Writing

An Excerpt from Lost and Found: A Scene of Passion and Confrontation (my favorite!)

Illustration by Summer Ortiz

This is one of my favorite scenes in the series, from Nate’s point of view:

As I amble to Emi’s apartment, taking my time, planning my words, I think over the past two and a half weeks.

I hadn’t spoken to Emi since then– well, since the morning after the disastrous triple-date.  While Sam was showering that Saturday, I had called my friend’s apartment to make sure she was okay.  I had woken up that morning from a nightmare.  In my dream, Colin had beat her to within an inch of her life.

“What?” she had answered her phone curtly.

“Hi.”

“Did you need something?” she asked.

“I dreamed he hurt you.  I was just checking to make sure you were okay,” I explain, a little put off by her attitude.  I really didn’t feel like she had any reason to be mad at me.

“Did you tell Chris?” she deflected my concern.

“No.  Maybe I should have.”

“Thanks,” she says, her response still terse.

“You didn’t answer me.  Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Nate,” she scoffed at me.

“Is he there?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“Well, it will help me gauge the honesty of your answer.”

“No, he’s not here.”

“So you’re sure you’re okay.”

“Stop acting like you care about me,” she had said, a comment that caught me off guard.

“Emi,” I had sighed into the phone.  “What are you talking about?  Of course I care about you.  What’s with you?”

“Just…” she had begun, but never finished.  “I need some time to think about things, okay?  Things are kind of messed up right now.”  As if I didn’t know that already.

“Alright, Emi.  That’s fine.  But I want you to know I care and I’m here for you.  And I will worry about you as long as I know you’re still seeing him.  He’s bad news.”

“You don’t know him.”  And then she had hung up on me.  I had tried to call her twice since then, but she refused to answer or return my voicemails.

I’m sure she’ll be surprised to see me today, but I have no one else to go to, and I have to talk to her.  I have to get someone else’s perspective.  Sam didn’t understand my need to go see her in particular, but my girlfriend trusted me anyway.  My girlfriend.  What have I gotten myself into?

I notify Emi of my presence with my usual knock.  She answers quickly.

“Hey.  What are you doing here?”  I can’t read her demeanor today.

“We need to talk, Emi.”

She nods her head, opening the door for me to enter her apartment.  I wave quietly to Teresa.

“Do I need the earplugs?” her roommate asks.  Emi looks at me expectantly, and I shrug my shoulders, forcing a smile.  “You know, on second thought…”  Teresa gathers up some papers from her bed and picks up her laptop.  “I think I’ll go get some coffee.”

“Thanks,” I tell her.

“No problem.”  She closes the door quietly, leaving Emi and me alone in their silent apartment.

“What’s going on?” she asks.

I exhale heavily and laugh, knowing all too well that nothing I’m about to tell her is funny by any means. “Mind if I sit down?”

“Go ahead.”  We both take a seat on her bed.  I immediately take my head into my hands and begin tugging at my hair.  “Must be bad,” she says.  “An apology shouldn’t stress you–”

“Sam’s preg–”  I interrupt her quickly.  I have to clear my throat to get the rest of the word out.  “Sorry.  Pregnant.”  I process her words and realize she was expecting an apology.  Maybe I should have started with that, but the news I was bringing her would have overshadowed anything else anyway.

I stay still, waiting for Emi to say something.  A full minute passes before I look up to see her staring at the wall across the room.  Her jaw is taut and I’m pretty sure she’s holding her breath.

“Say something.”

“Okay,” she says, short.

“Okay?  That’s all you’re gonna say?  Okay?”

“What the fuck am I supposed to say, Nate?  Should I be congratulating you?  Did you want me to start planning her shower?  What did you expect?”

“I don’t know.  What are you thinking?” I ask her.

“I’m thinking you’re an idiot–”

“I know,” I tell her before she can even finish.

“You’re sure?” she asks, still unable to look in my direction.

“She took a test at home this morning.  She said it’s positive.”

“She said, or it was?”

“I didn’t see it… but it was.  She wouldn’t lie about something like this.”

“If I were you, I’d want to see proof.”  Just like that, she has me questioning Samantha, even though she’s never given me reason to doubt her.

“We’ll take another test.  But it could have happened–”

“How?” she interrupts.  “How could it have happened?”

