In honor of How Perfect You Are releasing later this week, I’m releasing a small excerpt from the book. Unlike the little snippets I’ve shared on my Facebook page, this excerpt will be from a single chapter from the book, with a little more being available each day. Check it out, and if you like it you can preorder the ebook here and you can start reading right away when it launches on February 1st! The paperback will be available for purchase the same day.
Okay, without further ado,
It was an early morning in October when I woke up suddenly. My bedroom was pitch black, with not even a faint glow from the moon managing to shine past the thick fog that had settled overnight. For a moment I lay very still trying to identify a noise or a cold draft that might have woken me while my eyes adjusted to the dark.
My room was quiet and warm though, so I willed myself to go back to sleep. I burrowed deep under my down comforter, shifting slightly to realign myself with the spot on the sheets my body had warmed. I closed my eyes and had just started to drift off again when I heard the familiar sound of a text alert coming from my phone.
I considered ignoring it and had rolled over and tucked myself even deeper under the covers when I thought better of it. Perhaps it was later in the morning than I thought and my manager from the inn where I worked was texting me some kind of schedule change for the day. Maybe, if I was really lucky, the place had burned down in a freak and non-injurious fire so I wouldn’t have to go in at all. That would certainly be worth being woken up.
My iPhone was still glowing on my bedside table, the blurry outlines of a text just visible on the screen. I fumbled around for my glasses, which I normally left on the nightstand. Not finding them, I settled for grabbing my phone and holding it close to my face.
The time, I noticed, was almost four a.m. I still had two hours before I had to be at work, thank God. I unlocked my phone and pulled up my texts.
I don’t need to borrow your glasses to see how perfect you are.
Confused, I read the message twice. I checked the number, which said simply, “Unknown,” with no actual number in the contact information. I sat up, pulling the comforter with me. Surely this message must be a wrong number, though even in my sleepy state I noted the strange irony of receiving a message about borrowing glasses when I couldn’t find my own.
I glanced towards my slightly open door, looking for the sliver of light from down the hall that would indicate Amber, my night owl of a roommate, was still awake. The hall appeared dark, though, and everything was quiet. It seemed Amber was, for once, asleep.
Feeling more than a little disgruntled, both at being awoken early in the first place and that the reason for my early wake-up call was some stupid text that was probably spam, I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. Ten minutes of tossing and turning later, though, it became obvious that my brain had determined it was done sleeping. Rather than fighting my awakened state only to manage to drift off three minutes before my alarm would inevitably go off, I elected to drag myself out of bed for an ultra-early start to the day.
Excerpt part 2, picking up where we left off…
I slipped out of my room and into the bathroom midway down the hall between my bedroom and Amber’s. Not finding my glasses there, either, I quickly put in my contacts so I could actually see. Then I made my way downstairs, trying to be as quiet as I could. The one-hundred-year-old staircase made this something of a challenge, with every other step making some kind of creak or groan.
The former home of a small-time farmer, the tiny house Amber and I rented had been built sometime around the turn of the last century. One of several older farmhouses that dotted the outskirts of town, ours was one of the few in the area that hadn’t been completely gutted and refinished in whatever constituted farmhouse chic these days. Mr. Wilkes, our positively ancient landlord, wasn’t exactly the type to deck his property out in shiplap, subway tile, and open shelving, or do much of anything at all except the bare minimum of maintenance to keep the place legally inhabitable.
The stairs in our little house creaked, the wood floors sagged and moaned, the windows were old, single sash ones that resulted in our heating bill rivaling the national debt, and it could have used a good coat of paint. There was also a decent chance that none of the electrical work was up to code and we would one day be subject to the same sort of freak (and hopefully still non-injurious) fire I sometimes wished upon my workplace.
I loved the house for its undeniable charm and quaintness, though, other shortcomings aside. I had passed many an hour on the massive, covered front porch with a book and a cup of coffee. The clawfoot tub in the bathroom was to die for, and every room boasted plenty of light from the large windows.
Mr. Wilkes was also apparently woefully unaware of the amount of rent other landlords in our college town were charging for tiny shoebox apartments half the size of our house, resulting in the rent steal of the decade.
