Story Title: Razor
Chapter Title: Wake Up, It's Time
Rating: T (for now); some language
Summary: Future Lit; Rory's trying to get a foot in the door in the journalism world and she's dragging Jess along with her against his will. If past performance is the indicator, he wants to avoid any contact with her; professional or otherwise. Story and Chapter titles taken from the Foo Fighter's song, Razor off In Your Honor.
"Tell me, Mr. Mariano, what is your cause?"
The unending questioning had started grating on his nerves some time ago. He'd never been interviewed before—interrogated about his actions, yes; but asked endless, inane questions about his life, his work, his art, no. His agent had talked him into talking to this person in the name of fleshing out his book jacket blurb. A new reprinting meant a new dust jacket. The publisher that picked up distribution had referred to the one he'd worked on so painstakingly for so many months as sad and uninspiring. They needed something gripping, as they'd explained through their legal representative's letter, in which they'd spelled out all the 'tiny' improvements they had planned to help his first novel climb its way further up the bestseller list.
The fucking New York Times Bestseller List. He just couldn't have fathomed this development in his life a year ago, when the small publisher that he now worked for agreed to do a modest printing run if he did all the road work of hitting book stores and conning them into stocking enough copies to make their money back.
All he'd set out to do was see his words in print and break even. A dozen or so bookstores had taken the book on—no where near enough to land his book on any bestseller list, let alone the New York Times' list. He had been fairly sure it was just one of his buddies crank calling him when he first heard the news. A dozen stores stocking three copies each told him it had to be some kind of mistake. Soon, however, he had agents calling him, trying to explain exactly how over a thousand bookstores were demanding quantity stock and future release dates and making appointments for him to sit down with someone with half his writing talent so they could ask him where he grew up and who his biggest literary influence is.
She flipped her hair over her shoulder. "I mean, which charity do you give money to?"
He laughed. "You mean other than myself?"
She frowned. "It's considered poor taste not to donate a portion of your funds to the less fortunate."
"Guess my agent isn't the answer you're looking for either," he muttered. "Look, I didn't grow up having any money. I've worked menial jobs my entire life until I fell into the publishing thing in Philly. I like my work, but I don't make a lot of money doing it."
"Well, if this book is any indication of your talent, then you'll soon have more money than you know what to do with. Is there any cause close to your heart?"
He rolled his eyes. He was all for ending hunger and instituting world peace, but he wasn't sure anyone was actually going to pull that off because he gave them twenty bucks. "Not really."
"Okay," she clicked her tongue, clearly finding him to be an unwilling participant in the fame game. He'd say he hated to disappoint her, but honestly, he just wanted to get out of this stuffy office. "How about we switch gears?"
He breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe she'd suggest something like him taking her to one of his old haunts. They were in New York, after all, and he knew this city like the back of his hand. He could set them up in a coffee shop in his old neighborhood and he wouldn't feel quite so corporate. "Sure."
"You use a lot of stark imagery in this book, but it's beautifully balanced out by the rich characterizations you use, particularly with the girl, Carissa."
"Cari," he nodded.
"Who was your inspiration for Cari?"
He looked down, really wishing he hadn't listened to his agent when he'd told him to leave the cigarettes at home. He was going to need one as soon as he got down to the street. "Where does any writer draw from?"
"So, there really is a Cari? Because there's been some talk that you were somehow linked with the reporter that wrote you up in that editorial piece the Times ran a month ago," she flipped through her notes. "A Rory Gilmore."
He would have lit up the cigarette right in the office if he'd had them on his person. Perhaps his agent was smarter than he looked. "Look, is this all necessary for my blurb? It's a blurb, it should say Jess Mariano, age 22 from New York City, currently resides in Philadelphia where he lives in a cramped apartment with too many guys and spends his free time smoking and publishing other people's books."
"That's not the angle the publisher was hoping to use," she flicked her pen against her legal pad.
"Just what was the angle the publisher has decided to use?"
"Look, Jess," she put down her pad and readjusted her glasses. "Can I be frank?"
"Please do," he encouraged, not trying to hold back the sarcasm.
"If you want to sell books, you don't just write a book and hope someone prints it. You have to have a marketing campaign; you have to have a hook."