“How do you think?” I ask her.  “We weren’t careful.”  I remember back to that night.  I remember how angry I was at Emi.  I remember that I wanted to do anything, everything to keep myself from thinking about her.  I allowed myself to get completely wrapped up in Samantha.

Emi gets up hurriedly and walks to the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of wine from the metal rack above her sink.  After pouring herself a glass, she takes a seat on a barstool, her back to me.

I walk over to her and put my hand on her shoulder.  “Emi, please talk to me.”

She shrugs away, picking up her wine and walking back over to the window.  “I can’t even begin to figure out what to say to you.  Really, idiot is the only word that comes to mind.  Fucking idiot.”

“Emi, be fair.  It was an accident.”

“Pretty big one, though, Nate, don’t you think?”

“Of course.”  I swallow hard, wondering if this conversation would have gone any better had we been on better terms in the first place.

“Well, I guess that’s it,” she says plainly.  Even with her back to me, even though she’s trying to hide her emotions from me, I can tell she’s crying.

“What’s it?” I again approach her from behind and try to comfort her, finding her reaction odd.  Shouldn’t this be the other way around?

“I hope you love her, Nate.”  She flinches when I touch her arm.  “Get your hands off me.”

“What is your problem, Emi?”

“My problem?” she asks, agitated and wiping tears away.  “I don’t have a problem.  This is all your problem.  I’m washing my hands of this.”

“Emi, come on.  You’re my best friend, I need you.”

“You’ve got Sam now.”

“I need her, too.  But I can’t do this without you.”

She scoffs at me.  “Well, why didn’t you consult me before?  I would have told you not to get her pregnant.  But I thought you probably had that under control.  You managed not to get any of the other ones pregnant.  I just assumed you had the safe sex thing figured out by now.”

“Okay, I didn’t come here for a lecture.”

“Then why did you come?”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“Step one,” she says harshly.  “Go to the drug store and buy another test.  Or better yet, take her to a doctor.”

“I will–”

“Step two, decide if you love her.”  I expect her rant to continue to step three, but when it doesn’t, I look over to her.  She’s staring at me now, the tears gone, her face hard and uncaring.  “Do you?”

I glare back at her with measured restraint.  “I could.”

“That’s great, Nate.  It’s the vow all women want to hear.  I could love you.  You’ve kind of forced my hand, Sam,” she says, mocking my voice, “but yeah, I think I could love you.

“Will you just stop with the fucking sarcasm, Em?”  She’s really trying my patience.

“I’m afraid I don’t have a lot more to contribute to this conversation, Nate.  I could go back to calling you a fucking idiot, if you’d like–”

“Not particularly, no.  It’s not helpful at all.”

“What kind of help can I give?  I sold the time machine last week.  And I used up my last genie wish to get these new shoes.”

“Talk me through this.  I’m not looking for a miracle.  Just a little compassion or understanding or something.”

“Well, I don’t understand how you got yourself into this situation.”

“It wasn’t planned.”

“I never thought it was.  I know you’re smarter than that.  I doubt she is,” she mumbles as an afterthought.  “How is she handling the news?”

“Better than I expected.”

“Let me guess, she’s ring shopping now, right?”

I look away, knowing she can read me.

“She’s talking about getting married, isn’t she?”

“She had talked about it before, so what?”

“What?” she laughs.  “When?”

“A month ago, I don’t know.  I told her I wasn’t ready.”

“She brought it up, though?”

“Yes.”

“And how did this conception happen?”

“What?”

“How did it come about that you were completely irresponsible and got her pregnant?  Especially knowing that she’s hearing wedding bells in the distance.”  Well, Emi, I was pissed at you for defending that Neanderthal you’re sleeping with, and I had to get that frustration out somehow.  The aggressive way I approached Sam that night was fueled by those feelings.  Of course I can’t tell her this.

“I’m not–  I don’t–”

“Who was the irresponsible one?”

“No one.  No one is at fault.  We both were.”   I think back to that night, remembering how Samantha had turned the tables on me and had taken charge.  It was such a turn on.  There wasn’t an ounce of rational thinking happening in my mind once that happened– not that there was a whole lot to start with, anyway.

“Did she know at the time the risk she was taking?  I guess she’s not on the pill?”

“No.”

“No to which question?”

“No, she’s not on the pill.”

“And you knew that?”

