Personally, I'd Rather Lick Sand
(Chapter One – I Like My Coffee Bitter)
Somehow, I always knew that I'd be that girl straight out of high school to land a job as a barista for Starbucks. The Starbucks at Barnes and Noble's on Oxford Street? We were destined for each other since my early years.
You know that seven year old girl who pretends to inspect Dr. Suess while silently lurking towards the café like some freckled creeper? Totally me. I had the callings of a caffeine and literature junkie even as a first-grader – Go figure. The years have added a few changes – the popping out of a couple more siblings, more demanding responsibilities and puberty ("Hey, boobs") – but there's probably some scattered pieces of that seven year old hidden. Scary thought. It's where my temper comes from.
"What are you pouring over now, Lizzy?" Charlotte Lucas rolled her gray eyes, snapping a lid over a Café Americano, "I thought the whole scribbling-papers-under-the-counter business was reserved for when you were doing your college applications."
"Because I'm so responsible like that, right?" I grinned at her, smoothing a freshly opened letter against my apron. "Actually, I did some quality studying here too – AP Biology, cell organelles. George even helped me."
"Yes well, his freakish affinity for medical terminology comes from House episodes, so beware," Charlotte murmured under her breath, approaching the counter to take a customer's order, "Decaf Tall Cappuccino, ma'am -- $2.95. Lizzy?"
"On it," I mumbled, stuffing my barely glimpsed at letter under one of the blenders. I pulled my visor on more securely and snatched a cup from a stack, approaching the dispensers, "Is Brenda coming in today?" I asked Charlotte, swiveling on my heel.
"She traded shifts with George, so I guess he'll be here in five minutes," Charlotte shrugged, "Don't even know why – Sundays are so slow."
"Yeah," I murmured, quickly sliding a cardboard collar onto the cup, "Decaf Tall Cappuccino." My face felt warm, and before I could distract myself, Charlotte donned a smirk I had seen way too many times this week than could be tolerated.
"Amazing, isn't it?" she beamed, brushing auburn bangs from her eyes, "How whenever I mention George Wickham, that pretty pale face of yours reddens up like a tomato. Almost like sunburn."
"Bite me, Charlotte – I'm not into George Wickham."
"You want him," Charlotte sighed melodramatically, "You yearn for him."
It's really incredible that we've been pulling the same running gag since elementary school. Yes – Charlotte Lucas and I go way back. We've pissed ourselves in the same kiddie pools, skinned the same knees climbing in and out of trees– It helps that we grew up as neighbors in Longbourn. And she has always given me crap about guys. Only back then, I would have spit gum in her hair and called it a day.
"Okay, Charlotte," I muttered, finally retrieving my letter. I gingerly unfolded the strip of paper, and my focus shifted.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet,
We greatly appreciate the trouble you took of sending us your manuscript – it is returned herewith in a separate package that will arrive in 2-3 business days. We cannot deny that you have promise as a young writer in terms of eloquence and well-developed characters. Unfortunately, this cannot serve as basis enough to make you an offer for the novel. Firstly, we bore many objections to the plot. Your protagonist's goals, while initially optimistic, seem to drag the story out. The very action of the manuscript is so integrated with miniscule details that it almost becomes unreadable. Your characters are interesting to a degree, I suppose. In truth, I feel they are trying too hard to be likeable and simply border on annoying. Their cynicism and dryness act to eventually make the reader restless and indifferent of their fates. In fact, by the fourth chapter I honestly couldn't be bothered as to whether your protagonist would be defeated or not. It failed to keep my interest. It's stale. Whatever drama or passion is displayed here quickly evaporates in favor of superfluous detail and sullen characterizations.
Thank you nonetheless for seeking our publishing company.
Editor – Watts & Darcy Co.
The interesting thing about this letter is that it would be the first of two letters I would receive from one, Fitzwilliam "Will" Darcy within the time span of six months – Neither would be pleasant. Both would make me feel like throwing up in my mouth – for separate reasons mind you, but the feeling is never exactly one of the embraced, fuzzy kinds.
"I'm pretty sure my intestines just liquefied," I muttered, slumping against the counter, "My first rejection letter – joy of joys."
Charlotte's face fell, "Not for Nottingham and Draperies? Oh, Lizzy –who'd you send it to?" She pried the note out of my hands and scanned it briefly, brow knitting, "Watts & Darcy? Oh sweetie, they're picky bastards. Don't take it personally. They're a small but extremely stiff publishing house – elite. Mariah had the same trouble."
"Fitzwilliam Darcy," I scoffed, tearing the paper back again, "What superfluous details? What the fuck is he talking about? – I've been through so many butchering edits it could make my head spin on an axis."
"Fuck him, have a latte!" Charlotte grinned, leaping towards the stock, "Pumpkin spice? Peppermint mocha? Green tea frapp?"
"Sullen characterizations," I scoffed, "And then this short, shit-faced 'thank you'! I don't understand why he had to go out and make this letter so personal. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to be this abrasive. You know what Fitzwilliam Darcy can do with his 'thank you', Charlotte?"
"I have to say, you're taking this really well," she arched an eyebrow.
"Taking what well?" a male voice interrupted us. George Wickham, incorrigible grin and all, dumped his messenger back promptly behind the counter and was in the process of knotting his green apron behind his back.
"Lizzy got her first rejection letter."
"Ouch," George winced, leaning against the counter, "Which publishing house?"
"Watts & Darcy," I slumped, crumbling the strip of paper into a ball. I launched it at the nearest wastebasket but it bounced off of the rim and continued to fester miserably by George's foot.
He raised an eyebrow and promptly reached down and unfolded it, scanning through. To my surprise, his lip curled up in bitter surprise – I couldn't really read the expression. After awhile, he shrugged, "Forget them. They're total pricks."
"Seriously, I've heard this twice already," I laughed, quickly taking an order for an iced espresso, "Is this just awesome support from you two or did I completely pick the wrong publishing house to start with?"
"Both," Charlotte and George chimed.
"Lovely," I muttered, clamping down the lid of my order. I slid it towards the counter, just as George laid a hand on my shoulder, startling me.
"Don't take shit from others, Lizzy," he murmured, "You're a fantastic writer. It's a process – you're young. Even the greats get their stinging rejection letters."
I've heard this so many times before – from my father especially -- and I've always been flippant about it. But my girliness just caused me to slump and agree with him. This did nothing to stop Charlotte's massive grin from spreading.
"You need to get out of here," Charlotte whistled, "Draw yourself a bath – bitch to Jane."
"She's the ideal person to bitch to, actually," George scratched the back of his head, green eyes apologetic, "I almost feel sorry for her."
"Well, that's what she gets for being almost unbelievably sweet and good-tempered," I shrugged, removing my visor, "Not that I don't adore her – she's my life."
"Twins are like that," Charlotte grinned, "Now scoot on out and I'll shred your letter."
Author's Note: I really wanted to avoid falling into a modern P&P, but it was (stereotypically) my first Austen novel, and I obviously love it to bits. So far, this is just a WiP, it depends on how it does. But those who read Ancient History know I'm pretty consistent. I really don't plan to make this as formulaic and common -- obviously, I want to stay fairly canon and respect Austen but to a certain degree. Oh, and the rejection letter? Um, totally modeled after one of Ursula K. Le Guin's. Oops.
Oh, and much thanks to Quiz for the correction on the Starbucks lingo -- duly noted and appreciated!