Hey, lovelies. I’m surfacing from a weekend of writing to bring you a snippet from the original draft A Year with the Baptists, my work in progress. This particular excerpt will not be appearing in the final draft, because its a part of the (70K word) back story, which I’ve decided to completely cut. (I’ll talk more about that later).
Still, it really showcases Ruth, my protagonist Emma’s best friend (loosely based on my closest friends), and it’s kind of a fun part of the story (in between the heavier parts), so I thought I’d share it with you.
Jake smiled at Emma as they entered the foyer.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey.” Emma grinned back.
“Ready to go?” he asked.
“I think so,” she replied.
Jake extended his hand and she took it, walking with him through the double doors into the cool night air.
“Get a room!” someone called in the parking lot.
Emma squinted into the darkness.
“Ruth?” she exclaimed.
Emma released Jake’s hand just in time. Ruth barreled at her, wrapping her in a tight hug.
“Hi,” Emma said, voice muffled in Ruth’s shoulder.
Ruth stepped away, beaming.
“What are you doing here?” Emma asked.
“You wanted me to come for a visit, remember?” Ruth retorted.
“Yeah, but I didn’t mean you had to come right away,” Emma replied. “I mean, I’m glad you did, but you didn’t have to, you know?”
Ruth bounced around.
“What about work?” Emma demanded.
“Paid time off,” she said.
Jake cleared his throat.
“Oh, grief,” Emma said, remembering where she was. “Ruth, you haven’t met Jake.”
Ruth turned to Jake.
“Jake,” Emma continued, “this is my friend, Ruth.”
“Very nice to meet you, Jake,” Ruth said, waving.
“It’s nice to meet you, too,” he said.
Pastor Springer had also joined them.
“And this is my pastor,” Emma said, “Pastor Springer. Pastor Springer, Ruth.”
Pastor Springer shook Ruth’s hand and they exchanged pleasantries.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to be taking up a lot of Emma’s time this weekend,” Ruth informed them.
“You’re here for the weekend?” Emma squeaked.
“Thought you could use some extended girl time,” Ruth said.
“For sure,” she replied.
“And I want to get to know you a little better, too, Jake,” Ruth said, looking at Jake again. “Maybe the three of us can get lunch or dinner sometime while I’m here.” She paused. “Or breakfast,” she added. “Breakfast is good too.”
“I’d like that,” Jake responded. “I assume you want to drive Emma home tonight, too?”
Pastor Springer chuckled.
“Sorry,” Ruth answered, “but yes.”
“Not a problem,” Jake said, drawing Emma in and planting a kiss on her forehead. “You two have fun.”
Emma wound her arms around him tightly.
“Thank you,” she mumbled. “You’re the best.”
“Break it up, you two,” Ruth teased, snapping her fingers.
Pastor Springer raised his eyebrows.
Emma freed Jake, and stepped away, giving a small wave. Then she skipped and giggled with Ruth through the parking lot.
Once they were in Ruth’s car, Emma turned to look at her friend.
“Thanks for coming, Ruth,” she said soberly. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“I am, too,” Ruth said, turning her key in the ignition.
Emma relaxed into the seat with the odd feeling she could breathe again.
Ruth came to work with Emma the following day. Emma wasn’t really sure how the powers-that-were would feel about it, but Ruth had begged to at least see Emma’s cubicle.
“I promise I’ll find something to occupy myself the rest of the day,” she had promised, “but you’ve got to let me see this joint.”
Now, Ruth surveyed Emma’s space, frowning.
“Kind of a letdown, huh?” Emma said.
“You haven’t even decorated,” Ruth said incredulously. “No personality. No pictures. You should at least have pictures. Maybe of your niece, or even of me.”
“You think so?” she said.
“Something, Emma,” Ruth said, aghast. “You should have something.”
“I meant to personalize it when I started,” Emma said. “I just never got around to it.”
“Pitiful,” Ruth declared, glancing around. “I know what I’m doing today.”
“What’s that?” Emma asked.
“Getting you some décor for your desk,” Ruth said.
“Okay,” Emma said. “Don’t go overboard, though, okay?”
“Me, overboard?” Ruth retorted sarcastically. “You’ve got the wrong girl, pal.”
“Mm-hm,” Emma replied.
“Good morning!” Sophie greeted, breezing towards them.
“’Morning!” Emma said brightly. “Sophie, this is my friend, Ruth. She’s in town visiting me this weekend.”
“Oh, how nice,” Sophie gushed, reaching out her hand to shake Ruth’s.
“Sophie, can I ask you a somewhat personal question?” Ruth inquired.
Emma rolled her eyes, powering up her computer.
Sophie looked taken aback.
“I guess,” she said, unsure.
“How could you let Emma work here all of these months and not decorate her desk?” Ruth asked.
“Um,” Sophie started. “I guess I just figured she was a minimalist.”
