Excerpt: Meeting Adam, Kate and Nathan
The following is an excerpt from the second draft of chapter two of my debut novel, Escapists and Wanderers. It’s still rough, but enjoy 🙂 if you have any helpful notes on it, please email email@example.com. Thank you!
“Alright, that was great. Let’s take a break.”
Kate swivelled around in her engineer’s chair, sliding the levels down on the mixing board and flicking the save button on the Mac keyboard in front of her. Carrying his guitar a little precariously by the neck, Adam swung through the glass-fronted door to the recording room, and listened as it clicked shut behind him. He had been playing his Gibson Western Classic Pre-war 200, a beautiful replica of the Ray Whitley custom guitar from the ‘30s and now out of production. Although his guitars were all like children to him, this one was his favourite, and he laid it gently down into its black hard case, blew some specks of dirt and dust off it, and closed the lid.
“So, we going to get lunch?” he asked cheerfully. Kate stood up, running her hands through her short, fluffy afro locks, streaked with electric blue. She glanced at her watch.
“Dude, it’s after 7,” she said, laughing and shaking her head. Adam did a double take.
“Like… in the evening?” He asked, his eyes wide.
“Yes, in the evening!” Kate affirmed, laughing again. “Come on, let’s go get dinner.”
Bundling into coats and scarves and gloves, and armed with Adam’s guitar case, they stepped out into the frosty night. The sun had shone during the day, giving them some respite from the bitter weather, but that glimmer of hope seemed a long way away as snow began to fall once more. Situated on the quiet, residential street, The Tunesmith Studios took on something of a ghostly, serene quality in the twilight. Kate stared at the building for a minute.
“What?” Adam asked, halfway inside the car as he attempted to defrost the windows.
“Nothing,” Kate replied, still preoccupied. “The studio just looks pretty special tonight.”
They drove into the centre of town, being careful to inch slower than usual along the icy roads and peering around the snow banks at every turn. It wasn’t long before they arrived at the brightly lit array of shops, cafes and restaurants that comprised Five Points, a mini neighbourhood-cum-intersection that pulled together Woodland Street, Main Street, South 10th Street and Gallatin Avenue. On one corner was Florrie’s Diner, one of their favourite places to eat. The establishment was named for its proprietor, a plump, kindly lady named Florrie Steinmetz, whose grandparents had moved to the area from Germany shortly before the First World War, fleeing Jewish persecution. She greeted them enthusiastically as they trudged in through the door, the bell tinkling above them.
“Miss Katie! Mister Adam!” She exclaimed. “Oh my loves, aren’t you cold? Let me get a pot of tea on and I’ll rustle you up something hot. You’ll catch your death out there!”
The pair nodded in appreciation and shuffled into one of the booths, removing their layers as Florrie bustled about in the kitchen. Even in the depths of winter the diner was always deliciously warm, and often they would end up eating there even when they weren’t hungry. It was just a nice place to be, and certainly warmer than any of their houses. The tinny warble of 30s dance band music drifted over the portable stereo on the counter, and Florrie could just about be heard singing along with it. Kate pulled out her phone.
“My God, I have so many messages after all that time locked in the studio,” she mused. Adam smiled.
“Wow, it must be nice to be that popular,” he quipped. Kate’s phone pinged several times in a row and she started up a flurry of typing, while Adam watched with his usual quiet amazement. Kate typed faster on a phone than anybody he knew.
“Here you are, my dears,” Florrie said briskly, placing two giant mugs on the table and filling them with piping hot tea. “I’ve got two New York-style cheeseburgers and fries coming right up.”
Kate grinned in response, her brown eyes twinkling. “Thanks so much, Florrie. You’re the best.”
They had been working on a few demo recordings that day, in some ways an excuse to get out of their freezing cold houses, but also because Kate worked the studio, and they could get a discounted rate if they recorded there under her engineering supervision. Adam had a day off from his job as a barista at A Latte Good, the local artisan coffee hangout, and they decided now was as good a time as any to lay some tracks down. They both rather liked the indie band life; they had to fund their own projects of course, book their own gigs and build their own fan base, but they had Harriet for that. She was a woman of many talents, and possessed a certain charm with the largely male-populated local music industry. Such things could come in handy.
Adam reached for his mug and almost winced at the temperature. “You sure do know how to brew ‘em hot!” He spluttered, laughing and causing Florrie to blush.
“Hey, I just want to make sure you’re staying nice and warm and healthy, Mister Adam,” she told him matronly. “You need to stay fit so you can find you a nice young lady!”
