Lost and Found Excerpt | Triple Date

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen my post last night about how much I love Chapter 7 of Lost and Found. It’s a very full chapter with plenty of content to love (11,311 words?!)… why I didn’t break it up, I’ll never know. It was my first book, and it admittedly has its quirks.

Anyway, I’m not here to apologize for lengthy chapters. I am here to give you a big, juicy excerpt from this particular chapter.

To set the stage, Nate and Emi have been best friends for, like, 13 or 14 years at this point. There’s a little something between them, but they made a pact long ago – friends only.

Chris is Emi’s older brother and one of Nate’s closest friends. After meeting the woman he thinks he’s going to marry, Chris invites Nate, Emi and their dates (Sam and Colin, respectively) to dinner in order to meet the lovely Anna.

As the image below suggests, things don’t go very well.

For those of you who’ve read the story, maybe it’s been awhile and you’d like to reconnect. If you’re new here, though… welcome to Hollandtown. This is where it begins… Nate’s narrating.

“I’m nervous,” Sam whispers in my ear as we wait for the hostess to seat us in the Spanish restaurant I’d chosen.

“Why?” I ask her with a chuckle, wrapping my arm around her bare shoulder. “You look perfect. Everyone’s going to love you.”

“I hope.” I could tell that Sam was putting a lot of pressure on herself tonight. I think she feared that if my friends disapproved, it would be over between us. Even if their opinions weren’t favorable, I wasn’t ready to end what we had going yet.

“Just be yourself. And I bet everyone’s a little nervous anyway, so you’ll fit right in,” I assure her.

“Right this way, sir,” a host signals for us and leads us to the table already occupied by Emi, Chris, Colin and a very pretty Asian woman that I assume is Anna. I smile at Chris and nod my approval. He stands up to greet us, shaking my hand and pulling the chair next to his out for Samantha. As he talks to my girlfriend, I make my way over to his date.

“Anna, I presume?”

“Hi, you must be Nate,” she says with a smile that would ease anyone’s fears. “It’s so good to finally meet you.”

“You, as well.” 

Emi’s seated next to her, and she stands up to hug me. It’s not our normal hug, as her hands barely touch my arms. Colin’s too busy eating a chip to even shake my hand. I finally find my way back to the empty chair and take a seat next to Sam. She’s introducing herself to Anna and complimenting her on the shirt she’s wearing.

“You remember Emi,” I mention at the end of their conversation.

“Of course,” she says with a small wave across the table at my friend.

“And that’s her date, Colin.” I refuse to call him her boyfriend.

“Pleasure,” he says, stretching his hand over my plate to shake hers. 

“I’m Samantha,” she says to him. He nods once, returning to his appetizer. Pleasant guy. Real winner, Em. 

I try to make eye contact with her to see what she thinks about his greeting, but she and Anna are laughing quietly together. Colin taps Emi on the shoulder once and holds a chip in front of her face.

“Taste this, babe,” he says to her. I catch myself cringing a second too late. He feeds her the chip, and she looks a little uncomfortable, her eyes meeting mine, then Chris’s. I fake a smile at her, then turn my attention to her brother. 

“So, Colin,” he says, distracting him from feeding her any more food, at least for a few seconds. “Tell me what you do. Emi says you’re a writer?”

“Yeah, I write the sports column for the Journey News– LoHud– and I do some freelance now and then for Sports Illustrated.” One time he wrote an article for his hometown paper, and it was picked up by the well-known magazine. One time. I stave off my laughter and keep that fact to myself, not wanting anyone to know that I had done a little research on the guy.

“Any sport in particular?” I ask, joining the conversation.

“Football and baseball, mainly. I played both in college.”

“Really? Where?” 

“SUNY,” he says.

“And what was your major?” I continue.

“Communications,” he says.

“Great, when did you graduate?” I already know the answer.

“I didn’t,” he begins, not an ounce of regret in his voice. “I was drafted to a minor league football team, so I took that gig and ran.” He laughs, proud.

“Excellent,” I say. “So, what happened with that career?” My tone is admittedly condescending, and he sits up straight in his chair, puffing his chest out.

“He had a leg injury,” Emi speaks up as she puts her hand on Colin’s. She slants her eyes at me. “His experience at his college newspaper got him the job at LoHud.”

“Sounds like an awesome job. What city is that paper in?”

“Rockland… Putnam…” He knows I’m mocking him.

“Right, right. Lots of high school reporting, I guess.”

“I hear there’s a baseball team in Putnam with a female pitcher,” Sam joins in, sensing the tension and trying to diffuse it. “My cousin goes to that school.”

“Really?” Colin says, genuinely interested. “I’ll have to look into that. That’d make a pretty good story.”

Sam smiles brightly, proud. 

“I guess you know all about high school sports,” Emi pipes in, her attention directed at Sam. “Didn’t you just graduate last year?” Emi knows exactly when she graduated.

“No,” Sam says, then swallows, picking up on Emi’s tone. “I’m a junior at NYU.”

“What sorority are you in?”

“I’m not in any sorority,” Sam cocks her head slightly when she answers.

“Surprising,” Emi mutters under her breath. “I thought all prom queens were automatically drafted into some greek underworld or something.”

“You were the prom queen?” Chris’s date asks, hanging on to a fact that I wish I had never mentioned to Emi. Anna sounds genuinely interested, though. I like this woman already.

“Yeah, but that was a long time ago.” I can tell Sam’s embarrassed and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

“Three years,” Emi sighs. “So long ago…”

“I’m sorry,” I whisper to my date. 

“No, it’s fine,” she says.

“Do you really want to talk about prom night, Em? Because, boy, do we have a story to tell.” She glares at me from across the table. When I look at Chris, he’s looking at me with contempt. Emi didn’t go to her senior prom out of principle and she had regretted it ever since. That night, she had locked herself in her room and wouldn’t come out. Her mother and I sat at the door and tried to talk some sense into her, but it didn’t work. It took a phone call from Chris later that night to calm her down. She told me to never bring it up, and I never had until now.

“Why? What happened on your prom night?” Colin asks her.

“Nothing,” she mumbles. “And that’s the truth.”

Colin shifts his focus to me, waiting for me to add to her story.

“You heard the lady.” I smile at him mischievously, which is sure to create more questions in his mind. “Wild,” I mutter aside, but loud enough for him to hear.

“Anna,” Chris jumps in. “Why don’t you tell everyone what you do.”

“I’m an interior designer,” she says with a blush. 

“Nate has a great loft that could use a woman’s touch,” Sam says. “I’ve been trying to get him to redecorate. I have a lot of ideas. I’d love to talk to you about them!”

“Great!” Anna says. Emi’s attention is piqued, her eyes curious.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Sam,” I tell her. “Plus, everything there has a purpose. It’s all there to highlight the art.”

“Oh, right,” she says. “I didn’t mean–”

“It’s okay,” I cut her off, not wanting to hurt her feelings. Emi smugly smiles from across the table. “You know, maybe we can work on the guest bedroom together.”

