Conversations · Copyright Lori L. Otto · Excerpts

Conversations: “Ice Cream Shop” from Not Today, But Someday

You may know that I am re-reading both of my series in advance of Livvy’s release on December 9th. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Emi’s series, and as I’m reading, some conversations just stand out as… I don’t know… special. I love dialogue, and most of my readers know this. In fact, I think good, realistic dialogue might be one of my signature ‘moves.’ So I thought… why not share some of my favorite conversations with readers, old and new?

I’m kicking it off with this one from the Emi Lost & Found prequel, Not Today, But Someday. This particular chapter is from Nate’s point of view.

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Cars honk at me as I drive well below the speed limit.  I laugh at the thought of getting pulled over for that.  Would the cops still take me to the station for that offense?  Suddenly, it’s not funny, and I decide to park the SUV next to a coffee house.  I go inside and order a chai latte, needing something to keep me warm while I wander the downtown streets looking for a girl I know nothing about and have only met once.  I realize my chances of finding her aren’t good, and judging by her despondent mood yesterday, I doubt she wants to be found.

Fifteen minutes later, two streets from where I parked, I see her distinctive hair as she sits with her back to the window.  She’s alone in an ice cream shop.  Literally, there are no other customers.

A tiny bell notifies the staff of my presence.  Two women greet me, one likely in her twenties, the other closer to my age.  “What can we get you tonight?”  The older woman glances at the warm beverage in my hand.  “You can’t bring that in here, sir.”

I nod once as I continue toward the counter, and tell them I’d like a chai latte.

“We don’t have those here,” she says.

“Fine,” I tell her.  “How about a triple dip sundae in whatever flavors you want,” I suggest softly, slipping a ten on the counter, “and then you two can enjoy it and ignore me while I drink my chai latte with my friend over there.”  I smile, my eyes pleading with them.  “I don’t think my coffee will drive away your customer, okay?”

“Okay,” the younger woman says with a quiet giggle.  She starts to take the money, but the older woman stops her, picking up the bill and handing it back to me.

“Just this once,” she says.

“Thank you.”  When I turn around, I have to do a double take.  Is it her?  With her red lips and colored eyelids and rosy cheeks, I barely recognize her.  When she finally looks up at me, I recognize her eyes.  I know them immediately, and feel instantly connected to them.  She squints them at me, then smiles.

“Hey,” she says.

“Hi,” I tell her, acting surprised to see her there.  “Ice cream?  Tonight?” I ask her.

She nods her head.  “I can’t get much colder.”  She wraps her puffy coat tighter around her.  I pull my cap off my head, letting my hair fall messily and swiping it out of my eyes.  “What brings you here, if not for the ice cream?”

“I, uh,” I start, unprepared.  “I was just taking a walk.”

“A walk,” she confirms, as if she mis-heard me.

“I needed some fresh air.”

“Oh,” she says.  She takes a spoonful of ice cream from the pint container and puts it in her mouth, letting it melt on her tongue.  I glance down at her book.

“You have Miss Spindler?”

“Huh?”

“English Lit?  Miss Spindler?”  I pull out the chair across from her tentatively, and wait to see if she has any objections.  I hadn’t noticed her purse in the chair, but she moves it for me, setting it on the floor.  I take that as an invitation and sit down.

“I think that’s her name, yeah.”

“Me, too,” I tell her.  “What period?”

“Second.  You?”

“None of her classes fit with my schedule, so I have a period of independent study that I use for her classwork.”

“That’s odd.”

“Well, I’m a year ahead in reading,” I tell her.

“What grade are you in?” she asks me.  I’d assumed we were in the same grade, but now I realize she’s a year ahead of me.

“I’m a sophomore.”

“You don’t act like a sophomore,” she says.  “I don’t know where you get your confidence, but it makes you seem much older.  And your eyes look… older, too.  You don’t have that puppy-dog, pitiful sophomore look.”

“Did you think I was a senior?”

“You could pass for one,” she admits.  “You’re definitely tall enough.  Do you play basketball?”

“Hell, no,” I laugh.  “I don’t like sports.”

“Just art?”

I can feel my cheeks blush a little, as if I’m suddenly embarrassed by what I do.  Maybe she likes jocks.  Maybe she’ll be disappointed to find out that there’s nothing more to me than my paintings.  “Pretty much,” I say softly, looking down.

“Whoa, there went your confidence,” she laughs.  “What just happened there?”

“Nothing, that’s just my thing.  I paint.  And draw.  And sometimes I write poetry.”

“And you’re ahead in reading.  You’re starting to sound like a Renaissance man or something.  Nate Wilson, the guy who can do anything.”

“Except play basketball,” I correct her.

“Screw basketball,” she laughs.  “It sounds like you do all the important things.”  I can’t help but smile.  She smiles, too, showing her teeth as they begin to chatter.  Should I offer her my coat?  Is it too forward?  Too obvious?  “So what character do you have to profile?”

“The Squire,” I tell her.  “Have you read that part yet?”

“Just the description at the beginning.  You’re my son.”

