Chapter None: A Short Story
Since I'm on Hub number 10, I've decided to start a new tradition with my writing. For every 10 hubs published, I will post a short story. Here's one to start that tradition. I hope you all enjoy it.
Kim sat in front of her laptop and stared at it for nearly 30 minutes. A blank page from her word processor filled her screen. On occasion, Kim would type a few words here and there, but then she found herself deleting the words immediately. Most of the time she just leaned back in her black leather office chair with her arms crossed. By the end of her 30 minutes of silence, she breathed heavily through her nostrils and shook her head.
Kim lived in a small condo in a residential building located in her home city. It was a two bedroom place with the laptop being placed in one of the bedrooms that she converted into an office. The laptop sat on a wooden desk made of dark oak and a wireless mouse on the right side. The walls were painted white and the floor was covered with a light gray carpet. The room did have some pictures to give some life to it. On the wall to her left was a picture that was painted using water-colors. It depicted a red cardinal flying over a vast forest of trees with the sun floating in the blue sky. On the right was a piece of tanned colored stationary paper in a black frame with black writing in cursive.
The profound person understands what is moral. The small person understands what is profitable - Confucius
Kim looked over that frame for a moment as she read over the words and laughed a little.Yeah, but "small people" still make more money than I do, she thought to herself.
Kim wore black thick black-rimmed glasses and a white t-shirt and jeans and white socks. Her jet black hair was in a ponytail and her skin had a slight olive tone. She was not wearing any make-up and it was rare for her to do so. She was certainly an attractive young woman in her mid-30's, but she never liked the idea of trying to be "dolled-up" or prim and proper. Her line of work did not require her to do so and she preferred it that way. It made her feel more relaxed -- usually.
She turned her head to the left as she heard the doorbell ring. Her eyebrows raised a little as she wasn't expecting any company. She swiveled her chair around and walked towards the door out of her office, which was a dark oak color like that of her desk and had a gold painted round door knob. She opened the door to her living room.
The living room was covered by carpet, just like the one in her office. The walls here were also white. In the middle of the room was a small glass coffee table. Sitting at the center of the table was a thick round red candle held up by a white round base made of porcelain. To the right of the table was an-off white cushioned sofa large enough to seat 3 to 4 people. The couch faced the table and a flat-screen TV that was 40" wide, sitting on top of a wooden entertainment center coated in black paint with two drawers on the left, two on the right, and an open shelf holding a gray DVD player in the center. The width of the entertainment center was the same as that of the TV. Down the end of the room was a large window with a view of the city, which shined brightly under the sun and only a few clouds present in the sky.
The front door to the condo was to Kim's right and was made in the same fashion as the door to her office. She walked over to it and opened it.
Standing there in the doorway was a young lady near the same age as Kim with long blonde hair, a white tank top and jeans. She was dressed about as casually as Kim, but her face had make-up painted on it with red lipstick and light purple eye-shadow.
"Carla," Kim started as she raised her hand to her mouth and chuckled a little. "You realize it's Saturday afternoon, don't you? Are you going on a date or something?"
"If only, hun!" Carla replied with a laugh of her own and gave Kim a tight hug. "Anyway, you know me...I like to get a little pretty even when I don't have anything planned. Besides, if a guy does pass by, I need to be prepared to impress him, you know?" She pulled back and then gave a small wink. Kim and Carla found themselves laughing again. Carla then said: "All joking aside, I actually do have some errands to run and I'm heading out later tonight to meet up some of the girls for drinks, so I figured I get prepared. By the time I'm done, I don't think I'll have time to get back and get ready here. Before I go though, I wanted to see if you wanted come along?"
"I'm...not so sure about that," Kim said with a shrug and took a few steps away from Carla. Carla gave her a serious stare and Kim immediately spoke up as she noticed: "Don't get me wrong! It's nothing you did...just that money's kind of tight right now..."
"Come on, hun! That's never stopped you before!" Carla exclaimed and walked over to Kim and grabbed her by the shoulders. "You always have a good time with us and you never miss out! Besides, you know me! I'll cover for you until you get me back."
"I know, Kim, but that's just not going to work this time, sorry..." Kim replied solemnly. She stepped away from Carla and walked over to the couch. She sat down and placed her elbows on her legs, folded her arms upwards and clasped her hands, then rested her head on her clasped hands.
Carla took a couple of steps towards Kim and then noticed the door to her office was opened. She looked closely at the computer monitor and noticed a white page was pulled up, but there were no words. Just a barren page with a blinking single line cursor. Carla looked back at Kim and began to frown.
