Writing Clash


The silver Chevy was sleek, I would give him that. Alex didn't glance at me once while we rode. It left me free to stare at him, though, and I couldn't help noting that he was even more handsome now than in grade school. Today he wore a light gray sweatshirt and black track pants.

"For appearances," he had told me. His blue eyes squinted when he smiled.

Since the cold season was approaching, I'd put on warmer apparel myself. I was clothed in a blue sweater that I was pretty sure belonged to Mary Lou, but we shared clothes often. When she was a bit younger she enjoyed picking through my make-up and underwear. Eventually we progressed to sharing tops as well. Because my hips were larger, we usually couldn't trade pants. Lou was shorter too. And she had such a young face, while I was always described as "dark" -- dark hair and skin. Mary Lou was fair skinned with blonde curls and sweeping lashes and a tiny tucked chin. Sometimes I questioned whether or not our father was the same man.

"-- story about?" Alex was looking at me now. A bit amusedly, too, since I was staring dumbly into the space above his head.

"I'm sorry, say again."

He chuckled a bit. His laugh was rich; I found myself warming slightly at the abrupt sound of it. Being a bit embarrassed probably didn't help. "I was wondering what you wanted to write for our story."

"Oh." I thought for a moment. "Well. I'll be able to decide better after we go through our human resources. Is this Kevin Browning's place?" I didn't recognize the name, but then again I had always been a suburb girl in Tennessee.

"Yep. Ready?" He looked at me closely, then, like someone who would want to make sure a good friend of theirs was feeling alright. He looked at me like he knew me.

I sucked in a giant breath. "Listen, Alex... I'm not sure if you remember, but we used to go to the same high school. Home of the Panthers, right? It's been on my mind since I first saw you again." I tried a smile. Alex got out of the car with me and shut the door. He held a tape recorder in one hand and a freshly sharpened pencil was behind his ear. His black hair brushed down over it in elegant little curls.

He came around to the other side of the car and smiled down at me. "Of course I remember. There were only a couple hundred in our graduating class after all. I'm just a bit shocked that you've come back after all that time, though. If I had my way I would get out of this town at first chance." He looked down at the tape recorder and then back into my eyes. I couldn't have looked away if I tried. "That's why I'm working here. I need the independence. Plus I've been kicked out of the Kane household for being a bit of a leech."

I smiled. That seemed like the old Alex Kane I knew.

"Well, it's been good to see you again."

He grinned. "Likewise. Plus, I have a feeling you'll be able to help me with this job. I'm a very opinionated person."

I frowned. "Not a good quality for the facts, partner."

Alex laughed and shook his head. He stuffed his other hand into his pocket. "That's right. Now, being a partner... that just might save me for a while."

I shuffled my foot when I had nothing else to say. "Let's see about that interview. I'll do the honor of the introducing." If only my old boss could see me now, working somewhat on my own the very first day. Out doing field work. Being in charge of my very own story -- well, with Alex too of course. But I had a feeling he wouldn't be doing much anyway. And most of all I was pleased. This job would be fullfilling and involve hard work. But that's what I was ready for; one without work was like one without purpose. That's what mom always said anyway, and there was no one who worked harder and longer than her.

Alex knocked on the Browning's door while I waited to the side with a clipboard under my arm. When dealing with clients, it was best to be transparent and polite. I readied myself for another handshake.

Kevin Browning opened the door. Two big dogs came barking after him but he gave them a glare and they sprinted out toward the street. Then Mr. Browning began to look us over with critical eyes. I took that opportunity to shake his hand. He focused all of his stern expression on me in response. "Mr. Browning! I am Lotte Dennings and this is my partner Alex K--" But Alex discreetly shook his head before I could get his last name out. I understood immediately. "Alex. We're here on behalf of Earthbound Magazine. We wanted to request a few minutes of your time for an interview."

"Hmph," Kevin grunted. He rubbed the back of his neck with the hand I had touched. "What about?"

"Specifically the effects the drought has had on your business."

"Alright then. We need a little help around here, that's for certain."

"Will you agree to be included and or quoted in our article?"

"Yeah, yeah, why not? Come on in. Would you like some coffee?" He held open the door and began walking immediately towards another room. Alex followed and I was left to shut the door behind us. The sound was strangely ominous. I felt the subtle flutterings of nerves hit me for the first time since coming back home. Maybe it was because this place was so obviously a home, I felt like an alien walking along the territories of a foreign planet.