Below is a brief synopsis of my book followed by the first three chapters.
|Chelsea is a 27 year old bank manager in Philadelphia, and dating the man of her dreams, the ambitious, handsome, and hard working Greg, whose career is about to take off after signing his client to a 85 million dollar deal with 40 million guaranteed. Things are looking up for Chelsea, until she finds out her father is dying of brain cancer. With Greg's career escalating, she finds her self spending more time at a local cafe as a distraction from her father, where she meets Marcus, who she inadvertently becomes drawn to.
The familiar jingle of the ice cream truck drew a crowd as it slowed to a stop on the corner. Chelsea and Nolan approached the white truck with blue trim at the bottom. Cartoon decals were placed in what seemed like random locations on the truck. The large novelty cone advertised its presence just as much as the music. Children along with adults crowded around the truck. The adults were just as eager for their chance at some ice cream. Chelsea stood with Nolan at the front of the line. Mac, Chelsea’s tan and white red nose pit bull, sat beside them wagging his tail feverishly. The side window slid open and the ice cream man slid his head out the window.
“What can I get for you sir?” asked the chubby faced ice cream man.
“I’ll have two vanilla cones with rainbow jimmies.” said Nolan. The man disappeared into the truck when he returned he held two cones each with a mountain of ice cream on top, dipped evenly in rainbow jimmies all around both cones. He handed one to Nolan and the other to Chelsea, who took a quick lick as soon as she got it in her hands. The sweet ice cream melted on her tongue. Nolan handed the man a fifty.
“Ice cream for everyone on me, keep the change for yourself.” Said Nolan.
“Thank you sir.” The man said in a cheery voice. His eyes lit up, as he took the money.
“That was nice of you.” Said Chelsea.
“You can never have a bad day if you make someone else’s day.” Said Nolan, Chelsea agreed.
They walked slowly along Clark Park, next to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Children played tag, laughing as they chased each other on the purple and gold jungle gym. On the blacktop a game was being played. The men shouted as they jumped for a rebound. Toward the northwest corner of the park was a steep hole, once a mill pond called the bowl, it was now full of lush green grass where dogs played fetch with their owners.
The sun’s golden rays kissed the skin gently. Nolan’s freshly shaven head gave off a light sheen. After years of balding, he’d finally decided to stop fighting it and shave it off, he looked better that way, and it complemented his salt and pepper beard. Nolan walked with a confident stroll, head up and shoulders relax, that always made him seem bigger than he was. He smiled, the deep dimple in his right cheek mirrored her own.
“Can you hand me a napkin?” said Nolan.
Chelsea looked down and saw that a drip of ice cream melted onto her father’s Penn State t-shirt she’d gotten when she was in college. Chelsea smiled. Mac followed close to Nolan hoping for a chance that the entire cone would fall to the ground.
“You get more ice cream on yourself than I did when I was four.” Chelsea said handing him a napkin. She always remembered to ask for extras when she walked with her dad. Such a klutz, Chelsea smiled to herself. Nolan let the melted ice cream be absorbed into the napkin, a small stain still remained.
“Ice cream can be tricky if you aren’t careful.” They laughed. “So I’ve been meaning to ask you, how was your sister’s wedding?” asked Nolan.
“It was amazing. Brooklyn looked so beautiful and happy and Chris looked so proud.” said Chelsea.
“I’m sure he was, your sister is quite the catch. How was your mother during the whole thing?” Asked Nolan. Chelsea looked up to the sky, shaking her head, Nolan chuckled.
“She’s so dramatic but she did plan that wedding out beautifully.” said Chelsea.
“She is very good at her job and when it comes to you two I know she’s second to none.”
“I know, I can’t wait for her to help me plan out my wedding.” Said Chelsea, smiling at the thought of her dream wedding she’s always wanted since she was a young girl. The flowers, the music, the dancing, and most importantly the long flowing gown.
“Slow down sweetheart. There’s still plenty of time for that. Besides I have yet to meet this new man you’ve been seeing anyway.” Nolan side eyed her.
“I know I know. It’s just that I wanted to make sure he wasn’t like the last guy I introduced you to. And besides that he’s just been busy going to and from New York. I’ve hardly seen him myself the last couple of weeks.” Chelsea looked down the street as a trolley passed along in the distance on Woodland Avenue.
