Friday, August 31, 2012


Dave continued, dropping the smile. "If anyone hasn't heard, we did have our first gunshot wound in our eight-year run. Brady was hit in the arm during a gang battle on Friday afternoon. But he's totally ok. They stayed on in El Salvador, and they'll be back..."

"Tomorrow," Emily said. She continued the travel report: "And Rachel and Ricardo are coming back from Tasmania today..."

"Those devils," said the elder Andy.

"...And Jason and Michelle left for Damascus this morning. Well..."

Dave interjected. "If you've heard a rumor about Jason this morning, it's taken care of; it's no big deal. He wasn't feeling too great, but he'll be on his way this afternoon. Also, we have a record nine freelancers working for us around the world as we speak. How we ever got along with just three, I'll never know."

Thursday, August 30, 2012


"Andy. Andy." Dave listed them off as the two Andys entered the company's second largest conference room together. He was smiling in an effort to lighten the mood for the ten o'clock status meeting.

"Mornin'," Brian said, plopping into the chair next to Emily who had her notebook and pen at the ready. "Where'd you and Paul go this weekend?"

"Oh, he told you? We went to a beach resort in Rhode Island. It was really great."

"In February? Interesting."

"Alright, morning everyone," Dave started. "Hope everybody had a good weekend. Our ninety-sixth issue goes to print tomorrow. For the mathematically challenged in the room, that's twelve times eight, which means our eighth anniversary can unofficially start this week!" A cheer went up, causing employees outside the room to wonder what the fuss was about.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


At 8:45 Emily was chatting with Tanya, one of the girls in Finance, through the shared wall of their cubicles as she scanned her computer screen. "Hm," she said. "Michelle's Facebook status says, 'Whole nudda level,' with a smiley face."

"What's that about?" said Tanya.

"I'm guessing either going to Syria with all the protests, or the thing with Jason this morning, like a whole nudda level of ridiculous, or..."

"Or maybe Andy? Are you friends with him?"

"Yeah, but he doesn't use it. He's too paranoid." Emily switched to checking on the new issue's print status.

"Hmph. So Dave was pretty mad this morning?"

"Oh man, I've never seen him like that. Jason's skatin' on thin ice. Dave thinks he's not really sick and is just bein' a flake."

"I used to think he was pretty professional."

"I tell ya, Status should be pretty interesting this morning."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Dave's name came up on Jason's cell phone. He had expected it. He'd thought about what he would say, but now that the phone was ringing, his memory was fuzzy. He let it ring twice, three times...

"Hello?" He made his voice sound frail.

"Jason, this is Dave. What's up, man." He said it like a command.

"Hey Dave, I'm just not up to flying to the other side of the world this morning..."

"You have an appointment?"

"Y--yeah, I'm gonna see the doctor this morning." Not a lie, since he intended to visit his friend who was a doctor.

"What are your symptoms?"

"Huh? Oh, I got an upset stomach, kinda jittery, a little dizzy..."

"Sounds like nerves. I know you're nervous about the trip."

Jason said nothing.

"Jason, I told you, I'm countin' on you, man. I don't think you're gonna make your flight. I'm gonna call Emily and have her get the next one available, ok?"

After a pause, he said, "O--ok."

"And I don't want this to happen again, unless you're really sick."

Monday, August 27, 2012


"'Going to the doctor, feel terrible, get back to you soon.' That was the whole text, and he's just ignored my calls since then."

It was five past six in the morning, and Michelle was sitting in a row of seats near an American Airlines gate at JFK. The text was from Jason, whom she'd expected to meet her there. She'd received it on the subway. She had never heard Dave so furious, though he seemed to be trying hard to keep his anger in check.

"Ok, thanks for calling me, Michelle," he said. "This is not good at all. I'll try to reach him myself."

"Well, should I still go?"

"Absolutely, absolutely, do just like you would if Jason were there. We'll get him there, and if we can't, we'll get somebody there. A freelancer if we have to."

Friday, August 24, 2012


The evening couldn't have gone any better for Brady and Aggie. She was proud of him for exhibiting the spirit of Bold Traveler and creating this fun night that would be a fantastic addition to her story. And he couldn't help but love the time they were spending together.

They stood in the corridor outside their hotel rooms. "Well, one more day," Brady said, playing with his big hat. "What do we do tomorrow?"

