Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: SCUTTLEBUTT (rumor or gossip)( 10/03/19)
| TITLE: “How To Break Up With Someone” |
By Sarah Elisabeth
| ~ 9th Place |
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At the bakery, Hannah’s eyes were crying red, face pale. Paul wasn't sure if he should give her a quick hug or not since his clothes were already dusted with black soot from the morning, but she look like she could use one.
Hannah didn't answer, just waved him to sit across from her at the little table. She fidgeted with her phone. "I, well, is it gossiping to tell someone the truth? Like, sin kind-of-gossip?”
Paul stared at her. "What are we talking about?"
Her gaze dropped to the table. She was so pale.
Paul braced himself. "Are you sick?"
Her head jerked up. "What? Of course not.“
"You had a doctor’s appointment last week."
She frowned. "That was just for some blood work to check my Vitamin D levels."
Paul gave an agitated sigh. This wasn't the time to have a heart-to-heart about the sin of gossiping, the kind his sister had struggled with in her teens. They were full adults now, and he had work to do. "Look, sis, I need to get back to—”
"Has Rachel said anything to you lately?"
Paul scrunched his eyebrows. “We talk and text all the time." A cold rock the size of a planet settled in his stomach. “Is she sick?"
Hannah shook her head and met his eyes. "I, well, this morning on my walk with her, I borrowed her phone to look up what time the bookstore opens, and one of her browser windows said, ‘how to break up with someone.’”
The cold rock in Paul’s stomach exploded in a ball of fire, hotter than his welding torch ever got. Inside, he gasped, cried, and laughed—all at the same time.
Dear God, what is going on?
Paul instinctively put his hand over the snap button pocket on his flame resistant cargo pants where a tiny box was well concealed.
A tear spilled from Hannah’s eye. “I didn’t want to gossip, but this is so important—”
Paul was out the door before his sister said another word. He sped down the street, praying nonstop.
In minutes, he was at the park where Rachel liked to sit near the playground and people-watch during cool autumn mornings when neighborhood homeschool moms brought their kids for recess. Paul found Rachel on a bench, images flashing through his mind of how he'd considered pulling the ring out there—someday. He didn't want a planned thing, an overblown, romantic moment. Rachel wasn’t that kind of girl. She much preferred surprises, and Paul had figured if he was surprised, she would be too.
There Rachel was, with her usual thermos of tea and a little smile as she watch the children. She glanced up at Paul as he approached, her eyebrows lifted, eyes twinkling as though expecting a surprise. "I thought you were at work?"
“We have to talk."
She patted the bench next to her. He sat on the edge, half facing her. He suddenly couldn’t speak.
Rachel’s smile dropped. “Are you sick?”
He blurted, "Do you plan to break up with me?"
Her eyes popped open wide and her mouth formed a perfect little o. “What on earth are we talking about?”
"Hannah saw it on your phone. ‘How to break up with someone.’”
Rachel stared at him. Then she doubled over, laughing hysterically, thermos shaking. She finally straightened, hand over her mouth.
But her grin faded. "Oh no. She thought…you thought…”
Rachel picked up the writing notebook on her other side. "I have a couple in my novel who I decided last night should be apart for awhile, so I need to write a scene where she breaks up with him.” Her green eyes were misty as she stared at Paul. "I had to research it because I never, ever, not even once, imagined what it would be like to break up with you."
Seconds ago, Paul’s planet was breaking apart. Now it all snapped back together even better than before. The Creator of the universe was good.
Paul slipped off the bench and onto one knee, unsnapping his pant pocket.
Rachel cried, squealed, and giggled—all at the same time.
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