book giveaway!

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(stock photo of pretty books for le blog aesthetic)

DID SOMEONE SAY FREE BOOKS?!

I’m participating in a giveaway with some other authors, and we’re giving away ebooks this Christmas!

If you want to win one, choose one of the entry options on the Rafflecopter below and follow the instructions to gain a point.  (Hint: You can enter with as many options as you like to increase your chances of winning.)  The giveaway starts TODAY and ends on the 20th, so you have plenty of time to enter (although I recommend entering now, if your memory is anything like mine).  We’ll pick eight winners at random and contact them before Christmas so you can have your ebook delivered whenever you like.

Also, by the way, they’re all ebooks, but if you want a paperback copy of my novel, Becoming Nikki, I think we can make that work.  ; )

Links!  Click on the book to read about it on Amazon, and click on the author to see their awesome bookish blogs.

Water Princess, Fire Prince by Kendra E. Ardnek

Be Thou My Vision by Faith Blum

Becoming Nikki by Ashley Elliott (moi!)

Alen’s War by Hannah A. Krynicki

Where the Woods Grow Wild by Nate Philbrick

Song of the Sword by Hope Ann

Befriending the Beast by Amanda Tero

The Wings of Antheon (pre-order) by Ellyanna J. Wenceslao

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(WordPress doesn’t allow Rafflecopters sometimes, so if it doesn’t show up, click the link below!)

ENTER HERE!

elf & a christmas story | christmas movie marathon

I love doing Christmas blog series because I love blogging and I love Christmas.  It just works.

As I thought about what I’d do this year, I kept remembering the blog series I did last year. If you’ve read that one, you probably noticed that I basically covered all the bases – my favorite Christmas movies, my favorite Christmas songs, my favorite Christmas traditions, and, finally, the reasons why I celebrate Christmas.

For the longest time, I couldn’t think of anything to post about this year that I hadn’t posted about already last year.  And then I thought about the list I made a few weeks ago of all of the Christmas movies I hadn’t seen yet but wanted to.  So I thought, “Hey, why not write a review for each movie?”  However, because it’s not Christmas without my favorite Christmas movies, I probably wouldn’t be watching enough new movies to warrant a blog series.

BAM.  Reviews of a new one and an old one (for me, at least).  I’ll post one every Friday morning, just in time for a family movie night.  Enjoy!

christmasmovieself.jpgElf {2003} | Will Ferrell, James Caan

The Plot: Buddy the Elf, one of Santa’s helpers, has to find his dad in NYC and get him off The Naughty List, all while helping others to believe in Santa Claus before it’s too late.

The Good: This movie is a straight-up classic, despite the fact that it’s “only” been out for thirteen years.  My family watches it every year while we decorate our Christmas tree, and we’ve gotten to the point where we can all quote it word for word – even my parents.  It’s hilarious, it’s heart-warming, it’s got an adorable romance subplot, and it teaches valuable lessons about family, friendship, and the Christmas spirit (especially when the Clausometer levels are shockingly low).

The Bad: As with every movie, this one has it’s faults – and it’s definitely not for everyone.  I know people who despise this movie because they don’t get (or don’t like) the humor.  I get it.  It utilizes some potty humor and the characters have to work their way around some ridiculous situations – not to mention the fact that it *gasp* encourages The Santa Myth.  However, this movie is just a fun ride, and people who think it should be more than that probably shouldn’t be watching it in the first place.

The Bottom Line: Elf is a hilarious family movie that can be enjoyed by all ages.

christmasmoviesachristmasstory.jpgA Christmas Story {1983} | Peter Billingsley, Jean Shepherd

The Plot: Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun and tries to convince his parents, his teacher, and even Santa that it’s the best gift, despite their protests that he’ll “shoot his eye out!”

The Good: I can see why this movie is such a classic.  It’s charming, it’s memorable, and the situations the characters get themselves in – although ridiculous at times – are pretty hilarious. I absolutely loved a lot of the characters, and I’m so glad to finally get the jokes!

The Bad: First of all, let me just say… I don’t do whiny kids.  I can’t stand them.  Like, put your kid in time out or something and make. it. stop.  Ralphie’s little brother was a whiner, and it annoyed the crap out of me – and don’t even get me started on that dinner scene.  This movie also had some language, mumbled almost unintelligibly by Ralphie’s dad, and Ralphie is punished for a word he says (that we don’t really hear).

