What does chemistry have to do with handbags? – Secrets of a Handbag excerpt
In case you don’t know, my path towards writing wasn’t a straight line. While trying to ignore the voice in my head telling me I needed to write, I went to university and took a degree in Chemistry. That’s why science in general, and chemistry in particular, is part of my background.
When I decided to start writing Secrets of a Handbag, I knew that I wanted a chemist in the story, but I also knew that the chemist couldn’t be Elisa, the main female character. Elisa doesn’t have the right personality; however, Diego does.
Diego is a PhD student at university. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy who actively tries to avoid complications. So, when he finds Elisa’s handbag and then meet her in person, he does everything he can to carry on with his life and keep going as if nothing had happened.
But life has other plans in store for him. And life has some valuable helpers in Diego’s friends.
Excerpt from Secrets of a Handbag
Tommaso stares at me with poorly-disguised astonishment on his face. I see him from the corner of my eye. If he doesn’t close his mouth, Elisa will notice too.
“It’s really good,” she says, talking about the croissant.
I’m eating my second, just in case. Hoping I sound casual, I say, “So, what brings you to this part of town?”
“I was at Marco’s—my boyfriend’s place.” She hesitates a second too long before saying the B-word. “And since he lives not far from here, I thought I could stop by while going at work.”
So, there is a boyfriend.
The news isn’t really unexpected. It was hard to believe that the dates in her diary with little hearts near them could be appointments with her cardiologist.
“It was a good idea,” I answer without knowing why.
In a rational way of thinking, it’s madness to get off the bus so many stops away from your job just to have breakfast.
“You know, I was thinking about the happy hour tonight.” Elisa seems uncomfortable. She stares at her hands as she clutches her medium cappuccino.
I encourage her. “Yes?”
“Well, I’m happy you decided to come,” she says in the end with a sigh and a smile. Her embarrassment diminishes. Strange girl. Why is she embarrassed over such a simple thing? Over something she already told me yesterday? But maybe it wasn’t what she was going to say when she started to speak. It’s useless to speculate without further data.
“I need to go, or I’ll be late to the book shop. See you tonight!”
I pay for her breakfast. It’s also my turn to pay for Tommaso’s, who finally closed his mouth but didn’t stop staring. While I was talking with Elisa, the little group of students crowding the place in search of caffeine to survive the morning lessons mysteriously dispersed. Now I’m alone with Tommaso and Rebecca.
When I turn, after saying goodbye to Elisa, they are side by side. Arms crossed, pointed glares. They’re clearly waiting for some explanation.
I stare at them in turn. “What?”
“What, what? It’s us who should ask ‘what’,” says Tommaso.
“Come on. Let him be.” Rebecca intervenes with a bright smile while going back behind the counter. “Clearly there was something more behind his break with Lorena.”
“Nice try. But you know very well she is the handbag girl, and I met her after breaking up with Lorena.”
“That is the handbag girl?” Tommaso exclaims, lifting his eyebrows.
“Aaaaah!” A sudden understanding spreads on Tommaso’s face. Rebecca still seems perplexed.
“Do you remember? She came here the other day.”
“Yes, I remember her. But what does she have to do with the bag?”
I quickly update Rebecca on the matter. I told this story so many times in the past few days that I feel like one of those pathological liars who must tell his lies many times so he can start believing in it himself. Anyway, however strange, this story is true.
When I finish, the skeptical expressions on Rebecca and Tommaso’s faces don’t vanish as I hoped. “What?” I repeat for the umpteenth time. I start feeling stupid. Where did my vocabulary go?
“And does this seem normal to you?” Tommaso’s forehead furrows as he stares at me.
“Tommaso is right.” Rebecca starts taking loaves off the counter. “You were kind to take her handbag to her, and she has been kind to invite you out with her friends. But coming here just to have breakfast seems like a sign of… something else.”
“Yes. I mean,” Tommaso goes on, as if they were in league with each other, “this could point at more than mere gratitude.”
“Ah! I got it. I know where this is going.” I lift my hands in front of me, to shield myself from the attack. “Don’t even try, I have no desire to listen. She just wants to return a favor.”
“Sure.” Tommaso’s smile is more of a sneer. “And you have no trouble accepting it, have you?”
What the hell does he mean with this? I try not to lose my patience with him. “She invited me to go out, which caught me off guard. Then she came here this morning and reaffirmed the invitation. Can you tell me how can I possibly refuse to go now?”
Discussion is useless when he acts like this.
I shrug without saying more, then I move toward the counter. I pay and wait for Rebecca to put stamps on my customer-loyalty card. The entire time she looks at me like she knows a thing or two but has decided to keep silent. In the end, I leave without waiting for Tommaso. After a few moments, he catches up with me, his after-breakfast cigarette between his teeth.
“Come on, you aren’t really mad at me.”
“I’m not mad at you.” To tell the truth, I am mad at him, but there’s no need to exacerbate the problem. “But you have to stop trying to see things that aren’t there. I just broke up with Lorena and, by all accounts, it was a relief. Really, I have no intention of dating someone so soon. Is this clear?”
“Crystal clear. Can I offer an observation?” Tommaso crushes his cigarette under his heel mid-stride.
“If you must.”
“It looks like she likes you. And there’s nothing wrong if you like her. I mean, it would be normal. You’re single. She’s a pretty girl, with that Oxford-student air and high heels.”
“Even if this was true, she has a boyfriend.”
“Maybe to you. It wouldn’t be for me. But anyway, it’s pure speculation because I am not interested in Elisa. If you want to try hooking up with her, be my guest.”
While we enter the building, Tommaso mutters something about pure speculation becoming something more, and then everything would be very awkward.
I tune him out. I know how these things go. At least, I know how they go in my life. Terribly wrong, usually. And I don’t want to start all over just to find myself at the same point again. Looking at Elisa, I could imagine how it would be between us. And how it would end.
Why embark on an endeavour when I already know the outcome?
No point, really.
What if your handbag could talk?
What kind of secrets would she reveal?
What shameful truths would surface from its recesses?
What if a stranger found it; how would they look at it?
And if the handbag is very opinionated, things may become even more complicated.
When Elisa—student and bookseller—leaves her handbag on the bus, her life takes a dramatic turn. The handbag holds every aspect of her life, and without it, she can barely manage even the simplest of tasks.
Diego, a pragmatic, no-nonsense chemist who dislikes complications, finds Elisa’s handbag. He couldn’t be more different from Elisa and can’t wait to return the handbag to its owner so he can go back to his life.
When Elisa and Diego meet, however, things don’t go as planned.
And while Diego tries to keep his distance, everyone (the handbag included) seems determined to put Elisa on his path again and again.
The only ones who don’t seem to agree are Lorena—Diego’s ex-girlfriend—and Marco—aspiring journalist and Elisa’s boyfriend…
Secrets of a Handbag will be available in all the major online stores on September the 20th.
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