Kerry needs to decide if she should listen to her heart or what people are telling her.
|(Introduction of 2 protagonists and 1 antagonist)
Karry fingered the plastic identification packet hanging on a lanyard around her neck as she sat on the end of the bed in her Hilton Hotel room. A week ago she received a letter from the main office of Symposium, Inc., stating she won first place in a contest she didn’t remember entering. The letter contained a free pass to this Science Fiction Writers Symposium, being held at the Hilton Hotel, in Braxton, Florida, a college town, sixty miles from her hometown. The pass included a hotel room for four days, all her meals in either of the two restaurants, room service, and anything she wanted from the Coffee Shop located in the lobby of the hotel. All the money she’d been saving, for the past six months, could now go for any extras she wanted. Also instead of driving back and forth for the three-day event, she could stay at the Hilton where everything was taking place.
Out of the five Book Agents, five Editors, and five Novelists, giving talks during the three days, she was looking forward to meeting author Ian MacIntire, the most. She followed every one of his lectures and podcasts streamed online and owned every one of his books, many in written form.
About two years ago, Ian reached out to her and asked if she would like to be an Admin on his site. That led to some secretarial duties and scheduling assistance for his live feeds. Their contact built up as a schedule of sorts for Skyping to touch base and texting at least four times a week so she stayed up to date on behind-the-scenes activities with his career. At times they branched off into other things, like how his kids aced a test, a restaurant he found, or just everyday happenings.
He offered her a Personal Assistant position but she turned the job down, not wanting to do all the traveling. Yes, she worked primarily from home but her employer needed her to be available to come into the office. Ian’s wife came on and talked to her about it, which was awkward because Kerry’s heart was speeding toward a dead-end wall, her heart could not get through. The more she learned about him, the possibility of traveling on the circuit added material to some of her day and night dreams. Knowing that avenue was not opened hurt sometimes but she dealt with the feelings. Ian told her he would be setting some time aside so they could talk in person at the symposium.
Kerry reached toward the small built-in desk in front of her to pick up the schedule she was given when she signed up at the kiosk for the symposium. Ian’s schedule showed a panel the next day at 8:30 am, also a lecture at 1:00 pm on Character, Site, and Problem building. He was scheduled for a meet and greet dinner tomorrow night. Kerry couldn’t go, because the sold-out affair was not part of her special package. Ian’s Wednesday schedule included a morning panel on World Building, a lecture on Outlining vs. Discovery, a book signing, and finishing his day with a night lecture at the college. Tickets were not needed for the lecture so Karry planned on being one of the first people there.
Thursday was a book signing at 9 am. Agents and Editors would be there to talk with and accept manuscripts. Kerry didn’t have a story ready at the moment, but she planned on shaking hands and making contacts. This would be followed by a luncheon on the back patio near the pool. The day would end with a joint wrap up in the conference room. Ian’s bus caravan was scheduled to leave around 5:30 in the evening to take them to Tallahassee for three days, Atlanta, Georgia for a three-day symposium and finally delivering him home to Virginia.
She looked at the small clock on the nightstand. 7:30 pm. Not wanting to just sit in the room and twiddle her thumbs she headed downstairs to the small coffee shop for a hot chocolate and a look through the local free college newsletter. She constantly looked for interesting things to put on the site to help bolster Ian’s presence and numbers.
The Coffee Shop was not crowded, thankfully. She ordered, presented her pass, used two hands to carry the largest mug of hot chocolate imaginable, over to the small round pink and white candy-striped, two top metal tables in the corner beside the windows looking out on the front of the hotel and sat. She made it without spilling. Go her! Removing the two-page folded newspaper from under her arm she studied the pages to see if there was anything about the symposium.
Ian tried drinking the coffee in the hotel room but found the taste horrible. He decided a trip to the coffee shop was in order. Nothing was happening he needed to worry about until tomorrow morning. Some of the crew from the bus went out to look around the large college town but he didn’t feel like drinking and having to socialize. When he pulled the door open to the shop, he breathed in deeply. The smells of rich roasted coffee and sweet pastries blanketed over him.
