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Angie: Hey girl!! I read what you sent me already, and I REALLY like it!! Your main character is awesome. I wish I was her lol! 

I bite my lip at Angie’s text. I feel pride at the fact she loves my story, but beneath it a strange sense of unrest gnaws at my insides.  

Me: Thanks!! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. Is there anything you think might need some work? 

I wait in anticipation for her response.  

Angie: Not really. I guess I’m not sure what you’re asking for…. 

I sigh, typing up my response.  

Me: Never mind. Thanks for the input! 

Angie: Anytime bestie! Anytime!! 😊 

I lay my phone on my desk, my forehead dropping into my hands. It’s incredibly difficult to explain, yet I can’t settle my insides. For the last several weeks I’ve sent snippets of my growing story to Angie, feeding her curiosity and thrill with every new idea developed.  

However, for reasons unbeknownst to me, it doesn’t seem like enough. Every email I send is met with the same response.  

“I really, really enjoyed it. Send me more please!” 

My mind wanders back to my workshops from school. The entire class sent in their projects for everyone to read, then we went around the room, giving advice for development, and praise for a job well done.  

So far, with Angie, I’ve gotten nothing but praise for a job well done.  

Yet I know there’s need for development……I just don’t know where. 

My main character, as likeable as she is, lacks something, something to make her three dimensional. I want her to step off the page, despite her existence as printed ink on paper. I want her to capture people’s attention, to make them like her and root for her.  

I’m falling short of the mark. 

Why, though? 

I pace the short distance between the walls of my bedroom. A string of butterfly shaped lights twinkle above the pastel headboard of my bed. I pause and watch as the light sparkles inside their plastic wings, hoping the consistent shifting would prompt a mild form of hypnosis that would magically solve my dilemma. 

……. No luck.  

With a groan, I continue pacing. I love Angie. She’s the best friend I could ever ask for.  

I need another writer, though. A person who would understand where I’m at. Who can help me push the proverbial curtain aside so I can see a clearer picture.  

My mind wanders to a place where this might be achieved. A place I haven’t been to in weeks, though this isn’t unusual.  

The café.  

The café with its quiet customers and quirky barista/owner. A mysterious place that appears and disappears on a whim. A whim I have yet to fully understand.  

I think back to all my previous visits, trying to find a pattern. They’ve all been on Mondays, due to my being off work. That being said, it isn’t open every Monday, since I’ve gone by the archway and gated door several times in the past. Only to be met with silence, a locked door, and a dark stairway.  

No, there’s another factor within all of it. Something I’m missing. 

I check the skin-toned watch around my wrist. It’s nearly noon. My stomach grumbles at me, insisting I find something to eat. My mind checks off the list of items I have left in my fridge.  

Not very much.  

I’ll have to go out and get something. I gather my big purse and phone, snatching a few, printed pages of my story. The last time I saw C.C. I swore I’d carry my work around with me. The last thing I wanted was to disappoint the barista, should the opportunity to see her again arise. 

I lock my door and head down the stairs. It’s a slow Monday downtown today. Gray clouds shade the sun, promising rain. I guess nothing keeps people indoors quite like perspiration.  

My eyes scrutinize the local restaurants, trying to decide what sounds good. Do I want tacos? Pizza? Maybe a salad?  

I shake my head at all the options. Nothing sounds good.  

After a considerable amount of time pondering, I settle for a simple sandwich from the local deli. It’s a favorite amongst those who live in the area, one part due to the sandwiches being rather tasty, and due in another to the lovely older couple who run it.  

I sit at one of the outside tables and enjoy my lunch. The gray clouds shade the sun, making it easier to sit out without a fear of burning beneath the heated rays. The simple Italian inspired sub is one of my favorites of theirs. Add in a bag of chips and I’m all set until dinner.  

My wadded ball of foil and wax paper vanishes into the outside trashcan as I pass. The restaurant is a few paces away from the antique store and I have a mind to pop in and say hello to Ron.  

He smiles when I walk through the door.  

“Well hello there, hon. How have you been?” 

I grin as I pause by the counter. “Not bad, Ron. Just got something to eat.” 

“Really? What was on the menu?” 

“Italian sub from Mark and Minnie’s.” 

He releases a pleasant sigh. “One of my favorites.” 

I chuckle. “Mine too.” 

He perks. “Speaking of food, how’s that old cookbook you got last time? Made anything yet?” 

I shrug, mentally checking off the few items I’ve prepared thus far. Most are simple recipes a novice like me could tackle. “I’ve done a few things.” 

