Isn’t Hope in Some Form Our Best-Case Scenario?

Relentless Hope.

Sometimes you can sense it, even from a distance. The down-cast eye, an aimlessness in their gait. Something—or someone—has extinguished that flickering flame of hope that elevates existence to vitality. At some point in time or another, most of us have been there. But not Nyra.

After a college career in which Nyra’s sincere desire for connection and her driven sexuality has been frustrated by an almost impossible series of bad luck, she could be forgiven is she thinks being alone and disappointed is her fate. Living but not not quite alive. Wishing, but not really hopeful.

On the surface, that’s the Nyra readers think they’re  meeting in chapter one of Best-Case Scenario. But entitled Relentless Hope, nothing characterizes Nyra’s most persistent state of mind. Despite disappointments that haunt lesser souls for years—even a lifetime,

Nyra still believes in her future. The possibilities she senses, even if the tangible evidence of hope still elude her are at the driving centrality of her soul.

Catalysts.

But hope is one thing. What continues to feed it? Is it that faint tickle of apparent interest radiating from someone we know and secretly desire? For Nyra, there are two. Toni, at work, a lovely woman of color whose kindness directed to a younger woman leaks soft sensuality. Is she interested in me? Nyra wonders more than once. What will she do if she is? Nyra isn’t sure. But she would like to find out.

And then there’s her more conventional “love interest.” Kevin, the night manager at the Blue Macaw. Handsome, confident without being an ass, Nyra sometimes catches him looking and wishing he’d do more than look. Surely one or the other of her two potential playmates will make a move.

But what will she do if they both make a move? With no experience with either gender and aware she’s attracted to both, how does she even decide? And then there’s the continued frustration of somehow being unable to snag her first professional level career job.

In the final analysis, doesn’t maintaining her positive outlook depend on a catalyst, either romantic or professional—preferably both? Nyra guesses it might. In the meantime, she keeps trying. After all. Isn’t hope in some form everyone’s best-case scenario?

Toni-Do We Ever Forget our First?

Excerpt from Best-Case Scenario.

The modest swell of her breasts is all but camouflaged by her flowy tunic. Turning sideways in the mirror, Nyra pulls it tight and pouts. Does anyone even notice? She twists and stands on tiptoe, for an over-the-shoulder look at her stern. Does her slender waist make her ass look too wide? She’d once overheard her brother’s best friend Mark commenting on her “sassy chassis.” Nyra’s all through high school crush on Mark date from the overheard offhand remark.

He’d flirted persistently, but nothing ever came of it. Had Kip warned him off?

The door swings open and in walks Toni, the IT Applications Manager. Nyra pivots hastily toward the mirror.

     “Hey Nyra!” Toni smiles, pulls a plum shaded lipstick from her purse and gets to work. “You look just fine leaving, if that’s what you’re wondering. How goes it in the call center?”

     “Nothing but a party.” Nyra fishes lip gloss from her own purse and concentrates unnecessarily on applying it.

     “One of those days, huh? I feel you. Had a few of those working the IT Help Desk before I got my certification.”

     “It’s nothing I won’t get over.”

     “That which does not kill us?” Toni’s lips twitch in irony.

     Their eyes meet in the mirror and Nyra’s stomach twists. Toni has most of what Nyra wishes she had. Full, prominent breasts. Perfect symmetry. her mahoghany skin seems to glow, calling attention to generous, kissable lips.

     A light dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks spill down her neck, inviting speculation. A thick cascade of glossy black curls frame her face. And those liquid brown eyes.

     Toni drops the lipstick in her purse and pulls out a cell phone chiming to a text message.

     Her brow furrows as she reads. “Gotta go.” She meets Nyra’s eyes again and smiles. “Keep the faith, Girlfriend!”

     Nyra follows Toni’s graceful departure until the closing door cuts her off.

Toni’s loveliness, Nyra soon learns, goes way past her undeniable beauty. Her soul is a shining example of loving, giving kindness coupled with competence and empathy. Who would not love her?

Best-Case Scenario-Intransigent Hope

Nyra Westensee

The first thing you notice about Nyra Westensee as she approaches from afar is her graceful, athletic gait. Her movements are light and free. Close up, her striking hawk-nosed face, and full, kissable lips catch your eye. Is she beautiful? Objectively, no. But when she speaks, her meliflous contralto and careful diction—a siren’s song of possibility reel you in.

Her eyes tell the rest of her story, mirroring her spirit. Very little in Nyra’s young life has gone her way. Hints of her disappointment lurk beneath her thick chestnut eyebrows in impossibly turquoise eyes. Now that she has your attention, she seems not to know what to do with it. Her reticent smile and occasional nervous giggle suggest she’d probably be good company, if she’d just loosen up and take herself less seriously.

