In the past couple months, I’ve started writing a novel. I’ve been chipping away at it in my spare time and am about nine chapters in so far. In the interest of motivating myself to continue, I’ll be releasing a couple teaser chapters here on this blog. These will be rough, unedited, first drafts, so I welcome any feedback you may have!
Carri was running late. In fact, Carri was running very late. Actually, Carri was running so very late that she shouldn’t have bothered trying to get to her meeting at all.
She was running so very incredibly late that, upon waking with a start to realize her alarm hadn’t gone off, she should have just lay back down and gone back to sleep. Rather than flailing her way out of bed and promptly falling over her cat, she should have fallen back into the glorious dream she’d just been having. Carri had considered this as she frantically threw her five nearest belongings into a bag. She had pondered it as she threw two halves of two different pant suits on over her pajamas. She had decided that going back to sleep would probably be the most logical course of action as she threw herself out her apartment door.
Carri raced to the elevator at the end of her hall, a shoe grasped in each hand. Her left hand, which she never could quite rely on just after waking up, dropped its respective shoe somewhere along the way. Carri looked between the shoe and the elevator, performed a brief dance of indecision, and finally abandoned the shoe in favor of regaining her momentum. She soon reached the elevator and smashed its down button six times in quick succession. Bouncing with anxiety, she glued her eyes to the lit number above the dull grey doors. It currently read, “49.” There being fifty floors in her building, Carri supposed it could have been worse.
Bouncing manically all the while, Carri waited for the number to tick down to “27.” She had never realized that the elevator ran so slow. She made a mental note to mention it to the maintenance manager next time she saw him. The elevator did eventually meander to her floor and the grey doors slid apart with creaking reluctance. Carri pounced through the widening doorway and proceeded to pound the button labeled “G” with the shoe still clutched in her right hand. She suddenly realized that the shoe would be of little use without its pair, she chucked it with some force through the elevator doors just before they closed.
At that moment, her elderly neighbor, Mr. Hendenson, opened his apartment door and stepped into the hall. Through the elevator doors, Carri heard a distinct TWACK, then a THUD, followed by a tirade condemning rotten kids, technology, and the government. Mr. Hendenson was prone to deliver this rant whenever even mildly provoked, but Carri winced at the gusto he gave it now. Even after the elevator descended several floors, she could hear him scream-splaining* his theory that the social media corporations are secretly operated by “the enemy” in order to brain wash our idiot children. Also, why don’t his kids ever visit?
Carri did not worry long about Mr. Hendenson. His memory not being what it used to be, she was sure he’d forget the whole incident in a matter of minutes. He may wonder about the large red lump on his shoulder and the pair of heels outside his door, but he’d probably blame both on one of the Russian spies that have been tracking his movements for several months. Her concern for Mr. Hendenson thus evaporated, Carri returned her attention to the elevator’s unbearable slowness. As it finally slid down into the single digits, she set herself up in a proper runner’s lunge in preparation for a speedy exit.
Like a cat settling down for a nap, the elevator took its time getting comfortable once it reached the ground floor. Once content with its placement, it let out a ceremonious “ding,” waited three long seconds, then slowly allowed its doors to separate. As soon as there appeared enough space for her to squeeze through, Carri burst from her lunge, through the opening, and into the lobby. Keeping with the theme of her morning, the maintenance manager was poised just outside the doors with a large cart. In an impressive display of agility, Carri diverted her leap around the cart. Her landing was less impressive, but she managed to scramble up from the ground and to the revolving door in record time. As she made her way through, she shouted back at the maintenance manager, “Elevator! Running slow! Maybe broken!”
Carri exited the revolving door like a personified Battling Top whose string had been pulled. Her feet pounded the sidewalk, small clouds of dirt flying up behind her heels. The pavement was teeming with people, but Carri wove, ducked, and bobbed through them with the grace of a well-trained boxer. There was a close call where she hurtled over the front half of a stroller and was nearly impaled by a passing parasol. She somehow managed to back-bend under the weapon and continue her careen down the street, though both the baby in the stroller and owner of the parasol were a little worse for wear.