"Let me take some notes about today, and I'll sleep on it," she said, smiling.

"Tonight was a blast, huh?"

"Mm-hmm. I'll be sure and let Dave know it was all your idea."

"Cool. Well, g'night."

"See you at breakfast. And hey..."


"Thanks for...all this. It was really awesome."

He winked and turned with a wave goodnight, disappearing into his room. Alone at last, he shook his head at himself, a dumb grin plastered on his face.

(Next: Monday actually starts on Monday! The trip to Syria finally begins!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012


"So whaddya think o' that?" Michelle asked, curling up next to Andy and putting her head on his shoulder. But she knew by his expression how he felt. She turned his face to look at her. "Hmm?"

"I think it's the best thing I ever heard. And I love you, too." They kissed, a long and passionate kiss. Then he said, "You sure know how to leave a man thinkin' 'bout ya when you go away."

"You better think about me, boy." She smiled and hit him with a pillow. He picked up another and wielded it threateningly. She squealed, they wrestled, and Brooklyn went to bed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


As they ate their dinner, Aggie embroiled in conversation and Brady chewing and making faces at the children, he wondered what it would be like to brush his leg against hers, as if by accident. They both wore shorts, and they were sitting close in the crowded dining room. He wondered if it would tickle, if she would blush, if it could possibly lead to kissing later...

What was he thinking? He reminded himself of one of his college buddies who could never get a date and spent all his time thinking up ways to win a woman's heart. This wasn't Brady Murr. Besides, how could they keep on working together even if something might develop? Better to put it out of his head, somehow.

But she was lovely. The family loved her. The young girls, and the older boys, especially. Who wouldn't love her?

Disgusted with himself, he focused on building a big pork burrito. This was truly a meal worthy of publication. But the world would never know the feelings the photographer had for the writer. And neither would she.


They had decided to just turn the TV off. They ate on the couch quietly for a minute, each frustrated with the other. Andy's mind was on Michelle's assignment in Damascus, and he broke the silence with a thought.

"I wonder if Syria is ready for Jason."

She smiled in spite of herself.

Andy said, "Ya know, when Dave took us to lunch yesterday, he treated us to a bottle o' wine, and then Jason ordered his own drink."


"I'm tellin' ya, somethin's goin' on with him. Some kinda phase."

"He best watch himself this week. I ain't in the mood for no bull."

"Heh, keep your leash on 'im."

Suddenly they made eye contact. She took his hand and rubbed it with her thumb. "Andy, I know we still have a lot to work through."

"Yeah, I'm sorry..."

"I just wanna tell you...that I love you."

He was speechless, both surprised and overjoyed.

Monday, August 20, 2012


"Aggie, com'ere, you gotta see this." Brady was with the men of the family in a shed behind the house. Aggie stepped inside just in time to see a large hog being slaughtered. Brady was taking pictures.

"Whoa, ok," she said in a voice somewhere between incredulity and disgust. "I hope you don't think those pictures are going in my story."

"Naa, but maybe my Facebook!" He came closer to her. "Admit it, you're salivating right now."

She gave him a small taste of her elbow in his ribs but said, "I do like me some puerco."

"Looks like dinner's still a ways off, though."

"You'll be happy to know, I just got a soccer game goin'."

"Boo-yah. Let's play."

Friday, August 17, 2012


Andy enjoyed cooking now and then, particularly when Michelle was leaving town. He'd wanted to try out a salmon recipe he'd seen in a magazine, but Michelle didn't care for salmon, so he was cooking curry chicken instead.

"Hey, that show Army Wives is on," Michelle said from his living room.

"Ok." There was a sneer in his response.

"Ok let's watch it, or ok I know you're crazy now?"

He peeked in from the kitchen. "Girl please, you know I don't go for that military stuff, much less those housewife shows."

His dislike of the military angered her, and she wasn't in the mood to keep it to herself. "Ya know, soldiers work hard every day, just like you, and they're helping us stay free. What's the problem?"

He didn't peek out this time. "Could we please not get into it right before you leave? Just find somethin' you know we'll both like."

Thursday, August 16, 2012


It took an offer of a free truckload of groceries at the magazine's expense, but Brady and Aggie managed to get their invitation to dinner. The family lived on a ranch outside town, so they were given a ride by a cousin who was going to be joining them for dinner, as well. When they arrived, seven shouting children greeted them in the driveway.

