Your husband put me up to it.
He said it was for your own good.
Please forgive me.
During the first part of December, I made several appearances at bookstores and malls in Nova Scotia. My last obligation of the season took me to the Chapters store in Dartmouth, where I sat for a couple of hours at a table – stacks of my new novel artfully placed to my left and right; and a helpful staff waiting in the wings to see to my every need.
On the whole it was a pleasant affair. I met some wonderful readers for the first time. I also caught up with a few dear friends. Stephens Gerard Malone (author of Big Town) even stopped by – on his birthday, no less!
During my conversation with Stephens, a man stopped by the table, picked up a copy of The Virgin Cure and then stealthily slid it across the table towards me. He looked all around before he spoke, and then whispered, “Make it out to Cookie, and please make it quick. I don’t know how long I’ve got before she catches up to me.”
I scrawled my best wishes to Cookie, signed my name and then handed the man the book.
“Thanks,” he said, still whispering. “It’s her Christmas gift and I want it to be a surprise.”
I nodded at him and smiled. Stephens smiled too.
“Oh, and you’ll help me out, won’t you?” the man added. “She’s sure to come over here at some point to say hello and get a book. My wife’s a BIG fan. Tell her something to keep her from buying it, please. I really want to surprise her with it.”
“I’ll do my best,” I answered, while thinking to myself…
’cause that’s what authors do best, right? We tell people whatever we have to, to keep them from buying our books.
Ten minutes later…
Stephens and I were commiserating about the best way to consume the over-sized sugary delight that is the Cherry Blossom, when the man returned, Cookie at his side. She picked up a copy of the book and clutched it to her chest. Giving me a shy smile, she said, “hi.”
What have I gotten myself into? I wondered. How could I possibly turn away this lovely young woman?
Luckily, her husband played a bit of the heavy to get me started. Taking the book from Cookie, and flipping to the back jacket flap, he shook his head at the price and grumbled, “When does the paperback come out?”
Jumping on his lead, I pretended to give Cookie the inside scoop. “No later than a year from now, but possibly as early as late summer.” Making a desperate attempt to sound helpful I added, “Not too long a wait if your bank account is stretched during the holidays.”
She sighed as her husband put the book back on the table. He gave me a sly wink.
Afraid I might give her husband’s secret away if I conversed with her any longer, I turned to Stephens and did my best to ignore Cookie and resume our talk of Cherry Blossoms. “I nibble away at the bottom edge first, all the way around, until it comes off, like a lid. The cherry and liquid centre are left in a chocolate shell like a little cup…”
Out of the corner of my sight, I saw Cookie walk away. Although I took joy in knowing I’d helped her husband pull of his grand Christmas scheme, I still felt like a bit of a jerk. I wanted to chase after the woman and say, “Cookie, Wait! I’m really a nice person. I swear…” (But then she’d say, “How’d you know my name?” and the whole thing would go to sh$&, and, well, you get the picture.)
And so it’s January 4th, 2012 and we’re at the start of a new year, a time when most of us are making pledges and resolutions that will hopefully turn us into better human beings. Sure, I want to be stronger, put less crap in my pie hole, be a better mother, wife, sister, friend, and writer…but I also want, so desperately, to get this message to Cookie.
To the beautiful, kind soul who stood in front of me at the Chapters in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia,
I hope you found your book waiting under the Christmas tree and that despite this author’s bad behaviour, you enjoyed reading it. Perhaps we’ll meet again one day so we can have a real conversation about books and words and life.