So far, I have a good 12 pages done on word document, so I have no idea what that is in book pages. For now, here is the the sort of introductory chapter of the book. Feel free to tell me what you think about it.
The three things Claire Emmy Pepper loved the most were baking, berry-flavoured chapstick, and Pavement (not the hard ground, but the band; Especially their album Slanted & Enchanted.) Claire grew up in the small town of Cedar Park, Quebec, and only in the small town of Cedar Park, Quebec. You see, despite young Claire’s attempts to convince her parents that nothing could be half as lovely as a trip to Paris or Dublin, the simple fact was that Mr. and Mrs. Pepper didn’t have the money for traveling, most of it having been eaten up by the collective college funds of Claire’s four siblings.
Upon his departure to college, the fourth brother, Charley, left Claire his collection of LPs, a collection that would become her prized possession. She would sit in Charley’s room, the headphones cupping almost the entirety of the sides of her head, listening to Pavement, The Smiths and Dinosaur Jr. all day long. She found that the low fidelity rock music offered her something that her parents could not: a sense of freedom.
She decided that if she could not have an adventure, she would at least have the feeling of adventure. By the time she was a teenager, the walls of Claire’s room were lined with books. Books by Fitzgerald and Hemmingway and Rowling. Books about far off lands, murderous revenge and doomed love affairs. Books with hard covers and soft covers and occasionally books with no covers, for they had been ripped off long ago. Books a few pages long and books that, if dropped from three feet up, would crush a cat’s spinal cord (Claire would learn this the hard way.)
Each book that sat on her shelves was an adventure that Claire would never have.
In high school, she excelled in geography, absorbing every minute fact about Italy and Brazil and Israel. By the age of fifteen, Claire could tell you the length of the Pennines in England (400 kilometers), how many species of reptiles there were in Australia (755) and where you could find the best gelato in Italy (Gelateria Creperia Ghignoni, or so she heard.) It would be this discussion about gelato that would spark her interest in baking, creating dishes from cities and countries she hoped to one day visit.
She used her culinary skills to raise money in the hopes of some day backpacking across Europe. And she would have to, had it not been for Jude.
The three things Jude Winslow Hepburn loved the most were soccer, apple trees and old zombie movies. Jude did not grow up in a small town. Rather, he grew up in small towns. Jude also grew up in big towns, medium towns, and the occasional city. Jude lived alone with his mother, a college professor in economics who had a habit of going through jobs the way most people would go through napkins or dental floss. The result was that Jude never stayed anywhere for very long.
By the time Jude was a teenager, he had familiarized himself with the pattern of moving from one life to another. He and his mother would drive from one town to the next, into a comfortably furnished home, and Jude would of course go to school, where he would be introduced by a teacher who would always ask “Hepburn? Are you in any way related to the actress?” The answer of course was no. It would always be no. It was no the first six times he answered it and it would be no the next nineteen times a teacher would ask.
His father, who had named Jude after the beloved Beatles song that Jude came to thoroughly despise, had long since left Jude and his mother to become a rodeo cowboy somewhere in South Carolina, albeit, not a very good one. He would send Jude letters and packages to say hello every now and then, and on the rare occasion they actually reached him before he moved again, he would always answer back with a courteous thank you letter.
Unbeknownst to his father, what Jude really wanted to say was “I hope you get trampled by a horse.”
But what Jude really longed for were the times of tranquility, the times where he was not being shuffled back and forth across North America like a bad penny. He longed for the moments where, upon moving in, Jude’s mother would plant an apple tree in the front yard, a symbol that meant they were home. He longed for the chance to play on his school’s soccer team, which never did all that well anyway. He longed for home, rather than a house that he would be squatting in for a few months.
It was when Jude and his mother moved to Cedar Park, Quebec, that he thought for once he had found a home; and it was because of Claire.
They met in line at a little bookstore aptly named “The Little Bookstore.” He was holding a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. She was holding a cookbook featuring Mediterranean cuisine. She liked the dimple on his chin, the way you could still see his green eyes even when he squinted, and how he buzzed his hair so that you couldn’t tell if it was black or brown. He liked the caramel skin that she inherited from her black mother and white father, the loose ponytail that bobbed around on the back of her head, and the lips that sparkled with a thin coating of berry-flavoured chapstick, the tube buried snugly in the pocket of her coat.