“She’s messing with you,” Emma informed her.
“Oh,” Sophie said. “I suppose I should have intervened, then.”
“It’s a blooming shame,” Ruth said, still deadpan. “No worries, though, I’m off to rectify the situation.”
“Oh?” Sophie asked.
“She’s going to get some stuff to spruce the place up,” Emma explained.
“Ah,” Sophie said. “Well, it was nice meeting you, Ruth.”
“Right back at you,” Ruth replied.
Sophie went to her office.
“Mind if I make a list before I leave?” Ruth asked.
Emma tore a piece of yellow paper from her legal pad and handed it to her along with a pen.
“Just do it quietly.” Emma feigned sternness. “This is a place of business.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ruth said, sitting in Sophie’s old chair.
“Hey, hey, hey.” Emma heard Jake from behind her.
She spun around.
He was striding toward her, two coffee cups in hand.
“Chai latte,” Jake announced, setting one of the cups on her desk.
His eyes fell on Ruth, poring over her list.
“Hi, Ruth,” he said.
Ruth looked up at him.
“Well, hello there, Jake,” she said pleasantly.
“I didn’t know you would be here or I would have picked something up for you, too,” he told her apologetically.
Ruth wrinkled her nose.
“Oh, no worries,” she replied. “I don’t drink that stuff. I’m a Diet Coke girl.”
It was Jake’s turn to look disgusted.
“Can I ask you something, Jake?” Ruth inquired, returning to her list.
“Oh, boy,” Emma said.
“Sure,” Jake replied, taking a sip off his coffee.
“How has Emma been here for five months without really making this desk her own?” Ruth questioned.
“You know,” Jake said, “I wonder that myself sometimes.”
“You do?” Emma asked.
“Yeah,” Jake answered. “Seems like you’re not planning on staying or something.”
“Exactly,” Ruth said triumphantly.
“I’m definitely planning on staying,” Emma said, more for Jake’s benefit than Ruth’s.
“Glad to hear it,” Jake replied, smiling at her.
“And I am off to get the décor to prove it,” Ruth announced, standing up.
She folded the piece of paper and stuffed it into her pocket, handing the pen back to Emma.
“The two of you behave yourselves,” she admonished. “Both feet on the floor, at all times.”
Emma wanted to disappear.
“Goodbye, Ruth,” she said pointedly.
“See you at five,” Ruth replied, shuffling out of the office.
“She is something else,” Jake said, watching her leave.
Emma looked up at him.
“You have no idea,” she replied, grinning.
Ruth returned with a few paper bags a few minutes before five.
“No judgment until you see it all in place, please,” she said, unloading an assortment of picture frames and small motivational posters onto Emma’s desk.
To Emma’s horror, Ruth also procured a potted cactus, before slapping down a photo envelope and two calendars. She folded the bags neatly and propping them against Emma’s desk, looking pleased with her purchases.
“One for two-thousand-eleven, and one for two-thousand-twelve,” Ruth said, indicating the calendars.
She examined them quickly, thumbing through one to October and fixing it to the cubicle wall in front of Emma with a thumb tack. Emma was greeted by black and white landscape photo. She jammed the other calendar in Emma’s cabinet drawer.
Emma’s eyes were drawn back to the plant.
“Ruth, you got me a cactus,” Emma stated.
“I did,” Ruth said proudly.
“I don’t know anything about taking care of a cactus,” Emma protested.
“That’s what Google is for,” Ruth informed her, pulling the other desk chair over to sit beside Emma.
Ruth pulled pictures out of the envelope. There was one of Ruth and her making faces at the camera from a late night cramming session in college, one of her with Charlotte at her graduation, and a family photo from Thanksgiving.
“How did you”- Emma started.
“Social media,” Ruth replied.
Emma smiled at her friend’s resourcefulness.
Ruth lined up the frames, and Emma observed they were labeled in curly script in the bottom corners.
“Love?” she read aloud, picking one up.
“I thought it would be nice for a picture of you and Jake,” Ruth explained, “but then I couldn’t find one.”
“Yeah, well, that’s because there isn’t one,” Emma replied, as Ruth loaded their picture into a frame labeled friends.
“What?” Ruth demanded. “How is there not”- she shook her head –“Oh, never mind. To-do number two: get a picture of Jake and Emma together.”
Ruth finished putting the pictures in the frames and arranged them on Emma’s desk. She pinned up the motivational posters, and Emma was relieved that they were either Bible verses or writing quotes.
“Okay,” Ruth said, stepping back and eyeing her handiwork.
Emma rolled back in her chair and examined what her friend had done. She wasn’t certain it was one hundred percent her, but she was grateful for Ruth’s efforts.
“Thanks, Ruth,” she said, grinning up at her friend.
“You like it?” Ruth said.
“I do,” Emma replied.
Jake’s head appeared over the cubicle wall.
“Oh, wow,” he said.