“Really?” Sam asks as Emi chokes on her wine.

“Sure.” I lean down to kiss her gently. When we part, I glance to see Emi, looking away with purpose, revealing a mark just above her collarbone when her loose shirt slips off her shoulder. My first inclination is to point it out. “Did you scratch yourself or something? There’s a large red mark on your neck.” Asshole, marking his territory.

Instinctively, she immediately draws her hand over the hickey he had left on her delicate pale skin. She knew exactly where it is, and by the blush on her cheeks, I’m certain she knows exactly what it is, as well.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she lies. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go take a look.” 

Colin smiles smugly, glaring at me as he downs his third beer.

“Nate,” Chris scolds me as Colin stands up, presumably to follow Emi. “Colin, have a seat, I’ll handle this,” he says. Emi’s boyfriend doesn’t argue, sitting back down and having another chip. As Chris leaves the table, he whispers over my shoulder, requesting me to follow him.

“I’ll be right back, sweetie,” I tell Sam as I squeeze her hand.

As we walk toward the bathrooms, he has a hard time keeping his cool. “What are you, four? You two are acting like children. You’re embarrassing yourselves— and me— in front of a woman I really like. Not to mention the unfortunate dates you both brought along.”


“Fix this, Nate.” He goes into the men’s restroom, leaving me in the hallway alone. I wait for Emi to come out of the ladies room. As soon as she sees me, she attempts to push me, trying to move around me, but I block her from getting away. She glares at me angrily.

“This is turning out to be a great night, huh?” I ask her, trying to break the ice. It doesn’t work. She steps past me, but stays in the hallway, out of sight of the restaurant diners.

“What is your problem!?” 

“Me? What is your problem?”

You’re my problem,” she answers, crossing her arms across her chest. 

“Yeah? Well why are you being such a bitch to Sam?”

“Excuse me?” she asks. “Why am I being a what?”

“You heard me,” I say, lacking the guts to repeat what I had called her.

“Why, Nate,” she says innocently, “I’m just trying to get to know her better. I assume you’re doing the same by belittling Colin?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“He has a good job, Nate. A steady job. He earns his own money… he wasn’t born with a silver spoon up his ass like some people I know.”

“Wow, my money never bothers you when you get to take advantage of its perks. Are you a little jealous?”

“Shut up, Nate. No way in hell am I jealous.” I laugh at her answer.

“So I’m supposed to like him because he has good work ethic? Tell, me, Em, does he have good grammar, too? I know that’s a requirement for you. Does he pass your test of they’re, their and there?”

“I’m sure he does.”

“And I’m sure you’re overlooking the obvious. You’ve lowered your standards to the gutter for this winner. I’ve read his articles, Emi. They suck.”

“Right,” she answers.

“I have. Have you? Because if you have, you’d realize they have no sports editor at LoHud, and you would have discovered that he does not, in fact, know the difference between they’re, their and there.” 

“I don’t care,” she argues. “He knows a lot of other things.” I can tell by the tone of her voice what she’s insinuating.

“Yes, he’s left his proof on you,” I remind her. “Classy guy. Who needs money when he can give you your very own, personalized, front-facing tramp stamp? Look, it’s Emi’s red badge of fucking!” I say, pulling her shirt sleeve down to prove my point. When I look closer, I notice it’s not a hickey after all. It’s a fresh bruise. Upon further inspection, I discover another one closer to the nape of her neck.

“Stop,” she says, adjusting her shirt.

“What is that, Emi?” I ask, suddenly concerned.

“It’s a hickey, just like you thought.

“No, it’s not. What the fuck are those?” I pull the sleeve away once more and lightly press my fingers into both.

“Ow,” she hisses.

“Are you guys finished over here?” Chris says from behind me. Emi quickly averts her eyes and pulls the sleeve back up again.

“We’re fine,” she answers him.

“No, Chris, come–” She grips my forearm tightly.

“We’re handling things,” she smiles at her brother. “We just need another minute or two.” 

“Please do not make me regret bringing her to meet you. I really want this to work with her.” Before I have a chance to speak again, he turns on his heels and returns to the table.

I look back down at Emi, the shock still apparent on my face.

“Did Colin do this?” I brush her shoulder again to remind her of the marks. 

“Shut up, Nate, you’re completely out of line. You don’t know him at all.”

“I’m trying to understand him,” I pause, realizing my lie. “No, I’m not. I couldn’t care less about him, and my god, Emi, if he is hurting you–”

“He’s not,” she says with a look of disgust on her face. “What just because he’s got more muscles than you, you think he beats me?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“I dropped some books from that shelf in my room,” she spits at me. “He had nothing to do with this.”

“Then why did you lie and say it was a hickey?”

“It makes for a much better story, doesn’t it?”

“Right, of course. Then why didn’t you let me have Chris take a look?”

“Because I know his temper, and I know he would jump to conclusions. And I know Colin’s strength… my brother wouldn’t stand a chance against him.”

“Well, what if I decide to take matters into my own hands, then?”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I might.”

“I’d say go for it. You’d be completely in the wrong, and I don’t give a shit about what he does to you.” I know she’s just angry with me… I know she doesn’t mean it; even her eyes tell me so.


“Well, you’ve been a complete dick all night.”

“And you’ve been the model of civility yourself, Emi.”

“You’ve deserved it.”

“Why? What have I done, aside from trying to make you see the guy you’re dating for the asshole he really is?”

“That’s plenty.”

“What do you see in him?”

“You’re one to talk. The only thing your Barbie-doll mute has contributed to the conversation is some tidbit about high school.”

“You haven’t given her a chance to speak!”

“I can see she’ll just be one of those women who will sit pleasantly by your side, agreeing with everything you say, going along with everything you do, until she has her hooks in you. Then you’ll get to know the real Sam, and it’ll be too late to get out.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I can just see her manipulative little mind at work, that’s all.”

“Whatever. If you just tried to get to know her, you’d see you’re completely misjudging her.”

“Well, we won’t need to worry about that. I don’t want to know her.”

“That’s very mature.”

“Doesn’t seem like you’re into maturity. If you were, you’d date a grown up.” She slants her eyes and smiles smugly.

“Alright, I’m done,” I tell her, trying to end the argument. “Your brother brought us here to get to know Anna. Let’s just try to put this aside for now–”

“Fine,” she says.

“Just after I ask Colin about those bruises.” I turn to walk toward the table. Either she truly doesn’t care about my safety, or she doesn’t believe that I will follow through on my threat. I don’t think he’ll attack me in the restaurant.

I sit down next to Sam as she immediately takes my hand in hers and squeezes it tightly. “So, Colin–”

“Anna, I’m sorry,” Emi cuts me off. “I must be having an allergic reaction to some of the food,” she explains to her brother’s date as she scratches her neck close to the spot I had pointed out to the entire table. 