“He works at Vaugh’s firm right?” asked Nolan, taking a bite off the top side of the cone.
“Yea. He’s an agent and his client plays up there. You won’t believe who it is?” Her voice escalated with excitement.
Nolan paused “I don’t know…Damion Gaines?” he asked nonchalant, shrugging his shoulders.
She raised her brows and said “Yeah, how’d you know that?”
“I was right?” he put his hands up in triumph. “I just took a guess. But they’ve been talking about his contract all summer on ESPN, his name was the first thing to pop into my head.” said Nolan.
“Yea well Greg’s been swamped with it since late spring. I’m hoping once it’s all over we can spend more time together.” Said Chelsea.
“Well if he can get this deal done he’ll make out pretty well for himself.” Nolan came to soft halt then leaned over holding his head.
“Are you okay daddy?” Chelsea bent to over to get a better look. Nolan looked dazed.
“Yea I’m fine just got a little dizzy. Just give me a second.” He took a deep breath and exhaled through his broad nose. “It’s strange that’s been happening a lot the last couple of weeks.”
“You’re getting that checked out right?” Chelsea asked knowing her father had a habit of neglecting these things until the last minute.
“Got an appointment on Monday morning. You see I’m learning.” He stood up, and took another deep breath.
“Good because I was about to hurt you if you didn’t.” She hit him they both laughed.
“Sometimes I forget which one of us is the parent and which is the child.” He hugged her, dropping his ice cream to the ground. Mac quickly jumped at his reward for being patient.
“He gets me every time.” said Nolan dragging out the last two words. “You should rename him Pavlov.” Chelsea and Nolan laughed.
They strolled to her duplex and sat on the stoop. When Chelsea got to the cone she handed the rest to Nolan, who graciously accepted it. They sat in silence as he finished the cone.
When he was finished Nolan looked at Chelsea’s garden and said. “Your garden looks beautiful Chelsea.” They looked over at the orchids and lilies. A late bee hovered over the African marigolds. A small patch of tomatoes hugged a small white fence in the far corner of the garden. Mac lay in between them both with his head on Nolan’s lap, panting lightly his tail wagged happily as Nolan scratched his belly.
“Thank you. I made my own mulch this year. The plants have really responded well to it.” Said Chelsea.
“I’ll have to try that in my garden next spring.” said Nolan.
“The student has become the master.” smirked Chelsea.
“My garden is still better than yours.” said Nolan. He stuck out his tongue.
The sun was beginning to set, hues of light pink and burnt orange spilled into each other over the Philadelphia skyline. Birds swooped from the sky to rest in their nest for the night
Nolan looked at his watch, “It’s time I get going sweetheart I have to stop by the office before I go home.” Nolan started to get up and kissed Chelsea on the crown of her head.
“Goodnight sweetheart. I love you.”
“I love you too Daddy.” She waved at him as he walked to his car.
“I want to meet Greg soon.” He called to her as he open the car door.
“You will daddy I’ll bring him to lunch on Monday.” She watched him pull away. For a moment she stood gazing out at the park, while hidden crickets harmonized around her. A cool breeze kissed her skin. She felt at peace. She tilted her head back looking at the stars in the heavens above. She closed her eyes, in a silent prayer thanking God for His many blessing upon her. Only the sound of her house phone ringing pulled her out of her trance.
Chelsea scurried inside to answer the phone, hitting her shin on the edge of the vintage coffee table she’d gotten at a garage sale earlier that summer.
“God dammit.” She yelped. She grabbed the phone off of the receiver “Hello.” she answered gritting her teeth and rubbing her shin to soothe it.
“Hey beautiful. I miss you.” his voice melted her through the phone her shin instantly felt better.
“Well it’s good to hear your voice too.” Chelsea could hear his smile through the phone.
“Are you on your way to New York?” asked Chelsea
“Actually no, I really wanted to see you so I decided not to leave for New York until the morning. I was thinking we’d go catch that movie you been asking me to take you to.”
“You’re home? Oh my god. Yes let’s go.”
“I’ll see you in a bit baby.”
“I can’t wait.” She smiled and reluctantly put the phone on the receiver then ran to the bathroom to take a quick shower. Now all she had to do was find something to wear. She went to her closet dismissing outfit after outfit until she finally found one.
