A Million Smiles for June: Chapter 1

I’ve started writing a new novel, or rather, a new story is occupying some of my writing time. This story is based on a poem I wrote a few months ago. For the first time ever, I’m writing a male protagonist in a romantically inclined story that will tug at your hearts, or at least I’m hoping it will. This is just a start, so excuse me while I write some thing wonderful, and something that’s excited me. HOPE you all enjoy it too. Let me know how this chapter reads. Thank you!

 

1. No More Words

Chad Gilligan sat there in that same old café, at the same old table further from the entrance, next to the window. Perfectly able to eye every soul that drifted in every morning from the streets for the hour or so he spent there every day. Vantage point, he liked to think, perfect place to people watch.

The front door opened and in walked a gaggle of office workers, letting in a gust of wind that saw napkins fly off from the table ahead of his. A woman, having just entered, smiled sheepishly catching Chad watching. “It’s freezing out!”

Chad turned away with a barely-there smile. He wasn’t really in any mood to smile at anyone today, let alone a female. A moment later, he turned back to his laptop screen which had decided to go on a screen-saver mode. He ran his fingers lightly over the mouse-pad, reaching for his coffee mug with the other. To his dismay, he was staring at a blank new page and the bottom of an empty coffee cup.

He watched the cursor blink on the screen, questioning him. He sighed, slamming the whole screen down. Enough with the blinking already. He had been staring at the same screen for the last week, every bloody morning!

He’d come to the café as the doors opened in the morning at 6:30 AM. He had been the very first customer to the place for the last couple of years. He’d come, order his coffee and toasted croissant or two. Then he’d sit at that table by the window corner looking out to St. James station and Hyde Park and churn out words upon words of whichever story he was working on. For the last two years, he had done this exact thing for early hours of everyday. And now, suddenly, just like that, he’d been staring at a blank screen, unable to even type one word. There were no more words. How could that be? It made him uneasy.

His writer’s block only ever lasted an hour or two, never days on end.

“Do you want a refill?” Tylor, the café owner and barista halted, taking a bulging black garbage bag out to the back room, past Chad’s table.

“Huh?”

Tylor eyed Chad’s closed laptop. “Everything okay?”

Chad shook his head. “I’m not sure.”

“Working on new material?”

Chad considered the question. “Trying to find new material, actually.”

“Then find some inspiration.” Tylor hurled the bag behind the door and closed it back up. “Isn’t that what you do, watch people?” he smiled warmly.

“I can’t always write about you, now can I, T?”

Tylor laughed, walking back to his station. “Maybe go the old fashioned way for a change. Write. Don’t type!”

Chad smiled, though the smile barely reached his eyes. Write. Don’t type! Maybe Tylor had a point. Remove the technology from it and see. Suddenly, he rushed to his feet, shoved his belonging back in his bag, and left without a word. Just like that, right into the morning rush of foot traffic on Elizabeth Street. He headed down towards the Pitt Street mall, disappearing into the throng of smartly dressed crowd with their avalanches of coffee cups, puffs of smoke, and dizzying array of scents.

It was indeed a cold morning and he pulled his jacket’s collar up around his ears, tucked his chin and carried on his march with a grin on his face.

The next day he was back at the café, back in his corner hunched over the notepad and scribbling away with a pen. Till that too stopped just ten pages in. His phone rang, and it was her. Her!

He stared at the blinking colourful screen of his otherwise trustee gadget. Should he take the call? The ringing stopped and a message binged on the screen. She’d left a voice mail.

He caught Tylor glance his way and he mouthed, “Another coffee, please.” Tylor nodded and Chad went on to finally pluck courage to listen to the witch’s message.

“Chad!” the unmistakable, angry curt voice of his nearly-fiancé, Setal, cracked the peaceful air between his cell-phone and his ear. “Are you avoiding me?”

Chad nodded to no one in particular.

“You can’t keep avoiding me, you know!” she screamed. “I have spare keys, remember!”

Must change locks! He thought.

“We need to talk! Jo’s saying you’ve taken to the news badly.”

