About the book:
Friend(shipped) is a small-town, friends-to-lovers romcom set in the fictional town of Bordeaux (pronounced bored ox).
Lexi and Trevor grew up next door to one another and are still best friends. One hitch. Lexi has a crush on Trevor. Well, good thing. Trevor has a crush on Lexi too.
But, they each don’t know how the other one feels. Neither of them wants to cross the line of friendship. The few times they tried that ended in disaster.
Lexi allows herself to be persuaded to go on a dating app to try to move on from her crush and find true love. Her dates … well, let’s just say some of them put the strange in stranger.
This heartwarming romcom has plenty of laughs and a happily ever after you will swoon over.
Chapter One: Lexi
My best friend Trevor’s cubicle sits right across from mine at the Corn Corners Tribune. A year ago, fresh out of college, both Trevor and I lucked out landing entry-level positions at this old-fashioned newspaper that actually distributes both online and in print. Don’t scoff. Our Sunday news has devoted readers throughout the tri-county region and beyond.
Trevor shot up the ranks before I did. He has the coolest position on the paper if you ask me. He’s our food editor. About six months ago, the food critic on staff left for a job at a bigger publication in Columbus. Now Trevor basically gets paid to eat out and tell people exactly what he thought of the meal and the overall dining experience—kind of like that grumpy cartoon critic in Ratatouille, but without an unnaturally long face, or the bitter attitude.
I wad up a Post-it note and toss it across the aisle in Trevor’s direction. It sails past him and lands on the floor on the other side of his cubicle. I quickly turn my head toward my current writing assignment.
Don “Toots” Green passed peacefully in his sleep on the first of June. Don spent his life farming peas and beans on the outskirts of Urbana at his family farm, Green Acres (not to be confused with the 1960s television show of the same name). According to local residents, everyone for miles around came to get “Toots’” beans …
I pinch my pointer finger and thumb across my forehead begging myself for inspiration. Coming up blank, I scrunch up another Post-it. This time the wadded ball of paper pelts off Trevor’s neck and he slaps at it like an annoying bug. I barely stifle a giggle and he whips his chair around with a look of fierce, but playful retaliation dominating his dark features.
“Lexi,” he warns.
“What?” I say with feigned innocence, stuffing the next balled sticky note under my leg one second too late as his eyes track the movement.
“What are you sitting on?” Trevor asks, stalking across the aisle toward me.
“A chair,” I gulp.
“I’m working,” I offer. “And you are interrupting my creative flow.”
“On the obituaries?” Trevor asks, well aware of the assignment I’ve been relegated to once again this week by our oh-so winsome boss, Jeanette.
“It takes concentration to honor a life,” I defend.
“Hand it over,” Trevor says, his hand outstretched toward me.
“What?” I ask? “My commemoration of Toots Green’s life?”
“Your ammo,” he says, his lip turning up at the corner, making him look simultaneously boyish and manly.
“Ammo … ammo … ammo …” I say, stalling, looking around my desk as if I’m trying to retrieve the alleged instrument of his torture.
“The one under your rear,” he says.
“Trevor, I could go to HR, you know. You don’t say rear to a fellow employee at the CC Tribune.”
“Okay!” I say, reaching beneath my ample thigh and pulling out a now crushed Post-it, recently flattened from the time it spent sequestered under my skirt.
“Thank you,” he huffs. Then in a mocking tone eerily mirroring Jeanette’s nasally voice he says, “This isn’t workplace appropriate.”
He holds the compressed paper in the air like evidence in a crime scene.
I burst out a laugh as he walks away. He looks over his shoulder and mouths “Payback’s a bear,” as he deposits the sticky note in his grey plastic trashcan.
I do take my job seriously. I’ve dreamed of journalism my whole life. Granted, writing odes to the local farmers wasn’t what I pictured, but I’m in what I call my stepping-stone years. Write enough obituaries and eventually I’ll get to go out on a meaningful assignment, and before long I may even have my own column.
Our boss, Jeanette Rumper, could be the poster child for doesn’t play well with others. She probably should come with her own warning label. Maybe it’s the last name. I’m sure she took a number of hits being teased in elementary school. Not to mention, she was engaged to a lawyer here in Corn Corners named John Rash a few years ago. They called the engagement off last summer. Thank goodness. Her hyphenated name would have been … well, anyway … suffice it to say it looks like she dodged a bullet.
I don’t think I’m imagining the way Jeanette’s face squinches up like she just ate a sour lemon when she looks at me, hands me my next assignment, or reads anything I wrote. She’s a tough critic, and for some reason I’ve never made it onto her list of people she’d like to share a room—or a planet—with.
