A Somewhat Sleeping Beauty Story
By Jennifer McMurrain
***Note from the author***
What you are about to read is a rough draft. Anna’s Legacy supporters are getting a sneak peek at my writing process and they are the first ones to get to read these novellas. Knowing that it is a rough draft, please be aware that it hasn’t gone through my rigorous quality control and there will be mistakes, typos, and before the final product is published, it might even have a plot change. This is all part of the process. So I hope you enjoy this sneak peek of Dream On: A Somewhat Sleeping Beauty Story.
Arlyn Wade stirred from her sleep with a crick in her neck and a horrible taste in her mouth. The smell of leather with a hint of pineapple tickled her nose, but it was unfamiliar. Inwardly she groaned. She had done it again.
She opened her eyes and confirmed her suspicions. She was sitting in the back seat of a car, an older gentleman wearing a soft blue turban sat in the driver’s seat reading a book.
“I did it again, didn’t I, Omar?” she asked.
Omar put down his book and turned to face her. His smile warmed her, making her lose some of her embarrassment.
“I told you Arlyn, you needn’t worry. I’ll take care of you.”
She returned his smile. He was a man of his word. “And that is why you’re my favorite Uber driver.”
Arlyn scooted up on her seat so she could see the book in Omar’s lap. “What are you reading this time?”
Omar held up the book. “An American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“That’s a good one,” said Arlyn as she dug in her purse.
“Not as good as my favorite author, Arlyn Wade.”
Arlyn looked up and smiled at Omar. “I’m just a ghost writer, which means I don’t really exist.”
She went back to digging in her purse as Omar shook his head. “I will never understand this ghost writing thing. You do the work, you should get the credit.”
Arlyn found the fifty she kept in her purse for emergencies and handed it to Omar. “Thank you for being such a good friend.”
Omar pushed the money away. “You paid with your app.”
“They pay me not only enough to not mind losing credit, but to make sure I can take care of the people who spend their valuable time reading while I’m taking a nap in their car.” She looked at her watch. “You lost at least an hour, please take this. Put it towards your daughter’s college fund and if you want to stop at that taco truck you love so much, she doesn’t have to know.”
Omar took the money and gave her a nod of thanks. “You are too kind, Arlyn.”
“So are you Omar,” said Arlyn as she opened the car door. “We kind people need to stick together.”
She said her good-byes to Omar and walked into her apartment building. She punched in the code to the front door and made her way to the back corner apartment on the first floor. There was nothing fancy about her building, which was fine for Arlyn. She didn’t need a fancy brown or something with a doorman. All she needed was quiet.
Entering her apartment she let out a sigh of relief. Part of her loved the city and appreciated that everyone once and a while she had to get out and experience it, but her home was the only place she felt completely safe.
Arlyn walked to the kitchen and checked her schedule on the fridge. Her stomach growled as she marked off “nap” on the to-do list. She wasn’t surprised she felt hungry even though she had just had a large lunch with her agent, Molly.
Hunger was one of the side effects of her condition. She told herself her brain was confused and reached into the fridge for a bowl of baby carrots, even though her body craved French fries. She glanced at her schedule again, before heading to her computer to check her e-mails.
Munching on a carrot as her e-mail came us, she cocked her head. She had an e-mail from Molly, even though they had just spoken. Her eyes widened as she read the subject line: FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY! CALL ME NOW!
Arlyn quickly left her computer and hurried to retrieve her cell from her purse in the kitchen. She hit the speed dial for Molly and waited.
“What took you so long?” asked Molly.
“Why hello to you to,” said Arlyn. “And I just saw you, what could be so important?”
“Two words … Cordel Foster,” said Molly in her peppy voice.
Arlyn shook her head even though she knew Molly couldn’t see her. “Who?”
“Cordel Foster,” repeated Molly, “you know the guy on Voyage Channel that goes to all sorts of exotic locations in search of monsters and ghosts?”
“The Voyage Channel? I thought that was educational? I didn’t know they had fiction series,” stated Arlyn.
“They don’t, Cordel is a cryptozoologist. They study folklore, like Bigfoot or the chupacabra,” explained Molly.
“The chupa what?”
“It’s like some kind of vampire dog,” said Molly, “but you’re missing the point, Arlyn. Cordel wants you to ghost write his autobiography. This is a big deal for the publisher and Cordel has asked for you specifically.”
