Lacuna

(Thought I’d share a short story I wrote several years ago and only just stumbled across.)

Lacuna

by: Allie Frost

         Café La Bréche was unusually busy for a Thursday morning. Outside, beneath the bright yellow awning, every table was occupied. To foreigners, the café advertised ‘Paris in a cup,’ but to the Parisians it was nothing more than a simple, somewhat tacky café by the Seine, the towers of Notre Dame watching thoughtfully in the distance.

Emery King wasn’t overly fond of the place, but she had picked it out—and so he went. She said she liked the ambience. He preferred to select his breakfast venues based on the food choice and whether or not he deemed the prices reasonable, but Mona would take burnt croissants and exorbitantly expensive espresso as long as the atmosphere was nice.

“Your coffee will get cold if you don’t drink.”

At his warning, Mona obediently took a sip from her mug, green eyes twinkling over the rim. “Cold coffee is not a tragedy,” she teased.

Emery scoffed. “For €4.50 a cup it is.”

Mona laughed. A breeze kicked up, and she brushed some auburn strands of hair from her face. She had changed her color again. She had been blonde the last time he saw her, and brunette the time before that. He didn’t even remember what her natural hair looked like—or if he had ever seen it.

Mona smirked. “You’ve always been too serious, Emery.”

Emery sighed, crossing one leg over his knee.

You are not serious enough.”

“I am known to be serious sometimes,” she informed him indignantly. “For example, when I tell you I am glad you came to visit, I am being serious.”

He dabbed at his moustache with a napkin. The foam from his coffee always collected there. He would probably need to shave soon. He had an important conference in about a week and wanted to look professional. Mona hated the moustache the last time they had met—Berlin, three years ago. It was half the reason he’d kept it so long. But this time she said she loved it.

“I could visit more often if we lived in the same country.”

Mona took the sunglasses from the top of her head and positioned them over her eyes. Emery wished she wouldn’t hide them. Sometimes, when he looked in her eyes, he could almost grasp what she was thinking, or feeling—almost. No matter what else she changed, her eyes had always been the same. Mystifying green.

“I like it here,” she determined. “There is no reason for me to move.”

Emery rolled his eyes. She liked it now. She would hate it in three months and move a thousand miles away, most likely, and he’d only find out when his letters would return to him unopened with ‘Return to Sender’ stamped in red on the envelope.

“You don’t even speak the language.”

Mona laughed lightly. Emery loathed that laugh as much as he loved it. Such a careless sort of afterthought – as though she found no actual humor in his words, but wanted to appease him. A whimsical flippancy. An expression of pity. It frustrated him.

“Precisely why I like it.”

Emery tried not to show his annoyance. She couldn’t even order a croissant in French. Yet she had lived in Paris for at least a year—or was it two? He didn’t remember. She knew ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir.’ Hello and goodbye. She was a creature of constant hellos and goodbyes – it was what came in between those hellos and goodbyes that kept changing.

“What is the point in living in a place where you can’t understand anyone?”

“That’s the point, though.” She stared at him, but he couldn’t quite see her eyes beyond the tinted lenses. “If you don’t understand, then you can pretend. The nastiest insults become the prettiest compliments when you don’t understand the difference.”

             It’s a pretend life, he wanted to tell her. You’re not really living.

But of course he wouldn’t say that. She wouldn’t listen anyway.

He sighed.

“I will never understand you, Mona.”

He had known her for a long time—thirteen years. Since freshman year of college. Every sporadic letter, every fleeting conversation since then always felt like he was speaking to someone he had never met. Struggling to hang on to the image of a person he would never really know, and perhaps, had never known at all.

She smiled coyly. “No, you won’t. But it’s better that way.”

Her coffee had stopped steaming. She had only taken a few sips—the mug was over half-full. €4.50 for a cold coffee. Such a waste—a tragedy.

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Writing Rewind #13: Wings of Fate Chapter 8 Part 2

*I will only be making Friday posts for the month of December. Regular Monday and Friday posting will resume in January.*

WOW, it’s been a while since my last post. Not because I’ve been avoiding it this time, but because I’ve been swamped with work and other things, but now I’m ready to re-embark on the S.S. Cringe-fest and wrap up chapter 8 of this travesty.

Last time on the UNMEI, Matthias was being a robot to everyone, per usual, though slightly more jerk-ish than usual. And we’re going to find out why! What is it about the “hated day” that makes Matthias behave in such a way? Well, strap yourselves in… it’s going to be quite a ride, with a lamentable romance on the horizon.

