Tommy waved to Sarah as we walked into the café. “Sarah!”
She looked away from the man next to her, smiling welcomingly at the two of us. “Tommy! Loralee! There you are.”
I waved to her before turning to Tommy. “Why don’t you go over to the table and I’ll get us coffees?” Getting coffee at this café was always the highlight of our rare trips to Windenburg. Seeing Tommy’s father certainly wasn’t. He did seem more pleasant now. He’d gotten progressively nicer to me since my visit while Tommy and I were still in school. Perhaps it was because we only visit once or twice a year; that might make him more inclined to be pleasant when we were there. It might also just be the time of the year; we’d flown in to celebrate Ava’s birthday, and the party was tomorrow.
He chuckled softly. “Okay. You know what I like. Get me a pastry too?”
“Of course.” As he walked off to the table, I headed over to the counter. I was behind a middle-aged man and a girl in her late teens. The girl grabbed his arm and said something to him in a quick spurt of German, making the man let out a small huff of amused irritation. He turned to look back at me and said something in German. I smiled and shook my head, shrugging my shoulders. “I’m sorry; I don’t speak German.” Except for some swears, but somehow I thought that might not be the correct response. I narrowed my eyes at him; though I’d spent hardly any time in Windenburg, this guy looked oddly familiar.
He smiled at me. “Oh, you’re American,” he said. To my surprise, his accent suggested he was even from the Newcrest area. “I asked if you’d like to go ahead of us. My daughter can’t seem to make up her mind.”
“Oh, thank you.” I started to step up to the counter when something clicked in my head. Didn’t the writer of Dust to Dust live in Windenburg? But had grown up in Newcrest? Oh, my Watcher, I know why he looks familiar! I’d seen his face on the book jacket of Dust to Dust and in interviews about the new movie coming out. “Excuse me,” I said, trying to disguise my excitement. When he turned back from his daughter again, I rushed to ask, “Are you Alexander Rosebrook? You wrote Dust to Dust, right?”
He flushed a little bit. “O-oh, yeah, I’m Alex Rosebrook.” His daughter rolled her eyes, as if she were one thousand percent done with her father being a celebrity.
“Oh, wow, it’s so great to meet you. My cousin and I are such huge fans of your book – actually, my whole family is. I grew up in Newcrest; when I was reading the book, I was always curious if you based the Ainsworth houses on actual Newcrest homes.”
“Oh, uh, well, actually, I did.” He shifted on his feet, and I got the feeling he didn’t quite know what to make of the attention I was giving him. “I’m really glad you like the book.”
“Would you mind if I took a picture with you?” I thought he was going to say no, since he seemed pretty hesitant about it, but he eventually agreed and squeezed in close to me and let me take a selfie with him. There was just one last thing… “Mr. Rosebrook – “
“Alex is fine.”
I smiled at him. “Alex. I know I’ve taken up a lot of your time, but I was wondering if you would be here for just a bit? I think I saw a bookstore down the street, and, if they have a copy of Dust to Dust, I was hoping you might sign it? It’s for my cousin, Nora. She’s been going through a really hard time for the last few years. It would mean so much to her if I could give her a signed copy of your book.”
His expression softened. “I wouldn’t mind at all. We were planning to stay and eat anyway. Is your cousin alright?”
“She is,” I assured him. “I really appreciate this. Thank you, I’ll be right back. Let me just tell my fiancé where I’m running off to.” I ran across the café and over to Tommy where I leaned in to whisper into his ear where I was going. Then I hurried down the street to the book store. I didn’t want to take long; Mr. Rosebrook – Alex – was being so kind by agreeing to the picture and the autograph, and I didn’t want to inconvenience him.
A few minutes later, I returned to the café and found Alex and his daughter sitting at a table. As I handed him the book, I said, “Thank you again. This is going to make Nora’s year.”
He smiled and signed the inside of the front cover with a flourish. “I’m happy to do it.” His daughter rolled her eyes again and said something in German. He just shook his head at her. “Mariana doesn’t have much patience for my fame.” He winked at his daughter. “I think she’d rather be in the spotlight.”
The girl rolled her eyes and said, now in English, “It’s Mari.” She smiled at me. “You said you have a fiancé?”
I took the book back from Alex and smiled. “Oh, yeah.” I motioned over to Tommy. “That’s him, Tommy.” I fought back an almost dreamy sigh.
Mari’s expression softened a bit. “I really hope my boyfriend asks me to marry him one day. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”
“Tommy and I met when we were nine!” He turned around to look at me as I said his name. I waved to him. “I better get back to him. I hope things work out with your boyfriend, Mari. Thank you again, Alex.” I headed over to the table and finally sat down next to Tommy. “Sorry about that!”
“What was that about?” Sarah asked. “Tommy said he was some author?”
I nodded. “Yeah. He wrote a book I like, and it’s my cousin’s favorite book. I went and bought a copy so he could sign it for her. Anyway, I’m here now. Also, hi,” I laughed, realizing I hadn’t actually said hello.
The German girl laughed. “Hi. Loralee, you haven’t met my boyfriend. This is Lennart.”
“Hi, Lennart, I’m – “
“Loralee,” Tommy said suddenly, looking at me very seriously.
I blinked at him, suddenly worried something was wrong. “What?”
“Where’s my pastry?”
The four of us burst into laughter. I shoved his shoulder. “Ass.”
All credit for the amazing Alex and Mari Rosebrook goes to CitizenErased14. Thank you so much for letting me have your characters in my story. If you haven’t read Ashes to Ashes – what are you waiting for??? Go and do it!