Nyra’s as slender as Kip—her brother from another father—is muscular and powerful. Otherwise, they share their mother’s complexion and hawk nose. You don’t have to ask, to know they’re brother and sister. But where Kip is confident and self-assured, Nyra often doubts she “can,” even after she “does.”

More than a year out of college, Nyra is still in search of her first career-level position in marketing. Is it her reticence, her choice of career or both that seem to have her feeling like she’s wading through wet cement? The truth is, many less intelligent or less accomplished have already started their careers and many less attractive have found what looks like “love.” So what’s wrong with her?

Nyra is still looking for answers. But the very incarnation of hope, Nyra purserveres. Working an internship that barely pays for gas and waitressing in a south bay sportsbar, she hasn’t given up. And though she doesn’t realize it yet, opportunities personal and professional lurk. She knows nothing in life is guaranteed and has never acquired the vice of feeling sorry for herself, though her peppery wit occasionally borders on acerbic. But to most of us, a time comes. And Nyra’s is just around the corner.

Best-Case Scenario, a tale of hope is the first act in Nyra’s journey of growth from a thoughtful young woman with more questions than answers to her dawning maturity, sophistication and the possibilities of a life of purpose and promise.

Best-Case Scenario (of Dreams and Demons)

Shadowboxing with herself...

Nyra Westensee has a long history of conflicted shadowboxing with herself—metaphorically speaking. On the surface of things, it’s hard to see why. She’s attractive, much more than she realizes. She’s not voluptuous, but she has a light, pleasing figure. She once overheard her brother’s friend Mark commenting on her womanly stern as a “sassy chassis.” But crushing on him came to nothing and unaccountably, she’s concluded that her ass is more a liability than a positive.

Is it partly because Kip is so out of reason good-looking? Maybe it’s those disarming smiles that earn him forgiveness and second chances he doesn’t always deserve. Things just come easily for Kip. Maddeningly competent and sublimely confident, he nevertheless manages to avoid appearing too full of himself.

Growing up in Kip’s shadow no matter what the dynamics at home were like would probably have been difficult, Nyra knows. Two years younger, Nyra joined him in middle school after Kip had already established himself. Same thing in high school. She was always walking a path Kip had already walked and as much as he tried to make things easier for her, she was always Kip’s younger, cute younger sister. Nice, attractive, but somehow “less than.”

But Nyra’s struggles for validation at school were mirrored at home. Their mother unconsciously confirmed Nyra what suspected. She’s just not quite as good. If Kip was in the room, he always seemed to fill it. It’s not that Nyra wasn’t there or that she wasn’t loved. She was just never the center of their mother’s world the way Kip was.

Dreams and Demons

Does it not happen to all of us, at some point? That recognition we’re not necessarily who we thought we were or wanted to be? Maybe it’s the friction of life, dangling our limitations, real or imagined before our eyes. Or perhaps we’ve always been aware of them, but are only now realizing how those limitations are defining us in ways we’d rather they didn’t. How we’re suffering by comparison with others we’d like to live up to or who show us how short of our own expectations we fall.

In the end, the catalyst of truth or it’s timing matters less than the truth it reveals. “Less than” is who we are. It is also who we must be in order to discover with who we can be and perhaps as importantly, who we want to be. It is the demons living inside us that drive us, for better and/or worse.  And it is in confronting them…how we confront them and what we do when we see them for who they are…that we become.

On the Threshold of Tomorrow...

In some respects, Nyra is fortunate to have to confront her demons early. She has her fair share of them, but they matter less than her response. In common with all of us, she will grow (or not) into what she was meant to be, can be…or wants to be. Or some combination thereof. Are we not our own life sentence and our own demons?

In Best-Case Scenario, Nyra is confronted by her truths in a way it’s impossible for her to ignore. It is a catalyst of self-discovery and the beginning of a journey toward her most authentic self. In common with all of us, she joins the silken river of life, meandering toward an uncertain destination.

Nyra in Search of Nyra

Where is Nyra?

Who am I? Most of us ask, at some point. If we’re lucky, we answer it early and consciously. If we’re really lucky, we only have to answer it once. Many of us have parents or grandparents who got away with that, in the simpler times preceding the turn of the last century. Arguably, it’s gotten a little less straightforward, in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Before we go a step further, I’m going to make a distinction. My use of identity here refers mostly to the deeply personal, individual identity that is inseparable from us—that unseverable indivisible thing without which we are no longer ourselves. And yes, for those who may already shifting uncomfortably in their seats, I know that most of us identify with a group or groups and that for many of us, that identity is part of our inseverable sense of self.

