The Romantic Novelist
by Chris Dean
A journalist with The Sun enjoyed Vincent’s novel and visited him on the island east of Nantucket for an interview. It was a long cold drive from Boston and he prepared Stroganoff and an old family recipe: butter rum punch. The fact that Ruth Sawyer was a diva who filled the old mansion with the colors of raven-red hair and deep green eyes had nothing to do with his arrangements. He had not known how lovely she was beforehand, had he? But once she was curled up on one corner of the long Breckenridge sipping her toddy, he proceeded as if they were on a date. Bitterly celibate for five years now, Vincent Stanhope desperately needed to make a connection. Boston wasn’t that far, after all, and they could easily become friends. She could come swimming next summer. Why, she could spend the entire week.
Ruthie assumed Stanhope was gay. He was exceptionally thin, cooked better than her mother, and he dressed like the Count of Monte Cristo. He lived in that ancient antebellum monstrosity, presumably the last in a long line of gay Stanhopes.
Vincent posed in front of the French doors and showed off his dazzling smile, feeling quite dapper in his Victorian waistcoat. He was at the top of his game and he needed to be. A woman this beautiful would never settle for less than the best. And Vincent was a paragon of refined deportment. He intended to seduce her, with proper manners and relentless good intentions. In the next few weeks she would come to think of him as more than just a friend.
He offered her a second drink, not caring if she took it. One was quite enough for his purposes. He asked her about her life, showing sincere interest. She mentioned her mother was still alive. She didn’t go home much any more. Home was in Maine.
She turned on small tape recorder, saying, “I hope you don’t mind.” He didn’t know if he did or if he didn’t. “I understand you once lived in Boston.”
“Oh, that mess. For ten years. I hated working there, really I did.” He wondered if she could tell he was flirting.
“That was just after Columbia University?”
“I won’t talk about it one moment longer. My early years. So much has changed in my life. When I graduated I was considered quite eligible—in my circle. But I never married. Yet, I suppose. You have to allow that there’s always a chance.” Oh yes, he was certainly flirting now. She had to know.
Ruthie soaked it all in. Was Stanhope implying that he and his boyfriend were thinking about getting married? Curious, she asked, “But you live here alone?”
Vincent smiled enigmatically. “For the present.” There, he’d done it. Now she knew he was available and looking. And she was clearly interested in his situation.
Ruthie was floored. Apparently the boyfriend was moving in and they were getting married. And there in Stanhope’s home state of Rhode Island the marriage would not be legally recognized. It would make a great twist for the article. She baited him. “You must have someone special in mind.” Get him talking about the boyfriend and their relationship. On tape! Oh, this was gold.
Mouth dry, he watched her bewitching eyes as he said, “I’ve met someone quite recently.” She had to know he meant her.
He was taunting her with tidbits of information and he enjoyed it. Let him talk as long as he wanted. She had plenty of tape. “This is the one?”
“I think I’m falling in love for the very first time,” he said shyly. Vincent thought she appeared very pleased with his pronouncement of affection for her. She obviously loved him as well.
“Are you ready to set a date?”
She wanted him to set a date? For their nuptials! Vincent was astounded she was moving so fast. Moved to tears, he fell one knee and took her hand. “My darling,” he gushed. “Will you do me the honor of being my wife?”
Ruthie blinked. She stuttered a bit and got out, “Weren’t we just talking about your boyfriend?”
“I’m sorry. I thought you meant you had someone who was moving in. For some reason I thought— I’m sorry, if I jumped to the wrong conclusion. I asked if you had a date set for the wedding and you went—well, I’m not sure what that was.”
Vincent was mortified. “What do you mean? I thought you wanted us to set a date. You and I. I knew it was rushing things but you seemed so happy. But none of that is true, is it. I am such a fool.” He crawled to a chair and climbed into it.
“That was really a proposal?” Ruthie was touched. And amazed that he wasn’t really gay after all. Just a very thin man who cooked well. With an eccentric sartorial taste.
“I apologize,” he said stiffly. “Well, let’s get to it. Your article.”
“Let’s start over, shall we? I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot.”
“Thank you for that.” She really was quite gracious. Too bad he’d botched things. He’d never stand a chance with her now.
“And really? I’m flattered, a bit.” There, that should put him at ease.
Vincent felt a rush of excitement. Flattered, was she? How much more obvious could she get? She was simply playing hard-to-get. He liked this game and he was quite willing to flatter her until she broke down and admitted the truth. That she loved him too.
◊ ◊ ◊
Traveling throughout the American West, Chris Dean has worked as a delivery driver and a concert promoter. Currently Chris resides in the Des Moines area.
2 thoughts on “The Romantic Novelist”
This is terrific, such an amusing series of miscommunications. Kernals of truth in here that many folks will find relatable. Nice job!
Fluffy bit of humor about two very self-centered people hearing what they want to hear in each others words. Part of the humor resides in the rapidity with which the mutual misunderstanding occurs; the humor might be less farcical if their views developed more slowly. A couple of minor suggestions: inserting “for her” in the second sentence might help to avoid any confusion stemming from Ruth not being identified as a woman until the third sentence. And it might also help to keep it either Ruth or Ruthie throughout. Then at the end you might consider tweaking “…he’d botched things…” to “…he’d made such a fool of himself…” and change the question mark after “And really?” to a comma. Thanks for introducing us to these two beautiful people. AGB