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I met Jamie Fraser when I was nineteen years old. He was tall, redheaded, and at our first meeting at least, a virgin. I fell in love hard, fast, and completely. He knew how to ride a horse, wield a sword, and stitch a wound. He was, in fact, the perfect man. That he was fictional hardly entered into it. At twenty-nine, Emma Sheridan's life is a disaster, and she's tired of waiting for the perfect boyfriend to step from the pages of her favorite book. There's only one place to look, and it means selling everything and leaving her world behind. With the aid of an unexpected collection of allies, can Emma face down a naked fishmonger, a randy gnome, a perfidious thief, and even her own abdominal muscles on the journey to find her Fraser?Contains mature themes.
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KC Dyer is the author of several books for teens and adults, including A Walk Through a Window, Ms. Zephyr's Notebook, and the Eagle Glen trilogy. She resides in the wilds of British Columbia in the company of a wide assortment of mammals, some of them human. Visit her at kcdyer.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Facing the Future . . .
11:30 p.m., February 15
Chicago, Illinois, USA
My first blog post.
I have to admit to being a little nervous. About the writing, I mean. Actually, I’m nervous about the whole thing——this whole adventure. But the writing . . . I don’t know. I’ve never been trendy, so maybe that’s why this is working for me now. Now that the rest of the world has moved on to Twitter and Pinterest and Tumblr, it’ll just be me and my travel blog. Yeah, that’s right. It’s a travel blog. Until yesterday, I was night manager at the Hitchhiker’s Coffee Bar in midtown Chicago.
Today, everything has changed.
I’ve decided to go on a quest. A quest to find a living, breathing, twenty-first-century warrior, who will fight off every villain life can throw at us, to remain stalwart by my side. And since I don’t have anyone able—or willing—to travel with me, this is the next best thing. To share with you, my readers, all my adventures.
Let’s see what happens, shall we?
I closed the lid of my laptop. One post and I was sick of my online persona already. Who was this falsely cheery person? She sounded like she knew what she was doing.
Let’s see what happens? More like “Let’s document the debacle.” Or . . . “Let’s have some kind of a record so that the police know where to look when I disappear on this ill-fated potential disaster.”
My birthday is February 14. Which, this year, was yesterday. Now, when I was a kid, it was kind of a double-win. Cake, presents, and valentine chocolate all in one day? Total bonus.
But something changed as I got older. The first year of middle school, I was excited. I brought the usual bag filled with paper valentines to class, only to find some invisible force—one that I could not hope to tap into—had declared them uncool. High school was worse; and by the time I made it to my twenties, I began to face the day with something like dread. If I had a boyfriend at the time, it was usually fine. Still, out of the nine birthdays I have lived through in my twenties, I’ve had a boyfriend for only two of them. I also had a husband for one, but that birthday was the worst of all.
Yesterday, I turned twenty-nine. No valentine chocolate. Three cards: a birthday card from my sister, one from my friend, Jazmin—and a valentine from my bank. Apparently they’d “love” to send me a new credit card at a reduced rate . . . ’specially for me.
As of yesterday, I also had a boss, who went ballistic when he found out I was adding free shots of chocolate to people’s mochas in honor of the day.
I guess I should say . . . ex-boss.
Look, I know there must be other people in the same situation. Valentine’s Day is a particularly lonely day to turn twenty-nine. It shouldn’t be worse than having a birthday on Christmas, right? Statistically, at least 1/365th (which my calculator tells me is 0.00274 percent) of the world’s population must at least have a chance of sharing my birthday. But it doesn’t feel like it’s the case at all.
What it feels like . . . is something has to change. Something big. I’m not sure what this is going to look like. I’m scared.
But I’m going.
Fond Farewells . . .
7:45 p.m., February 16
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Saying good-bye is hard. My parents live down south, but I have siblings in the city. A sibling, anyway. But farewells are just part of a new adventure, right?
My sister loves me. I’m sure she does. But we come from practical stock: good, solid English grandparents, sensible and organized parents. She’s true to her roots. My more—ah—unique ideas have never met with her approval.
The conversation we had earlier today did not go well.
“Emma, you are completely, entirely, without-a-doubt, bat-shit crazy.”
“I’m not crazy. I just— I just need to do this, Soph. I’m not asking for your approval.”
“You wouldn’t get it if you were.” She held up a finger. “In the first place, you’ve hardly been anywhere, and never on your own.”
“Then it’s high time I tried it, right?”
