Mate Dates

After running away from her husband to be, budding novelist Mara hides away in a bar, not really caring she's still in her wedding dress. In this bar, she encounters Garrett, the man she hasn't seen in ten years.
Garrett very well knows who Mara is, even if Mara doesn't recognise him through her whiskey haze, but he doesn't really mind her being there, so there she stays.

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Author's note

A novella half inspired by Procrastination and binge-watching How I Met Your Mother. Enjoy :)
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5. Getting to know you

 

Five: Getting to know you.

Garrett

 

She stutters out a reply and the words flow brokenly. She discusses her life, fiddling with the erotica novel as she does so. I don’t think she realises what’s she’s doing.

Mara wrote a novel straight out of university and when the rejection letters piled up she moved to an office job for a high earning company. She settled and met Peter, falling for his charm, but the relationship had never been perfect and despite the near six years that, they were together nothing fit. About four years ago she quit the office and opened Book Nook, an endeavour almost as terrifying as writing a novel.

I tell her about meeting Billy at my mother’s funeral, going back to Sunny Brew Bar and eventually signing the contract to become co-owner. I’ve been at Sunny Brew for all of that, collecting books and dabbling with carving wood on the side for hobbies. I tell her about the friendship group I’ve carved for myself, Erica the comic book illustrator and Mike the guitarist, regaling tales of our adventures from the last couple of years.

She’s sympathetic, having loved my mother as much as I loved her. But she laughs at the horrors of the bar, chortling at all the right stories and she doesn’t feel replaced, how can she when she disappeared for ten years?

We talk about the dilemmas of owning a business and we evade the matter of last night until my stupid mouth stalls the conversation. “Why did you leave this morning?”

Her expression falls and it takes her minutes to formulate a response, “I think I didn’t want to risk the chance that it wasn’t you, that I slept in a stranger’s apartment after getting blitzed. Or I think I didn’t want to face the fact that I had just embarrassed myself massively in front of you, I mean I’m a runaway bride, getting blitzed and I see my best friend for the first time in ten years.” She places her head in her hands, her black hair coming unfree.

“It’s nice that I’m still your best friend,” I joke because my mind got stuck on that one piece of information.

“You would focus on that, wouldn’t you?” she laughs, “Of course you’re my best friend if you want me that is?”

I nod and we go back on the right track. She jokes whether or not I want to buy the erotica novel, I shake my head and we spend hours picking the worst lines from the book, passing it back and forth. We settle into the roles we had as children and it’s easy, simple, just like it should be.

 

Mara

I blow into the bar a few days later, a wrapped book in my hands. I nod towards Billy in the corner who meets me with a grin, no doubt having heard from Garrett all about our meeting. He looks glad that we’ve sorted things out. I think we all are to be quite honest.

I lean over and kiss Garrett on the cheek, not even thinking about it, and he grins, looking inquisitively at the package in my hand. I pass it over. “The Book Nook is finally doing ‘Blind Date with a Book’ to celebrate Valentines, I know you are a sucker for a promotional deal.”

Garrett smiles and reads the brown-papered package, high fantasy, spies and heroes. It’s something new to get his teeth into and he leans forward to kiss my cheek. “Now all you have to do is write your own book to accompany this.”

I twist my face. My book is something that’s barred from the conversation, I’ve said that I’ve written one and I am re-writing it but not what it’s about. I can’t give away those details just yet. Plus I haven’t touched that word document with a barge pole in about three months, having used wedding preparations as procrastination.

“C’mon, you’re Mara Thompson, the great author, re-write it, publish it and we’ll keep it in the bar to boast about.”

Instead of replying I order a drink. Throughout the week he brings up the book subject no less than twelve times. In that same time, he’s picked up two more Blind Dates, which is also a hit with the town and dragged me away from the shop which has suddenly become busier with lovesick teenagers than I’m comfortable with.

“You never know unless you try,” he says through a mouthful of chow-mien, fingers poised expertly around the chopsticks while I wield a fork.

“You never say that about things you definitely wouldn’t want to do, like puking on a vicar.”

“That’s a weak response, what if I had an upset stomach.”

We’re in his apartment since I’m still living at home. He’s finally explained the Great Gatsby copies, his favourite novel in fact, even though in school he hated the classics. I gain an insight into the man that is Garrett Brown, a man instead of the boy I used to know

“At least let me read the first version and that way I can point out things you can change?”

“We’ll see.”

The week after that I’m staring at the document on my laptop, left untouched at ten thousand words. It’s a handful of chapters, barely a beginning and it looks pitiful. I read it, cringe at it until I hate it and shut the laptop. It’s the most progress I’ve had in bloody months.

The first time I stay at Garrett’s apartment, waiting for the bar to shut down as I stare at my horrible sentences about adventures in space, I meet Erica. Erica is a leggy blonde, all tight leather skirts and confidence. She raps up the stairs to the apartment like its nobody’s business with Garrett’s heated words following her.

“If you’ve got a girl in there then I want to meet her,” I hear and hastily look up from trying to write a single word. At first, I think Erica is a girlfriend Garrett never told me about, I’m stung about it for a moment before I tell myself to stop being stupid. But then the words register and I chastise myself.

“It’s just Mara, the girl I used to know from school,” Garrett says weakly as Erica appears. I can see the edge of a tattoo peeking out from the sleeve of her tank top and she stalks towards me like I’m prey.

“Mara as in Mara Thompson, the fabled best friend from school?” she asks me instead of Garrett. I nod and she smiles like a shark. Garrett flounders in the corner, ignoring the calls of Billy from downstairs. Erica’s arm wraps around my shoulder, “Hi, I’m Garrett’s best friend, have been for about four years.”

She tosses the friend card out like it’s going to hurt me but it’s better than the girlfriend title. “Nice to meet you?”

Erica is a comic book artist and addicted to getting tattoos, she shares embarrassing stories of Garrett and the man in question eventually retreats to the safety of the bar. Within one hour the story on my laptop is forgotten and I’ve struck an unlikely friendship with Erica.

There have been weirder situations but this one goes in the ranks somewhere.

 

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