A blank page? That's not like her, Carla thought to herself.
Carla walked over to Kim and sat down next to her, then put her right arm around her shoulders.
"Kim, how long has been it been since you last submitted a manuscript to your editor?" Carla asked with a serious tone.
"Almost three months..." Kim said and a tear started to fall down her right cheek. "And he approved it, but the royalties I'm getting from that are so-so...not one of my best works apparently, so I need to come up with something soon."
"Kim, you've done some pretty good books, but you've had flops before. They've never gotten you down like this!" She pulled her closer and whispered gently in Kim's ear: "Hun, what's wrong? Have you been like this since that argument?"
"Look Carla, I appreciate your concern, but...wait a minute," Kim stood up from the couch and gave a hard stare at Carla. She raised her voice a little, "What argument? What are you talking about?"
"Come on, sweetie, don't play the fool with me," Carla said and she stood up with her arms crossed. She then started tapping her fingers from her right hand onto her left arm. It was a pretty loud tap, which made Kim grind her teeth in annoyance.
"Carla, I love you like a sister, but how many times have I told you to quit listening in to my conversations?!" Kim said a little louder this time.
"And how many times..." Carla started with her finger from her left hand pointed in Kim's face, "...have I not listened to you and you've been grateful for that?! Besides, that argument was so loud the people living above and below us could probably hear it!"
Kim sat back down on the couch and breathed loudly in protest through her nose. She crossed her arms and looked back at Carla, who then put her left hand on her hip and gave Kim a serious stare. Kim shook her head and sighed.
"Carla, I'm sorry..." Kim replied softly, "I'm just under a lot of pressure and writer's block is not what I need right now..."
"I know, dear, and I'm sorry too, I did try to mind my own business," Carla started and sat down next to Kim again. She reached out with her right hand and held onto Kim's left shoulder, gently rubbing it, and spoke again: "Kim, you and I have talked about a lot of things together. Please don't keep this from me. Let me help you. Tell me what happened?"
Kim nodded and replied softly: "Well, it was Dan again and this time it was a pretty bad argument."
Carla huffed in protest and said: "I figured as much! He's such a jerk! Sorry, hun, I'm not trying to make you feel worse, but you know I just never liked him!"
"Once you hear what I have to tell you," Kim said solemnly, "you're going to like him even less..."
"Oh, excuse me, your highness! How about I just get on my knees and kiss your feet? Would that make you feel any freakin' better??!!"
Dan's voice ran so loud that Kim thought the windows would end up shaking. She was standing in the living room with Dan who was wearing a white business shirt and a loosened red tie and had his back towards the couch. He also wore pinstripe black pants and his brown hair was neatly combed and parted to the left side. His attire was certainly more formal than that of Kim, who wore jeans, white tennis shoes, and a pink t-shirt.
Kim was stunned Dan's hair stayed in place despite his ranting and raving.
Dan was holding a rolled up newspaper in his left hand. He unfolded it with both hands and turned the front page towards Kim. It was titled Stock Entrepreneurs. Dan held the open page with his left hand and shoved his finger from his right hand onto the middle of the page, pointing to a title:Youngest Broker Stuns Convention with Confirmation of Company Gain Predictions. Kim nodded at the sight of the article, sighed, and crossed her arms.
"Oh, good grief, Kim!" shouted Dan and threw the paper down on the couch. He then placed his hands on his hips and continued loudly: "Is that all I get? Do you have any idea how much time I've spent at the office trying to come up with these figures? This paper is the most famous investment journal in the city! That's the sort of thing that could get me a good position with the Wall Street Journal! Do you have any idea how good our lives could be? How much this means to us?"
"Us?" Kim replied with a sour tone. "Dan, cut the crap about this meaning anything to us! This is all you ever talked about! I know how important this was to you! It obviously was a big enough deal for you to spend your time putting a flashy presentation together for your bigwig buddies and miss out on my birthday!"
"Oh man, you are such a child!" replied Dan and threw his arms up in the air. "Baby, I know how much your birthday means to you, and I understand you're a little upset about it. But you'll have another one next year. By that time, I could climb so high up corporate ladder that I could throw you ten birthdays next year all in one night. You're telling me sacrificing one celebration this year isn't worth it?"
