Here goes! This is the first excerpt I am sharing from my lesbian romance novel-in-progress, My Cicada Summer. It is the scene where the two main characters meet. I’ll let you find out for yourself what happens next.
Clarke politely introduced herself to the young woman who stood in front of the men’s briefcase section. Her head moved back and forth as she eyed the three color choices. Clarke loved selling briefcases because the leather lotion and cleaner were always the perfect complements. This would surely put her ahead of Anthony’s sales.
Clarke quietly walked in the woman’s direction and stood next to her to not interrupt her decision-making process, but to let her feel like Clarke was in it with her.
“Hi, my name is Clarke. Do you see something you like?” Clarke asked, trying not to be intrusive.
The woman turned around to face Clarke and smiled coyly. Her long, dark shoulder-length locks swung with her in unison. She was cute. Clarke noticed that right away. Clarke was about to pinch herself for having those thoughts but she gave herself a pass because she was only human. She was really cute. Her skin was without one blemish. Clarke’s eyes quickly traced her thick eyebrows and then dropped to her medium-sized lips. After seeing the full-body view, she could tell she was a bit of a tomboy. Her baggy jeans and boyish stance gave it away. Clarke tried not to stare too long and hurriedly went back to the task at hand.
“I think I do. I think I want that tan briefcase and matching portfolio.”
“You think you want them?” Clarke was a bit puzzled. Did she want them or not?
“Actually, I do want them both,” she confirmed.
Clarke’s eyes lit up. This had effortlessly turned into a multi-item sale. She was welcomed here anytime.
“Okay.” Clarke jotted down the item numbers on her purple notepad, and then headed to the counter so that she could buzz Anthony. Clarke wasn’t supposed to leave the sales floor. There had to be at least one person on the floor at all times. Clarke didn’t care too much about breaking that rule. She mostly cared about not leaving this woman alone.
Clarke looked up and saw that she had shifted her attention to the signature collection. Another gift she supposed. Clarke knew right away that the purse would not be for her. Clarke’s “gaydar” was going off. Well, the little bit she claimed to have was sounding. The woman’s body language gave it away. Clarke could be totally wrong, but she had a hunch that she wasn’t.
Clarke walked over to her to slyly say, “I thought you were finished shopping.”
“No, I never said I was. But if you want me to be, I can be,” the woman said without looking at Clarke.
“Not at all. Take your time. What else can I get for you?” Clarke said while discreetly checking on her own appearance in the full-length mirror. Her black Nine West four-inch heels suited the cotton black dress she was wearing.
“I was thinking about buying a gift for a friend.”
“A friend? What kind of friend?” Clarke asked.
Now Clarke knew that was getting a bit personal, but she had to ask. If she wanted to assist her in choosing the perfect gift then more information was required. Who was she kidding? Clarke was flirting. No one said that this sale couldn’t be fun. She needed to amuse herself, and besides, she was so damn good looking.
“Does that matter?” she asked.
“Actually it does matter. If it’s a friend that you have known for a long time then the gift would be a lot more personal. If it’s a ‘just because’ gift then it might be a small item without all of the emotional value.” Clarke hoped she understood where she was coming from.
“Well, I like to put thought into every gift I buy, Clarke.”
“How do you know my name?”
“You did introduce yourself to me about five minutes ago,” the woman reminded her.
Clarke was now blushing. She remembered her name, and she wasn’t wearing a name tag. Most customers neglected to pay attention when you greeted them. Wait, was this woman flirting with Clarke? She should not be entertaining this. It had only been two months since her breakup with Jai. Giving someone any attention was insane. Clarke needed to put an end to this now.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t think you were really listening. Most people don’t. Now back to the gift. What did you have in mind?”
“This isn’t my area of expertise. However, I am thinking that she likes a lot of color but in a very refined and classic way. So, we should be looking for something that says I know what I like and I look good in it.”
“It seems like you do know a little something about gift buying. She must be very special. I like a girl who knows what she wants.” Clarke gave the woman a quick wink.
She winked back. Clarke definitely knew flirting was in progress now. Being a little naughty on the job was exhilarating.
“How about something like this? It’s in our legacy collection. The color is great for the summer, a light butter yellow with gold hardware. She will be able to outfit this with a variety of colors and create a chic and classic look every time.”
“I like it. You really think she’ll like it?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t have picked it out if I didn’t. How much are you looking to spend?” Clarke asked without hesitation.
“I’m not concerned with the price tag. I just want to make sure she likes it.”
“Well, she will really like it if you get the wallet and signature umbrella. Perfect for those afternoon rain showers and for protecting her from those cicadas.”
