Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
Cliff was watching her with the strangest expression on his face. That confirmed it
Vickie. She had
blown it, and only her stoniest professional
mask, deeply ingrained since the experience with Ron, held[MH1] her from bursting
into fresh tears.
Vickie couldn’t believe it.
She knew better, but deep
[MH3] down, she
really thought this time might be different. Love was indeed blind.
If only her feelings
would stay buried. If only
she didn’t care about him, she
could just treat this like another facet of her professional life.
If only she could be as smooth about this as he was.
Inside of her, Vickie felt a seed of resistance start to grow.
She did care
about him, and if he really wanted to get rid of her,
he was just going to have to fire her.
“Shopping is nice, Cliff, but that’s not how I relax.” Beat this, Mr. Hawkesclyffe. “Strangely enough, I find coding very restful.” Check, Sir Humphrey.
Incredibly, he smiled. “I understand completely.
Strangely enough, that’s
how I relax, too.” He started gathering up the picnic things, talking as he
worked. “Okay, you need to get away from the front line for a while, and to be
honest, I could use a break from the heat, too.” He finished packing [MH4] and opened the truck door for her. “Here’s what we’ll
do. The disk utilities are designed, but not coded. Between the two of us, we
could get that code knocked out by Friday next.” She got into the truck, wondering what she had gotten herself into.
“It’ll be fun to be mucking about in the code again. Great idea, Vickie!” And he started the truck and took off.
Check mate, Victoria Lynn.
up with [MH6] disgust. “This
miserable piece of junk is never going to work. The code simply won’t
execute, no matter how I beg!”
Cliff looked up from his
“Beg, Vickie? I didn’t know
you spelled the word, much less used it.” He tossed the rest of the
printout over itself. The front edge, which had been hanging half off the
table , gracefully
the rest of the way
off and landed in a heap on the floor. Cliff looked around as if to say “Now, how did that happen?”[MH7]
It was two days into their
In those two days, no mention had been made of the disastrous picnic. Vickie
had put on her most effective corporate mask, and Cliff seemed relieved. At
least he was superficially cheerful . As
they worked together, though, her mask began skewing, then slipping dangerously.
He was just so damned personable when he put his mind to it.
Cliff sighed and checked his
“Vickie, I think we both need a break. It’s almost— Do
you realize it’s nearly eleven? We must be the only people in the building. Even
Operations has turned over to the off‑site watch.”
“Oh, my goodness. I’ve got to get the rest of this code checked tonight. It looks like another all‑nighter for me.” She hadn’t been able to sleep the last two nights, anyway.
I have anything to say about it.”
Cliff said. “I can’t have you getting burned out on me. I
hereby issue an executive decree that you accompany me to the company gym. I’ll meet you there in
seen the compact but
workout area when she first came.
“People can blow off the accumulated tensions of the day here. It functions as
an outside place where networking and play can take place in a safe environment.
There are no titles here, and whatever is said here stays here.” Her guide had likened it
watering hole, but without the alcohol.
Vickie came out of the
frankly cramped locker room wearing leotard
and tights, her Reeboks[MH8] squeaking on the floor. She felt at the same time
undressed because of their body‑hugging nature and dowdy because they were two year’s
colors out of date. Her self‑consciousness was not aided by the new bandanna
headband she had spent several minutes adjusting in the mirror and was certain
She looked around and spotted Cliff moving gracefully through the first exercises in the tao‑she
,[MH9] the unusual martial art he
clearly the same movements , that night in the sweltering heat of Middle Yemen , and
how devastating the
effect had been on their opponents.
Cliff finished the exercise with a slow rotation of his torso. His back rippled under the thin singlet he wore.
She quickly clamped down on her
rising libido [MH11] as Cliff
strode over, smiling in welcome.
“I’m sure you’ve seen this equipment before, but I still need to explain its operation to you. You wouldn’t believe the hassle my insurance carrier gives me about such things.”
and nodded politely as Cliff pointed out the stations of the Universal
weight machine sitting in the center of the room, the
free weight stations, the stationary bicycles ,
[MH12] and the
stair climbing machines. “Of course, you know how to use a running track ,”
Cliff said as he pointed to the three lanes
circling the room.
“Yes. Yes, it’s all coming back to me now,” Vickie said with a small hint of acid in her voice. “I think I’ll start with a little stretching and something aerobic, and then hit the weights.”
Vickie went over to the wall, where a rack of weights was marked by a horizontal bar. She was slightly irritated that even with her firmest mental discipline in place Cliff’s simply exercising could cause her so much
It wasn’t fair that he could be so exciting. A rebellious thought overtook her.
[MH1]She'd just been having an incredibly impossible time putting on her corporate mask. I needed something a little more concrete to stop her from breaking down.
[MH2]Here's an example of natural dialogue versus natural-sounding (but furthering-the-story) dialogue. Sure, we say "look" to get people's attention but it's a garbage word in the story. Sweetheart tells us his heart is going out to her.
[MH4]Here I switched a non-specific action with a very specific one--it will make an immediate picture in the reader's mind (hopefully of muscles bunching :) and still conveys the idea that they're finishing up.
[MH5]Again, we're taught as writers to save the payoff for the final sentence in the paragraph. That doesn't work if a) the ereader is too small to let the reader know the payoff is coming or b) your reader learned the technique of reading the topic sentence (1st sentence in the paragraph) to see if it's worth reading the rest of the paragraph. Here's this nice juicy payoff, but if for some reason your reader has decided the paragraph isn't worth it, he/she will miss it.
I put important information (that I don't want the reader to miss) in the first sentence.
[MH7]Oh, I miss the days of inches-thick stacks of greenbar. I still sigh over the lost comedy potential.
[MH10]I'm not sure if it's better, but this sentence originally started with a descriptive phrase. I changed it to start with action. Somewhere along the line I learned description must be sprinkled on top of action.
[MH11]This is a point I can't make often enough. Your reader is reading in sequence, in English left-to-right. If you put the consequence before the action it will interrupt her/his reading and may even cause confusion.