Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Shades of Jack excerpt: 90 Days- Chapter One

Jack always had a thing for winter. He loved the way that the cold air made him feel alive, the way that the snow covered everything and it almost seemed to completely hide the harshness of reality. He disliked the way that reality always seemed to ruin a perfectly good situation. “And that, my friend is why I'm not a Buddhist.”, he said aloud to no one in particular. He opened the door of his late father's restored Charger, and stepped into the driveway, pausing to allow the falling snowflakes to land on his face. He imagined that he was being kissed by a cloud, and breathed the cold air in through his nose deep enough to almost make him cough, and exhaled slowly. In his mind, he had become a benevolent dragon, simply enjoying the sensation of the world at his feet. For a moment, he almost forgot about the unpleasantness to follow.

Snowflakes still melting on his dark skin, he trudged up the steps to a two story brick townhouse. The perfectly manicured lawn and hedges seemed like marshmallows on top of a sea of confectioner's sugar. “Great, now I'm hungry, too.” Almost as if to answer him, his stomach growled low and long.
Jack removed his left glove and knocked on the door three times. Loud, hard, and with no rhythm. He waited a beat, and could hear movement, so he stepped back from the stoop, retrieved a key from his pocket, then replaced his glove.

A young woman in her mid twenties opened the door, she was wearing a thick knit sweater, light jeans and a pair of brown Uggs boots. Her large blue eyes brightened when she saw him, and she flung the door open, “Jack, I didn't know that you were coming, I called six or seven times today but-”

She stopped when instead of greeting her with a typical hug and kiss, he simply held the key in front of her mouth. She could tell from his expression that he had no intention of discussing the matter, but she still did not want to accept the fact. “Look, Jack. I know what you said about your three month thing, but why-”

He didn't raise his voice. Or change his expression. Or react to her tears. With a practiced meter and tempo, he began to speak, almost as if he rehearsing a dull speech rather than speaking with a lover.
“We're done, Staci.” he began. “It's been ninety days, and so that's it.”

“What do you mean 'that's it' Jack?” She was becoming hysterical, almost on queue. Jack almost felt ashamed for noticing, but he pressed on, still holding the key in front of her, hand unmoving, almost as if it wasn't attached to his body.

“It means that we are through. You knew my terms for our relationship. You get three months, and that's it. Lose my number, here's your key.” She batted his hand away..

“How dare you. What makes you think that you can just decide when we are through? Do I not get a say?”

Jack blinked three times, slowly and deliberate. He inhaled slowly while he considered his next statement. After a few moments of staring into the tear-stained face of a woman whom he no longer had any feelings for, he took her hand. Expecting consolation, Staci allowed him to do so, and he delicately spread her fingers from her palm in a manner that made him think of a lotus, and placed her key inside.
“No.” he said wish absolutely zero emotion, “Lose my number.” He turned and headed back to his car without looking back. He always this part, and it never got easier. Jack tried to ignore the sound of a large oak door slamming as he got into his car and tried to not feel bad because his only thoughts are that of breakfast. “That is the last time that I break up on an empty stomach.”

Jack was on his second stack when he got a text message. Shoving a huge forkful of buckwheat pancakes into his mouth, he checked and when he saw that it was friend Suri, he immediately called her without reading the message, as usual. He chewed while it rang.

“Either you don't care that I am busy, or you never read my messages. Either way, Jack, I can't talk right now.” She was obviously annoyed, but Jack disregarded it. As usual.

“Doesn't matter. I'm at the diner around the corner from you. I'm hungry as hell, and I could use the company.” he said between bites.

“No. I have a million things to do, and I can't spend the rest of my day fooling around with you.”
Her speech was starting to come out in a sharp staccato as she felt more pressured. Which he loved.

“'Fooling around'? Suri, I just want some company to go with my pancakes. I would never besmirch our friendship by 'fooling around' with you.”

“Jack, I cannot. I am behind in class, and I cannot spend today shopping with you. I seriously cannot.”

“Even if I take you shoe shopping?”

“Well, you didn't say anything about shoe shopping. What? No, Jack! Not even if you take me shoe shopping.”

“Okay, what class are you behind in? He shoved another forkful into his mouth.

“Creative Writing. I have a paper due.”

