-ordered gift from her ex. Star struck, he waited three changes of the light, watching until she drove off.
The writer met Nora often in the coming weeks. At her house, sometimes when her son was there, at coffee shops, or at restaurants to discuss the novel, life, and everything else. Fantastic mojitos, a Hawaiian shirt, and her awful date with the man-purse guy helped the writer catch her. Or was it the other way around?
Nora sat up in the writer’s bed one night at the witching hour, when her thoughts were darkest. Her son was out of state with his father so she’d packed an overnight bag, for the writer’s sake. His cats didn’t bother her, but the cigarette stink did, and other things she kept to herself. “Why am I even here?” she cried, drawing her knees to her chest under the comforter. “Do you really love me or do you just like dating an editor?”
“That’s what’s bothering you?” She nodded between sniffles. The writer thought he’d been transparent. “Then I’ll settle it right now. You’re fired.” He drew her close and wiped away her tears. “Stay. I’ll find another editor.”
Nora stayed with the writer a year, and what a grand year it was. She released his imagination. Hers was a bird, light upon the air. His, a caterpillar cocooned by broken romance. She freed him, to fly with her in the whimsy.
Her bird sometimes took dark and twisted turns through haunted hollows. “Bill from across the street is spying on us. Maybe he works for the CIA? Can you blink Morse code with the blinds?” Or, “Those neighbors. I think he’s gay and she eats too many muffins. Or is it the other way around?”
Nora didn’t completely surprise the writer when she ended it. She left hints. The way she told it, a leftover chicken breast and an ugly tone six months earlier started the unraveling. She tail spun into horrors of abuse and adultery, but … they were both storytellers. She didn’t mean everything she said and the writer didn’t say everything he meant. Or was it the other way around?
The writer bumped into Nora at the bakery. They exchanged awkward glances, their first in three years. “How’s your boy?” he asked.
“Great.” She beamed at his mention.
“How old is he now, six?” The writer never said goodbye to her son. That haunted him still and would until he wrote about it.
She nodded. “He’s at that school, you know. It’s perfect for him.”
The writer did know. He’d written the boy’s application. Scratching him from the interview was one of Nora’s hints. “I’m glad.” He looked down at the sparkle on her finger. She’d found someone. He hadn’t, but he’d penned many stories.
She tilted her hand to show off the ring. “I met him a year ago. We’re getting married this summer.”
“Congratulations. I’m happy for you.” The writer meant it, mostly. Selfishly, he withheld a sliver of sincerity, a last piece of pie for a future story. He couldn’t help but wonder what might have been, had there been one less chicken breast. He handed the cashier a ten dollar bill for his croissant and left without his change. “See you soon, Nora. Take care.”
Two years later, emails went out by the hundreds trumpeting the writer’s new novel. One landed in Nora’s inbox. He’d never deleted her from his contacts and never would. He was still alone, and content with it, and prolific in his loneliness. She replied, one of the few. Her boy had a little brother now, just old enough to walk. She liked the book, thought it had real potential.