They sat across from each other, enveloped in tense silence, as they each made a show of eating their breakfast. Great, another difficult client, just what she needed while everything in her life, the country and the world, was going to hell in a handcart. Just great.
“I like your work. I think it’s hella insightful and your prose is captivating. I just know there’s more work to be done before you’re ready for the presses. I understand you were working with a different editor?” Becky asked, digging deep for her friendly, professional side.
“Yes. A brilliant editor. I don’t know what you told the publishers, but he and I were doing a great job already.” Caleb answered, clearly rejecting the unspoken call to friendliness.
“You were doing an alright job. I’m going to help you make it great.” She countered, happy to match his directness if that’s how he wanted them to play this.
She could tell he was holding back a highly critical response and part of her wished he’d just unleash the dragons, then they could slug it out and move on. Whatever, man, this was a good payday, and she wouldn’t let him ruin it for her. Plus, she meant it, his book was good, and all she wanted to do was work with him to make it great. His insistence on doing things the hard way wasn’t her problem. She wouldn’t let it bother her. They could hate each other’s guts all they wanted as long as they got the book done and she got her money.
“Okay. It’s obvious we’re not off to a great start.” She said, packing up her notebook and pen into her colourful sling bag. “Let’s pick this up in two days. Hopefully, you’ll be in a better headspace and you’ll realize we’re on the same side. I love your book and I just want it to be the best it can be. That’s it. I’m not trying to take over. My only intention is to help you achieve your vision.”
She stood up, not waiting for his response. “I’ll be in touch. You can reach out too. Email would be great. Text works too.”
She smiled at him. “Thanks for coming. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Then she was gone, leaving Caleb feeling immature and somewhat peeved. God, he’d have to reach out first and mend their non-existent fence. She was right, of course, she was right. It wasn’t her fault the publishers had paired them together. They had to work together on this if his book was going to be everything it could be. He was mature enough to admit some things she’d said in her notes were right. He hated it, but she was mostly right and he was wrong. A little wrong. Ugh.
Day 1: Evening
RE: Second Chances
First, I am so sorry about today. I was far from professional and let things that had nothing to do with you ruin our meeting.
I’ve always been a big believer in second chances and do-overs. Would you be open to doing over our sub-par breakfast tomorrow? Same place, same time.
P.S. Our partnership may be acutely compromised if you’re not a second-chance type. 🤞🤞🤞.
Let me know,
5 minutes later
RE: Second Chances
I would hate to compromise our budding partnership 😊
See you then.
Day 2: Morning
They were sitting on the same side of the booth in the mostly empty café, their used cutlery pushed over to one side. They’d been at it for about an hour. It had started out rather stiltedly but had slowly morphed into something closer to relaxing.
“So that covers your vision and what we both hope to achieve at the end of this process. Great. I’ll send you my notes and we can talk through them. Obviously, you get to decide what changes to incorporate. The final decision is always yours.”
“I already have your notes,” Caleb said voice tight and clipped for the first time since they’d found their groove.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I got your pages of notes the day before we met.” He answered, unconsciously emphasizing the pages.
“Oh shit. Who gave those to you? Those were for me, not you. Ugh, sorry about that.” She answered, face twisted with regret.
“It’s cool.” He answered, surprised that he meant it. She’d made it clear she truly loved his book, and he believed her. He’d also gone on a deep dive of the projects she’d worked on before. They were all incredible. She knew what she was doing.
“Have you looked through them yet? If not, I can send you the notes I wrote specifically for you. Those were supposed to be just for me andmaybee a little unrefined.”
“Just a quick, cursory glance. You can send me the nice notes tomorrow and I’ll go through them, then we can talk when I’m done.”
She smiled at the nice notes bit. “Yeah, that works.”
“Okay, let’s talk about something that is not my book and how much work I still have to get through. What are you reading besides my brilliant book?”
“Okay, I see what you’re doing, and I’ll allow it because I’ve been known to procrastinate with the best of them.”
“Just my kind of girl.” He said, sipping his now warm lemon and ginger tea.
They spent the next two hours talking about the books they were reading, then left when the lunchtime crowd started trickling in.
He was not looking forward to the editing ahead of him, but he was feeling lighter than he had felt since his publishers had made the executive decision to replace his friend and editor. Maybe they were onto something. This was promising.
Day 24: Evening
Caleb sat in his favourite armchair, feet elevated on his ottoman and covered under a warm Maasai shawl that his ex had given him. He had in his hands a printed-out copy of the first half of his book that he’d just finished reading and Lord, it was so much better. It was a hundred times better than it had been before he’d started working with Becky.
They’d agreed to work on the story and plot first, then take on dialogue and some line editing afterwards. Her notes were so specific and helpful, touching on everything from revising time and space to building surprise and tension. So far, he was only halfway through the story and plot editing bit and it was already so objectively obvious that she’d improved his work. Two, maybe three more weeks and he’d be done with the story and plot.
