Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: START (02/25/16)
TITLE: The Girl Who Loved Surprises
By Jody Day
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She imagined her hand on the doorknob, turning it, and pulling the door open. But he was still there; the soldier in his dress blues with the note from the War Department in his white gloved hand.
She’d at least put her hand on the doorknob to keep Dr. Clark from giving her that ‘you’re not trying’ look. Lately, though, it seemed even Mom’s patience wore thin.
“Twenty-five is young to lose your husband, sweetheart, but you’re a prisoner in this house. It’s been a year and you’ve got to get out and start living.” She’d broken down that morning when she came to bring groceries. “It’s just so hard to see my bright daughter waste away here. You certainly don’t live up to your nickname.”
“Right, but ‘the girl who loves surprises’ doesn’t live here anymore.” And that’s just the way Shay wanted it. Hadn’t she gone to great lengths to do all her business online? She even took her therapy sessions over the internet. She didn’t need much, but what if Mom stopped coming? Her throat constricted and dizziness caused her to drop the soup cans she held in her hands.
Mom’s arms slid around her and held tight. “Just breathe, honey. Breathe with me.” Mom stayed that morning until the panic attack subsided. She held Shay’s face in her hands. “My girl who loves surprises, come back to me. Your brother’s book is coming out next month. He wants you to read the galleys for him.”
“He emailed about a third of it to me, just enough to make me crazy. He really has a talent for suspense.”
“Oh, well, he said he’d send the rest. Bye now,” Mom called as she left the house.
She checked her email, nothing from Bruce. So she looked at her pink toes and started the futile imagining again. She closed her eyes and then placed her hand on the doorknob. The cold, round knob sent shivers up her spine. Maybe just a quarter turn.
Ding! She jumped back as though a snake lunged at her feet. What? The mailman had strict instructions not to ring that bell. She steadied herself against the foyer wall with both hands.
“Who is it? What do you want?” she yelled, and pressed her hands harder into the wall.
“Mail, Miss. Sorry, but it’s a package. Don’t want it stolen off the porch.”
That does it. She’d just have all her mail routed to Mom’s. “I’m not expecting anything.”
“Shay Parker, that’s you, right?”
“Yes, OK, just put it on the table by the rocker. Thanks.” She stepped back and watched his shadow through the front room curtains as he placed the package on the table.
She tiptoed to the front window. A girl can’t trust anything from the outside. She opened the curtain just enough for one eye to peer out at the package. The return address read ‘Bruce Smith.”
“Dirty trick!” He’d mailed the galleys. Did that nutty brother of hers think he could force her out of the house? Well, that package could just sit there until Mom came back in a few days. Wait. What if it got stolen? Too bad. Who cares whether his heroin jumps off the bridge or not. But she’s pregnant, and nobody knows that but the reader. Blast! The answers to her burning questions were sitting right there on her front porch.
She went for her cell phone. “Bruce, you are so wicked. I resent you trying to force the issue.”
“Come on, Sis. Just go out and get it. I’ll be right here on the phone. Besides, there’s a surprise in it. Repeat after me. Open the door, one step out, two steps to the right, pick up the package, three steps back in, close the door, then the surprise.”
She followed his voice at least ten times before she opened the door. She retrieved the package as fast as she could, and panted like she’d just run a marathon as she slammed the door behind her. She tore open the package and pulled out the manuscript.
‘For Shay, the bravest woman I know.”
“Thanks, Bro, but you are still wicked.”
“More than you know. The last chapter isn’t coming until tomorrow.”
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