Another day, another story. It always surprises me when I write a romance. This one sort of came out of yesterday’s fantasy.
by Marian Allen
Brenda settled on the couch with a ginger ale and a bowl of popcorn, clicked the remote for the television and the DVD player, but didn’t run the movie. Instead, she thought of Mack.
Although she had just broken up with the latest of a short string of steady guys, she always came back to Mack.
She surprised herself by heaving a heavy sigh, like the kind you read about but never do unless you’re pretending. She did one spontaneously. Sighing for Mack? Seriously?
He was superficial and shallow. Stingy, in a weird kind of way. A soft touch for a beggar, but tight with a dollar otherwise.
Her phone rang, the coded ringtone telling her it was her best office pal, Angela.
Like that was anybody’s business. But Bren judged they were friends enough that it was okay for Ange to ask.
“Yeah, worse luck.”
“Guess who I bumped into today.”
“Santa. Santana. Satan.”
“Oh, you’re so funny,” Ange said flatly. “No. Mack.”
“That’s so weird! I was just thinking about him!”
“Way! I hope he’s okay. Oh, Ange, the last time we broke up, I was so mean! I mean really mean. I called him a Mama’s Boy who would never, ever grow up or take any grown-up responsibility.”
“Honey, did you not know his mother died when he was fifteen?”
“Of course I knew! I told you it was really mean! And then I walked out on him in the lobby of the CinemaTastic. After he’d bought the tickets and popcorn and soda!”
“I know!” A small, hot tear snuck out of the corner of one eye and cooled one burning cheek. “How could I? He didn’t even call me later and tell me off.”
“Well, he doesn’t seem to be holding a grudge, because he asked me about you like he was interested.”
“Really?” Brenda coughed and said it again, as if the squeal in her voice had been a frog in her throat.
“Really. And get this: He has a pet. He was on his way to the pet store in the mall.”
“What kind of pet?” Probably that German Shepard he had always talked about, although how that was going to work in an apartment was anybody’s guess. Maybe a miniature.
“Don’t know. I had a million things to do, so we didn’t do much more than hi-bye. But he’s interested, girl. None of my business, but I always liked you two together. But what do I know about it?”
They chatted about some other things neither one could have recounted later. The kind of nourishing chit-chat girlfriends do. When they hung up, Brenda’s popcorn was cold, the ice in her ginger ale had melted, and it was too late for a movie.
She went to sleep thinking about Mack and dreamed about her grandmother. In the morning, she put the two together and knew what she had to do: write a letter.
Grandma had always said, “If it’s really important, put it on paper. If you’re afraid to put it on paper, don’t do it, don’t think it, don’t say it.”
Nobody had letter paper these days, but she had a drawer full of cards she’d gotten from charities asking for money after she had made the mistake of giving to one. She chose the mannishest one she could find, with a painting of a fishing rod and a tackle box in a patch of daisies on the front.
Blank inside. Perfect.
“Dear Mack, Angela said she ran into you the other day and you asked about me. I can’t believe you could ever forgive me for being so rude and unkind. I don’t know what got into me. You didn’t deserve that, and I was totally in the wrong there. Ange said you sounded like you weren’t mad at me.” She paused for a moment while she asked herself if he wasn’t mad because she had been so wrong or because she had been so right. Was he not holding it against her because he was deep and kind, or because he was superficial and shallow?
But he had a pet. That was responsible. She thought about Mack for a while, measuring him against the other men she had dated, and recognized his “superficiality” as a defense against getting too close, getting too hurt. But she had hurt him. And he was willing to forgive.
She finished the note: “I just wanted to say how sorry I am for being such a bitch. I owe you an apology, and I sincerely apologize.” She signed it, “Love, Brenda.”
When she dropped it in the lobby mailbox on her way up to work, she felt that old saying was true, that a burden had been lifted.
Two evenings later, her ringtone announced a call from Mack. He had gotten her note. It was so sweet. He had been thinking about her. He had some guys coming over tonight, but did she want to come over and have dinner tomorrow night, if she wasn’t busy, maybe? Meet his new buddy, his pet?
She wasn’t busy, and she’d love to come.
So the next afternoon, on the way over, she stopped by the pet store. After dithering for a while, she bought a big rubber bone covered in cloth.
Mack didn’t kiss her when he opened the door, but he took her hand and looked into her eyes and smiled.
This was it. Unless something went really pear-shaped, this was it. Mack-and-Brenda was it, forever and ever.
“Uh,” she said, “I brought something for your new buddy.” She pulled the bone out of the pet store bag.
Mack’s eyebrows went up, then he grinned wickedly and said, “Why don’t you give it to him?” He looked over his shoulder. “Here he comes to say hello.”
She braced herself for happy dogginess, but no gallumphing was forthcoming. A small gray cat bounced into the room and sat at her feet, mewing up at her.
“This is Dubious,” Mack said. When Brenda looked at him, worried, he said, “The cat. His name is Dubious.”
“Are you sure?” she said, and Mack laughed.
She knelt, putting the stupid rubber bone on the floor next to the kitten who, of course, ignored it.
“He’s precious,” she cooed, not meaning the cat. “He’s so precious!”
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Something you did that was good, something you did that was bad,and something you did that was a big fat Meh!