“Laurie? It’s Quinn.” Quinn answered while wondering whether or not Laurie would recognize her voice and a first name.
“Quinn Booker. Oh my goodness! It’s been so long! How have you been?” Laurie spoke a hundred miles an hour. “What’s it been, like two years? I have so much to tell you.”
“Well…” Quinn tried to reply, but Laurie didn’t let her.
“You go off and leave me and now you call out of the blue. I seriously was just looking to call you this week. I want you back here. I need you back here.” Laurie blathered then stopped.
Taking a deep breath, a sigh of relief, Quinn began to open-up. “Oh, I miss you too. It has been far too long. I’m sorry. I just needed a break from that life entirely.” Finally, she thought, someone to talk to again.
Laurie interrupted again.
“No. Quinn. Stop stop stop. I NEED you back here. Working for me.”
Quinn furrowed her brow and crinkled her nose. She chose her next words slowly. Laurie seemed to let her.
“I …uh… don’t know what you mean, but there’s no way,” Quinn whispered. “I can’t go back there.”
“Quinn, baby, I got a lot to tell you.”
Obviously, Quinn thought as she leaned forward at the counter to focus her attention wholly on Laurie.
“Quinn. Jackson’s out. I’m in charge.” Laurie paused to let that idea seep into Quinn’s mind.
Quinn’s knuckles turned white as she tightened her grip on the phone. Her heart sunk into her stomach and rose into her throat at the same time, making it impossible for her to breathe while also feeling the urge to throw up.
Laurie took the silence as a cue to continue.
“You think that rat bastard horn-dog just went cold turkey after what happened with you? Hell no. Fool went and screwed up.” Quinn said, all joy and sass. “He went way up over his head and hit on a client. The client,” Laurie paused for dramatic effect. “Brenda Adams.”
“No way.” Quinn insisted, “No way.”
“Oh yea! Nobody knows what exactly he said to her. The whole thing was very hush hush. Just one day Jackson is let go quietly. Adams left, but made it appear amicable. And I got his job. Not a big surprise if you think about it. Boss man Z wanted someone on the inside to quietly take Jackson’s spot. Someone who was female, too,” Laurie summed it up.
“Doesn’t that make it wrong or weird that he hired you just because your female?” Quinn replied, her palm against her forehead, unable to deal.
“Girl, please. He hired me because I am the best thing to ever happen to the New York branch, and I’m a woman.” Laurie cackled.
Laughter spilled out both phone receivers.
In her amusement, Quinn failed to hear the cowboy leave the store and hold the door open for another customer, a returning customer lingering among the bookshelves.
“You mean the best thing since I left,” Quinn replied most bemused at her witticism.
“Yea, well, that’s why I needed to call you. I need to fill my spot. And I can only think of you to be the person who fills it.” Laurie pleaded.
“So, this just happened?” Quinn asked, wondering how she could have missed all of this. What has been on her mind so much that she’s lifted her ear from the ground of the publishing world?
“Just last week,” Laurie confirmed. “So…what do you think? You could have your old clients back. I think the author of that Shoulders of Giants series, Ian, sure misses you.”
“Actually, I was calling you, remember?” Quinn answered by not answering and changing the subject. “I’ve got a book you need to publish.”
Laurie chuckled, affirming her own decision, “That’s what I like to hear. Do tell.”
“Well, it’s kinda a long story. Got a minute?” Quinn asked while trying to think of the most natural way to bring up Tristan to Laurie, a guy who has been the closest friend Quinn has ever had, except for Laurie, the other closest friend, yet neither had ever heard of each other.
“For you?” Laurie asked, then proceeded to yell, assumedly to her assistant, to free the rest of her day, seemingly without any attempt to cover the microphone. “My afternoon just opened up.”