She decided to keep it simple. She put on her pink drivers, a pair of chinos, and a white tee shirt. She stood in front of the mirror posing making sure it fit just right. She took her hair out of her bun, it spread like a natural crown, dyed golden brown at the tips then she put on some lite make up.
As she finished there was a knock at the door. A smile spread across her face when she opened it. Immediately she noticed how Greg’s shirt outlined his body in detail. Chelsea looked at his six foot frame, light caramel skin covered every inch of his physique. His dark wavy hair was cut fresh as usual. He never missed an appointment with his barber. She stood on the tip of her toes wrapping her arms around him to give him a kiss, his goatee and mustache tickled her, she giggled.
“Hey baby. You ready to go?”
“All set. Let me just grab my purse.” said Chelsea.
She grabbed her purse from the couch and turned on the lamp before heading out the door. They walked to his car, although Chelsea didn’t care much for cars, she admired the sleek design of his BMW s –class. The inside was clean, tan leather seats, and it smelled of black ice car freshener. On the rear-view mirror was a set of palms weaved into a cross. It was mostly tan now having lost most of it green color since Palm Sunday.
“I’m so glad you’re home tonight.” said Chelsea as she buckled her seat belt.
“Me too. Between Damion and a couple of my other clients, I feel like I’m never home.” Said Greg.
“You aren’t ever home.” Chelsea pouted her lips, “I think you like leaving me by myself.”
“Aw don’t do that. You’re going to make me feel bad.” Said Greg.
“I’m just playing baby” She kissed his cheek. “Oh by the way my dad wants to meet you, so I told him you’d come to lunch with us on Monday.” Chelsea looked at him with begging eyes, she was excited for Nolan to meet him.
“Monday will work perfectly. I finally get to meet your father I can’t wait.” Said Greg.
“You’ll get along fine. I know it.” Said Chelsea. Greg nodded. He turned on the radio, Praise 103.9 was playing, Incredible God. She listened as he sang along, such a beautiful voice he had. They arrived at the theater not too long after.
“Two tickets to the 8 o’clock showing of The Lost Warriors.” Greg spoke into the mic of the ticket counter to the small ticket agent whose braces showed as she smiled.
“I’ve been hearing so many good things about this movie. I read the whole series over again in anticipation for this.” said Chelsea, draped on Greg’s arm. She smelled his cologne, the scent made her weak. She kissed his bicep lightly.
“I’m glad it’s a movie now. I just don’t have the time to read.” Said Greg sliding his credit card to the ticket agent.
“Here you go sir. Theater number two, through the doors and down the hall, fourth door on the right. Enjoy your movie.” The ticket agent said in one breath, as if it were against company policy to pause while talking.
They walked into the building. The smell of popcorn tickled Chelsea’s nose.
“Popcorn.” Demanded Chelsea.
“You thought we weren’t? But I’m going to get my own though because you always eat all mine before I get any.” Greg laughed, Chelsea pinched his arm. “Ouch” he said. He tickled her. While they waited in line Chelsea took usies with him. They got their popcorn and drinks then made their way to the theater.
“Hurry up it’s about to start.” Chelsea said in a loud whisper. They found two seats at the end of the aisle. Ten minutes into the movie Chelsea heard a phone vibrate. Greg took his phone out.
“Dude can you not do that?” a man asked from the seat behind them. Chelsea elbowed Greg and gave him a look through the darkness.
“I’m sorry I have to take this. I’ll be right back.” He whispered to Chelsea. She nodded as she concentrated on the movie bringing a handful of buttery popcorn to her mouth. Greg came back in an hour later and watched the rest of the movie uninterrupted.
“Oh my goodness that movie was soooo good. It sucks you had to miss most of it.” Chelsea said as they walked out the theater. She pulled her sweater around her as a cool breeze gave her goosebumps. Greg must have noticed because he put his arm around Chelsea and brought her closer. She smiled, she felt so secure in his arms.
“I can’t believe they kept me on the phone that long.” He shook his head in disappointment.
“I’m sorry about that beautiful, who would have thought working with Damion would be this much work?” Said Greg.
Chelsea knew what he meant Gaines was a sixth round pick three years ago. Many had never heard of him. That didn’t last long though, Chelsea remembered his first year in the League when New York played against Philadelphia and he scored two touchdowns, one while falling backwards in the end zone, ending Philadelphia’s playoff hopes. Nolan was livid.
