Diners, Roadtrips, and Stagenames: An Excerpt From NIGHT MOVES
Today’s Brew: I’m out of creamer, and I need more coffee before I go to the store. How did this happen to me?
I thought today might be a fun day to share a little bit of NIGHT MOVES with you all. I love this excerpt.
I’m kind of obsessed with diners.I love that they’re always open, always quirky, and that you can always get anything you want. We don’t have many close to my town, so it’s like a thing when I see one. It’s always my top choice if we’re looking for a place to eat. I should probably move to New Jersey. I’ve put diners into a couple of my books now, and this one is based on a visit Julie and I made to one last year.
Melanie and Erin aren’t in the best area of Milwaukee, because the never put night clubs in the posh areas of town. One day on my way to work, I was on the look out for a Starbucks, until I realized I was deeper in the ghetto than I’d been in a while. Suffice to say, no Starbucks. File that one under white people problems.
I based Erin’s character on some of the most fascinating people I know: traveling fetish models. These ladies are hitting the road on the road less traveled. What a way to truly take the world by the balls. They get to see the world, they get to do what they love, and be the person they want to be. We talk a lot on here about living life on your terms, and I think these ladies are an amazing example of that.
Enough of me telling you about this, just read it!!!
Either Ralph had a better opinion of Milwaukee than he did of Detroit, or he seemed to think that Erin and I could hold our own. Or he just didn’t care what happened to us anymore after last night. Obviously we weren’t safe from attack on the buses. Whatever his reason was, Erin and I were free to go off on our own.
“Can you believe after all the time we spent chasing after the band together, we meet up with each other here?” Erin chattered nervously as we walked down the busy road away from the parking lot of The Raven night club. “Think they have Starbucks around here?”
“Um, probably not.” Many of the stores in this neighborhood hadn’t been open for business in a long time. We walked past a nail salon, a Columbian convenience store, and a pizza place. “There’s a diner up ahead.”
“They’ve got coffee. Sold.”
The diner was strangely quiet for being so close to lunch time. We sat ourselves and waited a while for anyone to acknowledge us. Neither of us was ready to really talk yet. We spent the time waiting for a waitress to acknowledge us as we looked around at the dusty Americana cluttering the walls.
“Would you ladies like coffee?” The waitress finally surfaced, placing sticky menus down in front of us. Maybe she meant for us to sample previous customers’ meals before making a decision. I pulled hand sanitizer out of my bag and silently offered some to Erin.
“You have no idea.” Erin said, rubbing the gel together in her palms. “Keep it coming.”
“It’s going to be a minute. I need to brew a pot.” The waitress walked away without asking us if we wanted anything else. Erin and I were both at a loss.
“Shouldn’t a diner always have coffee? I mean, isn’t that the point of a diner?” Erin spoke rapidly. “Oh well, at least it will be fresh.”
I noticed she’d already placed her menu aside. Granted, it was gross, covered in jelly and syrup. I had my old standbys at places like these. Chances were I’d order Eggs Benedict or a cheeseburger. I didn’t know if I could resist diner fries. Yesterday’s salad didn’t quite cut it. But Erin always used to take forever to make a decision.
The waitress returned with our coffees. “Have you ladies decided?”
“Yes, I’ll have a cheeseburger. Cooked medium.”
“I’m all set.”
“Really?” I questioned Erin. The waitress couldn’t care less.
“Yeah. I have some protein bars back at the car.”
“You can’t live off of protein bars!”
“Don’t give me a hard time, Melanie. I mean, I’m the one who should be grilling you. It’s just food. Who cares?”
I sighed. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” I did have a lot of explaining to do. “So what do you want to know?”
“When I told you about Jamie, it wasn’t a surprise, was it?”
I shook my head.
Erin looked like she might get sick. She swirled her spoon around in her coffee cup vigorously. For such a protein bar aficionado, she certainly added a lot of sugar to her coffee.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” She whispered, eyes wide. I don’t know if she assumed I had anything to do with his death or not. And I wasn’t looking for clarification.
“I couldn’t. It was just too awful, too fresh.” I couldn’t look her in the eye. I just watched the whirlpool of caffeine following her spoon, concentrating on the motion so completely it made me dizzy.
“So what came first? That, or you being here?” Erin continued.
“Are you here with the band, or just here?”
“With the band.” I bit my lip and looked up at her. Finally her face lit up.
