Yesterday Squish asked to read The Dark Age. She didn't mean the short story; she has read that a couple of times, including once yesterday. She knows the backstory, that I wrote the piece during a time in my life when I felt I was missing out on hers.
"When can I read the finished novel?" she asked. "Like the finished-finished one."
The novel, though, isn't finished. Well, it's written—the latest draft is away to my agent, and likely still needs a bit of work—but not finished. I told her as much, but then I said, "You know, I have a printed manuscript downstairs. It doesn't have all my most recent changes, but it's pretty close."
Her eyes lit up. So we trekked down to my study, found the Trader Joe's bag that contained the manuscript I'd marked up and covered in Post-its. Only a few of the Post-its remain, representing a handful of edits I chose not to make; all the ones that were affixed before represented revisions I'd completed, so I'd yanked the notes off the pages. But my scribbled marginalia is still present throughout. "I'm not erasing any of it," Squish declared. "It would stop being as special if I did."
She took off the title page and the dedication page, which has her name on it, and asked if I would sign them for her. I did. As I write this now, she is sprawled on the rug in the living room, our cat Gabby curled up beside her, reading.
She is not the only person to have read the book in its current state (my aforementioned agent), but she is my ideal reader, don't you think?