Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
When she had wound down to red eyes and sniffles, she
told him, “You know,
they say that crying
is the absolute worst thing you can do in a business environment. That it’s a
sign you’re not professional. And here I’ve done it twice, with the CEO for that matter. I guess
that proves I’m not cut out to be a professional.”
her chin gently in one hand. “You’re not
professional? Well, maybe they wouldn’t think so at Stuffed Shirt
Corporation , but not
Vickie looked up at him
her heart in her eyes.
on speaking, his voice matter‑of‑fact. “In my opinion, a real
professional admits their problems and shortcomings, personal and business, and
then does the job anyway. Vickie, I
think you’re a person who can [M2] do that.”
She nodded glumly.
went on. “Anyway, I think we’ve done all the damage we can do here. I recommend we shower, get some food and get back to work. I could eat a moose, hooves and all.”
“Hopefully you know by now I mean what I say. C’mon,
now, let’s go get something to eat. I’ll even share my dessert.”
“Well, how can I resist such a selfless offer?” She walked as sprightly as she could away from him, into the women’s locker room.
Once she gained the safety of the closed door, she sank back against it, utterly miserable.
‘Oh, Victoria Lynn, you’ve gone and [M5] told the best goddam
man you’ve ever
met you don’t
want to be his loverwhen you know that’s all you want
to do. ’
She heard Cliff banging his locker; odd, she hadn’t heard it when they came down here
. She bit her lip and
fought back tears again. ‘He’s
different than Ron , he does care about
you. If you weren’t such a prig you
could have at least part of
him . Grow up,
Vickie.’ Carpe diem, as Grandpa used
pulled herself upright
and dragged over to
the small locker. She began to
fantasize about him. She pulled the shoulder of her leotard off[M6] , imagining that Cliff’s
hands were doing it. She rolled it over her breasts, seeing Cliff’s
eyes riveted to her. Her hands pushed the stretch material over her hips. She
bent over, dreaming that she was exposing her most private areas for him. She heard the bang of a
the[M7] sharp hiss of a shower next door . I’d
better get a move on , she thought. Now
would not be the time to be late.
quickly pulled off the rest of her clothes and hurried carefully
on the ceramic tile, her bare feet
making little pungs on the floor in her impatience ,
confusion and black sorrow.
‘Maybe a good hot shower will get me back into it. Besides, there’s always tomorrow . Great, just put me
in an antebellum gown on the steps of Tara , I’ll be fine.’ The
shower blasted out cold; she
gasped and quickly found the
knob to adjust it to less than arctic temperature.
“Gotcha, didn’t it? I forgot to warn you about that. These showers are a bit temperamental.”
Vickie jumped. Cliff’s voice seemed quite near
, and Vickie took a moment to find the section of wall opened,
above, apparently between
the two showers. “Cliff, is that you?”
“You were expecting maybe
Wally Cox? Or Andrew Dice Clay? [M8] No, John just finally got around to calling the
plumbers in. That wall was opened for repairs to this cranky plumbing.”
“Are you sure you don’t have a ladder over there? I mean, for the repair work and all?” Vickie stepped under the shower, wet her hair and began to
shampoo but she still kept one
eye on the hole.
“Scout’s honor, Vickie. But if it’ll help, I’ll be glad to talk to you. Or better yet, sing.”
Cliff began to warble tentatively. “Mi, mi, mi
Ah, such good acoustics. I never could see why opera wasn’t performed in the
shower instead of a great drafty barn. Okay, now. Vesti, Pagliacci . Cliff swarmed
up to the high note and cracked broadly. “Say, remind me to tell you how tenors
really get to the high ones.”
Vickie sighed to herself.
know, I could even live with his singing.
I must be an
incredible dope. ’ Or he’s an in credible man, a little inner
voice reminded. She began to soap her body, trying unsuccessfully to avoid
stimulating her over worked
Cliff began again, this time with something he called Madama Butterfly. He briefly sounded as though he were drowning, then began again.
“What did you ever do with all the money your mom gave you for singing lessons?” Vickie assayed this little dig
, hoping he would take it as a sign of
her professional resilience
(hoping he would still like her[M9] ).
Cliff forced his voice like a rusted locomotive up the mountainside, creaking precariously among the high notes.
“Ouch!”, Vickie said. A bar of soap had just hit her in the head.
“Hey, where’d my soap go?” asked Cliff.
“Here, on my head,” she called back. “I probably have a concussion. What were you doing, anyway?”
“Just putting a little oomph into it. I must have shot it through the gap in the wall. I bet I couldn’t do
in a zillion years ,” he
said wonderingly. [M10]
Vickie picked up the soap from the floor. This was his soap. It smelled like him. She closed her eyes and filled her lungs with the scent.
“Hey, Vickie, just toss it back over to me.”
She imagined herself to be the soap, gliding over each wonderful, strong curve of his body, secretly kissing every part of him.
“Okay, Vickie, I promise not to sing any more; just give me back my soap
she forced herself to say the words. “Why don’t you come and get it?”
There was a stunned silence, then
Vickie heard the door open.
She turned in the shower, one arm crossing her breast to her shoulder, the other holding the soap out, trying not to tremble. The steam boiled across the door and cleared.
Cliff filled the
motionless as though carved from rock. The powerful beauty of his naked body
struck Vickie physically. Hair was plastered over his brow, making tiny
rivulets down his jaw, neck, torso, trickling down his smooth tanned skin.
[M1]I'll have to check the transition here. On rereading it strikes me as a rehashing of the conflict without adding anything to it.
[M3]Again, the certainty of one-and-only is too soon--and more importantly too pat--for the modern market.
[M4]This addition is because in the first version of this story, they're working out on day one (there's even less time to get to know each other). When I added the two weeks' working vacation for them to bond, I simply crammed it before this scene without much change. I know better now :) This corrects that transition.
[M5]Again, the modern form of internal dialogue is third-person close POV or italicized thoughts, not single quote.
[M6]This and the following was originally Vickie beating up on herself for her very valid concerns. While some real women can carry loads of unnecessary guilt, it makes Vickie less sympathetic to the reader as a heroine and is really not in her character.
[M7]Good example of the difference cutting the filter word (heard) makes. See how much more immediate the impact is?
[M10]Trust your reader and your writing. If you've showm what the hero's feeling you don't need to explain it too.