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Chapter 3: "Harriet Meets Thomas"

June 10, 2008|By EVA NIESSNER / Pulse Correspondent

"You've never had a real job before?"

This remark wouldn't have annoyed Harriet Hertz, a former pop singer known as Sugar Flower, nearly as much if it hadn't come from an extremely attractive young man who was to be her co-worker at Ellington Books and Café. They were standing side-by-side in the horror section, restocking the shelves.

"I was in entertainment my whole life," Harriet admitted, though if he were to guess exactly who she was, she would be surprised -- she had cut six inches off her hair and dyed it so blond, it was nearly white. Instead of her usual recording-artist garb, she simply wore the Ellington employee vest and a green sundress of Mindy's.

"Oh, I see." Harriet really couldn't hate this guy. He was so friendly. She supposed he wasn't really out to bother her with all his questions and such. His name was Thomas Vainevner and he had a woodwind voice and big, pale-green eyes. "What made you want to work at Ellington's?"

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"Desperation."

He laughed, which she hadn't expected. No one had ever called preppy, unintelligent Harriet witty in her life, but wit had just jumped out of her like a scared rabbit.

Thomas went on. "Well, a reason no worse than any other. Well, there's the last book in horror. Come on. We have to do the children's section next."

They chatted as they worked, and the shift went by faster than Harriet had expected. When it was over they stepped outside into the summer breeze. She held her vest in her hand and looked at Thomas.

"What made you want to work there?" she asked.

"Me? Well, I moved here in the first place to get away from all the skeletons in my family's closet." He shoved his hands in his pockets and said, "Some things you can never get away from. But that doesn't mean you can't try. Anyway, a quiet town with a job in a bookstore seemed like the ideal situation in which to write my novel."

Harriet had a few thoughts on this speech: She would have said "to write my novel in" because she rarely bothered with grammar; He must be smart to want to write a book; And there was a strong possibility he was a modern-day Michael Corleone.

But she just said, "What's your book about?"

"Can't tell you yet. But there's, you know, magic in it."

"Do guys over the age of 20 write about magic?" she asked incredulously.

"Ask J.R.R. Tolkien."

"I don't think he was in San Diego when I lived there."

This time Harriet knew he was laughing because she was an idiot.

"OK, not magic so much as curses," Thomas said. "A dark, fairy-tale sort of deal."

"Is this like a Goth thing?"

"You're closer this time."

"Uh-oh." Harriet shook her head, her brilliantly pale hair like a miniature snowstorm around her head. "What inspired it?"

Thomas put an arm around her. "You're a curious little thing, aren't you?"

The way he smiled after he spoke made Harriet want to melt right on the walkway in front of the bookstore. In a slightly less insanely happy tone, he added, "Curiosity killed the cat, Harriet."

"Whatever," she told him, feeling good-natured. "Let's go get something to eat tonight."

 

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