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Anna says. “I hope you’re okay.”

“I’m sure it’s fine. Probably some herb or something,” she mumbles. “But listen, I’ll get your number from Chris. Maybe we can meet for drinks one night this week?”

“That’d be great,” Anna says. 

“Colin,” Emi taps her boyfriend on the shoulder as he chews on an appetizer. “Nate was nice enough to offer to drop me off on his way home,” she lies to him, “but I was hoping you could take me. I know it’s out of your way.”

“No, it’s fine, babe. Sure. We just ordered, though. Can we wait and have them box it up?”

“Colin, I think we need to go now,” she says, her voice urgent. She watches me out of the corner of her eye to make sure I don’t say any more. 

“I could bring your food by,” I offer her, glaring.

“No thank you. We’ll find something at home.”

“I was looking forward to the lobster,” Colin explains, still seated and completely unconcerned with Emi’s fake illness.

Emi bites her bottom lip to keep from saying more.

“You should take her now,” I tell him, just wanting him out of my eyesight for good. “Plus, maybe it’s not a food allergy. Maybe those splotches on her neck are contagious.”

“Nate,” she warns.

“Wouldn’t want them to spread, that’s all I’m saying.” I stare at Colin as I say this, hoping he understands that I know that they’re bruises.

He stands up abruptly and throws his napkin on his plate.

“Goodnight, Emi,” Sam calls after my friend. Emi turns around to acknowledge her. “I hope you get better soon. Let us know if you need anything.”

“Thanks,” Emi says, her smile forced.

Chris finally speaks up after they leave. “I’m sure she’ll be fine,” he says, addressing his girlfriend. “I’ve never known her to have any food allergies, though. I’ll check on her later.”

“So, Nate, tell me about your artwork,” Anna says, continuing our dinner as if nothing has happened. She takes a sip of her wine and smiles at me and Sam across the table. I can tell she’s going to be good for Chris.

Lost and Found ©2011 Lori L. Otto

Want to start at Chapter 1? Get LOST AND FOUND today!

A look back at young Will


I’ve had a little trouble writing recently. I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. So I decided to write something that was a little self-indulgent. Something that would make me feel good. I was happiest when I was writing Will, so I returned to him.

This is just a little short story in what may become a compilation. I have this title… Belong: Love Letters to the Hollands. The concept is that different characters would write about the moment that they were accepted into the Holland family. Since so many of my recent stories are about characters outside the family, yet so close to them, I thought it would be interesting to think of those solitary moments. Those days or nights that changed their lives.

I’m impulsively posting this tonight, and it’s not edited. I just wanted to share a little love with all of you. So here is Will’s love letter. 🙂 Enjoy.

[Spoilers ahead!]
Continue reading “A look back at young Will”

Excerpt: In the Wake of Wanting – “Dinner with the Hollands”

I mentioned (in my previous post) in the description of my upcoming book, In the Wake of Wanting, the flustered freshman that Trey Holland would meet. I didn’t mention that the flustered feeling would be contagious.

This excerpt brings back some of your favorites, if you’re a current reader of mine. (Livvy, Jon, Jack and Emi are all at dinner with Trey.) If you’re new to me, don’t worry. This novel is written as a stand-alone, so you’ll be given all the info you need to have. The ‘scene’ told from Trey’s perspective is below the graphic! Meet Cole–er, Coley!


“Hey,” my sister, Livvy, says. “Isn’t this when you get to mentor someone? Be an editor this semester to a newbie?”

“Yeah. I’m surprised you remember that.”

“So? What do you think of your mentee? Give me some details… name, qualifications, first impression.”

“Name is Coley…” I half-mumble.

“Cole?” my dad asks.

“Yeah,” I answer reflexively.

“And what do you think of him?”

“I, uh… I think he’ll be good,” I say. Fix it now, Trey. “He’s from Virginia. His dad’s a secret service agent assigned to the president, actually. His mom’s a cop in DC. They’re divorced, apparently.”

“How’s his writing?”

“He wouldn’t let me see his work. But he has to do that first impression assignment on me, so I’ll get to see something Wednesday. He’s obviously good enough to get on the Wit staff.”

“So, Trey, did he know who you were?” Mom asks.

“I mean, yeah, I guess so,” I answer vaguely. “He didn’t make a big deal out of it.”

The waiter delivers our salads. I stare at mine, knowing that I’m not going to be able to maintain a lie of this magnitude for an entire semester. I’m surprised they’re believing what I’m saying now, since I haven’t given anyone eye contact since I started answering them.

As soon as our waiter leaves, I continue the conversation. “She has a twin brother who’s deaf.”

“Who does?” my brother-in-law, Jon, asks.

“Cole.” I shake my head, still mentally berating myself for being unable to say her name.

“I thought you said she.”

I clear my throat. “Coley. Her name is Coley Fitzsimmons. It is a girl. She is a she.”

All the adults look at me curiously. “Is she, um… gender fluid?” Livvy asks, trying not to make a big deal about it. “Or transgender?” Everyone at the table smiles, showing their open-mindedness as they await my response.

“No,” I say as I exhale the breath I’d been holding in. “She’s a female, feminine girl. I don’t know why I was lying. Why I was saying he. Coley. That’s her name. And yes, she knows who I am, too. Everything else is true.”

Of course, my face is most definitely the color of the tomatoes in my salad. When I look up, everyone is still staring at me. “Is she getting under your skin, there, Trey?” Jon asks.

“What?” I ask, adamantly denying that she is. “No! No, no. She’s just my… I’m just her editor. That’s all it is. It’s just weird to be partnered with a girl. You know, we’re going to be working together a lot this semester. I don’t know how it’s going to go, that’s all. I expected a guy.”

“You were with a girl when you were the mentee, though,” my mom says. “It’s no different, right?”

“It’s very different,” I say defensively, having no rational reason why, though.

From In the Wake of Wanting ©2016 Lori L. Otto • unedited • content subject to change

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Signed Paperback: bit.ly/llosignedbooks

Emi Lost and Found series sale


My first series, the foundation for all of my stories, is $4.99 on Kindle for 72 hours. The bundled Emi Lost & Found series–consisting of Not Today But Someday, Lost and Found, Time Stands Still, and Never Look Back–is four dollars off from 9/17 8am PST to 9/20 8am PST. This is and will be the lowest price offered this year!! (This is also free on Kindle Unlimited for your lucky KU subscribers!)

For those of you who don’t know, this is Emi’s epic journey of friendship, loss, grief, trust, faith, and above all… LOVE. Most people would describe it as an ‘atypical love story.’ I do, too.

Anyway, here is a little snippet from Jack’s point of view, and the first time our three main characters share a scene together:

When I was in my fourth year in college, Emi entered our school as a freshman and came to one of our fraternity parties. Even then, her smile was what drew me to her, but her green eyes were what held me there, captive. Once I started talking to her, I couldn’t focus on anything else. She made me laugh with the animated way she recalled some of her first college experiences. She was very much my opposite, but at the time, she seemed to be exactly what I needed. To my black-and-white world, she wasn’t just gray, she was every color in between. Her free spirit made me feel more alive.

