Sunday, July 8, 2012

Excerpt from Crimson Footprints



“Shall I send in Mr. Tanaka?”
The intercom jarred her back to reality. The notion of Daichi Tanaka having to ask twice to
enter her office had a sobering effect whose only equivalent was a pink slip.
“Jesus, of course!” Deena cried. “Tell Mr. Tanaka that there’s no need to ask. Please, send
him in.”
Breathless, she stood and rushed to the door, opening it with a potent sort of dread. A short
pause later, she was met not with the senior Tanaka, but the decidedly more favorable junior.
“If only I were welcomed so warmly everywhere I went,” Tak sighed as he stepped into her
office.
Deena stared after him.
“I thought you were your father. I thought—”
He held up a hand. “Don’t. You’ll spoil the warm feeling your gushing invitation gave me.”
He turned to the flowers.
“Did you like them?”
Her eyes widened.
“They’re from you?”
Tak shrugged. “Thought you could use a little sunshine. Was I right?”
The corners of her mouth turned up just a tad.
“Yeah.”
She turned from him, eyes suddenly wet. Counting backwards, Deena waited until the tears
abated, pretending to fuss over the larkspur. Once safely dry-eyed, she turned back to him.
“So, Mr. Tanaka, what brings you here?”
“Stopped in to see my dad.”
He smiled at her sudden blush, no doubt remembering the choice name she had for the older man before the father and son link had been established. Tak ventured over to the flowers and fingered them halfheartedly.
“And to see you,” he said quietly.
“Oh?”
She heard the breathlessness in her voice and frowned. What was that?
“You know—”
He slipped a calla lily from the bouquet and held it up for inspection. The stem was long and
olive, the bulb mango and vaulted. It made her think of a ballerina in repose.
“I saw this thing,” he said. “And it made me think of you.”
“Thing?” she echoed.
He looked up.
“An article. About curry addiction. Have you heard of it?”
Deena shook her head, more confused now than before he’d begun to elaborate.
He stuck the lily back in its vase.
“Well, it’s a just a theory, really. Some people think that when you eat really hot food, that
the pain from it makes the body release endorphins.” He leaned against her desk. “Supposedly,
you get this natural high from eating hot foods and it leads you to want more and hotter curries,
the same way any other addiction makes you want more.”
“And that made you think of me?”
“Sort of. When I read it, I thought to myself, if anyone needs to get high, it’s Deena.”
She paused, unsure of how she should respond, certain she was supposed to be offended. But
she laughed. The boy had no idea how spot on he was.
Tak smiled, clearly pleased with himself.
“No rush to go curry hunting, mind you.” He nodded towards the flowers. “Maybe when the
sunshine wilts and you could use some of a different kind.”
Deena lowered her gaze, suddenly shy, exposed.
“Unless…”
“Unless what?”
She bit down on her lip, taken back by the automatic need to answer.
Tak shrugged. “I don’t know. I just hate to think that you’re going to spend your evening
alone in some apartment you’ve got decked out like this sad-looking place.”
Deena looked around.
“You don’t like my office?”
He stared. “You do?”
She laughed, despite herself. That made three—three times she’d done so since her brother’s
death—all three because of him.
“I think this place is cozy. Streamlined. And conducive to work.”
“It’s barren.”
Deena balked.
“What are you talking about? I have Hope and your bouquet. It’s positively radiant in here.”
He looked around. “Hope?”
Deena blushed. “She’s my bonsai.”
Now he would laugh. But he didn’t.
“Maybe one day you’ll tell me how she got that name,” he said softly.
She lowered her gaze once more.
“Maybe.”
They fell silent.
“So,” Tak said suddenly, loudly. “Dinner? Six? Meet you in the lobby.”
Deena sputtered. “Oh, I don’t know I—”
He held up a hand.
“Listen, you don’t even have to talk to me. Just a little company and good conversation if
you want.” He shrugged. “At least I hope it’s good.”
Briefly, she thought of the box of tissues that had been her constant companion for the last
few nights.
“And you don’t mind if I’m not good company?” she squeaked.
He was already heading for the door. “Not at all.”
She smiled at his back. “Okay then.”
He paused, a hand on the doorknob.
“Excellent. There’s a new place on Ocean Drive called Spiced. Everything’s lava hot. We
can burn a hole in our mouths then try to cool it with ocean water. You’ll love it.”
Deena grinned, watching the door slam behind him. Something told her she might.

Their first night together was filled with incendiary curries from India and crashing waves
from the Atlantic. Dinner ran long and the coffee cold, before Tak and Deena were ushered out
at closing. They returned again the next night and opted for decidedly more adventurous fare—a
black bean and squid ink soup for her, Moroccan sea bream and braised rabbit for him—all made
searing with a bevy of chilies, pastes, powders and spices. And after closing this time, they
walked along the shore with a sliver of moon illuminating the sky and plans for a third night on
their lips.
Copyright by Shewanda Pugh

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2 comments:

Rachelle Ayala said...

Hi Shewanda, Really enjoying your book. Will finish it soon, now that I've delivered my Beta draft.

thanks!

Shewanda Pugh said...

Glad to hear it, Rachelle! Thanks so much for stopping by.