I've been considering writing straight up contemporary chick lit for some time now. This is a completely unedited first go . What do you think, should I carry on?
You know that old saying, when a door closes a window opens? Well, this story is not like that. Just a door slammed in he face. Truth be told, Maggie desperately searched for a window, but she just couldn’t find one.
The dingy slush was only making the grey day more miserable. The once pristine snowfall, now a snow cone of dirt, exhaust and garbage. Skeletons of plump fir trees blew down the almost deserted street like a tumbleweed and no one could bother to move them.
Those who braved -or had no choice but to walk, kept their heads down as the bitter north wind whipped the faces of those who dare look up. Only two weeks after the holidays and warm greetings and kind gestures were all but a memory as the passerby’s grumbled in to their scarves.
Maggie normally loved to walk at this time of year. The sidewalks were easier to navigate, and the brisk wind put a spring in her step. Gave her a sense of purpose. But today she trudged along like the rest of the poor souls out and about.
The wind caught the door of the coffee shop as Maggie dashed in and she slipped on the pavement landing in an icy puddle. Perfect! She thought as she brushed the water from her puffy coat and carried her bruised ego gently inside.
Laura, Maggie’s best friend was sitting at their favorite table, head buried in a book as usual. The warm steam and scent of freshly brewed coffee was improving Maggie’s mood already. She carefully dodged the wet floor sign and carried her latte and raspberry scone to the table.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in!” Never a hair out of place, Maggie took in the winter white cashmere ensemble her friend Laura wore so effortlessly and moved her own coffee to the other side of the table. Hanging her coat on the chair, Maggie sat gingerly leaving the icy wet spot on the thigh of her leggings hanging over the edge of the chair to dry.
“You walked again, didn’t you? I told you it’s too damned cold for that. You can’t afford to get sick now.” Laura had a toddler at home and had assumed the mother role with everyone. It had come to her so naturally, like the mother goddess accepting her destiny. Maggie marveled at the comfortable ease her friend seemed to inhabit in all things. Babies, Maggie couldn’t keep her plants alive. A giver to the extreme, she usually overwatered them until they drowned.
“I know, it is just that cabs are expensive and with no job…
“Don’t worry about that. I’m telling you, it will be fine. You always find the perfect job.”
“Well this time, I’m not so sure. I just can’t seem to get enthusiastic about any of the opportunities out there. I think I am burned out on the whole chef thing. I might be getting too old for all those hours, maybe need to shake things up.”
“Too old? You’re only 34! I know you started young and it has taken its toll in the last year, but what will you do instead?”
“I don’t know. I understand why Edward had to let me go after I dropped off the face of the earth for a week, but I am not sure how much it has affected my reputation.”
“Maggie Evans can do no wrong in the restaurant scene. Besides, you called in and warned him.”
“Yes, two weeks before the Christmas rush. Not a good thing to do to anyone. I just felt so humiliated. In retrospect, it probably made matters worse. Oh Laura, I just don’t know anymore.” Maggie hated to whine, but as she stared at the white lines of drying salt criss-crossing her new leather boots, she sighed, feeling lost.
“Maybe you could become a blogger?”
“Everyone in this town would recognize me.”
“Well, that what happens when you have won as many awards as you have.”
“Eh- well, I suppose.” Maggie felt the heat rise to her cheeks and lifted the saucer-sized coffee mug to her face until the feelings of inadequacy passed.
“How about a food writer?”
“Maybe, but that won’t pay the bills.”
“Well, you have a little nest egg, you could live carefully and...
“Hmm, let see, my studio apartment that sometimes has heat is pretty posh and all, but … and besides my lease is up next month and I know the rent is going up.”
“Okay! I get it, but you can’t just say no to everything.”
“Saying yes hasn’t worked out too well for me.”
“Honey, one day you are going to wake up and realize how lucky you were that Peter married that skinny, uptight society girl. They deserve each other if you ask me.”
“You’re probably right, but he might have broken off our engagement before he married her- just saying.” This time the heat of anger rose up the column of her throat. Maggie tried to breathe through the palpitations and slow her racing heart.
“I know, Mags. I can’t imagine how awful it was to read it on Page 6, but I am so proud of the way you handled yourself. He doesn’t deserve one second of you feeling bad about it.”
“There is something I’ve been thinking about…
“Oh no, it must be something crazy. I can always tell.” Laura grabbed the edge of the table for support, she had been here before.
“Well, you’ve known me for 20 years, I would hope so!”
“I was thinking of maybe taking that gap year in Europe.”
“Gap year? You’ve been out of school for 12 years. Maggie,” Laura took Maggie’s hand and softened her tone, “Sweetheart, you can’t run away from your problems.”
