(Excerpt from The Lemonade Year, finished novel seeking representation, in which Lola, who suffers from sever memory loss due to a childhood accident discovers that her boyfriend is the actor in nationally known, and very goofy, insurance commericals.)
Lola answers the door before I knock and puts her finger to lips to tell me to be quiet. She motions me into the living room and picks up the remote. She presses a button and a commercial that she’s TiVoed comes on. The volume is low but I know it well.
Your house is trashed, you’ve got a rash. Your car is broke, and it’s no joke. Call on us so there’s no fuss…
I make a face at her. She punches me in the arm and clicks off the television.
“You knew about this?” she asks.
“He makes you happy,” I say.
She waves her hands at me and presses her finger to her lips again.
“He’s here?” I whisper.
“Three weeks I’ve been going around with the guy,” she whispers to me. “No idea who he was and now he’s my kitchen.”
She points to the kitchen with panic in her face.
“It’s not like he broke in,” I whisper. “You’re dating him.”
“But I didn’t know who he was?” Lola says and she looks terrified.
I take her by the arm and walk her back out the front door.
“Ok,” I say. “Let’s take stock. He’s not a stranger that you just woke up to. He’s Chris. You’ve been dating for almost a month. He makes you really happy.”
“He’s the goofy guy from the annoying insurance commercials,” Lola says, her beautiful face twisted up.
“No,” I say. “That’s a character from TV.”
She breathes in and out very deliberately, nodding her head slowly. I begin to mimic her actions until we’re both a bit calmer.
“Does everyone know about this?” she asks pitifully.
“That he’s the guy from TV?”
“Yes, Sweetie,” I say. “Everyone knows about it.”
“Does he know that I don’t know?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” I say. “But I do know he’s crazy about you. Now let’s go back inside.”
I ease the door open like I’m sneaking up on a bear.
“There you are,” Chris says, standing in the living room with two, full coffee mugs in his hand. “You ok?”
“She’s fine,” I say and take one of the mugs and hand it to her. “Hi, Chris.”
He gives me that pressed lip smile you give people that means you know something bad is happening in their world and you know you can’t really do anything about it.
“Good morning, Nina,” he says. “Let me pour you a cup. You’re staying for a bit, yes? Cream and sugar?”
I know Lola needs me to hang around for a while until the shock wears off.
“Yes,” I say. “Thank you.”
He turns back toward the kitchen. Lola is holding her mug with two hands, looking down at the liquid like she doesn’t know what it is.
“Is this how I like my coffee?” she asks me, not looking up from it. “I can see there’s cream. Is there sugar? Did I tell him this? Why can he remember how I like my coffee and I didn’t remember who he was? Why didn’t I recognize him?”
She inhales sharply at a new idea that seems worse.
“Or is this not the first time that I’m figuring all this out?” she asks and panic wasn’t to rise up in her voice again. “Have I this conversation with myself before?”
She looks at me and I notice that she has blue paint in her hair.
“Have we talked about this before?” she looks so lost and so pitiful.
“No, honey, we haven’t talked about this before,” I say and touch her pitch black hair. “And yes, you like cream in your coffee. Relax. Stressing makes the holes widen.”
“Stressing makes the holes widen,” she repeats her own mantra that I have just said to her. “Stressing make the holes widen.”
She sits down on the couch and I take a spot in the armchair. She’s gotten used to forgetting little things. Even the fact that she keeps buying that same tea with the really cool picture on the box only to rediscover that she doesn’t like it once she’s home and made a cup and hates it and then can’t bear to waste it so she puts it in the “stuff for guests” drawer where there are already four boxes. But finding out that she’s been sleeping with a nationally known persona—and a goofy insurance one at that—is a bit much to take in before noon.
“It’s good,” she says, sipping the coffee. “I do like it.”