Now, the word-count on her screen taunted her with its infuriating smallness; the blinking cursor seemed to laugh maniacally, daring her to type something, anything just to get that tally closer to the daily goal.
"I WILL NOT resort to making my characters sing lyrics to songs that never end, or having them review the periodic table just to increase my word count!" she defied the blinking cursor - for what was at least the sixth time that half-hour.
"Whose brilliant idea was this, anyway?" she grouched to her writing buddy. Her writing buddy, instinctively knowing an answer wasn't really wanted smiled serenely and didn't bother to look up from her own plot.
"Oh I give up!" our heroine conceded. "You may have won the battle," she glared at the word count box, "but the war still wages. I'm going for re-enforcements," she announced, dramatically flipping the laptop screen closed.
"I need chocolate."
Each word was punctuated with frustration and a hint of lingering bitterness toward uncooperative creativity.
A fellow word-fighter materialized, sensing that the previously hostile war-zone had transitioned to a temporarily peaceful truce.
"Yes," our heroine asserted firmly, uncurling her legs from the chair and working the kinks out of her shoulders.
"Me, too," her ally sighed, plopping down on the almost lumpy couch. "My hero is having an identity crisis and my villain is showing disconcerting hero-ish tendencies. My story sounded so brilliant in my head and once I started putting it on paper it's falling a bit flat."
"In that case we might need a cookie or two as well," our first heroine mused.
"Will this fortification of comforting endorphins involve . . . . coffee, perhaps?" a third compatriot joined the ranks.
"We might be able to handle that," the second heroine nodded thoughtfully.
"I have just the thing," the first heroine brightened. "I found it a few weeks ago and have been saving it for An Emergency."
"I've been staring at the same paragraph for the last 45 minutes," the third heroine observed dryly. "I think this qualifies."
The other two nodded.
"Think you can hold out for another half hour? This shouldn't take too long after I do my mise en place."
"There she goes again," the third heroine rolled her eyes.
"We're fine," the second heroine said quickly, shoving her toward the door. "Go. Do your mise en mess thing and stop spouting weird words that normal people never use! Don't you know that mixing Food Network and NaNoWriMo could be disastrous to my plot?!"
The first heroine giggled as she quickly snapped a picture of the black board on her wall and retreated to the kitchen.
"It looks yummy," she said to herself as she reviewed the original recipe, "but I think I'll make a few changes."
"Oh for crying out loud! Once, just once I'd like to see you make a recipe the way its written," the third heroine called after her.
"Shhh!" the second heroine hissed. "If you leave her alone long enough she'll forget we're in here. If she starts talking to herself we might get some good dialogue inspiration out of this arrangement."
"I'm not that entertaining," the first heroine called back to them as she propped the camera up on a shelf and started gathering her ingredients.
Thanks to modern technology, there was a pot of fresh coffee brewing moments later. And after a quick rummage in the pantry and refrigerator, our heroine had the ingredients she needed.
"2 ounces baking chocolate
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 cups coffee
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon",
she read the list to herself off the camera's view screen.
"Me thinks that unsweetened baking chocolate could add complications," she continued.
"But its easier than figuring out the cocoa equivalent," she shrugged. "And you could easily stir in a little extra sugar if it isn't sweet enough."
"True," she agreed with herself. "Let's get the milk warming and we can figure out the rest as we go."
"I'll use a bigger sauce pan so we have room to add the coffee later."
"Good idea. This says to use a double boiler to melt the chocolate, but 2 ounces really isn't all that much. "
"So rig something. Double boilers haven't been around forever . . . what would your great grandmother have used?"
"Good point. I bet if I use a clothes pin to clip this bowl above the tea kettle that would work."
"Be careful you don't burn yourself on the steam. Oh, that's brilliant!"
"I thought so. I just hope the clothes pin holds. I'd hate to have it drop the chocolate into the water," she smiled, very pleased with herself as she poked at the chocolate with a whisk.
"Whisk in the cinnamon, salt and sugar."
"Be careful you don't pop the clothes pin off!"
"I am being careful! Do you have any idea how hard it is to try cook and take pictures of what you're doing?"
"Sweetie, calm down. You're less likely to drop stuff if you're relaxed. Now pour in a little of the hot coffee."
"Okay," she sighed slowly. "You're right. But I think I'm going to take this off the hot water now. This is going to involve a little more whisking than I think my rigged double boiler can handle," she observed.
"Good idea," she agreed, moving the small bowl to a hot pad on the counter. "Keep stirring until the coffee dissolves the sugar."
"I'll add the vanilla now and then taste it to see how that unsweetened baking chocolate is working out."
"Not bad," she told herself. "But it would definitely qualify for dark chocolate. I'm not sure your compatriots are going appreciate that."
"Probably not. They are definitely of the 'sweet' chocolate camp. I'll add another 2 tbsp. of sugar and that should get it up where semisweet would have been. Are you going to add the rest of that coffee to the milk or should I?"
"I'll do it. You can add the chocolate in a minute."
"Oh that's pretty! I love how the coffee turns the milk a soft, gentle brown. Is it my turn?"
"Go for it."
"Now we whisk it frothy, just because it's fun. If you'll get the cups, I'll get the biscotti."
Five minutes later a tray of biscotti and steaming mugs of Brazilian Hot Chocolate was sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be carried into the fray.
Laptops were ceremoniously closed with sighs of relief when the mugs were passed around.
"To plots un-kinking," the first heroine toasted.
"To meeting word counts before bedtime and being asleep by midnight," the second added.
"To heroes who do what they're told . . . without argument," the third heroine finished solemnly, clinking the glasses 'round. The first steamy sip was savored; and the tension of missing word counts began to ease. Then, a lovely crunching of biscotti; contentious characters began to blur into a relaxing imagination.
"Mmmm," someone sighed deeply.
"This is really good."
"I don't feel as crabby as I did a minute ago."
"If y'all don't mind, a little peace and quiet seems to be in order. I'm having a very serious conversation with my Brazilian Hot Chocolate and biscotti, and y'all are interrupting," a tiny, genteel voice scolded primly. The three heroines stared in shock at the tea tray.
"Is there any more of this very lovely caffeine spiked chocolate?" the third heroine asked quietly.
"You haven't finished the first half of that cup," the first heroine objected.
"But I just heard your writing buddy scold us for interrupting her enjoyment of her cup! I didn't think I was that far gone, but if I'm hearing stuffed bears speak . . . I'm going to need way more chocolate."
"No, I heard her too," the second heroine whispered.
"Me, too," the first heroine admitted slowly. "I think we've been at this NaNoWriMo thing too long."
They silently regarded the small, innocent looking bear for a moment.
"Well, look at the bright side," the third heroine smiled. "Being a little nuttier than usual could come in handy when battling stubborn word counts or goofy characters."
The second heroine started giggling.
"I bet a talking teddy bear would shock my hero into getting back on track," she grinned.
"Teddy bears don't really fit in my plot," the third shrugged, picking her laptop up and opening the lid. "I think I need a singing rock."
The others giggled.
"Okay," the first heroine conceded, laughing as she booted her computer back up. "I'll add a quirky kitchen maid who can't get a straight answer out without turning it into another question. Then we'll see what happens."
The busy clack of computer keys, the occasional sipping of chocolate and crunch of nutty biscotti blended into a symphony of creativity. And on the corner of the tea tray, a small bear sat with a tiny cup of chocolate, smiling a small smile to herself and thinking that, in the end, maybe she was the heroine of the story after all.