It’s a short list.
Anyway, regardless of the cause of her general irritability and obvious dislike of me, it remains a fact that my advancement in the field of journalism currently rests in her tightly balled fists.
I’m just finishing the last of today’s obituaries when Trevor raps twice on the flimsy partition that cordons off my cubicle. “Time for staff meeting,” he says. “Should I play you a dirge?”
“Ha ha,” I say. “I’m planning to blend into the woodwork, be as unobtrusive and go-with-the-flow as possible. I’ll be completely off Jeanette’s radar unless she offers up an article I can’t resist. Then I’ll have to speak up. I can’t keep writing obituaries and page ten articles about city council meetings the rest of my life.”
“You won’t,” Trevor says with his usual tone of encouragement. “You’re far too talented to waste your writing on people who can’t even read what you’ve said about them.”
“The city councilmen can read,” I say. “Or at least I think most of them can.”
“I was talking about your obituaries,” Trevor says with a laugh.
When we walk into the conference room, all the chairs are almost filled. Jeanette stands up front near the whiteboard wearing a crisp suit that looks like it’s been starched to the point of passing a military inspection. Her straight black hair falls in a long bob and cat-eye glasses perch on her narrow nose making her look both intelligent and shrewd. Her lips purse in their usually dissatisfied resting state.
Jeanette’s eyes meet mine and I feel like an ice cube on the sidewalk in the middle of August, I resist the urge to do my wicked witch of the west impersonation.
When her eyes land on Trevor, she lets a smile crack through her otherwise stern face. It almost looks painful. Jeanette loves Trevor. I can’t blame her. He’s one of those people whose sincerity and adaptability make him hard to resist. He’s kind of like the human version of a Labrador retriever—loyal, smart, and generally well-behaved.
Jeanette’s fondness may have been part of the reason Trevor got a shot at being a food critic when the position opened up, while I regularly eulogize local citizens and write about such titillating subjects as the controversy over changing the hours at the county library.
It’s only a matter of time. I’ll get my break and be able to take assignments with more importance and impact. I simply need to be patient.
After the staff meeting, Trevor and I walk out of the conference room together to collect our things and commute home for the weekend.
The upshot of the meeting was that Trevor got an assignment to try several Italian restaurants over the coming week and a half. As for me, it’s more obituaries and a piece on the Corn Corners Garden Club’s annual plant sale. At least my project will earn me a day out of the office to interview the club president, a sixty-eight-year-old named Louisa Birch.
“Hey, you got the garden piece!” Trevor says with excessive enthusiasm.
I smile and look up at him.
“I kind of wanted the piece on visiting Native American landmarks around Columbus and Chillicothe.”
“I know, Lex,” Trevor says, putting his hand on my back to scoot me out of the way as one of our colleagues passes by. “You’ll rock the garden piece, though. That’s how it works. Write an article that captures the readers’ interest, and pretty soon Jeanette will be begging you to come up with your own ideas or even giving you a column.”
I nod. He may be right. I don’t think he is, but I can’t help but feel more hopeful when he encourages me.
“So, you up for checking out the new Italian place in Columbus this weekend?” Trevor asks.
“You have the best job,” I tell him. “Of course, I want to go. What girl in their right mind turns down Italian?”
And what girl turns down dinner with Trevor? Not this one, even if it’s under the guise of friendship.
Just glancing up at Trevor makes a trail of unbidden goosebumps raise across my arms. He’s smiling down at me with that seemingly harmless grin and it shouldn’t have any impact on me after all these years. But somehow, like an aging bottle of Merlot, he’s becoming more potent with time. My reaction to him isn’t advisable considering he’s completely and irrevocably only my friend. I only wish my heart had an on/off switch.
“My job’s not all glamour and fun, you know that.” Trevor says.
I’m sure he’s only trying to make me feel better about the garden club assignment. I’ll be writing about discount dahlias and deals on peat moss while he’s getting paid to dip garlic bread in an oil and herb mixture and come up with ways to describe the ambiance.
“Your job’s not completely fun,” I concede. “Like the week you had to do a writeup on mashed potatoes at ten different steak houses across the upper Ohio River valley. How many ways can you describe mashed potatoes?”
“Exactly. Though I do think I covered them all: fluffy, pillowy, comforting, dense, buttery, flavorful, hint of garlic, creamy, just like homemade, whipped, warm, distinct note of sour cream, perfect proportion of chives to bacon …”
Trevor drones on, reminiscing over descriptions of spuds while he walks ahead of me toward our cubicles. We grab our stuff and head to his car for the drive home.
If you enjoyed this first chapter, you can read the rest of the story in ebook or paperback available on Amazon.
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