After they left the movies, they stopped for a quick bite to eat before he drove her home.
“Chelsea, I’m sorry about tonight.”
“Greg stop apologizing. I get it. It’s okay really.” She kissed him gently on the cheek.
“I know but still it’s not something I want you to get used to. I’ll make it up to you. When I get home from New York tomorrow I’ll take you out for dinner.”
“As much as I’d love to I can’t go with you tomorrow. I’m going out for drinks with Kayla and Marcy so you’re off the hook.” She smiled playfully.
“Oh” Said Greg. He sounded disappointed.
“Don’t be upset. It’s not you. Really.” said Chelsea.
“No it’s not that you have plans it’s…something else.”
“What is it?”
“Don’t worry about it right now honey, It’s getting late and I have to finish getting prepared for tomorrow.” He walked her to the door. His kiss goodnight warmed her.
“Goodnight. I’ll call you in the morning.” He walked to his car.
“Goodnight” said Chelsea, she stood in the doorway of her apartment until Greg turned the corner at the end of the street and wondered at what he was thinking about. She shrugged and entered the house. It was late, Chelsea washed the makeup off her face, threw her clothes in the laundry basket, walking around in just her panties and bra.
She walked to the kitchen to boil water for her Chamomile tea. While the water boiled she posted a picture of her and Greg at the concession stand of the movie theater. She wrote, Movie Date with him, for her caption followed by a heart emoji. After she finished her tea she went to her room and drifted off to sleep.
Despite going to bed late last night, Chelsea woke up before her alarm. She looked outside the sun was up and birds chirped playfully outside the window. Mac lay awake at the foot of her bed chewing on an old rope.
“Good morning boy.” Mac looked up then back down chewing on his rope his tail wagging happily.
Chelsea grabbed her phone off of the night stand. A few mentions on her timeline, 77 likes for the picture with Greg, but that good morning text from Greg was the only thing she was worried about. She smiled as she read it. She replied back asking him to call when he made it to New York so she’d know he got there safe. She put her phone back on the table and looked out the window. It was going to be another beautiful day. Before she got out of bed she said her prayer. After that she rushed to use the bathroom, brushed her teeth, then washed her face before she changed into her running clothes and stretched.
“Let’s go Mac.” she grabbed her head phones before heading out the door and put Mac on his leash. Her music motivating her as she jogged. Mac trotted alongside her tugging hard on his leash. She often forgot how strong this gentle canine was. The sun’s rays filtered through the trees of the park. She jogged north, through the park, towards Baltimore Avenue, then Spruce, then making a left on Locust to make her way back towards home.
At the end of her jog she arrived at her favorite café on the corner, just down the street from her house. Your Cup of Tea, was written in gold lettering, outlined in black, on the glass of the café’s corner entrance door. Under that it read: Books sold, brought, and traded. On both sides of the café were dark green walls with rows of wide windows that welcomed the sun in. Next to the cafe rows of town homes were juxtaposed in symmetry next to one another. She tied Mac to a pole by the café.
“I’ll be right back out Mac. Be good for mommy.”
She entered the café, a small silver bell above the door chimed, signaling her entry. Instantly the aroma of fresh brewed Hazelnut coffee and the perfume of old books danced in her nostrils. Corinne Bailey Rae’s, Like a Star, played through the store.
The counter was just to the left as you walked into the door. It was a bigger inside than it looked outside. There were 20 round tables, half of them occupied now, mostly with students who were getting ready for their morning classes or nursing a hangover. A young couple sat in a small couch, the woman was smiling as the man played in her hair.
Small lights dangled from the ceiling, with a soft warm glow that was reminiscent of the light from a fireplace. Toward the back of the café were five wooden book shelves each shelf was crammed packed with new and used books. A little further back was a small stage area that they used for open mics. It was just big enough for a set of drums and a performer. Although this was one of her favorite places, she’d never been to one of the open mics.
“Good Morning Chelsea.” The woman behind the counter waved at her. It was Laurie, one of the owners of the café. She was almost 50 yet the only way you could tell was by looking at the gray coming from the roots of her locks. Her face looked as if she’s stopped aging years ago.
“Good morning Laurie” Chelsea smiled.
“I was hoping you’d come in today we got some new books yesterday, thought you’d like to see what we got.” said Laurie. Her apron was tied tightly around her waist, with an embroidered tea cup with steam emitting from it, stitched at the top center of the apron.
