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First, there’s only one office. Then, there’s only one bed. Then, there’s only one condom.

I’m over the moon when I land my first-ever writing job on a new TV show that’s like, da bomb. So what if my old boss twisted her son’s arm to get me the job?

I’m not so enthused when I have to share an office the size of a broom closet with a grumpy guy who ignores me. I don’t care if he’s totally fly. I’ve got enough on my plate trying to come up with high concept storylines and punchy dialogue for hormone-filled teenagers—the actors and the characters—while being hazed in the writers’ room.

Things begin to heat up between us on a work trip to the gorgeous coastal filming location for our show, but when a hurricane threatens, sharing an office is the last thing we need to worry about.

Fans of TV shows like Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer will love this throwback 1990’s forced proximity, partners to lovers, road trip romcom with an unconventionally geeky hero.

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CHAPTER 2

GEORGE

Culver City, CA

July 21, 1998

High: 73 ̊F, Low: 67 ̊F

Precipitation: 0.00%

Windspeed: 10mph

THE SECOND DAY at my new job goes pretty much the same as the first. Story room meeting where the first hour involves people throwing out ideas that get enthusiastically written on the board. In the second hour, those beloved ideas get ripped to shreds. I guess it’s called “break story” for a reason. After that barrel of fun, we crawl back to our holes with what’s left to bang out scripts. Not too different from what I did on the cartoons, I guess. Just twice as long, less hockey, fewer explosions and one hundred percent more talking about sex.

If I were more of a gentleman, I’d offer to switch seats with Tina, but her battle with the side of the desk is just too entertaining. Admittedly, the view I get of her cleavage is part of the fun, but the way she curses the universe is the real draw.

If she asks, I’ll switch. Otherwise, I’ll enjoy the show.

After today’s meeting, however, she remains on my end. Armed with dry erase markers, she proceeds to write on the whiteboard, talking out loud the entire time. She doesn’t seem to mind that I don’t contribute.

My silence was the thing my latest ex-girlfriend, the one from Kansas, hated the most about me: how I’d just “sit like a lump” on the couch while she held up ninety percent of the conversational burden. What can I say? I’m not chatty. The part of my brain that strings words together moves way slower than it does for everybody else.

Weird that you’d want to be a writer, then, I can hear you thinking.

The written word does arrive eventually—whole paragraphs at a time—but I have to be patient. It’ll only come if I’m quiet and take in the world around me while my fingers doodle on a page. Eventually that doodle becomes a scribble, which evolves into letters and words and then the sentences just fly out.

So, while Tina paces back and forth, her hands flying, interrogating the air, I’m soaking it all up. Especially when question marks fly out of her mouth, her eyes, and the top of her head.

That’s another reason I’m quiet. If I relax my eyes and pay attention, my imagination turns the world into one big cartoon. Maybe it’s because I watched too much TV as a kid, maybe it’s my continuing obsession with everything animated, from Schoolhouse Rock, to Superman, to Sailor Moon. Maybe it’s just a glitch in my brain. I don’t remember how old I was when this started but by now it’s a daily occurrence. Basically, whenever I visualize something, or have an idea, it’s animated. Usually in the style of my heroes Tex Avery and Chuck Jones from the cartoon golden age of the 30s and 40s.

If only I could draw what I see. I mean, I’m good enough for Pictionary, but nowhere near good enough of an artist to do it professionally. At least this quirk of my imagination helps me write stories.

I don’t tell people about how I see in cartoon anymore. The psychologist my parents dragged me to kind of freaked my parents out, asking pointedly if there were “problems at home” or if I’d had an extremely high fever at some point.

Looking back, I really don’t get what the big deal was. Other kids had imaginary friends. All I do is see a better version of the world on occasion. One that’s more fun. In any case, after much poking and prodding—both literal and figurative—the shrink told my parents I’d grow out of it, so I just lied and pretended that was the case to make them all feel better. Truthfully, I’d be sad if it stopped, even if it can be a little distracting at times.

Like now. As Tina spews ideas into the air and fills the whiteboard with color, animated heads of Lawson’s Reach cast pop up around her. They nod and smile or frown and pout in response to Tina’s plot ideas and motivation questions.

Contrary to popular belief—aka that of every former girl- friend—I do listen. So, when Tina draws a square on the board at the same time that I draw a triangle on my pad of paper, words pop out of my mouth. “That’s it!”

I must’ve yelled because Tina lets loose with that squeal of hers. The marker goes flying, and she loses her balance. As I’m thinking, Why do women wear shoes that are so unstable? As she falls through space in slo-mo, my body is the only thing moving in real time. While my frontal lobe spins, Man, I wish I could draw this, my caveman brain launches me through space.

Next thing I know, she’s in my arms and we’re staring at each other.

For one long moment I’m Pepe le Pew, and she’s the black and white cat. But before I can spring around the room on four paws or kiss her silly, lightning flashes in her walnut- brown irises, threatening to burn us both to the ground.

She doesn’t slink out of my arms like the cat would. Instead, she yells, “What are you doing?”

The swell of romantic background music ends abruptly with a record scratch, and I set her on her own two—unreliable, I feel I need to add—feet. Once I’m sure she’s not going to fall over again, I step back, hands up. The room is so small I can’t go far, so I try to come up with some words to explain. Or apologize. Or at the very least, quench the fire still blazing in her eyes.

“I was—I’m sorry I startled you. And that I grabbed you. I just—I had an idea.” Grabbing my pad, I hold it up and point to what I drew.

“Are we having a geometry lesson?” Her eyes ping back and forth from her square to my triangle for a few moments. “Because I suck at math.”

“Yeah, well, I suck at writing angsty teenagers. But even I know that a love square isn’t a thing. You have to have a love triangle.”

Her eyes narrow, like she’s working up a retort, but then a lightbulb appears over her head. Again—when I say these things, please understand that I know they’re not real, but they’re kind of like 65% real to me, so just go with it, okay?

Lightbulb flashing, her big eyes get bigger, and her fire engine red lips open into a big O. Then she punches me.

Hard.

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