Out of Eden Online - Beth Ciotta

CHAPTER ONE

“YOU ARE A HEEL. A chunky heel. A chunky, boring heel. Please don’t take this personally, but I’m over you.”

“I knew it was a mistake to let you drink cosmopolitans.”

“I’m not drunk.”

“You’re talking to your shoe.”

“I was talking to my shoe. Now I’m talking to you.” Sensible slip-on in one hand, toxic cocktail in the other, Kylie McGraw leaned back against the red vinyl seat of one of the four booths in Boone’s Bar and Grill and frowned across the table at Faye Tyler, two of her—strike that—one of her splendiferous best friends. They’d grown up together in Eden, Indiana—Paradise in the Heartland according to the slogan emblazoned on the green water tower planted on the outskirts of town. Someone had even painted red apples on the elevated tank so that the tower resembled a, you got it, apple tree. This was, after all, Eden, a place where most residents lived out their years because who would want to leave paradise? Except for the occasional thrill-seeker and random oddball. Although sometimes fate intervened and even they stuck around. Kylie and Faye were prime examples.

Kylie sipped her drink and studied her friend, reflecting on how they’d come to this moment.

Faye, who’d wanted to be a rock star, was married with two kids and owned the local bed-and-breakfast.

Kylie, who’d wanted a husband and kids, was single and running a business she should have inherited.

Nothing was going according to plan. Even her dream of touring Asia, a dream she’d nurtured since the age of thirteen, seemed doomed. It’s not that her life was horrible—just horribly boring.

This morning she’d woken up another year older, thinking about another year of the same. Three-hundred-and-sixty-five days of ordinary. She’d barely made it through the long, uneventful, dull-as-the-mayor’s-speeches day. Then Faye had picked her up for her birthday celebration and it was official.

Kylie had reached the end of her extraordinarily vast and famous patience.

Faye and her slightly blurry twin snapped their fingers two inches from Kylie’s face. “Earth to McGraw.

Are you zoning or comatose?”

Kylie adjusted her black oval glasses and blinked away the double image, conceding cosmopolitans packed a mighty punch. Either that or Boone had screwed up the ingredients. Possible, since he’d referred to a mix recipe and his reading glasses were forever perched on top of his balding head.

“Okay. Maybe I am a teensy bit tipsy, but I am not, absolutely not drunk. And even if I was—” she grappled for a righteous excuse “—it is my birthday.”

“I’m not saying you aren’t entitled to cut loose,” Faye said, nursing a frosty mug of Budweiser. “It’s just that you always drink beer.”

“Exactly!” Kylie jabbed her shoe in the air to emphasize her point. “I always drink beer.” Faye sighed. “I have no idea what that means.”

“It means I can’t take it anymore.”

“Define it?”

“The predictability. The routine. The mundane. The run-of-the-mill, unremarkable, habitual sameness—”

“I get the picture.”

“Today is my birthday.”

“September 15. Same day every year.”

“And every year we spend my birthday together.”

“Since you turned twelve, yes. We’ve yet to miss a celebration, which goes to show how much I love you. I could be home watching MTV.”

“You see my point.”

“Not really.”

“Same ol’, same ol’.”

Faye shrugged, smiled. “Not following.”

“Every year we celebrate my birthday the same way. Pizza King. Movie. And since we turned twenty-one, Boone’s Bar and Grill.”

“Except we skipped the movie this time and came straight to Boone’s,” she said with a frown. “It’s 7:00

p.m. We’re the only ones here aside from a few guys throwing back happy hour brewskies and you’re already half tanked.”

Kylie scrunched her nose. “I heard that mobster flick’s more violent than The Godfather and The Departed combined. Did you really want to see it?”

“Not really. But since the Bixley only runs one feature, it’s not like we had a choice. We could have closed our eyes during the gory parts.”

“We would’ve missed three-quarters of the movie!”

“That’s not the point! We always celebrate your birthday the same way. Pizza. Movie. Boone’s. It’s tradition.”

“It’s boring.” Maybe it was the alcohol, but Kylie could swear the curls of Faye’s bleached hair drooped along with her smile. “Not you,” she clarified, “tradition.” She glanced at her friend’s manicured fingernails. Tonight they were metallic blue. Tomorrow they could be vivid orange or neon pink. Sometimes she even adorned them with decals and rhinestones.

She was nearly as creative with her hairstyles, although she changed the shade every other month rather than every other day. Her thrift shop wardrobe ranged from 1960s Annette Funicello to 1990s Madonna. “You,” Kylie