Taste Test by L.B. Dunbar – Character Tour

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Taste Test
by L.B. Dunbar
Character Tour
 
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Synopsis
 
In a modern twist of fairy tales,

 

what if the beast is a woman instead of a man?

 

Ethan Scott

I was about to find out when a mysterious job led to the secluded home of a horror novelist. I’d lost everything: my scholarship, my education, and my way. In denial of my family inheritance, I took the unusual employment as a chance out of a hole, but I found myself buried in the unknown trauma of another situation much deeper. 

Ella Vincentia

I had changed my name and my address to keep myself hidden, but my scars were more than physical. Living as a recluse in the woods, I was used to being alone, so I wasn’t happy when a certain someone was always in my space. Our first encounter was less than pleasant and tension continued at every attempt to tame me. 

Secrets

I knew she was keeping secrets and I wanted to help, but she was cutting me down and cutting me off every time she opened her mouth. Our frustration with one another grew until a misunderstanding changed everything. How can I be the next guy after something so tragic? It was a challenge I wasn’t sure I was willing to take.

 
 
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Ethan Scott and Ella Vincentia
Interview
 
I wake early
as I often do in New York. The noises are different here, but it’s also because
I’m rather excited to start each day. Ella Vincentia still sleeps next to me,
her fall colored hair spilling over the pillow, and I sit up, reaching for my
laptop. I have an assignment for my English class to write a personal
interview. Seriously, the assignment is interview yourself. I don’t even know
where to start and I stare at the spinning icon while the computer comes to
life.
 
Ella, from
beside me, mumbling into her pillow: What are you doing up so early? Again.
 
Ethan: You
know I can’t sleep. I’ve got to get this interview paper done this morning
before I have to work this afternoon.
 
I’m working
at a restaurant, finally fulfilling my dream to be a chef. It’s a cool set-up
as I take classes there during the days in food preparation, and then work at
night, learning practical skills in running a restaurant. Unfortunately, when I
lost my scholarship and almost flunked out of college before meeting Ella, I
failed an English class and I need to make up the credits.
 
Ella: What
are you going to write about? (Her voice is clearer as she’s rolled unto her back
and I lose focus as I see her covered in my thin t-shirt. She’s thin as she
originally wanted to be a model. I think she’s still the most beautiful girl in
the world.)
 
Ethan: You.
 
Ella laughs:
You can’t write about me. It has to be about you. Here, give me the questions.
(She sits up and takes the sheet from me). You can pick any one you want,
right?
 
Ethan: Yep.
 
Ella: Okay.
Start with what was it like to grow up in a small town?
 
Ethan: It
doesn’t say that?
 
Ella: It
doesn’t. It says explain your childhood.
I twist my
lips for a minute and begin to answer the question, typing and talking out loud
so Ella can hear me.
 
Ethan:
Growing up in a small town was tough. Everyone knows your business. You get in
trouble. Everyone knows. It was also hard to live in an older brother’s shadow
when he was always so perfect.
 
Ella: Talk
about Gavin.
 
Ethan: Like
what?
 
Ella: What
was it like to have a “perfect” brother?
 
I blow out
air and sigh, running my hands through the wild waves of my own thick hair,
before I begin typing and speaking again.
 
Ethan:
Growing up under my brother was difficult, but it took pressure off of me,
until he wasn’t so perfect anymore. He was supposed to inherit the family
cherry farm. When he left for California and that responsibility fell to me, I
resented him at first. I didn’t want to be a farmer. I wanted to be creative in
my own way.
 
Ella: Talk
about that. (Here she shifted and leaned over me. As her soft skin brushed up
against my arm, I was distracted and I turned to kiss her good morning. I loved
waking up next to her. She interrupted my attempts to skip the paper). Ethan,
paper. (She can be rather demanding at times).
 
Ethan,
typing: I wanted to be a chef and my father disapproved. I went to school on a
scholarship and let things fall apart. When I lost that scholarship I had to
come home. The farm seemed destined to be my future, until I met Jacob.
 
Ella: You’re
going to have to explain who Jacob it.
 
Ethan: Jacob
Vincent, is the Jacob Vincent, horror
author extraordinaire. He hired me to cook for him and protect his niece.
 
Ella: I
didn’t know you were hired to protect me. Protect me from what? (Her voice was
rising in question.)
 
Teasingly, I
answered: Probably him.
Ella: Ha.
Seriously? (Her tone softened).
 
Ethan: You
can be a beast at times, Princess.
 
Ella: I
cannot.
 
Ethan: Yes.
You can.
 
She huffed.
Literally, she crossed her arms and pouted. I’d seen it before. She was tough
on the outside. She had good reason to be, but I no longer allowed her to be
like this with me. I reached for her scarred cheek and traced down one of the
gruesome lines, continuing my trail to her neck and inside the t-shirt that
slipped off her shoulder. She stilled.
 
Ethan: You
can be difficult, and you know it. But I love you all the same. (I leaned
forward and kissed her angry cheek, following the line to her neck. She
swallowed hard and I felt it against my lips. I was heading for the inside of
that t-shirt when her hands cupped my face).
 