She glanced over her shoulder, pushed her chair back, and closed her office door. Behind the glass walls, sensible people buzzed by, doing sensible, salary-earning work, and living sensible lives. With Sophia that worked up, I was relieved I hadn’t mentioned the whole searching-for-Jamie blog thing when I said I was leaving. No need to stir the pot even further.
Luckily, my sister is not an Internet time-waster. There are not, in her words, enough hours in the day to “squander a single minute reading the uneducated drivel produced by people with too much time on their hands.” All the better.
But I digress.
My sister is a broker. (Funny, really, considering I’ve always been the broker one . . .) Sophia’s position as CFO of Angst & Argot was hard-won, and as a rule, she doesn’t tolerate interruptions in her day. But when I’d emailed her with my plans, she’d called me immediately and insisted I stop by her office.
“Look,” she continued, perching on the corner of her desk in her Ann Taylor suit. “I know you’ve been struggling at work. And . . . I’m sorry the thing with Egon didn’t work out.”
I raised my eyebrows. “You’re sorry? You were against my relationship with Egon from the start. ‘He’s a graphic artist, Emma. He drinks lattes, for Christ’s sake. And what kind of name is Egon, anyway? It’s the name of a flake. He’s nothing but a latte-drinking hipster-artist flake.’”
She shrugged and directed her gaze out at the thirty-eighth-floor vista. The Chicago skyline had the dark and lowering look it often has in February, reminding us resident mortals that winter isn’t even half done with us yet. My sister blinked at me. “All I’m saying is that no matter how bad things are at home, it’ll get better.”
That made me snort. “I’m not struggling with my sexuality here, Sophia. I’m not suicidal.”
“Egon was all wrong for you, Em. You just need to find the right man. If it’s about a guy, why not try Internet dating again? Didn’t you meet Egon online? You can find someone without leaving the country.”
“This is not about a man,” I said, waving my hand as dismissively as I could manage. “I’m just going to leave town for a while.”
“On a fool’s errand. A journey to nowhere.”
“Scotland is not nowhere. It’s a viable tourist destination.”
It was her turn to make a disgusting nasal sound.
“Maybe in July. Take a look out there, Emma. It’s the dead of winter, and we’re in a civilized country. In Scotland, it’ll be sleet and snow and no sun for six more months at least. If you’re going to run away, why not head for the Caribbean? Maybe you’ll meet a rich guy who’ll make you forget all about Egon and his penchant for teenagers.”
That was hard to take sitting down, so I stood up.
It was hard to take standing up, too, but by that time, I’d at least thought of a response.
“Tiffany’s twenty, and he’s welcome to her,” I retorted. “Anyway, the whole thing with Egon was over almost a year ago. And I don’t want to go to the Caribbean for a fling. I’m almost thirty. I’m embracing my agency as a woman. I need to see if I can have an actual life experience.”
Sophia slammed her fist down on the desk. It looked like a gesture a CFO would make. I think maybe she’d been practicing. “I knew it! This idea has midlife crisis written all over it. Listen, Emma, what you should be doing right now is finding a decent job and solidifying your financial portfolio. You’re halfway to retirement age. You can’t start ticking things off your bucket list when you don’t even own a bucket.”
She was, of course, depressingly correct. Halfway to retirement, and I’ve never even held a job that offered benefits. But I was disinclined to remind her of that fact; and anyway, there was no arguing with my sister when she was on a roll. That she’s two years younger than I am didn’t help, either.
So I began to nod—and back away, slowly. “Okay, Soph. I’ll think about it, I swear.”
Her phone rang, and she held up a hand. “Wait a sec, I’ll just put this on hold. Sophia Sheridan, here—”
But as soon as she picked up the phone, I waved back, smiled apologetically, gave her the universal finger-thumb gesture that I would call her—and bolted.
She didn’t need to know that I hadn’t exactly quit my job. Or that I was in the process of selling everything I owned.
Feeling Fine . . .
1:00 a.m., February 17
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Warm family good-byes are behind me, and preparations for the trip are well under way. Scotland, here I come!
Feeling fine? Feeling freaked, more like. I’d wakened in the morning after a night spent alternately panicking between “Oh my god! What have I done?” and trying to remember how to attain Savasana. Since I’d attended my last yoga class when I was twenty-three, mostly the panic won.
In the end, I decided the best way to combat panic was action, so I dragged myself out of bed and headed downtown to have business cards printed up. Nothing says “Take Me Seriously” like a business card, right? By the time I got downtown, I’d decided on a design in my head and everything, but I spent a long time looking at the various fonts and so on to make sure it was perfect. When I placed the order, it seemed insane to have more than about twenty done, but the printers had a special deal for a hundred and fifty at half price, so I went for it.
by EMMA SHERIDAN
A couple of hours later, when I picked them up, I realized I had forgotten to specify any contact information on the cards. They were beautiful, all right. A creamy off-white with raised print and a serious-feeling heft to them. But no number. No email address.