Both did the awkward “I’m going to divert my eyes at a random stack object in the corner so that you don’t think I was looking at you when I obviously was” maneuver that so many people do when they first lay eyes on each other. Claire released a sharp breathe through her nose that Jude would later learn meant she was trying to suppress a nervous giggle.
Jude just thought she had something in her nostril.
Despite this, he decided to break the awkward silence that was now hanging over them like a socially uncomfortable Sword of Damocles. “Anything in there you have your eye on?” he asked.
“Um, yeah, there’s this crema catalane recipe in here that I’ve been meaning to try, and…I see you’re reading Dracula! I mean, you’re not reading it right now, but, you know, you’re gonna read it, right?” she said, wondering if the look in the stranger’s eye said “what a charming young woman,” or “Why won’t the crazy lady stop talking?”
“Yeah, it’s been out for, like, a hundred years so far, so I figured it was time to read it. Do you know if it’s any good?”
Naturally, she knew if it was any good, as she had read the now dog-eared copy she had received for her fourteenth birthday a grand total of eight times now. “It’s actually a really great book. It’s a bit heavy on the foreshadowing, but the language is still accessible and the writing style is impeccable.”
“I think there’s a coffee places a block over if you want to grab a drink and talk about it some more,” he offered, mentally repeating the words “Please say yes please say yes” in the hopes that she would please please PLEASE say yes.
Meanwhile, in Claire’s head, she was going over the sentence with a fine-tooth comb to figure out what he meant. Obviously, he did not mean “Let’s go get coffee and discuss this book,” because we all know that people don’t say what they mean because that would be foolish, right?
Claire knew that coffee was the delicious warm beverage of choice for people who want to get to know each other. And she knew that the coffee chop, a Canadian franchise named “Mugs” that was supposed to rival Starbucks but ultimately failed pretty miserably in that respect, was the quaint little café of choice for couples in the early throws of non-serious romantic bliss.
However, she also knew that of the couples that entered Mugs, approximately 90% would break up in an average of two months, give or take a week. It was a pattern she had studied for a project in her humanities class, a phenomenon she had referred to as “The Frostyccino Effect.” She decided that technically, they weren’t really a couple, just two people who happened to enjoy coffee and literature, and as such, were not subject to the effect.
This entire thought process took Claire exactly three and a half seconds. “Sure, let’s just pay for these books and we can head over there. Surprisingly, they kinda look down on the whole ‘shoplifting’ thing here. Who knew?”
Jude chortled, something that she found charming in its sheer dorkiness. “My name is Claire by the way,” said the now identified girl in this equation.
“Jude,” replied the male half of the story.
“Like The Beatles Song?”
“Yeah,” he said, trying very hard to mask the disappointment in his voice.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I actually kinda hate that song,” said Claire.
It was at this point that Jude realized that he might love this Claire girl before him.
Before you get your hopes up, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that this is not a story about love. Make no mistakes, Claire and Jude will fall in love. They will go on dates to nice restaurants, meet each other’s parents and go on nice strolls at the Old Port. They will kiss and cuddle and have sex. They will have lots of sex. Passionate sex, loud sex, angry sex, sex in the shower, sex in bed, sex outdoors, great sex, sex that was so-so, sex that was actually pretty disappointing for all involved…You get the point.
Claire will lie on the couch with her head in Jude’s lap. They’ll go see bad movies and make snide comments about it to each other while people shush them. They’ll settle into a comfortable routine. And that’s where it will all turns to shit, although they don’t quite know it.
Not yet anyway.
Claire will abandon her trip across Europe, but that’s okay. She’ll start to miss the feeling of adventure, but that’s okay. She’ll miss the freedom, but that’s okay. Jude will start to get bored, but that’s okay too. Jude will wonder if maybe this isn’t love, but rather, two people who happen to be alone together. That’s not okay.
This will go on for two years.
This is not a love story. It’s not a hate story either, if those even exist. It’s just a story about two people who just don’t love each other anymore. Sorry about that.