Happy PI Day, fellow math nerds (and Veronica Mars fans)!
Today was supposed to also be the re-release of Change of Season, for both reasons. I do have a character named Veronica, after all. However, there have been unforeseen and unexpected delays with both my printer and international sellers failing to comply with removing the old so I can ensure readers only receive the new edition.
I’m highly disappointed, but don’t expect much of a delay (end of March, perhaps?). In the meantime, I still very much wanted to celebrate this Saturday. For your enjoyment, I’ve decided to share one of the expanded scenes exclusive to this new edition of Change Of Season. For the Miraj fans out there, she’s going to share a little more about her life as a waitress, in hopes of inspiring Autumn.
Follow the jump!
“Wouldn’t a bed be more comfy, Red?”
Autumn’s head snapped up, eyes widening. “Miraj! When did you get here?”
Miraj grinned, tousling her blue-streaked bob as she removed her hood. “Twenty ago? I was on my way back from Hamilton and thought I’d detour for a bit. How’s tricks?”
Autumn groaned. “Shit is beyond fucked. I don’t even know where to start.”
Miraj gestured to the open notebook on the table. “I suggest we start with a new locale. Granny Bookminder won’t approve of the volume.”
“Good point. Let’s go.”
Packing her things quickly, Autumn slung her backpack over her shoulder, politely waving to the librarian on her way out. Miraj snorted as they stepped into the chill of early Fall, shaking her head.
“They have you practicing your curtsey, too?”
“She helped me out,” Autumn countered. “I may need her again at exam time. So, how’s work?”
“Sucks, but it pays the bills. Parentals are pretty angry, but I don’t exactly care. But this isn’t about me, Red: you were saying something about the proverbial fan getting slung with dung?”
Autumn nodded, rubbing her aching eyes as sun struck them through the clouds. “So, guess who looks like a suicide case from three years and change ago?”
Miraj halted in her tracks, her boots sliding in the wet earth. “Whoa! You serious?”
“Yeah, and it gets better, too: I’m in her room.”
“That’s pretty creeptastic, Red. No wonder you look like you haven’t slept a wink.”
Autumn sighed loudly, scanning the quad. A few students lingered on benches, but all was otherwise deserted. Still, this was not a chat she planned on having in earshot of anyone in the Casteel ecosystem. Where to go?
“Red? What’s up?”
Autumn feigned a smile. “I’m just debating where to hang out and write today. Total block, and my room is out.”
Miraj bit her lip, then shrugged. “The theatre building? Don’t you like writing there?”
“Yeah, I do. I don’t usually go during the day, though. Too busy.”
“It’s Sunday. Who else besides a prisoner like you would be there?”
“You have a point. Let’s go.”
They trudged along the grass, sneakers and strappy combat boots side by side, saying nothing. Comfort in knowing silence. Autumn debated telling Miraj of the crying, but thought better of it. Miraj was an atheist; ghosts were a product of so-described “Christian bullshit.” She would probably think Autumn needed to be on hardcore medication – which might be true, but that was beside the point. No, I better keep it vague.
Autumn startled slightly, her hand yanking forcefully on the side entry door to Media Studies. “Fine, I guess? She’s pretty nice. Good taste in music.”
Miraj growled under her breath. “Yeah, but are you talking to her about–”
“Not yet,” she blurted out, eyes scanning wildly for signs of life within the building. “I can’t go there. Why do I even have to?”
“It’s the only way. Out is through, through being through the walls. You’re not an idiot, Red.”
Tiny porcelain hands toyed with Autumn’s hair as her friend stared into her eyes. Those eyes… they always saw through her lies and fake smiles. It was infuriating, but soothing. Heather could never see, never understand. A hurricane had blown her world apart, and Heather was busy applying lip gloss. But Miraj dug through the rubble, pulled her from the debris. Wasn’t that enough?
“I probably am an idiot. I fell for his bullshit, didn’t I?”
Miraj sighed and shook her head. “Red, we all fall for bullshit. We all get ourselves into trouble. Mistakes are how we learn. How do you think I knew how to bail you out the day we met?”
Autumn remained silent, recalling the fear of that winter’s day. Miraj had no obligation in the world to intervene, but she had done so, as casually as someone might flip through a magazine to kill time. That one gesture of kindness had meant the world to Autumn. She’d been invisible for so long, misinterpreted, misunderstood… But Miraj saw her and accepted her weaknesses. She’d also teased out her strengths, gently reviving them.