This wasn’t such a bad thing. My cell phone plan was ending in a week or so, anyway, and I wanted people to reach me through the blog. But—looking at those cards—god, things suddenly seemed so real.
I hurried home before panic had me raving in the streets.
By noon I was lying on my back on my apartment floor, breathing into a fishy-smelling paper bag rescued from an old lunch I’d somehow forgotten in the back of the fridge. Which had never happened to me before. I cannot recall missing a meal for any reason since I had my tonsils removed when I was seven. It clearly speaks to the unsettled nature of my mind. Or maybe the fact it was tuna on rye. I really hate tuna.
I would have tried elevating my feet on the couch, but the guys from Goodwill had come and taken it away. The removal of the couch made it seem like everything was happening so fast, and the paper bag just wasn’t cutting it; so I thought, Fuck it, and drank the last of the Chablis in the fridge. It was early, I knew, but I’d have to clean out the fridge at some point, right? Good enough reason on its own. Besides, the wine was in a box. Juice comes in a box, and people drink juice at two in the afternoon all the time.
The paper bag smelled like tuna, okay? And there’s a reason I hate tuna. All fish, really.
I haven’t always hated fish. Barbecued salmon. Golden-fried halibut. Even oysters in the half-shell. Used to love ’em all.
Not anymore. I lay on the floor beside the empty Chablis box and remembered . . .
The old clock by the front door had chimed eight that night as I set the shrimp cocktail on the table. It was our first anniversary and I was determined to do it right. A veritable feast was lined up, ready to serve after the shrimp: creamy clam chowder to start, pan-fried trout for the main course, and an enormous chocolate torte for dessert.
Egon showed up at eight fifteen with a pink posy in one hand—and his assistant, Tiffany, in the other. “Tiff’s fridge broke down today,” he said, setting the wilted flower in the center of the table.
Tiffany wriggled between Egon and the table. “Oh, Emma, you are so kind to include me,” she gushed. “I swore I wouldn’t disturb your special night with Egon, but he insisted you’d put on an enormous spread and I wouldn’t be in the way.”
That girl sucked those shrimp back like a Dyson. Egon had smiled indulgently and pushed the plate closer to her.
In retrospect, perhaps I should have taken the three of us eating our anniversary dinner as a sign. Because within six months, Tiffany was serving all-you-can-eat lobster dinners for two in my old apartment, and I haven’t eaten seafood since.
Strangely, though, the break-up dinner didn’t affect my feelings for chocolate tortes.
So, yeah, I’d sworn to Sophia my plan wasn’t about a man. Egon had cured me of Internet dating for life, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a few good memories. Still, by three, the crying jag brought on by the old Chablis and the pictures of Egon on the mantle that I’d drunkenly begun to pack was over.
The crying was over, and so were the pictures.
Over the balcony railing, as a matter of fact.
That shattering noise glass makes on pavement?
I finished sweeping the entire parking lot free of glass by five thirty. My building’s Super is small, but she has great deductive reasoning—and she carries a big stick. (Literally. It’s her son’s old baseball bat. This neighborhood can be rough at night.)
She also had my security-deposit check in her pocket, which she threatened to tear up if I didn’t get my ass downstairs to clean up the mess I’d made.
When I dumped the last of my shattered memories into the bin, she nodded stiffly. “Men are dicks,” she said. “They can’t help it.”
It was the closest thing to sympathy I’d received all week. I burst into tears, but she brandished the bat at me when I leaned in for a hug.
I figured I could live with that, seeing as she did give me the check.
Figure Four . . .
8:45 p.m., February 18
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Less than a week before my plane leaves. I’m actually flying out of JFK in New York, so I’m going to have to get myself across four states in that time. I haven’t quite sorted this out, as yet. But it is all coming together.
I’m really confident—and excited!
I very pleased follow love. Good to follow love.
Buy Gold watches here: watcherini.nairobi.com
It was not all coming together.
And with every day, the blog seemed to be rapidly morphing from true-life travelogue to creative nonfiction.
I decided I was okay with that. Reality TV notwithstanding, public humiliation is not all it’s cracked up to be. Let the world see my best self, right?
And I had managed to find myself a killer deal on the plane ticket, even with the cost of the bus trip to New York tacked on.
My sister had left six messages on my cell phone, alternately haranguing me about shirking my family duties and reminding me to call our mother, so maybe she could talk some sense into me.
I did not call our mother.
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