Chroma

Chroma

Author's Forward

Chroma is meant to be a new interpretation of a rather badly written popular novel series. I began reading them at the behest of a number of my close female friends and just about lost my mind trying to make it to the "good parts"... so instead of just bitching about the issue, well I decided to attempt to rewrite the basics of the story with what I'd see as more plausible characters and actions.

I intend to follow the original style of the source insomuch as it will have the same basic themes, but I will not slavishly try and recreate the bad parts. (I'm sure I'll introduce a number of my own anyway.)

This is also meant as a writing experiment for me. This is not a storytelling style that I'm comfortable with as a writer (Though I've read a great number of novels and stories in this vein actually.) Also I am going to write this with a female protagonist point of view.. which is inherently alien to me as well.. I'm not female or particularly feminine I've been told.

Without Further delay.. I present Chroma.

Table of Contents

Prologue
Chapter 1

Prologue 

I've never had the best time preparing for major events in my life and this wasn't anything as momentous as I imagined my wedding day or the day I won my Pulitzer would be. I was a girl about to graduate and enter the real world soon, a once in a lifetime interview with a well-known multimillionaire playboy industrialist probably ranked pretty close though.I couldn't have prepared for the interview much worse.

Late to wake up, I discovered my cat Fritzie had decided to take his fifth daily nap snuggled on my outfit. The outfit that I'd set out in an attempt to circumvent the very thing this whole catalyst set in motion. Fritz yawned as I pushed him off the clothes and threw his usual "whatever" look back at me.
The hose I'd bought just for this interview had developed a slight snag. That, fortunately, was fixable provided I wasn't asked to remove my shoes during this whole event. Then the water in my "super efficient" one bedroom apartment on campus chose this morning to implement the "extreme temperature alternation" approach to providing shower water. 
Ice cold snow followed by skin melting hot liquid magma, followed by my groans and screeches and yet more dis-tempered precipitation from the aging shower head. I'd managed to drag myself out of the tub with what my dad had always affectionately called a 'Navy shower':  In, on, scrub, rinse, and out. Even still, half my body was numb from the cold while the other screamed out in burning pain. This was definitely not the regimen anyone recommended before you're supposed to look your best.

I suppose your wondering at this point how things might get worse? Well, let me tell you a bit then about my love for gear and gadgets. I realize this is more tell than show but I've always been a shortcut storyteller.

In short, I though I might want to love them - if things could feel love or be loved - but gadgets certainly didn't know how to show me that love back. Case in point? My tablet. It was one of the best investments I'd made in my three and a half years of school. A glossy, scratch resistant screen. Ample memory, a blazing fast wireless connection.

Without the tablet I'd be lost. It held my books, my emails, my articles and my embryonic great American novel.

So, well lets just say my tablet was the best confidant I had and knew secrets about people and things in my life that I wasn't sure I'd put there. The damn thing felt almost like a magic book. It had survived drops, falls, scrapes and had even saved me from one or two incredibly bad dates since I'd owned it.

Once after a long night at the editorial bullpen putting the next edition to bed, I'd indulged too much at one of the trendy bars and apparently recorded my sob story of being the ideal, driven, focused, all together girl who knew what she wanted in life... and who sobbingly had admitted to her best friend the tablet via webcam that she'd wanted a man at that moment and found none of those around anything but lacking. Oh, and then the tablet, or so I prefer to assume, had shared that emotional confession with its electronic friends - the public -  via Facebook.

We didn't speak much for a few days afterward, but eventually my bestie and I made up and went back to writing stories about student counsel members, new zoning laws relating to bar permits and a computer security breech or two.

This however, was a day I couldn't imagine my tablet failing me so, I repaired the runny hose, lotioned up my burns and let the feeling return to my numb skin. Again I needed to  brush Fritzie from my nice formal gray skirt and "stunning" blue blouse. Then I headed out the door, pausing momentarily to slip on the most awesomely practical kitten heels I owned and swooped up my neoprene tablet case.

I thought I was ready to take on the world.
Later, I'd realize just how the world had chosen to take me on.

Chapter 1  

Driving from my little apartment just north of campus is usually somewhat of an adventure to me. My trusty car was a hand me down college "blue-plate special" of a beast I'd  bought with the proceeds of my one night spent gambling on an Indiana riverboat casino. It really wasn't much to look at. It looked like a poor college student car, and though I'd never felt embarrassed by it before, that day as I opened the squeaking driver's door and slumped ever so gracefully into the stained and worn cloth seat of my 1984 Steel Gray Honda Civic Hatchback, I felt a bit ashamed. It was a momentary thing, but it happened and I felt a bit sorry a second later as I put my feet on the floor and pulled the door closed.

I'd tossed my tablet on the passenger seat. I'd never been a big purse woman and I preffered the tablet case which carried my ID, my ATM card and my two well-taxed credit cards in a pocket. My keys were clipped there as well using some cute d-rings I'd seen on a daring visit to Gander Mountain with a former almost-boyfriend one night.

I unclipped the D-ring and pushed the key into the ignition. My classic companion purred and sputtered to life, despite her age, and as I slipped the clutch and shifted her into reverse I half expected to hear a chitty-chitty-bang-bang backfire. Instead she continued to purr, in a soft rumble that'd make old Fritzie jealous.

The publicist I'd spoken with to set up today's interview had arranged for my subject to meet me at one of the nearby restaurants just south of campus in the artsy Short North District. I'd lived in Columbus for awhile at this point but I'd never heard of the place she'd directed me.

'Salvatore's' she'd called it.