“Such as?” 

I count them off on my fingers as I answer. “I’ve made baked lemon and herb chicken with simple rice. I’ve cooked a homemade alfredo sauce for pasta. I’ve also baked some really delicious cookies too.” 

“Well,” he beams. “I’d say that’s a good start. Keep it up. You’ll get better as you go.” 

It’s been rather fun, to be honest. In the past, I never had much drive or desire to play chef. But, after attempting some of the cookbook’s recipes, I find I’m actually enjoying myself.  

“Anway,” I say, waving away that conversation. “Enough about me. How has business been?” 

The older man shrugs. “Same old, same old. Got most of my regulars coming in, with the occasional new face. Making enough to keep the door open, can’t ask for much more than that.” 

“Amen,” I grin. “Got anything new for me to see since last time?” 

He grows quiet for a few seconds, and I can almost see the items flowing through his thoughts like they’re on a conveyor belt. “I do, actually.” He points down the second aisle, where I recognize the glass case of antique jewelry. “Got some new stuff over there. And in the cooking aisle too. Have a look and see if anything sticks out at you.” 

I nod. “I’ll be right back.” 

“Hey, no rush. Take your time.” 

I head for the second aisle, passing a few other customers on my way. The glass case is certainly fuller than last time. Certain pieces I can tell are missing, while others strike my eye with their lack of familiarity. One piece in particular fetches my attention.  

An aged pocket watch sits on a felt, purple cushion beside a small box of pins. The long, elegant chain curls around the bottom. A rose is etched into the front, giving it an elegant, feminine appeal. Its overall appearance is rather simple, yet something about it holds my attention.  

I pull away. The trinket is lovely, but I don’t have a use for it. It’d only occupy a small, area of space to collect dust.  

My feet carry me towards the cooking section, where I see the copper kettle from my last visit. Again, the sight of it prompts my mind into conjuring memories of another place I enjoy going.  

The café.  

I think of C.C. and the steaming kettles behind the counter. This copper kettle is something she’d like. I know it for a fact. 

After a few more minutes of browsing, I head back to the front.  

“Find anything?” Ron asks.  

I shake my head, thinking about the watch and the kettle. “No, not really.” 

He squints his eyes, regarding me as though he doesn’t believe me. “If I remember correctly,” he says. “You said that last time. Then came back a few hours later to purchase something.” 

I hold up my hands in mock defensiveness. “Alright, alright, you got me. But I mean it this time.” 

“Okay,” he acquiesces. “I’ll believe you this time.”  

“Thank you for the effort.” I study the dark clouds through the front windows. “Well, I’d better get going.”  

Ron nods in agreement. “I think so too. Better get home before it starts to rain.” 

“See you later, Ron.” 

He salutes. “Until next time, my dear.” 

The overhead bell rings as I walk through the door. The wind has picked up a bit, blowing strands of loose hair into my face.  

As I shove the locks away, my eyes settle on the archway across the street. I pause, immediately debating with myself.  

It’s become quite the habit for me to wander out of my way, just to check on the gated door. Just to peek for the chalkboard sign. Every now and again, even while with Angie—who raises a brow at me each time—I take the extra steps to sneak a glance.  

I cross the street.  

And pull up along the side the archway, intentionally avoiding the urge to peer down to the other side. My back rests against the outer, brick wall.  

Either way, if it’s not there, it’s not there. I’ve told myself this every single time before looking in the past. In a way, it helps settle the disappointment when nothing comes into view.  

I breathe, brace myself, then round the corner.  

Imagine the thrill I feel, when, for the fourth time over the span of the last few months, I see a chalkboard sign with Come On In! written in bold, colorful chalk, sitting outside an open, gated door.  

Violin music melds with music box twinkles as I approach. Below the chalk lettering, a drawn, light blue mug steams.  

Without hesitation, I rush up the stairs, my legs burning with exertion when I reach the top. I step into a familiar space, mixed with light and dark grays, with midnight blue and copper fixtures. With soft, buttery globes hanging from the ceiling.  

My eyes take in the familiar sights, while also noting the new ones. I see two familiar faces. Al, reading in his usual corner, a new paperback book clasped in his hands. Not far sits Jan, at the same table from last time. Again, large headphones cover her ears as she types away on her computer.  

A few tables down, two young girls—who appear to be around my age—sit across from each other. They’re both working on laptops, seeming perfectly comfortable in companionable silence. I make my way to the counter, studying them all as they keep their attention on their works, or their readings.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say my presence, thus far, has gone completely unnoticed.  

