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!

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: “Anna and Collie” from Lost and Found

“Thanks for meeting me,” Emi’s brother, Chris, says as we set up on the racquetball court early one Saturday morning. “I can’t sit at home and wait any longer.”
“What are you waiting for?”
“I’ve been seeing this woman for a few weeks. I really like her. She, uh, finally stayed over the other night…” I glance at him, and his expression fills in the blanks. “But I haven’t seen her since. She’s all I can think about.”
“Well, Em, here I thought I was spending the morning with your brother.”
“Fuck you,” he tosses the ball to me. “You don’t understand.”
“I don’t understand women?” I serve the ball– hard– and he swats it back at me. “I know women,” I remind him.
“I know. That’s why you’re here and not any of the decent guys I know.”
“Hey, I resent that,” I tell him, rolling my eyes. “You listen to your sister too much.”
“We have better things to talk about than your sex life,” he responds.
“I highly doubt that,” I joke with him. “There’s really nothing better than my sex life.”
“Oh, here we go…” I laugh, continuing our game. “But speaking of which, you still seeing the young blonde?”
“Samantha,” I tell him, “and yes.”
“Emi says she hasn’t seen much of you lately. I’m guessing she’s the reason?”
“I will admit that Sam requires a lot of my attention, yes,” I answer honestly, “but I don’t know if you’ve met the schmo she started seeing…”
“So you’re a fan, are you?”
“You can tell? What’s his name? Carter or Colin or Collie… something like that.”
“Colin. And yes, I’ve met him. Briefly. He was at her place last week when I dropped off some books she had left at my apartment.”
“First impression?”
“He’s big. And his shirt was too tight.”
“Yeah, right? He doesn’t seem like her type,” I hint.
“I don’t know, Nate. I honestly don’t know him well enough to say one way or another. Plus, what’s her type, anyway?” He takes a break from the game to take a drink. He looks at me out of the corner of his eye. “The only guy she’s spent any amount of time with is you, and you’re just friends. I was beginning to wonder if guys were her thing.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
He laughs at me defending her. “I just wish she’d find a decent man soon.”
“So you don’t like him, then?”
“I didn’t say that,” he groans, starting the game up again. “I’m not going to shut the door on anyone this soon. I’ll support any man who wants to date her until he gives me reason not to.”
“He’s given me reason. I don’t like him.”
“What? What don’t you like about him?”
“He’s a total dick!” is my first argument… admittedly not a good one. I decide to fill him in on the brief conversation Colin and I had at the basketball game.
“That’s real mature.”
“Just wait. You know we saw the Knicks together a few weeks ago, right?”
“Yeah, that’s where she introduced you two. She told me. What happened?”
“He followed me into the men’s room at the arena,” I start, looking up at Chris, who is now completely interested in the conversation. “I would have punched him if I had the slightest bit of assurance that he wouldn’t break both of my arms off and beat me with them.”
“What’d he do?”
“He didn’t do anything. It’s what he said. Something like, ‘She’s a wild one,’” I begin.
“Yikes, do I want to know more?”
“I’ve never had to defend your sister’s honor before, but I did. I mean, out of all the adjectives in the world, ‘wild’ is not one I would ever use to describe her.”
“Yeah, agreed.”
“So, after I stood up for her, he told me it was obvious that I hadn’t ‘had’ her. I mean, can you believe that?”
“What? Surely you misunderstood.”
I start the game again. “Yeah, I didn’t misunderstand. His meaning was quite clear.”
“How did you respond? Did you tell her?”
“I wanted to, but once we made it back to the suite, he made it a point to stake his claim on her by putting his hands all over her, glaring at me… you know, for the three minutes they stuck around before going off to wherever and… fuck, it just pisses me off.”
He looks at me and laughs, shaking his head. “Don’t tell her.”
“Why not?”
“Because I just have a hard time believing–”
“It happened–”
“That’s fine, so he’s a little immature. Maybe he felt threatened by you, I don’t know. But let it play out on its own. She hasn’t dated anyone in awhile. And she’s a pretty good judge of character. There’s got to be some redeeming quality about him, right?”
“It’s nothing I can see. Nor do I care to.”
“You two really are ridiculous, you know that?”
I’m sure he can see through me. He’s known me too long and knows me too well. There have been plenty of times that I’ve let my guard down. I have no doubt he knows how I feel about her, but he’ll never say it and he’d never encourage me. I’m sure it’s because she feels nothing for me in return.
“Why do you say that?” I decide to ask him anyway as his phone rings from the back of the court.
“Hold on. That’s Anna.” His smile grows instantly as he sighs, relieved. He runs to his gym bag and answers it. While he’s on the phone, I check my emails. Three from Sam. One from my agent. None from Emi. It’s been so long since she’s dated someone that I don’t remember if this is normal. Do we normally go this long without talking? I send her a text, just a friendly reminder that I’m still alive.

Lost and Found
(C) 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

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.


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?”


“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.”


“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.”


“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

Emi Lost and Found 30-Day Photo Challenge

ELAFPhotoChallengeStarting on Sunday, September 1st, there will be a fun little event happening. If you have an Instagram or Facebook account, you’re all set! (I highly recommend Instagram, it’s so much fun!)

Every day is a different prompt. All you have to do is post a picture, graphic, word-art, collage, etc. that represents each daily prompt to you. Tag your post with the hashtag #elafphotochallenge and #emilostandfound!

All photos on Instagram tagged with #elafphotochallenge will be reviewed by me at the end of the month. I’ll pick one favorite and reward that person with a special prize (to be determined, but it’ll be cool).

Feel free to share this with your friends who’ve read the books, and get them involved, too! Good luck, have fun, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram!