With two weeks until Open Endings comes out, I think it’s the right time to share the excerpt with all of you.
Here’s the blurb one more time:
A man walks into a recruitment office… and nothing goes according to plan.
Matt Holston, soon-to-be college graduate, tries to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. One of his ideas? US Marine Corps. But when he goes to the recruitment office to learn more about a possible military career, he meets a guy who is a complete opposite of what Matt imagined a recruitment officer should be.
Cole Perry had suffered PTSD after his second tour overseas and now he just wants to get to the end of his contract. Transferred from his old unit, he’s a glorified office clerk, as he calls himself, but what he’s definitely not is a guy who would help anybody make the same mistake he did.
So what makes Matt come back to see Cole again if not the spiel about serving his country?
And here’s the excerpt:
Cole heard the knocking on the entrance door, but he ignored it. He made sure to lock the door behind Todd and MacKenzie this time and turn the “Back at 1300” sign. He wasn’t going to sit at the front just to guard the office. If the person at the door was determined, they could wait—he glanced at the time—twenty-five more minutes.
Knocking came again, and again, so Cole got up, irritated. When he entered the main office and saw the red-haired guy from a few days back, the irritation turned into apprehension and he halted in his step. On one hand, Cole was glad to see him, which surprised the hell out of him, but on the other, if he was back, it meant he was still interested in joining the Corps, and that… Well, that didn’t sit well with Cole at all.
It’s not your call, he thought to himself, and moved to open the door and let the guy in.
“Decided to ignore my advice after all?” Cole said, closing the door behind him.
The guy shook his head. “No, I didn’t. I just,” he hesitated. “Uhm, I’m Matt… Matthew. Hi.”
Matthew. He could finally put a name to the face and stop calling him “the guy” in his head. “Cole. Hey.”
Matthew lifted the bag of Chinese takeout he was holding. “I wanted to say ‘thank you’ for talking to me that day, I really appreciate it. And I remembered you didn’t go out for lunch, so I decided to check if you’d be hungry and consider lunch that came to you instead.”
Cole raised his eyebrows. “How do you know I don’t just eat later on?” He didn’t. He usually made do with sandwiches or a power bar. But he wanted to see what Matthew would say. Cole hadn’t expected to see him ever again and now that he was here, with Chinese takeout no less, it piqued Cole’s curiosity.
“I decided to take my chances,” Matthew said, lowering the bag, but not backing away. “So? May I offer you lunch as a thank you?”
For a few seconds they just looked at each other and neither moved. Cole noticed how Matthew’s loose frame was different than his tense posture from last time. In the end, Cole thought, what the hell. He nodded. “Sure. Come on, let’s go to my office, it’s out back.”
Matthew’s answering smile stirred in Cole something he hadn’t felt in a long, long time. Don’t be stupid, Perry, he told himself, shaking his head. “Coffee?” he offered.
“No, thanks, I’ve had two already.” Matthew sat down on the chair in front of Cole’s desk and put out all the boxes. “Chicken? Pork? Egg rolls?”
“Either one is fine,” Cole told him, clearing the desk of the papers and sinking down in his chair. His appetite was a prickly bitch most days, but now the smell of food made his stomach growl with anticipation.
Matthew handed him pork with rice and chopsticks then sat back. “What do you do here, if you’re not handling potential recruits?”
Cole shrugged. “Data administration. Which is as glamorous as it sounds,” he said with a smirk. He was a glorified office clerk, but he didn’t care much about that. It sure beat other things he used to do.
“You weren’t always a data administrator, were you?” Matthew asked, surveying the room, his chopsticks twitching in the air. He seemed to catch himself after a moment, because he looked at Cole with a grimace. “Sorry, that’s probably not a good question to ask. I just thought you wouldn’t warn me like you did, if you… If it was about a boring desk job.”
In days to come, Cole would wonder what made him tell the truth to a guy he hardly knew. Whatever it was, he did just that. Abridged version, of course, but still. “I wasn’t.” He shrugged. “I was infantry, did two tours. Hated the second one the majority of the time. Came back, went on leave, then my head started fucking me up,” he spoke calmly, eating his food. He got used to the way his emotions just turned themselves off sometimes a long time ago, but he suspected it might be weird to watch. His mother felt the need to cry anytime he did it. “When I got back to the base, I managed to get transferred to California.” He smirked at Matthew. “Data administrator, at your service.”
Matthew was staring at him, unblinking.
“I suddenly see a lot of perks of this job,” he said and lowered his head. It was Cole’s turn to stare. And then he laughed.
Matthew lifted his head and smiled back, uncertain.
“I did, too,” Cole said, still amused.
“What about quitting all together?” Matthew asked, coming back to his food.
Cole shook his head. “I’ve got five months left.” Four months and three weeks.
“Ah.” Matthew nodded. “Do you know what you want to do when you get out?”
“Besides taking a long vacation? Not really.” Cole shrugged. “I will figure something out.” He tilted his head. “What about you? What are your plans if not the Corps?”
Matthew shifted in his seat and started tapping his chopsticks against the box. “No plans yet.”
“What’s wrong with where you are now?” Cole asked. “You’re obviously looking for something,” he added at Matthew’s questioning look. “So I’m asking, what’s wrong with now?”
It was Matthew’s turn to shrug. “Nothing is wrong exactly. I’m graduating from college in a few months, so I’m trying to figure out what to do next.”
“Should I ask, how’s that going?”
Matthew snorted. “Better not.”
“Okay.” Cole said, finishing his pork. He grabbed one egg roll from the box between them. He really was hungry, who would have thought?
“Thanks,” Matthew said, voice quieter, and he didn’t meet his eyes when Cole glanced at him.
Cole wasn’t sure exactly what Matthew was thanking him for, but he didn’t want to push the issue. “Sure thing,” he said in the end, stopping himself before adding, “Anytime.”
Open Endings comes out on July 3rd from MLR Press.