When I'd pressed her for directions she offered me a slight chuckle and asked if I knew the way to Skully's near 5th. That place I knew very well, I'd listened to some great bands there and wouldn't have any trouble at all finding it.

The trip from my place to Skully's was fairly quick at this time of the morning. The bustle of the commuters heading into downtown for work had passed. Life in the Short North slept lazily until about noon on most days. The best part of the whole trip was my luck finding a great spot right out front.

I turned off the Civic and caught myself in the tilt of my rear view mirror. Before leaping out into oncoming traffic, I decided to check of my appearance.

Hair looking kept and controlled for a change? Check!
Blouse not wrinkled or showing too much? Check!
Skirt pushed neatly down to mid calf and smooth? Check!

I never spent much time on makeup, but for a change I'd decided to go with formal lipstick, a subtle eye shadow to soften my sometimes garish greens and a pencil thin application of dark, but not scary goth, eyeliner. I wasn't going to set anyone aflame with this warpaint, but I did appreciate the few looks I got just pulling myself out of the Civic.

Then again, maybe they were just admiring the girl driving the ancient Honda, marveling at its ability to run and still look out of place among the modern smooth lines of its surrounding vehicles. How many of the Acura-driving ponces could claim to own, not lease, their little piece of heaven? The Civic was all mine.

Looking around there were the usual wanderers sauntering about. Too many bad dates with zombie obsessed man-children had unfortunately left me with enough familiarity with the whole subculture to immediately see unfortunately homeless people as potential plague carriers.

I hated that.

Luckily, there was a well dressed and very well grown man standing on the sidewalk in front of Skully's holding up a white laminate sign with my name on it. I felt like I'd just walked into some TV episode filmed as the main character arrived at a foreign airport.

Did people really do things like that in the real world? Apparently, they did.

"I'm Ms. Daughtry." I said, raising my arm and waiving as I walked around the Civic and up on the curb. I'm Ms. Daughtry? My inner voice cried out at the awkwardness it was experiencing. The man smiled and nodded his head slightly before dropping the side of the sign and offering me his hand to shake.

"Miss, I'm Jack Sloan, Mr. Kendrick's personal assistant. He asked me to meet you here and show you to the location where he'd prefer to conduct the interview." Jack wasn't intimidating just because of his size, I mean he was a big guy - Muscles on muscles, close groomed haircut and a well fitted, flattering charcoal suit over a custom white and blue striped shirt. He was intimidating because despite towering over me he seemed so calm and together. This was not something I was used to seeing at Skully's... or well pretty much anywhere I'd been.

I took his hand and he smiled and pressed it softly. "If you'll follow me please."  He turned and began walking directly away from the diner back into the nearby parking lot right past the big comfy concrete couch sculpture. I'd never noticed the sculpture before. All those nights stumbling out, half deaf and you'd have thought I would have noticed such a functional piece of public art.

I followed Jack down the freshly paved parking lot, past all the leased cars and hollow leased status symbols until he walked us up to a small silver BMW convertible. I noticed the breeze at that point because the roof was down and inside sat the man I'd come here to meet. Christian Kendrick.

Mr. Kendrick was fairly stone faced when I approached. Cold and detached. I could only barely hear the quick exchange between he and Jack as my escort nodded and seemed to disappear before I'd caught where he went.

"Ms. Daughtry." He wasn't questioning. He was observing, stating something he knew.

It was an odd sort of greeting, one you expect from world conquering Bond villains when they think they have him at a disadvantage, this mental image brought to me thanks to my dad's love for spy movies and exploding cars.

"Mr. Kendrick?" I wasn't about to be taken by surprise. "Are we conducting the interview out here in the parking lot?"

"I thought we could take a drive. I don't get to Columbus often, and you, being native" he paused oddly for a second to add emphasis in that statement, "can probably help me understand it's charm. Please take a seat." He motioned for me to take the passenger seat and so I smartly, since I wanted him to think I was in total control of this suddenly unorthodox meeting, walked over, opened the door and took my place. He put his hands on the wheel.

So, I took a second to sum him up while he started the car. He didn't look too different from his glossy press photos. Young but somewhat stern looking actually. He was in good shape, had an athletic build from what I could tell and he was immaculately shaved. His light gray suit was made of a fabric with a thread count so high it looked gossamer in the right light, and it fit like a sheet of silk grown into a perfect layer atop his tight, starched collared shirt and power red tie.

I could see his cuff links poking out from the sleeve of his jacket. Embossed dice were his trademark, a symbol that showed up in every one of his many company logos in some form. Five and Two showing, a "come out" seven or "natural" roll. One trip to the Indiana riverboat casino had taught me something useful after all.

"I'd like to find someplace fairly quiet and maybe a little scenic to conduct our talk. Though if you don't mind my being forward, the less public the better." I thought I caught a slight smirk creep into his stony expression.

"Public is what I'd prefer Mr. Kendrick.  I think I know a place we can go that will make us both feel safe." Something changed in his expression, but I wasn't sure what. "Take a Left out of the parking lot and head north on High."

We didn't talk for the next ten minutes except as I navigated him off of campus and back west toward the Olentangy River. We passed through Arlington and turned north along scenic RIverside Drive until I guided us into a parking lot near Griggs Reservoir. Griggs was a pretty empty park during the work day. It was close enough to campus and people often parked in their cars or at stone benches overlooking the dam during the lunch hour. I felt a bit better about that.

"An interesting location." Mr. Kendrick remarked as he killed the engine and moved to step out of the car.

"I see a walking path, would you mind if we walked while we conduct this interview?" I nodded and reached down for my tablet. The tablet that I'd completely forgotten about and which I now realized was sitting securely on the faded gray fabric of the Civic's passenger seat.

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