Chapter 1 | Morning Calls
“Miss Lane?” A woman shot up to her name being called, placing the unfinished tea on the wooden coffee table in front of her. Elizabeth Lane hastily wore the beige blazer hung over the chair’s arm, feeling the secretary’s gaze burning on the back of her head. She could hear the clicking of her stilettos in the background, tapping it on the ground to maintain patience. Elizabeth stood up after the short ordeal of staying calm and approached the secretary calling for her.
“Shall we go?” The secretary asked.
Without waiting for her, she turned and started walking towards the office door just at the end of the hallway. Elizabeth couldn’t help but feel awkward about it all and gave a small nod, even though she knew it went unnoticed. The sound of her red pumps heightened her anxiety of what’s about to come. She seriously wanted to get this deal. Every step to the door was a prayer for the success she dreamed of happening.
The door was opened to reveal a man sitting in an unnecessarily big office chair scanning a thick pile of papers clipped with her familiar and favorite panda paperclip. He noticed her at the doorway and stood up to greet her.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Davens.” she smiled, leaning towards the desk to offer her hand, which he accepted.
“Have a seat.” She nodded as she sat in the chair across from him, placing her purse on her lap. A bead of sweat dripped down her forehead, even though the entire building was properly air-conditioned. She wiped it off with the back of her hand and started off a conversation.
“How was it, sir?” In hesitation to hear his response, but she settled with it. She gave him another smile to hide her discomfort.
“Well, Miss Lane. It’s very... interesting.”. It wasn’t the response she wanted, but she bid herself to relax a bit about the whole situation. She leaned unto the headrest of her chair and place her purse at her side.
“It’s a very promising novel, Miss Lane, but going straight to the point I cannot accept this manuscript. “He said as he placed the pile of papers on his desk and pushed it back to her.
Dejected, she took the manuscript from his desk and held it close to her chest. She stared down to the paperclip panda’s smiling eyes and bright red cheeks. She stayed silent for a second, Mr. Davens seemed worried at the sight before his eyes.
“I’m sorry Miss Lane, but I really cannot produce it. My business would be at risk.” He took off his reading glasses and placed it on his desk.
“Could you tell me why then? Your critique? I should have the right to know, don’t you think so, Mr. Davens?” Elizabeth gazed at his face. Having a newfound desire to find out what was wrong with her novel and why it was rejected countless times. Past publishers were young and didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so with this question they would respond with shallow, “It’s not that perfect.”, “It’s not the book we’re looking for.” Or even, “We don’t accept these kinds of manuscripts this month”. Remembering those answers, she could remember how stressed she felt as she thought ‘the fuck’ while she was “properly” escorted out by their secretaries. She could sense that Mr. Davens was a straightforward and realistic publisher, so she hoped for a proper answer this time.
“I honestly think you should give up on this story.” He suddenly stated. Elizabeth’s eyes widen from shock. She didn’t think receiving real feedback would hurt to this extent. Mr. Davens sighed and clutched both of his hands together, placing it on his desk.
“Look, Miss Lane. When I sent the manuscript to our readers, they said they loved how it was written, but it was very confusing.”
“In what way?”
“Well, they commented on the credibility on how ‘science-fiction’ it is. In terms of its plot they asked questions like, why does the robot have a wire; why it needs to charge every night by an outlet. You know, wireless things do already exist. Also, on character development, your main character changes his temperament from time to time. In one chapter, he’s patient, and in another he’s hot-headed. It confuses me.” Elizabeth thought about all this and understood all the problems.
“I read it myself three days ago and just finished this morning and saw what they meant.”
“Miss Lane, you’re a talented writer, but without proper formation, research, and maybe, actual effort, this sci-fi book wouldn’t be realized. I saw your credentials and read your other book about the love between sisters and facing the problems in the family together. Maybe you should stick to that kind of stuff.”
His words enlightened Elizabeth. She stood up from the chair, slightly crunching up her manuscript as she clutched it at her side. She offers her other hand to Mr. Davens.
“Thank you for your time Mr. Davens. I shall excuse myself.”
“Have a good day.”
She exited the room, passing by his serious secretary, not bothering to stand up to greet her out. It must be obvious that they rejected me, she thought, and continued on her way out.
The apartment door opened with a click on the lock. Elizabeth dreadfully walked in. She easily whisked off the black pumps off her tired feet and kicked to the side, not bothered to place it on the shoe rack by the door. She dragged her feet over to the table and placed the house keys, her purse, and the manuscript down. With a sigh, she took off the blazer and unbuttons three top buttons of her shirt. She wondered if it might be the heat of the weather as she walked home, but it also might be the feeling of dejection and sadness that’s getting to her. Elizabeth walked into her room and slammed, stomach down, onto her twin sized bed. She couldn’t care less.
