October 12, 2008

That Last Summer - episode 1!

I have decided to write a novel. A kind of romantic comedy that isn't so sexist or naively mired in the sex-gender system that it makes me gag. The following is the first installment of the novel I am writing as a serial. The novel's working title is "That Last Summer."
This is a work in progress. My attempt at feminist-friendly chick lit is below. I will publish it here in installments, a la Charles Dickens back in the day. Its working title is "That Last Summer."

Izzie was trying to coax Dennis off the floor. They were in the office they shared, looking through old boxes of documents and taking out anything with a title that looked relevant to their clients’ case. They were not lawyers. Nor were they even law students. They were just privileged kids whose parents had connections and who were quite aware they probably weren’t even doing a good job.

“Get off the bloody floor, Dennis!” Izzie shouted. “We’ll get in trouble if they see you that way.” It wasn’t true. Dennis and Izzie’s summer job was doing research on a massive case involving one of Canada’s largest banks. Dennis ‘ mother was their general legal council and Izzie’s father was the chairman of the law firm on whose floor Dennis was currently trying to sleep. Neither one of them was getting fired.

“Iz, I’m hung over. I need to take a nap. I swear I won’t bill for this break.” Izzie knew that wasn’t true, but Dennis was so likeable she decided to stop pressing the issue. They’d been friends since meeting at Model UN’s and dances hosted by their respective private high schools. Izzie wanted Dennis to think she was a cool person, and while she knew he already did and wouldn’t stop liking her just because she was trying to make him stop drooling on the neutral beige carpet, Izzie was always reluctant to do anything to upset anyone – even something that would only upset them momentarily.

Since Dennis wasn’t working, Izzie decided she too would take a break. Her break, however, took a much more dignified form. Izzie checked her facebook account, where she found a message from Jenny, one of her best friends, reminding her to meet her at Yonge Subway station at 9:30 that night so they could show up at her friend Luke’s house-warming party together.

Izzie wasn’t sure if she wanted to go to this party, but she couldn’t bail now. Instead, she decided to gripe. “Ah, I have to go to this party with Jenny! I don’t know anyone. It’s going to be so awkward. I hate these things.”

Dennis opened one eye. Ever the obliging friend, he replied, “You’re too shy.”

“Shy?” Izzie considered the word carefully. No one had ever referred to her using that particular adjective before, but it fit. Most people dismissed her as a standoffish ice queen, but it really wasn’t true. Izzie was shy. She was simply afraid people wouldn’t like her. It didn’t matter how smart, funny or interesting she’d grown up to be, Izzie still felt this way. Izzie could have walked into a children’s party with a tray full of ice cream sundaes covered in chocolate sauce and cherries and still worried the kids wouldn’t like her. Few people realized this about Izzie, so most assumed she felt they weren’t good enough for her. For some reason, the problem of being shy but coming off cold was particularly bad when Izzie was around men. Though Izzie had lots of old male and female friends alike, it could sometimes take years before these people realized she didn’t hate them, and therefore began to like her.

“Iz, you need to get out there ...You need to get laid.”

“Excuse me?” Izzie’s voice was incredulous. She was not accustomed to people speaking to her in such blunt terms.

“I’m your friend, and I have been for years, and you hardly ever get laid. You could get laid. You’re smart and fun and funny and when you put in just a little bit of effort, you look great. You could get laid, so why don’t you just let yourself get laid.”

“I’m not going to sleep with just anyone. I have to be attracted to the person, you know. And it’s not as easy as you might think to get a guy you actually want to sleep with to want to sleep with you. I hate how you people in long-term relationships forget just how hard it is to sleep with someone. You think it’s so easy to find someone to have sex with, but it’s not. You’ve just forgotten what the hunt was like.” Dennis had been with his girlfriend Amanda for over two years. They were the type of couple that left every party early - and without even so much as saying goodbye to their friends - so they could go have sex. Dennis was truly a bit spoiled in the sex department, and couldn’t figure out why anyone found getting laid a challenge. He’d conveniently forgot that, before ending his single days to be with Amanda, he hadn’t managed to go all the way with a girl in about six months.

“It’s not really that hard to get a guy to want to sleep with you if you just smile, Iz. They all think you hate them because you’re always frowning.”

