7. The Searcher

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Shapes and dreams of every size; Like puzzle pieces in my mind - Ego Kill Talent

11:04 a.m. Tuesday, October 5, 2021

"Now that the bakery isn't your full time job, what will you do with your time? You'll continue to submit your writing to other magazines?"

Michele cringes. Her life sounds so transitory and childish when put into those words. "Who says I'm going to keep trying to get a travel writing job?" She pouts. They're walking back to town after what could easily be called brunch. The blistered tomato toast had been extraordinary with the fresh fruit, and Michele's tummy is full and happy.

"I actually am the town's librarian," she announces, attempting to make the side job sound vital to the running of Nowhere when she knows that it's meaningless most of the time. The ladies from the retirement home would probably step up and support if there wasn't an official position.

"Oh. I see," Harry states, and she's afraid that he does see. Her competitive nature sets in.

"And you? What are you doing with your free time, Mr. Styles?"

He spares her a sidelong glance before squinting into the distance. A car approaches, and he steps in front of her, forcing her to the side so she's protected. It's a sweet, gentlemanly gesture that seems natural. To Michele, it feels like something a hero from a long-ago romance would do for his lady. When they are walking adjacent once more, he challenges her.

"You're trying to change the subject, Miss Moore, and I won't have it. I'll happily talk about my plans when we're finished discussing yours."

He sounds prissy, and Michele can't help but give a truncated laugh that gets cut off quickly. It's almost a snort, but not quite. Just a single "HA!" punctuated by a punch to his shoulder.

"I'll hold you to that," she vows. Swallowing, she allows her eyes to roam the town as they approach from the west. The courthouse stands majestically; there was a time as a child when she'd wanted to work in the elegant building as a lawyer or judge -- until she found out that it wasn't air conditioned. Summers on the third floor are stifling; she'd learned that when she interned one year in high school.

What could it hurt to spill all to Harry? He's leaving town soon, and she'll still be here, her dreams fulfilled only when she sleeps.

"I can't figure out how to get the experience they want for me to write about travel," she softly shares. "My writing is strong. I don't mean punctuation and grammar, although those are high quality too. But my phrasing and descriptions flow from sentence to sentence like a river heading to sea. Every time I write something, I get praise for it -- not just from my mom. Shoot, even those editors and writers at Luggage Magazine said my writing was....'superb', 'unique', and even 'brilliant'. I heard the word 'talented' thrown around a lot by them too." She pauses, gathering her thoughts. "Not that I can't get better. Of course I can. But if I don't have an audience or get paid, what's the point?"

Harry is quiet as they approach the Town Pump gas station. "But you love it, right?"

"Yeah," she blows out the air in her lungs.

"You know," he speaks slowly, drawing out each word as if he'd needed paper and pencil to sketch them perfectly first, "Before X Factor, I felt that same way. I loved singing and music, but the idea that I could make a living at it was ridiculous. People told me I was good. That I had the qualities of a strong performer, but I couldn't imagine a life pursuing a dream that giant. One in which I would inevitably fall flat on my face and fail."

Michele listens carefully, and then waits patiently to see if there is more to his story. When he doesn't speak for several minutes, she feels the need to respond.

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