They still communicated via email but had added phone calls to it. It was better for discussions and arguing about story, character and plot. Those almost daily phone calls had become one of the best parts of the editing process for him. Heck, they had become the best parts of his day, hands down.
Warmth spread through his chest as he looked at the printed pages in his hands. How had he gotten so lucky? Thinking about how close he’d come to messing it all up sent a chill through him. Having to talk to his best friend and end their official working relationship had sucked, but he’d taken it rather well. Even with that snafu in his friendship, he was so grateful that he got to work with her.
He looked down at the pages, then reached for his phone, suddenly overcome with the urge to call her. To thank her. To acknowledge her monumental contribution.
Becky couldn’t help the smile that split her face when she saw Caleb’s name blinking on her phone display. She curled up into a ball under the blanket on her couch and answered, the smile wider on her face.
“Hey, what’s up, writer?”
“So, I printed out some pages and read them.”
“Dude, they’re great. They’re unbelievable.” He didn’t even try to hide the excitement and awe in his voice. “You’re amazing.”
Warmth spread through her chest at his praise and open admiration.
“You made it everything it is, and I just want to say thank you. I want you to know that I see the work you’ve done, and I appreciate it.”
Her throat closed with emotion, and she couldn’t force any words through.
“So, you know, thanks.” He added when the silence went on too long.
“Thank you, and you’re welcome. Still, it’s not all me. You need to acknowledge the work you’ve done. You’ve done the work and you’ve been great.”
“I totally have been, right?” he asked playfully.
“Worlds apart from the grumpy fellow I met on day one.” She laughed.
Day 35: Evening
Becky hang up the phone and then pulled the blanket over her head.
“Oh, God, I like him,” she informed the room with mortification. It was her fault. I mean, what was she expecting to happen? She was listening to his deep baritone on a cold July morning while burrowed in her bed. That was the very definition of asking for it.
Now she was hopelessly hung up on him. These days, her days didn’t feel complete until they spoke. She was working with two more clients and wasn’t pulling any of this smiling-at-their-name-on-her-caller-ID nonsense with any of them. She had worked with dozens of clients in the past and had never allowed herself to end up in this position.
It was his fault with his emotional plot and well-rounded characters. His fault for creating a world with so safe, it felt like a love letter to women. It was his fault she woke up looking forward to their calls. Him and the weather. That’s who she was blaming.
She’d always been a sucker for cold weather. Cold weather had her thinking of someone sharing their body warmth with her. Yeah, it was the weather’s fault she felt a shiver in her spine every time he said her name. It was the weather’s fault her heart raced every time she thought of their impending physical meet-up to close out their little project. It was the weather’s fault she wanted to cry every time she thought of how close they were to being done.
Between him and the cold weather, she didn’t stand a chance. She buried her head under the pillow and screamed into it.
Oh, she had it bad.
Day 41: Morning
They were officially done.
Caleb sat in the booth waiting for Becky to show up for their little celebration breakfast, feeling everything but celebratory.
Traditionally, editing wasn’t his idea of fun and he was always glad to get it over with. He’d been waiting for that feeling of freedom and elation ever since they’d sent the final pages to the publisher, and he was still waiting.
He’d spent the last few weeks counting down the days till he was done editing and wanting the days to slow the fuck down. He wanted to be done with editing so he could finally ask her out. Caleb knew there was no universe in which she’d say yes while they were working together. And he’d wanted the days to slow the fuck down because at least their working partnership was guaranteed. Once they were done, there were no guarantees she’d want him in her life.
He looked up to find her walking towards him. She had on a comfy-looking hoodie and matching grey sweatpants. She looked even more radiant than he remembered. Without thinking, he stood up and sighed in relief as she wrapped her hands around him in a tight hug. They hadn’t so much as held hands, but he felt like he knew her so much after all those phone calls talking about everything regarding the human condition within and outside his story.
He held her tight, then pulled away when he felt her loosen her arms around him.
They looked at each other a little awkwardly before sliding into opposite sides of the booth.
Becky smiled, uncharacteristically shy. “Congratulations.”
“Congratulations to us,” he answered with a bright smile of his own.
He reached for her hand on the table, and she clasped his hand in hers.
“We did good, huh?”
“We did great.” He answered with a smile.
“Lucas said he feels an award coming.“
He groaned, touching his forehead to the table. “Can we not start on that now?“
She laughed. “Is this how you’re going to be? A Nervous Nelly?“
He sandwiched her hand in his. “Becky, the only thing I’m nervous about right now is impressing you.“
“Is this you fishing for a compliment? You can rest easy, Caleb. You’ve already impressed me,” she teased.
“Enough to date me?“ he asked, bringing her hand to his lips and kissing her hand.
She smiled. “If I say yes, do I get more kisses?“
“More than you can imagine. On my honour,“ he said earnestly, he said peppering kisses on her hand.
“Then I’ll have to say yes.“
He smiled, then leaned over the booth and gently kissed her lips. “I take my promises seriously.“
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