15.96 Sarah Jio The Look of Love: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780142180532

The Look of Love: A Novel

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9780142180532: The Look of Love: A Novel

From the New York Times bestselling author of Always and Blackberry Winter, and inspired by the classic song, the magical story of a woman who can see true love—but will she find it for herself?

“Jio has become one of the most-read women in America.”—Woman’s World

 
Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed.

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About the Author:

Sarah Jio is the #1 international, New York Times, and USA Today bestselling author of eight novels. She is also a longtime journalist who has contributed to Glamour, The New York Times, Redbook, Real Simple, O: The Oprah Magazine, Cooking Light, Woman’s Day, Marie Claire, Self, and many other outlets, including NPR’s Morning Edition, appearing as a commentator. Jio lives in Seattle with her three young boys.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright  © 2014 Sarah Jio


Chapter 1


2021 Pike Street, Apartment 602, Seattle
December 24, 2012



I steady my golden retriever, Sam, as I slide my key into my mailbox. Bernard, the apartment building doorman, looks away from the packages he’s sorting and kneels down beside Sam to scratch his ears. “Morning, Jane,” he says, looking up at me with a smile. “Did you hear? They say we’re getting snow tonight. Four inches at least.”

I sigh. We’ll never get the flower deliveries out on time if the roads are icy. I collect the stack of mail and holiday cards inside the box, then cross the lobby to the front windows, which are lined with multicolored lights. Sam sniffs the Christmas tree in the corner as I peer outside. Pike Place is just waking up. Steam wafts from the awning of Meriwether Bakery, down the block. The fish-mongers are hosing down the cobblestones in front of their stalls. A flock of eager tourists carrying umbrellas (tourists always carry umbrellas) pause for a photo across the street, disturbing a seagull perched on a street sign overhead. He lets out an annoyed cry and flies off in a huff.

“Yep, those are snow clouds out there,” Bernard says, nodding toward the window.

“How can you tell?”

“Come here,” he says, standing and walking through the double doors. I follow him out to the street. “Let me give you a little lesson in clouds.”

I feel the bitter cold on my face as I breathe in the frigid air, which smells of coffee grounds and seawater—aromatic and salty at the same time. Seattle. Sam wags his tail expectantly as a passerby reaches out her hand to greet him.

Bernard points up to the sky. “See those? They’re cirrostratus clouds.”

“Cirro-what?”

He grins. “They’re the first cloud formations you’ll see before a snowstorm. Look how they’re thin and rippled, like fallen snow.”

I study them with curiosity, as if they might contain a message written in meteorological hieroglyphs. A cloud language that I might be able to decode if I stare long enough.

“Now, look farther off over the sound,” he says, pointing out to the distant clouds lurking over Elliott Bay. “Those are the snow clouds moving in. They’re heavier, darker.” He pauses and touches his hand to his ear. “And listen. Do you hear it?”

I shake my head. “What?”

“The way the air sounds muffled.” He nods. “There’s always an unexplained quiet before a snowstorm.”

Sam sits at my feet on the sidewalk. “I think you might be right. There’s something eerily quiet about this morning.” I gaze up at the sky again, but this time I do a double-take. “Do you ever see things in clouds? Pictures? Faces?”

He grins. “Indeed I do. But what I see may be different than what you see. Clouds are illusive that way.” He pauses for a long moment. “I think they show us what we want to see.”

He’s right. I do see something, and it startles me a little. I quickly shake my head. “Then I’m not telling you what I see, because you’ll just laugh at me.”

Bernard smiles to himself.

“What do you see?” I ask.

“A roast beef sandwich,” he says with a grin, then reaches into his pocket. “Oh, I almost forgot. This came for you.” He hands me a pink envelope. “The postman accidentally left it in Mrs. Klein’s mailbox.”

“Thanks,” I say, quickly tucking the envelope into my bag with the other mail—mostly an assortment of unwanted Christmas cards. Perfect, happy, smiling families posing for the camera. Talk about illusions.

“Merry Christmas,” Bernard says as Sam begins pulling on the leash.

“Merry Christmas to you,” I reply. The words echo in my head. Merry Christmas. I don’t feel merry. But I never do this time of year.

I round the corner and nod at Mel, the owner of the newsstand at Pike Place. He winks and points to the mistletoe hanging on the awning. “A kiss for old Mel?”
I play coy and smirk, and Mel frowns. “Not even on Christmas Eve, Janey?”

I lean in and give him a quick peck on the cheek. “There.” I smile. “Are you happy now?”

He clutches his cheek and feigns paralysis. “Best day of my life,” he says. Mel is at least seventy. He’s operated the newsstand for forty years, maybe longer. A short, balding man with a potbelly, he flirts with every woman in the market, then goes home to a little apartment two blocks up the hill, where he lives alone.

“My Adele loved Christmas Eve,” he says. “She loved mistletoe. She’d do it up big, with a roast and a tree and lights.”

