"A Writer Writes, Always"
by Corey Moore
but most of all, for me
January 4, 19__
10010 W. 53rd St.
Dear Mr. Welsh:
We received your manuscript, "Burdens of Light", on the fourth of December. Unfortunately, we do not need your submission at this time, and as such, we have decided not to pursue its publication. Your character of Diana Morgan is not appropriate for our readership, and we feel it is within the best interest of Market Books that we decline your manuscript at this time.
If you have other manuscripts involving other characters or subject matters, please feel free to send them to this department, c/o Sarah Wasserman.
Thank you for your submission.
cc:Shelley Wasserman, EIC
Another one for the collection.
I crumpled it up and threw it into the trash with the others. Did you know I used to save them? It was a sick sort of game. Every time I felt as if my fingers were flying across the keyboard in inspiration, along comes a thin envelope with a computer-printed address, and my stomach began churning and tying itself in knots. That old familiar nausea of rejection, another symptom of failure, that no buffered analgesic would assuage.
It wasn't healthy, really. I stopped collecting my rejection letters after I realized I had more weight in rejections than I did in the manuscripts themselves. They really start to pile up. Penguin didn't want them, Ballantine, Del Rey, Pocket Books. I even tried sending to some independent publishers looking to get started. Apparently the world was not yet ready for thrilling adventure stories of a female war photographer.
Or if it was, they weren't ready for me.
So I crumpled this letter up, too burned-out to even bother making my traditional violent gnashing of teeth, and quietly gave it up to the waste bin.
The wastebin was overflowing. Maybe I should empty it.
"What are you doing?" she asked me quietly from the kitchen door.
I didn't answer her. I thought it was obvious.
Her voice was quiet, soft and soothing. "Another one?"
But I just sat in my chair, listening to her relaxing, mellow contralto. It might not have even been there. Maybe it was all in my mind. Maybe all of it was—the rejection letter, the overflowing waste basket. The knot in my stomach.
"You're going to have to go through the bitter waters before you reach the sweet," she reminded me gently. She was always gentle when it counted. Even if I wasn't in the mood to be mothered.
"Not now, please," I said. It came out more harshly than it should have, and I immediately regretted it.
"Who said that?" she mused aloud, ignoring my outburst. I could almost feel the smile in her voice. "Mary Shelley?"
"Bram Stoker," I corrected without thinking.
"Ah," she teased. "So you are listening."
I sighed heavily and leaned back in my chair, hoping it would put me in the mood to write again. "What do you want?"
I felt her cool, slender fingers on the back of my neck, working the muscles. My eyes slipped closed, almost involuntarily. She always did have great hands. Slender, womanly hands. The kind you'd expect to see playing a Chopin etude. Only now they were working the tension out of my neck, and back. Stealing my frustration disarmingly. Taking my anger out through my pores.
But I brushed her away. Right now I wanted to be angry.
She wouldn't let me.
"What are you going to do?" she asked me, resuming our age-old conversation.
"What I always do," I replied gruffly. "Go back to my day job. Try to keep the fire burning, writing at night. I'll put in some long hours."
For once she was silent.
"It's all I can do," I said, as defensive as if her silence had been a protest. "I've got to get this story off of my mind somehow. I can't go on like this. It's going to be the death of me."
"Death comes to us all," she whispered. She ran her fingers through my hair, tickling my scalp. "But life only comes to some."
"Who said that?" I asked rhetorically.
She didn't answer.
"What do you want me to do?" I ducked my head away from her probing, questing fingertips. It was no use.
"I want you to finish what you started."
"And what is that?"
"You aren't going to leave me alone nights while you work, are you?" She evaded my question smoothly, with the practiced art of the conversational dancer.
"I have to," I said. I was almost pleading. "I have to work. It's the only way I can keep these images out of my head. I'll put in a few hours at night to write—I promise. Only a few."
"Will it be enough?" she asked. She wrapped those classically slender arms around my neck from behind and nuzzled her face into the back of my head. "Can't I interest you in spending any more time with me?"
"You know I want to," I murmured. "But somebody has to pay the bills around here. And you aren't exactly bringing home the bacon right now."
