Monday, November 4, 2013

My main character is probably me

I didn't realize how much I would enjoy the process of writing a novel. In the space of one day of writing the story I had in my head actually changed pretty dramatically with the addition of one character. I had not intended for there to be a love story nor had I intended for Oliver to exist. But exist he does. I wrote the ending yesterday, longhand, while riding on the Metro.

Stats: Day 4, Word Count 8048, Chapters: 4 (almost 5)

Here's chapter one. I think I like Marnie a lot. And now there's Oliver. Sigh.

Chapter One – Always Early

Marnie was early. Not a few minutes early but an hour early. It wasn’t shocking to her anymore. She was a punctual person. It annoyed her when people were late especially when it was related to work. It was a skill that she thought all professionals should have. Unfortunately, that hadn’t been the case in her last office. She was one of the few punctual people on the team. She often wondered how they did on the road by themselves. She would have been mortified to arrive late to a school visit.
Sometimes she wished she could just be on time. Marnie tended to be early for things and that could be problematic. In her last job as an admissions counselor, if she arrived early she had three options: sit awkwardly in her car and wait until it was acceptable to go in, drive around and hope there was a coffee shop or shopping center parking lot she could sit in, or go in early and annoy the counseling staff. She usually opted for driving around. Sitting in a school parking lot like a creep was not a great idea; school security usually didn’t appreciate it. And she didn’t want to annoy or anger any college or school counselor. These are the people that helped her get students interested in her college. They needed to be “friends” or at least cordial to one another.
Marnie didn’t have her car today. She had taken the Metro so she was stuck with whatever was nearby. Today must be her lucky day because there was a coffee shop on the corner opposite the building that housed her new office. And it wasn’t a Starbucks. Marnie felt like she had won the lottery. Starbucks was fine but it wasn’t her favorite. She liked local places with a little character. She always hoped she’d become a regular and she’d be able to walk in and they’d just know her order. And of course, she’d have her meet cute here too. There’d by that guy writing across the shop from her window table. Isn’t that how it worked in movies? Today was not about meet cutes. Today was about starting her new job.
As she walked across the street, Marnie realized that she’d be able to watch the building from the window table. She could see who walked in and maybe get a sense of what this company was all about.
The coffee shop, Joe’s, was on the small side but was very welcoming. Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” was playing as Marnie walked up to the bar to order. “This is one of my favorite songs,” she said to the barista. The guy smiled and replied, “Mine too. But I’ve always liked Berlin best. I know, it’s cool to say that but I really do like that album.” Marnie laughed. She knew what he meant. People were always trying to out cool one another with stuff like Lou Reed albums.
“I believe you. “Lady Day” and “How Do You Think It Feels” are great. It has such a musical quality.” It was shaping up to be a good first day if it started with Lou Reed.
“Thanks. What can I get you?”
“Medium latte and a croissant.”
“That’ll be $5.60. And I’ll keep the Lou Reed on while you’re here.”
Marnie paid and thanked him for the music. He gave her the croissant and went about making her coffee. He was cute and liked Lou Reed. Marnie could get used to starting her mornings this way. She took her pastry to a seat near the window and began watching the building across the street. It was a just an office building. It wasn’t remarkable in any way. Honestly, had she not been here weeks ago for her interview, Marnie probably would have walked passed it. From her vantage point across the street, it actually looked like the building was hiding. It seemed further back from the sidewalk than the other buildings and it wasn’t as tall as the buildings it sat between. It was unobtrusive. The buildings unobtrusiveness made sense. It was a place dedicated to teaching people how to be Metro Counselors. Metro Counselors were supposed to be unobtrusive or invisible. No one was supposed to know who you were or really that Metro Counselors even existed.
This was one of the aspects of the new job that troubled Marnie. She wasn’t sure how to deal with being invisible. In her previous profession, she was the face of the university. For many students, she was the first person they met and she had worked hard at being the best first impression she could be. Marnie was a great with crowds but also adept at listening and connecting with individuals. She suspected these were also skills that made a great Metro Counselor. But how did one learn to be invisible? And did she want to be? How would she explain what it was that she did for a living? In this city, a person is their job. What if no one could know what your job was?
The barista put her coffee on the table. The noise jolted her out of her thoughts and almost caused him to spill the drink. “Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.”
“That’s okay. You looked lost in thought so I decided to bring it over to you instead of calling out. I figured you wouldn’t hear me anyway.”
Marnie knew he was right. She wouldn’t have heard him. Even the music, some of her favorite songs, had faded into the background.
“It’s my first day at a new job and I’m super early and a little nervous.” Marnie started to fidget and play with her spoon.
“I’m sure you’ll be great. You’re a Lou Reed fan; you’re already ahead of the game.”
“Thanks. I’m Marnie. I’ll probably be in here a lot since I just work across the street. It’s always good to know another Lou Reed fan.”
“I’m Oliver. Nice to meet you. Do you work in the little building?”
“I do or I will be working in the little building. I was just thinking that it looks like it’s trying to hide from the other buildings on the street,” Marnie replied.
“It’s sort of shrinking from the street. I’ve always thought it was out of place. But there are a lot of old buildings in the city so I guess it fits into the character of the city. What is it that you do?”
Marnie paused. How was she supposed to answer? She was supposed to be invisible but no one had really told her how to respond if she was asked about her job. She had told her family she was moving to a different field of counseling; they were fine with that answer. She suspected that they actually had no idea what it was she did anyway. So she decided to keep with that line for now.
“I’m a counselor. I used to be in college admissions and now I’m moving into more personal counseling.”
“Like a shrink?”
“Not really. More like a life coach.” Marnie thought she sounded like a moron.
“Oh. I didn’t realize that was really a thing. Well, I hope your first day goes well. Make sure you find someone to have lunch with. You don’t want to be the kid who sits by herself on the first day.”
“Good point. I will do my best to find a lunch table.” They both laughed and Oliver returned to the coffee bar. Two men walked in and he started on their orders. It was getting closer to normal morning traffic hours. Marnie’s quiet morning was about to end.
Marnie checked her phone. She still had thirty minutes to kill. She needed to forget about her doubts about this new job and just look forward to this new experience. No travel season, no crazy parents, no applications to read. Her time would finally be her own (or so she hoped). She would be able to take vacations again. Maybe have a semblance of a personal life.
For now, she would just enjoy her latte (it was exceptional) and watch the building for signs. And then she’d walk across the street and start the next phase of her professional life.

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