I recently posted a before and after excerpt of a scene from PlayFling. Fortunately, Ann Charles, made an excellent point I believe I have successfully tackled. In the previous version of the second draft scene, she had trouble following which “her” was who. Here is the latest draft of the scene. My hope filled question is, can you better follow which “her” Elliott, our hero, is referring to?
Even if Michelle hadn’t taken up lounging in the office’s narrow couch like she owned it, he was distracted. Elliott gave up for a moment on the stack of papers in front of him. His mind kept replaying the minutes from two hours ago. Every cent he’d spent on those books had been worth the look on her face. “Shouldn’t you be in class, Michelle?”
“I won’t be missed,” Michelle said and examined her nails. “I couldn’t handle it tonight. Why do they even bother scheduling Friday classes anyways?”
“Professor Shope says it weeds out the less serious students,” Elliot replied absently. Honestly, he couldn’t think of a time he’d bought a woman flowers let alone did something so gutsy as buy a stranger–one clearly uninterested–a pile of books that practically screamed “single”.
Michelle scoffed. “Uncle Bernie has no idea.”
“No idea?” He hadn’t like being dismissed so readily. But, she had looked stunned. Served her right.
“ My friend Beth is in his class and she does absolutely nothing but doodle. If it wasn’t required and the only open session left…” Michelle rolled her eyes. “Are you even listening?”
Not really. “Sorry, I’m distracted. I just have a lot of work to do, Michelle.” She had left that café table fast. And to think he’d imagined sitting down would rescue her from her clear anxiety. “Shope expected these back last week.”
Michelle eye rolled again and resumed her nail examination. He wished Michelle would leave. “I’ll be quiet.”
Putting those five books in her hands, watching her jaw had drop, her eyes blink rapid fire, had mended his bruised pride more than words could say. Elliott refocused on the stack of mediocre history papers but couldn’t help himself. He chuckled.
”What?” Michelle said and sprang up. “Is it a funny one?”
Elliott scooted his chair in. “No. Just thought of something offhand. Sorry.” He returned to reading the paper in his hand. Michelle loomed closer. The desk pinched against his chest.
He couldn’t even get his head straight enough to ward of Michelle? It was all her fault. Like an idiot, he kept thinking about her. Her reaction. Her parted lips, her flushed cheeks, too sexy. Speechless and so sexy.
“So, what’s so funny then”?
Elliott smelled Michelle’s perfume. He kept his eyes forward. “I really need to get this work done.”
Michelle sighed and returned to the sofa.
Elliott sighed too. And tried again to read. Half a page later, he thought of five snappy things he could have said to her. To render her even more speechless. Speechless enough to be unable to fake some phone call affection like she had. Not that she was the kind of woman who needed to say much. Watching her from across the Book Exchange cafe for so long, he knew. One arch look and people bolted off her path. Intriguing when contrasted against her true self.
Whenever her friend arrived, her chilly façade would fall. She’d relax and a light from within would draw him in. The icy exterior melted to reveal warmth, compassion. Today, she’d sat waiting. Elliot had found himself uncomfortable seeing her fidget and tense. Wasn’t hard to figure out. Her friend had stood her up. He’d started feeling the minutes slog by, began scanning the room right along with her.
“We should get a beer,” Michelle said.
“Hmm?” Today, he’d told himself he’d sit down, make conversation, put her at ease. Her friend would show, he’d leave. At ease? Anything but. Had he been wrong, or what?
“A beer,” Michelle repeated. “You know, icy cold adult beverage served worldwide but especially past five?”
His dad would call it moxy. In Elliott’s twenty-six years, never had he seen such an illustrious example either. Moxy. Like his mother. Or so his dad always claimed. His mom had preferred spirit.
“I don’t know.” He shuffled to the last page in his hand. “Maybe later, Michelle.”
She sighed raggedly, stood and approached. She rubbed his temples. Elliott shifted. She walked to the door.
“I’ll be back,” she said in a mock horror movie voice.
Elliott pushed his chair back and stretched. This was going nowhere. He needed a shave. He needed to eat. Maybe then his eyes would focus on the words and actually compute them.
He should have stuck his phone number inside one of her books. Nah. She wouldn’t call. Better to just make sure she saw him again and throw her a wink. Wait it out and make her come to him. He strode to the vending machine outside. He slid his last dollar in, watching the steam of his breath in the lamplight.
A beer did sound good. One with Michelle, not as much. Had to be careful not to insult her though. Uncle Bernie might decide to toss Elliott’s application aside given one broken hearted niece. Did he have any beer at home?
He made his selection and watched it drop, his attention more on the reflection in the glass than the contents. The outside courtyard stood dark and empty behind him, the campus sat quiet. It would be another week before the routine visit to the bookstore cafe. He should have followed her this afternoon, or at least tried to figure out which building she’d been heading to.
No. He’d been bold enough. Any more would be stalker-like.
He retrieved the bag of pretzels and went back in. Better to back off. In the meantime, he could savor his moment and contemplate just how flustered she had been.
All brutally honest (and gently honest, too, of course) comments welcome.