“Why?” asked Arlyn as she wrinkled her nose. Besides Molly, Omar, and her clients no one knew that Arlyn was a ghost writer. That was part of the job. She did all the work, they get all the credit, and she was paid very well to keep her mouth shut. Not like it was hard to keep it a secret, Arlyn had no interest in the spotlight.
“I don’t know,” said Molly, exasperation dripping from her words. “Why ask why? This is a big deal.”
“Okay,” said Arlyn. “Let me do my initial research and I’ll call you back with my answer.”
“Today, Arlyn,” stated Molly. “I have to know by today.”
“All right, Molly,” said Arlyn. “I’ll give you a call in a bit.”
“You’d be a fool to say no,” said Molly.
“Goodbye,” said Arlyn as she hung up the phone. Never had Molly been so adamant about her taking a writing gig. Molly had always been very respectful of Arlyn’s process, which was the same no matter the celebrity status of the person she was working for.
Taking her cell with her, Arlyn walked back to her computer. She sat down and opened Google, typing in Cordel Foster into the search bar. A Wikipedia page was at the top of the list, but Arlyn knew better than to jump into Wikipedia, since it was usually written by a fan or marketing personnel. There were a number of social media accounts, which she also skipped over.
She studied the pictures on the right side of the search listing. Cordel was not hard on the eyes, the information under the pictures told her he was 35 and born in Billings, MT. He had dark blonde cut just long enough to give him a constant cute tousled look. Arlyn figured that “tousled” look probably took hours in front of the mirror. He wore a casual long sleeved white shirt, with the sleeves pulled up so you could see his muscular arms.
Arlyn tried no to roll her eyes, it was a publicity photo after all. Google also told her his height, that he was unmarried with no children, and had graduated from Tufts University. Not only was he the host of his popular show, Finding Folklore, on the Voyage Channel he was also a producer.
Exiting Google she went to YouTube and typed in Cordel’s name. She wasn’t surprised when half a million videos turned up, she knew he was popular. That’s not why she went to YouTube, she wanted to see his personality.
Arlyn bypassed all the videos that were simply clips of his show. That was an act, a character he portrayed on TV … something that could be edited. She scrolled down until she found clips of interviews done with him on live T.V. Where she knew that could be an act to, live shows couldn’t editing out any foul ups.
She clicked on a local morning show and turned up the volume. The show had just come back from commercial with two beaming women looking into the camera, Cordel Foster sat next to them wearing a goofy grin as he rubbed his hands together.
“Welcome back,” said the blond host of the show. “We are so excited to have traveler, cryptozoologist, and host of the amazingly popular show, Finding Folklore, Cordel Foster with us this morning.” She looked at Cordell. “Thank you so much for being here.”
“Thank you for having me, Kathleen,” said Cordel. “This is one of my all-time favorite morning shows. I’m a little star struck to be sitting here with the two of you.”
The two hosts laughed and blushed.
“I bet you say that to all the morning show anchors, but I don’t mind you saying it to me,” said the anchor with the soft cocoa skin and luscious black hair. Cordel gave her a wink and Arlyn rolled her eyes. She was not surprised he was a big flirt, but it was a major turn off to her that he knew he was a big flirt.
“So let’s get down to business, Cordel,” continued the anchor with black hair. “What is a cryptozoologist?”
“I’m glad you asked, Michelle, cryptozoology is the search for and study of animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated, for example Big Foot or the Loch Ness monster,” answered Cordel as if reading the definition straight from the dictionary.
“So do you search for the boogie man, too?” asked Kathleen, with a laugh, causing Michelle to join in the laughter.
For a split second Arlyn saw Cordel’s eyes narrow, then he quickly laughed with the ladies. “Well, I guess that depends on your definition of the boogie man. If you are scared of thought of vampires or werewolves, then my study of the chupacabra would probably fit your definition of a boogie man.”
“Chupa what?” asked Michelle.
“The chupacabra,” Cordel scooted to the end of his chair and leaned forward. “For decades, farmers in a small mining town in the heart of Chile’s northern desert have woken to find their goats and sheep dead in their pens. The predator has a weakness for blood and drinks it from its prey, after it has ripped the poor animal’s neck out.”
“Well that explains the vampire part,” said Kathleen as Michelle cringed.
“Yes, the name, chupacabra translates into goat-sucker in English. Eye witness accounts are of a deformed looking dog …”
“There’s the werewolf,” said Michelle to Kathleen.
“… with a row of spikes reaching from its neck to the base of the tail with scaly greenish-gray skin.”
