Can I See You Again? - Allison Morgan

one

“I can’t believe this is happening,” I say to my secretary, Andrew, who’s seated across my desk.

“Want me to pinch you?”

“Stay away from me.” I laugh, lifting my hands to stop him as he jumps from his chair. “Dr. Oz said squeezing the skin can cause blood clots. Or something like that. And, anyway, it’s hard to celebrate if I’m dead.”

“Nonsense.” He quickly nips my elbow, then steps away to answer the phone.

I’m not dreaming, but my God, it’s surreal that in less than two months’ time my very own book, Can I See You Again?, will hit the shelves. The shelves. After two years of manuscript revisions and enough rejection letters to wallpaper an Ikea, my book—which is my hardest-fought and proudest accomplishment—will be published. If I weren’t wearing my new black pencil skirt, I’d run outside my office and spin cartwheels along the shore. Well, that and no one wants to see the fabric split clear up to my waistband. Again.

Comprising tips and suggestions to find the one-and-only, my self-help debut chronicles a handful of my most memorable matchmaking love stories (my favorite being the couple who married at seventy-seven years old and went bungee jumping on their honeymoon) along with funny anecdotes about first meetings that didn’t go well—one guy arrived in a U-Haul, tossed his date a pair of gloves, and told her to grab the far end of his sectional. Another guy brought his date to a funeral.

Not only will a successful book broaden my business and its footprint, but the bags under my eyes from late nights fixed at the computer—honestly, seeing one’s reflection in a laptop monitor at two a.m. should be a crime against women’s rights—tears of uncertainty pooled on my keyboard, and callused fingertips from typing, deleting, and typing again will culminate in something tangible. Something I created. Something my grandmother Jo will be proud of.

Behind my computer, I reach for the framed and faded snapshot of her and me sitting side by side on her porch steps outside the home my G-pa built nearly forty years ago. I’d asked her one afternoon, as we tilted our heads together and smiled for Mom’s camera, “Think I could write a book?”

“Oh, Bree, I do. And I’d be first in line to buy it.”

I can still smell the hint of black cherry on Jo’s breath when she kissed my cheek good-bye.

It’s hard to fathom that fifteen years of Saturdays have passed. Harder yet to believe it’s just the two of us now. She’s the only family I have left. And though Jo hides it well, her once-infectious smile has flattened into a thin line of disappointment, and it doesn’t take a body language expert to recognize the layer of sorrow clouding her eyes.

So along with sidebars and strategies, curse-filled rants, doubt, and resurgence, I’ve infused my heart and soul into Can I See You Again?—not to mention a sizable chunk of my savings account for a publicist—and there’s nothing I want more than to celebrate the release of my book with Jo, highlight a joyful connection from our past. Ease the sting of all that I ripped away.

Andrew returns and leans against my desk. He’s dressed in black jeans and a fitted gray vest wrapped over a white button-down shirt topped with a paisley bow tie. His dark brown hair is shaved close above his ears and grown longer on top, gelled into perfectly white-tipped spikes (he bent over his bathroom sink and dipped the points in bleach).

Andrew has been my closest friend since our junior year at UCSD; we shared the community bathroom in an off-campus apartment complex along with a wicked fight three weeks into fall semester—who knew that turning my hair dryer on and off as I readied for my seven a.m. class rather than leaving it on until my hair was completely dry had him teetering on the edge of sanity? I told him he had the slumped shoulders of a wallflower. He told me to shave my forearms.

The following day he bought me a sleek, quieter hair dryer, lent me his favorite sweatshirt, and showed me how to apply lip gloss. We’ve been tight ever since.

Same can’t be said of his parents. Once they learned of his feminine ways and sexual preferences, they enrolled Andrew in football camp, martial arts classes, shooting range lessons, anything and everything manly with hopes of toughening him up. It didn’t work.

“Jo’s on the phone,” he says. “She sounds kinda flustered, didn’t even want