“The place has transformed, hasn’t it?” Ruth said.
“It has,” Jake said, glancing around. “Cactus is a nice touch.”
“I thought so,” Ruth said.
“I hope it makes it,” Emma offered. “I’ve never had a plant before, much less a cactus.”
“Don’t worry,” Jake replied. “I think cacti are pretty hearty plants. They’re not terribly needy.”
“Probably a good thing,” Emma said.
“This your family?” he inquired, picking up the frame labeled family.
“No, those are the next door neighbors,” Emma returned sarcastically.
Jake chuckled and set it back down again. His eyes wandered to the empty love frame.
Emma wished she had put that in the drawer with the twenty-twelve calendar.
“We’ll have to fill that soon,” Jake remarked.
“Amazing,” Ruth said, shaking her head in disbelief. “I was just saying the same thing.”
Emma shifted uncomfortably.
“So,” Jake began, “I was thinking maybe we could all get breakfast at The Perc tomorrow morning.”
“All right,” Emma agreed. “Eleven okay?”
“Sounds good,” Jake said.
“Come prepared,” Ruth told him. “I’ve been sent to vet you.”
“Well, I certainly hope you find me worthy,” Jake said.
“I will if you are,” Ruth retorted agreeably.
“He is,” Emma put in swiftly. “You are,” she informed Jake.
Jake smiled and bent down to kiss her on the forehead.
“’Bye,” he said, and walked away.
Emma watched him go, grinning. He was a catch.
Ruth peered at Emma critically.
“What?” Emma said, raising her eyebrows.
“Have you two not, like, kissed on the mouth yet?” Ruth asked in hushed tones.
Emma slapped a palm to her forehead and scooted forward to turn off her computer.
“Let’s go, Ruth,” she said.
“Oh my word,” Ruth breathed. “You totally haven’t.”
Emma stood up, wordless. This was definitely not something she wanted to discuss with Ruth.
“Is this one of those weird dating rules you grew up with?” Ruth pressed.
Of course that was where Ruth’s mind would go.
“No,” Emma retorted. “It just hasn’t … happened yet.”
“Because it’s not wrong, you know,” Ruth assured her, “kissing.” She smirked at Emma. “Neither is having your picture taken together.”
“Oh, grief,” Emma said, leading Ruth out of the office. “You’re crazy, you know that?”
“You’re the one who has no pictures with her boyfriend,” Ruth replied, “and I’m the crazy one?”
“Okay,” Emma conceded. “We’re both crazy.”
“That’s more like it,” Ruth said.
Emma smiled, glad Ruth was here, if only for the weekend.
“So, Jake,” Ruth said, once they were seated and had begun nibbling on their various pastries, “what’s drew you to Emma?”
Jake looked at Emma.
“Her smile,” he said. “We went into the reception area to get her for her interview, and she smiled the biggest, brightest, dimpliest smile I’d ever seen. Then she just had this spirit about her during the interview and whenever I saw people ask her questions afterwards. She would give such thoughtful responses. She really hears people, you know?”
Emma thought she might be turning to mush.
“Oh, I get it,” Ruth agreed.
“She’s pretty incredible,” Jake said.
“Stop,” Emma said. “I’m right here.”
“So, do I pass the test?” Jake asked.
Emma held her breath and hoped Ruth didn’t have any questions about Jake’s intentions, or anything ridiculous like that.
“With flying colors,” Ruth replied.
“You really like him, don’t you?”
They were lying on their backs in Emma’s living room, just talking like they used to when they were roommates.
Emma rolled her head to the side to look at Ruth.
“I really do,” she said.
“Where do you see it going?” Ruth inquired.
“What do you mean?” Emma asked.
“Well, do you see yourself marrying him?” Ruth replied.
“I haven’t thought much about it,” Emma said, considering Ruth’s question. “It’s a possibility.”
“We make a really good team,” Emma continued after several minutes of silence. “He gets how I think. He likes how I think. He draws me out.”
“Is that a yes?” Ruth said. “I couldn’t tell.”
“I think so, yeah,” she responded.
“For what it’s worth, I think you two make a great couple,” Ruth told her. “I can totally see the two of you growing old together.”
“Thanks, Ruth,” Emma said. “Means a lot.”
Jake put an arm around Emma’s shoulder and pulled her close as Ruth drove away out of the FHL parking lot after church Sunday. Ruth had just finished challenging Pastor Springer on some of the points of his sermon, which of course, Emma hadn’t heard.
Emma waved after her friend, savoring the bittersweet nature of the moment. She was sad to see Ruth go, but glad she had approved of Emma’s new life and Jake. Especially Jake.
“She’s not a Baptist, is she?” Pastor Springer observed, walking up to stand beside them.
“No, she’s not,” Emma said, smiling proudly.
It didn’t matter that Ruth wasn’t a Baptist. She was her friend.
Copyright, 2015, Lydia Thomas.