This first chapter was originally posted here on February 23, 2011 as Mahogany Curls and the Things We Need to Do. I’ve always had an idea of where the story was supposed to go, but I was discouraged when it first began, so I moved on to different stories and practice. The practice seems to have done my writing some good, because I like this better after more editing. Chapter One begins again with a new title. If you come along for the ride, please don’t hesitate to tell me what you think as it goes on. I don’t know how long it will be. I’ve decided to just have fun with it. I hope you will, too.
When she returned to the couch, Aliss had suggested it was time for Miller to leave, and he wasn’t happy about it. He mustered a ‘man pout’, furrowing his brow and tossing a strong squint in her direction while his jaw tensed ever so slightly. She lifted one bare foot to rest its ankle across her opposite knee, and it grazed the overhanging corner of the flat wide box, perched at a precarious angle on her coffee table and empty except for crisp crumbs and smears of tomato sauce. Her gaze turned away from him, toward the task of unrolling two fluffy wool socks she held in her hand. Her feet were cold.
“So,” Miller said, “you only invited me over because you needed someone to fix your surround sound.”
The dimensional, intricate cables of his grey sweater, with the deep charcoal of his jeans, were at the corner of her eye, causing her to question why his fashion sense and the burnished pools of mahogany hair curling around his eyes and at his nape — as well as his handiness — weren’t enough to keep him on her couch. Unable to suppress a sigh before it reached his ears, she felt the slightest twinge of guilt at her own impatience, then finished slipping on the socks.
She thought she saw him wince at the sigh, as if cold air had been blown onto an ailing eardrum, and imagined seeing him clap a hand over his ear to protect it. She almost laughed before pursing her lips to hold it back. Turning to do him the honor of looking him square in the eye, she said, “I was right beside you while you were working, handing you the right screwdriver, asking which wire was which, and why you were doing each little thing.” She wanted to be nice. She tried to smile. “I didn’t invite you over so you could fix my surround sound. I invited you over so I could learn how to fix my surround sound.” His expression faltered, then faded. Aliss thought she saw a slight tremble, and felt it necessary to add, “I did order the pizza.”
Miller lifted himself off her couch with great effort, lingering for a moment while rubbing his hands together as if they were suddenly as cold as her feet. He said a low, almost inaudible, goodbye before going to the door, taking his jacket off the nearby hook and letting himself out. She tried not to feel sorry for him. It wasn’t his fault that he’d known her so long, tried so long, and yet this was still the wrong night for things to get past dinner. Aliss didn’t have many friends, but one had felt comfortable telling her how crazy she was to have known a guy who was that interested in her for two whole months, and not have thoroughly checked him out. And she’d said that without seeing with her own eyes what he looked like. Aliss thought it was funny how good looks could get in the way of the things we intended to do in our lives.
After he left, she went to get the big ceramic bowl from the kitchen cabinet, and filled it with an entire bag of organic cheddar popcorn. In the living room, she inserted the DVD of “The Dark Knight,” knowing this time she’d be able to hear as well as see every bit, saying out loud to herself as she slid into her squashy ruby-colored chair, the popcorn in her lap, the remote control nearby, “Figure it out this time.” She watched with intense focus as missing pieces of her past, her life, felt at once closer and farther away.