Quinn started back in the third grade after moving to a brand-new school. Quinn had seen what had happened to the new kids at her old school. Now she was fresh meat. Her observations about new kids, i.e. alienation, proved true until a certain time called “show-and-tell.” Tristan, a scrawny, four-eyed mop-head, strolled up in front of the class and began telling a lavish story. Pirates pillaged a small town, like they did every weekend, but this time the town was ready. They fought back in an epic battle, and all the pirates died. The towns people died, too. He really liked to kill everyone off in his stories in those days. He was so charismatic, arms flailing while he explained all the action. But to little Quinn, she thought of herself as a pirate, someone who didn’t belong. She was still waiting to be murdered by the townspeople. But, Tristan, in some twisted way, gave her hope.
“I’ll always remember that first story he told the class.”
By the time they reached high school, Quinn fell in love… with his stories. His stories inspired her to read all the books. She fell in love with books because of Tristan. She loved him for that.
“Sounds like you just loved him in general.” Laurie interjected. “So, what happened? Did you ever make a move?”
“I didn’t really see it myself. Not then. After getting accepted to NYU, I decided to go, and I met you.”
“But why did you never mention him to me before?”
“I honestly don’t know. Tristan and I aren’t really the people who actively go out of their way to do the whole long distance friendship. We were friends, but when I got to college, I was wrapped up in everything here.”
“And now you see that you love him?” inquired Laurie. “When did you realize it?”
Quinn scoffed as she thought of the answer. “When I found out he basically replaced me. After I got fired, I called Tristan for the first time in five years and asked if I could stay with him for a few days before I found a place of my own.” Quinn’s voice started to rise and her pace quicken. “He said he would have to ask his girlfriend, Emily. Turns out they met a few months after I went to school. They moved in together. She was his writing muse,” Quinn emphasized that last point with significant sass. “He was finally making some money with his short stories. But his big project was his novel he wanted to start on.”
“And that’s what you want me to read?”
Quinn continued explaining the last couple years to Laurie, the engagement, the breakup, the book, Tristan’s need for the book to be a success and validate the time he spent writing it to prove to Emily that they should get back together.
The increasingly impatient patron slunk down behind a book shelf and went cross-legged, taking mental notes as thorough as a court-room stenographer of all this juicy intel, collecting every word falling from Quinn’s lips.
“Oh dear, girl. You are in a pickle.” Laurie surmised. “Especially because I NEED you back. And, I mean, I think you would be compensated quite well under the circumstances for Z Publishing.”
“I just need this book to work out for Tristan. If the book can garner some attention for him, maybe he won’t need that specific validations from her. Just read it. It’s good. I know. Print it, sell it, help me out, and I may consider going back. Let me figure this all out here first.”
“Ok sweety. I can do it. I’ll wait for you here. Not forever, but I’ll wait.” Laurie responded satisfied with the progress they had made. “Send me the book, and I’ll work my magic.”
“And, Laurie?” Quinn almost forgot to mention. “Let’s keep this anonymous. Don’t tell Tristan I sent it to you. I don’t care what you say, just don’t mention me. I want him to feel like he earned it, and not like a peace offering. Kay?”
“I gotcha.” Laurie promised. “Talk to you soon.”
Quinn agreed and hung up the phone. She held it to her head still thinking about the conversation. Could I really get my job back? The thought seemed so foreign before this one phone call that the words continued to orbit the realm of possibility without penetrating Quinn’s imagination. Yet, as she ruminated the words began to fall into her atmosphere, and Quinn smiled.
Suddenly, her focus was forced back to the store. She heard the jingle of the bells above her front door. Did someone come in? Quinn thought. She looked around and saw no one. Did someone leave? She remembered seeing the cowboy leave some time ago. Did someone come in while I was talking? Quinn felt a coldness break through her happiness. She tried to grab some of the remains before they evaporated. She caught a few, remembering that Jackson had finally had his just desserts. But the goosebumps across her arms and neck still stood straight. The most hopeful thought she could muster was, maybe Tristan will call me after he talks to Laurie. Maybe Tristan will finally call.