The novel that I’m working on now (and hopefully you’ll be reading in a couple of months) has the working title — which almost certainly won’t be the real title — of Avalon, S.C. The hero, using the word loosely, is a hot-shot reporter (32) who is in a bit of hot water for sleeping with the newspaper owner’s daughter (19). Thoroughly bored with covering high school sports, he answers a want ad and accepts an offer from Adeline Foster (mid 40’s) to investigate what happened to her father, who disappeared 6 years ago. The offer includes staying in her father’s cottage in White Sands, a backwater South Carolina coastal town, population 643.
I grew up in just such a town; more on that later.
Adeline Foster has behaved surprisingly well for a wealthy double divorcee. She was targeted in my outline to “Make a pass?”, but declined. And yes, you heard that right: I have outlined a book for the first time. More on that later as well.
The first woman who won’t behave is Sabrina, a waitress at Peckerwood’s, the only restaurant in town. Her designated role was local color. Here is an extract from the chapter where she first appears (WARNING: this is a first draft, one draft earlier than the one you read in Strange Bedfellows. I don’t do any polishing at all for the first draft, so it’s pretty raw. And probably filled with errors. It’s not necessary to point them out).
Sabrina, 10 years younger and 30 pounds lighter than Darla, flirted with the customers that filled half the tables as she passed out menus and delivered steaming plates. She didn’t even bother to ask what I wanted to drink; she just took one look at my face and poured me a cup of coffee. She also wasn’t wearing a wedding band.
“You must be that guy staying over to George’s old place. Know what you want for breakfast, or you need to see a menu?”
“What do you recommend?”
She closed one eye and pretended to peer out the window. “Looks like a biscuit and sausage gravy kind of morning to me.”
Wow. A woman who poured coffee first and asked questions later and knew exactly what I wanted for breakfast. Maybe she was the one destined to keep me straight. Thought I’d try my hand at the flirting game. “Sounds perfect. Bring me some, and will you marry me?”
“Sure. I’m off Monday if you can wait that long. Or will you have forgotten me by then and gone on to the next girl?”
“Woman, I’ll still remember you a week from Monday.”
While I savored the perfect flakiness of fresh buttermilk biscuits and a cup of coffee much better than I would have made . . .
* * * * *
“Sabrina, where do people shop for groceries around here?”
“Oh, I’ll take care of all that once we’re married, darlin’. But for now, you can get most anything you need at Hanson’s. Selection’s not so hot, but there’s one of everything that’s essential. Otherwise, you go to Beaufort.”
“Bad selection or a bad road. Hmm. I’ll have to ponder on that, beloved. How about getting my TV satellite working?”
“Call George Foster. Man can fix anything. He got my washer working in 20 minutes, didn’t even order a part, charged me twenty bucks for labor and a penny for the paper clip, thought he was taking me to the cleaners.” Sabrina laughed. “Oh, wait. You haven’t found out where he went to yet. Maybe that’s your answer. Put up some billboards, maybe take out a classified ad. ‘TV satellite needs repairing, call anytime, I’m desperate.’ George never could resist a challenge.”
My proposal had of course been sheer tomfoolery, but I was liking this woman more and more all the time. She could banter with the best of them and never missed a beat. “Everything else at his cottage is in tip-top shape. Wonder why the TV doesn’t work?”
“Maybe because nobody bothered to pay the bill and turn it back on?”
“Sabrina, you’re a genius. Can’t wait ‘til Monday; perhaps we should elope. What time you do you get off today?”
“I’ll probably get off about fifteen minutes after we get married, depending on how long it takes you to get me home.” She opened her mouth in a big exaggerated O. “But I got to pick up the kids from mother’s after work. So maybe you should order some fruit to go with your meal. I’m sure we have some . . . cantaloupe.” Another big O.
Holy shit. Rick Whittaker, the fastest wit in the Palmetto State, and I’m no match whatsoever for a peckerwood waitress in small town, South Carolina. I did a couple of half bows before her, acknowledging her as the master of the day.
“OK, one last question. Two, actually. Know anything about a woman George may have been dating named Lacey? And what do you think happened to him?”
“There’s nobody named Lacey around here, and I never saw George with a woman. He was slightly below average on the flirting scale.”
“So where am I?”
“Well, if you’d been less than a solid seven I’d have never agreed to marry you.”
Wow. I felt flattered, and at the same time totally ridiculous that I felt flattered.
“As to where he is, up to now I couldn’t even speculate. But you being a high-power investigative reporter and all, you’ve already found the answer more than likely. He’s with Lacey, that’s my guess.”
Left her a $5 tip, already looking forward to tomorrow. If she does that well with all the guys, she probably lives in a mansion and drives a BMW.
Sabrina immediately charmed me, just like she did Rick. Occupational hazard, I suppose. Almost immediately she expressed her desire to audition for the position of “woman-that-the-hero-ends-up-with-in-the-end.” I don’t really have an issue with that, since the position is currently unfilled. However, there is one major problems: Rick has a short-term interest coming up soon, so Sabrina can’t get in the way of that.
I went to visit my daughter at school just before Christmas, and while I was there I sought her opinion on the topic. Then, I wrote to my writer’s group to ask their opinion. But as I was pointing out some of the options in the email, the answer came to me. Love it when that happens.
So while I’m not totally sure that Sabrina gets the part, her audition has gone well. As long as the other woman who refuses to behave doesn’t get in the way.