Obsession is the Devil, Part One

“Okay. Be honest. How many have you sold so far?” Tristan said with false courage, coffee in hand, sitting across his best friend, Quinn.

Quinn padded the truth, “Well, you know, Tristan, it can take a while for the word to get out. Especially with the first book of an unknown author.”

“I know. I knew the risks when I started. But…it’s been two months now. Where are we at as of today,” pressed Tristan, his courage growing.

“Five.” Quinn replied, defeated.

“Whoa. Five today? That’s awesome! Is that an average day? Okay, so let’s say it’s not every day, like 10 a week. So, two months, about 8 weeks. That’s 80 books! And! That doesn’t include the initial release where we probably sold the bulk right? So, maybe even 100 to 120? Right? Am I close?” Tristan courageously spouted out at once, his mouth asking questions but not pausing enough to let Quinn respond.

“Tristan, stop.”

“What? How many Quinn?”

“Five.”

“Yea, you said that. Today. But how many total?”

Quinn sighed as tears began to well in the corners of her eyes, “No, Tristan.” She hated repeating herself as the bearer of bad news.

“Aw. Quinn.” Tristan’s voice raised and calmed. “I know it’s exciting. It’s overwhelming. It’s the future; it’s our future.”

“Dammit Tristan.” Quinn couldn’t listen to him anymore and shouted, “Five. That’s it. Five books total. In the past two months, I have sold five copies of your book. Got it?”

The news simultaneously closed Tristan’s mouth and widened his gaze. He looked around the room, embarrassed and unable to face Quinn.

“I’m sorry Tristan. It’s like I said.” Quinn said attempting to comfort her friend, shocked at her own response.

“Yea..right…these things take time,” replied Tristan staring at his cup of coffee.

Quinn wiped her eyes and sipped her coffee.  The two friends, who hadn’t seen eachother since the release of his book, sat at their usual table at Quinn’s Books and Brew, the only table in the café nook, a café consisting of a single-pot Bunn coffeemaker in the corner of the store. Books filled the rest of the store, some standing on the two book shelves stretching the shop’s length, others packed against the shelves lining the three walls, not counting the glass storefront. On the small front desk sat the cash register surrounded by the Book of the Month, Tristan’s book, Haurogen Flaurflougen: Rogue One. It was a fantasy adventure story about a dwarf who, after losing his Elven wife, Evie, and son to the evil Endrud, a corrupt and racist elf who believed it was better to kill his own race than have them be subjugated by the dwarves, set out to do whatever it takes to get revenge on Endrud and rescue his son.

Tristan spent the better part of the last two years writing that story. He believed he could get it done in one year if he followed his schedule. But, he didn’t account for his fiancée, Emily, to leave him 6 months in when she realized what writing a novel really meant, Emily supporting Tristan financially and Tristan ignoring Emily in every sense of the word. Devastated, Tristan believed a successful book could persuade Emily to come back and reinstate their engagement.

“But, surely I’m going to lose her for good now.” Tristan finally said looking up at Quinn.

Quinn hated Emily. That’s that. She never saw whatever it was that Tristan saw in Emily, her pretty smile with straight white teeth, the soft, milky complexion dotted with freckles across her nose and cheeks, and the curly red hair she always kept styled. Okay, she did see, but behind that beautiful visage, and yes, begrudgingly, Quinn admitted her beauty, was a witch. Quinn knew it to be true. A selfish enchantress who used her feminine wiles to influence a man into waiting on her hand and foot, always at her beck and call.

“I think that would be for the best,” Quinn thought. Then, she realized she had said it out loud. Quinn looked down squinting her eyes and scrunching her face.

“You know what Quinn? You don’t even know. Emily was amazing. No. she IS amazing. I don’t understand how you can’t see it. Obviously, she is beautiful. And you’ve even admitted that on several occasions. But she was more than just a pretty face. She was always there for me, making sure I was on time and prepared. She helped me stay organized. She always let me spoil her when I could. She probably even left me so I would have a strong motivation to finish my book,” Tristan began to ramble in defense.

“Like this one time, Emily and I were shopping for her. It was when we were looking at engagement rings. She could tell I was overwhelmed at picking out a ring for her. She could read me, you know? So, she took me to Zale’s, walked over to the engagement ring section, and pointed at her ring, the one she wanted more than anything. And I got it. We sized it that day, and a week later I proposed the day that it arrived back in the store. We understood each other, Quinn.” Tristan finished and punctuated his point by slamming the empty Styrofoam coffee cup on the table making a hollow whack.

Quinn got up. She could not listen to his delusions anymore. Tristan’s warped perception of Emily was baffling. How could Tristan not see that clearly Emily used his indecisiveness to pick out a ring he would normally never pick because he didn’t have the money? But he was oh-so willing to open a brand-new charge card to pay for the $20,000 ring. Something he’ll surely be paying on for the rest of his life.

Quinn stopped to look at Tristan’s books on the front desk. She brought her hand to the cover and held the book. Quinn thought the book was great, especially for someone’s first novel. She really knew that Tristan had a gift. If only he had the right person to support him, he could be a best-selling author in no time. And Quinn would know. She used to be an editor at a prestigious publishing firm in New York.

Tristan followed her, pressing Quinn’s buttons further.

“You know Quinn. This five-book thing, what are you going to do about it? You have customers. You used to be some big-shot publisher. Why haven’t you helped me out? Why?”

Quinn placed the book back on the table and turned around. Her pent up anger about Emily came out in one defeating but untrue blow.

“You want to know why your book isn’t selling? It’s because it’s not any good. The style is horrendous. The story is elementary at best, and the characters are as stale as that coffee you made us. I wouldn’t bring that to any of my publisher friends because they would just laugh at me and think that I must be slipping since moving back home. I have to think about my professional image here too.”

Quinn knew all this to be untrue. She didn’t bring it to her former employer because no one there would listen to her. After she stood up against her sexually abusive boss, he made sure her career in publishing was over, slamming her name and credibility all over the industry. Everything lies, but nothing she could disprove without going into a full-on war with her boss and the firm, putting her co-workers and friends in the cross-fire. Quinn couldn’t do it. She left her life in New York and tried to pick up where she left off in her hometown, first, by opening her own bookstore. She never told anyone, not even Tristan. Now, she was afraid she would never get the chance.

For the second time in the past few minutes, Tristan felt the world crumble beneath his feet. His best friend in the world didn’t even have his back. No, former best friend. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t look at Quinn. He just walked calmly back to the table, grabbed his messenger bag, and left the store. Tristan knew he would become a success. He knew Quinn was wrong. And, he knew he would get Emily back. Whatever it takes, he thought.

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