The More Things Change

Now for something different. I entered a publisher’s writing contest 6 weeks ago. It was a Short/Short Story contest where you were given a topic, a short paragraph in this case. Your story needed to just touch the topic some how and you had 24 hours and less than 900 words to write about it. Much to my surprise I won a prize. My choice of an e-book on writing which is great because I can always use all the help I can get. I Tweeted out my triumph on Twitter and some followers suggested I print it so…this is all their fault! Hope you enjoy it.

A bitter northeast wind blew the snow sideways outside the little coffee shop window. Mae watched people hustling along on the sidewalk searching for his face, but with everyone bundled up against the cold with just noses sticking out everyone looked the same. She was warm at least inside, too warm really but she was much better off than those poor souls outside. She was on her second cup of coffee, nervously tapping the mug with her blunt, index fingernail while with the other hand she clutched the badge hidden beneath her coat. The small bell attached to the top of the entrance door would tinkle with every customer and her neck was getting sore from looking up. This was taking too long. He wasn’t coming.

Reluctantly she pulled out her phone to text her partner, Bob. Their conversation earlier in the day had not been pleasant.

“Mae, I am not going with you to freeze my butt off drinking lousy coffee for hours waiting for a meet that will not happen.”

“But he texted he would be there. He has always kept his word in the past.”

“Exactly.” Slowly emphasizing each word Bob quietly said, “In… the … past.”

The look on her face made it clear she was not backing down.

Bob sighed and shrugged.

“Fine. I’m too old for this crap and so are you but you go. If he shows, text me and I’ll come.”

She typed that the meet was a bust. Thirty seconds later he replied.

“I told you so.”

Mae paid her bill then leaned into the storm outside. She walked down the block to her car, and had just got inside when a large black car roared up alongside her, cut in front of her car and bounced up on the sidewalk blocking her in.

The passenger side window on the black car rolled down. She rolled down hers as well.

“You wanted to see me?” a familiar voice said from inside the black interior.

“Randy?” she asked as she got out of her vehicle and peered through the open window.

“I thought we agreed that we would not be seeing each other again.”

“I never agreed to that Randy.”

“Get in the car.” the door opened and she slid in.

“You’re late.” she said to the hoodie hidden profile. “Almost an hour late.”

“You’re lucky I came at all. What do you want?”

“You know I hate talking to anyone when I can’t see their face.” He pulled back his hood and took off his ball cap, throwing it on the dashboard.  He turned on the dome light and leaned right into her face. Red hair and beard framed a crooked, freckled nose and hard green eyes.

“Happy?”

“Yes, Randy I am. I like the beard. It suits you.”

Randy stared at her smiling face in disbelief. Not even a flicker of fear. She wasn’t going away. He slowly shook his head in resignation.

“Ms. Wallace. What do you want?”

“I’ve been meaning to give you something if I ever found you again.”

She pulled a slim black case out of her coat pocket.

“What the hell is this?”

“You know what it is and don’t you cuss in front of me.”

 She opened the case. Inside was an embroidered badge and matching medal. Emblazoned on both were the words, Top Honors. Academic All State.

“You, me and Bob Tronrud sat at that coffee shop and prepped you for that test for two years. You could have quit when you didn’t qualify the first time, but you didn’t. You went on to place first in the entire state.

Randy sat staring straight ahead.

“Ms. Wallace, I don’t know what you want me to do. That was almost ten years ago. I’m not a kid anymore. Things changed. I’ve changed.”

“I don’t want you to do anything Randy.” she placed the open case in his lap. “Do with them what you want.”

He closed the case.

“You better go.” was all he said. Mae opened the door and got out. He barely waited for her to close it before he backed out into the street and disappeared into the storm.

Weeks later she was back in the coffee shop drinking coffee and writing a lesson plan. Bob was right. The coffee really is terrible. Why do I come here?

The little bell jingled.

A boy wearing a hoodie and backpack marched up in front of her.

“Ms.Wallace?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t go to your school, but Randy said you can help me.’

“Randy said?”

The boy pointed out the window. The big black car was parked across the street. An arm poked out of the window and waved. She waved back.

“Alright. First, I want to see your face when you talk to me.” The hood slid back and revealed bright red hair, a freckled nose and soft green eyes.

“What’s your name? Show me what you are doing now. Would you like some hot chocolate?”

As the boy rummaged through his backpack pulling out notebooks, she pulled out her phone and texted Bob.

“You need to get over here.”

Thirty seconds later he replied.

“Coming.”

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