"I'm expecting," she chided me gently, and chuckled. "You should know. You made me this way."
"You're barely two months along," I retorted. My usual fire wasn't in it.
She could tell.
"Do you want me to go back to work?" she asked.
"Only if I need you," I said quietly, and I reached up to grasp her hand in mine.
I felt her hands slip away, and heard her soft footfalls leading back to the kitchen. "Are you saying you don't need me?" she asked in a teasing voice. I could hear the rattle of jars as she opened the refrigerator door.
"Of course I need you," I said, and I felt a smile come to my face. "You're my muse. I can't do it without you."
"Have you tried?" she asked. There was a snap, and she turned off the kitchen light.
"Leave the light on," I said. "I can't see."
"Have you tried?" she repeated firmly, in the dark.
There was no way to avoid her question, nor any way to answer it.
I was silent.
"That's what I thought," she said, and turned the light back on with a snap. "You won't even try. Are you afraid of rejection?"
There was that word.
"You know that I am," I reminded her. "I always have been. I have been for years."
"Are you worried that it won't be the same with anybody else?"
Another hard question. "Yes. I am. I'm afraid—"
When I didn't go on, she prodded me gently. "What are you afraid of?"
"I'm afraid that I'm doing this all wrong," I said. "I usually have some kind of direction, some kind of notion of where I'm going, and what I'm doing. It feels like I'm free-falling. I don't know where I'm going to land."
"Is that bad?"
"I don't know."
"Have you ever wondered what things would be like if I were the writer, instead of you?"
"Why do you always ask me these questions?"
"It's the reason you love me," she laughed softly. "Answer me."
"Sometimes," I admitted.
I must have sounded hesitant, because she asked, "Only sometimes?"
"Most of the time, really," I said heavily. "Why? Have you decided to give up photography?"
"I was thinking about it," she said in a bemused voice. "Were you thinking of giving up writing?"
I nodded slowly. "I thought about it."
"Why don't you, then?"
"What would I do?" I asked her. "I don't know the first thing about your camera."
"That's because you never do any research," she said in a mock-accusatory voice. "You really should know these things if you're going to write about them."
"I know enough," I said sullenly.
"But life only comes to some," she said enigmatically. "Who said that?"
"I don't know."
"Why don't you give it a try? At least for a little while?"
"I would dearly love to, Diana. There's only one problem."
"Oh?" she asked. Her smile colored her response. I could just envision the glint in her eyes now. But my back was still to her, as always, and I couldn't see her.
"You don't exist," I sighed. "You never did."
"Try me," she said confidently. "Let me be the writer for a change. I'll show you how it needs to be done."
I pushed back my chair heavily, and got to my feet. My knees creaked. "Okay, the word processor's all yours," I said, gesturing to the chair vaguely, and I walked away toward the dining room, seeking out the comfortable chair by the fire.
"Not that way," she said from behind me. "Come back here."
Reluctantly I returned to the computer desk. I could see the back of her head, her long lustrous hair hanging down in wavy locks to her shoulders, clad only in the palest of pink silk.
"As long as I'm going to be the writer," I heard her say, "I might as well have a good subject to write about."
"Oh?" I asked. Something about her voice seemed odd as she began to type. It started to sound familiar. I started to listen a bit harder.
"I'm going to write about you," she said. Her voice was deeper.
And somehow her long lustrous hair was shorter, and more closely cropped. The pink silk was blurring in my vision, becoming maroon terrycloth. I could almost reach out and feel the texture in my hands.
My slender, womanly hands. The kind you expected to see playing a Chopin etude.
"Me?" I asked, startled. "Why me?"
"You always wrote about me," the writer said.
"This is different," I said, but I didn't really protest.
"How?" he asked.
"Because you don't exist," I tried to protest. My voice was sounding strange, odd—soft, and soothing. A warm, vibrating contralto.
"Don't I?" the writer asked with a chuckle.
I reached down and felt the gentle swell of my belly, caressing it with one hand. "Is this real?"
The writer reached out for my other hand, and took it in his warm fingertips. He kissed the back of my hand.
"Is anything?" he asked. "Is anything?"
Copyright 1998 by Corey Moore. If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask the author for permission first. Thank you.
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