“Why not? I have no job, nowhere to live, and no dependents. It is the perfect time to run away. Maybe I will find a new outlook on life.”
“Outlook is fine, It’s the handsome Italian gigolo or French chef that I am more concerned about. Life is not a chick flick, you know.” Laura sighed, face in her hands. She knew she was wasting her breath.
“Don’t look so sad Lorelei, we can skype.” Maggie smiled knowing the long-standing nickname would turn her friend around, but the truth was, she would miss her best friend just as much.
“It’s not the same and you know it Maggie Mae, but if you think it is what you need, then I support you one hundred percent.”
“I love you, Laura. What would I do without you?
“Guess you’re about to find out. Now, let’s go shopping. We can’t have you running around Europe looking like a downtrodden tourist!”
Maggie stared at the rather forlorn looking containers by the door that Laura had offered to keep in her storage area. 34 years old and all I have to show for it is a couple of beat up cardboard boxes worth of mismatched memories and faded dreams.
She checked- for the third time- that her luggage was locked, and she had her ticket and passport in her purse.
Laura’s husband Nate rapped on the door and grabbed the boxes. Maggie wrapped the leather handle of her carry on around the metal poles of her wheelie bag. With a final glance in to the empty apartment, she kicked her suitcase out behind her and headed down to the car.
Laura was waiting in the back seat and Maggie crawled in beside her. She could tell her friend was weepy and Maggie swallowed hard pushing the emotion into the dark hole where it needed to stay. It was getting pretty crowded in there.
“Ooh, I can’t believe you are spending Valentine’s day in Paris! I am sooo jealous.” Maggie knew her friend was trying to be brave, but somehow it made Maggie sadder.
“Yes, well I can see why you would be. A single woman in her mid-thirties alone in Paris for Valentine’s day. I am such a cliché. Timing and all that. Besides, you know I have to be in Kent by the first of March.”
“I can’t believe you found a job. I am so pleased for you. Jealous, but pleased. It would have been nice to have found one in Spain or Italy where it is a little warmer, but at least they speak English.”
Fear aside, Maggie could feel the excitement building. A whole new world awaited her A second chance…
One last tearful glance back to Laura and Nate still standing by the curb and Maggie lifted her head and strode purposefully to the check in area.
As the plane sailed across the Atlantic, Maggie just couldn’t believe the change in her luck. The personal chef gig was icing on the cake. A friend had mentioned an American family in the UK that was getting tired of curry and fish and chips. They needed a taste of home for the next few months before they shipped out to another diplomatic post. Maggie sent them a resume and they could barely wait for her arrival.
She had already planned the Paris trip. She had waited 34 years and it would not wait a minute more. It was her dream destination, like Venice and Cairo and Barcelona… Any place she had not been before, was her dream trip. The sense of freedom washed through her like a cool chill and Maggie once more found herself smiling like an idiot.
Memories of her recent troubles were starting to disappear with each mile behind her and Maggie made a mental note to text Laura that she had been right: marrying Peter would have been a huge mistake indeed.
By the time she reached St Pancras Station, Maggie was running on adrenalin. Her first time in Europe and she wanted to inhale every moment of it. The bustling station was a mix of station was the perfect mix of WH Smith and the WH Barlow. Old and new converged with every step.
The haunting melody of Moonlight Sonata made Maggie choke back a sob as the melancholic notes echoed off the high ceilings. Maggie noted a girl of no more than 7 or 8, playing an old upright in the center concourse. She saw several more rescued pianos scattered throughout the terminal and thought, how utterly romantic.
Up the Eurostar ramp to her train, the excitement was palpable. Everyone seemed happy to be going to Paris. Of course, would anyone not be happy to go to Paris?
Glad she had sent most of her luggage ahead to Kent, she tossed her well packed bag on to the rack and searched for her seat. She squirmed as the train left the station, afraid of the Chunnel, she knew there was no stopping it now.
She closed her eyes and breathed deliberately. She was off to Paris on her own, starting a new life. Being afraid of a brief ride through a tunnel seemed ludicrous. After what she had been through, this seemed easy in comparison. She tried to push the thought of Peter from her mind, but sometimes it was difficult. As much as she hated what he had done, she had loved him madly. Shaking her head trying to throw the images away, she sighed. Perhaps, it had all been an illusion, after all, how could she love a man that could be that cruel.
Before she knew it, the sun was shining, and she was served a beautiful lunch. The wine might have been a mistake though as the jet lag started to hit her. She had not slept on the plane and had lost track or the will to care, about what time her body thought it was.
As the train wandered into Gare du Nord, all that changed. She was in Paris and that was all that mattered.