Badly? Badly?! Chad was enraged. Try, I-want-to-rip-your-head-off!

“It’s nothing personal,” the message was continuing.

Nothing personal? Right.  He must remember that next time a future girlfriend of his breaks up with him the night he proposed because she “didn’t feet it with him anymore’. What did that even mean? He thought before he was jolted by the computerised voice asking him whether he wanted to repeat the message, save it, or delete?

He wanted to delete it. Stat.

Laila, one of the regular morning waitresses brought over Chad’s second coffee for the morning. “Are you okay?” she asked, fairly concerned as Chad sat there viciously tapping down on the number on his keypad that would delete the bloody message.

“Peachy!” he snapped before turning his face up in shame. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

Laila shrugged. “We all have bad days.”

“As bad as your ex calling you to see if you were handling the break up okay?”

“Oh… that bad, huh?” Chad nodded. “Well, she doesn’t deserve you then.”

“Oh boy, if she didn’t deserve me, I wonder how bad the next one will be.”

Laila laughed. She couldn’t help it. “You’re a celebrity, Chad. Women will flock to be in your life.”

“And flock out!”

“Cheer up,” she picked up the old used cup. “Too much time indoors has fried your brain. Go out.”

“I don’t want to.”

She clicked her tongue. “Not that kind of out you silly goose.” She took his head in her hand gently and turned it to look out the window. “Go out! Out there,” she pointed at the green of Hyde Park. “Maybe you should change up the places you haunt.”

Chad looked back at her as if she’d said the darndest thing.

“What?” Laila shrugged. “The only types of women you’re likely to meet in a coffee shop in the middle of the city are the busy, self-serving, time poor ones. Out there, in the park, you might just meet someone different.”

“Someone who likes trees?”

Laila laughed again and nodded. “Someone who likes trees!” With that, she walked away, saying hello to other regulars.

Chad looked out to the park and wondered. Maybe. Maybe he could just try an hour out there, test the waters. He watched for a short while, the types of people who walked into the park. They were an array. An absolute array. What better place to people watch!

With a weak latte in hand, Chad crossed the road with blinking lights telling him to better hurry his ass before traffic flows. It was a chilly late May morning, his jacket’s collar zipped to its max. He shivered, landing on the sidewalk with a longing glance back towards his normal haunt, his seat already occupied by a middle aged gentleman wearing a hard face.

Chad turned back to Hyde Park, hoping against hope that his little foray into the greens would inspire something. For his and his editor’s sake. It had been more than a month since his deadline had passed to hand in at least a seed of an idea for his next novel, and all he’d managed in that time was to return from the fabulous holiday on the shores of Thailand with a broken heart and a $4 thousand dollar engagement ring to torment him with. His proposal plans went down south, and so did his motivation to do anything other than morn the loose of a three year old relationship he thought was ‘it’.

Only yesterday, Terry had called asking him how much longer it was going to be for a rough story.

“A week.”

“A week?”

“No. Two weeks.”

“Two weeks?”

“One to two weeks!”

“Chad!”

“Okay, okay. I’ll try and see if I can have something to you by end of the week, all right?”

A quite sigh. “You better.”

A thrilling conversation, Chad had thought blandly. Yet, the point was sticking like glue. If he wanted to keep his payments coming, then he had better deliver.

He wrinkled his nose against the cold and took his first tentative step onto the soft turf. It wasn’t too bad. Not yet anyway. There were plenty of people walking about, crossing the park, some towards the tall city buildings, some towards the spires of beautiful churches and museum lurking behind it.

Chad eyed an empty park bench and approached it with a new lift. He had always wanted to try writing in a more natural setting. Here was his chance. He sat down, dropping his clunky heavy bag down on the wooden seats with enough gusto to send it flying off the bench towards the other end.

Suddenly, someone let out a yelp, and a tall figure in a dirty oversized puff jacket jumped up, flaying their arms as if shooing off a swarm of bees.

“Oh, I’m so sorry…” Chad said in a small voice, unsure whether he should get any closer to the relic of street life.