At first, after having one or two drinks, she was cute and flirtatious, and after talking to her one-on-one for an extended period of time, I was getting up the courage to ask her out. As the night wore on, though, and the alcohol took its effect on her, I lost my nerve and my chance when at least ten guys at the party had the same idea. Eventually, she had a swarm of lonely boys at her feet, bringing her beer, each hoping for a night that would end up with her in their dorm rooms. From my conversation with her, I didn’t think she was that type.

Chris, enjoying the party as much as the rest of our brothers, was naturally angry when I pointed out the crowd forming around Emi. He set out to defend her honor, slurring some threats to them, and eventually the guys backed away from his sister. Chris delivered a few choice words to her, as well, adding that she didn’t belong at his party. He called a friend of theirs and asked him to come pick her up. Chris was in no shape to keep an eye on her, though, so I made it a point to do just that.

She sat outside on a picnic table, her beautiful green eyes now glazed over, tired and red. Her elbows rested on her knees, hands steadying her head. Waiting for her ride to come, a few frustrated tears escaped from her eyes as she chewed hard and deliberately on a piece of gum. Two cups and a bottle of water in hand, I walked outside to join her, wanting to comfort her. I poured each of us a drink, handing a cup to her.

“Thanks,” she mumbled, taking a sip.

“You’re welcome,” I answered politely. I sat down next to her and fought the urge to put my arm across her shoulders, not wanting it to seem like I was coming on to her. I tried to find words to put her at ease, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. In the end, we both just sat in silence, staring out into the dark night in front of us.

After a half hour or so of sitting on that table, waiting, I had accepted the fact that her friend wasn’t coming.

“Emi, can I take you back to your apartment?”

“You don’t have to.”

“I know I don’t have to, but I’d like to.”

“He should be here by now,” she said.

“I really don’t mind.”

She sat quietly for a few more minutes before conceding. “Alright, I guess,” she said to me. I was happy to have the opportunity to see her home safely. I had no intention of “going back to her place,” but I was relieved in knowing that no one else would be going there, either.

Just as she tried to move off the table, she stumbled. I reached out to steady her, and she laughed, embarrassed.

“It’s okay,” I encouraged her, trying to help her up. Her face inches from mine, she quickly leaned into me and kissed me. It took me a second to realize what was happening, as she had caught me completely off guard. But as she sat on that table, vulnerable, beautiful, her soft kiss caused a whirlwind of feelings inside of me.

Of course, my hormones raged within at her touch, but it was so much more than that. I felt numb and incredibly aware of every sensation, all at the same time. My body was alive with energy, aching to burst free from the confines of my skin, yet I could not move an inch, wouldn’t move an inch away from her. Never before had I felt as if my life was missing anything, but in that moment, I felt whole.

I cradled her face in my hands. I brushed my lips against hers gently, teasing her, tentative, making sure that was what she wanted. When she pressed her mouth to mine again, I felt I had not misread her intentions.

I took in the moment with each of my senses. The lightly perfumed smell of her hair. The taste of her cinnamon gum. The warmth of her creamy skin. The music behind us, barely masking the noise of a revving car engine. The nearly translucent green color of her sad eyes… I had to open mine in an attempt to catch another glimpse. She was looking back at me with uncertainty, and we slowly moved away from one another, neither of us daring to speak.

As I helped her off the table, breathless, I noticed the addition of the dark convertible sports car parked at the curb in front of us. Without cutting the engine or the headlights, a tall, blonde, lanky kid stepped out of the car and stared directly at her. She stopped in her tracks and looked down at her feet, shrugging away from my loose grasp.

“Emi,” he said to her, concern escaping with a rush of air from his lungs. He stood at the curb and surveyed the situation, only glancing briefly at me as if to warn me to stay away.

“Hey,” she whimpered out unsteadily, ashamed, her eyes sparkling as she looked up to meet his gaze. She began to cry, and I couldn’t tell if it was frustration, embarrassment, or just the alcohol. The tears stirred him immediately into action. He walked briskly toward her. I could see in that moment that he cared for her deeply, and it seemed she felt the same way. Although there was noise and havoc all around as the party progressed behind us, his eyes were focused only on her, as if she were the only thing in the world to him. There was something between them, some unspoken thing, that made it obvious that he was the one who was meant to be with her, the one meant to go back to her place. Not these drunk guys. Certainly not me.

I backed away from her and watched as they embraced one another. She looked up at him, eyebrows raised, as if she were a child looking to him for acceptance, or punishment. His eyes looked down to meet hers, and just when I thought I’d witness a kiss that I really didn’t want to see, his lips barely brushed her forehead before his hand pulled her head into his chest. She sighed visibly, and he slowly guided her toward the car, her clumsy gait causing them both to trip. They laughed before he opened the door for her and helped her inside, buckled her seatbelt. He closed her door and leaned over it, staring into her needy eyes, brushing a few hairs out of her face. She put her hand on the back of his neck and pulled his face to hers, but instead of kissing her, he paused momentarily and slowly removed her hand, kissed her palm, and placed it in her lap.

He walked to his side of the car, and as Emi turned to wave goodbye, I caught the boy looking at me once again. He was no older than seventeen, still an awkward teenager. I met his gaze and held it. I imagined he was advising me to keep away from her. My stare was telling him to take good care of her. That was a battle I knew I couldn’t win.

Emi Lost & Found ©2011 Lori L. Otto

My visit to Hollandtown (aka New York)

Many of you know that I spent the weekend in Manhattan with my father. It was my birthday present from my parents, and we had a great time doing all kinds of tourist-y things. Along the way, though, I was astute enough to sneak in some pictures of places that appear in my Emi Lost & Found and/or Choisie series books!

When I’d originally visited the city, I’d never met Emi before… or Nate, or Jack, or anyone else yet. Any landmarks I saw, were just generic, historic landmarks. There was no special meaning behind them yet. Just a few years later, though, who knew so many would mean so much? And it was surprising how many of them brought actual tears to my eyes this weekend.

I wanted to share some of the images with you, so you could see some of these special places.

1 – The Loft. In Emi Lost and Found, owned first by Nate, then by Emi, then sold. In the Choisie series, purchased by Donna, then gifted to Livvy.

00_The Loft

2 – The cell phone store that Nate went to when Laney dropped his phone into the marinara sauce. (The store was not called out by name, but it was the store open 24 hours that could replace phones. For the fact-checkers of the world, this could actually not have happened because the story began in January 2007 (not that most of you would even know that), and the iPhone wasn’t released until June of that year. But that’s the awesome thing about fiction… I can bend the facts a little.)

01_Apple Store

3 – Cipriani. The restaurant where Donna took Nate on January 2nd. This is also the place where Nate met Sam.