“Wait, you’re the Knight?”  She nods her head.  “That’s odd.  But I guess there aren’t that many women in the book to go around.”

“Why is it odd?”

“You have to present the character to the class, as the character, you know?”

“No, I didn’t know that.”  She sounds annoyed.

“Yeah, she normally tries to assign characters that aren’t too much of a stretch to perform.  I wondered who got the Knight.  I didn’t think there were any guys in that class good enough to play him.”

“Not even you?”

“Especially not me,” I tell her.

“Well, the girl in my story is named Emily, so I guess that’s where Miss Spindler is coming from.  Emi’s short for Emily.”

“Ohhh,” I comment, remembering the Knight’s tale.  “This is starting to make more sense.”

“So, what, you have to perform for Miss Spindler in private, then?  Now if that’s not intentional…”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“The young squire, who’d do anything for love,” she says, her voice suddenly very theatrical.  “The cute boy, telling his tale of love to the young, single, lovesick teacher.”

“You’ve got an imagination on you, don’t you?”

“It’s one of my better qualities.”  She takes another spoonful of ice cream, but this time she twirls the spoon in her mouth after swallowing, drawing my attention there.

“Did you call me cute?”

“I don’t think so,” she says, her cheeks growing red.  She dips her head down toward the table and pulls her coat tighter again.

“And mine isn’t really a story of love,” I tell her, letting her off the hook.  “It might have been, but it was interrupted unexpectedly.  I don’t know the ending to my story.  The god damn Franklin cut me off,” I laugh, and she does, too.  “And for the record, I get a pass from my math class to come present for your class that day.”

“So you’ll see me in shining armor…” she mumbles.  “Great.”

“That’s a sight,” I tell her.  “No offense, but I don’t think you’d be able to stand up straight with full body armor.”

“Then I won’t waste my money.  Maybe I could make a cool breastplate of foil and cardboard.”

“That sounds like a better plan.”  For the third time, she shivers, and this time pulls a hood over her head.

“You do know it’s below freezing outside, don’t you?  I just don’t understand why you chose to come here,” I question her.

“It’s peppermint, though,” she explains, as if it all makes perfect sense, “it has some warming qualities… or something…”

“Really?” I ask her.  “Here,” I say, taking off the lid to my latte, “try this.”

“I don’t like coffee.”

“It’s not coffee, it’s–

“I can’t have chocolate,” she adds quickly, pushing the drink back to my side of the table as if it’s offensive to her.

“It’s not hot chocolate, either,” I tell her, looking at her sideways.  “It’s a chai tea latte.”

“That sounds disgusting.”

“It’s not.  Plus, it will warm you up.  Either drink some of this, or I’m taking off my jacket and making you wear it.  And all I’ve got on under this is a t-shirt, so you’ll probably feel bad.”

“Probably not,” she says with a straight face.  One dimple starts to form though, and she touches my finger with hers as she takes the drink from me.  “Oh, my God, that’s good,” she says, drinking more.  “Take some ice cream,” she offers, pushing it toward me.  “Take it all, please.  Because I want this.  Can we trade?”  She speaks so quickly, and continues drinking at will, so there’s no chance for me to say no.  “Please?” she asks, her eyes pleading with me.  “I’ll get you a spoon.”

“I don’t want your ice cream, but drink up.  I’m tired of hearing your teeth chatter.”

“Thank you,” she says.  “If you don’t want ice cream, why’d you come in?”

“I saw you from the street, and I thought I’d stop by.”

“Why?”

“Well, I was at this pizza place,” I start, and she looks at me curiously, “and I think I may have seen your brother.  Do you have one?”

“I do.  Why do you think that though?”

“His hair was the same color as yours.”

“Lots of people have strawberry-blonde hair,” she says as she rolls her eyes.

“Well, he was also new in town, talked about a sister named Emi, and mentioned his parents were going through a divorce.”

“Was he with a cute dark-haired guy?” she asks.

“No,” I answer her.  “I didn’t think he was cute.”  She laughs a little.

“So did you actually meet him?  My brother, Chris?”

“Not officially,” I explain.  “But I was close enough to overhear that your family is looking for you.”

She averts her eyes and drinks some more of the latte.

“I’m not going to ask questions,” I tell her.  “It’s none of my business.”

“Thank you,” she says.  “I’m not really in the mood to talk about it; nor am I in the mood to go back home.”

“I won’t make you do either.  But this place is closing soon, and I’m not going to abandon you until I know you have somewhere to go.  Did you drive here?”

“No, I don’t know how to drive.”

“Really?”

“My brother takes me where I need to go.  Or I take a bus.”

I nod toward the front window, trying to get her to look outside.  The snow has started to fall heavily again, and with the sun down completely, I’m sure the roads and sidewalks will be sheets of ice in no time.  I glance at her feet.  At least she has boots on.

“Do you have any friends here?  Someone’s house you can go to?”  She shakes her head.

“You’re the only person who’s talked to me.”

“Well, you were a little intimidating at school,” I tell her, remembering how closed-off she seemed yesterday.

“I’m really not,” she says.

“I see that now,” I agree.

©2012 Lori L. Otto

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