"Hola!" Brady shouted back, trying to remember the Spanish word for "children." Aggie noticed that he immediately fit right in despite the language barrier, and it seemed the children fell in love with him immediately. Their driver informed her that he couldn't remember white people ever visiting this ranch before, explaining their excitement. A little girl of about three, holding a doll and sucking her thumb, stared at her.

"Hola," Aggie said to the girl, bending toward her. The girl smiled and ran to the other children.

"This is great, huh?" said Brady, snapping pictures. She had to admit it was, and that she never would've thought of it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Neither Andy nor Michelle had a great love of shopping, but they loved spending time together, and clothing stores were an affordable place for that in the winter. Michelle was trying on a few items with no intention of making a purchase. Andy was happy to serve as an audience for her modeling.

"How do you like this skirt? It's on a really good sale. It'd be perfect with that light blue top, you know the one?"

He didn't, but she didn't need to know that. "That looks great. Shows off your legs real nice."

"You ok, Andy? You seem a little off, not yourself."

"I'm just thinkin' about your trip."

"You're not worried about me, are ya?" She came closer and touched his face. "Come on, Bold Traveler's been going to the Middle East for eight years. It's no big deal."

"Yeah, but you haven't been there. And Syria's crazy right now."

She kissed him. "Andy, it's fine. Please don't worry. It's not good for you."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Aggie had thought Brady was joking about inviting themselves to dinner somewhere, but once the idea came into his head, it became his goal. He was already seeing the photos that would be included with the story. And he was curious to know whether the mothers and grandmothers of Santa Tecla had cooking styles that differed from their restaurant experiences. He assumed their readers would be, too.

"Hola, Señor," he said to a man escorting his family in a downtown marketplace. "¿Cómo estás?" By that point he had used up the majority of his knowledge of Spanish, so he looked to Aggie for help. She shook her head with a smile.

"Come on, Aggie. Stir up that bold traveler within you!" Brady said, grinning madly.

"What do I say?"

"Just tell him we're Americans writin' a story about real El Salvadorian food, and we'd like to share a meal together. We'll help pay for it while we're here!"

Monday, August 13, 2012


[Note: In the previous episode, the party Andy mentioned should have been "this Saturday" rather than "this Wednesday," since Michelle will be in Syria on Wednesday. Oops.]

Emily and Paul had Sunday brunch, too, but theirs was an impromptu meal with Paul's friends Tommy and Joanna. Emily hadn't been excited about spending yet more time with them on her romantic getaway with Paul, but she had such a good time chatting with them that she was the one to suggest an afternoon of shopping in Watch Hill. The men agreed to tag along and buy lobster rolls when everyone was hungry again.

"Of course this place is pretty empty this time o' year," Tommy explained. "But in the summer it's hard just to drive by the beach, with the constant crowd of people walkin' through here. You two should come back in a few months. Memorial Day, maybe."

Emily and Joanna shared an excited smile. "Yeah, please do that!" said the latter. "We'll spend all day on the beach; it'll be great."

Friday, August 10, 2012


"Anyhow," Andy continued with a smirk, "I wanna take ya to a little get-together this Saturday, introduce you to a few people."

"At church."

"Yeah, at church. Girl, don't worry, these people are cool. And I know they'll like you."

"Don't mean I'll like them."

"They're not like the people you grew up with. They're not like Jason's church. They're like me. You like me, right?"

"Andy, you are just like the people I grew up with. Ok, maybe not exactly like them, but close enough."

Andy just looked at his menu.

"Alright," she said, "I'll give it a chance, on one condition. If I don't like it, I never do this again."

"Hey, you guys ready?" said a waitress.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Michelle took her time walking from the subway station to the restaurant. The sidewalk was slick in some spots, and she liked making Andy wait a little bit anyway.

When she came through the door, Andy felt proud to be dating her. Her wavy, black hair was done up in a ponytail, and her brown skin was flawless and needed no makeup. She could easily be on TV, and when people looked her direction he wondered if they mistook her for a celebrity.

"Hey," he said, "what've you been doin'?"

"Nothin'." She smiled at him and sat down. "You look nice."

"Thanks. I went ahead and ordered some tea for ya."

"Cool. How was church?"

