Hey all, I hope everyone is staying safe during this pandemic. I wanted to share with all of you something that I’m having so much fun working on! Please enjoy an excerpt from my upcoming time travel piece, Ruth Through Time.
After adding a dash of cinnamon and a sweep of honey to my bowl, I thanked Ethel before exiting to the living room. It was relatively quieter than the table, where the other boarding house tenants were gossiping away over today’s breakfast of porridge and coffee.
Opening The Great Gatsby, which back home I had read several times over cover to cover, I indulged and took myself back to West Egg once more and mentally flounced about in one of Jay Gatsby’s extravagant and glamorous parties. Now holding what would have been considered a first edition, I clutched the hardbound book closely interlaced in my fingers while supporting the warm bowl betwixt my crisscrossed legs. I spooned mouthfuls of the sweetened porridge in my mouth between sentences. Next on my literary list, decidedly, would be Rebecca, followed by The Hobbit. Deep down, I wanted to build the collection I had always dreamed of when I was younger.
Giddily, I could say goodbye to poring hours over websites in search of treasured titles.
Scraping the bottom of the bowl, I hardly heard Arnold entering the room as he leaned against the back of the couch, looming over my shoulder to see what book I had my nose in. Aware of his presence, I could feel the tickle of his breath against the shell of my ear, “Gatsby, huh?” He asked as he rounded to the other side to steal the space beside me. “Can’t help but feel sorry for the man. In love with a woman who’s lost interest even in herself.” A shiver coursed through me, inhaling through my nostrils.
Slowly, I released an exhale to respond. “Well,” I began defensively, “I think it’s because the book is a secret representation of Fitzgerald’s life with his wife, Zelda. Sure, no one gets what they want at the end, but it’s still-”
I caught myself. Arnold gave me a look, to which I stared back at him wide eyed. Not that most people, with the exception of those who personally knew Fitzgerald, would actually be privy to such knowledge. Crap. I already felt my heart in my throat, mouth drying.
“Y’know, Ruth,” Arnold began as he tapped at the side of my knee, taking away the bowl and setting it down on the coffee table opposite us, “The way you analyze things—” Oh. Oh shit. “I think you’d make a swell teacher.”
I released the breath I had been holding, easing myself. Catching his gesture, I swung my legs around to rest over his lap to unfold my legs before they could cramp. Then, I propped the corner pillows to support my back. I segued into a different topic, while regaining my composure, “Speaking of teachers, how did your date go last night?” My eyebrows wiggled teasingly. “Was coffee the key to her heart?”
Lord knew a Starbucks would back home.
Arnold’s face, however, said otherwise. “She was too…I don’t know how to describe it.” He searched for the right words. “She was just bland. She didn’t have any interests. We really didn’t have anything in common, Ruth.”
My poor friend. The hunt for love was a tough one.
My eyes trailed back to the kitchen, where I knew my roommate Helen was lingering on every word said. Like the good stenographer she was studying to become. My bottom bunk-mate had hearts in her eyes every time she saw him.
Licking my lips, I sighed and internalized what he articulated, feeling his hands pat just below my knee, the spread of warmth from his touch left my breath hitched in the pit of my throat. “Alright,” I reasoned slowly, “maybe the teacher wasn’t a good match. There are other women out there. Possibly even closer than you think.”
My eyes lifted to meet his, feeling them read between the lines of my previous statement. Resting my head against my hand, fingers threading into a soft thicket of hair, elbow digging into the enlarged tan back cushion of the couch, my shoulders began to sink.
As much as I liked Arnold, the fear of getting close enough to feel things I had no business feeling crept. The ease of being with him; this comfort and closeness couldn’t be fed into. I had to stop; because, I didn’t belong in this time. His life was meant to be shared with someone who actually existed here.
Not some fraud.