The Bottom Line: I think I would’ve enjoyed this movie a little more if I’d grown up on it – or if I were an 11-year-old boy.  So although I think it was little more than “meh,” I can still see why it’s such a classic.

Next Friday: Eloise at Christmastime and Christmas with the Kranks!

“give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.”

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this will forever be one of my favorite pictures of all time. my siblings and i helped my grandma set up her tree last thanksgiving and we had such a blast.

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. – Ps. 9:1

As I think about how far I’ve come since last Thanksgiving, I’m amazed and in total awe of God’s goodness and grace.  Some of you may remember my totally angsty thanksgiving post from last year.  (*facepalm*)

In all honesty, I still have days like that, but they’ve been fewer as of late.  Mostly because I’m constantly realizing how incredibly blessed my life is.

Just how blessed am I?  WELL, I’M GLAD YOU ASKED.

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I have the best siblings ever.  Seriously, they’re amazing.

They never cease to make me laugh, stretch me, and teach me – everything from random facts about music and TV shows to anger management (*wink*).  I’d be so lost without these kiddos.

(And we totally won Halloween, especially considering we had about two hours’ notice for costumes.)

I love my parents to DEATH, too, but I don’t have any recent pictures of them.  So I’ll just say this instead: my parents are the best.  They teach me so many life lessons, they love me even when I’m hard to love, and they support me constantly.  I’m forever grateful.

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I also have the literal best friends.

Friends who will Gilmore-bound to coffee shops with me, play weddings with me, and then invite me and my siblings to come watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life with them…

 

 

 

 

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Friends who will invite me to Charleston for my very first girls-only weekend and get dressed up for a fancy-schmancy dinner in the car in a parking garage and talk to random guys about protesting and make totally inappropriate jokes with…

 

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And friends who will let me stay at their house for a week and then take me and my siblings to Universal.  And sing Moana songs 24/7.   ALL THE HEART EYES FOR YOU GUYS.  (And what a good looking group of people, if I do say so myself.)  (“AND THANK YOU!”)

 

 

 

 

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I’m grateful for books and the pretty places I can read them.  This particular spot is my hidden sanctuary.  I come here once or twice a week and read, drink coffee, or just sit.

 

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And, finally, I’m thankful for coffee, especially on a rainy Sunday morning in Charleston with two of my best friends beside me.

(And more pictures from my Charleston trip are coming.  Because I’m obsessed.)

 

What are you thankful for?

 

what courtship-advocating parents don’t understand.

Disclaimer: I love my parents.  I love my friends’ parents.  This isn’t about anybody’s parents in particular.  This is just something I’ve been thinking about, with no particular set of parents in mind.  AND this isn’t meant to offend anyone.  This is for you, my readers – to encourage you and to let you know that you’re not alone.  Anyways.  Onward.

(Disclaimer #2, or In Which I Realize I Should’ve Talked To My Parents Before Posting This…. See the end of this post.)

Courtship.

Depending on how you grew up and what you were taught, that word can either send shoots of awkward pain through your body or make you feel all warm and tingly.  The same can be said for the word…

Dating.

(Half of you just hissed and scurried back to the shadows, I just know it.  XD)

I’ve talked about how I grew up before a little (especially my thoughts on purity rings), but if you don’t know, I was raised with the courtship mindset.  (And, before you freak out and unfollow, I’m still holding to some of those beliefs, though not all of them.)

To twelve-year-old me, courtship meant finding That Special Someone (or, rather, him finding me), getting to know him and his family better, him asking my dad for approval of our relationship, and us moving forward with a deeper relationship.  To be honest, that’s still basically what I’m hoping for, but some aspects look a little different.

As I’ve grown up, though, I’ve realized that it isn’t that easy – not by a long shot.

Although never explicitly said, it feels like our parents and the books we read and the Bible studies we did implied that if we courted (and saved ourselves and all that), then a great guy would find us and we’d be happily married and ride off into the sunset.

As some of my friends and I have discovered, the courtship mindset isn’t a formula.  It’s not waiting + courtship = relationship + marriage before 22.  Agreeing to save ourselves and wait and court and all that jazz does not guarantee marriage.

In fact, it seems far from it.

