Author Katie Mettner

An Excerpt from Meatloaf and Mistletoe


SHEP

I approached Ivy’s door and with both hands full, I had to figure out a way to knock. I swung the six pack in my hand against the wooden door and waited. Light footfalls approached the door and then it flew open. Ivy grinned as she lounged in the doorway.

“Finally rid yourself of The Veginator?” she asked.

I gave her my scrunched up ‘aren’t you funny?’ face. “No thanks to you. This box is hot,” I said, the grease starting to burn my fingers. She stepped aside so I could set the pizza on the table in her tiny, 1970’s dated kitchen. I couldn’t make fun of her; I don’t even have a kitchen. I dropped the six-pack too and inhaled deeply. “Do I smell blackberry pie?”

She made the same nasal sounds. “Do I smell pepperoni, pickles, and pineapple?”

We did a high five as she passed me on her way to the kitchen to get plates and napkins. I cracked open two beers and when she returned, we flipped open the box and stared down at the cheesy pie covered in green pickles and yellow pineapple.

“Do you think they wonder about us?” she asked, helping herself to a piece.

“I don’t imagine too many other people order this combination,” I admitted. “I’m sure they’re used to it by now, though. After all, we’ve been ordering it for fifteen years.”

She took a bite and the cheese stretched out until it finally broke, landing smack dab on her chin. She laughed and shoved it in her mouth, wiping of her chin with a napkin. I had a sudden urge to lick the spicy sauce off for her. I shook my head. Where in the hell did that thought come from? I took a long swig of the beer to clear my head. I must be looney from the date this afternoon.

“Tell me about Super Duper Veggie Pooper,” she teased from her side of the table. “Did you hit it off? Was it love at first sight?”

I snorted at the name and almost choked on the piece of pizza in my mouth. “Hardly. All she talked about was her holistic healing crystals and how you don’t need modern day medicine if you use nutrition and ancient techniques to solve common ailments.” She laughed around her beer can and I shook my finger at her. “You don’t get to laugh. Your mother is dead.”

She set the can down. “Thank God for small favors, at least she can’t set me up with guys she thinks would be perfect husband material. On the other hand, my mother is dead.”

I patted her leg and rolled my eyes a little. “Your mother wasn’t exactly up for Mother of the Year any of your sixteen years she was around for.”

She shrugged as she finished her pizza. “I know, but sometimes I have dreams where she was like a normal mom and did normal mom things.” She grabbed her can and took a drink, her eyes telling me she was thinking about the past, which wasn’t a place she should be visiting.

“I think you should get the Dating Disaster Book. I need to make an entry,” I said to change the subject.

She set the can down and sat up straight. “You mean it was worthy of the book?”

“Oh yeah,” I answered, my head nodding.

She stood exuberantly and rubbed her hands together. “It’s been months since we’ve had an entry. I’ll get it,” she exclaimed, jogging to her bedroom.

The Dating Disaster Book was an old notebook from high school, English Lit I believe. We now use it to write the stories of our worst dates, so they may live in infamy. Between the two of us we’ve used half the notebook since graduation and in seven years, we’ve kissed way too many frogs. Lately, I’ve lost interest in dating altogether. I’d rather share a pizza and a beer with Ivy than suffer through another interminable date with someone not even close to my type. Ivy is my best friend, my confidant, and my go to girl for fun. A lot of the time I wish I could just date Ivy.

“Got it!” she yelled as she ran back into the room. Her hair bounced around her head in a beautiful display of cocoa curls. I couldn’t help but compare her to the woman I spent time with earlier today. Ivy wore her usual leggings and tiny t-shirt, which did nothing to hide her curves. Her face was scrubbed clean of makeup, because she never wore any, but she was still far and away more beautiful than anyone I’d yet to date, including The Veginator.

I shook my head to clear those thoughts while she grabbed a pen and sat down on the couch, motioning me over. “Come on, bring the beer.”

I stood reluctantly. “I thought we were having pie.”

She rolled her eyes. “Later, we gotta take care of the book first. This is exciting.”

“Sure, exciting for you,” I muttered, handing her a new beer. “You didn’t have to suffer through it when someone forgot to have your back and end the torture.”

She shrugged. “I got busy.”

“Busy doing what? Lounging in the back with your feet up?” I asked, my tone snarky. Why was I being argumentative? My chin hit my chest and I sighed. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be taking this out on you. You’re not required to save me from the terrible dates my mom sets me up on. I have ten tons of things on my mind and the girl of the day didn’t help matters.”

“Join the club,” she mumbled before she flipped the book open. “Now, where should we start?”

I tapped my chin. “How about with how she finished off two orders of garlic bread and almost knocked me backward when we got in the car, or how she lectured me the entire time I ate my meatloaf about how the poor animal had to suffer for my satisfaction.”

She whistled long and low. “You dodged a bullet with this one,” she said, her laughter spilling out unabashed. I’ve always loved the sound of her laughter ever since we were little kids. She giggled, but it spilled out the way natural, more refined laughter does.

