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Writing Fiction - Chapter 28
Here's where Chapter 27 left you...
Jay had been looking down at the table while he said these shocking words and now he looked up at me. He had a look on his face I can’t really describe. It was a combination of defeat, anger and pain. For a moment I regretted my nosy nudge.
“Jay, I think I’m going to need some more caffeine before we continue this story. Do you want something?”
This moment felt too serious for a frivolous coffee drink.
As I waited for Julia to add Half and Half to my cup of plain coffee, I realized my headache was diminishing even further, but, just to be sure I was at the top of my nudging game, I asked Julia if she had any aspirin. She reached under the counter and handed me a little paper package along with a clear plastic cup of water. I quickly swallowed them, paid, and took both coffees back to the table and Jay.
He took his cup of dark brew from me and started looking bleakly into the steaming depths.
The bell jingled merrily over the door as a customer came in. Neither of us looked up. We just sat, intent on our drinks and unsure how to continue the conversation.
And now, Chapter 28 continues...
It isn’t often when I ‘nudge’ that the response surprises me. Sometimes it seems like all the sorrows I’ve channeled thus far in life have fit into one of three categories: terminal illness, cruel kids or spouses, or depression from causes other than those first two.
I had never yet nudged the response of a child dying. I was in over my heart here and I knew it.
“Jay, listen, have you tried anti-depressants?” He shrugged his shoulders.
“There are some great grief support groups out there.” He shrugged again.
“Maybe you need a change and…” Darn! Darn, darn, darn! I had turned into all the people that had made me so angry after my husband had departed for ‘celestial destinations unknown’. Thank heavens I had restrained myself from telling him about belly dancing lessons or rushing out of the coffee shop to prepare a scalloped potatoes and ham casserole for him.
So there we sat. In the background I could hear Julia chattering away to the latest round of customers…seriously, how many kinds of coffee drinks were there in the world?
I wondered if it would be rude to abandon our non-conversation to get a muffin. Now that my headache had backed off even more I had a craving for carbohydrates.
I tried again. “So, Jay, listen…I’m sorry I was just tossing those inane solutions out to you, I mean, obviously you’re having a tough time and I don’t really know you and so maybe I was kinda/sorta butting into your business, but you just really seem like you’re pretty miserable and…”
Jay looked up at me and attempted to give me another ghastly smile. “So,” he said in a slightly sarcastic voice, “I bet you can really swim underwater a long time, can’t you?”
Huh? This guy was forever confusing me, so I decided to proceed as if he was merely an annoying person instead of an extremely broken one. I did. “Huh?” I enquired.
“You know, stay underwater for a long time? I swear you talk in the longest run-on sentences I’ve ever heard. I hope you’re not a writer. I guess if you are, your editor must hate you.”
I opened my mouth to retort back and then I realized what Jay was doing, “Oh no, you don’t buddy. This isn’t about me. This is definitely about you.”
Jay leaned back in his chair. “Well maybe it should be about you…maybe we should discuss why you are wearing orange shoes and you look so hung over that…”
“Hung over?” I interrupted him. “Since when is it a crime to drink a few beers with a friend and…”
“A few? A few?” His face had actually become more animated as he continued his torment. For some reason he reminded me of how a brother would act.
I’d never had a brother. I’d never had a dog. Gee. I had really lived a pretty miserable life, obviously. My mother, God rest her soul, had told me…
Accck! I was falling for Jay’s plan to distract me. “Focus, Pearl, focus,” I told myself.
“So did you come here to see me?” Jay’s voice interrupted.
“Come here to see you? Why would I do that? In fact I came here specifically NOT to see you. I came to get some coffee because my neighbor made some for me after we spent last night…ummm… Never mind. Why would I come to see you?”
I think I might have made too big of a deal out of the question. In hindsight I think maybe Jay was just teasing me a little bit. See what parents did to me by not letting me have a brother? If I would have had a brother I would have know if Jay was or wasn’t teasing.
Jay just tapped both index fingers against his coffee cup and took his sweet time answering. “I just thought maybe you’d read the paper today. When I saw you come up to the table I wondered if you were going to start attacking me about Spot again, and then when you didn’t… Well, then I just figured you were going to smother me with pity.”
Huh? Oh man, oh man, oh man. I was so confused. I don’t even think it was the remnants of the beer that was making it so hard to follow this convoluted train of random thought.
I so wish my husband was here to witness this moment. I wish I could call up to heaven and tell him about this. Our entire married life he had told me, “Pearl, I swear you are the most random person in the world. Where do you think of these things?” And now I could show him, “Look! See! There is someone even more random than I am.”
The newspaper? Pity? What in the world were we even talking about?
I was just getting ready to ask him about the newspaper when the bell jingled violently and suddenly the room was filled with the energy and noise of very happy Griffin! “Hey Ju-Ju Bean!” he shouted. It took me a second to figure out he meant Julia. In a boisterous voice he continued, “Let the coffee making games begin…I am not even late to make a latte today!”
Julia laughed and asked him if he hadn’t already had a little too much caffeine to which Griffin replied, “My darling Ju-Ju Jelly Jar! I have not imbibed at all. I am the proud recipient of a perfect score on my…”
Griffin must have just noticed Jay and I hunched over our window table, because he was suddenly quiet.
I didn’t even hear him approach our table. He must have been wearing gardening clogs, too, but I didn’t look at his feet because I was mesmerized by the look on his face as he stopped beside Jay’s chair. The exuberance of a few moments ago was now replaced by a look that seemed oddly like sadness.
“Jay, sorry man, I didn’t see you sitting there.” Griffin didn’t even spare at glance at me. “Look, man, I am so sorry. I read the paper this morning and…I don’t even know what to say.”
Griffin reached across the sunlit space of the table and extended his hand to Jay. Jay shook it.
“Thank you Griff. Yeah, it’s been a morning all right.”
“Listen, Jay. I just want to say…thank you. Thank you so much man, for your sacrifice. Just…well…thank you. Can I get you a coffee and muffin…on the house?” As they ended the handshake, Griffin finally noticed me. He looked puzzled, “You look familiar. Have you been in here before?”
“We talked the other day about my blog and your classes in Social Media Marketing.”
Griffin looked confused for a moment longer until I saw the lightbulb go off in his head. “Penny? Ummm… no, no don’t tell me!… Pearl? Pearl! Yeah. I never forget a name…or a coffee drink… you liked the …wait! Wait! Don’t tell me…. Ummm…. white chocolate caramel latte? Do you want one? Any friend of Jay’s…” Griffin paused then for a moment and looked confused, “It’s weird, ya know? For some reason I thought you didn’t know who Jay was and now here you are being a good friend on the anniversary of…”
In a quiet voice, Jay interrupted, “You know what Griff? I’d really like a coffee. To go. And make one up for Pearl, too, OK?”
Jay looked at me then. Total, serious, full-on, eye contact looked at me.
“Listen Pearl. You want to know what my problem is? It might be easier to just show you.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on here. Jay pushed his chair back and pulled mine back as well. We waited at the coffee counter and when Griffin pushed our to-go cups across the counter, Jay made a motion to get his wallet.
Julia piped up then. “No, we insist. Really. And Mr. Jay? Thank you, sir.”
What was with the “Mr. Jay"? And another thank you?
Jay acknowledged their words with a sad, little salute and held the door open for me as we walked outside.
I still wasn’t sure what was happening. The only thing I knew for sure was the bell was going jingle merrily behind us.
And it did.
To be continued, Tuesday, March 29.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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