"Dan, think about what you're saying before saying it!" yelled Kim and threw her arms to the side and stomped her left foot on the ground with a loud bang. She then said: "It's not just about missing a day! We're talking about a special moment for us to share with each other! How many other moments are you going to put on hold for us so you can improve the collection of your pinstripe wardrobe?"
"Oh, fine then, how about you make a list of those special 'moments' for me..." he said while raising both arms and putting his fingers in the form of quotation marks, "and I'll make sure to avoid putting off any of those so you don't have any more hissy fits?!"
Kim took three large and quick steps towards Dan, brought her right hand up, and smacked his left cheek with lightening speed. Dan stumbled towards the couch and almost fell on it, but managed to catch himself by putting out his arms. He managed to balance himself on his feet as he had both of his hands holding on the arm of the couch. As he leaned back up, he stood face to face with Kim and placed his left hand on his left cheek while giving Kim a scowling look.
Dan opened his mouth to speak up, but Kim immediately raised her right arm and pointed towards the door. They stood in silence, staring at each other for nearly a full minute as if one was waiting for the other to make the next move. Dan simply breathed heavily as if he was ready to explode again, but Kim's stance did not change. She continued to stare at him and kept her finger pointed at the door.
Dan moved towards the couch, leaned over, and grabbed the paper with his left hand. He quickly turned without giving Kim another glance. He walked towards the door, opened it with his right hand, stepped out, and slammed it shut behind him. As soon as the door closed, Kim raised her hands to her face and buried it in her palms, soaking them with tears.
Carla continued to rub her shoulder, but remained quiet with no expression on her face. Kim never looked towards her, but simply stared at the table as she relayed the story. Small tears began to stream down her left cheek. She took her left hand and wiped it with her finger, breathing heavily as if a vice was compressing her chest. Her knees and legs quivered violently. Carla then moved closer to Kim, grabbed Kim's head with right arm, and moved it gently onto her right shoulder. Carla gently stroked Kim's hair with her hand and kissed her forehead, then rocked her back and forth like she would with a baby who was too nervous or high strung to desire sleep.
"Hun, this has been a tough few months for you, I'm sure," Carla said in a soft and comforting tone, "Still, you can't let what happened affect your life. Dan was selfish and will always be selfish! He wasn't trying to be a big successful business guy to make you happy. He just wanted to have someone around for him to impress. It was always about him!"
"I know, but, it's just that he's so much more successful than I am," Kim whimpered, "I mean, yeah, I've written some decent books, but I just have a cult following. I'm barely getting by now. I mean, who really reads anything nowadays, unless it's something that matters to them?"
"Not everyone in the world is Dan, dear, and thank God for that!" Carla said with a stern voice. "There are more people out there that care about what you do than you realize. You're just too distraught right now to see it. Besides, I've seen what you've written and you're a wicked writer! So got to it, girl!" As she said this, Carla gave her a strong pat on the pack with her hand, which caused Kim to hunch forward a little. Kim leaned back and started to laugh and Carla laughed with her. She turned to Carla and gave her a tight hug and Carla returned it in kind.
"Thanks, Carla! You're just awesome, you know that?" asked Kim.
"Come on, hun, tell me something I don't know," she said with a giggle and Kim joined in with her. Carla moved away from Kim, grabbed her shoulders and helped her up from the couch. "So, I think you got a piece to do, don't you?" Kim nodded and walked over to her office.
As Kim was just about to walk into her office, she heard Carla say, "One more thing, hun," and Kim turned around looking at Carla. Carla stood in front of the door of the condo with her right hand on the handle. She then said: "First, text me later if you change your mind about coming out tonight, especially if you need a break and trust me, you will. Second, did I ever tell you something my mom once told me after I went through a nasty divorce years ago?"
Kim shook her head. I didn't even know she was married once, she thought to herself in bewilderment.
Carla then breathed in deeply and spoke slowly, "She said: 'Sometimes you have to start all over from nothing in order to have something in your life again.' Think about that, hun." She gave Kim a wink and opened the door, then closed it behind her gently.
Kim turned towards her computer and stared at it. She kept thinking very hard about what Carla just said. She then looked at the frame on the wall that contained the Confucius quote. She crossed her arms and smiled as she read the words in her mind. Maybe, she thought to herself, you knew exactly what you were talking about after all.
She walked with a quick pace to her computer, sat in her chair, and began to type.
Carla stood in line for almost an hour. She's lucky we're so tight, she thought to herself, cause this is not fun at all! I hate long lines!