“Yes.”

“And she knew you weren’t wearing a condom?”

“Of course she knew.”

“Well why didn’t you take action?  And pull out?”

My face gets hot, having never really discussed such things with her.  “I don’t want to talk about the mechanics of my sex life with you.”

“Grow the fuck up, Nate.”

“Alright, I wasn’t in any position to pull out.”

Emi groans loudly.  “She fucking planned this,” she says.

“No–”

“Don’t be naïve… I never did trust that girl.  She looked at you and never saw past your money.”

She’s in love with me.”

“Sure she is.  Nate, she doesn’t even know you.”

“Of course she does.  How could she not?”

“You’ve only been seeing her for two months!  That’s not enough time to tell whether or not you want to spend a lifetime with a person.”

“That’s hilarious, coming from you, Miss I-kissed-a-guy-once-and-felt-sunshine-and-ponies-and-nothing-else-will-ever-live-up-to-that.”

“Fuck you.  Don’t throw that back at me.”

“Move past it, then.”

“Don’t make this about me.  You came here for a reason.  What do you want me to do?”

“Well, I’m not sure now, because I certainly can’t get relationship advice from you.”

She raises her eyebrows, clearly angry.  “Yeah, and what does that mean?”  She sets her glass down forcefully.  I’m amazed it didn’t break as the wine sloshes over the side and onto the dresser I was leaning against.  I move before the liquid reaches me.  “What do you think I’m doing with Colin?”

“I have no earthly idea why you’re with that asshole.  You’re clearly not in a relationship… you’re in a high school drama class, playing the part of someone you’re not.  You think Sam doesn’t know me?  Well Colin doesn’t know the first thing about you.”

“You don’t know him or anything about us.”

“You’re right, but I know his type… and I sure as hell don’t know who this woman in front of me is anymore.  You’re dating a walking advertisement for steroids, dressing up for him like some teen-aged preppy whore–”

“Excuse me?” she yells, standing in front of me, frozen.

“Yeah. that’s not you.  Your over-done makeup and your breasts spilling out of your shirts and your tight jeans and those fucking ribbons in your hair…”  My aggression propels me forward, toward her, causes her to move backwards, away from me.  She stops when she reaches the wall.

“So what if I want to dress differently?  It’s how he likes me to look, who gives a shit?”

“You should, Emi, you’re acting like someone I don’t even know!”

“How so?” she asks.

“For starters, the Emi I know doesn’t fuck in the backseat of cars!”

“What?!”  She seems surprised that I know, her eyes confirming the truth I didn’t want to admit.  “For your information, I don’t fuck anywhere.”

“Yes, because it’s all about making love with him, right?” I ridicule her.

She looks away to respond.  “Like you’d know anything about that–”

“Tell me, Emi,” I continue, pulling her forcefully to me and turning her around, taking her hair in my hands.  “Does he hold on to these pigtails when he takes you from behind?”  I nudge into her, immediately feeling myself begin to get harder.  Fuck.  One of my hands lets go of her hair and sweeps down her arm, settling on her hip.

She swings around and slaps me with all the force her small body can throw at me.  I take her arms in my hands, restraining her from hitting me again and pulling her toward me, her lips so close to mine.  She breathes heavily, her eyes shifting back and forth from mine.

Time stands still in that moment.  I react without thinking.

I press my lips hard against hers, holding her head to mine.  She freezes for a couple of seconds, then pushes me away, but only a few inches.  She looks at me with a furrowed brow, her eyes curious and confused.  She swallows and leans back into me, initiating another kiss.

Is this my chance?

I kiss her passionately, letting my feelings for her pour out into our embrace.  Her hands form fists, clenching tightly to my t-shirt and holding me close to her.  My lips move quickly to her chin, then to her neck.  She closes her eyes and leans her head back into my awaiting hands.  She sighs as I feel her fingers fall to the waistline of my jeans, lingering.

What the hell are we doing?

A million thoughts race through my head, but are immediately interrupted when she breaks away abruptly, pushing hard against my chest and shaking her head.  She blinks away tears from her eyes as she stumbles back a few steps.

I reach out to steady her and pull her back toward me.  I want to kiss her again– fuck, what am I thinking?  I lean into her once more, but this time, she looks to the side, avoiding me.  “Get away, Nate.”  She turns her back to me and stares out the window.  “Don’t you ever do that again to me.  Ever!”