Growing up with a courtship mindset kind of skewed my mind a little… and it did the same for my sisters, too.  I realized the other day that I’d always assumed I’d have to court a few guys before I “got it right” – essentially that I’d make a ton of mistakes before finally meeting “the one.”  For my sisters, one grew up so scared of making mistakes, and the other was at the verge of throwing caution to the wind.

(I’m feeling a pull to go off into a “Since when did pursuing more than one guy before landing on the right one become a bad thing???” tangent, but I’d better not.  That’s another blog post for another time.  XD)

One of the worst parts about growing up with this mindset, though, is being a girl in this sub-society where girls have to wait for the guy to approach them – or, in extreme situations, to approach her dad before she even hears of his interest.

What’s even worse (and here we finally come to the reason for this post) is that sometimes – sometimes – our parents don’t understand.

Obviously, if your parents courted, they know how you feel, and this post isn’t really for you.  But if you’re a first-generationer like I was (and still am – gosh, I’ve got to get that figured out)… it’s hard.

“Wow, you’re really bashing my parents, aren’t you?” you say.

No, I’m not.  (At least, I’m trying not to.)

I’m just trying to say that these parents who strongly encourage their kids to court all their lives really don’t understand how hard it is.

How hard it is to be in your twenties and never been on a date.

How hard it is to be this age and never know that a guy has ever been interested in you.

How hard it is to look on the past twenty-plus years and wonder if that’s what the next twenty will be like – with an absence of romance and a multitude of worrying.

I once tried to explain this feeling to my mom.  My sister got it, but my mom didn’t. “You’re saving yourself!” Mom said.  “You’re going to have the best marriage.”

It took everything in me to not say, “Yes, I know – you keep telling me that.  But you started dating at fifteen, and I’m almost twenty-two and I’ve never been on a date, so it’s looking pretty bleak!”

I’ve since gotten a lot more content in my state of singleness, but it’s still hard sometimes.  (Especially now, when families are starting to get together for the holidays and everybody’s asking about your love life cAN I GET AN AMEN?!)

HOWEVER.  I’m not going to throw away the last ten years of waiting just because it’s getting hard.  Because that would be stupid and negate all the time I’ve waited.

I’m not telling you to rage against your parents and renounce everything they’ve ever taught you.  I’m just telling you… I get it.   If you feel this way, you’re not alone.  Your thoughts are valid.  Just because some people don’t get it doesn’t mean that nobody does.

Our parents are wonderful people, and they may understand more about the world than we ever will.  But if they dated and you’re not planning on it… this is one thing they don’t really get. And that’s okay.

“I get it,” you’re saying (hopefully).  “I’m not mad at my parents for not understanding this, but I’m still confused about what I do from here.”

I’m confused, too.  The only thing I’d recommend doing is the only thing I’ve found that works – to just accept it and wait.  Pray for understanding for them and peace for yourself. You’re not a terrible person for thinking that they don’t get it (and you’re definitely not unlovable just because you’ve chosen to wait).

I’m not going to say that you’ll find love, because I can’t guarantee that.  I’m also not going to say that your parents will understand in time, because I can’t guarantee that either.

However, I will say that we’re blessed with a God who does understand and that, as His children, we’re given the freedom to approach Him with confidence, knowing that He cares for us.

Therefore, since we have such a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  (I Peter 5:7)

What are your thoughts?  Have you decided to court or date?  Where do your parents stand? Let me know in the comments!

ADDENDUM: Waiting is hard.  I’m not trying to blame my parents for how hard waiting is, and I’m not trying to blame the courtship system.  And just because it’s hard does not mean that I’m going to throw away the last ten years of protecting my heart.  I’m not going to go get pregnant just because I’m tired of waiting.  There are some days where I’m done with waiting, but that’s not the majority.  I went to Charleston two weekends ago with two single friends, and we had a blast.  We even talked about how great it was that we were all single and didn’t have to clear it with our significant others.

I know that waiting is hard, guys.  But I think it’ll be worth it.  And waiting is a decision I made when I was like eleven, and I’m sticking to it, no matter how hard it gets.

(Also, if you don’t think your parents understand what you’re going through, talk to them.  It’s something I should’ve done before I posted this, and I’m sorry for representing them poorly by posting this without talking to them about it first.  I love them very much.)

welp. that happened.

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I think it’s safe to say that nobody saw this.

I know I didn’t.

Last night was a historic event.  I’ve heard people liken it to the Silent Majority that happened when Nixon ran.  I’ve heard people compare it to Reagan’s election.  I’ve heard people jump and scream and cheer with happiness, and I’ve seen people weep and unable to form emotions because they’re just too shocked.