Downstairs, I made my way to the kitchen and decided to opt for some calming tea rather than my usual coffee. I filled the kettle with water and set it on the stove. While waiting for it to boil, I browsed idly through my Instagram feed (Cat looking stoic. Musing selfie. Dogs playing in leaves. Pouting selfie. This is totally what I look like with no makeup selfie. Are these squats making my butt look better in these leggings?) until I heard the very beginnings of a whistle.
Pulling the kettle from the stove eye before it could get too loud, I stuck my hand in the old tin container on the counter that held the tea bags. We must have been running low because I had to feel around for one. I finally came up with some strange tea Amber must have brought home from her job at the local health food grocer. The label said “Fennel Spice.”
“Sounds more like a soup than a tea,” I said, directing my words at Willow, the fluffy gray cat Amber and I had adopted when we first moved in together a year ago. The cat had slipped into the kitchen and was sitting by her food bowl, clearly expecting a post-midnight snack.
While my soup/tea steeped, I tossed a small handful of cat kibble into Willow’s bowl. She began to inhale it immediately as though she hadn’t eaten in weeks, though her rotundity certainly suggested otherwise.
“So much for that diet the vet said you need to be on,” I murmured to Willow. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell Amber if you don’t.” After a quick stroke of her velvety head, I took my tea and retreated to the living room.
The living room was filled with slightly mismatched furniture evenly spaced along the edges of the wide planked floors. All of our things were comprised of second-hand castoffs from various relatives or else were Goodwill and Craigslist finds. The couch had once sat in Amber’s father’s law office. The leather was well worn and a few patches were faintly discolored, but I loved to run my hand over the buttery material. At one point this couch had probably been worth several thousand dollars, so I considered it fortunate we had laid claim to it before Amber’s older brother, in his final year at Carlson College, the same school where we were juniors, could haul it off to his trendy penthouse apartment downtown.
I sank back into the cushions and took a long slurp of tea. It was disgusting. So disgusting, in fact, that before I could stop myself I actually choked and sputtered, sending a spray of the devil water splashing over my legs and onto the coffee table.
“Ugh,” I groaned, using the sleeve of my shirt to mop the droplets off my legs. I got up and went to grab a paper towel from the kitchen. While there I dumped the rest of my tea down the drain and made a mental note to tell Amber that under no circumstances would any tea with fennel in the description be allowed in the house again.
When I came back into the living room armed with paper towels, my phone was glowing again. Another text.
What was this? Ouch, hot? What did that mean? Suddenly I froze, a strange feeling coming over me. Was someone watching me? Had someone who could see me right this very second thought my impression of a cherub in a garden fountain was due to burning my mouth on a hot drink?
The third and final portion of chapter 1:
My heart suddenly pounding, I quickly hurried to the light switch by the stairs and shut off the lights. I waited a moment and allowed my eyes to adjust to the dark. Once they had, I peered out the windows behind the couch, which would be the only way someone could see me in the living room.
On the porch, I could make out the shadowy shape of the porch swing and the hanging basket of dead impatiens I had been meaning to get rid of. Beyond that, the fog was too thick to see much further. I took the lack of a menacing figure clutching a knife to be a good sign, though.
I breathed a sigh of relief. It was just a weird coincidence, surely. I did have a habit of entering random sweepstakes and giveaways online every once in awhile when I was bored at work. Sometimes my phone number would end up on some spammer’s list and I’d be inundated with calls and texts offering me a fabulous rate on life insurance, informing me of my all expenses paid trip to Jamaica if I would just wire a small processing fee of $500, or a chance to get rid of my student loan debt once and for all.
Surely this was something like that, though I had to admit that none of the spam texts I had ever received before had been as lacking in fabulous offers and as oddly relevant to my current situation as the two I had received that morning.
Not able to come up with a logical explanation, I elected to push it from my mind. I had too much to do that day to get hung up on some weird texts.
I decided to forgo a new cup of tea and get a jump start on my daily coffee intake instead. Once the pot began percolating I went back upstairs to take an extra-long shower. As I started the process of preparing myself for work, I managed to forget about the text completely.
Intrigued yet? Pre-order the ebook here and read more tomorrow!