“Nice.” The Erin stamp of approval. “Which one? Adam? Josiah? Not Thomas, he’s too creepy for you.”
“No way!” Erin slapped the table, making the remaining coffee in her mug jump. We stopped for a moment when the waitress brought me my burger.
“Can I have some ketchup, please?” Why didn’t they just keep it on the table? Something about this place was off. I said a quick prayer to ward off Mad Cow Disease while I waited for condiments.
“Mel, you lusted after him all through high school! And he’s like, not even back on the market yet after the divorce.”
“You make him sound like a used car.”
“You know what I mean.” Erin piled up spent plastic creamer tubs like a pyramid. “Tell me how it happened!” Her question tapered off in a squeal.
I swallowed the rest of my french fry before answering her. “It just happened. We ran into each other and we’ve been together ever since.”
“Are you traveling alone? I mean, we could drive together.”
“I’ve been riding on the bus.”
“Oh.” Erin’s face darkened.
This was the perfect time to turn this interview around. “So what are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see Drake.” She leaned forward, speaking in a hushed tone and looking triumphant.
“Does he…know you’re here?” Something about her wording made me think she hadn’t made much progress from our fan girl days seven years before.
“Of course he does.” She looked insulted. Rightfully so, I guess. I mean, who would go to Milwaukee in the winter on a whim? “He’s just, you know. Busy. He can’t always have company. He’s got a business to run.”
Erin had drank the Drake Kool-Aid. “So I hear. How well do you know Drake?” Did she know what I knew?
She smiled. “Extremely well.”
“So then you know?”
She sighed. “That he’s never going to leave his wife. Yeah, Mel, I get it. He can’t. It would totally ruin his public image. And there are other reasons, too. But I know the real him, and I don’t care. I’ll take what I can get.”
I hadn’t expected that. “Everyone knows that. Have you noticed anything, weird about him, if you know what I mean?” It was still too surreal to just ask someone if they knew their lover was a vampire in the middle of a restaurant.
“Oh, that he’s a vampire? Of course.” Erin dismissed it like it was no more trivial than her not wanting anything for lunch.
“That doesn’t freak you out, even just a little bit?” I know I still hadn’t gotten over it, no matter how much I liked it when Ryder sunk his fangs into me.
“Um, excuse me.” A shy, skinny, middle aged man overwhelmed by a plaid wool jacket and a trucker hat approached the table. I felt confusion spread over my face as Erin looked up at him brightly. It was her attention he was after. “I just have to ask, are you Trixie Temptation?”
“Trixie Temptation?!” I mouthed at her as she nodded and smiled at her admirer.
“Oh wow, I love your work. You’re so beautiful.” The man gushed. Erin assumed her alter ego and nodded at him with a frozen smile. What the hell was going on? “Could I take a picture with you? My buddies will never believe I saw you.”
“Of course.” Erin rose as the man took out his camera. “What’s your name, sir?”
“It’s so nice to meet you. Maybe my girlfriend will take our picture for us?” She winked at me. Skinny Dwight ogled me, trying to figure out if he knew my ‘work’ as well.
I sighed, trying not to grimace. “Sure.” Erin put her arm around the man and I captured the moment.
Dwight kissed Erin’s hand. “Thank you so much for your time, Ms. Temptation.”
Then he was gone.
“What in the hell was that about? Trixie Temptation?” I practically shrieked.
“Shh!” Now it was Erin’s turn to look annoyed. “That’s my stage name.”
“I’m a traveling model,” Erin explained. “It’s how I support myself while I’m out on the road.”
“What kind of model?” Erin was just a little bit of a thing with a pink streak in her platinum blonde hair, a nose piercing and several tattoos. Pretty, definitely, but not in an America’s Next Top Model sort of way.
“I do fetish shoots. Artistic Nudes. That sort of stuff,” she said casually. She had a way of brushing things off that anyone else would consider a bombshell.
“Porn?” This was just too much.
“Not porn. Nobody puts anything in me. I call the shots, and I know my limits. I probably make more money than you do at the bank. I didn’t expect you to judge me, Mel.”
Now I felt bad. “I’m not, but I don’t like to think of you selling your body just so you can support your Drake habit. I mean, that guy’s got more money than God, you’d think he wouldn’t want you doing that.”
“It was his idea,” Erin said, quietly, as she finished off her third cup of coffee. “And face it, Melanie, we’re all selling ourselves in some way.”