Excerpt #30: By Its Cover

From the author:

I have mentioned before that I have difficulty naming my characters. Sometimes I try to have fun with that though. Sean was a very minor character who I decided didn't need a last name because I didn't want to think of one. This is why Julia kept "forgetting" to ask his full name.

From the book:

    “You ready to go?” I asked.
    He nodded and began to slide out of the booth without asking if I was also ready.
    My question might have implied I was done. I stuffed my last bite into my mouth and moved to follow. Sean tossed his trash and mumbled a thanks as he passed me on his way to the door.
    I was moving slowly on purpose because I hoped to stay and chat with Emily.
    She apparently had the same idea. The doors to the kitchen swung open, and she came out carrying a rag and a spray bottle. She nodded me towards the table I’d just vacated. “So?” she asked as she began to spray it down.
    I shook my head.
    “Ruling him out already?”
    “Let’s just say he’s moved to the bottom of the list for now,” I said. He had said he generally preferred staying in to going out, and I didn’t necessarily not want three kids. I wasn’t sure I had enough objective cause to eliminate him. I had a feeling, however, that I wasn’t on his list so mine might not matter.
    “That’s too bad,” Emily said. She cast a furtive look towards the kitchen as she bent forward to wipe the seats. “Want me to introduce you to Luke while you’re here?”
    Moving down my very short list did not sound like a bad idea. “Okay,” I said. “If you can do it without… um…” I wasn’t sure how to put my thought into words. I was fine with being direct and somewhat obvious about my interest as long as it wasn’t weird. This wasn’t the wishy-washy, emotional, easily manipulated kind of interest.
    Emily smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll be subtle.” She led me to the pickup window. Through it I could see Luke standing next to a teenage boy. They appeared to be chopping vegetables, but I didn’t have a clear view of the work surface.
    “Hey, Luke!” Emily called, waving him over.
    Subtlety, thy name is not Emily Mayor.
    He rolled his eyes as he peeled off his gloves. We already had common ground.
    Emily continued as he approached the other side of the window. “Julia just had a lousy date. Do you want a chance to redeem your gender?”
    Luke fixed me with a look so intense I took a step backwards. “When she says bad, she means boring, right? We’re not talking about any kind of mistreatment?”
    I shook my head at the overbearing concern, which ironically felt more threatening than anything Sean had said. “Do you know Sean?” I asked, pausing to realize I couldn’t supply a last name if he asked for one. I clearly needed to practice pumping guys for information, yet I still hoped I would not do it enough to become good at it.
    “Not well,” Luke said. “We went to school together but haven’t crossed paths much since.”
    I nodded.
    “Sorry, guys,” Emily said. “Chip’s calling me.” She rushed around me to head into the kitchen.
    I hadn’t heard anything so I assumed it was an excuse to leave me alone with Luke. But I glanced over Luke’s shoulder and saw Emily’s boss staring her down. That could have been interpreted as a summons.
    “How long have you worked here?” I asked.
    “Since high school.” His expression darkened as he spoke, as though he was daring me to find something wrong with that answer.
    I tried to smile pleasantly. Stability was on my list of desired qualities. “Your dad is one of the brothers on the sign?”
    He only grunted, but I interpreted it as an affirmative response.
    And just like that I was out of things to say. My brain was running through the list of questions to ask potential husband candidates, none of which I could ask Luke in this spur-of-the-moment meeting. Maybe I should go ahead and ask him out. Then we could get to an appropriate setting to start finding out what was important.
    I could at least ask his last name. I was about to introduce myself properly to encourage him to do the same when he sighed heavily. Fortunately, he was looking over my shoulder so I knew it wasn’t aimed at me.

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