I didn’t like either of these candidates, but I voted for one.  Everybody who knew how ridiculous voting third party is voted for one.

And now we’re gonna move on.

This isn’t the end, guys.  Regardless of who you voted for (or didn’t vote for), this is what happened and these are the results and, as surprised as I am to say it, Trump will be our next president.

But guess what?  It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because the American people have more say over what happens here – and how the culture changes – than basically anyone in the political realm.

And God is still on the throne.

Regardless of whatever dystopian novel prologue we may be living in, God is still on the throne and His will is going to be done and we can trust Him, praise God.

Now take a deep breath, pray for peace, and keep moving forward.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

For the LORD will not abandon His people,
Nor will He forsake His inheritance. …

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul. …

But the LORD has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge. (Ps. 94:14, 19, 22)

the elevator {a short story}

(I actually don’t love this title so somebody tell me what to change it to, please.)

I just finished re-reading Fangirl – and yes I totally sobbed when it was over – and, as always, felt like writing.  I wrote this the other day for a playwriting course I’m taking (ALL THE HEART-EYES EMOJIS), so I decided to convert it to short story form, especially for you guys.  It was ten pages as a bare-bones script, but six as a short story, so grab some tea or hot chocolate and enjoy!  (And, as always, let me know what you think.  I love hearing feedback from you guys about what I write!)


The Elevator

“Hold the elevator!”

The young woman quickly stuck her hand out, barring the doors from closing as she scrolled through her phone. She barely looked up as a young man ran in, breathless.

“Thanks,” he said, panting.

“No problem.”

The doors closed.

He pushed a floor button. She scrolled through her phone.

A few seconds later, the elevator jerked. Both of its occupants were set off-balance, but not enough to knock them to the ground.

The young woman cursed, wiping at a spot where her coffee had sloshed over the side of her cup and onto her blouse. “Perfect.”

“Whoa,” the young man said. He stared at the floor buttons for a moment. “I… I think the elevator’s stuck.”

“Great,” the young woman sighed, rolling her eyes.

“Huh,” the young man said. “I’ve, uh, never been in this situation.”

He pulled the strap of his messenger bag down, swinging the bag around to his back, and pushed the “call” button repeatedly. After a few moments, he pursed his lips and stepped back. “I have no idea what to do.”

“I’m assuming just push the button and wait for someone to come?”

“I guess…?”

He pushed the button one more time. Then, with a resolved look, pulled his messenger bag off and sat on the ground, his back resting against the wall of the elevator.

“Uh, what’re you doing?” the young woman asked him.

“We don’t know how long we’ll be here,” he told her, shrugging. “Might as well get comfortable.”

The young woman stared at him for a moment, then huffed and sat down in the wall adjacent to him.

“I’m Charlie,” the young man said, holding his hand out.

“Amy,” the young woman replied. She shook his hand, then quickly let go.

“Nice to meet you. Awful circumstances, but nice anyway.”

Amy shot him a terse smile before going back to her phone.

“Do you work here?” he persisted.

“Yeah, I’m Parker’s secretary,” she replied, not looking up from her phone.

“Parker…?”

“Jim Parker, CEO of Haywire Electricians.”

Charlie laughed – quick, surprised, partially out of obligation. “Wire. Electricians. Got it.”

“It was funny the first time I heard it, too,” Amy told him, still staring at her screen but raising an eyebrow.

“I bet you have to say it a thousand times a day. It must be annoying to get the same response.”

“You have no idea,” she mumbled.

Charlie pulled a thick stack of papers out of his messenger bag and started rifling through them, quickly reading through certain lines. Amy glanced up at him over her phone, then quickly looked away.

“Well, that’s good,” Charlie finally acknowledged, absentmindedly. “Good for you.”

Amy let out a short, mirthless laugh. “Hardly where I’d wanted to be by twenty-four, but that’s what life handed me.”

Charlie looked up over his papers. “Hey, when life hands you lemons…”

“Make lemonade while looking for champagne.”

Charlie’s brow furrowed, but he smiled nevertheless.

They went back to their respective tasks, halfheartedly working, both glancing up at the elevator every now and then.

“How long do you think we’ll be here?” Charlie asked.

