Cass twiddled with the spare stir stick she’d taken from the counter, trying to turn or flip it in circles about her fingers like she’d seen done in a movie once. It was difficult to keep from checking her reflection in the darkened window of the coffee shop. Night had fallen too quickly, so unless she pressed her face right against the glass and blocked out the light, people would know she wasn’t just looking for her date. The other patrons would be able to see her checking her lipstick for smears, tucking lockings of hair back behind her ears or pulling them out again, uncertain as to which style looked better. She sipped at her tea, trying to gauge the attentiveness of the others in the shop — were they watching? Had they noticed her fidgeting?
I know, I should be working on the snowmobiling story, but I was thinking about this idea earlier today, and I figured I should get it down. And since my files are currently out of my reach (sob), I’ll put it on my blog!
This short piece is mainly me trying to focus on showing, rather than telling. But also — fellow writers, do you often find it difficult to come up with character names? I find that’s one of the hardest parts of beginning a project, because too often, I’m faced with a name that belongs to someone I’ve taught, or worked with, and therefore it’s hard to separate the name from the history. Plus, I would never want to be accused of having written someone into a story that wasn’t compimentary of that individual. Sometimes I pick a name because it’s unique and cool and suits the character more than anything else. Sometimes the name of the character will change mid-draft. In this case, I went back and forth on several options before I settled on Cass, and I’m not even sure I like it. But there we are.
The tea was scalding hot, but she preferred it black with a bit of sugar, so with not a little trepidation, she peeled up the edges of the lid on the take-out cup in order to pop it off and let the worst of the heat steam away. At the last second, Cass remembered to open it away from herself, only just avoiding a spatter of brown on her cream sweater. She had a long scarf with her to hide any accidental stains, but it would be one more thing to worry about, if she had to disguise her sloppiness all evening. Already, she’d nearly dropped the first stir stick onto the floor, but she’d caught it in time to keep from feeling foolish.
If Henry was watching from Heaven, what would he be thinking of her right now?
He’d tell me to take a deep breath, Cass thought, straightening her shoulders. And don’t worry about what others think.
She was trying, but it wasn’t easy. The last time she’d been on a real date with anyone had been thirty years earlier, and that had been with Henry! Typical. There were movies made about moments like these, and romance novels, although she wasn’t sure she’d seen any that directly matched her own situation. That would have been nice. Like a kind of guideline, perhaps, although God knew, people didn’t behave in real life as they did in fiction. If they did . . . she could have a say in how this conversation was going to go. She wouldn’t have to fear stuttering, or having a booger dangle from her nose, or spilling tea all over herself.
She caught a glimpse of her reflection again, and in a wild panic, debated wiping off her lipstick completely so she wouldn’t have to worry about whether it was still in place. Did other women even notice lipstick, or was that just a part of those expectations for women that had been imposed by a patriarchial society? Cass gripped a paper napkin, her hand hovering near her face.
Don’t worry . . .
Cass forced herself to fill her lungs and look away from the glass. Her lipstick was fine. She liked how it had looked when she’d put it on, and she liked how women looked with a skillful application of makeup. So if this woman she was meeting — Katherine Batey, she was called — if she didn’t like it, that would be one sign for Cass that their relationship was likely to be short-lived.
Then the door opened, making the bell above it tinkle merrily. Cass put her fingers to her mouth, sweeping the underside of her lip one more time, as the woman in the red coat came toward her.