Janet passed the third bookcase and turned down the self-help aisle. “Brad?”
“Janet!” said Brad, slipping the book he’d been browsing behind his back. “What a surprise.”
“It’s been a long time,” said Janet. “I hardly recognized you with the beard. And something’s different with your hair?”
“Yeah, wearing it a bit longer,” said Brad, sheepish about his thinning pate. “And you look great. Coming from the gym?”
“Zumba,” she said.
“Nice,” he said, and then after a brief pause, “So, how’s Mr. Right?”
Janet raised her eyebrows slightly. “He’s fine. Enjoys his job. He just got promoted, VP of something. He’s off in Davos right now.”
“Oh, yeah, all the money people. I’ve been hearing about that on the news. That’s a pretty big deal.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said.
He noticed her lack of enthusiasm. “Economics not your thing?”
“It’s not that, exactly,” she said, looking at her shoes. “It’s more that he’s always working. I don’t see him much.” She paused and looked Brad in the eye: “It’s never quite what you imagine, is it?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head slightly. “And did I hear you have a new baby?”
Janet’s face broke into a broad smile. “Chloe. Just turned one. So sweet.” Janet pulled out her phone and showed him a picture of a bald baby in a pink dress with a bow stuck to her head.
“Adorable. Where is she?”
“Home with the nanny,” she said. “And how about you? You writing?”
“Some,” he said. “I’m working on a novel, but I can’t seem to get past the first chapter. I just don’t quite have a clear plot idea yet.”
“I feel that,” she said.
“Really? Seems like your novel is doing pretty well. I saw it in the window walking in here,” he said.
“Yeah, that’s been great. It’s the next one that’s trouble. The curse of the second novel. No pressure, right?”
“You still writing copy?” she asked.
“What kind of stuff?”
“Mmm,” he paused, looking uncomfortable. “Mostly health industry stuff, ad copy, you know, the usual.”
“So, like, cholesterol drugs and prosthetics?”
“More like hair-loss and diet pills,” he said with a self-deprecating smile. “One of my posts just went viral. Ten-thousand hits. It’s this balloon-in-a-pill thing. You eat the pill, and then the balloon inflates in your stomach. Makes you feel full, and then you don’t eat. Apparently, you can leave it in there for months. I was thinking, maybe if I took one I could stop writing the damned copy. But, then I remembered I’d still have to cover rent. Guess I’ll stick with eating.”
She snickered, shaking her head.
He nodded and sighed, still smiling. “So, what are you looking for?” he said.
“I don’t know,” she said, instantly uncomfortable. “I thought I’d just browse a bit. Maybe something to inspire a writing idea.” Brad looked mildly skeptical, so she shifted the burden: “How about you? What’s that one you found there,” she said, gesturing to the book he was still holding and hiding.
“Oh, this one,” he said, pulling it slowly out from behind his back and blushing. The cover read, Starting Again: Finding Love after Loss. “Yeah, I was looking at it, but I don’t think I’m going to get it after all.” He slipped the book back onto the shelf.