Kate snickered, still staring at her phone, her tea untouched. Adam looked down at the table sheepishly. “I’m just fine, thank you –”
“Of course, you and Miss Katie make a mighty fine pair, you do!” Florrie exclaimed, giving Kate a sideways look and a knowing glance. Kate responded by giving a great spurt of laughter.
“Oh Florrie, don’t you know I’m queer?!” She remarked good-naturedly. Adam joined in the laughter, more at ease now that the tension over his love life had been dispelled. It hadn’t been the first time that folks had made assumptions about the two of them, but their relationship more reflected that of a sibling love, and certainly Adam found it entirely bizarre to imagine them dating. Besides, Kate was both gay and spoken for.
“Well honey, I’m just saying. You two are sweet together,” she said, shaking her head before turning to attend to their food. Kate caught Adam’s eye and grinned.
“She makes me laugh,” she commented quietly, so that Florrie couldn’t hear.
“Doesn’t it offend you?” Adam asked. “Not taking your sexuality seriously, I mean.”
“Nah,” Kate replied dismissively, waving the air with her hand. “She doesn’t mean it, and she doesn’t know any better. Different generation,” she added to Adam’s single raised eyebrow. He murmured in half-hearted agreement.
Before Florrie could bring over their food, the bell above the door tinkled again and a great shaft of frozen air burst into the heady humidity of the brightly-lit diner. All three turned their heads towards the mini commotion expectantly, before softening to the realised presence of Nathan Wallace.
“Nathan!” Kate welcomed warmly. She had a way of evoking joy and amicability quite unmatched, in Adam’s experience.
“Hey, man,” he offered, smiling and patting his friend’s arm affectionately from his seated position. Nathan grunted in greeting, shuffling into the booth next to Kate, who had obediently shifted towards the shiny tiled wall. She appeared to do this without breaking her texting streak.
Florrie bustled back over to them, now carrying two plates of steaming food that were piled so high they practically obscured her face.
“Here you are, my dears,” she said brightly, placing the plates onto the table in front of their recipients with a light clang. They were loaded with crispy, golden fries and the crowning glory: a giant, greasy, cheese-oozing mound of delicious New York-style burger. The steam misted up Adam’s black-rimmed glasses, causing him to blush a little.
“And how are you, Mister Nathan?” Florrie inquired, turning her head towards her subject and peering at him intensely. Never one to mince words, or to deliver many of them at all for that matter, Nathan was clear and concise.
“I’ve got a job,” he blurted out, barely allowing Florrie to finish. Collective surprise burst forth.
“You have?!” Adam exclaimed. This was not the news he was expecting. Since quitting his job as an admin intern at the ultra-hip indie label Austin Bound Records, where he had been brought on to help launch the East Nashville branch, Nathan had been floundering, even by his standards. Sure, he had been writing a lot of songs for them to record, including the one they had been tracking that day, but he had also spent a lot of time sleeping in, draining their wine cabinet, and going on disturbingly long mid-winter walks alone. How he stood up to the enveloping cold for that length of time and still didn’t manage to get sick, Adam had no idea.
“Yes,” Nathan replied stoutly, perhaps deliberately oblivious to his companions’ surprise.
“So… what is it?” Kate asked, her intrigue leading her to stop texting for a second.
“Bartender. At The Cumberland,” Nathan delivered in his usual clipped, staccato manner, hidden behind a mane of thick and wavy dark hair. His pale hands lay awkwardly on his thighs, the long fingers curled tensely around his kneecaps.
“Woah, nice work dude!” Kate declared. “When do you start?”
Nathan grimaced and coughed slightly, as if in objection to his interrogation. “Tonight,” he muttered, clearly unable to understand why the conversation had not yet been concluded. He preferred, on the whole, to only speak when he had something valid to say, and while he was generally content to sit and listen to the often aimless chatter of the others, he wasn’t fond of partaking himself. Writing his thoughts and feelings into songs seemed a more productive use of his time.
“We’ll drop by later, then,” Adam confirmed, nodding approvingly as he tucked into his burger. Apparently satisfied that the intended information had been properly conveyed and there was no more reason for him to hang around, Nathan stood up abruptly and brushed past Florrie as he strode towards the door. A muttered ‘bye’ wafted behind him in the draft of the opened-and-closed door. Florrie shook her head, mumbling something indecipherable in German. Kate grinned at Adam above her burger, and contented silence ensued.
Vickye Fisher © November 2016 / March 2017. All Rights Reserved.