This EM tried to sneak up on me, but I caught it. Ha! Excerpt Monday was started by authors Bria Quinlan and Alexia Reed. Unpublished and published authors post excerpts every month. They’ve added many new features such as holiday free reads and new releases too. Check it out on the blog: Excerpt Monday
This month is a continuation of the opening I posted last month. The working title of it is, “My Thoughts Return to Shinjuku”. Perhaps as it unfolds a little more, a little muse might suggest a better title?
The funny thing about re-reading part one — There is no elevator as our protagonist goes to the tea room. But I remember…oops, I mean…I imagined this elevator scene so vividly that the tea room simply must be on the second or third floor. I’ll have to fix that in edits. And the fact that the protagonist’s name sounds familiar is purely coincidental…
From last month:
But I was already late. And the formalness of the woman’s kimono and the meticulous room made me feel all the more gaijin. I hurried across the stones in my socks and knelt down onto the mat. The guy next to me was, like me, wearing jeans. He was the first Caucasian I had seen in days. I shot him an apologetic look, but he simply waited patiently with his hands resting on his knees for the tea ceremony to continue. Read Part One
The hostess returned to the front of the room in tiny steps, the looped knot of her obi swaying back and forth behind her. The muted lantern light cast a reverent glow. A tray had been set with a kettle and bowls as well as other implements. She served us each a bubble-shaped purple jelly on a paper doily.
“Traditional Japanese sweet,” she explained.
And then the polyphonic tones of Beethoven’s Fifth cut into the proceedings. I sliced into the bubble with a toothpick-like utensil while she pattered to the back room to grab her cell phone. Thank goodness it wasn’t mine.
“Moshi-moshi.” She spoke in hushed tones in the back room while we ate.
The coconut-flavored jelly slid cool down my throat. I took my time picking at it as there was nothing else to do while we waited. The hostess was still talking on the phone when I finished, so I folded the paper carefully in my hands and glanced over at my jean-clad counterpart. He shifted on the mat, but otherwise remained respectfully still. He had light brown hair, short and unstyled. His jaw was slightly square and the look of him invoked an immediate sense of familiarity. I darted my gaze away before he could return it.
I remember how I stood in a subway train a month ago and realized, ‘Hey, I’m not shorter than everyone here’. This was the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who looked like me; Asian faces on every street, in every restaurant — and not just the wait staff. Why should that feel like a Twilight Zone moment? Like that woman who wakes up from the operating table and is mortified when she sees her own face.
The Japanese woman returned to take us through the rest of the ritual: the respectful bowing, the whisking of the powder and water into a froth. I held the tea bowl in both hands and drank deep. True green tea tastes like boiled grass. The stuff they sell in the States is usually a doctored version.
The phone only rang once more before the ceremony was completed. We paid the hostess for our cultural experience and she zipped the yen notes into a small silk purse.
Out in the lighted hallway, I could see my tea companion more clearly. His eyes were the same color as his hair, brown and common. He had that everyman boyish face that you saw many times over in the US. Only here in Tokyo could he achieve any sort of distinctiveness. The backpack slung over his shoulder made me think he might be a graduate student.
“That was interesting,” he remarked.
“Yes, it was.”
The stiff formality of the tea room remained with us as we walked to the elevator. Once inside, we grew even more quiet as we stared up at the lighted numbers, counting each ding down. The top of my head barely reached his shoulder.
“The cell tone added a real authentic touch,” he said out of the corner of his mouth. “Especially when it rang the second time.”
“And I felt like such an ugly American for being late!”
We laughed together in the close space, poking fun at how we had come expecting a rich and somber ritual.
“Jeannie,” I replied, and we passed into the second phase of casual meetings.
This month’s links:
Don’t forget to come back on the first Monday of February for New Release Monday. See what’s coming out and enter to win a free basket of New Releases.
So, to kick it off, your hosts:
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG13)
Alexia Reed, Urban Fantasy (R)
Joining us this week:
Stephanie Draven, Fantasy with Romantic Elements (PG 13)
Danie Ford, Contemporary YA (PG 13)
Babette James, Contemporary Romance (PG 13)
Cynthia Justlin, Thriller with Romantic Elements (PG 13)
Kaige, Historical Romance (PG 13)
R. F. Long, Fantasy Romance (PG13)
Shawntelle Madsion, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Debbie Mumford, Science Fiction/ Fantasy (PG13)
Kendal Corbitt, Erotica Contemporary (R)
KB Alan, Erotic Paranormal Romance (R)
Cate Hart, YA Paranormal (R)
Jeanne St. James, Interracial Menage Erotic Romance (R)
Cherrie Lynn, Contemporary Erotic Romance (R)
Michelle Picard, Paranormal/Fantasy (R)
Mary Quast, Contemporary Romance (R)
Danielle Yockman, Historical Romance (R)