The Interview – BEFORE

For my own purposes, I have decided to post a before and after of this piece entitled The Interview. The piece was reviewed in my Writer’s Workshop, where I received many insightful comments on it’s structure. I believe looking at the two pieces like this will be very constructive and your comments are welcomed. 

Please enjoy The Interview in it’s orignal form:

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Hot lights exposed the set, as we faced one another. He leaned, fingers crossing as they rested on his lap. I sat back into the deep cushion of my chair, raising my chin – keeping him in sight. There was a call for silence, and I could hear the breath of those around me. A stagehand’s face was frozen in the dark shadow behind the scene. Her wide eyes reflecting us on the set.

He paused, a slow breath and then looked meet my gaze – only my gaze.

“Where were you when this all began?”

As the question fell from his practiced lips, I glanced at the floor. The wall of hot lights, and cameras, were hot on my face. To forestall the moment, I ran my lips between my teeth. He pressed on, as any journalist would.

“As everything began – ” I cut him off. This was our story, not his opinion of what may have happen. That is why we were here.

“Yes, yes,” my brown eyes flashed at one of the camera lenses. It was not that long ago, less than two years, but there was a struggle to remember life before – I coughed. “The station, I was getting a coffee.” Straightening my back, I had no fear in meeting his gaze. The compassion that looked back was honest, but un-welcomed. “My train had been delayed,” they all knew why. “I was ready to be on that train.” His fingers began to tighten around themselves, wordless encouragement.

“I was going home.”

I took a breath. He exhaled.

“Yes, yes,” he nodded into a relaxed smile. “You were going home, taking a break from school, just like the hundreds of other students had planned for the week.” Nodding, I still focused on his face. “Six months into your third year was it?” His lips seemed kind, his eyes were sympathetic, and even the lines on his forehead swayed towards an almost legitimate interest – I swallowed.

“Six months since I had seen my family.” I didn’t like him.

“And another twelve before you would make it home.” Falling back into his red, leather chair, he crossed one leg over the other, and for a moment looked into the cameras, silver hair glinting. His shiny, brown shoe was bouncing. Several people shifted behind the wall of the set, arms crossed. One held a hand to his headphones, lips moving fast as the lighting fell to match the soft complexion of my pale arms. The set warmed.

“Yes,” I agreed, following his lead and relaxing into the chair. “And, I never got my diploma.” The room hummed, nods moving between the camera men. The interviewer laughed, shaking his head to express a worn sense of humor. I ran my finger over the leather of the chair, my nail leaving a white line across the surface.

* * *

“Oh, ow,” she gasped, shaking a hand as coffee spilled over the brim. “Shit.” Pushing through the crowd to reach for a lid, she put her burned fingers in her mouth. There were delays up and down the board, which caused a rush to the unfortunate coffee shops that dwelled within the station. Very few now stood waiting for their train’s new arrival time, while most everyone else was finding a healthy dose of caffeine for six in the morning. Not even the sun had found its way down the stairwell.

She put her paper cup on the counter, wiping her fingers on her pants, and glaring at the hot coffee. The steam held to a soft breeze, swaying just above the rim. Her fingers were throbbing. A lanky hand reached in front of her, snapping a lid over the steam’s taunting dance. “That should help.” Erin looked over her shoulder, brushing her hair back. The smell of coffee strong as she touched her cheek. He smiled, shifting a computer bag onto his shoulder. “You might also want to get one of those cardboard-things, that goes around the cup.” He gestured wildly, ending with a quick flash of self-realization and a blush.

“Thanks, and yea, you’re probably right,” she agreed, turning back to the counter to hide an aggressive smile. It was pulling hard on the corner of Erin’s lips. But she fought against it, hoping he was not done paying her attention, and she could pull off nonchalant just this once.

He wasn’t.

He pushed his way in besides her, reaching for several sugar packets, and setting his own coffee close to hers on the table. Dropping his computer bag against Erin’s leg, he drowned the coffee in sweetness. With a smile he clicked his own lid into place, and grabbed for the cardboard, coffee collar. “And you?” He pushed.

Erin blushed.

Looking up at him through her eyelashes, she took a special interest in the freckles around his nose. They suited his thick-rimmed glasses. With a chuckle, he took the cup, slipped it into the cardboard, and then into her hand. Their finger’s touched, and Erin hoped the sudden rise of color in her cheeks would be excused by the heated liquid now in her hand. He wasn’t looking. The man was gesturing, with an inexcusable double, finger point, “Enjoy that.”

And with a smile, he left.

Erin watched his tall, dark head bob through the crowd. Glancing at the cup in her hands, she rolled her eyes. Her friends were half-way to the Florida Keys right now, getting mentally prepared for spring break. If she had only said yes to them sooner, Erin may have been reminded what it was to be nonchalant with a man. Now, she gets to spend an innocent week at home with her parents. A dragging few days that will not aid her lack-luster, love-life.