4 – Concert poster exhibit at the MOMA… (so they aren’t indie posters, but it’s close, right?) Sam and Nate went on a private date at the Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibit similar to this one.

03_MOMA Posters

5 – St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This church was featured multiple times in the books, hosting a few somber occasions that I don’t want to go into detail about in case people haven’t read the books.

04_St. Patrick's Cathedral

6 – Grand Central Terminal (Lost & Found edition). Emi wandered to the terminal to drown her sorrows in a sour cream apple walnut pie from Little Pie Company after a confusing night out at a bar. Jack met her there, returning a ring that she’d left behind.

05_Grand Central

7 – Build-a-Bear. In my favorite chapter of the entire Emi Lost & Found series (Chapter 11, Time Stands Still), Jack asks for Emi’s assistance when buying a gift for his niece Jacqueline. She always wished she was a twin, and now, turning six, she wants to be a mom of twins when she grows up. (Jack is her mother’s twin brother.) They go to this store to build twin bears: a boy and a girl.


8 – St. Patrick’s Cathedral candles. Also from Chapter 11 in Time Stands Still, Jack and Emi go in to light candles for lost loved ones.

07_St. Patrick's Candles

9 – Harry Winston. A certain ring was purchased here.

08_Harry Winston

10 – The Flatiron. From Chapter 1 in Contessa, 12-year-old Jon is teaching 10-year-old Livvy about perspective, and wants to show her the Flatiron building, nearly giving Jack a heart-attack.


11 – Shake Shack. Also from Chapter 1 of Contessa, Livvy asks Jack to take her there for ice cream.

10_Shake Shack

12 – New York Public Library. Mentioned often in the Choisie series. Livvy and Jon spent many hours there studying.

11_New York Public Library

13 – New York Public Library study room. Used often in the Choisie series by Livvy and Jon.

12_Study Room - Library

14 – Li-Lac. Mentioned in Livvy, the fourth book in the Choisie series. Livvy and her roommate, Katrina, stopped by the chocolate store before Thanksgiving to pick up some snacks.


Anyway. I also went to Central Park, but there was a huge Greek Orthodox parade happening, and SO MUCH CHAOS that I literally never thought to take pictures. Also, everything was in winter-dead mode, so it wasn’t very pretty anyway. To make up for it, I’ll post the prophetic picture I took back in 2006 in Central Park.

Central Park

Conversations: “Shakespearean Texts” from Lost and Found


Alone in my hotel room, I’m reminded of another of Shakespeare’s sonnets.  I know she’s not a fan, but the verse is too fitting, describes my feelings tonight perfectly.  I decide to pick up my phone and email her the last two lines before my shower.

“All days are nights to see till I see thee / And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.”

After I take a shower, I check my messages before going to bed.  There is a text from her, and I’m immediately surprised and amused at her Shakespearean response.

“Is it thy will thy image should keep open / My heavy eyelids to the weary night? / Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken / While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?”  

“So I’m keeping you awake at night?” I respond quickly, crawling into the plush bed, throwing off all the pillows but two.

“Maybe,” she answers.

“Since when do you quote the Bard?”

“Since Google found a good comeback. ;)”

“You always were resourceful.”

“Hey, Shakespeare, shouldn’t you be sleeping, dreaming of me?”

“I was just about to go do that.  I had some things to take care of.”

“Like what?  It’s pretty late…”

“Well, I had to do things that simply involve me imagining you… and then I took a shower.”

“You had to tell me that…”

“You had to ask?”  She doesn’t respond.  “Well, what do you do when I keep you awake at night?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“In fact, I would.  Have you been to sleep tonight?”

“Nope.  Can’t sleep.”

“What are you doing right now?”

“Right now, I’m wondering why you don’t have curtains… the moon is really bright tonight… it’s shining directly into your room.”

“You’re in my bed?”

“I am.”

“And what are you wearing?”

“Such a guy response… I thought you already took care of that. :p”

“I’m just trying to give you something to do, alone, in the middle of the night, without me.  Is that so wrong?”

“Well, maybe I already took care of that, too…”

“Emily Hennigan!”


“Next time, you’d better call me.”

“In your dreams… speaking of which…”

“I miss you, Emi.  I can’t wait to see you in person.”

“I miss you, too… but with this rock-hard pillow, it’s almost like you’re here.”

“Rock-hard, huh?”

“Shut it, Nate.  Next time I’m bringing my own pillow.”

“Bring over anything you’d like.  I just want you to be there when I get home.”

“I may not be here, but I’ll come soon enough.”

“I’m sure you will.  ;)”

“From poetry to porn.  My, how this conversation has regressed.  Go to bed, you dirty, dirty man.”

“With dreams of my sweet Miranda…”  When she doesn’t text back, I add clarification“Shakespeare?”

“I know, but which one was she?”

“From the Tempest.  She was the one whose beauty and virtue eclipsed all others.”

“Hell, I think you’re already dreaming!”  

I laugh quietly to myself.  “Like ya, Emi.”

“Sweet dreams, Nate.”

I set the phone on the night stand and roll on my side, pulling the soft pillow into my body, anxious for those dreams to come.

Lost and Found: Kindle / iBooks / Nook

©2011 Lori L. Otto

Conversations: “A Better Man” from Lost and Found


“Happy birthday, Emi,” I tell her, my voice strained as I try to read her.  She just glares at me blankly.

“Yeah, it’s really happy, thanks,” she mumbles.  “You can’t just keep coming over like this,” she warns me as she opens the door to her apartment.

“Well, then, you’ll have to start taking my phone calls.  Or at least returning them.”  I walk into her apartment and sit on her bed.

“I will when I’m ready,” she says, following me to her bed and wrapping her hand around my upper arm, pulling me back up.  “Why do you keep pushing things?”

“What are you doing?”

“We can go for a walk, but I don’t really want you over here, invading my space.”  I stop in my tracks and just stare behind her.  “Come on.”

“Invading your space?”


“I guess I didn’t realize there was such a division here.  I apologize.”

“Come on,” she says again, clearly annoyed and signaling for me to follow her into the hallway.  “You’re not calling the shots.”

“As if I ever have,” I mumble after her, hating her tone and wishing she would soften it just a little.  In my mind, this was supposed to be much easier.

Once we get outside, she starts walking down her street and turns south on 1st Avenue.  She finally addresses me as a gusty warm wind blows in our faces.

“What’s going on?”  Her question sounds so general, so casual.

“I told Sam about our kiss today.”

“The guilt finally got to you, huh?”

“Look,” I tell her, taking her by the shoulder and spinning her around to face me.  I push her hair back behind her ear, holding it against her head since the wind refuses to let up.  I keep my other hand on her shoulder.  “Let’s cut it out with the sarcasm, please.  We’re never going to get anywhere if you keep talking to me like that.”

“Well where would you like things to go, Nate?”