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe
Green highlight – switch/move

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This first selection is a nice warm up. Minna and Tango chatting about the General and his prickly behavior, and there’s a mysterious gift involved… though with more detail and description than is needed. So how are we going to fix that? *unscrews highlighter cap*

chapter 8 p2p1CHANGES

Trim and chop, trim a chop… it’s becoming quite a theme. Altogether, though, this passage is not totally horrendous. No, no… that is yet to come, don’t fret.

chapter 8 p2p1FIXED

The superfluous bits have been shaved away, and the meat of the story remains. The dialogue tends to get repetitive because I like to make absolutely sure my message gets across, but I’ve come to realize the reader can put the pieces together without me beating them over the head with it.

Next up, their conversation strays to a different officer… one who is not so cold.

chapter 8 p2p2

And there we have it. Tango, for as of yet unknown reasons, has feelings for Matthias. And though this piece is riddled with grammatical errors, this is a glaring issue with the plot/content. I was 1000000% on-board for this pairing when I wrote this story a decade ago, but now, I see it for what it is, which will become clear in upcoming chapters.

But first, we have to fix some of the grammar and syntax.

chapter 8 p2p2changes

The eye references continue. And they shall be eliminated.

chapter 8 p2p2fixed

Oh, what messy romantic entanglements we will have to navigate in upcoming chapters? The seeds have been planted, but will they sprout into weeds, or flowers? *clears throat* ANYWAY,  with some of the fluff cut out, this portion flows better and the conversation gets wrapped up sooner. So, let’s move on…

Cut to, UNMEI exterior deck, with our favorite frigid general and perky brunette major, as Matthias begins to reflect on his life and his relationships…

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*eye twitch* THIS NEEDS TO BE SLIMMED DOWN, PRONTO. Now we know a bit of Matthias’s history with his father and his turmoil about Tango, but it’s still too much. WAY too much.

chapter 8 p2p3changes

Whoo, boy. This may even take a bit more chopping once the sentences are restructured a bit. I can probably cut this portion in half and not lose anything of real substance.

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AHHHHHHHHHHHHH, so much better. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

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Of course, it’s his birthday. Don’t think I hinted at it nearly enough, to be honest.

Content-wise… I actually don’t think this part is that bad. I mean, the conflict between them in this chapter isn’t the main issue I have with their relationship. No, that will become clearer later on, don’t you worry. But this passage still suffers from the usual issues, which need to be addressed.

chapter 8 p2p4changes

Lots to trim, lots to axe, lots to rework. AND THAT EYE REFERENCE MUST BURN, AND DIE.

chapter 8 p2p4fixed

There; a bit better, and not so bogged down with description and clunky phrases.

Now… this was going to be the last segment. But I feel like I need to address something else, because reading it back, ten years after I wrote it, I’ve realized that I had some… erroneous view points on romance. So, here is the gift that Tango got for Matthias…

chapter 8 p5p1

WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK. She made him a scrapbook about his life. THAT IS SO STALKERY!!! They aren’t even dating, and he’s almost twice her age! She needs to CHILL. That is not romance, it’s creepy. End of story.

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The entire segment needs to go. It makes Tango look obsessed more than anything else, and that’s not okay, and it is not a positive attribute.

Her feelings for Matthias aren’t invalid or anything, but the way she expressed them is way too intense for someone she isn’t even dating, and that kind of behavior should not be projected in a positive light. I have actually experienced something similar in my life (as in, someone gave me an overly-intimate gift) and it was not okay to the point where it profoundly altered the way I behave around men in both a friendly and potentially-interested dynamic. So, maybe that experience is coloring my perception of Tango’s behavior, but I truly believe it is unhealthy and I 10000% don’t want to convey the message that acting like this is okay, so I’m changing it now.

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So, she got him a sweater instead. So. Much. Better. It has Tango’s humor, still seems heartfelt and personal without being too intense, and it’s definitely not stalkery. Sorry that I soapboxed for a minute there, but I think it’s important to show how my current mindset and the experiences I have had since I was fifteen have changed the way that I approach my writing, both past and present.

NEXT TIME, we have a power outage… which can only mean one thing! DRAMA!!! Not sure when it will go up, but in the next post, we will explore Chapter 9: The Blackout. Until then!

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If you’re in need of a new read, or want to get someone a book for the holidays, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.