“Jeanette,” Erin said. “What do you think?”
Talking to Erin, I had to be paying attention all the time. It didn’t help that I had the attention span of a squirrel drunk on mangos, and it definitely didn’t help that everything Erin talked about, I didn’t care about. Also, it didn’t help that I was a writer. And so I was always thinking about writing.
“Great,” I said, and from the look in her eyes, she knew I hadn’t been listening. “Hey, so, you want to know about the new character I made?” I asked before she could reprimand me. She bit her lip. Her lipstick was so red, like blood. I always saw people in the movies and celebrities who wore lipstick like that. For example – Taylor Swift. Come to think of it, she was the only one who wore lipstick like that. Nobody besides Taylor Swift should be allowed to wear bright red lipstick, I thought, before I realized how incredibly rude that was. I was really glad I hadn’t said that out loud.
“Jeanette!” Erin said. “I said yes.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, feeling stupid. I swiped my brown hair out of my eyes, and looked ahead, took in the surroundings like they were cold apple cider. Our town was so beautiful this time of year. Fall. Autumn. Whatever you call it, it means the same thing. Orange red yellow leaves, crisp cool air, sweaters, Bon Iver, Ben Howard, Michael Buble, hot chocolate and I swear if you say pumpkin spice lattes I will kill you. I hate Starbucks.
“His name is John Clearance.” His name was spelled Clearance, but pronounced like Clarence. Cool huh?
“Okay…” she said, not sounding too impressed.
“He has brown hair and blue eyes, and he lives in this little house that – oh my God.” I pointed ahead of us, my finger shaking. “That’s him.”
Erin gave me a look. “Shut up, Jean. I actually want to hear about him.”
“No! I’m not joking.” I had stopped walking. I gripped Erin’s shoulder, watching the man as he walked toward us. “He looks exactly like him.”
“Oh shut up,” she muttered again, but her blue eyes flickered.
My heart pounded in my chest. “John!” I yelled waving.
His head lifted, and when he saw me, he ran. “Oh God,” Erin said, under her breath, sounding confused.
“Wait!” I yelled, running after him.
Erin grabbed my hand, squealing. “What the hell are you doing?”
I pulled away from her, running as fast as I could. The wind lunged against me and my scarf came loose from my neck and hit me in the face. Blinded, I stumbled down the sidewalk. “Wait,” I caterwauled. “I don’t want to hurt you. I promise! I’m Jeanette, your author.” Still running, still blinded, I had no idea where I was going. I tripped and fell on my face.
“Jeanette, you idiot,” Erin proclaimed.
I pulled my scarf away and looked up. John was standing a couple feet away, staring at me. “What did you just say?”
“I’m Jeanette?” I asked as I began to tremble.
“No.” He walked closer. “After that.”
“Your author?” I said.
He stared at me. “Jeanette, right?”
“Okay, is this some kind of a joke or something?” Erin said, wringing her hands.
“No, it’s not a joke,” I said. I stood up. “Here, I’ll ask him some questions, and I’ll show you.” I took a breath and pointed at him. “You’re really afraid of dying.”
Erin rolled her eyes. “Everyone’s afraid of dying.”
“No, he’s really afraid of dying. Like he barely takes any risks at all. That’s why he ran when he saw us.”
“Dude, I thought you might be a rabid fan. You would run too.”
Erin crossed her arms over her chest. “Fan?”
“John Clearance plays the guitar for the band Raisin Bran.”
“He does not,” Erin said.
“Yeah, I do.” John Clearance pulled out some hipster glasses and put them on.
“What the hell – what – what – how is there a band called Raisin Bran?” Erin spluttered. Poor girl. It was a bit much to take in, I had to agree.
“I really enjoy Raisin Bran. It’s tasteless and I hate raisins but hey, it’s a good breakfast. And it has fiber.”
“Fiber is good. I love it,” I said.
“Wha – ” Erin's eyes jumped from me to John and then back again. She was like a cat watching a game of ping pong.
“And my name is John Clearance, but Clearance is spelled C-L-E-A-R-A-N-C-E as in a clearance sale. It was spelled C-L-A-R-E-N-C-E before but I changed it so it would look cooler,” John Clearance explained. “How is your name spelled?” he added, before the silence could get too awkward.
“J-E-A-N-E-T-T-E,” I said.
“E-R-I-N,” Erin said hesitatingly.
“That’s boring,” John said to her.
“Whatever! Your first name is John!” Erin snapped.
“Yeah, it’s spelled Z-X-A-N. The Z and X make a J sound.” He smirked.
“I hate you,” Erin said. She glared at me. “Have fun.” And with that, she stomped off. Some friend she was. But I was actually glad to be rid of her.
And I did have fun. John and I went back to his apartment and made grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (they’re delicious; I’m not joking). It was surreal, meeting one of my characters, standing in his apartment. Yes, it was surreal. Surreal and beautiful.