A Passage from The Long Dance Home: “Intriguing Encounter”

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Sticky Bun Coffee Cake from SiftingFocus.com

http://www.siftingfocus.com

Cecilia Rose, or Cece as called by her friends, ventured into town reluctantly. She had agreed to visit an old friend and now regretted it. After ten years in Los Angeles, her small, Northern California hometown made her uncomfortable and claustrophobic. She did not relish the prospect of running into people she used to know. But the desire to avoid being seen did not dissuade her from taking a quick detour . . .    Cece pushed open the glass door at Nutmeg’s and stepped inside, inhaling the sweet, familiar smell. The bakery had been the favorite hangout where she and her friends went after school for freshly-baked cookies and treats. In the last few years, the owner had transformed the little bakery into a trendy and picturesque coffee bar, with state of the art espresso machines, round wooden tables, and intimate seating areas in the corners. Historical photos lined the walls. Of the few things Cece missed about her hometown, Nutmeg’s was one of them. And since she had a few minutes to kill, there was time for breakfast. “Help you?” a teenage boy asked. He had short, bleached hair, a gold hoop earring in one ear, and a thin goatee. Over his T-shirt he wore the requisite brown apron with “NUTMEG’S” embroidered on the front in orange lettering. “Large black coffee, please.” “For here or to go?” the boy asked. “Um, to go I guess. And do you have any pecan sticky buns left?” Those were her favorite. “Lemme take a look.” He disappeared for a moment and came back with a giant square pastry covered in chopped nuts and buttery, brown sugar icing. “You’re in luck, last one.” Cece clapped her hands together. “Oh, I haven’t had one in ages.” While she waited for her order, Cece checked her cell, hoping that Doug, her boyfriend of three years, had returned her text. They had been arguing lately, and Cece felt anxious. Her phone indicated nothing – not a text or a missed call. Disappointed, she dropped the phone back into her purse. “That’ll be $7.40.” Cece looked at the teenager. “Really? How much is the sticky bun?” “Six bucks.” “Wow. Guess prices aren’t what they were in the nineties.” She handed him a ten-dollar bill. “Wouldn’t know. I was a baby.” The boy looked at Cece as if she were from another century and handed back the change. Cece spotted an open chair on the patio under a heater and headed outside. As she was about to sit, the person in the chair behind her scooted backwards and collided with her, knocking into her arm. “Oh no!” Cece gasped as she watched her coffee spill and her pastry tumble out of the bag onto the ground. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t even see you.” Cece turned. A tall man stood beside her chair. He looked down where Cece’s coffee was flowing like a tiny stream toward the sidewalk. “Don’t move. I’ll be right back.” He disappeared into the bakery. Cece sighed. As she picked up her cup and plastic lid, a dog came by and sat down beside the sticky bun. He looked up at Cece. “Go ahead, you might as well take it.” The dog wagged his tail, grabbed the pastry, and ran off. Cece sighed. She dropped the cup into a trashcan and went back to her table where she wiped up the mess with a handful of napkins. Unable to resist, she checked her cell phone again. Still nothing. “Here you are.” The man placed a large mug in front of her. “Bad news,” he said. “No more of those cinnamon roll things.” Cece touched the coffee mug and looked up at the man who had ruined her breakfast. He appeared to be in his thirties, with broad shoulders, neatly trimmed, dark hair, and a beard that was several days old. It made him look rugged and masculine. She cleared her throat. “Yeah, I know. I got the last one.” She picked up the mug and was about to mention that she had wanted a to-go cup. Instead she took a sip. The coffee was hot and smooth, and a real mug made it taste even better. She smiled at the man. “So what are you going to do about my sticky bun?” The corners of his mouth turned up, and his eyes narrowed. He pointed one finger in her direction. “Stay here.” He took two steps toward the doorway then turned back. “Please,” he added with a polite nod of his head. Cece sensed a stirring in her chest. Had she just flirted? She peered through the window to see the man talking to the teenage boy. He shook his head, leaned to the side, and pointed to something behind the glass. Cece sat up straight. “I’m being ridiculous,” she whispered to herself. A minute later the man appeared carrying a large plate with what looked like a giant square of pecan pie. “You’ve got to be kidding,” Cece said. “What? I saw that huge sweet roll you were about to eat.” “I was only going to have a few bites. The rest I was taking home.” “I’ll bet you were,” he said, holding out a paper napkin with a fork resting on top. She took it from him. “Thank you.” Cece pressed the side of the fork through the pecans, gooey filling, and dense crust. She tasted it. “Oh, really, really good,” she said, her mouth full. The man looked like a schoolboy showing a good grade to his mother. Cece