“I want things to get better between us, Emi.  I think you want that, too.”

“I do,” she says plainly, her jaw still set.  “I just don’t know how that can happen.”

“I have some ideas.”  She searches my eyes and simply nods her head.  I drop my hands and begin walking again slowly.  She keeps pace easily.  “Sam and I broke up,” I tell her.

“Shocking.”  I look down at her from the corner of my eye.  “You’re right, I’m sorry,” she concedes.

“Thank you.”

“So she dumped you.”

“No,” I tell her, still surprised with Sam’s response.  “She forgave me.”

“Wow,” Emi says.  “That’s not what I expected.”

“Well, she said that she wouldn’t be mad, as long as the kiss didn’t mean anything.”

“And lucky for us, it didn’t, right?”  She stares straight ahead when she says this.  I get the distinct feeling she’s simply quoting my words.  She starts picking at her nails nervously.

“That’s just it.”

“What’s just it?”

I take a deep breath and walk a few more paces before stopping at a red light.  My attention focused on the pedestrian signal, I begin to talk.  “I did feel something.”  The light signals us to walk, so I step out into the intersection, waiting for her to speak.  It’s not until I get to the other side that I realize she didn’t cross the street with me.  She’s just staring at me from the other side, the red light keeping us apart again.

Her eyes don’t blink, and even with the distance, I can see her breaths quicken as her shoulders move with each inhale, exhale.

“You felt something?” she yells from across the street.  A few people around us pretend to not pay attention, but they’re too close to avoid it.

“Yeah!” I speak loudly back to her.  “I did.”  I hope she can hear my confirmation over the traffic, but the words nearly get stuck in my throat as my heart throbs in my ears.  “I do.”

“And why are you telling me this now?”  The light changes again and people begin to cross, but Emi stays planted on her corner, and I don’t realize she’s not coming toward me until it’s too late.  I look both ways, but traffic is coming, so I remain on the curb, waiting for the next light.

“Are you coming across?” I holler to her.

“No!” she says quickly.

“Okay, well, wait there.”  She starts to shake her head, slowly at first, then faster.  She starts to turn away from me.  “No, wait!  Emi!” I call out.  Her gait is bewildered as she stumbles away from the street.  I start running as soon as the light signals me to.

“Go get her!” a woman shouts from behind me.  I do feel like I’m suddenly in a movie.  Only when I get to the other side, Emi’s not waiting for me with open arms.  They’re actually crossed in front of her chest as she continues walking in the other direction.

I’m short of breath when I get to her.  “Wait,” I breathe.  “Please.”

“Why?” she says as she glares angrily at me.

“Because I’m trying to tell you something.  I’ve been wanting to tell you this for– well, forever.”

She laughs– laughs– at me.

“Whatever, Nate.”  She rolls her eyes and walks ahead.  “Save your breath.”

“What?  No!”

“When did you say you and Sam broke up?”

“Today.  Just an hour or so ago.”

“And you’re telling me this now, why?”

“Because it couldn’t wait!”

“More like you couldn’t wait.  You just can’t stand to be alone, can you, Nate?  So you go to the next woman you think you have a chance with, right?  Have you run out of women, Nate?  Have you fucked the whole city already, and I’m the only one left?

“God, Emi, no.”

“I’m not a placeholder, Nate.  I’m not the bookmark that waits for the next chapter of your life to come along.  I’m a human being.  I thought I was your friend.”

I swallow hard, disbelieving how this conversation has turned out.  “You are.  I just… I just want you to be more.  I thought you might feel the same way.”

She slants her eyes at me in disgust.  “I’m not interested, thank you.  I’m not desperate.”

“Is it Colin?  I’m a better man than him, Emi.  I’ll prove it to you, every fucking day.  I am a better man,” I plead with her, holding her hand in mine.

“That’s debatable.  But no, it’s not him.  It’s me.  I have my dignity, Nate, and your fear of being alone isn’t going to take that from me.”

“That’s not what this is at all, Emi!”

“We kissed, Nate.  So the fuck what?  People kiss every day and live to regret it, just like I do.  You said it meant nothing to you.  You told me that–”

“I was trying to protect my feelings–”

“By hurting mine?”

“I didn’t mean to.  Did it?  Did it hurt your feelings, because if it did, you must have felt something for me, too.”

“No,” she says, her posture steeled and her eyes mean.  “You are so arrogant.  You think the whole world revolves around you, don’t you?”

“Actually, no.  I feel like it revolves around you.”

I can hear the surprised sigh escape her lips as her cheeks blush.  She swallows hard.  “Well, you know I didn’t feel anything.  So you’re wasting your time.”

“It’s bullshit, Emi.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Then why have you been acting like this?”

“Like what?  Depressed?  Withdrawn?  Colin and I broke up, that’s why.  Thanks for asking.”

I nod silently.  “I’m sorry,” I tell her.

“No you’re not.”

“I’m sorry you’re hurting.  I’m not sorry you’ve stopped seeing him, you’re right.  He was wrong for you.”

“And you’re not?”

“I don’t think… I don’t know.”

“I know.  You need to really think about what you’re doing, Nate, and what you’re asking.  And the consequences of your actions.  Everything you’ve done recently just seems to mess things up.  Your confession to me today is just one more.”

“I’m just being honest.”

“You’re just feeling alone.”

“I’m not.”

“And I’m not going to just jump into your arms and tell you I feel the same.  I don’t.  In fact, I’ve never been more angry with you than I am right now.”


“Because,” she begins to cry.  “Because you keep messing with my emotions, Nate, for your own personal gain.  I just want you to leave me alone.”

“No, Emi.  Please don’t say that.”  We end up back at her apartment building.

“There are some days that I really hate you,” she tells me, the expression of pain taking over every muscle in her face and body.

I shake my head at her words, feeling moisture in my own eyes.  “I don’t think you do, Emi.  I really don’t think you do.”

“Well then that’s for me to figure out.  Please don’t come by unexpected anymore.”

“When can I see you again?”

“I don’t know, Nate.”

“Can I call you?”

“I’d prefer it if you didn’t.”

“Don’t do this, Emi.  Please don’t cut me off.  Not now.”

“I think now’s the best time.  It seems like you need to really think long and hard about what you’ve done… and what you’re suggesting.”

“If that’s what you’d like.”

“It’s what you need.”

“Fine,” I concede quietly.  She nods her head.  “Like ya, Em.  And again, happy birthday.”

A tear drops down her cheek.  She wipes it with the back of her hand, turning to walk inside her building.  I stare blankly at the empty space she left for a good ten minutes before returning to my own loft.