Amy sighed and took a sip of her coffee. “I have no idea. I’ve never been stuck on an elevator before, either. Maybe ten minutes? Maybe an hour? Who knows.”

“It’s always ten hours in books,” Charlie mentioned. He flipped a page and started scanning it. “The characters start sharing ridiculous secrets with one another and it’s always cliché and stupidly pointless.”

Amy smirked. “Read a lot?”

Charlie frowned a little, peering closer at his paper. “Tons.” He looked up at her and smiled, almost embarrassed. “I’m a writer; I’ve gotta read everything.”

“Interesting,” Amy replied, her tone saying otherwise.

“I’m trying to get my novel published right now, actually.”

“First?”
“And only, if it takes this long with all of them. Abbot & Chadwick – fourth floor, the reason I came – is the ninth publisher I’ve visited about it.”

“You’ve visited nine publishers?” Amy asked, finally seeming to be interested.

“So far,” Charlie sighed, lining up the edges of his papers. “I’m so afraid I’m gonna have to put it on the back burner while I start my next one.”

“Can’t you submit a manuscript online or through the mail or something?” Amy asked, confused and a little annoyed at his apparent stupidity.

“Oh, yeah – I’ve done that, too. Definitely. I was just hoping a personal visit would give me a better chance.” He pursed his lips and glared at his stack of papers. “Obviously it hasn’t.”

Amy watched him for a moment, her face softening. “Hey, nine publishers isn’t bad. I heard J.K. Rowling got turned down by twelve publishers before somebody finally agreed to publish Harry Potter.”
“Really?” Charlie asked, looking up, his face hopeful.

“You’re almost there.” She watched him for another moment, then quickly added, “And, hey, if this one doesn’t work out, I know a friend of a friend who works at Grimaldi House. No promises, but I might be able to pull a few strings and get him to look at it for you.”

Charlie’s face lit up and he inhaled sharply. “Could you?” he asked, traces of a smile on his lips. “That’d be fantastic!”
“No promises, remember?”

“Got it. Thank you – thank you so much.” He started rifling through his bag again, finally pulling out a receipt and a pen. He wrote down his information, then handed it to Amy with a smile. She traded it for a business card.

Charlie looked at the card for a moment, then put it in a small zippered pocked in his messenger bag, saying to Amy with a grin, “I really appreciate this.”

“You’re welcome,” she replied, seeming to mean it. She went back to her phone, then looked back up at him, faltered, and then said, “Let me know what happens today. I mean, if you want to. You don’t have to. If you don’t want to.”

Charlie smiled at Amy, softly, as if his entire impression of her – all ten minutes that he’d known her – had changed in that instant. “No, I will. I definitely will. Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

Charlie went back to his papers, but Amy continued looking at him.

“What’s your book about?” she finally asked.

“It’s a young adult novel about a kinda dark subject: The main character’s friend commits suicide and the main character has to figure out how to move on and keep living,” he rattled off, not looking up from his paper, as if he’d said it a million times before.

Amy’s jaw went slack and her lips parted. Her eyes glazed over a little and she didn’t say anything for a minute. When she eventually did, it was hushed and reluctant. “Really. That’s, um, interesting. Does she… or he… move on?”

Charlie looked up at her with a sly grin, not noticing how her countenance had changed. “Spoilers, but yes. She gets really depressed and hits a really low point, but finds hope through another friend.”

Amy looked relieved. “Good.”

Charlie smiled and looked back down at his stack of papers – which, now Amy realized, was obviously his manuscript. It was massive. “Yeah,” he replied.

“So… why suicide?” Amy asked after a moment. “Couldn’t you have picked a happier subject? The world’s pretty dark as it is, so I doubt it needs more dark material… right?”

Charlie leaned back against the wall, intertwining his fingers together behind his head, thinking for a moment before he replied. “Well. Yeah… Fair point. But I feel like people learn more through the hard things than happy things. Right?”

Amy nodded, so Charlie went on.

“I mean, you never hear about how someone learned about the value of time and how to spend it wisely after they get engaged, right? Not that it hasn’t happened, though. It’s just, nine times out of ten, it’s the hard stuff that teaches us lessons. Sucks, but it’s true. Plus, I’ve got a personal connection with it, so….”

“It?”

“Suicide.”
“Oh.” Amy frowned, taken aback. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. It’s been a while, so I’m okay with talking about it. Finally.” He put his hands together in his lap, staring at his thumbs as he rubbed them together. “It was my mom.”