I stop at the counter, glancing from one side to the other, looking for C.C.  

Unlike last time, the quirky barista is nowhere in sight. However, it is here I see another new addition.  

A rose gold bell sitting at the very center of the counter. A tiny, chalkboard sign sits right beside it. A rosy, pink arrow points in the bell’s direction.  

In midnight blue, it reads Ring for Assistance! 

I hesitate this time. A subtle peek over my shoulder reminds me of the number of people here today. Would ringing the bell disturb them? They all appeared to be concentrating really hard, I didn’t want to disrupt them.  

I give it a couple more seconds, waiting patiently in case C.C. decides to appear like before. When she doesn’t, I slowly reach towards the bell, my fingers hovering over the top button for a few, agonizing seconds.  

Ding!! 

The bell is soft, yet it seems to echo through the entire café.  

Without warning, C.C. pops up from behind the counter, her arms spread wide. “Welcome!!” 

My feet backtrack, stumbling over themselves as shock propels me backwards. A hand lands on my chest as though I can settle the erratic beating through the chest bone.  

C.C.’s eyes go wide, and her lips spread into a pleased grin. “Hey there.” She rushes forward, her elbows coming to rest on the counter beside the bell and its tiny chalkboard sign. “It’s about time you show up! I’ve been wondering where you were.” 

It takes several breaths before I can answer. “Why do you keep doing that?” 

“Doing what?” She frowns.  

I wave the explanation away. “Never mind.” I paste a smile on. “How have you been, C.C.?” 

“I’ve been pretty good. Keeping busy. What about you?” 

I shrug. “Writing. That’s about it.” 

She gasps, then glares. “If you tell me you didn’t bring anything with you….” 

I can’t help but chuckle at her expression. “Funny you say that.” I reach into my purse, extracting the printed pages I’d carried over.  

The sight of the papers makes her grin, her body bouncing with evident excitement. “Gimme, gimme.” 

She snatches the sheets from my fingers, immediately flipping through them. Loose strands of her rose gold hair dangle from a messy bun. They wave as she spins back towards me. “Finally! I was beginning to think you’d never bring them.” 

I roll my eyes. “I’d have brought them by sooner if you’d been open.” 

She huffs, her free fist landing on her hip. “Are you using that excuse again?” 

“Yes, because it works for me.” And also, it’s the truth. But I refrain from saying that.  

“Fine,” she says with a wave. “At least I have it now.” 

“Yes, you do.” I head for the stools along the counter’s side. “Be sure to read it and tell me what you think.” 

“Oh, honey, you know I will.” She gently lays the printed work on the back counter, a good distance from her steaming kettles. “So, what can I get you?” 

I quickly read through the list of drinks from the copper edged menus. “I’ll take a mocha latte, please.” 

“Coming right up,” she perks, heading for her fancy, barista machinery. “I’ll whip this up and get to reading.” 

I peer at the other customers. “Will you have time to?” 

“Of course! Plus, I want to give you my thoughts before you leave. Since you’re prone to vanish on me for long periods of time.” 

I almost choke on my response. I vanish?! Instead, I shake my head. “I’d appreciate your feedback. I’ve been having my friend read it for me, but I don’t get much from her, unfortunately.” 

She frowns at me over her shoulder. “What do you mean?” 

I sigh, recalling all of mine and Angie’s emails and texts pertaining to my work. “She reads what I send her, and she’s always excited about it. She loves everything I give to her…” I lean my chin in my hands. “But she says the same thing over and over again.” 

“Which is?” 

“It’s really good and I really like it!” I recite, remembering her words. “Can’t wait for more.” 

C.C. pulls a lever on her machine and it puffs steam like water dumped on heated rocks in a sauna. “Sounds like she’s really enjoying it.” 

I nod, realizing I probably sound like an ungrateful friend. “I know she does. But, every now and again, I almost wish she’d say something other than praise.” At C.C.’s confused expression, I explain. “I know something’s missing from my story. I can just tell. But I don’t know what.” With a sigh, I straighten in my seat. “It’d be nice if I had someone to bounce ideas off of.” 

“Have you tried with her?” C.C. asks, pouring steamed milk into a light blue mug.  

I nod. “Yes, but it doesn’t go very far. Angie’s a fun, smart, and creative person. Even she says she’s not the best person to brainstorm with.” 

