It all started at a Starbucks.
Every Monday, Rose would bring her laptop to Starbucks. She would sit at the same booth in the corner with her rose gold MacBook. She would order a skinny vanilla latte. Then she would log onto Facebook. She was a proud independent fashion retailer, and she held her virtual parties like clockwork every Monday.
She took out her bedazzled compact and double-checked to make sure her makeup and hair were perfect. She reached into the large beach bag that she kept by her side and started lining up her inventory in the empty space next to the wall. The summer collection was amazing… red leggings with white stars, blue and yellow camo print with the American flag, black leggings with flag-printed peace signs… red, white, and blue tie-dyed tee-shirts, red and white striped tank tops, a navy dress with white yachts and red anchors… Her followers were going to love it.
She opened the Zoom app and picked out the perfect background. It was a gorgeous room with a chandelier with tear-shaped crystal hanging down, a white couch with colorful accent pictures, and a glass coffee table covered with a vase of orchids and glossy art books. She checked her Hermès watch that she had bought on the streets during a sponsored trip to New York City. She was satisfied her façade was complete, as her customers would accept nothing less. Only five minutes to go, she thought… And that’s when she spotted him.
He wasn’t the greatest looking man she had ever seen. That would be Brad Pitt, especially in Legends of the Fall. But there was something about him. He sat with a small group of both men and women. A few of them had laptops and some of them had notebooks. He seemed to be leading them in some sort of conversation. She wondered what they were talking about. She wondered who they were. However, before she could contemplate more about him, her phone started beeping. It was meeting time.
She opened her app, and started admitting people into her chat.
“Hey everyone, this is Rose, and I can’t wait to show you the gorgeous clothes that I have for you this month. Remember guys, this is limited qualities, so you have to be fast if you want to claim the amazing bargains, I have for you today.”
Her meeting ended after about two hours. She had sold a decent amount of her inventory, but not enough to make a dent in the fees she still owed to her credit card company. He was gone. She was curious about him. She walked over to the counter and flagged over a pierced barista with purple hair. She had seen him working here almost every week for a month. Maybe he could give her a clue as to who that was. The sunlight from outside the windows caught her cubic zirconia ring and made little rainbows on the ceiling.
“Can I help you?” the barista asked.
“Who was that man? Who were those people who were over there?” She shook her left hand in the direction as she pointed, the chunky bangles on her wrist made noise.
“I think they’re some sort of writing group,” the barista said, “They meet here every week. They usually come on Tuesdays, but they came on Monday this week.”
“What kind of writing group?”
“Have you ever heard of Camp NanoWriMo?”
“No, but I can google it,” Rose said, and with that, she walked back to her booth, gathered up her things, and walked outside to her car.
Rose drove back to her apartment. She lived in a small studio apartment in Bedford, Massachusetts. She unlocked her door. The apartment smelled like smoke and kitty litter. Right on cue, her runty black cat came over and rubbed against her legs. “You don’t love me,” Rose muttered, “You just want treats.” She walked over to the card table that doubled as her kitchen table and picked up the bag of catnip scented treats. She threw a few on the ground, and her eager cat started to munch on them. Then she threw herself down on the stained mattress that doubled as her bed on the floor. She grabbed a cigarette from a candy bowl she kept next to her bed and lit it. She blew smoke rings, but it only came out as a solid puff of smoke. She started googling things on her cracked cellphone.
“Hmm. NanoWriMo?” She found a bunch of pointless websites. It looked like some stupid writing contest. She tried to make her search more specific by entering NanoWriMo plus Bedford,” and that when she found him.
He went by CallMeIshmael14 on the NanoWriMo website. He was the liaison for the Bedford area. They had a Facebook page. It was dedicated to aspiring writers and authors, who wanted feedback on novels they were trying to write. His real name was Greg Benjamin. [Rose Benjamin had a nice ring to it, she thought] Unfortunately, other than that, she couldn’t see anything else about him.
She didn’t know what it was about him, but she felt drawn to him, and God knows she could use a man. Maybe a man could help get her out of the debt she was in, she thought as she glanced around at her tiny apartment. She decided to sign up for this writing contest… at least that’s what she thought it was. But she didn’t want to be her. She wanted to reinvent herself. She would make herself become whatever it is that she thought Greg would like.
She logged out of her own personal Facebook page, and decided to make a new email address… She couldn’t be Rose here, she needed to be someone else. She decided to use her middle name: Linda. She remembered all the old jokes from high school, where your middle name and the street you grew up on would be your “pornstar name.” Therefore, she could be Linda Alcott. She registered the email address and started a new Facebook account. She tried to join Greg’s group immediately but saw it was a private group. She skimmed all the rules… stuff about respecting others, not being racist, trigger warnings, and bullshit like that. Then she clicked “join the group.”
She went back to CallMeIshmael14’s NanoWriMo profile and saw she couldn’t read that either. She decided to sign up for that website too. She tried to think of an “artsy” name to match his, but aside from Harlequin romance novels that she found at Walmart, she didn’t read very much. The last “real” book she had read was Twilight. They had made a movie about that, right? It must be a good book. She named herself BellaSwan14 and then went back to his profile.
He lived in Bedford. His birthday was at the beginning of November, which made him Scorpio. [Capricorns and Scorpios were compatible, right?]. He liked to listen to classic rock like Bon Jovi and Billy Joel while he wrote. He worked as an international stockbroker according to his profile. Rose’s eyes lit up as she read that. His favorite books were Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and anything by Hemingway. Surely a well-known author like Hemingway had movies of his books, right?
Rose could not wait to meet him. She would just have to pretend she liked to write. Writing couldn’t be too hard. Poems just needed to rhyme. She could always just pretend to be an aspiring poet. Or maybe she could just write some sort of romance story. Everyone liked 5o Shades of Gray, right? She could write the next great romance novel.
She couldn’t do anything until she heard back from the Facebook group. Until then, she could just pray she ran into him. Wait… Didn’t the barista say they came on Tuesdays? Maybe she should go back to Starbucks tomorrow. Or every day until she saw him.
She put her phone away and laid back on the pile of leggings that served as her pillow. She couldn’t wait to become Mrs. Rose Benjamin.