Ella: Paper,
Ethan.
 
Ethan: What
do I get if I finish it?
 
Ella:
Hopefully an A.
I teased
again: You’re no fun.
 
Ella,
smiling slowly: Anything you’d like, but you need to finish the paper first.
 
Ethan:
Anything? (I smiled and licked my lips. She knew what I liked to do the most to
her).
 
She looked
at me with her best warning glare, but it was lost on her eager face. She liked
it when I did those things to her as well and she’d become much better about
not denying it.
 
Ella,
pointing at the computer screen: Write about coming to New York.
 
I sighed
again, and began to type: Coming to New York saved me. I wasn’t going to make
it in a small town, just like my brother couldn’t take it. I loved my family,
but I didn’t plan to spend my life on the farm.
 
I looked
over at Ella who had grown quiet.
 
Ella spoke
softly: Maybe mention your mom?
 
I swallowed
hard myself. My fingers numbing as I typed.
 
Ethan: My
mother has breast cancer. She was in remission, but it struck again, and I felt
obligated to help her. We are very close, but she knew I needed to live my
dream. She gave me permission to leave, telling me to follow my heart.
 
Ella smiles
weakly at me. She loves my mom, too, and I know she worries that I might be
missing out on time with Mum (she’s from England), but I assure Ella that being
with her is where I’m meant to be.
 
Ethan: Hey.
Home is here, remember? (I point to her heart beneath the thin shirt and she
covers my hand with her own. The bracelet I gave her dangles from her wrist and
it amazes me she never takes it off, even when everything else is removed. She
nods her head at me, knowing that I mean what I’ve said).
 
Ethan: What
else should I talk about?
 
Ella: How
you have the best girlfriend in the world?
 
I laugh: You
are a princess, Princess.
 
She laughs
as well and moves as if to climb over me like if she’s going to exit the bed.
 
Ethan: Where
do you think you’re going? (I lean over the laptop to stop her once she
straddles my knees).
 
Ella: As
long as you’re up, I might as well work on my homework too.
 
Ethan: Oh
I’m up alright, but homework is the last thing on my mind now. (Holding onto
one of her hips, I shift to remove the computer from my lap and tug her closer
to me).
 
Ella
giggles: Ethan, you need to finish that interview. (Her hands reach for my
shoulders to balance her over me).
 
Ethan: It
can wait.
 
Ella: I’m
not giving you anything until that paper is finished.
 
I tease:
Nothing? (I lean forward and take her lips with mine. She fights me as she does
at times when she’s not getting her way). Give in. (I mumble against her lips.
To prove she’s in control, she takes over and I let her. Suddenly she pulls
back).
 
Ella:
Dammit. (She knows she’ll give in).
 
Smiling in
victor, I speak: I’ve told you, quit challenging me, Princess. (My hands slip
inside my t-shirt on her).
 
She whines:
Ethan, please. The paper.
 
I slyly answer:
I’d rather please you.
 
She laughs
and it’s the best sound. There was time she hardly laughed or smiled, but now I
take pleasure in knowing I can make her do both. She tucks a piece of her
brilliant red hair behind her ear, exposing her scars to me, knowing I’m not afraid
to kiss her crazy along the lines, which is what I intend to do. Interview
over. I have questions to explore on this wonderful girl’s body instead.
 
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About L.B. Dunbar
 
I’d
like to say I was always a writer. I’d also like to say that I wrote every day
of my life since a child. That I took the teaching advice I give my former
students because writing every day improves your writing. I’d like to say I
have my ten-thousand hours that makes me a proficient writer. But I can’t say
any of those things. I did dream of writing the “Great American Novel” until
one day a friend said: Why does it have to be great? Why can’t it just be good
and tell a story?
As a teenager, I wrote your
typical love-angst poetry that did occasionally win me an award and honor me
with addressing my senior high school class at our Baccalaureate Mass.
I didn’t keep a journal because I was too afraid my mom would
find it in the mattress where I kept my copy of Judy Blume’s Forever that
I wasn’t allowed to read as a twelve year old.
I can say that books have
been my life. I’m a reader. I loved to read the day I discovered “The Three
Bears” as a first grader, and ever since then, the written word has been my
friend. Books were an escape for me. An adventure to the unknown. A love affair
I’d never know. I could be lost for hours in a book.
So why writing now? I had a
story to tell. It haunted me from the moment I decided if I just wrote it down
it would go away. But it didn’t. Three years after writing the first
draft, a sign (yes, I believe in them) told me to fix up that draft and
work the process to have it published. That’s what I did. But one story let to
another, and another, and another. Then a new idea came into my head and a
new story line was created. 
I was accused (that’s
the correct word) of having an overactive imagination as a child, as if that
was a bad thing. I’ve also been accused of having the personality of
a Jack Russell terrier, full of energy, unable to relax, and always one
step ahead. What can I say other than I have stories to tell and I think you’ll
like them. If you don’t, that’s okay. We all have our book boyfriends. We all
have our favorites. Whatever you do, though, take time for yourself and read a
book.
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