Chapter 152: Louella Starts Her Book

by Alice Cherbonnier

THERE WAS NO WAY to put it off any longer. Here it is already Thursday morning, and all I've done all week is suck my thumb! thought Louella. Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and go to Plan B!

The pep talk wasn't working. It was 10:30 a.m. and she was still languishing in her twin bed listening to MTA buses boom past on nearby Eastern Avenue. She heard her father start up the rusting Winnebago behind their houses-one of his morning rituals, checking to see if the battery still worked, which allowed him to pretend he still had important things to do since his 1984 layoff from Esskay.

Louella nuzzled deeper into her polyester pillow and groaned. It had been so much easier to get on AutoPilot at 6 a.m. and head to the MARC train and cruise into D.C. and pick up the Metro and go to the old P.R. job. Tiring, but easy.

Now, fired again and seven jobs deep on a 12-year-long resumé, Louella knew she'd look like dead meat to an employer. Her Plan B was to write a best-selling romance novel while on unemployment, and get out of the job rat race altogether.

May as well start with my research, she thought, fumbing for the fat gold-embossed paperback on the bedside table. As she picked up where she'd left off she felt her tension lift away. Romance novels always had that effect on her. She could read a couple of hundred pages a night and not be tired or bored-unlike what she thought of as "real" books, which she'd been avoiding since college on the grounds that they put her to sleep.

This one, the third 500-page romance she'd digested in four days, was a real page-turner. It had teased her along with 150 pages of foreplay before the star-crossed inevitably-to-be-lovers finally got their first (lingering but frustratingly interrupted) kiss.

The story seemed real familiar to Louella. It was basically like the other two books she'd just read, but somehow that didn't matter.

Another 30 pages and Louella finally launched herself, heading for the shower, a cup of black coffee, and her old 386 computer, bought by her former boyfriend Bill before the car accident that had left him disabled in a rehab hospital. Louella felt guilty not visiting Bill after all he'd done for her, but she was able to put him out of her mind. He hardly recognized her anyway, and there'd never been any of that between them, anyway.

Louella realized with a start that she wasn't getting down to writing because she couldn't imagine describing steamy sex experiences she'd never had herself. She'd always figured that when the time came she could patch together scenes by combining other people's descriptions in new ways, but she still had doubts.

The kitchen door opened and shut. It was her older sister, Candy. Why'd I ever give her a key? Louella moaned inwardly. But at least here was another excuse to delay.

She confided her fears in Candy, who read even more of the novels than Louella and who actually had experienced a lot of that, sometimes for pay.

"Hey, c'mon Louella-you don't have to write about that stuff any more!" chided Candy, cracking gum. "You can write one of those, what-cha-ma-call-it, Christian romances. No sweat!"


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