licked a crumb off her lip. “There is no way I can eat all this.” “Then you can take it home.” Cece motioned to the chair across from her. “Please, sit down and eat some.” “Well, if you insist.” He sat and pulled a fork and knife out of his pocket. Cece laughed. “Are those weapons, or do you always walk around with silverware?” “I didn’t want to seem presumptuous.” He sliced off a thin piece. “No, no, you have to do better than that.” Cece picked up the knife. She cut the pecan bar directly through the middle then squinted at it. “Does that look even?” The man took a bite. “Like you measured it with a ruler,” he said chewing slowly. “Mmm, that is good.” The teenage boy appeared with a carafe of hot coffee. “Refill?” “Oh,” Cece wiped her mouth with a napkin. “Yes, please.” “Would you like a cup of coffee, sir?” The man glanced at Cece. “Um . . .” he looked at the teenager. “Sure. That’d be great.” The boy filled another mug and placed it on the table. The man picked it up, and steam rose in front of his face as he sipped. “Best coffee in town. Have you had it before?” “Only about a thousand times,” Cece said. “High school hangout.” “Really? You live here?” “Not anymore. Just home for Thanksgiving. I live in LA.” “Ahhh, city of angels. I love that town.” Cece took another bite, feeling awkward. “I used to live in Manhattan Beach,” the man said. Cece looked up. “I live in Santa Monica.” “Very nice. And what do you do in Santa Monica?” “Actually, I work in Venice Beach. I manage a small art gallery.” Cece said, taking another bite. “What do you do?” “Lawyer.” That was all he said. Cece eyed him over the edge of her coffee cup. “Small town lawyer, huh? Come to think of it, you do look a little like Atticus Finch.” The man threw his head back and laughed. “Oh wow, if only! I do have an office here, but I’m in the city most of the time.” A truck pulled up, and two men with fresh pine wreathes got out. They each picked up a half dozen or so and started hanging them on every lamppost. “Can’t believe the holidays are already here,” the man said. “I know. This little town sure loves Christmas. Main Street will be twinkling and sparkling in no time.” “It will.” The man watched as one of the workers attached a wreath to a lamppost. “Maybe I’ll decorate my house this year.” They continued their small talk and finished off the pecan square. Cece licked her finger and picked the remaining crumbs up from the plate. “So good.” She put her finger in her mouth. Suddenly chagrined by her lack of manners, she looked up. The man seemed amused. “Oh, wow, that was completely uncouth of me. I’m sorry.” “Not at all. I thought it was . . . adorable.” A layer of clouds moved across the sky and blocked the sun, darkening the patio where they sat. Cece looked at her watch. “I’m afraid I have to go. I’m meeting somebody in a few minutes.” The man nodded. “All right, well, again, sorry I knocked over your coffee and ruined your sticky bun.” He rubbed the stubble on his cheeks. “Do you think I could make it up to you with, say, dinner tonight?” Cece nearly choked. This handsome, slightly older man was asking her out. “Oh, I . . . I’m sorry but . . . no, I can’t tonight.” She felt her face grow warm. “When are you heading back to LA? Maybe another night would work.” Cece shifted in her chair. She felt clumsy and inept. “You’re so nice, but I’m, you know, I’m in a . . . it’s just that . . . ” “Ah, you’re in a relationship,” the man said. He smiled and ran a hand through his hair. “I should have guessed. I hope I didn’t embarrass you. It’s just that, well, you’re very cute . . . and funny. I thought that, maybe, bumping into you was somehow meant to be.” Cece blinked and cast her eyes downward. She couldn’t speak, and for a few seconds she let herself imagine what a date with this man might be like. He stood and extended his hand. She reached up and felt his strong grip. “It was a pleasure having breakfast with you,” he said. She let go of his hand, surprised by her reluctance to do so. “I enjoyed it, too.” Cece rose and scooted her chair back, tipping it to the side. She caught it and pushed it into place. “Well thank you for the coffee and the, uh, delicious pecan thing.” The man smiled, and a dimple appeared near the corner of his mouth. “You’re welcome. Have a safe drive home.” Cece buttoned her coat and willed herself to stop behaving like a silly teenager. “Good-bye,” she said, wrapping her scarf around her neck. As she walked to her car, she glanced back. The man was still looking at her. Embarrassed, Cece turned away and quickened her steps.

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3 Comments

Filed under Chapter, Excerpts, Fiction, Julie Brown, romantic comedy, Short fiction

3 responses to “A Passage from The Long Dance Home: “Intriguing Encounter”

  1. D Matzke

    Your descriptive work is stilted due to your phrasing. I suspect this is your first draft, so like myself, it’s the way that it calls out of our mind. So when you take a second pass look at the many inverted phrases that you lead off with. Once corrected, the sentences will seam together better.

    Like

  2. Dolores Davis

    Very cute…

    Like

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