There wasn’t even anyone in line, so he pointed to the largest cup and told the lady behind the counter to fill it to the brim. He debated on getting a scone or piece of peach pie but decided the coffee was going to be enough. Coffee never kept him awake but sugar did. Accepting the coffee and paying he looked around the shop, trying to find somewhere out of the way to sit. His eyes fell on a woman sitting near the front windows. He knew her but at first, couldn’t remember where. She turned and from the profile, he knew who she was. Kerry. Ian wasn’t ready to have the conversation he rehearsed since Kerry confirmed she would be at this stop in the tour but he couldn’t pass up the chance to talk to her. Ian told his agent to send her a free pass to everything happening over the next three days.
He worked his way through the tables and stopped at hers. “Kerry?”
Kerry looked up and up and smiled. Ian was standing beside her table. The man was taller than she envisioned. He told her once he was 6’3”, but the measurement didn’t click until just now. His blue eyes held a hint of green flecks which the camera never picked up. His midnight-black hair was longer than the Skype a month ago, just before he started this tour. The look was good on him. “Well, hello there handsome. Fancy meeting you here.”
Ian chuckled. “May I sit?”
Kerry folded the paper and motioned to the other chair. “I didn’t think I was going to get to meet you in person until tomorrow. This is a nice surprise.” Kerry held out her hand. “Hello, my name is Kerry Marie Jacobs.”
Ian took her hand, gave a gallant nod, and replied, “Hello, my name is Ian Martin MacIntire. Very nice to meet you, Ms. Jacobs.”
Kerry giggled. She put her hand over her mouth. What other 39-year-old woman giggled. She so wished she didn’t but there was no stopping the noise. She cleared her throat and sat up straighter. “Ian, it is nice to see you in person. Our texting marathons and the skype chats were nice but this is nicer.” Kerry picked up her cup and took a sip. Putting the mug back on the table she asked, “So, how are you?”
“I’m fine. Phyllis said to say hello if I saw you. The kids also said to say hello.” He didn’t want to talk small talk, he wanted to tell her his secret and hope she would still talk to him. Tonight was not going to be the time to say anything. For the next hour, they talked about his website, How she was looking forward to the meetings at the symposium, and other general subjects. At 10:00 pm they called it a night. Kerry went to her room and Ian went to his.
By 8:00 am. Kerry was on her way downstairs. She brought breakfast pastries with her from home along with milk and juice, so she wouldn’t have to worry about the morning meals.
The conference room where the panel was being held, was packed. Some of these people must have arrived around 7. She wasn’t trying to get a good look at any of the panelists. Over the last couple of years, she heard each of the men talking today, read books aloud and discuss different forms of writing.
Opening her notebook and clicking her pen, she waited. She shook her head when an older lady, dressed as if she owned the place, and she just might with the cost of her outfit, breezed into the room and forced three people to vacate their seats on the front row, saying she possessed special seat tickets.
Each member of the panel walked in and took a seat at the long white cloth-covered table on the six-inch-high raised diasis. When they were all seated and comfortable, the moderator stood. “Hello everyone. Welcome to our first panel of the Symposium. This morning we will be talking to our five authors. A website has been set up for questions. The web address is in the program. Please feel free to ask your questions there if they do not get answered during the next hour. All the panelists will be checking the website for any questions they can answer.”
The organizers set up a website, at the beginning of the tour allowing people in the different cities to post questions they would like answered. After each stop, the film being made would be put online. Many of the questions were what would have been considered normal. How did you get started writing? Do you have a favorite character? What would you recommend someone do if they wanted to get published? Why did you choose Science Fiction fantasy as your genre? Do you outline your stories first? Ect.