Amy barely contained a gasp. Her shoulders fell. “I’m so sorry. That.. that must have been really hard.”

Charlie didn’t reply for a moment. He raised his eyebrows and took a deep breath before admitting, “It was. Harder than anyone ever thinks. And I want to show people that, if I can,” he quietly added, shrugging with one shoulder.

“Show them what?”

Charlie looked her in the eye. “That suicide always kills more than one person. It sucks that – so often – the space a person fills isn’t really felt ’til they’re gone – and when they’re gone, they’re gone, and people can’t tell them how much they miss them or stop it from happening or…”

Amy averted her eyes. She swallowed before replying. “I’m sorry, Charlie.”

For a moment, total silence fell.

Charlie continued rubbing his thumbs together.

Amy massaged her temples.

The only sounds were the occasional buzz of Amy’s phone, which she ignored, and the soft murmur of the people in the building, which they both listened to.

Charlie cleared his throat. “I once heard someone say that you should always tell people how important they are to you,” he softly said. “Not because they may be gone tomorrow, but because it’s worth saying.” He took a breath before continuing. “Well, my mom was gone before I thought she would be, and I didn’t say I loved her enough.”

Amy didn’t say anything; she just watched him.

“It took me years to figure out why my mom killed herself… and then it took me even longer to figure out how to move on.” He stopped, looked Amy square in the eye, and gave her a bittersweet smile. “Anyway, I figured that since I’ve finally felt happy again after so many years of thinking I never would, I’d better share whatever small insights I can.”
Amy listened, but didn’t nod or smile. She simply said, “I’m sure your book is wonderful. And I know it’ll help a lot of people.”

“I hope so – I mean it’d better,” Charlie replied, laughing a little. “God knows I’ve spent years trying to get it into their hands.”

Now Amy smiled, almost as if she’d been resisting it.

Charlie smiled back, then took a deep breath, stretching. “Anyway. Sorry about that. I didn’t intend for the conversation to take such a depressing turn.”

“It’s okay,” Amy told him. “I asked.”

“You did,” Charlie replied, his eyes twinkling.

They went back to their respective tasks after a moment, yet neither were interested in what they were doing anymore. Amy sipped her lukewarm coffee, staring at her phone but not doing anything. Charlie read the same paragraph three times before looking around the elevator.

“Your company’s on the top floor?” Charlie quickly asked, as if it’d just occurred to him as he looked at the floor buttons they’d pressed. “You must have the best view of the city from your desk.”

“The CEO has the best view,” she sighed, putting down her phone. “My desk is right outside of his room. In a boring, windowless hallway.”

“That’s too bad.” Charlie tapped his manuscript, staring at the floor. “Maybe you’ll have that room someday, though – right?”

“I don’t think so…”

Charlie looked up at her, his brow furrowed. “Why not?”

Amy sighed. “Honestly? I hate my job. I hate filtering complaints and hearing everybody laugh about our stupid company name – which, by the way, Jim came up with when he was drunk.” Her grip on her coffee cup tightened as she went on. “I hate sitting at a desk all day and getting home to an empty apartment. I hate the dull monotony, I hate the routine, and I hate the fact that nothing changes and that nothing ever will change. And I hate not being able to do what I want with my own freaking life.”

Charlie didn’t reply for a moment, finally saying in a consoling tone, “I’m sorry, Amy.”

Amy shook her head, looking away. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have vented like that. I’m just so… so…” She didn’t finish, merely shaking her head again.

“I just vented on you,” Charlie reminded her with a soft laugh, “so I think it’s okay. Now we’re even.”
Amy turned to him, the corner of her mouth tugging up a little. “Okay.”

Charlie cocked his head, watched her for a moment, then said, “So what do you want to do?”

“What?”
“The age-old question: If you had unlimited time and unlimited resources, what would you do?”

“I want to climb Mount Everest,” Amy replied, not hesitating a second. A hopeful look appeared over her face as she spoke her dreams into existence. “I want to see Niagara Falls. I want to go to London and Edinburgh and Paris and Rome and Venice and… I want to see the world, Charlie.” She stopped, frowning. “And all I’m seeing is my desk. Every day.”

“Then quit,” Charlie casually said, shrugging.

Amy’s shoulders dropped. She stared at the floor again. “I can’t. I need the money.”

