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Alex - The Novella

by KillerRomance 02/01/17

Although I've strived for perfection over the years, I've come to accept that 'Alex' will never be perfect. I've edited / rewritten it for over 8 years and I can't seem to figure out what I'm missing. So, here you go. I hope each word makes you as nostalgic as it does me.

Yes, the story has been overhauled entirely and is now a novella (including a preview of my work in progress). If you're just going to point out the differences between the old version and the new one (or the slow start) in the comments section, please don't. Just enjoy it!

Cheers,

Lily

*****

Present Day

New York and Singapore - two cities where taxi drivers had way too much power.

I flung my arm out yet again, hoping that flashing my underarm sweat would gain a pity stop. The old bastard drove right past without so much as a glance, only to come to a stop at a traffic light ten feet in front of me. I knew an act of fate when I saw one. I rushed forward and grabbed at the handle - once, twice, three times. It didn't budge. The passenger side window whizzed down.

"No, lady. No taxi." An old Asian man shifted in his seat to stare at the crazy blonde woman pawing at his cab.

"Come on. Please? Your light is green - you're supposed to take passengers."

He looked up to where I was pointing, as though he could see the sign from inside the vehicle. Then he reached over with a scraggly old finger and switched the sign off.

"Now red."

The traffic light turned green and he put the taxi into gear.

"I'll pay you twice the fare!"

He skidded to a stop, forcing the cars behind him to step on their emergency brakes. The locks popped open and I barreled in, head first.

"Where you go?"

"Uh..." Where was I going? How was I supposed to get to Alex if I didn't know where she'd gone? I looked down at my phone on instinct.

"Lady!" the old man's voice was sharp. Grating. "Where you go?"

Pressed, I rattled off the name of the college. Maybe I could look up her address?

The driver mumbled under his breath and signaled for a U-turn. I put my head in my hands and tried to take a big, calming gulp of air. But all I could smell was her on my skin.

Chapter One

Two Years Earlier

"Miss Summers, you have a student here to see you. Please proceed to the General Office."

The bleep of the intercom on my desk sent a spark of excitement - or was it relief? - through me. It was the third day of the open house for Junior Colleges, and this was the first time that I'd been beeped to meet with a student. It was a depressing fact, especially when the other teachers seated around me couldn't get back to their seats for ten minutes before they were paged to be met with again. Finally, I thought. Someone who cared enough about the English language to want to speak with me.

Making sure the oppressive heat hadn't deflated my topknot hair bun, I quickly descended the stairs from the Staff Room that led directly to the General Office. The five-inch heels on my feet clicked loudly as I flung the glass doors open with way too much flair for a drab day in school.

"Peggy," I said, slightly breathlessly to the receptionist. "You paged?"

"Yes. Someone wants to speak to you," Peggy returned in her sharp, Chinese accent. I followed her nod to a lean figure casually leaning against the notice boards, her hands shoved deep in the pockets of her jeans. The fitted denim was faded and bore holes at the knees. A black slogan tee and a one-strapped plaid backpack completed the decidedly hipster look.

I cleared my throat. She turned and the first thing I noticed was her eyebrow ring, something I hadn't seen on anyone in a very long time. Any type of alternative lifestyle wasn't particularly encouraged in Singapore and she'd be severely punished in college if she ever dared to pair an eyebrow ring with her uniform. Still, the glint of silver looked absolutely stunning against her dark, sepia-toned skin, which I assumed, was indicative of her Indian heritage.

I extended my hand. "I'm Cady Summers, English Lit and Creative Writing lecturer."

Her hand was warm in mine. The handshake was strong and confident, not like most people's, who shook my hand as though they were afraid that they'd break the petite little blonde expat teacher.

"Hey, it's nice to meet you. I'm Alex."

Her first words confirmed my niggling suspicion that she wasn't the average student. Believe me when I say that not many students in Singapore use 'Hey' as part of their daily vocabulary - many didn't even employ the rules of grammar. They were usually more interested in how they could use English to excel at Math and Science rather than learn the intricacies of the language itself. Instead of 'it's nice to meet you', here, most students stuck to 'Hello', 'Hi' or simply, 'Wassup, 'cher.'

