Stayed up late last night and finished the draft of the story. It’s much too long, but otherwise I’m pretty satisfied with it. That took ten days. Now for the fun part of transcribing it and beginning to edit.
Here’s the part right after Mustapha turns off the video. Note that I’ve changed Andrea’s last name to Jellicoe, because I referr to secondary characters by their last names—instead of men by their last and women by their first, which is a habit many genre writers have—and since Jordan is (often) a man’s name, it was confusing.
Jellicoe kept her hands to her cheeks. “It’s not… it’s not it’s not it’s not–” She began to cry in great, heaving sobs. Diana passed her a napkin; Mustapha rubbed his temples. Guilty people cry just like the innocent do. Jellicoe went way above and beyond the usual, though; Mustapha had time to hit the can and give his face a long look in the mirror. Inconclusive.
At long last, Jellicoe stopped sobbing; then, after a moment’s silence, “He was alive. He… I dropped him off at his place yesterday, at about nine-thirty. I watched him go into his apartment. I texted a friend before I started driving home.”
She blew her nose, then continued, more composed. “He did come over; he was wearing that outfit when he was at my house. Look, I started the blog: I was mad, sometimes I lash out. He’s just… you have no idea what dating is like if you’re over thirty, especially if you have a kid.”
Diana laughed. “I do.”
“Yeah, but you look great. I’m… average.” She looked at Mustapha. “Supply and demand, is the problem. A guy like Taylor—Tyler—is outnumbered ten to one by women who want a boyfriend. There’s a whole set of posts about it, on the blog. Every metro area in the USA, datable women in their thirties and forties outnumber datable men, by big margins. Taylor has his pick of the litter: everything else is dick pics, porn addicts, married cheaters and losers.”
Mustapha said, “Why is that?”
“Mostly demographics. Read the blog: it’s a cliché to say that men want sex and women want relationships, but there’s a lot of that out there. So, last year, I came home from a night out with him, knew it was over, sat down and started writing about it. Tyler’s a player: he acts like he might be thinking about settling down, so you do whatever you can to convince them you’re the one. Then a new chick who’s just as hungry comes along—and Tyler doesn’t want commitment at all; he wants variety.”
Mustapha and Diana stayed silent, so she continued. “I was pissed. I copied his picture and blurred his face, and pretended to be him. Maybe should have thought about the hair. But it took off so quick, and I was kind of stuck. I write a thousand blog posts about being a woman in this world, and nobody cares; but one post as a man, and I’ve got ten thousand followers.”
“Go figure,” said Diana.
“Totally. I made bank pretending to be Taylor, explaining to unattractive men how they can have good-looking women with good jobs worship at their feet for the small price of a tiny amount of attention to her happiness. And their own soul, of course. And how can I refuse a book deal?”
Mustapha nodded. “So when Tyler shows up, saying he’s going to take it from you–”
Jellicoe wagged a finger. “No. He showed up and made me a better offer. He said he’d be Taylor, market it. We could do videos, self-help, that kind of thing. Sure, he had the threat, but honestly? Tyler as a business partner was way better than as a kind of boyfriend. I called my publisher, they thought it was great, we put our picture up on the web. We were number three in e-books yesterday.”
“But you’ll be higher once the news gets out. And you don’t have to share.”
“Yeah. Shit, this is not making me look good. All I can say is, we had long-term plans for milking this. He hated his day job as much as I hate mine. I should get a lawyer.”
Diana said, “Well, that’s your right. But that lawyer is going to tell you you have to answer when we ask you why you dropped him off at nine-thirty in the morning, and what you did until about noon.”
She blushed. “He came over last night. Night before last, I mean. We worked out a bunch of ideas, toasted the whole thing, one thing led to another. In the morning, he hid in the bedroom while I got my daughter ready for school; then, after I dropped him off at his house, I came home and went to bed.” At their looks, “Hey, commitment to relationships isn’t his strong point, but he knows how to please a woman.”
This part is still a little too long, but it establishes a few important things: 1) that Tyler may have been wrong about thinking Jellicoe was likely to murder him; 2) that the central issue here is structural imbalance in dating; 3) that Jellicoe is a bit of an opportunist; 4) that despite her protestations, she’s an ideal suspect with a crap alibi. So naturally, she didn’t do it.