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literary critique

First Page: Seeking Arrangement – Contemporary Romance

First Page: Seeking Arrangement – Contemporary Romance

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

That Keshia hadn’t done a facepalm when Tessa turned up at her store was about all.

“You can’t go in your own clothes!”

“Why not? My little black –“

“You’ll be playing a part, so you have to dress up to look the part. What about this one?” Keshia pushed a bunch of hangers out of the way with her elbow, making the clothes rack screech in protest.

An above-knee-length, sleeveless leather dress with a modest boat neckline. In baby pink.

“Can I say ‘mixed message’?” Tessa said glumly, staring at her reflection in the mirror five minutes later.

Keshia sank onto the plush, slightly grubby sofa that Keshia’s Classy Closet offered to exhausted boyfriends and husbands.

“Nothing ‘mixed’ about it,” she said. “You send the man any message he may want to hear. He wants to hear sex ‘n’ leather, you’re there. He wants to hear rosy innocence, you’re there. He wants to hear business casual, you’re there. Remember when Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts what her name is, and she says, What do you want it to be?”

Tessa, still skeptical in front of the mirror, turned to glare at her friend through narrowed eyes.

“Look, I know you think I shouldn’t do this, but I have no cho– ”

“Me?” Keshia raised her arms in a gesture of innocence that made the bangles on her wrists jingle.

“Child, I think nothing. You say you have no choice? Then you better make sure he has no choice either. I’m helping you. Now. Pink heels, or black?”

Tessa was staring at the leather-clad image opposite her again.

“I draw the line at pink heels.”

They had been exchanging emails for a week, and Tessa knew that putting off the next step was the act of a chicken. And yet when Stuart – she still didn’t know his last name – suggested they meet for a drink, she hesitated.

Boston02493: How about, as a sign of good faith, I let you choose the place.

A sign of good faith? Tessa felt it was more of a test. It was also too much of a temptation.

Architecta87 : You know the IHOP on Soldiers Field, off the pike?

It was a full minute before he replied.

Boston02493: You’re either kidding, or we’re history.

Architecta87: Sorry ;-) So – anywhere I like?

Boston02493: Don’t forget I mean to spoil you.

Right. Deep breath.

Architecta87: I haven’t been to the Marriott on Long Wharf since they made it over.

Boston02493: The Marriott it is. Sat 20:00.

Architecta87: Yes, sir.

She grinned. So far, this wasn’t hurting. Oh, wait -

Architecta87: Will you be playing with a sugar cube, or how will we –

Luckily her inbox pinged while she was still typing.

Boston02493: Wait in the lobby. I’ll recognize you.

If he didn’t, she’d be wandering around the Marriott hotel looking like a hooker on the make. Huh.
He seemed to think that his zip code spoke more than a thousand photos. It was probably more impressive than his face. He was bound to be – Tessa phrased it warily: unattractive by conventional standards. But then, what did that mean? If he had a sense of humor, wasn’t smelly, creepy or cruel – what did it matter to her if he was short, or overweight, or bald, or just plain ordinary? Heck, ordinary was fine.

First Page: Trace of the Past – Paranormal with romantic elements

First Page: Trace of the Past – Paranormal with romantic elements

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

The aura surrounding the woman wavered between black and blacker. Not a good sign.
Naturally, I wouldn’t tell her that. At Shed Some Light, the premier metaphysical bookstore in Revere, Massachusetts, we prided ourselves on giving our clients hope and good news. Telling Mrs. Friedenhopfer she might be dead within a month probably wouldn’t fit that mission statement.
However, the future is easily changed. Mrs. Friedenhopfer probably didn’t know she had a—I squinted through the black to take a good look at her entire energy field—tumor on her left ovary. Not surprising she wouldn’t have suspected it. She was well past the age of ovulation, and probably figured any pain she had in her side came from just plain old age.
To protect the reputation of Shed Some Light, I couldn’t tell her about her impending demise. I could, however, do something to try to prevent her from dying.
“The pain you’re in requires a doctor’s attention,” I said.
Her eyes widened. “You know I’m in pain? You do have skills, Chandra. I haven’t even told my children.” She put both hands on her left side, just above her hip. “Right here, sometimes it hurts so bad I can’t even stand up. Can’t even breathe.” Her voice dropped to just above a whisper. “I thought it was, you know, movement problems.”
I managed not to chuckle at the woman’s inability to discuss her bathroom habits without being embarrassed. She came from a different time, one where real ladies didn’t talk about bodily functions. Which might put a crimp in a doctor’s attempt to find out what was wrong with her.
“It isn’t,” I said, keeping my tone low and soothing, the way I always spoke to my clients when I did readings or healings. Mrs. Friedenhopfer had asked for a reading. The hands-on aspect of the energy healing form I practiced turned off a lot of the elderly people who came to the shop. Some of the younger ones, too. Not that a healing session involved any weird touching, just my hands resting on the body on or as close as comfortable to each of the seven major energy centers in turn.
Some people just hated to be touched. At all. Ever.
So I was doing a reading for Mrs. Friedenhopfer. Probably a good thing, since even my skills as an energy healer weren’t up to dealing with cancer.
“Then what’s wrong with me?” she asked.
Now I put on my act. “What I see is somewhat clouded.” Not exactly a lie, since the black aura obscured anything else in her energy field. “However, it appears that it may be a serious medical problem. Mrs. Friedenhopfer, it’s imperative that you see your doctor as soon as possible and allow him or her to do a complete examination. Even the parts of your body that you aren’t comfortable letting a doctor see.”
“I haven’t had a… you know, one of those exams in years,” she said, horrified. “Not since shortly after my last child was born. I’m eighty years old, dear.”
“I know.” I did. I’d seen her driver’s license when she wrote out the check for her session. We required payment in advance, since a few too many people had tried to stiff practitioners.
Her face reddened. “We don’t… I don’t think I need that kind of exam. I know they say women’s health is important at all ages, but honestly, at seventy I should have my hoo-hah looked at?”