C.C. sets the mug in front of me, cocoa powder sprinkled atop the foam. “Have a sip of that,” she urges. “Tell me what you think.” 

I cock a brow at her but lift the mug to my lips. The sweet taste of chocolate takes an edge off the bitterness of coffee.   

“Well?” She prompts.  

“It’s good.” I answer. 

“It doesn’t need anything?” 

I shake my head. “No. I don’t think so.” 

C.C. reaches beneath the counter, lifting a bottle I recognize from when she’d been making the drink. “Mocha syrup,” she states. “Any experienced barista would be able to taste that I didn’t add enough.” 

Confused, I take another sip of the drink. “Really? You didn’t add enough?” 

Her head swivels from side to side. “Nope.” She brings her thumb and forefinger together, leaving a miniscule space in between. “Just enough to curb the coffee’s bitter flavor, but not enough to balance it out.” 

Another sip begins to showcase what she means. In the past, her drinks were always on par, finding a healthy median between the coffee and the flavoring. Only after she’s mentioned it, can I taste the imbalance.  

“Well, I can certainly taste more of the coffee now than I did before.” 

C.C. chuckles, sliding the cup back her way, she adds a quick dash of the syrup, using a long spoon to gently stir it up without disturbing the foam on top too much. “Try it now,” she offers. 

I happily oblige, sighing in content at the added sweetness. “Balanced perfectly,” I state.  

She grins, leaning a hip against the counter. “That’s the difference,” she says. And when I arch my brows at her, she needs no further prompting to divulge her meaning. “You’re not a barista. So, I can’t expect you to understand the right measurements, or the proper ingredients. All you can really tell me is if you like the end product, or not. It’s like that for your friend.” 

Slowly, my brain begins to make sense of it all. The puzzle pieces falling together to make a coherent picture.  

Amusement lifts the corners of my mouth into a small smile. “Did you just use a mocha latte to teach me a lesson?” 

“I sure did,” she asserts. “It worked, didn’t it?”  

I sigh in resignation. “You always make your point, that’s for sure.” 

C.C. taps her fingertips on the countertop. A contemplative tick. “You know what you need?” C.C. says. “Another writer to read your book.” Her eyes dart towards the table with the two young girls. “Or maybe two. Follow me.” She rounds the counter without waiting for an answer.  

I scramble with my mug to keep up with her. A protest hangs on the tip of my tongue. The last thing I want is to interrupt these ladies if they’re working on something important.  

“Hey, lovelies,” C.C. greets, pulling them from their work.  

Both flash pleasant smiles her way.  

“Hey, C.C.,” one says, rearranging her glasses. “What’s up?” 

“Sorry to disturb you two, but I have a request to make.” 

The other girl props her chin in her hand, flipping her long hair over her shoulder. “Request away.” 

C.C. gestures my way. “This is a friend of mine. She’s a writer like the two of you. Out of curiosity, would you be willing to read her stuff? She’s needing some help in development.” 

Both girls grin. “Sure thing,” the second girl says, gesturing to the chair next to her. “Come on over, friend.” 

When I hesitate, C.C. grabs my arm, dragging me to the table. “Oh, come on, they don’t bite.” I practically fall into the chair as she gives me a soft shove. “I’ll be back over later,” she promises, slipping away.  

I sit awkwardly, wriggling beneath their expectant gazes. “Hi.” 

“Hi,” the girl with glasses returns. “My name’s Ginette.” 

“And I’m Lucy,” the long-haired girl adds.  

“What do you need read?” Ginette asks, lifting a tall cup of iced coffee.  

Before I can answer, C.C. reappears, pages in hand. “It’s this,” she answers for me. “Don’t mark on it,” she instructs. “I still need to read it when you guys are done.” With that, she’s gone again, vanishing through the door behind the counter.  

Lucy is the first to snatch the papers up, her eyes roaming over the first page. “Oh! Is this a fantasy story?” 

I bite my lower lip, suddenly feeling nervous. “Yeah, actually.” 

“I love fantasy,” she bellows, holding them to her chest in obvious glee. “Okay, let me read this real quick.” 

“I’ll read it when you’re done.” Ginette states, sipping her drink.  

It doesn’t take very long for Lucy to devour the six pages I brought. She even flips open a little notebook at her elbow, making notes as she goes. When she finishes, she slides the sheets Ginette’s way. 

 My leg bounces in jittery anticipation. I’m not sure why, but the fact these two people—who I’ve only just met—are reading my story makes me nervous.  