I place my hand on his arm. Although his wife passed away eight years ago, he speaks of her as if they’d just had breakfast this morning. “I know you miss her so much.”

He looks up at the clouds, and I wonder what he sees. “Every damn day,” he says. I see the grief in his eyes, but his expression changes when a woman, perhaps in her seventies, approaches the newsstand. She’s tall and towers over Mel like the Columbia Center perched beside the much smaller Fourth and Pike Building. She has silver-gray hair and chiseled features. Elegant with a strand of pearls around her neck, she was no doubt very beautiful in her youth.

“Do you have the Times—the London Times?” she asks in a tone that telegraphs disappointment. Her voice is sharp, commanding, and I hear the telltale clip of a British accent.

I watch the two face each other, and my vision clouds a little, as it sometimes does. I rub my eyes as Mel grins jovially at his prim-and-proper customer. “The Times?” he exclaims. “Ma’am, with all due respect, this is Seattle, not merry old England.”

The woman’s eyes narrow. “Well, any proper newsstand would carry it. It’s the only publication worth reading.” She scans the racks of tabloids and newspapers. “So much rubbish these days.”

Mel raises an eyebrow at me as the woman adjusts the collar of her trench coat and bristles past us.

He looks momentarily stunned before his face twists into a half smile. “Snobs!” he says. “Rich people think they own the world.”

I glance over my shoulder and rub my eyes again, careful not to disturb my recently applied mascara, which is when I remember the appointment I have tomorrow with Dr. Heller, the neurologist I’ve been seeing for most of my life. The British woman has disappeared around the corner. “Maybe she’s just unhappy,” I say. “My grandmother used to say that most of the time, people don’t mean to be rude; it’s just their sadness showing through.”

I’m hit with a sudden memory from childhood, when the first time I encountered deep sadness was the same day I first noticed a change in my vision. I was four years old, standing in the doorway of my mother’s bedroom. Mom sat hunched on her bed, sobbing into her hands. The curtains were tightly drawn, and darkness stained the walls. My father hovered behind her, begging her forgiveness. He held a suitcase in his hand and was leaving that day for Los Angeles to follow a woman he’d met. He said he was going to marry her. Dad was in love, and Mom was heartbroken.

I don’t remember my father’s face, or the exact words they exchanged that rainy Seattle morning. I recall only my mother’s deep sadness, and when my father placed his hand on her shoulder as if to say, “Please forgive me,” I blinked hard. It was as if my eyes had completely fogged over, but not from tears, from something inside me. I remember taking a step back, rubbing my eyes, and stumbling in the hallway, where I waited until my father slipped through the doorway. If he had intended to say good-bye to me, he didn’t get around to it. And so he left us—my brother, Flynn, oblivious, watching TV on the couch; me, confused and partially blind in the hallway; Mom, crying so loudly, I wondered if she might be dying.

I wanted only to cheer her up, so that morning, with a shaking hand, I offered her a cup of coffee. I’d watched her grind the beans and place them in the French press a hundred times, and I summoned the courage to try it myself. But my vision was still blurry, and I’d gotten it all wrong, and Mom was quick to tell me so.

“What is this?” she snapped.

“I made you coffee,” I said in a squeak.

She looked down at the coffee cup and shook her head, then slowly walked to the kitchen sink and dumped it out.

I held my tears as I watched her walk back to her bedroom. Dad had failed Mom. And I’d failed her too. An hour later, Grandma came over and explained that sadness has a way of controlling our behavior. I never forgot those words, or the way Grandma summoned Mom, and the two of them rushed me to the hospital when I told them about my eyes, still mildly blurry an hour later. After an inconclusive CAT scan and a needle prick in my arm that made me cry, I went home with a sticker and a cherry Popsicle. We didn’t talk about Dad anymore after that. And even now, as hard as I try, I can’t picture his face. In my mind’s eye, he remains a permanent
blur.

---

Mel shrugs as he slices open a bundle of newspapers with a box cutter.

“Well,” I continue, “I’m off to the shop. It’ll be a busy day today. Last year Lo created this arrangement with poinsettias, holly, and rosehips, and I swear, every socialite in this city wants four for her holiday table.” I sigh. “Which is not a bad thing, obviously. It just means that by the time this day is over”—I pause and hold up my hands—“these fingers are going to be arthritic.”

“Don’t work too hard, Janey. I worry about you.”

“I love that you worry about me,” I say with a slow smile. “But I can assure you, my life does not warrant any worrying. I get up and go to the flower shop, then go home. Simple, drama-free. No need for worrying.”

“Sweetheart, that’s why I worry about you,” Mel continues. “I’d like to see you cut loose a little, find someone.”

I smile and pat my golden retriever’s head. “I already have someone,” I say. “Sam.”

Mel returns my smile as I wave good-bye. “I’m going to set you up with a fishmonger I met yesterday. His name is Roy. He could make you a nice fish dinner sometime.”