In fact, all those that held witness to Carri’s mad dash were left a little shaken. There was a primitive wildness to her that starkly contrasted the surrounding urban landscape. Her uncombed locks writhed in the breeze and her unwashed face flushed red with exertion. Her bag flapped violently from the crook of her right arm, knocking the wind out of several unsuspecting victims. Her clashing pant suit pieces fought against her sprint, jerking back and forth with each stride. Her bare feet and clenched fists contributed to the look, but it was the quality behind her gaze that was most unsettling. Jaguars adopt the same look before leaping atop a tapir and severing its spine with a single bite. In a word, terrifying.
Of course, striking fear into the hearts of passerby only helped quicken Carri’s progress. Soon, she was closing in on her destination. With each passing block, her optimism grew. She was going to make it in great time; she probably wasn’t even as late as she originally thought. The meeting would go swimmingly, and her whole day – nay – her whole life would finally take a turn for the better.
And lo, there it loomed on the horizon! The office building that housed Purring Lion Publishing gleamed in the late morning sun. A sign emblazoned with a minimalist rendering of a lion’s profile hung over the entrance. The insignia seemed to beckon her, like a moth to a flame, a bee to honey, or another such cliché. Carri suddenly knew what the finish line must look like to a runner at the Olympics. She could already see herself on the top tier of the winner’s podium, laden with metaphorical medals, staring over row upon row of cheering fans. She reached the door of the building and threw it open, crossing the threshold as if were marked with a length of ribbon.
Transitioning from the noisy street to the hushed lobby of the Purring Lion is like being sucked through a vacuum. It’s as if the lobby walls are padded with cotton so as to absorb excess sound. When Carri tore through the lobby doors, the smack of her bare feet against the terrazzo sent ripples of disturbance through the hushed space. The receptionist jumped as the outermost ripple hit her desk and she looked up with a start. The sight of Carri, purple-faced, barefoot, disheveled, and sprinting, sent her hand flying to her phone. Carri slid clumsily into the desk before she could so much as speed dial security, causing the poor receptionist to jump again.
With both hands bracing the desk for support, Carri managed to speak.
“Hello,” she paused for breath. “I have an appointment,” she gasped, “with Jamie Dennon.” She fought the stitch in her side in order to stand fully upright. “My name,” she swallowed one more large breath, “is Carrington Frye.” Carri returned to panting heavily as the receptionist continued to stare up at her in awe, her eyes wide and lips tight shut. Carri added, “I’m afraid I’m very late.”
After watching a bead of sweat drip from Carri’s unkempt hair and down her nose, the receptionist finally snapped back into focus. She swiveled her chair to face her computer monitor, one eye on Carri all the while. She clacked away at the keyboard for a few moments, squinted at the screen, glanced at Carri, then repeated the action. She stopped, eyes flitting intently over the display and then back to Carri. She cleared her throat in a very official manner and peered over her rimmed glasses at the wheezing woman before her.
“Regrettably, Ms. Carrington, I do not see you scheduled for an appointment with Mr. Dennon today.”
Carri’s pounding heart caught in her chest and stilled. She ran her hand over her sweaty forehead and through her bedraggled hair, asking weakly, “Do you see anything under Carri, by chance?”
With a half-hearted glance back at her monitor, the receptionist replied shortly, “I don’t.”
Carri ran the heels of her hands across her eyebrows and down her face. They met at her chin as she inhaled deeply and stared up at the ceiling. She exhaled and looked back down at the receptionist, who looked back with a certain glint in her eye.
Carri remained composed, her voice soft. “Perhaps I made a mistake. I have an appointment with Mr. Dennon penciled in my calendar for 9:30am, March 1.”
The glint in the receptionist’s eye dulled. Her brow furrowed minutely. “Today isn’t the first.”
Carri’s brows now took their turn to furrow. She didn’t grasp the meaning behind the receptionist’s words. Today isn’t the first what? As Carri’s mind clouded with confusion, the receptionist elucidated.
“Tomorrow’s the first. Today is February 29. It’s a leap year.”
Silence settled over the lobby like a heavy fog. Carri stared into the dark eyes of the bespectacled receptionist, her sweaty face devoid of expression.
“Right,” she whispered, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.” She turned quietly and exited the building, the receptionist staring after her.