"Pretty good. Wish you'd been there. I still get ladies tryin' to set me up with somebody, and I don't think they believe me when I tell 'em I'm seein' someone. Some people prob'ly think I like dudes."

"Sorry. The sweater vest probably doesn't help with that."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


"Always the hero, huh?" she teased him when he returned.

"Well, why should I let 'em throw my scraps away when somebody's goin' hungry right in front o' me?"

"You're a good guy, Brady. I mean it."


"And you've got a little jelly on your cheek. Other cheek. I paid for the food. Don't forget your hat."

As they walked down the street, the sun blaring down on them once again, she returned to the task at hand. "So, any ideas? What's your camera eye hungry for?"

"Ya know what would be adventurous?" Brady said. "Wormin' our way into someone's dinner party tonight."

"Atta boy, Brady. Always thinkin' with your stomach."

"Hey, it works."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


One hour behind Brooklyn, Aggie and Brady were finishing brunch at a traditional restaurant in Santa Tecla. "I can't get over how good the coffee is here," Aggie said between sips. "I'm gonna have to do some research and find out if there's any way to get this in New York."

Brady looked out the window as he picked berries out of his fruit salad. "Think you can get some beans on the plane?"

"I should think so. I wonder if they roast 'em in a different way here. Anyway, listen. Let's brainstorm. We got lucky with our one little adventure, but if we could get a little more action before we leave, we'd have a trip more than worthy of Bold Traveler. What kind of shots does my star photographer still wanna get?"

His gaze hadn't left the window. Suddenly he stood up. "Hang on." He left the table and then the building, plate in hand. Through the windows, Aggie saw him give his scraps to a beggar on the sidewalk that he'd apparently been watching. She shook her head. What was it with him always looking for someone to help? It was charming, but somehow a little annoying, too. Like he was trying too hard to play the hero.

Monday, August 6, 2012


The text from Black Andy read, "Lets do dizzys at 1230." Just thinking of Dizzy's made Michelle hungry. She wished they could've gone at a time more appropriate for brunch, but he was at church, probably texting her during the sermon.

She finished the chapter she was reading and got dressed. She thought about him, without her, among all those people she could never spend time with. Growing up with a preacher for a father had not suited her disposition, and to be dating someone who attended church every Sunday was unsettling. It was a major reason she had avoided dating Andy for nearly two years. She no longer spoke to her family, and he was like a different version of them, another program on the same channel. But no one made her smile like he could.

She laced up her boots and headed out to see him.

Friday, August 3, 2012


She retreated, not wanting to ruin a lovely evening by making him guilty. And why should she presume that marriage was on his mind when it had hardly come up in their two years of dating?

"You know what, no. I'm being ridiculous. This has been're incredible." She kissed him. "Please forget I said anything. Wanna watch TV?"

Paul made a mental note to bring this up again in the near future. He wasn't the type to leave her hanging, wondering what his plans were. The truth was that he'd made none, and he was fine with that. But apparently Emily was not, so he had some decisions to make. He felt it would be best to not bring the subject up again on this night.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Paul's friends were charming and interesting, but one hour quickly turned into two-and-a-half before they finally said goodnight. Emily had slept in that morning and wasn't very tired, but her hopes for something beyond a romantic evening now seemed dashed.

"Sorry that ended up being so long," Paul said in the elevator. "Did you have fun?"

"Yeah, they're great. Really nice."

"You're unhappy."

"No! I just..." The doors opened, and they walked back to the room. "This has been an awesome night, Paul, really. Thank you so much. I guess I just got it in my head that it was leading to something." She smiled at him.

Paul stood in the foyer looking at the wall. Then he looked at her. "Oh."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


A short time later in the lounge, Paul introduced Emily to his well-dressed friends. "Honey, this is Tommy and his wife Joanna."

"And we know who you are!" said Joanna. "Paul's told us how great you are for him. Can't believe we're finally meeting you!" She gave Emily half a hug.

"Really great," Tommy said, clasping Emily's hand. "Hey, let's get a bottle o' wine, eh? Miss, could we get a table?"

Once they were seated, Emily said, "So Tommy, Paul tells me you're a doctor?"

"Yes, I specialize in women's health."

"Oh, sort of like..." She looked at Paul. "...A gynecologist?"

"I don't like to be the one to introduce the word, but yes, exactly."