“Okay,” Ginette lays my work down, a pleasant smile brightens her expression. “It’s good. I really like it, but I can see where it does require more development.” 

“Which is normal,” Lucy interjects. “I take it this is still in its beginning phase, right?” 

At my nod, Ginette continues. “I like your main character. There’s a lot of potential in her. But,” she appears to think a moment, as though trying to find the best words. This makes me even more nervous.  

Is it bad? Am I going to have to start all over? I shudder at the thought. 

“She kind of falls a little flat.” 

Lucy nods in agreement. “I thought the same thing. She’s coming across as very two-dimensional. She needs some depth, some emotion and personality.” 

“I knew something was missing for her,” I acknowledge. It’s a bit painful to hear my suspicions confirmed. It’s also liberating, somehow. “I can’t seem to figure her out. She’s got a lot of layers, at least it feels like she does. I just don’t know how to peel them all back and get a better understanding of her.” 

Ginette pinches her chin. “I can’t speak for everyone, however one of my best methods is interviewing my character. Have you tried that?” 

I’ve heard of this trick. Authors imagine themselves sitting across the way from his or her characters, asking them questions and developing answers. I’ve yet to try it, despite the apparent popularity.  

“I’ll have to give it a try,” I remark.  

“It always works for me too,” Lucy seconds. She reaches for a mug of, what appears to be, hot chocolate. “But, if it doesn’t, maybe try a different method.” 

“Such as?” 

“If you can’t get a good grasp of your main character, try “talking” to one of the others, see what their response would be if you asked them about the main character. What are their impressions? What are their feelings? Are they close to each other, or is the main character withdrawn? Try something like that.” 

Wow, I think. Not once did that ever occur to me. To look at my main character through another character’s eyes.  

“What else did you guys see?” 

The next hour is spent dissecting my story, answering questions and asking for ideas. Ginette and Lucy prove to be quite the brainstormers. Inquiring about my world’s rules, what my characters’ cultural or maybe religious beliefs are. Is there a hierarchy, a monarchy, or is everything free range? What time period am I imagining it’s in and what’s my characters’ primary struggles. 

“Cause, you know, your main character has to struggle,” Lucy reminds me.  

“Am I being too easy on her?” 

Both girls nod. “She goes through a challenge in the very beginning,” Ginette points out. “But she overcame that very easily, despite the narrator’s insistence that it’s incredibly difficult.” 

I pinch my chin between a thumb and forefinger. Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I’m being way too easy on her.  

“I shall endeavor to be more malicious.” 

Lucy laughs. “Only the best authors are.” 

I fold a sheet of paper Ginette had been kind enough to provide earlier in our conversation. Black ink decorates the front and back with notes made during our brainstorming session. They’ve provided so many ideas, I’m almost worried I’ve gotten too much.  

C.C. reappears at the end, beaming at the three of us. “Well, how’d it go, ladies?” 

 “I think it was great,” Lucy answers. “We covered a lot of ground.” 

Ginette nods in agreement. “Alot of questions were answered.” 

I scoop up my printed sheets, handing them to C.C., who graciously accepts them. “Thank you so much for your help.” I stand. “You have no idea how much I appreciate it.” 

“Thanks for letting us read it.” Ginette lifts her cup again. “I really enjoyed it.” 

“Me too,” Lucy seconds. “If you ever need more help, let us know. We’ll be more than happy to do this again.” 

Something warm flows inside my chest. Did I find a community here? It almost seems like it.  

“Thanks.” 

They nod, wave their goodbyes, and turn back to their own, individual work. I follow C.C. back to the counter, my empty mug in hand.  

“Thanks for introducing me.” 

She grins over her shoulder. “No problem. Happy to be of service.” She hugs the papers to her chest. “Now it’s my turn.” 

As I reach the counter, my phone dings with a message.  

Angie: Can I stop off at your place in a few? I need a vent session! 

I sigh, remembering the poor girl’s stress levels are probably skyrocketing right now. Ever since that co-worker quit, Angie’s been running herself ragged in order to keep up with work’s demands.  

Me: Of course! I’ll buy us some dinner. Any requests? 

Angie: Yes, it has to be edible!! 

A chuckle bubbles from my chest at her usual response. Angie is the furthest thing from a picky eater.  

Me: Alright. I’ll surprise you. 

Angie: Awesome! See you in a bit!! 

I click my phone off. “I’d better go.” 

C.C. responds with an exaggerated frown. “Aww, okay. Well,” she perks. “Next time you come by I’ll give you my thoughts.” She holds up the papers.  