Erin took a step, and tripped. “Come on,” she cursed, spilling even more coffee from the small hole in the lid. That man had left his computer bag behind, still resting against her leg. Snatching the strap, she glanced to make sure her train was still delayed and made after him.

“Hey,” Erin called, pushing her way through crowd that continued to build around the coffee shop. “Hey,” he looked over his shoulder, surprised to see her chasing him down. He paused with one foot on the staircase, just ready to make his exit. His own cheeks were now the ones to blush as he noticed his bag weighing down on her shoulder. “You might need this,” she laughed, arm shaking from lifting the computer.

“Thanks,” he looked down, and having another moment of self-realization, ran a hand over his head. Little, uncontrolled hairs rose as his arm dropped to his side, “So, I looked pretty foolish.” He gave a weak shrug, smiling.

“Call it even,” she boasted, trying to hide her panting. “You helped me with my coffee crisis, I saved your laptop.” He blinked once, and she again tried to pull down the corner of her lips, while attempting to slow her breathing. Hiding in a library for the last three months did not help with getting in shape for either of these current situations.

He looked at the bag and, lifting it over his shoulder, stuck out a hand. “I’m Keith.” Color dotted Erin’s cheeks as she eagerly took his fingers, “Erin,” she smiled, with a bounce. Keith nodded, grinning and making to respond, but as the words formed in his mind, his face froze. A hot invisible wall washed into the back of Erin’s head, blowing her hair over her shoulders and into her face. A bright orange light reflected in Keith’s glasses, his eyes growing wide. Flames erupted into the lobby, bellowing over people who were thrown to the floor. Erin did not fight as Keith pulled her behind a table that had flipped in the explosion. The air was knocked from Erin’s lungs as she hit the floor.

Flames reached further, and hotter into the room. They were licking the ceiling, like a fox. The hurricane of fire and smoke whipped along the ceiling, pushing towards the exit behind them. Long arms of the flames clawed towards the sky, which could no longer be seen through the smoke. It was a cloak against the once calm, morning sun. Erin’s ears were ringing. A high pitched note that blocked the sound of her own breath as she coughed. Her lungs were burning. The train station was burning, and Keith fingernail’s were digging into her arm. Looking at the tiled floor, Erin pressed her forehead hard into his stomach and closed her eyes.

* * *

“So, Keith saved your life?”

Question. Answer. Repeat – This journalist had a rhythm about him.

I looked at Keith, who stared hard at the floor. He was not making pretty with the cameras. “Yes,” I agreed and the muscles in Keith’s face tensed. He did not look at me. He sat in the next chair, his hand clutching to the leather, nails biting its worn surface. “Yes, he did.” Keith’s green eyes were fastened to the floor.

“Keith, with the statistics we have heard, your reaction time must have been impressive for you both to have survived.” Our journalist leaned forward, “What was that like, the explosion?” Keith flashed his attention upwards – lips tight. “What did you see – feel – hear – in that moment?” Keith’s nostrils started to flare as he was pushed, “What did you think about as everything happened?”

“Fire.”

I watched, waiting for the unexpected joke, but the veins in Keith’s neck were humorless. The journalist leaned back the chair, eyes tight. He again crossed his fingers, holding his own hand in reaction to the expression on Keith’s face.With slow breaths, Keith’s eyes turned several pages of emotions.

He spoke.

“Screaming, and fire.” Keith’s hands clutched even tighter to the arms of the chair, almost pulling himself off its cushion. I looked at the man in charge, but he just nodded with a solemn smile. Keith had not wanted to come here. I did not want him to come – any of them. I glanced over my shoulder.

The brown show bounced at the silence, “I bet it was hard moment.”

I moved faster than any another, even before Keith could bring himself from the chair. His face was red, and his skin hot as I put my hand on his cheek, the other on his shoulder. He was suspended in mid-rise. Keith did not look at me, but kept that man in his sight.

“Hard,” he did not bother to open his lips. His teeth were grating. “Hard,” Keith resisted the pressure of my hand. “Hard is when you wait three months for help.” I brushed my thumb against his red face, whispering for him to calm. “Hard is when you think of your family, and they have no idea,” Keith’s voice broke and beads of sweat were building on his forehead.

So many things were different now.

“Not one sign, for three months.” Keith stood, pushing me back with a solid hand to my waist. “Not one fragment of help from anywhere.” I let him pass, trying to meet his gaze.

The others looked at me from behind our chairs, concern and fear was common amongst this group. Tom rose from his own leather pedestal to follow Keith, a heated glance at the interviewer who had turned his back. Tom flexed his hand as he gripped my shoulder and I walked away from the journalist, postponing the interview. There were seven of us left; seven pairs of eyes that were watching me approach, seven human beings who were struggling to smile.

This, is a hard moment. Crossing my arms, I came to a stop in front of them.

“Erin,” her voice was overflowing with concern as she addressed me, “Is it all – ” I bit my lip, and she hesitated. Darkness chilled my back as the warm lights of the set were switched off.

* * *

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