“That does sound terrifying,” said Kathleen. “And you just go around searching for such a creature.”
Cordel leaned back and smiled. “I do. I search for chupacabras, big foots, yetis, and I even touch on paranormal phenomenon like the Suicide Forest in Japan. It’s not a job for the weak of heart.”
Again Aryln rolled her eyes, feeling his overinflated ego through the screen.
Michelle raised both of her hands. “Okay, allow me to play devil’s advocate for a second.”
Cordel gave her another wink. “That sounds like something I would hunt.”
She waved him off as she giggled. “Seriously, it’s hard to believe that these things exist in this day and age. We have satellites and GPS, very little of this world hasn’t been walked all over by human feet. No one has ever had any viable proof that these creatures of legend exist, no scat, no hair, not dead carcasses. Isn’t it easy to be unafraid of these things, to hunt them in the scary dark, since they’re basically the equivalent of fairy tales?”
Arlyn leaned closer her computer screen. The annoyance she had only witnessed for a second earlier was now plastered all over Cordel’s face.
“Michelle, with all due respect, that is exactly the attitude that will continue to hinder the scientific process. Universities, corporations … they don’t want to fund an expedition that will make them seem like a laughing stock. That attitude is why if someone did find evidence of a legendary creature they most likely wouldn’t come forward. Scientist are finding new creatures every day, and nobody bats an eye when it’s a new species of fish, or insect, but bring up a new mammal or something as crazy …” Cordel made air quotes while he said crazy. “… like Big Foot, no matter how many eye witness come forward to say what they saw. Attitudes like that one, is exactly why we haven’t found evidence.”
Michelle looked at Kathleen. “Well, I guess he told me.”
The two ladies giggled nervously.
Cordel forced a smile and raised his hands in a peaceful gesture. “I’m sorry, that came off wrong. I’m just very passionate about my career and subject of study. I understand some people look at me as a fraud. An actor who jumps at his own shadow for ratings. I am thankful that the Voyage Channel supports Finding Folklore, as more as just entertainment, but as an open-minded science project. We may not find Big Foot, but we’ll be teaching future generations that to peruse even what seems impossible is a pursuit worth having if you’re passionate about it.”
As Kathleen and Michelle started to pitch Cordel’s show, Arlyn clicked the pause button. She leaned back in her chair and studied the paused video that showed Cordel giving a cheesy smile and wave at the camera.
She picked up the phone and called Molly.
“Have you decided?” Molly asked, her nerves and excitement pulsating through the phone.
Arlyn took a deep breath, knowing she was about to upset one of her closest friends. “I’m sorry, Molly, I can’t work with him.”
“No,” cried Molly. “Why? Arlyn, this is a big get for the company. He’s asked for you specifically.”
Arlyn placed her forehead in her hand. She hated the sound of disappointment in her friend’s voice, hated even more that she had put it there.
She sighed. “Molly, I don’t think he’s interested in answering the hard questions truthfully. I just watched him lash out at a host on live television. I can’t imagine how he’ll act when it’s his ghost writer. I don’t write fiction for a reason and I’m not about to start with Cordel Foster.”
“Arlyn, please reconsider,” begged Molly.
“Just tell him I’m not good enough,” said Arlyn. “Put Sandra on it, she wrote the last best seller. Trust me, Molly, give him Sandra, wrap her up in a bow, and his ego will eat it up. He wants someone to tell his tall tales. I’m not the person to do that, we’ll be like oil and water.”
Molly sighed. “I hope you’re right about Sandra, Arlyn, but I know you’re wrong about you and Cordel being oil and water. I don’t agree with it, but I’m accepting your right to turn down this job offer. Arlyn I can’t promise that something like this will come around again. The publication world is in a tricky place, we can’t afford to be picky.”
Arlyn nodded even though she was on the phone. “I understand, but my goal is to write the best book possibly for you and the house. I can’t do that with Cordel, he’ll stress me out and I’ll have a …”
“It’s okay, Arlyn,” said Molly. “You’re just so talented and strong, sometimes I forget you have narcolepsy and that you have to take certain precautions. I shouldn’t have pushed. I’ll pitch Sandra to Cordel and make it work.”
“Thank you, Molly,” said Arlyn.
As Molly hung up, Aryln walked to the couch and plopped down. She was already exhausted and knew she had to relax her body and rest. Pulling a throw blanket over her, she placed her head on the pillow and hoped that Molly wasn’t too angry at her.
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