This week, Write On Edge asked us to explore locale–local flavor that adds realism to fiction. Today I’m borrowing from my completed, but so far unloved novel, In An Instant. Beth is a single mother and aspiring concert pianist who’s returned to her Iowa hometown to raise her son. She gets involved with someone she had a crush on in high school, and her musical colleague, Mark, takes notice. This scene takes place at the Broom Factory, a terrific restaurant in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where I went to grad school. To my dismay, I have discovered it has now closed. Boo. I adore this town and I adored this restaurant; Mark’s comments about the middle of nowhere are his, not mine. Just in case anyone from W/CF happens to be reading.
Tiny flakes of snow spattered Beth’s face as she walked up the steps of the Broom Factory. Mark waited patiently while she examined the foyer full of painted emu eggs and knickknacks, then marched up to the hostess. “Hi. I have a reservation. Fauberg.”
The girl flashed a grin at him. “Right this way.”
Beth followed her through the restaurant to the wall of windows overlooking the river and the railroad bridge, where there was a table for two, with a red rose lying across one place.
It was a little late to be realizing that this was no innocent flirtation.
“Can I get you a drink?” asked the waiter.
“Just water, please,” she said hastily.
Mark shook his head slightly, his lips twisting. “A martini.”
The waiter departed. Mark stared out across the river. “I have to admit, it’s beautiful,” he said. “Even if it is the middle of nowhere.”
She spared a glance for the view she loved: water spilling over one of the miniature dams that dotted the Cedar River. “Mark,” she said abruptly, “is this supposed to be a date?”
His looked at her, his eyebrows shooting skyward. She twisted the napkin between her hands. He cleared his throat. “Well, not if you’re not available.” He hesitated. “Are you available?”
She leaned back. There hadn’t been anyone she was remotely interested in since before Geordie came along, and now, in the space of two weeks… “I don’t know,” she said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Mark waved a hand. “Leave Toby out of it. This has nothing to do with him.”
It had everything to do with her son, but she supposed a bachelor couldn’t be expected to understand that.
Mark gazed intently at her. “It starts with you, and what you want,” he said. “What do you want, Beth?”
There it was, the question she’d been wrestling all day. Her face tensed. “I don’t know, Mark.”
He leaned back and nodded slowly. “Okay.” He stared at her for a minute. “But you have to decide eventually, you know.”
“Here’s some bread,” said the waiter. “Are we ready to order?”
Beth flashed relief at him. “Definitely,” she said.