Nyra and Toni
Nyra in search of her best self...

But as Best Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s Journey, opens, Nyra’s identity problem is way more personal and fundamental.  She is, after all, for better or for worse, a child of her Age. And like it or not, that matters, both because of how it helps form her sense of self but also because of what it means for her practically…how it drives what she does, must do and why.

Context and Identity

Everything, including our identity, happens or is formed in a context. By way of illustration, try becoming an accomplished swimmer in a dry lake bed or preparing for an international Super-G competition in Nebraska. Are there workarounds? Usually. But our contextual realities are still highly influential if for no other reason than how those workarounds influence our reality and our perceptions of them. Which brings us to Nyra.

In common with most of us, Nyra is a creation of her environment, personal and shared. But at both levels, Nyra’s identity is a half-way house between her aspirations and her current reality. The daughter of a single (again) mother and an absentee father, college hasn’t come easily.

A combination of student loans, part-time jobs and scholarships has seen her through to graduation, but lately, she’s wondering “for what?” More than a year after graduation, she’s still looking for her first professional-level position, while clinging to her part-time jobs waitressing and her modestly paying internship working in call center for company that clearly doesn’t value her.

And then along comes Toni...

On a personal level, things have been just as frustrating. Despite her smouldering  sexuality, Nyra is still a “virgin,” at least factually. Close calls and promising beginnings have yet to lead to fulfillment. It’s not like there’s anything physically wrong with her, nor is she without possibilities. At Timmons Financial, there’s Toni, a lovely woman of color who oozes grace and sensuality.

But then, Kevin is pretty easy on the eyes, too...

And at her part-time job at The Blue Macaw, there’s Kevin, a delicious Iraq and Afghanistan vet whom she’s caught undressing her with his eyes more than once. But that’s where it all begins and ends. Is it the differences between their ages and experience? Is he gay, or does he need a nudge…some kind of hint? Nyra’s not very good at hints.

Hope is a siren's song

In common with a lot of millennials, Nyra wonders if her personal and professional life are a kind of metaphor for the world she’s supposed to be inheriting. Sandwiched between a less than satisfying now and a future she increasingly suspects may be empty of a place for her, somehow she manages a measure of hope. But even in her best moments, she finds herself alternating between modulating her cynicism with optimism and her dreams with a healthy dose caution.

It’s occurred to her more than once that she might  be guilty of living her life defensively. And when the notion crosses her mind, she emphatically denies it, or admonishes herself for giving up. She can’t do that. Her mother didn’t. Still, she can’t help but wonder what, exactly, is her best case scenario. On when she might even catch a glimpse of it, out there in the foggy potential of maybe someday.

Best Case Scenario is the first act in Nyra Westensee’s journey from young woman with more questions than answers to a thoughtful maturing human full of purpose and promise.

To remain up to date on upcoming Nyra Westensee stories and all of Dirk’s work, subscribe to his Updates.

Interview with Nyra Westensee

Candid Interview with Nyra Westensee

Tina Lavereau: It’s my pleasure to welcome Nyra Westensee, the heroine of Best Case Scenario to our proverbial hot seat. Welcome, Nyra.

Nyra: Thanks for inviting me.

Tina: How did Dirk wind up telling your story?

Nyra: I met him in a coffee shop one afternoon, while he was working on a short story he subsequently got published. It was really crowded so I sat across from him in the only empty chair in the whole place and we wound up BSing. He started asking questions. About an hour in, he asked me if he could write a series based on me and my experiences.

Tina: When he told you he wanted to write your story, what was your first reaction?

Nyra: (Laughs) I don’t remember exactly, but as I recall, I looked at him and said something incredibly profound like “Really?” That’s when he locked me up with those gunsight eyes of his and I realized he was serious. That’s when I started getting queasy.

Tina: But you went ahead with it, ultimately.

Nyra: (Rolls her eyes and smiles) Yeah, I did.

 Tina: Why?

Nyra: Uh…have you met Dirk?

Tina: Briefly.

Nyra: Then maybe you’ll just have to take my word for it this one, but let’s just say Dirk can be…persuasive.

Tina: (laughs). Are you happy with the outcome?

Nyra: Totally. We made a deal. I’d tell the story, he’d write it, adding any artistic and thematic twists he thought my story suggested. Then he agreed to run it by me before he published it. We had a few…animated…discussions, but I was pleasantly surprised at how sympathetically he told my story. He’s an incredible listener and way more empathetic than I expected for a retired Marine. He’s also scary perceptive. But I’m glad I did it.