“I’m not frowning. I’m a happy person. That look is just my default expression. It’s what my face looks like! It’s natural…”

“I don’t think it would compromise the essential you if you just made your natural expression a tad more inviting, do you?” Dennis had a point. Izzie had never felt her frown was a fundamental part of her identity. It wasn’t like she had consciously worked on cultivating it. So, she had to concede the point to Dennis, but what she really wanted to ask but couldn’t, was “What if I smile and men still don’t like me?”

Dennis got up off the floor and reclaimed the seat at his desk, where he began riffling through boxes of documents, pretending he was doing his job. “Listen, IZ,” he said while taking a moment out of his busy riffling schedule to grin at Izzie good-naturedly. “I want you to promise me you’ll smile tonight at this party Jenny’s taking you to.”

“What do I get in return for doing this for you?” Izzie wasn’t sure she wanted to agree unless Dennis was prepared to reciprocate.

“I’ll bake you my famous chocolate chip cookies.”

“Your mother makes those! You just pass them off as your own to impress girls,” Izzie laughed.

“Yes, but I’ll ask her to make them for me and then I’ll let you have them, as long as you don’t reveal my secret about how they actually get made. Deal?” Izzie quite liked cookies, so she said yes.


Ben’s girlfriend of two years had just dumped him. She’d done it unceremoniously and over the phone. This wasn’t fair. He hadn’t seen it coming, and he’d been a good boyfriend who’d phone her at least once a day, but never more than that. HE was attentive without being obsessive; he never forgot anniversaries and he sometimes sent Lydia flowers. Really, she should have loved him. Not only that, but he had a future. He was at law school (first in his first year law class, at that). He didn’t drink too much beer and he continued his daily runs even now that he was no longer on the varsity track team, so he wasn’t fat. Girls had always told him he had nice eyes too. They were a deep brown that made him look wise and profound, even though Ben was quite sure he was neither. All in all, he thought he was reasonably cute. So, Ben wondered, why the hell was he just disposed of like a used cigarette a thirteen year old was trying to keep hidden from her mother, at the bottom of the trash can, hidden by pizza boxes, its smell snuffed out by air freshener overzealously applied to the room where it was consumed.

Lydia had broken up with him two weeks ago by now. She was visiting her family in Nova Scotia for the summer, so he hadn’t seen her in two months when she did it, but he had spoken to her every day, and he’d never so much as suspected something had changed in the way she felt about him. But then it happened; she broke up with him by phone. And not even by phone call, but by text message. Ben didn’t like lying, but he lied about that. He told all his friends Lyds had skyped him with the news.

Anyway, tonight Ben was particularly miserable because his friends were trying to get him out of the house for a night of partying. It would be his first night out since the break-up, and they told him he needed one so he would stop being so miserable, when what was making him more miserable than anything else was the thought of having to go out and talk to people until at least 1 am, because there was no way his friends would let him go before that. They probably wouldn’t have let Ben go at 1 am either if they thought about it, but Ben was banking on them being too drunk to notice his departure by this point.

Ben’s friends told him that getting laid was the answer. “You could get laid if you just put on a clean shirt and smiled a bit. Girls like it when guys smile. It makes you more approachable,” his cousin Mark assured him. It was his house-warming party Ben was supposed to be going to tonight. He and Mark and a bunch of other guys, including Mark’s roommate Luke, had all been friends since summer camp, and they never missed important parties like this. They were a loyal bunch, always there to celebrate and commiserate together. Ben usually relished that about his circle of friends, but tonight he found himself wishing he were completely friendless so he could stay home and watch Home and Garden Television with his mother. Hewouldn’t have admitted it to his friends, but he loved those shows about buying houses somewhere far away and remote, like the British countryside or a small island off the coast of Spain. He liked to pretend he was the people on the shows, buying a house in a town where he didn’t speak the language or simply didn’t know anyone. Then No one would pay him a surprise visit to ask, “Are you ready for a post-break-up random hook-up yet? My girlfriend’s best friend has a really great ass!” While a sensible part of him suspected he might change his mind, Ben thought he never cared if he felt another ass ever again.

Still, Ben was a man of his word. He put on a clean shirt – well, at least he’d only worn it once since he last washed it – and found his less beaten up pair of shoes and then walked out the door. He needed to stop by the liquor store before the party. He was going to need more than a six-pack if he was going to get through tonight.

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