It might be Monday, but at least I’m kicking off the week with a new story! See if you can detect the challenge in today’s post, and don’t forget about my 50-Word Writing Contest! There are still three days to enter and you can submit as many as you like! Now, without any further adieu:
More than anything, I just didn’t want her to ask me what I was thinking about.
“Can I give you some time to consider it? A week, maybe?” she pleaded.
I stared at the newspaper in front of me, where only half an hour ago I had little on my mind other than the solution to the Jumble word puzzle.
“I don’t know, Jane,” I told her. “Honestly, this feels a little like a joke.”
Jane picked up my pencil and doodled on a blank corner of the paper. She scribbled a Kanji symbol. It could have meant anything. Heartbroken. Jerk. Fooled you!
Jane left and surprised me with a kiss on the head as she walked by. The jingle of the bell on the glass door startled me, as if it woke me up from a bad dream.
I paid for my juice and pancakes and slipped out of the diner with the newspaper tucked safely under my arm. I was smothered by the July heat, the kind that coats your skin with an instant mist of your own sweat. By now, Jane could have been ten blocks away if she’d walked, and miles away if she’d come in her Jeep.
I was startled to find her just around the corner, sitting on the curb in front of the Jack in the Box. I ducked behind a trash can and debated whether to join her or run the other way. No matter what I decided now, I couldn’t escape judgment day in a week.
“Do you want a ride?” I asked her.
Jane peeked up at me through her Maui Jim sunglasses, the ones she said were her last big splurge before. . .well, before.
It was a five-minute drive to her father’s house. In the front yard, her dad joyously raised a pair of shears as he waited for me to admire his freshly-trimmed juniper shrubs.
“Jared!” he called as his daughter stepped out of the car. “Stick around for dinner? We’re having tilapia,” he said with an emphasis meant to make it sound extravagant.
I glanced at Jane, who pretended to pick cat hairs off of her shirt.
“Thanks for the offer, but not tonight, Mr. Hill,” I said.
With a shrug, he returned to his shrubs. Jane leaned in through the window, her eyes jolting me with guilt. “See you in a week?” I nodded and slowly pulled away.
At home, I looked up the Japanese character she’d jotted on my paper back at the diner. Family.
The next morning, I phoned Jane. “A week is not long enough for me to know how this will feel nine months from now or nine years from now. But I don’t need a week to know I’m going to be there for both of you, no matter what.”
Through the phone, I heard her smile.
The challenge was: In 500 words or less, I used at least 20 unique words containing J and 20 unique words containing K.
Side note: Scrabble can go ahead and add some more J’s and K’s to the mix. I’m ready to rumble!