Jack struggled to get the mouthful down. The shock almost choked him. “Are you serious? I'll write it for you, meet me at Pepper's in twenty minutes. I need someone to blow some money on.”

“You can't do that, Jack. That's plagiarism.”

“No, silly. That's cheating. Besides, how do you think that I paid for college? Now put a turban on or something and meet me at Pepper's in ten minutes.”

“You just said twenty minutes.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “but you take less time to get ready than any woman on the planet, and I'm running out of space for these pancakes.”

“Where do you put all of that food? Have you considered eating fewer pancakes for breakfast?”

“What would be the point? Hurry up. I'm ordering you a stack along with my next one, so they'll be here when you get here. Don't let them get cold.”

“I'm more worried about you eating them first.”

“You should be. Bring your notes.”
Just as promised, there was a piping hot stack of pancakes waiting when Suri walked into the door of Pepper's Diner. She took off her heavy coat and muffler at the door, hung them on a coat rack, and shook a long jet black pony tail down her back. Jack, with a mouthful of pancakes, was charming a waitress, but when Suri came into view, completely ignored the server, and stood. “Took you long enough,” he said with a grin. “you look good.”

Suri hugged him, and took a seat. “Thanks. What did you order for me?”

“Buttermilk pancakes and chai. Oddly enough, no one had even heard of masala pancakes.”

Suri smiled. Her full lips parted in a most flattering manner that Jack sometimes believed to be practiced. “Because they don't exist.”

“Well, they should.” He snapped his fingers as a lightbulb went off in his head. “Come over Saturday, I'll make some.”

She crinkled her nose and laughed. “No. I don't think that I want to be party to that travesty. You can count me out. Oh, here's my notes.”

“Aright. You should come over anyway.” He took her notes and placed them directly into his brief bag.
“When is it due?” He started to pour an obscene amount of syrup on his pancakes.

“My morning class is at 10:30. Is that too soon?”

Jack's eyes widened in semi-false shock. “Suri, my love. You wound me. A three thousand word paper won't take me more than a couple of hours.”

“Actually, it's only fifteen hundred words.” She said sheepishly.

“What? Wait. Normally, I would be upset that you doubted me, but how is it that you weren't able to put something like this together on a trip to the can?” A slow, wry grin spread across his face. As it did, Suri's cinnamon-hued flesh reddened. All the evidence that Jack needed.

“I thought so. There is a very lucky person whom you are practicing some Kama Sutra moves on. Which ones? Octopus kisses the biscuits? Upside-down monkey cake? Face full of soup?”

“First of all, how did you know, and second, why were all of those fake Kama Sutras about food?”

“I'm still hungry.” Jack said, pouting and giving Suri his best puppy dog eyes.

“How? You have to be on your third stack of pancakes.”

“Fifth, actually. I had two at once. Menage e' breakfast. Yummy.”

“You aren't human. But you are changing the subject. How did you know?”

“Suri, my love. For anyone else, I wouldn't disclose my secrets, but you are really easy to read.

She replaced the syrup decanter long enough to give Jack a quizzical look. “How so?”
Jack shoved another gigantic forkful into his mouth, finishing the plate, and signaled to the surprised server for another round, and when he finished chewing, he took a long slug of Suri's chai. “If you must know. Listen; there are few people that I know who are more career oriented and focused than you. I don't know of anyone who could study for the GMAT and tutor me in calc and hold down a full time job. You never missed a beat. You're an academic juggernaut. For you to not be able to put together a fifteen hundred word essay based off of Hanuman fighting Goku and Piccolo or some other crap in your sleep means that something is actually important and is preventing you from getting your school work which means that you are touching someone's pee-pee.”

“Touching someone's pee-pee'?” Suri was cutting her stacks into manageable slices while talking.

“Only explanation. You're touching weiners or vaginae or something. Either that, or someone is dead. If so, I hope it's Raj. I hate his ass.”

“Don't worry, he still hates you as well. Now that you mention it. He did say something about his last book outselling yours.”
Suri smiled while she delicately opened her mouth for a piece of her food, an act that she knew that Jack would take notice of regardless of how much he tried to hide it.

“Great. Now I hate you both.” He frowned at his empty plate.

“So how did she take it?” Suri asked.

“Staci? Not well, but better than I had expected. Not too much yelling. Bunch of crying, though. Nothing to write home about.” He signaled for the check.