“Now you’re pushing it, but I’ll take the add-ons.”
“You said she’s special,” Clarke reminded her.
“Yeah, she seems to be.” The woman smiled while reaching into her pants pocket.
Anthony was at the counter with his arms folded. Now who’s buying cake tonight? It was his fault for leaving Clarke on the floor alone. Emma was back from her break, so Clarke sent her to the storage area to retrieve the additional items while she rang this fine looking lady up. Clarke really didn’t want her to go, but the sale was coming to an end.
“Will that be all?” Clarke asked.
“I think… I mean, I am finally finished now.” She assured Clarke with a smile.
“Let me ring you up then. Would you like the items gift wrapped?”
“Everything but the briefcase and portfolio.”
“I’m assuming they’re for you?”
“Yeah, they are.”
“Okay, your total comes to $1,960.”
“So, I think you will be taking me out to dinner this week,” the woman replied.
Clarke looked puzzled.
“Ha! Don’t think so. Maybe the friend who gets these presents should take you out,” said Clarke with a sheepish giggle.
“That’s a good idea,” she agreed.
Anthony helped Clarke box and bow the three items. He just couldn’t stay away. He tied better bows than Clarke anyway. She needed more practice. He blew a kiss at her discreetly. She quickly smiled and directed all of her attention back to her generous customer. She handed her back her American Express and removed the receipt from the register.
“Sign please.” Clarke had broken protocol. She didn’t ask for ID. She didn’t even read the name on the card. Clarke was too consumed with looking at her. After all, she was about to leave and she would probably never see her again.
“My pleasure. I hope she likes it,” she said as she signed the receipt.
“No worries. I’m sure she will. What girl wouldn’t?” Clarke took the signed receipt from her hand.
It was their practice to walk the bagged items around the counter and then hand them to the customer. It was how they officially closed every sale. And besides, she needed to at least adhere to one of their policies.
“Thank you for shopping with us. Please come back real soon,” Clarke said in her sweetest voice.
“Thanks for your help,” she said.
Their eyes met for a brief moment before Clarke quickly looked down at the ground to admire an imaginary speck. This woman was going to make someone very happy tonight.
“And by the way,” she said as she situated the bags in her hands to a comfortable position.
“Yes,” Clarke responded with her best smile.
“Let me know what time dinner is this week.”
The woman didn’t blink. She then extended the hand that held the bag with the wrapped merchandise in Clarke’s direction. Clarke’s mouth dropped open.
“I can’t take this.” Clarke waved her hands in front of her.
“I think you can. You picked it out.”
Anthony tapped Clarke’s right shoulder and motioned for her to take the bag. Clarke was speechless. She was flirting with her.
“I had a lot of fun with you today. I needed this. Thanks. I’ll be waiting for that dinner call.”
The woman walked away. Clarke could not move. Nothing like this ever happened to Clarke.
“What the hell was that about, Clarke?” Anthony inquired.
“Anthony, I don’t know. I thought I was helping her pick out a gift for a friend. I have never seen that woman in my life.”
“Sure you haven’t. She’s cute. I was watching her every move. She was digging you.”
“You were wrapping the gifts,” Clarke said to him.
“I can multi-task. Look in the bag. She slipped something in there.”
Clarke looked inside the bag and found a tiny slip of paper with a telephone number and the words, “I think you should,” written under it. No name. She had no idea who this person was.
“Clarke, you better give her a call. I love a girl that makes you wonder. This is what you need. Something new, something different.” Anthony’s elation at what had just taken place was evident.
“I don’t know Anthony. I’m not ready to date. I wouldn’t even know what to do.”
“See, that’s your problem. Just go with it. It’s not about having all of the right answers.”
“She could be a crazy person.”
“We are all a little crazy. I say try it. It’s just dinner.” Anthony pushed.
“I’ll think about it.”
Maybe she did need something different. But Clarke didn’t feel ready to venture out into the unknown for the second time. She wasn’t ready and she didn’t want to be ready. Secretly Clarke was still waiting for Jai to call. What if there was still a chance for them? Clarke knew she was being silly for even wanting to hear from Jai, but there were so many things that she wanted and needed to say to her. Even as Clarke stood there with the bag in her hand, Jai haunted her. Clarke felt like she was doing something wrong even though deep down inside she knew that she wasn’t. Accepting that her life as she knew it with Jai was over would have to come soon — maybe right now. It was a new day and Clarke had to take the steps to finally take charge of her new beginning. She did need something different, but she didn’t even know what to call her.