She thought to herself how a good day it was to spend in bed and dream away in sleep. Dreams that could cover up the reality that she was facing, unemployment. The bed felt so comforting amidst all her troubles, soon after she relaxed and let herself go.
Elizabeth was always the person who wouldn’t dwell much on problems. Even though life slams her with issues on the daily, she cries it out and does something she loves, to forget all about it. She heard the act of placing these events at the back of someone’s minds are very damaging to one’s mental health, but it always worked for her, even in this moment right now. Laid flat on her bed, not giving a damn was exactly the solution she’s looking for, it’s positively working.
Thinking about her day, Elizabeth rolled on her bed laughing. It was weird why she felt like doing so, but laughing it all off would make it seem like it wasn’t all that serious. She still had her other book’s sales to rely on because it was one of her works that had been very well received.
“There are many more opportunities to explore. We’re in New York city, the city of dreams!” She believed saying it out loud would cheer herself up about the situation, but it didn’t really help.
A bell sound rang loudly from her living room. She forced herself to stand up and pick up her phone, where the sound was coming from. She wondered who would call her after having such an awful afternoon.
Carelessly picking up and bringing the phone to her ear. She didn’t bother seeing who was calling her, she just wanted the phone call to be over with.
“Elizabeth! Honey!” A familiar loud voice came through the call that woke her up immediately. She mentally face-palmed, knowing exactly who’d call her at this time of the day.
“Mom, would you stop screaming when the call starts. I’ve told you time and time again, it hurts my ears.”
“Sorry Beth, I couldn’t help my excitement.” Elizabeth could hear her giggle on the other side of the line as she continues, “How was your day?”
“You really need not ask. It was the wor-“
“Did you meet someone? Hmm?”
“Nonsense Mom, you know I don’t have any interest or intentions of having a relationship. Not now, nor in the future. I had the worse day ever-“
“Beth baby, you need to get yourself a boyfriend. In a few years you’ll be thirty and by that time I want you to get married so I’ll have my grandchildren early.”
“That’s out of the question mom, I’m planning to live this life alone and independently. And what do you mean nearing thirty? I’m still twenty-five.”
Elizabeth sat herself on her couch by the table her phone was on. She raised her feet and grabbed a pillow to clutch onto, sensing how long another one of these conversations was going to go on for. Her mother probably wasn’t at all interested about her day, so she decided to stop talking about it. She knew what she has in mind, for she was very determined to see through her love life. Her mother was at sixty and retired early.
She said herself to be a ‘free soul’ and used her saved up money to go on cruises and continental tours. She seemed free, but Elizabeth doubted the fact she loved exploring that much, for she never spoke a word about the places she’d visited and constantly nagged her with a call every week asking her to find someone specific she’ll meet.
“But baby, I don’t want you to be lonely.”
“Mom, I’m not lonely, I just love being alone. I just think, having a partner is just extra baggage for me and I don’t want to waste my time and money on someone for them to stay by my side. Hell, even I’m having a hard time right now getting myself another contract.”
“See! You need it to support and care for you right now. Baby, you need someone to love you. Don’t hate love, just love love! “Her mother said in that overly enthusiastic voice of hers.
“I don’t hate love, I believe in love, but I don’t believe that romantic love is really needed. I mean, I’m surrounded by the love of my friends, your - my family’s love. What more could I ask for? The love I have right now gives me a lot of independence and is enough. “
“Awe honey, I think what you said is sweet and all, but it won’t change my mind no matter how many times you repeat it to me.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes while talking to the phone. Knowing a phone call would be just about another finding a lover pep talk because of the unnecessarily countless times she had called this week and the countless times she hung up on her pursuit. Elizabeth thought to just deal with all of these horrible shits altogether and said, “So what’s up this time mom?”.
“Funny, you ask Beth, I’ve actually set up a date for you! “
“Are you kidding me? After what I’ve been through today, you actually-“.
“No, most certainly not darling. It’s a blind date and it’ll be this Saturday in a cute little restaurant on the upper west side.”.
“And you think I’ll go? Really?”
“Oh! Honey, I know you will. Your brother is home cleaning the house and abhors the sight of your bookshelf in the living room. You know how much of a freak he is about interior design and all, and how he nags every year for my permission to sell it all.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Oh yes I would, I’m your mother dear, I make the decisions because that bookshelf is still in my house.” Elizabeth mentally calmed herself as she hears the giggling in her mother’s high-pitched voice.
She couldn’t do anything about the situation. “I’ll go. “
She could hear the screams of her mother’s celebration through the phone even though she does it away from it.
“Promise?” She came back to ask.
“Mhmm. I don’t have a choice anywa-“
“Love you baby, good luck”
The phone hung up quickly, and she slowly threw it to her side on the couch. She laid back on the headrest and let out another sigh.