Miranda Sutter is a vegan, a bartender, and a writer – not necessarily in that order. She knows that the next Great American Novel is rolling around inside her head, if she can just find the right inspiration… The solution? Consult with one very dead writer by the name of Ernest Hemingway. When a handsome stranger saves a choking woman, Miranda knows she’s found a hero she can base her book on, but when she begins stalking him to learn more about his life, she’s in for more than she bargained for. Along the way, she will have to deal with long-buried grief and fear, a crisis of faith, an unwelcome housemate, a clingy gothic poet, the hero’s ex-wife, and a very hairy dog. Her crazy antics are sure to land her in jail… or in love!
If you're new, read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6 first.
Wednesday, April 18
Upon waking, I find Chad sleeping on my sofa, along with a particularly hairy Labrador Retriever. A drum set has taken up residence in my living room, in addition to numerous milk crates and cardboard bankers' boxes. Although I remember caving to Gwen's request to let her boy toy stay over, I do not remember any mention of a drum set. Or a roomful of boxes. Or a dog. Definitely nothing about a dog.
Oh, Gwen is going to get crucified for this, I silently vow. She must have scuttled him out of her place pretty early this morning. It's only a quarter after ten now, early for a night-shifter like me to be up. I assume I slept pretty solidly, considering I didn't hear him haul all this stuff in.
I flip on my Starbucks Barista machine and grind the espresso beans while it is warming up. I'm not even trying to be quiet about it, either. I feel terribly annoyed at finding all of this additional… stuff… has made its way into my home. I grind far more beans than I need to, just to see if Chad wakes up. He fusses a bit, turning over and making twisted faces while pulling one of the sofa's throw pillows over his ears.
I contemplate throwing a spoon into the garbage disposal and running it for a while, just for added amusement, but decide against it. I can make plenty of noise steaming the soymilk for my latté, and I do. After pouring the frothy velvet liquid into my mug, I let the stainless steel steaming pitcher drop loudly into the metal sink. Bang!
Chad rolls off the sofa and onto the floor, unsettling the Lab, whose hind leg is tangled in the blanket. Persistence pays off, says Papa Hemingway.
"Damn, Miranda! It's pretty early to be making that kind of noise, isn't it?" Chad is rubbing his eyes and searching the room for a clock.
"Oh… Chad. Why, I didn't even notice you there." I'm stifling my snickers. "I am so sorry to have awakened you. Yes, it is earlyabout ten-thirty. You must work nights, too, huh?"
"Hmm? Nah. I'm between jobs right now." Chad pulls the mess of dog and blanket off of himself and stands up to his full five feet and ten inches, stretching. His forearms display a few more tattoos than I last saw on him. He’s the perfect image of a greasy punk rock drummer. What Gwen sees in him, I can’t imagine.
Picking up a grungy baseball cap from the coffee table, he tucks his longish, unkempt sand-colored hair under it. "It sure is cool of you to let me crash here while Gwen's folks are in town. I swear, you'll hardly know I'm here."
"Unless, of course, I want to use my living room, right? What is all this stuff, anyway?"
Chad surveys the load of crap he's piled up in my house. "Well, you know, it's… guy stuff. Stuff that Gwen couldn't pass off as her own, you know? Like my clothes and my music stuff and Hank." He gestures to the Lab, who has found one of my magazines to chew on.
"Mmm... yeah. Chad, about Hank... do you think you could have him, like, not chew on my things while he is here? Or maybe put him outside? The yard's fenced, you know." Without fully realizing, I begin drumming my fingertips on the countertop, a sure sign that I am impatient and annoyed beyond belief.
Chad pulls the magazine out of Hank's mouth, tearing the cover. "Oh, he'll be fine. Really. He just does that when he's nervous. He'll get over it. Seriously. And he's very friendly." Hank wanders off to the end table and starts in on a copy of the Seattle Post Examiner.
With Chad making my living room unlivable and Hank chewing up all the paper he can find, I figure it's completely appropriate to let Chad pay his way for his little sofa-surfing expedition. "Say, Chad… do you have any plans today? I mean, are you going anywhere?" I raise my eyebrows at him.
"Nah. I figured I'd just hang here, if that's cool. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I need to run a few uh, errands, but I don't want to take my car. Is it okay if I borrow your truck for a bit today?" My prettiest sweetheart smile works wonders on less-than-brilliant boys.
Chad appears to be either mulling it over or coming down with a case of ass gas, because his eyebrows are drawn together in the middle and his lips are pressed firmly together. Finally, he looks back at me. "Sure, I don't see why not. What kind of errands do you have to do that you can't take your car? Are you hauling gravel or something?" He adds with a sinister grin, "Or are you stalking someone?"
My mouth falls open in shock. It's not stalking… it's just… "No, no. My car has just been making some weird noise, and I want Aiden to take a look at it before I go off driving and having it break down somewhere. He's very handy like that. I thought he might have a chance to do that today when he gets up, since it's his day off." I hope I'm as convincing as I'm trying to sound. "If you think Hank might like to go with me, I could take him to the park," I add with a slight tone of indifference. Smooth.
"Sure, he’d love that. I've got his leash and a ball. He loves to fetch." Chad starts rummaging through one of the bankers' boxes and locates both the leash and a tattered softball. "You know, Miranda, I could always take a look at your car, if you want. I've been known to turn a wrench or two."
"Yeah, okay. That would be great. The keys are in the bowl on the table by the door. That noise has been really sporadic, so it might not be easy to identify, but if you'd like to give it a go, that would be super." Yeah, really sporadic. Like practically never. "Thanks a lot, Chad." He produces a set of keys to his beat-up Ford Ranger and hands them to me while he puts the leash on Hank. Holding the end of the leash toward me with one hand, he places the ratty softball in my palm with the other. Lovely. I guess I am ready to go.
"Oh, it's a manual tranny. Can you drive a stick?" he asks.
Of course, jackass. What kind of a helpless girl do you think I am? "No problem. My Saab's a stick, too." Smile.
PART 8 HERE.