I sat next to her as her hand scrawled words across the paper in curves and lines. I didn’t pay attention to what she was writing as much as I paid attention to her in a way I’ve denied myself the pleasure of for years. She has always just been Ivy, the girl I used to hunt frogs and ride bikes with all summer long. Then there were our movies, video games, book club, and band lessons phases. We’ve spent our lives together, each of us riding down the road next to each other, always assuming at the end of the road was someone we would fall in love with, and two would become four. Sitting next to her tonight, I can’t deny any longer I want to keep it at two. I remember the exact moment I started to feel something for Ivy that wasn’t simple friendship. I was fourteen and we were dancing in my living room to a song I can’t even remember. I grabbed her hand and spun her around in a twirl. As I watched her hair fly out behind her I was overwhelmed with a feeling I couldn’t explain. Something exploded in my chest and it left me breathless, not unusual for me, until I realized I wasn’t having an asthma attack. I was in love with the girl. I spent the next three years hoping by taking care of her and showing her how much I loved her, she would trust me enough to admit the same. Then her mother died and everything changed for Ivy. I shoved those feelings of love into a crevice of my heart and tied them there, because what she needed wasn’t a boyfriend, but a best friend. Now, my heart seems to have untied those strings and let the feelings out again. The problem is, I’m an extremely logical person. My life is ruled by logic, not emotions. Ivy isn’t the logical choice, even if she might be my heart’s choice.

She handed me the notebook and pen and picked up her beer. “Your turn. I wrote it up to when I brought your food to the table, you finish the rest.”

I started to write, forcing my mind to remember a person I had already forgotten. She left such a negative impression on me I couldn’t remember her name. Ivy plopped back down next to me with her beer and I leaned back, letting my head flop to the right. “I can’t remember her name. It has only been two hours since I dropped her off and poof, it’s gone,” I said making a poofing motion with my hands.

She shook her head at me, attempting to appear disappointed. “You take a girl out and show her a good time, but can’t remember her name. I’m ashamed of you, Shepard James Lund.”

I stuck my tongue out at her. “Okay, Miss Smarty Pants. What was her name then?”

She gave me the palms up. “You never introduced us.”

I did a face palm and sighed. “Wow, I almost feel bad about how this whole thing went down.”

“Almost?” she laughed. “But not enough to ask her out again?”

“Good lord, no,” I laughed, and almost choked on my beer. “No, no, no. You should see what I sent my mom when I got home!”

I dug my phone out of my pocket and opened my texts, handing her the phone.

“Mom, if you ever set me up on a date again, I’m disowning you,” she read aloud. “Mannnnnnnnnnnn, she’s gonna be mad,” she sang, her voice lilting on the last word. She scrolled up and pointed. “Problem solved. Her name was Wynette.”

I snatched the phone from her. “God help me, now I remember. She corrected me when I said it wrong.” I rolled my eyes and shoved my phone back in my pocket. “Personally, I think Mom is doing this on purpose. She’s trying to drive me crazy.”

“She’s trying to get grandchildren,” she said laughing.

I shoved her in the shoulder until she fell over on the couch. “Hush your mouth. I have other things to do first.” I started writing again and when I finished, I began the ceremony. I slammed the book closed, and slapped my hand down on the top, her hand slapped on top of mine and we began to chant. “The words are written; the date is done. If we see them again, they shall be shunned.”

I tossed the notebook to the floor and drank the end of my beer in one swallow. “Glad that’s over.”

She laughed uncomfortably, and I wondered what was going on with her tonight. She hadn’t been herself since I got here. Heck, she hadn’t been herself at work today either. She never forgets to call and get me out of a bad date. “No kidding. I couldn’t stay friends with you if you married her. I would kill her and then where would we be?”

“Sharing a jail cell because I would help you kill her. Talk about high maintenance and a one-track mind. Can we have pie now?”

“Speaking of one track minds,” she said, her tongue sticking out at me again.

This time I grabbed it and held it, laughing when her eyes were the size of saucers and she tried to wrestle her tongue from my fingers. I finally let go and she wiped her lips on her shirt. “Dude, not cool.”

“Don’t stick your tongue out at me then,” I said, sticking my tongue out and jumping away before she could reach me.

She chased me around the apartment and I squealed the way she used to when she ran away from me, jumping over furniture and doing fake outs until I was too tired to keep up. I grabbed her and held her tight to me, dumping her on the couch. “Stay!” I yelled, bending over at the waist to catch my breath, which wasn’t going to happen by myself. I grabbed my inhaler and puffed on it a couple times like an addict. Once I could draw air in, I grinned at her. “Unless you’re getting pie.”

She laughed again and I loved it. I didn’t even care when she passed by me and knocked me to the floor. I rolled to my butt and stared at her in the open concept kitchen as she scooped out pie into two bowls.

“Ice cream or whipped cream?” she called across the room.

“Whipped cream, duh,” I answered, pushing myself up and accepting a bowl when she returned. “Thanks, Ivy. What did I do to deserve blackberry pie?”

She sat and shoveled some in before she answered. She chewed and her eyes rolled around in her head until I couldn’t keep from laughing. She has always been a big fan of food. She must have a high metabolism, or else her job as a waitress keeps her from putting on any pounds. She’s exactly the same size she was in high school.

“It’s your sorry your date sucked pie. I was going to bring it over, but you showed up here first.”

I was chewing and flavors were exploding in my mouth. I moaned, savoring the sweet berries and buttery crust on my tongue. “Girl, you outdid yourself this time.”

She rolled her eyes upward again. “You say that every time I make you a pie. It’s like you forget in between how good they are.”

I pointed my fork at her. “Maybe you should make me one once a week so I don’t forget.” I wagged my eyebrows at her and she grinned, shaking her head.

“What’s on your mind? Must be something big if you couldn’t remember your date’s name.” I didn’t answer her question, instead I finished my pie, scraping the bottom with my fork until she took it away from me. “Feel free to lick it out,” she teased. She had finished hers and was sitting Indian style on the couch now, her soulful eyes searching mine. “What are you hiding, Shep?” she asked, her voice low and her tone curious, but still, well, sexy...







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