Tina: So you’d do it again?

Nyra: I’ve already promised to do it again.

Tina: Will the sequel becoming out soon?

Nyra: It may be a while. You’d have to ask Dirk.

Tina: On the surface of things, you seem to have a great relationship with your mother and brother. But as one reads the story, it feels like there’s a lot going on below the surface?

Nyra: Not much that isn’t going on above the surface.

Tina: Come on, Nyra!

Nyra: Okay, look. I know where you’re going with this, and it’s true, Mom and I in particular have had our moments. But she’s still Mom to me, and maybe the strongest woman I know. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have achieved as much as I have, this early. I just love her to pieces and I owe her so much.

Tina: How did she react to the book?

Nyra: (Blushes) Oh my god! When I started reading the galleys, I had this out-of-control panic attack over how she would take some of it. It’s so intensely personal, in places, and I almost told Dirk he was going to have to use a pseudonym for me or I wouldn’t let him publish it.

Tina: What changed your mind?

Nra: (Smiles conspiratorially) You remember me saying earlier Dirk could be really persuasive? That man could sell suspenders to snake! He gave me one of his looks and told me to think of it as a declaration of independence.

 Tina: And that worked?

Nyra: Sort of. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t still walking on eggshells when Mom started reading it.

Tina: What about Kip? How’d he take it?

Nyra: (Smiles fondly.) Kip’s so mellow. I can say anything to him and know we’ll always be tight. He’d chase the devil into hell to drag me back to safety. As long as we can stop for a beer on the way back.

Tina: Quite an endorsement!

Nyra: Look, we’re human and we have our human moments. We don’t have to be perfect…we just have to be there when it matters for each other. Kip always is.

Tina: Can I get personal, for a minute?

Nyra: Depends. How personal?

Tina: Cringingly personal?

Nyra: Oh God! (Giggles) What the hell. Can’t be any more cringy that those sessions with Dirk. Go for it!

Tina: Apart from your search for yourself professionally and family issues, Best Case Scenario takes a fairly deep dive into your sexuality. What’s it like to hang the details out there?

Nyra: (Frown dissolves into a smile). It probably won’t surprise you that those details were at the heart of my panic attack. And I’d be lying if I didn’t cop to it being a little…okay, a lot…awkward sharing all those really intimate, personal details…which he embellished. And when I read the galleys, I felt so…exposed. But to be honest, it’s also been freeing. I mean, once it’s out there, it’s out there and all the people closest to me have been so down with it. And the truth is, it becomes old news really fast, even for the obsessively curious. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The biggest changes has been my personal understanding of who I am and what that means. On balance, all very positive things.

Tina: So, what have you been up to lately? Anything new going on in your life?

Nyra: Well, I’ve been trying some new things to expand my horizons personally. One of the things I did was take up surfing and I can’t believe what a rush it is!

Tina: Surfing?

Nyra: I know, right? I started out on a longboard…riding the teeny-weenies at Old Man’s…it’s a mellow reef break just north of the old San Onofre nuclear power plant. Stood up the first day. I’ve been dropping down in length ever since and my new favorite board is my five-five Channel Islands twin fin, but I’m still hanging on to my Donald Takayama nose rider. And I’m saving up for a trip to Hawai’i next year and thinking about have a custom board shaped. I’m going to have a world-traveler quiver, at the rate I’m going.

Tina: Really into it, are you?

Nyra: Way! Sometimes I have to fend off all the surf dogs trying to pick me up while I’m trying to surf, but…(Shrugs) It’s manageable and to be honest, it has some upside. It’s really good for the ego. But now that Tai and I are a thing, they leave me alone.

Tina: Wait a minute. Tai? Your current boyfriend? I didn’t know…is it serious?”

Nyra: Who knows? You’d have to ask Tai…

Tina: How do we get in touch with him?

Nyra: You don’t!

Tina: But you said…

Nyra: Forget what I said! At least for now.

Q: Oh, all right. Everything good at work?

Nyra: Yeah, it’s going well. I’m going to get a crack at being an APM for a new project we’re taking on at Symondson. Denise has paired me up with an experienced Project Manager who’s going to mentor me. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.

Tina: So on balance, life is good?

Nyra: It really is. (Nyra looks thoughtful). I’m guessing there will still be bumps. Just about the time things get comfortable, shit happens. (Grins) I’ll just have to deal with it when it comes. But I’ll worry about that when it happens!

Tina: Thanks for making time for us, Nyra.

Nyra: You got it!

Nyra Westensee

Act II of Nyra’s Journey is due out in late 2019 or early 2020.