“Lemme tell you a tale in the life of Miraj the Wonder Waitress,” her friend continued. “There’s this guy named Gary who loves the place. No fucking idea why — the food is mediocre and the coffee always burnt if Delores makes it. And I mean, there’s burnt roast and there’s liquid charcoal.”
Autumn snickered. “You’ve deemed yourself the great coffee maker of the diner world, haven’t you?”
Miraj rolled her eyes. “It’s a pain in the ass with that old Bunsen, but I need my caffeine and I need it at least semi-palatable, especially at six in the morning. So Gary, having never seen a female under sixty in the last ten years, best I can tell, decides to take a shine to yours truly. Can’t blame him. I’m sexy in that short blue skirt.”
Autumn laughed heartily at Miraj’s smirking grin, her friend batting her eyes and posing briefly like a pin-up. “Ooh, baby! Uniforms get me so hot.”
“It ain’t the clothes that make the woman; it’s the woman —” At this, Miraj bounced her breasts with her palms. “— that makes the clothes. Am I right? But anyway, Grabby Gary.”
Autumn frowned. “I already want this guy to fall down a dark hole at the end of this story.”
“Gary starts off with flirting. The casual kind. Most of the old men at the diner are all about calling me sweetheart and telling me if they were younger men, they wouldn’t waste a moment, blah blah. But they smile in that way that says they know my actual body is off limits, so it’s cool. I play along, they tip well. We all win. But Gary… He’s got those eyes. You know what I mean.”
Autumn nodded. The dead eyes. Predator and prey.
“I don’t play along. Don’t want to encourage him. I try not to serve him, but he starts asking Delores for my section when he shows up. Eventually, he tries to slap my ass as I walk by. He misses. I just happen to spill hot coffee on his grossly visible boner in his slacks.”
“A kick in the balls, a cuppa Joe in the balls. What’s the diff?” Miraj laughed, shaking her head. “Do you think this moron knocked it off? Nope. Shows up the next day and tries to get my number.”
Autumn rolled her eyes. “There’s masochism and then there’s masochism. What did you do?”
Miraj leaned closer, clearly proud of what was to come. “I tell him if he really wants to know how I feel about him, he should meet me out back at three. I just happen to have plans after work that involve my steel toes and spiked bracelets. Idiot agrees. I get dolled up, ready my switchblade and wait in shadows. Grabby Gary comes along and suddenly I’m a little grabby. I grab his stupid throat and shove him against a wall. Element of surprise and all, he doesn’t have time to react before my knife is jabbed against his junk.”
“Holy shit… That’s assault!”
“Well, yeah, but still… What did he do?”
Miraj giggled. “Pissed his pants. Pleaded for his jewels. Made him promise to either keep his comments and hands to himself from now on or mosey over to Coffee Time down the street. Problem solved!”
Autumn shook her head in disbelief. There was no way she could have ever defended herself that way. She would have cowered in fear, or worse, put up with Gary’s hands. Or called Miraj in to handle him.
“I’m telling you this for a reason, Red. There was a time in my life when I was hiding from my own monster in the closet. I was quiet and scared and weak. Now, I’m not. Wanna know why?”
“Because I faced that shit head on, let it all out and let it go. I took my life back. Running didn’t do jack shit for me. But turning around and holding my ground saved my life.” Miraj’s hand reached out and tucked a stray strand of Autumn’s hair behind her ear. “You have to put the musical Freud to work. Out is through.”
“It’s over, though.” Her voice was scarcely a whisper.
“Is it?” Miraj countered. “Because if it’s over, why are you here, hiding from your life?”
“Shut up,” Autumn warned.
“Why? Because you know I’m right?” She chuckled sarcastically, shaking her head as she drew her hoodie over it. “Fuck, I give up. You won’t listen.”
“Face it, Autumn, your house of cards is crumbling. You can either reach for the life preservers, or drown.”
Without another word, her friend spun on her heels and stormed out of the building, leaving Autumn as she always was: alone.
Change Of Season’s extended edition will be released April 8th, 2015. Its sequel, Waiting For A Star To Fall, releases summer 2015.
Follow A.C. on Twitter: @dillonac