“Like you would ever write home.” She paused for a beat. “I have been thinking.”

Jack raised an eyebrow as he sat back in his chair. “Izzat so? What have you been talking about, pray tell?”

Suri laid her fork and knife down as she gathered herself before speaking. “These women. You aren't a womanizer, so that isn't the word, but I'm sure that you don't take their feelings into account when you break up with them.”

“Of course I do. I always do it in person, I always tell the truth, and I am direct. Everything that I say is done with finality.”

“But the way you talk about it...”

“Listen, 'Ri. As soon as it gets serious, I let them know that on the sunny side of three months, it's all over. It's practically an agreement. I'm not going to apologize because they don't take me seriously.”

“I'm not just worried about them, but I am also concerned about you.”

“What? Me? What's to worry about? No one has ever gotten all stalkery. It's nothing that I have ever had an issue with.”

“But how good is this for you?”
“Oh.” The gravity of their conversation had begun to set in. Jack dabbed at his chin with a napkin. “Suri. There are what, 6.7 people on the planet? Half of them are women, yeah? What's wrong with meeting as many as I can?”

“You say 'meeting', but in truth, you mean 'having sex with'.”

“Mayhap.” The server dropped the check off, and Jack tossed his credit card onto the tray and handed it back. My treat, but you're doing the tip math. Make it nice, and add my number to the back of the ticket.”


“Cherise was a gymnast in college.” Jack grinned, and the glint in his eyes was that of a predator. Suri bristled in feigned disgust.

“You're a cad.”

“How so?” His honest reply would have given anyone else pause, but by now, Suri was used to the displays of his strange philosophy. “What's wrong with a little sexing? Or in my case- bunches and bunches?”

“Well,” She started.

“I mean lots.”

“I know, but-”

“Oodles!.” Jack outstretched his hands like claws as his eyes doubled in size. “I mean lots and l lots! Hours upon hours of sweaty, profane, dirty, pornographic stuff. I mean. She will either renounce her religion or find a new one.” He paused, allowing himself to digest the thought, “Maybe both...”

Suri ignored his mania and thousand yard stare as she thought back to their night together. It was the first week that they met, three years ago. They were both freshmen, and they saw each other at a party. Jack was playing some drinking game that she didn't understand, and she couldn't tell if he did either. Suri had no idea what it was that attracted him to her, but she was compelled to speak to him, as were most of the people surrounding him. She took him into one of the empty rooms and then took his virginity.

“You know, I slept with you, and I'm still an atheist.”

He shrugged. “Not my fault. Besides, I was like eighteen.”

“What are you talking about? You couldn't even find my-”

He cut Suri off. “Oi! That was a bucket of years ago, I was drunk as tits, a virgin, and I got plenty good since, yeah?” Suri giggled. Whenever Jack got defensive, he started talking like a British football hooligan. He never knew when he was doing it, but it was his only tell. She loved playing him at poker.
“Besides, you could always ask Staci. Or Mina. Oooh, Angie. Definitely ask Angie.”

“Jack.” Suri started.

“Seriously, the things that we did together.”


He grinned “Practically criminal.”

“Jack! Yuck. Why do I always feel like I need a shower when I am done talking to you?” Her look of mock disgust only served to prove to him that he was getting under her skin.

“I dunno,” He started, “Maybe you're sick of taking them alone.” The server came with the check, and thanked them for coming in, he held her hand, just enough pressure to make her turn back to speak to him. While Jack continued to woo Krystal, as her nametag stated, he slipped his card to Suri, who as promised, filled out the check, and also added his phone number on the back. Unbeknown to him, she also tipped her three times the amount of their meals. With a smug smile, she folded it back up and handed it to Krystal, who took it and left.

“You about ready to go?” Jack reached over and finished Suri's chai.

“Looks like I am now. Hey, I thought that you were going to have another stack of pancakes. What gives?”

He flashed a toothy grin. “I did. You took too long, so I ate your stack then ordered another.”

“Good God.” She looked at him with playful incredulity.

“Whatever. You totally want some of this.” He reached and grabbed his full stomach, gorged on more pancakes than anyone has any business eating.

“What do women see in you, really?”

“It's not what they see in me, it's that they see me in them. That, and I'm kinda rich. Let's go. I want to get a new pair of shoes before food coma kicks in.”

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