Here's the next section from Jan McSwane in our Round Robin Short Story, "A Delicious Dalliance."
Read along and let us know what you think, readers!
...but the rod, fish, phone and the chance to enjoy one of Alex's favorite hot dogs were already on the bottom Martelle Pond.
"Fichu!" her father said.
"Sh** -- I've lost him again."
A Delicious Dalliance, continued...
Seven pulled into her driveway and gave a big sigh of relief. The parking space next to her was empty. Brad’s not here. Good. She turned the brass knob on her front door, pushed it open, and headed for the phone. Do I smell smoke? she wondered. Was Brad here? He had started letting himself in when she wasn't at home, and she resented it. She wished she'd never given him a key to her apartment.
“Dad, I just wanted to let you know I made it home safe and I had a really good time. Thanks for taking me fishing.” Seven left the message and replaced the phone on the receiver. Tomorrow she’d get another cell phone. She couldn’t even call Alex back. The only trace of his number drowned on the bottom of the lake. Back in the boat, she'd decided to show up at Ernie’s, and just hope Alex did the same.
Looking around at items Brad had left in her apartment through the years- a magazine, his favorite glass, cigars- Seven whispered, “I hate this place.” Maybe I can get out of here before Brad shows up, she thought as she hurried to the bathroom.
Minutes later while digging though her purse, she rushed out of the bedroom and bumped into Brad. Gasping, she put her hand to her heart. “You scared me.”
“You’re all dressed up. Where are you off to?” Brad adjusted his glasses and peered into her face.
“Lacey and I are going to lunch,” Seven lied.
“I thought we might have lunch together,” Brad suggested as he limped into the kitchen. Laid out on the counter were two lobsters, already steamed.
Tears welled up in Seven’s eyes as she watched him. Brad was sick—really sick. Or so he thought. Brad professed to have every illness known to man—name it, he had it. Except mental illness—he vehemently denied that.
When Seven met Brad, he was dependable and steady. Now it seemed he was dependent on her. He acted like a little old man—at thirty years old. Sometimes Seven wondered if he really was dying; or maybe even descending into madness. Something just didn’t feel right. He would sneak up on her, listen in on her phone conversations, and sometimes she would see him across the street staring at her office window. And he called all the time, leaving text messages when she wouldn’t answer.
“The lobster looks wonderful, Brad. You go relax and I’ll bring it to you,” she conceded.
Brad smiled and hobbled off. Soon Seven heard the TV.
Tears of disappointment slid down her face. She knew she had to end this relationship. If Brad already needed her this much at this young age, what would he be like years from now? The best thing for Brad would be to throw him back into the dating scene and force him to get better.
Wet-eyed and five minutes later, she handed Brad his lunch on his favorite plate. “Do you need anything else?” she asked.
“I’m good. Are you not eating?”
“No, I’m not hungry.”
Brad grabbed Seven’s hand as she was turning to go. “Thank you for taking such good care of me.”
“You’re welcome,” she mumbled.
Seven eased back into her bedroom, letting her fingers linger over the lock. The urge to slam the door and bar it raged through her—if only it could be that easy to get Brad out of her life—but she knew if she locked the door, he would only knock asking, 'Did I do something wrong?' Leaving the door ajar, she sat cross-legged on her bed and stared out the window awash in the rays of the sun. She ran her fingers through her hair like Alex had once done, and used the ends to wipe away her tears.
Red birds chased each other outside her window. They’re beautiful. Thoughts of Alex filled her head. I wonder if he’ll show up at Ernie’s? I wonder how long he'll wait for me? An hour? Two hours? Until closing time?
Seven jumped up. “What am I doing? I decided to go to Ernie’s and that’s what I’m going to do!” Brad had his lunch, and now she hoped there was a gorgeous hunk out there eagerly awaiting her arrival. She looked in the mirror. Can I pull it together? Yes, I can. She washed her face and patted her cheek. “Go get your man,” she said to the girl in the mirror. The girl smiled back and she headed for the door.
“Brad, I’m meeting Lacey.” Seven closed the door before he even had a chance to respond.
When she arrived at Ernie’s she looked for Alex but didn’t see him, so she settled into a table with a view of the parking lot and waited. And waited. And waited. She waited until the servers stared at her with disdain. With her head held high, she stood and pranced out, the ruffles of her yellow sundress bouncing off her knees. Alex would’ve loved this dress.
To be continued...
Thanks, Jan! Readers - Have At It! Let us know what you think. Up next is Bryan Grubbs. The next section will be posted on Thursday, Feb 23rd.