Short Story Type: Novelette
Summary: Jenna’s been letting life pass her by as she works on her career. But, when she needs to do some research of this kissing kind, things may get a little more heated than she expected.
Research has never been so fun.
WARNING: This 10k short has no vampires, shape shifter or scorching sex, but it might make you snort your diet Coke out your nose.
Excerpt:The thick smoker-voice on the other end of the phone made demands I wanted to ignore. “It’s time for Chloe’s first kiss.”
“What? It can’t be,” I replied, pushing back the panic. “She’s far too young to be involved with boys.”
“Honey, she’s sixteen. Almost seventeen if I remember correctly.”
“But, kissing? Boys?” I shook my head against the receiver, my glasses clinking the earpiece. “I don’t think she’s ready.”
“No, Jenna. You’re not ready. But that doesn’t mean a teenaged girl doesn’t reach that point without us.”
I glared at my Hello Kitty phone, tempted to hang up and claim a bad connection.
“I think maybe a big school dance story line would be great,” Ely continued. “She’s co-captain of her soccer team and vice president of the junior class. Isn’t there anyone she’d be interested in?”
Ely Morgan, Agent Extraordinaire-slash-Pushiest-Woman-on-the-Planet, had never steered me wrong before – except maybe that one time with the now infamous author-photo-from-you-know-where – but still, good advice was there to be had. That didn’t mean I had to like it.
I collapsed back in my worn leather office chair, tempted to spin until I was dizzy. “It’s time?”
“Sugar, it’s past time.”
“I’m not sure.” It’s too soon. “Maybe I could work a potential love interest into the next book.” If anyone good enough crosses my word-processing fingers. “And then we can fold it into senior year.” Or college. Or never.
“I know you want to protect her, sweetie.” Ely's voice sounded muffled, the click-clack of a keyboard echoing in the background. Agent Extraordinaire was also Multitasking Empress.
The clatter from her phone hitting the ground told me I’d been right.
“Sorry about that,” Ely said. “You still there?”
“Ok, Jenna. Here’s the deal. Forest Oak won’t take another book unless Chloe matures a little. Your fan mail is from girls who grew up with her and, while a lot of them are shy or nerdy or untrusting or whatever it is keeping them from kissing a boy, that doesn’t mean they don’t want Chloe to. So the deal is, next book, out early fall, homecoming maybe. Chloe gets a kiss.”
I pushed back and spun, the phone cord wrapping around my neck. A sign perhaps?
“All right. I’ll do my best.”
“You always do, my little overachiever.”
Without a goodbye, Ely had hung up and gone on to her next seven multitasking events.
Untangling myself from Ms. Kitty’s tail, I opened the drawer where my writing notes were lovingly filed, alphabetized and color coordinated. The blue boy file was right where it was supposed to be, fourth back in the character notes, behind the pink girl folder but in front of the black folder of death — the place characters who didn’t work out went to die.
Marty O’Donnell — snob, dated best friend, dumped her for an underclassman…er, underclasswoman? Girl?
Mark Andersen — smelled funny, mentioned in three books.
Tony Baccio — funny, smart, cute. Friend's brother. Should be in college this fall.
Kevin Kline — currently dating best friend.
Slamming the blue folder closed, I considered transferring Chloe to a girls' boarding school run by nuns on an unchartered island. If I did that, I could add the blue folder to the black one and cut down on folders. It was economical. It made sense.
It would lose me a contract.
Grabbing Hello Kitty, I dialed Lisbeth Nardi’s number in desperation.
Lisbeth was the only person I knew who could get away with answering her phone like that. She was also the only one I knew who had kissed half the metro area.
“Lis, I need my character to get kissed. I need a guy and a kiss description.”
“Aren’t you supposed to write what you know?” I heard the laughter in her voice and knew she didn’t mean to be cruel. Unfortunately, she was also right.
“That’s why I need you. You can tell me how kissing a guy feels the first time.” Her earlier words still stung, so I added, “You’ve had plenty of experience in the first kiss department.”
A sigh blasted my ear. One of those declare-yourself-a-martyr sighs.
“First off Jenna, I think what you need to do is just get out there. Get your own first kisses. Get your own life.”
I could almost hear her shrug over the phone.
“Second, your character isn’t you. Her boyfriend is imaginary. He’s not going to convince her to go to the same college, propose the middle of junior year, stand her up at the altar because his frat brothers called him an idiot at the bachelor party the night before, and then try to convince her they should still have sex on the side. That stuff only happens to you.”
That was painful. True, but painful. And kind of rude. Okay, more than kind of, but I was feeling desperate.
“You’re no help.” If the queen of the pick-up couldn’t help me, I was out of luck.
“Oh, I’ll help all right,” she answered. “Actually, I wouldn’t miss this for the world. Meet me outside O’Leary’s at ten and I’ll be more help than you could have wished for.”
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