Lost and Found: Kindle / iBooks / Nook

©2011 Lori L. Otto

Conversations: “An Irrelevant Woman” from Lost and Found

“So,” Emi says as she takes my elbow in hers, leaning in close to me so our conversation can be heard in the loud arena.
“I need some advice.” I strain to keep my eyes off her chest… fortunately, her green eyes are completely captivating, her lips soft…
“Let’s say you know a girl…”
“I know many girls,” I answer.
“Right, obviously, but let’s say it’s one particular girl.”
“Is this a girl, or a woman, Emi?”
“A woman, but she hates that term.” She hates that term.
“And is this woman someone I know?”
“She’s irrelevant…”
“Okay, an irrelevant woman…”
“No,” she laughs. “Stop it. So anyway, this woman…”
“Let’s say you met her under certain circumstances… and she wanted one thing from you, but with the way things panned out, you got the distinct impression that she wanted something else.”
“Okay…” Is she talking about us? “How would this girl– this woman– go about correcting this?”
“She shouldn’t beat around the bush, and she should just come out and say it. Guys are dense, we need for you to spell things out.”
“Okay, yes, that would be the obvious answer… but what if this girl really likes this guy, and he really is just interested in her for the other thing?”
“I’m not following,” I tell her. “Dense, remember? Be plain.”
“She likes him for one thing… but he sees her differently, based on some things she… did… hypothetically…”
“Right.” What? “So you don’t think the guy and the girl want the same thing?”
“Right. Like, maybe certain circumstances caused this girl to be someone… other than the person she really is… what if the guy just likes the girl he thinks she is but not the one she really is?”
“Why wouldn’t he like the girl she really is?”
“I don’t know…”
“If the girl is you, I’m sure the guy would really like you, for you.” And if the guy is me… no, I can’t go there.
“This is all hypothetical,” she blushes. “Irrelevant girl.”
“You are never irrelevant, Emi,” I tell her. “If he didn’t like you for who you were, he wouldn’t be worth your time or trouble, Em. But why don’t you think he knows you?”
“Hypothetically?” she plays with me.
“Because she led him to believe she was someone else… that she wanted something else.”
“Well, what caused her to lead him on in the first place?”
“Poor judgment,” she sighs. “Wine and terribly poor judgment.”
“And you’re sure the guy likes the girl for this ‘something else?’”
“Pretty sure.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“He seemed to be enjoying himself… with her…” She blushes again, this time tucking her head into my shoulder.
“I think you’d be surprised, Emi. You should ask him.”
“Okay, no,” she shakes her head. “That would be too embarrassing. I don’t think I could do that… um, she could do that.”
“Sure you could. Try it.” Just say it.
“I’d be afraid he wouldn’t like me the same way… and then he’d be gone… probably run into the arms of someone better.” She laughs lightly under her breath.
“He wouldn’t leave you. There’s no one better.” I tuck a strand of hair that had fallen out of her pigtail back behind her ear, losing my breath in the process.
A strange look of awareness flashes through Emi’s eyes. Her lips part slightly as she stares at me.
“He’s probably on the same page as you,” I tell her, my voice hushed. “You just have to tell him, Emi, and find out.”
Her cheeks redden for the third time in the conversation as she pulls her arm from mine. “Right. I think I will. I need a drink.”
Abruptly, Emi stands up to get another drink. She trips over my feet as she crosses in front of me, falling into my lap, my hand touching her breast as she tumbles into me. Good lord…
“Maybe you don’t need another,” I suggest quietly.
“It’s the shoes, idiot,” she laughs nervously, “and your big feet.”
“Right,” I agree with her, unconvinced. Let the entertainment begin… Teresa slides into Emi’s vacant seat.
“When’s your next gig?” she asks.
“Nothing on the calendar yet,” I tell her. “But I’ll be sure to let you know.” We sit together until half-way through the second quarter when I begin to wonder where my best friend has gone. I turn around to scan the room, finding her seated at a bar in the suite talking to a man. He, too, is wearing a Knicks jersey and cap. His posture screams jock, his muscular arms further proof. She’s never been into that type. I wonder who he is, what they’re talking about.
She’s leaning into him, her back straight, chest out. She plays with her damned pigtail, twirling it coyly around her finger. I can see her pronounced dimples all the way across the room. Her laugh stands out among all the other crowd noise.
“Who’s that?” I ask, nudging Teresa.
“That’s the guy she’s been talking to… Colin, I think is his name.”
“They’re dating?”
“Not exactly,” her roommate answers. “They met at a happy hour that the magazine sponsored a few weeks ago. He’s a sports writer. Apparently,” she says, her voice dramatic, “they made out in his car till the wee hours of the morning.”
“Huh.” I have no words. “Really.”
“Yeah, they’ve been texting ever since. She wasn’t sure he’d show up… I’m glad he did, for her sake.”
“Yeah…” I say, running my hand through my hair. Why am I here?
“He’s a big Knicks fan… hence the outfit tonight. It’s her cute cheerleader look.”
“I see that,” I mumble, unable to tear my eyes away from her. Were we not just talking about us? About what she wants from me?
“When are you gonna ask her out?” she asks quietly.
“What?” I look at her, startled, the confession of my feelings written all over my face.
“You heard me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lie.
“Yeah, keep it up,” she says, exasperated. I sit in silence for a few minutes, eventually turning back to the game but just seeing a blur of action in front of me, my eyes not wanting to focus.
“I could never be what she wants,” I murmur, a part of me hoping Teresa won’t hear me, an equal part wishing she would.

(C) 2011 Lori L. Otto

Conversations: “One in the Series of Me” from Not Today, But Someday


After a few more minutes of silence, she drops her book on the floor and gets up, walking across the room to the bowl of fruit.  She sits down in the chair the strawberries were occupying and stares at each one intently before eating it.

“Why are you pissed?” I ask her, setting my book aside.

“It’s a thing, Nate.  It’s a guitar.”

“I know exactly what it is.  It’s a 1961 Martin. A special edition.  There were fifty of these made.  This is the first of the series,” I tell her.

“I’m the only one in the series of me,” she says.  I have to bite my lip to keep from laughing.  “Are you really that materialistic, that things are more important than people in your life?”

This rubs me the wrong way.  “What do you want from me, Emi?”

“I want to be important to you.”

“You are,” I tell her.  Frustrated, I grasp at my hair, pulling it hard.  I want to tell her how important she is, but I can’t.  I won’t scare her away, and I know that one improper advance could do just that.  I decide not to delve into my feelings, and stick with the object – the thing – at the center of our current fight.  “You can play the god damned guitar, I don’t care.”

“I don’t even want to play it,” she says.  “I just want you to trust me.”

I turn to her slowly.  “You want me to trust you?”


“You think I don’t trust you?”

“It doesn’t seem like you do.”

“How many days have I known you, Emi?”

I watch her swallow hard before she answers me.  “Five days.”

“Five days,” I repeat.  “Less than a week!”

“Who cares how long, Nate?  I knew I could trust you after five minutes.”  I can’t hold her gaze, feeling suddenly overcome with guilt.

I think back to Monday night, to Lauren.  I remember with perfect clarity the lie I told Emi last night.  “Maybe you can’t.”