Kerry knew how Ian would be answering the questions before they were asked. She also knew how Max Whent, another of the authors on the stage would answer. He was Ian’s best friend and contributed to the webpage. Not having to keep track, gave her some time to observe the room.
Because of some of the subject matter which might be discussed, you needed to be eighteen to attend the conference. Some people held small tablets they were typing away on. Some were using their phones to record what was happening. This was sometimes frowned on, but today no one was saying anything.
“Now let’s get started.” The man looked from his small table to the panelist table. “Joseph we will start with you. Please introduce yourself and tell everyone about your writing.” Kerry smiled. Ian told her a long time ago he didn’t like talking about himself, so his answer was going to be short.
By a quarter of ten, the questioning was winding down. Everyone was thanked for coming and the writers got up to make room for the next panel which would be the Agents, at 10.00. While she made her way out of the room, Kerry glanced back and saw several members of the hotel staff, wiping down the table, putting out fresh glassware and coasters, and refilling the water pitchers.
Ian sent her a text, saying he was surrounded with “after panel questions” but would like to meet her in the coffee shop around 11 if she could come. She sent a short text back, that she would be there. Kerry figured there was enough time to go to her room, grab her laptop and get some work done while she waited. At the moment there was a story floating around in her head and getting the words written was becoming a necessity. This was normal. Her muse didn’t like being ignored.
At 11:10 Ian sat down and placed a cup of hot chocolate in front of her. His ever-present coffee mug was in front of him. He scrubbed his hand up and down his face. “Sometimes I wonder why I do this. Sorry if I kept you waiting. They are trying to get me to do a short YouTube News spot, but I’m tired so I told them maybe tomorrow.” He picked up his mug and took a drink. “What are you working on?”
“Thank you.” Kerry pointed at her mug and absently waved toward the computer screen. She took a moment, saved her work, and closed the computer. “I’m just trying to get a story down my Muse keeps yelling in my ear.” She picked up her cup, took a sip, and smiled. “We both know you live for this type of stuff. Even though you don’t like talking about yourself, you come across as relaxed and poised when you get into your element.” She looked at the clock. “You have forty-five minutes until your lunch. Is there anything I need to do to help you set up for your lecture this afternoon? The small amphitheater in the Teal Room on the second floor has been opened up for the lecture. I’m going there in a few minutes to wait because the seats are going to fill up fast. I asked if there were tickets, but I don’t think the management of this Hotel understood the necessity for them. I want to get a good seat. I know you are having the event filmed but I’m looking forward to watching you in person.” Kerry took a drink of her chocolate.
Before Ian could answer, Ms. Overly Dressed walked up to the table, followed by two large men in suits. Bodyguards? Ian stood. Kerry kept her eyes on her mug of hot chocolate. The lady stuck out her fingertips as if she expected Ian to kiss her hand. As Ian held the tips of her fingers in his hand, the woman cooed, “So nice to meet you, Mr. MacIntire, can I call you Ian?” She was not expecting an answer to that question. “I have looked forward to your visit to our beautiful city.” She placed her other well-manicured hand on top of his. “Do excuse my manners. I am Ms. Suzanne Hightower. I am on the College Board and made sure you were on this tour.”
The woman looked toward Kerry. “I am sorry if I am interrupting something, but I wanted to make sure to personally introduce myself.” She was trying to figure out who Kerry was. Anyone who knew Ian knew he was married with young children. Kerry hoped if anyone took pictures, Phyllis would remember who she was. About 14 months ago rumors were flying around that Ian was a playboy, but he fought the image with pictures, video, and his wife’s support.
Ms. Hightower took her eyes off Kerry and looked back at Ian. She patted his hand. “I would love the chance to meet with you, maybe over dinner or coffee, to discuss an idea I have for furthering your career. A few friends and I have been brainstorming and I think we have come up with several sure ways of taking you to the next level.”
The next level? Ian was already a well-respected author. His Agent was on top of the market and several Editors took his manuscripts, no questions asked.