"If this reporter that's responsible for your sudden rise to fame has any likeness to your Cari, then you need to play up that angle. You'll sell ten times more books; you'll be booked on every talk show from here to LA."
"The truth is," he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, "I never expected more than fifteen people to ever read it. I knew it got slipped into a few reporters' hands, but I never thought anything would come of it. I'd like to think my book is picking up based on its own merits, not because somebody told people to read it."
She shrugged. "That's how it works, honey. Get used to it."
He glared at her, and she stood up and walked around her desk. "I think I have enough to pull something together. You call me if you change your mind about that hook," she offered her hand and shook his firmly.
"Right," he took her card and tossed it the second he exited her office. He didn't make eye contact with her secretary, and he didn't stop moving until he got to the drug store on the corner. He paid for a pack of cigarettes—not his usual kind—and slipped one out as soon as he was back out on the street. He walked around aimlessly, waiting for the inevitable phone call.
He still wasn't calm by the time his cell phone rang, but he was feeling suitably nicotined up after two cigarettes. He pulled the phone out of his jacket pocket and answered.
"So, Mariano, how'd it go?"
"She was a whack job."
"She's a press release agent for the publisher. They're all whack jobs."
"Is there some reason she kept making me talk about the reporter?"
"From the Times."
"Ah, Gilmore. New editorial writer. She's quite the talk of the town, dating the Huntzberger heir apparent and can charm the pants off of everyone in the New York social scene."
"Goody for her. What's she got to do with my book?"
"She wrote you up, Buddy, she's your biggest fan. Your good fortune and sudden rise to fame is intertwined, like it or not. And word on the street is that you two used to know each other."
"Word on the street?"
"Is there some kind of statement you'd like to make on the subject?"
"No. I just want to go back to Philly."
He'd never talked to his agent about Rory, save for being filled in about and mailed a copy of the article she'd written that used mentioned his book. He'd been lucky that he'd had the ability to receive it at his apartment, with only his self-absorbed roommates around when he quit breathing for the duration of the article. Since then, all he'd done was pretend he didn't know this reporter or why she'd taken such a liking to his book. He hadn't had a lot of pressure about it yet, but with the way the last two conversations he'd had with people associated with pushing his book, he was going to need to stock up on the cigarettes and buy a bottle of whiskey.
"No problemo. Just one more interview, tomorrow morning, then you're free as a bird until the book release party."
"Book release party? And what interview? You said I just had to do the book jacket thing, you never said anything about an interview."
"It's not a big deal, it's just to get a little more promotion, to get word out. We want big pre-order numbers for the reprint. The rest of your time should be spent working on your next project. You get any more writing done?"
Jess sighed. "Not since you harassed me last. Look, Tom, I appreciate the whole kick in the ass mentality you have to have, but that's just not how I write. I write when I can't sleep; I write when I'm so pent up with the feeling of it I can't do anything else."
"I'll look into getting you a writing coach. In the meantime, see what you can do to be broodier, will ya?"
Jess rolled his eyes and hung up. Being back in New York made him jumpier. He was used to Philly; he was used to the feel of the town. It was slower than New York, but in his mind it was more freeing. There was less chance he'd run into anyone from his old life. There were no ex-girlfriends, no past step-fathers, no old friends that wanted to pull him back into old habits. He held onto the vices he liked and started otherwise fresh in Philadelphia; with just his haunting memories of blue eyes and a pack of cigarettes. Somehow that produced a book.
Truth was, he'd got all his ghosts down on paper the first time, and he wasn't sure he had anything left in the way of inspiration. He'd had her words in his head, the whole time, telling him he could do more. He supposed he'd wanted to prove that to her, which is why he wrote until it was done and went to deliver a copy to her in person.
She could have left it at that. She could have taken his gratitude and went on about her life with that stuffy, rich Porsche driver. It wasn't necessary for her to come back, to find him in Philly, looking so hopeful and in search of something she believed only he could provide her. Had he known it was revenge in the beginning, he wasn't sure if he would have refrained from kissing her or taken her directly upstairs and fucked her brains out.
She often had that effect on him, in fact. From the moment he first saw her, his mind had begun the duel and he still wasn't sure what the best plan of action was at any given time. He'd tried kissing her, and usually it left him longing to drag an inch of shiny, sharp metal over his wrists.
Maybe next time he saw her, he'd try the fucking option.