“Thanks.” I pause before heading out. “Should I even ask how much the latte is?” 

A pleased smile is her answer, followed by a dramatic shake of the head. I nod. “I thought not. Alright, thanks for the introducing me, and the free drink.”  

“Your welcome.” 

I head for the door, glancing back when I reach it, and seeing the other customers, Al, Jan, Ginette and Lucy.  

But no C.C. Only a line of steaming kettles behind the counter.  

It’s strange, how used to it I’ve become. It no longer surprises me like it did before. I descend the stairs, reading the colorful Come Again Soon! drawn on the chalkboard.  

I waste no time in finding food for me and Angie. I decide on an old favorite: wings.  

Around forty-five minutes later, she’s buzzing me to let her in. We settle around the coffee table, and Angie gives me the run down on what’s happening at work. What her boss is doing to get a new hire in as fast as she can. What her other co-workers are doing—or not doing—to help out around the place.  

“Ugh!” She claws her hands around her face. “They drive me crazy! A job. That’s what they’re there for. They’re there to work, and do you know what they want?” 

I shake my head, unable to stop the small smile from curving my mouth. I know she won’t say until I ask. “What?” 

“Free money! That’s what they want. Well, guess what, so do I! But I don’t see anyone handing out free checks or cash!” 

“And if they were,” I add. “It’s probably because they’re scammers.” 

“Right?!” She pauses in her ranting, suddenly sitting straight. “Oh my gosh, I’ve done nothing but talk about me this whole time.” She shakes her head, her dark hair smacking her in the face. “Alright, that’s enough for me. How was your day?” 

A small laugh escapes my lips at the sudden change. Then again, it is Angie. “Not too bad. I spent most of it writing before heading out for lunch earlier.” 

“Yummy. What did you eat?” 

“A sandwich from Mark and Minnie’s.” 

“I like that place.” She sips water from a glass on the table. “What else did you do today?” 

My mind, prompted by the question, moves to the café, with its mysterious customers, and even more mysterious owner. Once again, I debate telling Angie about it, but the whole thing is so unusual, I don’t think she’ll believe me.  

Besides, if truth be told, I don’t actually want to tell her. Not yet, anyway.  

I shake my head. “Nothing.” 

“I wish I had your Mondays,” she grumbles, setting her cup back down. Her hands come together in a loud clap. “Where’s your laptop?” 

My brows furrow, confused why she’d ask. “In the other room. Why?” 

Her gaze rolls toward the ceiling, as though I’ve asked a dumb question with a painfully obvious answer. “Cause I’m going to read more of your stuff.” 

She wants to read now?  

“There isn’t much I’ve added.” I shake my head. “It won’t be that interesting.” 

“Let me decide that.” She stubbornly crosses her arms. A posture I’ve grown remarkably accustomed to. There will be no arguing with her.  

I sigh. “Fine. But believe me, it’s not much.” 

“I don’t care.” She calls, as I duck into my bedroom, finding my laptop on my desk. “It’s relaxing for me.” 

I flash a frown at her when I reenter my living room. “Relaxing? Even though it’s not finished, and there are a lot of plot holes.” 

She shrugs. “I know I’m not much help when it comes to that. But, as a person who doesn’t know anything about writing, I enjoy it. I’m sure the end product will be even better.” 

My fingers pause above the keyboard, the lock screen patiently waiting for my password.  

“All you can really tell me is if you like the end product, or not. It’s like that for your friend.” 

Angie’s mouth curves down at my hesitation. “What’s wrong?” 

“Huh?” I shake myself from my thoughts. “It’s nothing. Just….forgot my password for a second.” 

I can see it in her eyes. She doesn’t believe me but decides not to push the issue. I quickly bring up my files, opening my story’s document. I slide it closer to her. “Have at it.” 

She grins, grabbing it with an excitement a child might with candy, or a new toy. She hesitates, peering at me through her lashes. “If you ever want me to stop reading it, I will.” 

For several seconds, I don’t answer. Why would she believe I didn’t want her to read it? I think back to my words earlier. About how frustrated I’ve been with her consistent praise. I almost smack myself right then and there. It never occurred to me that irritation may have conveyed itself in one way or another to her.  

I reach across the table, giving one of her hands a reassuring squeeze. “I want you to read it. You’re my biggest fan right now. How could I ask that of you?” 

She smiles, returning the gesture. “Alright, then.” She crackles her knuckles. “Let’s get to it.” 

I nod. “Let’s get to it.” 

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