“Why do you say that?” she asks.  “Why can’t I trust you?”  Her voice is shaking when she speaks.

“I think you need someone so badly right now, Em, that you’re overlooking a lot of things.”

“Like?” she asks, clearly offended.  When I don’t look back at her, she comes and sits on the stage in front of me, facing me.  “Why can’t I trust you?” she repeats.

“I lied to you,” I tell her.

“About what?”

I stare hard at my shoes, willing my feet to take me out of this room and far away from this conversation.  I walked into it, though.  I walked right into it, and I have a feeling my subconscious mind knew exactly what it was doing.  I can’t lie to her.  Not to her.  Not if I want her in my life in any capacity.  She won’t tolerate it.  I shouldn’t either.

“About what, Nate?” I see her feet hit the floor about eighteen inches in front of me.  Her fingers touch my chin, tilting my head to see her face.  Already she looks hurt, and I haven’t even confessed anything yet.  Looking up at her, I feel I’m already in a position to beg for her forgiveness.  I will.

“I slept with Lauren.”  I catch her hand when it falls from my face, closing my fingers around hers.

“When?” she asks softly.

I shake my head, not wanting to answer.  I look away to murmur my response.  “Monday night.”  When I look up, she’s crinkling her nose and squinting her eyes at me.

“Two days ago, Monday night?”

“Yeah,” I sigh.

“It’s none of my business,” she says, shrugging.  I stand up with her hand still in mine.  “Why did you lie?”

“I don’t know,” I tell her honestly.  “I didn’t… I didn’t want to disappoint you.”

“Well, you did.”

“I know, Emi.  I shouldn’t have done it.  I got nothin–”

“I’m talking about the lie, Nate,” she says flatly.  “I don’t want to hear about what happened between you two.  Like I said, that’s none of my business.  But it’s not okay for you to lie to me.”

“I know.  I’m sorry.  I’ve regretted it since I said it.”

“Don’t do it again,” she says.  “If we’re going to be friends, I expect you to be honest with me.”

“I will be,” I vow to her.

“Would I prefer that you’re not a man-whore?” she asks.  “Probably, but that part of you has nothing to do with me.”

“That… part?”

“Oh, good God, you idiot,” she says, finally pulling her hand away.  She’s smiling at me.  “You know what I mean.”

(C) 2012 Lori L. Otto

Conversations: “Have you ever been in love?” from Not Today, But Someday


“It was this girl,” he starts.  “She was my first, uh… well, my first,” he settles on the word that leaves no doubt in my mind as to what he’s referring.  I lean my head on my knees, facing him.  I try not to look surprised.  I guess, honestly, I’m not.  Something about him is admittedly sensual.  He clearly has a lot of passion.

“What happened?”

“Three weeks ago, out of nowhere, she dumped me.  And the next day, she started dating a mutual friend.  Sleeping with,” he corrects himself.  “Just fucking, really…” his voice trails off into a distant whisper.

“Is that what you did with her?” I ask him.

“I didn’t think that’s all it was,” he says, “but the more I think about it, the more I’ve come to realize that there was nothing else really there.  I thought there was.  I truly believed there was.  I was wrapped up in her, completely.  She had all my attention – all the time, really.  When I was with her, when I wasn’t.  She was all I thought about.  Being with her was all I thought about.  She was addictive.”

I look around the room at the different canvases that still sit atop easels.  There are six of them, each with a drop cloth beneath it.  I’m guessing these are his most recent works.  I can only see the front of three of them from where I sit.  “So which one of these is about that?”

“None of them,” he says.  “I couldn’t paint when we were together.”


“She consumed me.”

“That doesn’t sound healthy.”

“Really?” he asks.  “Because some people would argue that what I typically do isn’t healthy.  Isn’t that what love is about?  Being everything to someone?”

“What’s the point?  So that person can just take advantage of you for years and years, making you think they love you, and then one day just suddenly change their mind?  Why would anyone want to do that?  I don’t ever want that.”

“What do you want?”

“I want whatever won’t hurt me.  I want whatever leaves me whole, and keeps my faith in the belief that bad things don’t happen to good people.”

“But they do,” Nate says.  “That’s inevitable.”

“Well, there’s fate that intervenes, and then there’s humanity.  There are people who fuck up.  Who choose to do that.  People who make a conscious decision to hurt another person.”

“Which one do you think happened to my dad?”

“Fate,” I answer quickly.

“No, he fucked up,” he clarifies.  “But I forgive him.”

“But he didn’t cheat on your mom,” I counter.  “He didn’t decide to hurt you and your mom.”

“But he did,” Nate argues.  “He didn’t think his decision through to the conclusion.  Had he thought of the consequences of his actions, he could have saved himself.”

“Nate,” I say softly.  “He probably wasn’t thinking clearly… with the alcohol…”

“There were plenty of times when he was sober.  Times when he should have been considering those sort of things.  By no means was he drunk all the time.  He was never drunk when I was around.  Never,” he says, and I can hear his voice begin to waver.

“I’m sorry, Nate.”

“But would I ever say I hated him, or that I wish I’d never had a father because I know what it’s like to lose one?  Not in a million years.”  He swallows hard while I try to think of something to say.  Words fail me.  “What my dad did was so much worse than what yours has done.  You still have a father.  He may not be the best one right now, but he’s still on this planet.  And he has a lot of time to make it up to you.”

I bite my lip.  I can’t argue with him.  It’s not fair to, because he makes a good point.  But I still think what Dad did is unforgivable.  I don’t want to argue with Nate, but I don’t think I could ever forgive my father.

“So you didn’t paint at all when you were with this girl?”  Changing the subject is the only thing I can think to do.  He sighs heavily.  I hadn’t realized he was holding his breath, but he was.  He shakes his head.  “But since then?”

“All of these.”  He motions to the easels around the room.  “And two others in a closet.”

“And have you worked it out?”

“Worked what out?”

“Your feelings.  Have you worked through them all?”

He laughs at my question.  “I don’t think that’s possible.  They never stop, you know.  You get over one emotion, and another comes.”

“I guess so,” I respond.

“Last night’s the first night I wasn’t thinking about her.  It’s the first night I wasn’t angry at her.  In fact, it’s the first night in a long time that I wasn’t angry about anything.”

“That’s good, I guess.  What changed?  Oh, wait– you met me,” I tease him.

He laughs and raises his eyebrows, as if considering it.  “Coincidence,” he finally says.

“Well, I felt special for three and a half seconds, anyway.”  I bump his shoulder with mine.

“Have you ever been in love, Emi?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then this is a real shame,” he tells me.

“What is?”

“You’ve never been in love.  You don’t want to be in love.  How does one live their life without love?”

“So, you were in love with that girl?”

“No,” he says.  “I thought I was, but no.”

“Then have you ever been in love?”

“I’m not sure,” he answers, and his eyes linger on mine just long enough to make my heart skip a beat.  “But I want to be.”

©2012 Lori L. Otto