"I'm actually," she continued, reaching into her backpack for her notebook, "interested in the Creative Writing course that the school offers."

"Of course, sure. Let's take a seat and we can discuss it." I smiled, thinking that this girl in my class would be a godsend. Good grammar? Check. The ability to string a sentence together? Check. A Sylvia Plath slogan tee? Check. What more could a teacher ask for? Only I knew how grumpy the students could get when they were posted to a Literature class because they hadn't done well enough to get into their beloved Science and Math classes. Having one student who was actually interested in the subject would be a really nice change.

We sat. She flipped open an exceedingly worn black notebook and started asking me questions pertaining to the course. I answered each one of them as carefully as possible, my eyes flickering to the eyebrow piercing every one in a while when she raised her brow at something I said. It was oddly mesmerizing.

After she was all out of questions, I decided to ask her some, just to pick at her brain a little. I wanted to know if she was as good as seemed to be, or if it was just a front she put on.

I un-crossed my legs as she leaned forward to listen to me. As she did so, a slight whiff of her perfume drifted to me... wait, was that perfume or cologne? I shook my head clear of those thoughts.

"As you know, we're going to re-visit various styles of writing and literary periods, just as a class exercise. Which is your favorite literary period?" I asked, trying to sound as formal as the informal thoughts running through my head. It wouldn't do me any good to admire a student in that way!

"That's tough," she said with a smile. Well, it wasn't really a smile. Just a tilt of a corner of her shapely lips.

"...I suppose Modernism would be my pick."

"What?" Her brows furrowed. I'd lost track of the conversation. I tried to reel it back in. "Oh, of course. That's great! Any favorite authors?"

She leaned back a little and waved a hand in front of her tee. "Well, there's Plath."

I smiled. "I noticed that. It's a great shirt. Unusual."

"Thanks. A friend made it for me at her printing shop. A birthday gift."

"That's very cool."

"But I do love Beckett as well. Huge Beckett fan. I love how his settings and characters are always minimal but the overarching message is bleak and profound."

It had been so long since I heard a student speak passionately about literature. I was still smiling and I didn't think my face would stop doing that anytime soon. The girl held so much potential that if she got into my class, I knew I'd be squeezing every last drop of creativity and imagination from her. I mean, after years of teaching kids who didn't want to learn, won't any teacher get excited when she managed to catch someone who actually did want to excel in the subject?

"That's an excellent analysis of Beckett. I think his work speaks to different people in different ways. Some see it as a warning; others as a sign to just give up."

"Exactly." She tucked a lock of dark hair behind her ears and I couldn't look away.

"Can I ask you something?" she said as she put away her notebook.

"Sure." I watched the way her jeans hugged her thighs as she reached over for her backpack. They were nice thighs; I could tell that they were well-muscled. My mind was definitely in the gutter today.

"Where do you call home? It sounds like an American accent but I can't place it and it's killing me," she said, then licked her lips. I had to force myself to look away.

"Home's New York," I replied, perusing the notice boards behind her as casually as I could. "It's just that I've been in Singapore for a while and I studied in the UK. It's kind of mangled my accent."

"Oh. Yeah, figures," she nodded, rising to her feet. I followed suit, adjusting my skirt as I did so. When I turned to her, I came to realize that even in my heels, she still had a couple of inches on me. Granted, I was only five foot two without the extra height, but she was really tall. Where most Asian women were usually my height, she was definitely at least five foot nine.

"I've got to get going," she said, looking at her watch, "I've got a couple more schools to check out before the day's out."

"Yes, of course," I said, holding out my hand again. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Alex." I meant it; it truly had been a pleasure for me. It wasn't every day that I found someone genuinely interested in language and literature. Not in this part of the world.

"It most definitely was," she said, holding the glass door open for me.

"Do you need help finding the bus stop?" I asked when we exited the General Office. I knew how confusing the school compound could be on a first visit, but I hadn't expected Alex to take me up in my offer for directions. She seemed like the macho I-don't-need-any-help-from-you kind of person. Obviously, I was wrong in that aspect.

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