“You do that, Mel,” I say, rolling my eyes playfully as I lead Sam down the next block and open the door to Meriwether Bakery. Elaine waves at me from the counter. Her dark hair is pulled back into a neat ponytail. There’s a dusting of flour on her cheek.

“Morning,” I say. Sam jumps up and places his front paws on the counter, waiting for Elaine to toss a dog biscuit in his mouth. The bakery smells of burnt sugar and yeasty, fresh-baked bread. In other words, like heaven.

Elaine, a third-generation owner of the bakery, befriended me when I took over my grandmother’s flower shop five years ago. We bonded over our shared love of chocolate croissants and white peonies, and we continue to trade them regularly. She wipes her brow. “We’ve taken forty-nine orders for pecan pie in the last hour. I may never make it home tonight.” The bells on the door jingle, and I turn to see her husband, Matthew, walk in.

“Honey!” she chirps from behind the counter. Matthew, an architect with rugged good looks, walks toward us and leans across the counter to give her a kiss. They have the kind of life that makes everyone around them just a touch envious: two beautiful children, and a house on Hamlin Street overlooking the Montlake Cut with a Martha Stewart–approved flower garden and a backyard chicken coop that yields unlimited fresh organic eggs.

“Did you pick up the Lego set, the one Jack wanted?” Elaine asks, twisting her wedding ring around her finger.

“Got it,” Matthew says, lifting a bag onto the counter. “Oh, and I got Ellie that American Girl doll she’s been talking about.”

Elaine exhales. “Good, because that would have been a major Santa fail.” She turns to me. “This man is my savior.”

Matthew grins. “Hey, did you meet the new neighbor?”

Elaine shakes her head.

“I said hello to him this morning,” Matthew continues. “His wife died last year. Just moved out from Chicago. I thought we might invite him over tomorrow for Christmas dinner.”

“Sure,” Elaine says. “If you think he’d want to come.”

Matthew shrugs. “He just moved into town. I’m sure he knows no one. And besides, his daughter is about Ellie’s age.”

While Elaine is inclusive and welcoming, Matthew is that, amplified. At their Thanksgiving celebration, I sat across from a recently divorced colleague of Matthew’s with a bulging midsection and a perma-frown. Elaine took me aside in the kitchen and complained that if Matthew had his way, he’d invite every third person in Seattle to dinner.

“It’s fine,” Elaine says. “Tell him he’s welcome.”

Matthew nods, then turns to me. “Plans for Christmas? You know you’re always welcome too, Jane. And who knows, maybe you’ll hit it off with our new neighbor.”

I meet his wink with an eye roll. “You are incorrigible, Matthew.”

“Honey,” Elaine says. “Leave Janey alone. She doesn’t need the matchmaking services of Matthew Coleman.”

He grins.

“Besides,” Elaine continues with a grin of her own, “you forget that Christmas is Jane’s birthday.”

I grimace. “Yes, I have the poor luck of being cursed with a Christmas birthday. At least I get both out of the way on the same day.”

Elaine frowns. “You’re such a grump.”

I shrug. “I go into survival mode on December twenty-fifth. You know that. It’s brutal.”

“At least let me bring you survival rations, like a cake,” Elaine says. “You refuse every year.”

“Please don’t,” I say. “I’d honestly rather order takeout and have a Scandal marathon on Netflix.”

“That sounds depressing,” she says. “And what takeout place is open on Christmas Day?”

“Yummy Thai,” I reply with a grin. “They’re open every year. See? All covered.”

Elaine sighs. “At least give yourself a vase of flowers.”

I smile. “I can probably do that, yes.”

“How’s business going?” Matthew asks.

“Great,” I reply. “Booming, actually.”

If there is any constant in my life, it’s flowers. My grandmother Rosemary founded the Flower Lady, Pike Place Market’s original flower shop. It opened in 1945, shortly after the war, and when my grandmother’s fingers became arthritic in the 1980s, my mom, Annie, took it over until she passed away when I was eighteen. Mom’s assistant kept the place afloat until I finished college, and the baton was passed to me.

I grew up in the shop, where I’d sweep up leaves and petals and sit on the stool at the counter and eventually help Grandma arrange. “You’re a born florist,” she told me time and time again. “We have the special touch of knowing how to reach people, to make them feel.”

And I suppose she was right. Mom had it too. We knew—we were born knowing, perhaps—how the right blend of roses and freesia can help a man tell a woman he loves her; how a tasteful combination of chrysanthemums and yellow tulips can express a heartfelt apology.

I ache for my mother then, as I always do this time of year. Mom used to love Christmas, and she’d make it beautiful in every way, decorating every spare surface of the apartment with evergreen boughs and cedar garland. She’d never settle for a small tree either. Despite the space limitations, we’d lug home the biggest noble fir at the tree lot.

Mom’s canc...

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