“Yes, new book day. I’ll go check them out. Could you...” Chelsea begin to talk but before she could finish Laurie answered.
“I know green tea with honey and sugar. I’ll have it nice and hot for you when you’re finished.” Said Laurie.
Chelsea smiled and started towards the bookshelf humming to herself. Photos and paintings hung on the café walls. She came to the book shelves. Dust floated in a beam of sunlight that came through the window illuminating a man with long dreads who was down on one knee, putting books into place on a lower shelf. The sunlight made his mahogany skin glow lambent. She’d never seen him before but he wore the apron that Laurie wore. She was curious to know who it was but didn’t want to interrupt his work so she walked down the other side to find a book.
As she searched the titles she stood on her toes to reach the higher books, fingering the spines of the books, pulling out books that grabbed her attention, flipping through them, taking in the sweet, musty scent of older books. The smell reminded her of Nolan’s study. She opened the books to read the first paragraphs of the books before placing them back in their place on the shelf.
She crouched down to the bottom shelf, balancing herself on the balls of her feet pulling a book from its resting place, studying the cover.
“Not that book you’ll regret picking it up” a voice came from above startling her causing her to lose balance and fall on her bottom.
“Ouch.” Chelsea squeaked. A laugh came from the voice above her.
“I’m sorry to scare you” she looked up to see a hand outstretched to help her up. Looking past the hands she saw his soft brown eyes that smiled. Chelsea let out a small giggle to ease the embarrassment but also it seemed a reflex to his inviting smile.
“It’s okay.” She said. She grabbed his hand and with his help, pulled herself up. She got to her feet and saw he was about an inch taller than her. His dreads fell inches past his shoulders. His beard was rugged and homely but it suited him.
“I noticed you go through quite a few books and thought it would be nice to give you a suggestion. Try this one instead.” Chelsea grabbed the book bringing it closer to her face to examine it. Sonder.
“If you don’t love it then the next one’s on me.” He said.
“Well I’ll hold you to that... So is this your first day?” asked Chelsea.
“Well yes and no. I’ve worked here before, my parents own the café, its my first day back in a while. My name’s Marcus.” He held out his hand to shake Chelsea’s, his shake was firm and friendly.
“Laurie and Vikki are your parents?” She asked happily surprised by the news.
“Yup that’s them. I take it you come here often then.”
“Yes this is probably one of my favorite places. I come here a few times a week. Vikki and Laurie have great place here.”
Marcus nodded in agreement and asked. “Do you read a lot?”
“Oh yea, it’s all I do sometimes. I just saw The Lost Warriors movie last night.” Said Chelsea.
“The Lost Warriors? I love those books. How was the movie?” asked Marcus.
“It was so good if you love the books then you’ll love the movie just as much. The woman who played Raven was excellent.” said Chelsea she jittered with excitement as they talked about the movie.
“I’ve got to go check that out soon.” said Marcus.
Chelsea looked at the white clock hanging on the wall above Marcus, almost 8:30 “Oh shoot. I’ve got to get going and get ready for work. I’ll see you around Marcus.”
“Wait I didn’t get your name.” said Marcus.
“Oh I’m sorry it’s Chelsea.” She got lost in his eyes as she backed away knocking into the shelf behind her. Marcus chuckled, Chelsea smiled then turned quickly so he wouldn’t see her face flush.
“I’ll see you around Chels. And enjoy that book.” He said as she walked with the book close to her chest. Chels, it sounded like poetry coming from his lips. She walked to the counter, as promised Laurie was waiting there with her tea along with a fresh baked banana nut muffin.
“Did you find anything good?” Laurie asked when Chelsea got to the counter.
“I hope so.” said Chelsea. She handed the book to Laurie. Laurie put on her glasses that hung from her neck to examine the book.
“Your son recommended it.” said Chelsea. Laurie looked over her glasses at Chelsea.
“So you’ve met Marcus. Well then you’ve probably got a good read here. He gets that from Vikki, those two can always pick a good one for you.” Laurie rang the order up in the register. “That’ll be seven-eighty.” Chelsea gave her a ten and put the change in the ceramic tip jar.
“I’ll see you Laurie. Have a blessed day.”
“Thanks Hun. Enjoy the book.”
The bell chimed as Chelsea walked out the cafe.