Ian’s arm stretched out as if Suzanne was attempting to pull him closer by his hand. “I know I can make you an offer you can’t refuse.” Suzanne cooed. “Just give me an hour of your time.”
Ian tugged on his hand, trying to not appear to forcibly remove himself from her grasp. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a business card, handing the card to Suzanne. “I don’t discuss any business unless my Agent is present. We have an agreement. Take this card and call his office. He can set up an appointment for you and any of your friends to discuss a business arrangement.”
Suzanne looked at the card and back at Ian. Kerry thought all that makeup would show cracks the way her face screwed up. She was used to getting her way. She reached out and patted Ian on his chest a couple of times. “I will do that. If you need to talk with me here, just let me know. I am planning on being at all of your engagements. I will be available to ‘anything’ you want to discuss.” The way she emphasized the word “anything” made Kerry shiver. After one more nose-in-the-air glance at Kerry, she turned back to Ian, patted his chest a couple of more times with her pointed fingernails, turned on her 4-inch heels, and clicked away on the linoleum floor, swinging her hips.
As Ian sat back down, Kerry asked, “Well, that was interesting. Do you have any clue why she thought she could do you a favor?” Ian took a drink of his coffee, which was lukewarm by now, and shook his head.
Kerry nodded. “She has attended everyone one of your live readings and commented on how fantastic you are and how she thinks you are being underrated in the business. She tends to be very vocal if she thinks people have posted something she thinks is not serious about your writing or your personality. I imagine her as what a virtual stalker would be.”
“She is a bit scary. Her grip on my hand was stronger than many men’s hands I have shaken.” Ian paused. When his eyes fell back on Kerry he wanted to take her hand and apologize for the interruption. He wasn’t sure why he felt he needed to apologize, but the need was there. Ian sat forward and rested his arms on the table. “Sorry about that. Sometimes you get fans who think they are better than others and have no problem interrupting a personal moment.”
“Now where were we? Oh yes. You don’t have to rush to get a good seat at the lecture. There are several seats upfront roped off for me to fill. I need you to be there Kerry. I’m feeling the need to have a friendly face nearby. I’m…”
Kerry put her mug down and matched Ian’s position with her arms. “Alright Mr. Ian MacIntire, I know we don’t know each other but you and I have talked and texted enough with you over the past couple of years, I’m going to take the chance and stick my foot in where I don't belong. You can tell me everything is none of my business of course. What’s wrong? Is just being tired 0f putting you in the dumps or is something else happening? I’ve told you I have terry cloth shoulders. So spill mister.”
Ian looked at the table, took a drink of his coffee, put the cup down, wrapping his hands around the mug, and cleared his throat. “There is nothing wrong. I just have some things I need to work out and can’t seem to find the quiet time to think.”
“Ian?” Kerry asked.
“No Kerry,” Ian looked up into her eyes, “nothing is wrong I can’t work out. Everything is fine at home, and we are on the last leg of the tour. I’ll figure the situation out.”
Kerry leaned farther forward. “I’m not believing everything you are telling me. You have ‘tells’ you know that I’ve learned to read. If you need to talk all you have to do is say so. Now,” she glanced at the clock, “you Sir need to get a move on so you get to your working lunch on time.” Kerry gave him a big smile.
“Yeah, your right.” He got up, looked toward the door. Turning back he added, “Come to lunch with me Kerry, you know in case I need some notes taken or something.”
Kerry frowned. “I don’t belong there, Ian, with the people you work with, important people.”
“I can bring a quest, and I want you there, please?” He held out his hand.
Kerry admitted to herself the luncheon would be exciting, going into the room with all the Agents and Editors. These would be people she would need to deal with someday. Looking at Ian’s hand she sighed and put her hand in his. “Ok, I’ll come. You have to promise me though you won’t let me make a fool out of myself.”
Ian chuckled. Not letting go of her hand he led her to lunch.