Carla knew, however, this was a special occasion...at least according to Kim anyway. She made extra sure that she was properly dressed for the occasion. She wore a blue sequin dress and carried a purse to match over her right shoulder. She also wore quite a bit of make-up: red lipstick, some blush, and press-on eyelashes. Her blonde hair shined with radiance as she just had it shampooed and conditioned at a local salon earlier that day.
The long lines annoyed her, but she had no qualms sending a wink here and there to the occasional gentleman that passed by her. Naturally, most of them blushed...even the ones with their dates.
Oh yeah, I got me a good dress, she said to herself as giggled.
Carla was standing behind a line of three people. Nearly an hour earlier, she was behind 40 of them. She was in a large ballroom with walls that were draped in black sheets. On Carla's left were glass tables covered in white silk table cloth and lined up against the walls. One table was near the front of the room with two large silver bowls and ladles. Another one next to it was filled with golden painted platters and dishes of cheeses, fruits, fried chicken tenders, spring rolls, and other assortments of finger food. The third one was in the back of the room that also held golden plated dishes and they were filled with assortments of desserts such as small chocolate square fudges, cookies, and baklava. To the right of Carla was a small archway made of iron and painted in white. Green vines were entangled in the archway and a photographer stood in front of it taking pictures as couples came by to have their pictures taken under it.
The room was dimly lit by a decorative chandelier. The metal iron rods were painted in gold and curved upward to hold up the bulbs that were molded into shape to look like flames from candles. Hanging off the metal rods were what appeared to be hundreds of glass prisms that twisted freely and sparkled the room, giving a subtle shine of brilliant light as if they were fireflies flying near the ceiling.
Despite the dimly lit room, it was still light enough for Carla to see the crowd composition and she was glad to see that she was not overdressed. The women wore a variety of cocktail style dresses and some even wore brightly colored feathered sashes to match their dresses. The men were decorated in coattail tuxedos and some even bore military medals upon their vests. Carla just shook her head and giggled a little as she thought to herself: Man, she's got a loaded fanbase! You have no idea what you missed out on, Dan!
Ten minutes later, the last person in front of Carla, who was an older women wearing a green dress and a green lady's hat to match, walked away to reveal the sight of Kim sitting behind her table. Kim wore a white sleeveless dress that was decorated with images of black sewn roses. Her hair was wrapped in a bun and she thinned out her eyebrows and painted her lips red. Laying to the right of Kim was a stack of books all in blue covers with white lettering on them. As Kim saw Carla approach her, she adjusted her glasses and stood up, leaning over and spreading out her arms. Carla walked up to her quickly and wrapped her arms around Kim, and they embraced each other in a brief hug.
Carla pulled back and adjusted her hair as she said: "Aren't you the fancy lookin' girly girl tonight, hun?" She then gave her a wink and a bright smile.
Kim chuckled and touched the back of her hair, then replied: "Well, like I told you on the phone last week, this was a big night, so I wanted to look impressive."
"You sure did that hun! And speaking of which... " Carla said as she pointed her finger at her with her left hand, "What took you so long to get back to me?? The last I heard from you was when you were with me and the girls that night you told me about Dan. You were going on and on about how you just started to get your next big project together. And no matter how much we asked what it was, all we heard was, 'It's just going to be big!' That was at least a year ago!!"
"Well, 10 months really," Kim said with a sarcastic tone and chuckled a little.
"I'm serious!" Carla replied with a slightly harsh tone. "I'm happy for you now, but good grief, I had no idea what was going on!"
"I'm sorry, Carla, I didn't mean to shut you out like that. But here... " Kim reached over to the top of her book stack with her left hand and handed it Carla, who took it with both her hands. Kim then said, "...maybe this will make up for it."
Carla looked at the cover. She opened her eyes widely as she read the title. It was large white lettering centered in a golden outlined box over a sky blue background. It read:
Chapter None: The Autobiography of Kim Clark
Carla looked up back to Kim, but just as she was about to open her mouth, Kim reached over to the book with her left hand and flipped the cover as Carla still held onto it. Kim flipped over a few pages and pointed to some small writing on a rather barren page.
Carla read the passage and immediately dropped it to the floor. Tears swelled in her eyes and immediately Kim rushed around the table towards her left and as she rounded the table she embraced Carla in another hug. Carla hugged back, but this time it would not be brief under any circumstances.
The book stayed on the floor, showing the page with the sentence that Carla just read:
This book is dedicated to my dear friend Carla, who once told me that there would be times I would have to "...start all over from nothing in order to have something in your life again."