Rather than talk about what I’m doing this month, I thought I might show you. This is the first section of my NaNoWriMo 2012 novel. This is preliminary text, unedited and subject to change.
“Turn that fucking light off,” Mike snapped, throwing one arm over his eyes to block out the light. “What the fuck are you doing up at-” he glanced at the clock, “-four-fucking thirty in the fucking morning? Suze, what the hell?”
Susie’s bleary retort was muffled to the point of incoherence by the shirt pulled half over her head, but her husband wasn’t looking for an actual answer in any case. “Just get back in bed,” he snapped. “At least pretend to sleep through the night.”
Susie had struggled into her polo and was busily tucking it into a pair of khaki’s. “I’m not gonna sleep either way; I might as well get a head start at work.”
“No one’s mail is running at four-fucking-thirty in the morning,” Mike repeated. “You go door to door at this hour and someone is liable to shoot you for a burglar.”
“I’m not going out on deliveries. I’m just going to take care of some office paperwork, maybe load the car.” She finished buttoning her pants, then leaned over to pop a quick kiss on Mike’s furrowed forehead.
“Stupid,” Mike snapped. “Overtime’s no good if you don’t get paid for it.”
“Speaking of paid,” Susie changed the subject adroitly, “anything for me in the garage?”
“Bluh,” Mike scrubbed his face with the heel of his hands, then levered himself into a sitting position against the headboard. A little more alert, he took a moment to re-process her question. “Uh, yeah. Package of flour came in for Joe yesterday, if you wouldn’t mind dropping it by his place.” He glared at the clock one more time. “Preferably at a godly hour.”
Susie flashed him a grin, blew him a kiss, and clattered down the stairs as quietly as she could. No need to wake the kids.
The baker’s package was discreetly tucked into the big metal garbage can – the one that they never, ever, used for garbage – just like always. The brown-paper wrapper on this one was perfectly neat and folded, the tape placed in perfect parallel lines. Susie liked it; it was almost a work of art, like a really well wrapped Christmas present. She was always nervous handling the ones that were sloppily packed, worried that they’d develop a tear and send the contents spilling all over the pavement right in front of everybody, but this one looked very professional. It was nice to know there were still people who cared in this business.
The drive to the post office was always the most nerve-wracking part. If she was pulled over and searched now, there was no plausible excuse for the package of white powder tucked safely in her tote bag. Until she reached her official vehicle, any police officer that found that parcel was going to have her in cuffs before she could say say “innocent dupe.” The quiet roads of pre-dawn were reassuringly empty of patrol cars, though, and fifteen minutes later she was safely ensconced in a room full of bland packages with brown paper wrappers, all of which it was her duty – no, her privilege – to deliver to her fine neighbors.
She loved her job.
By seven o’clock she had already finished sorting, sequencing, and loading up the incoming mail. Her special package, now safely camouflaged by a few dozen other small packages of (presumably) legitimate provenance, was no longer a concern. Lizbeth, who kept the actual post office open during the day – wouldn’t arrive for another two hours, which was even better. Susie had never really clicked with the other woman despite Lizbeth’s determined efforts at camaraderie. Any day where the two of them didn’t have to cross paths was off to a good start in Susie’s mind.
A yawning half-hour later she came to her favorite stop of the day; Brews and Chews served pancakes in the morning, burgers at lunch, and beer come evening. More importantly Maggie, who ran the place, was a kind soul who always had a hot cup of coffee with just the right amount of cream and sugar waiting when Susie stopped to hand deliver her mail. Susie, for her part, made sure that Maggie always had some sort of mail, even if it was just a few leftover circulars from the day before.
Today there were actual envelopes for the garrulous old gal. Bills, if Susie was any judge. Better to drop them and go before Maggie could get going on how much harder things were these days. Maggie was a cheerful soul, but she could reminisce about the good old days (and revile the new) with the same bright smile she brought to everything. Susie suspected sometimes that the old girl was medicated.
Pleading a heavy delivery schedule, Susie was able to retreat with her steaming brew to the truck and do a little medicating of her own. Three minutes later and twice as alert, she turned the ignition and pulled up to the next box on her route. The day was definitely looking up.