“God, Emi, tell me what you want from me,” I plead with her, frustrated.

“Not this,” she’s barely able to choke out.  Not this.  I recall her stating that exact sentiment that night in college.  I don’t want this.  It’s happening all over again.

“You didn’t feel it, did you?” I ask her harshly, easily reading her thoughts as if they were written on her face.  She doesn’t have to answer.  I move closer, observing tears streaming down her cheeks.  “Because it wasn’t real, Emi,” I tell her, leaning closer, trying to reason with her, referring to the ever-elusive mystical kiss that she has never been able to recreate.

“It was!” she argues loudly as I take a step back.  “I know what I felt!”

“When are you going to figure out that love is more than a physical reaction to one fucking kiss!?  It’s been nine years!

Again, she doesn’t answer me.

“Just give up the search,” I press on, but she remains quiet.  I kneel down, meeting her eye-to-eye.  She tries to move away from me, but I hold her close, my hands on her shoulders.

“Leave me alone!” she eventually screams, clearly confused and afraid, pushing against me but unable to get away.  Her cheeks grow red.

“Emi, what is going on with you?  Why are you so pissed at me?”

“Because everything is changing,” she cries.  “You’ve changed.  We can’t even have a normal conversation with one another anymore without one of us offending the other.  It’s exhausting.  I’m tired.”  She puts her hands over her teary eyes, weeping softly.

“I’m sorry–”

“Why did you kiss me, Nate?” she whispers.

Honestly, I can’t explain why I did it.  I didn’t have words to express my feelings in that moment, and I certainly don’t now.  I wanted her to feel something for me, but she didn’t.  She doesn’t.  “I don’t know.”  I finally drop my hands and let her go.

She walks back over to her bed and sits down.  She speaks, but doesn’t look at me directly.  “You’ve got a pregnant girlfriend who’s probably trying on white dresses right now.  And I don’t like her, Nate, I really don’t.”

“I’m sorry, Emi.”  I walk toward her door, knowing it’s past time for me to leave.

“Where do I fit in?” she asks, stopping me.  I stare at my feet, afraid to look into her eyes.  I can’t stand to see her cry anymore.

“I don’t know,” I tell her honestly.

“I don’t, either.”  All I do know is that this wasn’t how any of this was supposed to happen.  I start to walk back toward her, wanting to figure things out, but she stops me.  “Get out, Nate,” she says quietly.  “Please go home.”

“Alright.”  I know I don’t have a say in this.  I shut the door behind me and stand outside, unable to move.

“I hate you, Nate,” I hear her mumble aloud.  I open the door and walk back in to her apartment.

“Emi–”

“Get the fuck out, Nate!”  She throws a pillow at me and buries her head in another one.

“I’m sorry,” I tell her again.

“It’s not good enough.”

“I know.”  She stands up and marches toward me, pushing me out into the hallway and slamming the door in my face.  The locks fasten quickly.

In a daze, I walk to the stairwell at the end of the hall and open the door.  The lone lightbulb flickers above me, barely lighting my way down the steps.  I sit down on the second landing, taking in the silence and solitude.  I tug at my hair in frustration.

What the fuck just happened?  Did I kiss her?  Did I just tell her I fathered a child with another woman and kiss her, all in the same five-minute period?  What the fuck is wrong with me?  Why wouldn’t she hate me?

And why did I kiss her?  And why did it have to feel so fucking right?  I was already unsure of what to do before, but now I’m completely confused.  Why did I allow myself to act on those feelings?  I’ve refrained for years, and now, when I have no choice but to be committed to a woman I don’t think I fully love, now is when I decide to kiss her?

Do I tell Sam?

Didn’t I, by my own definition, just cheat on her?

No, no, it wasn’t like that.  It was an act of passion, but I did it out of anger, not love.  It’s not the same thing.  It’s not.  I keep telling myself this.  It’s not.  The gravity of the situation seeps in.

I’m going to be a father.

I’m not ready, not now.  And not with Samantha as the mother.  When I pictured what my future family would look like, it did not include my current girlfriend.  Instead, they were small children with porcelain skin, strawberry blonde hair, and deep dimples in their cheeks… their mother, the woman I have just left in tears a few floors above.

©2011 Lori L. Otto
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