How to Write a Love Story, Part II

2. Know your setting.

All right. The characters were there. He stared at the screen. Nothing happened. He flexed his fingers a few times. No burst of inspiration struck. He closed his eyes, envisioning Rita and Jack, sitting silent on either side of a table somewhere...

His stomach rumbled.

Relieved, he stood up and passed through the apartment to the kitchen. The refrigerator light glared in his eyes: milk, some Colby Jack, two bottles of Leiney’s, a globe of lettuce. What he really wanted was a steak, but all he had was lunch meat. He pulled out turkey, mayonnaise and the lettuce, made a sandwich and sat down at the table for two.

Jack and Rita would go to the Deer Park Inn, except he couldn’t call it that. He pictured the restaurant’s rough-hewn walls and the stone fireplace roaring with flame. The Old Stone Inn. The Brick Oven Inn. No, just the Brick Oven. They’d get a table by the fireplace – it was January, so they could talk over what they did for the holidays. Jack just moved into a new apartment, one of those shiny condos with two bedrooms and a balcony. He bought himself a sofa and a dining room table for Christmas, but the place was still pretty empty. "I bet it's beautiful," Rita said with a smile; and Jack wondered if that meant he could ask her back to see it.

He wouldn’t mind bringing Sarah here, Bill thought as he swallowed the last of his sandwich. It was a nice apartment -- an old building, unlike Jack's, but that gave it character. He looked around. White counters and cabinet; a white fridge on the stained pine floor; his old-but-friendly speckled Formica table, two pale yellow vinyl chairs. The early afternoon sun glared in the window. The whiteness reflected endlessly off itself; the back of the chair opposite was pushed firmly up to the table. The kitchen clock ticked. Everything was quiet.

Bill stood up abruptly and went back to his desk.