“Do you have any savings? Can’t you leave for a while, see stuff, come back, earn money, repeat?”

Amy shook her head, still avoiding his gaze. “I used it all to pay off my student loans. I probably only have a few thousand dollars saved – and I’m going to need a new car pretty soon.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Charlie was silent for a moment, then offered, “What about backpacking?”
“What?” Amy asked, finally looking at him again.

“Backpacking. You could save tons of money. Ever seen Gilmore Girls?”

Amy’s entire face brightened. “Yes! I used to love that show!”
“It’s my guilty pleasure,” Charlie told her in a hushed, conspiratorial tone. “You can’t tell anybody, okay?”

Amy chuckled. “I won’t.”

“I always wanted to watch episodes of Rory and Lorelai backpacking across Europe – you know, between seasons three and four? I don’t think the budget was big enough, though.”

“I wanted to see that, too!”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Amy and Charlie smiled at each other.

After a moment, a bemused expression came over Charlie’s face. “Do you believe in fate?” he asked.

“You think we’re in a Hallmark film, too?” she replied, giggling a little.

Charlie laughed. Amy watched.

After a second, Amy licked her lips, took a breath, and said, “I… I lied to you.”

“When?” Charlie asked, tilting his head.

“Haywire is on the fifth floor.”

Charlie’s brow furrowed and the smile faded from his face. He glanced at the floor buttons, then back to Amy. “Then… why were you going to the top floor?”

Amy swallowed.

“I was going to jump.”

Charlie stared at her, his expression half pained, half shocked.

“Jump?” he whispered.

“From the roof.”

His face paled. “What?!

“I can’t do this anymore,” Amy told him, covering her face with her hands.

No,” Charlie firmly said. He leaned forward and pulled her hands away, looking her straight in the eye as he said, “You can. I know you can.”

“I can’t,” she halfheartedly protested. Tears started to well in her eyes.

Charlie shook his head and inched forward. “Remember what I said earlier, about my mom? We couldn’t tell her how much we missed her after she killed herself. Imagine all the people in your life who won’t be able to tell you that if you do this.”

“There’s nobody like that for me!” Amy angrily objected, sobbing. “You don’t understand. I have no friends. I’m so pathetic – I’ve been in this city for two years and I still haven’t made any friends.”

“Well, now you have one,” Charlie told her, not hesitating for a moment. “You hear me? Even if you’re right and there’s nobody there for you, you’ve got me. Okay?”

Amy sputtered and bowed her head, unable to speak. Charlie just watched her, stroking her hands with his thumbs. He opened his mouth to speak several times, but closed it before saying anything.

After a while, Amy looked up, tears still streaming down her cheeks. Charlie let go of one of her hands and she rubbed the tears away. “Charlie, I-”

“Fire department!” a voice interrupted, shouting from what seemed like far away. “We’re here and we’re going to get you out. Are you okay?”

Charlie leaned back and yelled, “Yeah, we’re fine!”

“Okay, good. The elevator’s stuck between floors so we’re going to pry the door open and then let you know what you need to do. We’re going to get you out of there – just stay calm, okay?”

“Got it!” Charlie replied. Then, he leaned forward again, looking at Amy with sympathetic eyes. “Are you okay?”

“I…” Her voice faltered, so she cleared her throat before starting again. “I think so. I will be. I hope.”
Charlie nodded, looking down at her hand in his. He swallowed and blinked back tears of his own. He turned his attention back to Amy after a moment. “I’m not going to leave you until you’re through this, okay? Let’s go get lunch or coffee or something.”

“But my job…” Amy weakly protested.

“Call in sick,” Charlie suggested.

Amy reluctantly smiled a little, then looked up at him. “What about your manuscript?”

“This is more important.”

A sob escaped. Amy bit her lip and lunged forward, wrapping her arms around Charlie. “Thank you,” she whispered, crying.

Charlie smiled, hugged her back, and sniffed. “I’m glad I got stuck in this elevator with you today, Amy.”
“Me, too.”

A moment later, they broke apart, both slightly embarrassed but glad. Amy found a tissue in her purse and blew her nose. Charlie pretended not to need one.

“I never answered your question,” Amy told him just as they started to hear the firemen prying the door open.

“Oh?” Charlie said, shoving his manuscript into his messenger bag.

“I do believe in fate. At least, now I do.”

Charlie smiled at her.

“I do, too.”