The homeless street bum went to kick Chad’s bag, breathing life back into him, and he scooped his belongings off the ground. “Whoa! Please don’t kick that. It has…”

“Valuables?!” the voice was gentle, almost feminine.

Chad’s head snapped up. “Yes.” He pretended to dust his bag. “I really didn’t mean to hurt you with my bag.” He looks at her. “What were you doing under there, anyway?”

The woman denoted as street bum by Chad stared right into his eyes with such fierceness it caused him to look away and suss out his exit strategy.

“Sleeping,” she pulled her grubby scarf up higher over her face, barely leaving her eyes visible between it and the beanie. Eyes which were bright and brown, and young, thought Chad.

“What?” she barked. “Does the ground have your name on it, or the seat? I thought the park belongs to the public, and I’m fucking public!” she almost shouted, then picked up her belongings from under the seat, a simple backpack and a small duffel bag. “Mine, mine, mine,” she walked away, muttering. “Everything’s fucking yours, isn’t it? Why don’t you guys just declare that the bloody oxygen belongs to you lot too already!”

Chad stood there in shock, watching the woman smart away from him further into the park. It took him a moment before he finally sat down on the end of the bench, still boggled by the incident. He fished out his laptop and turned it on, trying to settle his edgy nerves, eyeing down the path to see if at any moment she was about to jump at him again.

He went back to blinking at the cursor on his screen, his mind completely blank. “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” he grumbled, slamming the screen shut, unable to get the homeless woman off his mind. He turned to where she’d headed off, and sipped his coffee, thinking about the woman who’d almost given him a heart attack. He wished she had! At least that way his editor Terry couldn’t possibly hold it against him for not delivering another book.

Another book! That was his biggest problem right now. If someone had told him 8 years ago that there would come a time when he’d hit the monstrous wall straight out of Fat Boy movie, he sure would have laughed. Chad Gilligan, or rather the author, Zachery Eve, having a mental breakdown because his girlfriend suddenly broke his heart and walked away without a glance to see if he’d ever manage to gather all the pieces of the broken remnants off the restaurant floor? The kindest thing would have been to hand him a brush and pan set and told the way to the bin.

Chad took another sip of his coffee and almost gagged. It was cold, and cold coffees never agreed with him. So much for foraging into the wild for inspiration, he thought, packing his laptop back into his bag and headed back to the café across the street. Back to hot coffee and staring at people who didn’t yell profanities at him because he couldn’t be a normal guy and sit on the park.

Chad woke from an uncomfortable dream. He wasn’t even sure what he had dreamt about, like most of his dreams, except this one had featured the beautiful brown eyes hidden behind scarf and a grubby beanie.

He skulked through the dark empty house and ended up in the kitchen at some time past two in the morning, unable to sleep. He put on a pot of coffee and fetched his laptop, and beneath the stark light of his kitchen, he sat on a barstool, staring at his nemesis, the taunting screen. His hands hovered over the keyboard and he typed one word: Homeless.

He stared at the word for a moment, and then deleted it. An hour or so ticked by, and as 4 AM rolled in, he was with a headache that sent him crawling back to bed. The screen still blank atop the kitchen bench-top. He’ll write when he felt like it, he thought, and not because Terry was breathing down his neck like a hungry dragon.

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17 thoughts on “A Million Smiles for June: Chapter 1

Add yours

  1. Damn this was good. No, like REALLY good, at first, I was skeptical as I usually am at the beginning of books, but this is really original material! Definitely should stick with it, I’m so glad I read it and can’t wait to read more!!

    Like

    1. Thank you, Ruth! It’s so very encouraging getting positive feedback like yours. Feeds the writerly soul. 6th chapter is on it’s way tonight. Hope you’ve like the rest of the 4 Chapters on this novel already up.
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad I could inspire a fellow writer!!! The title caught my eye because my daughter’s name is June, and the riveting story is totally original. Looking forward to more!

        Like

      2. It was an inspired story. I’m glad it’s catching reader’s imagination. I saw a homeless man ages ago in my teens and the image stuck with me, and carried through in a poem I wrote, which incidentally has become this wonderful new story I’m absolutely loving myself.

        Like

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