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By:Lulu Pratt & Simone Sowood

I'm thinking about the big book project. I got an email earlier in the morning from the office, full of paperwork I need to print, sign, scan and return after I get back and before the project starts. It can wait until I'm back in the office, but if I do that I'll have to have it in before my boss even gets into work. Besides, I know it's better to at least have a good understanding of what I'm getting myself into before I sign anything.


I start almost enough to take a tumble out of the hammock and look around to see Zane walking to me from his parents' house.

"Hey yourself," I say, righting myself in the hammock. "I figured you'd be like, I don't know, out meeting with the boys. Finding a bar."   


"I'm not all drinking and video games, you know," Zane says with a smirk.

"The same way that I'm not all books and craft projects," I counter.

Zane sinks down onto the grass a few feet away from me, and I turn enough to be able to look at him without missing the beautiful sky above me.

"I mean, of the two of us you're the more successful," Zane points out. "So I guess books and crafts are pretty solid things to base your life on."

I roll my eyes. "You're successful enough," I tell him. "I mean, if the military wants you to stay in. I think I remember people saying you've got specialist training and all that."

"Yeah, but as long as you follow the rules you pretty much succeed in the military, to a point, anyway." Zane insists. "You went to college and got that degree, and got a job right out of school."

"I know a lot of people who weren't able to work in their field," I admit. "It was sheer luck on my part, at least half luck."

"Half luck still leaves half hard work," Zane reminds me. "And all the luck in the world won't help you if you're shit at your job. They're about to trust you with some star author."

"That's one of the few things I can really claim," I tell him. "He chose me out of the editors available."

"How did they make him choose?"

I shrug. "They gave him samples of my editing work, notes that I've made on manuscripts, stuff like that, along with the other available editors' work. Of course, if he hadn't wanted any of us, they would have made an editor available for him."

"So he thought you were the best of the ones available," Zane points out.

"Yeah, I just got a bunch of paperwork to look over," I tell him. "Non-disclosure agreement, information on the possibility of a royalties bonus, early completion bonus, things like that."

"Sounds like what I've started getting down the line," Zane says. "Stuff about reenlistment and what I can expect, along with what benefits I'm entitled to if I decide not to reenlist."

"Do you think you're going to?" I'm not sure why, but the question makes me anxious. What does it matter to me if Zane reenlists or not? I hadn't even seen him for years until the other day.

"I don't know yet," Zane replies. "Mostly because I don't know what the hell I'd even do outside of the military, you know? At least there I know what my job is, how to do it, all that stuff."

"Well, I mean there are programs," I point out.

"Yeah, I know," Zane says. "If I wanted to I could go into college or something after … " he shrugs. "I just don't know what I want to do yet. Can we change the subject?"

"Fair enough," I tell him. "Who have you kept in touch with from here? Obviously not me."

"Not many people," Zane admits. "Matty and James, but other than them, I just see everyone on Facebook."

"I'm about the same," I say. "I'm still friends with Jessica, but everyone else I can see what's going on in their feeds or whatever and that's it."

"Well, you always liked books better than people," Zane points out. "You used to tell me that."

I chuckle. "I guess I've made a career of liking books better than people at this point."

"Not much of a social life in it though."

I roll my eyes. "I get out. The company hosts happy hour at a local bar almost every week."

"Yeah, but how often do you actually go?" Zane raises an eyebrow to emphasize his question.

I feel myself blushing and I can't quite look at him. "I have plenty of times," I insist. "Besides, my standards are high. That's all it is."

"Now that I can see," Zane says. "I could see you having impossibly high standards. Hooking up with some guy who's got an art degree. With family money so he can be an artist or something."

I snort at that. "Just because my standards are high doesn't mean I'm some kind of snob."

"Hey, do you want to get out of here for a bit?"

I think about it. "Where were you thinking of going?"

"Just down to the store. Dad forgot to get something Mom asked for dinner and I said I'd go."

"Give me a minute," I say, realizing that I never put on a bra after my shower that morning, "and I'll tag along."



I fall behind Harper a bit at the store, more than happy to enjoy the view from behind. I did promise Mom I would pick up a couple of things, but that was more of an excuse to spend some time with Harper than anything else. I'm glad it worked, watching her push the cart in front of her, watching the figure eight of her ass showing against the dress she put on before we left.

"Do you dress like this in New York, too?"

Harper stops and looks at me with one eyebrow raised, in the middle of reaching for pickles.

"Mostly," she replies. "Why do you ask?"

"You must get hollered at constantly," I smirk. "I mean, if you look like that … "

"I keep my headphones on," Harper tells me.

I laugh. "Oh, right. You don't do much driving in the city," I say.

"Almost none," Harper says.

"Is the car a rental, then?"

We took mine, which was definitely a rental, but we'd had an argument about it for all of half a minute.

"It's my car," Harper says. "I just generally don't drive unless I'm actually leaving the city. There's no point in it, anyway."

I remember, almost too late, that Mom wanted me to get mayo, and I grab it off the shelf and add it to the cart.

"So you just take the subway everywhere?"

"Or the bus sometimes, though it gets rougher on the bus in some respects than the subway. And of course, cabs are going day and night," Harper replies.

"Where do you keep your car then, if you're not driving it?" The idea is so weird to me.

"There's a parking garage where I pay rent to have access to a spot," Harper replies. She grabs some bowtie pasta off the shelf and puts it in the cart, and we move onto another aisle.

"You pay rent to be allowed to park somewhere?" I shake my head at that.

"Yeah, it's not that bad, actually," Harper says.

"You have to pay rent to park somewhere?" I shake my head again. "That just sounds crazy."

"Well," Harper explains. "There's a limited amount of parking space in the city. So I pay one-fifty a month, and I'm guaranteed to never have to search for a spot."

"A hundred and fifty a month? Christ." I snag a pack of Oreos for a later snack.

"It's not bad, really," Harper insists.

"It sounds terrible," I tell her.

"You're just biased against the city," she says, making a face at me.

I laugh. "Maybe if I lived there I'd start to love it."

"Maybe," Harper says.

"Maybe instead of reenlisting, I'll leave the military and move in, become your roommate," I tell her.

Harper raises an eyebrow at that and snorts. "I don't know about that," she says.

"What? You don't think I can cut it in the big city?"

"No," she replies, shaking her head. "I don't."

"I got through basic. That was hell. I think I can deal with New York City."

"Hmm. I don't know about that," Harper says.

"Why? What's such a big deal about New York that I couldn't handle it?"

"Everyone thinks they can deal with it," Harper says.

"So how come you can handle it, but I can't?"

"You can't really call yourself a New Yorker until you've cried on the subway or some other really, really public place, and didn't even care about the fact that everyone can see you," Harper explains.

"Sounds a lot like the army," I say.

"How's that?" Harper looks at me confused. We start down another aisle.

"Well the goal of basic is to break you down, bring you all the way to the foundation. Then build you back up."

"I've heard that but I guess I never really thought it was a real thing, I figured it was just something you say about an experience like that," Harper says.

"No, it's totally legit," I counter.

"So how do they do that?" Harper steers us to the produce aisle and I try to remember what else Mom wanted.

"The screaming in your face thing isn't really part of it anymore, but basically, they work you and work you until you're exhausted, and then you have to work some more. You eat, sleep, shower, everything, on their schedule. If one person doesn't make it through, none of the group does."

"I guess I can see that," Harper says, picking up a cucumber. Almost against my will the filthiest possible thought flits through my head.