She’d deliberately built her route so that she hit the rural houses on the east side of town early then came back to make the rest of the downtown deliveries in the middle of the day. In her opinion, the more people were out and about to see her perfectly legitimate delivery of a plain brown box, the better. People talked about furtive exchanges – be they of packages, words, or glances – but looked past what was right in front of them. Joe hadn’t liked it at first, but even he couldn’t argue with results. All the right people knew that flour and sugar weren’t the only white powders in his tins and that he had a wider variety of seasonings than your average bakery, but there’d never been any rumors about how they came into town.
If Susie had her way, there never would be.
Joe was busy with a customer and barely glanced her way as she deposited the box on his counter. “No signature,” she called out casually, and he acknowledged her with a distracted nod. On her way out the door she snagged a muffin from the display in the window. Blueberry, she noted with pleasure.
She glanced at the big analog clock above the bank door. Only eleven o’clock – she should be ahead of schedule for her second favorite stop of the day. Maybe she should call…
“Susie?” She glanced up at her shouted name and spotted Wayne hurrying across the road from his grocery store. She was tempted to hit the gas and pretend she hadn’t heard him, but with a hand full of muffin it wasn’t practical. With an internal sigh, she settled back and waited for him to reach her rolled-down window.
She summoned a smile for the rotund little bastard. “What can I do for you, Wayne?”
He ran a clammy hand over his sparse hair and favored her with an ingratiating little smile. “Good morning, Susie,” he began. As usual, he made too much eye contact and adjusted his clothing almost compulsively. Susie had learned to recognize the signs of his inept flirting a long time ago. “I was hoping that you might have a package for me today.” He was a terrible liar. “I’ve been looking forward to it.”
Susie shook her head with faux regret. “Nothing for you today, Wayne. Sorry.”
“Would you mind taking a look for me? As a personal favor?”
She did not want to deal with this right now…but it was probably faster to oblige him than to talk him out of his lie. With a sigh, she half-turned and pretended to check labels on all of the packages in the truck.
Wayne didn’t waste the time, prattling on about local events and dropping hints about which ones they might attend together without upsetting her husband. Susie did her best to ignore him.
“Sorry, Wayne,” she interrupted as soon as she had made a show of checking the final package. “Nothing today.” She turned the key in the ignition pointedly. “I’ll keep an eye out for you, though.”
“Oh, yes.” He stepped clear of the window. “Thank you. I’ll see you later, Susie.”
“In this town? I doubt we could avoid each other if we tried.” And she intended to try. Susie plastered on her best professional smile, the one that looked like it was carved out of wax, and gave him a little wave as she drove off. He waved after her an uncomfortably long time, but did finally turn to go inside before she reached the corner.
Her phone rang, the sound abrupt and startling in her tense state. She took a second to calm her pounding heart before picking it up and checking the caller. Jacob Barnes. Her irritation disappeared in a flash and she was smiling when she answered. “Good morning, Pastor.”
“Good morning, Susan. I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a few errands over at the church today. Would you mind terribly dropping all my mail off there, today? I process it all in my office in any case.”
Susie slumped a little in her seat. “Of course, Pastor. But you know that the church is near the end of my route; it’ll be another three or four hours before I get there.”
“I’ll probably be there most of the evening,” he assured her. “Patience is a virtue, you’ll remember.”
“I’ll do my best,” she acceded. Glancing around she saw no one on the street, and risked blowing a noisy kiss into the phone. “I’ll see you later this afternoon, then.”
Jacob chuckled. “Until then.”
Susie ended the call and dropped her phone back onto the center console. It figured; she’d been looking forward to a nooner before she had to finish her blasted route, but it looked like she was just going to have to sit on it for a few more hours. She was already headed out to the outlying houses on the western side of town; she’d finish them and then loop back through the last section of town and end up at the church. She hated meeting at the church; it would be so much easier for someone to notice her mail truck there than at Jacob’s country cottage. She’d have to keep their tryst brief today, and have him make it up to her later. She sighed. She was building up a backlog of “laters” with Jacob that almost rivaled the one she had with Mike.
What was the point of an explosive affair if you never got around to the explosions?
With sex on her mind and deliveries on her agenda, she turned onto the narrow road that led along the edge of the forest.