As I plod along with my edits, I find an excerpt here and there that reminds me of my goal with this story. Interior Designs is all about Martha Scott Cummings and her journey toward redemption. Along the way, she remembers her friends, whose journeys are sometimes littered with challenges. In this excerpt, Maeve, Martha’s BFF, ponders her latest challenge.
Maeve Kincaid pulled out her desk chair and stumbled toward the coffee room. After the morning she’d had, she didn’t think coffee would be enough. But it was worth a try.
When she’d taken this job a few months ago, she’d known that she would encounter situations she could never have imagined. In fact, she’d prepared herself to be stunned and heartsick on a regular basis. But nothing could have readied her for what she’d seen today. She shuddered just thinking about it.
Filling her coffee mug, she slowly sat down and put her head in her hands.
“Hey, it’s not that bad, is it?” The voice felt like a balm on a feverish brow, she thought, and then glanced up at the tall, dark haired guy she’d noticed in a few staff meetings. What was his name? Oh, yeah, Brody. What was up with her and her attraction to guys with weird names?
“Well, I imagine I’ll live,” she drawled, trying for that confident approach she’d observed in others. But she felt anything but confident at the moment. At least not about her work, she decided, granting him one of her flirtatious and dimpled smiles.
“I’m Brody Emerson,” he continued, holding out his hand.
A hand shake? She expected these kinds of courtesies only from Southerners, especially Texans. She laughed and said: “My, aren’t you charmin’. Are you from Texas? I’m Maeve Kincaid, by the way.”
He looked puzzled. “I guess you haven’t run into very many polite people, have you? And, to answer your question, I’m not from Texas. In fact, I grew up right here in the Central Valley. But if it helps my resume, my folks are from Missouri.”
Now she was feeling a lot better. Who knew that a little banter could do the trick?
He set his coffee down, with a questioning glance. “Mind if I join you?”
She shook her head and waited for him to settle down before broaching her question. “Have you been workin’ here long? I just started, so I’m still gettin’ my feet wet.”
“Oh, for these parts, I’m an old-timer. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years. You look like you’ve had quite a day,” he added sympathetically. “Want to talk about it?”
She blurted out some of what she’d experienced that day. “And the worst part,” she concluded ruefully, “was that I felt really sorry for the mother. Yes, the father was a monster, brandin’ those kids with that cattle prod; who does that, anyway? But she looked bewildered and helpless. I guess that happens quite a lot, huh? The mother allows stuff to happen because the father is beatin’ on her, too?”
“I’m afraid it happens more often than not,” he sighed. “But hey, one of the best ways to cope with this stuff is to find something else to focus on…and a way to lighten up. You should hear some of the bizarre jokes we share around here. Some might say we’re macabre, but I call it survival.”
She could feel her muscles relax as she listened to him.
“What do you have planned this afternoon? Would you like to have a little lunch to help lighten the day?”
She agreed before she’d even had time to think about it. Or wonder why she was suddenly feeling so connected to this man she barely knew. Was she so pathetic that she’d turn to anyone? Just because her marriage was basically in the toilet?
As she headed back to her desk and started plowing through the message slips on her desk, she thought about the last conversation she’d had with Buzz on the weekend. After she’d returned home from Martha’s. He’d looked at her with suspicion and asked if she was having fun sharing with her friend. As if he was accusing her of something. But, of course, he was right. She’d somehow diverted his attention by talking about Martha’s love affair, but then realized, too late, that mentioning anyone’s sex life would be like tossing a lit match onto lighter fluid. He’d just glared at her.
Now she struggled to douse the negative thoughts and feelings. Between her own personal life and the lives of those families around her during the day, there was very little hope of finding that bright spot. But maybe having an innocent lunch with a coworker would be just what she needed.