Prompt Fiction

Thursday Thread: The Problem is Not Mine

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

If you would like to play along, please write your version of the below prompt and post your link in the Mr. Linky. Anything goes – whatever inspires you. Me? I like to write about relationships, fictional or otherwise. 🙂

Write fast and furious – don’t edit – don’t think, just do.

This week’s prompt: This PostSecret.

The Problem is Not Mine

Janice studied her three children across the picnic table.

Brian, her youngest, smiled at her around a mouthful of peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She reached across and gently swiped a dollop of jelly goo from the corner of his mouth. He muttered a response and Janice could only assume it was a thank you.

Ashley delicately nibbled on her sandwich before placing it back onto her plate. Her middle child worried her. She was an old soul and entirely too serious for her age. She couldn’t remember the last time she had actually smiled. Where was the happy, carefree little girl who had talked too much? She missed the easy grins and ready giggles. Now, she was lucky if she received any acknowledgement at all.

But she had no one to blame but herself.

“Ashley,” she began, her voice as soft as a long-haired kitten, “please eat. We’ve got a long road ahead and I’m not sure when we’ll get a chance to eat again.”

Ashley’s dark gray eyes lifted to meet her mother’s. They were filled with anger, yet tinged with sadness.

Janice sighed and turned to her oldest daughter, Chloe.

“Has she not been eating? When is the last time she had anything healthy? She’s a walking pile of bones …” Janice wrung her hands and glanced over her shoulder at the sound of crunching gravel.

Was that a car that just pulled up? She tried to peer through the thick branches of the trees that surrounded their picnic table, but she couldn’t see anything.

“Looking for the cops?” Chloe smirked.

Janice’s spine stiffened and she forced a bright smile. “Why would I be doing that?”

“Because we’re not supposed to be here,” Chloe nearly shouted. “Because YOU’RE not supposed to be here, mom.”

“Now Chloe,” Janice began and again glanced over her shoulder. Was that a male voice? She began to gather up their make-shift picnic. She didn’t want to alarm the children, but they needed to leave.


“Do you think we’re stupid, mom?”

Janice paused, a crumpled piece of plastic wrap clutched in her hand. She stared at her 15-year old daughter, then blinked. “Hardly,” she responded dryly.

“We know what’s going on.”

Ashley nodded and Brian suddenly became very still and his eyes grew round as his unwavering stare fixed on her face.

A slow flush crept up Janice’s neck and she suddenly felt hot, very hot, as if the very depth of her soul was on fire.

She cleared her throat. “Chloe, please don’t be dramatic. We’re just out having a nice picnic …”

Chloe sputtered a bitter laugh. “Are you for real? Mom,” she reached out and put a hand on her arm causing her to still in her attempts to clean up. “We know you have a problem.”

“Problem? Me?” She choked out a laugh and finished cramming the rest of their meager lunch into the paper bags. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You get us out of school early, then bring us to this isolated park,” Chloe began. “Don’t you think that’s a little weird?”

“No,” she whispered and then in a stronger voice. “No. I wanted to be with my children.”

“Then maybe you should have thought of that before screwing up your life.”

Janice gasped and abruptly sat back down on the hard, weathered seat. “What are you talking about?”

Chloe sighed and her shoulders slumped. She suddenly looked like an old woman. “Dad told us what was going on, mom. We know about your alcohol problem.”

All four were silent for long moments and Janice struggled to regain her composure before trying to explain. She opened her mouth to offer her excuses, the excuses she had spent just that morning practicing in the mirror when Brian interrupted.

“Do you love alcohol more than us, mom?” he asked in the smallest voice possible.

Janice moaned and a hot, searing pain traveled up her esophagus. “Oh God sweetie, no.”

“Then what are you doing?” Ashley screamed and swung her legs over the picnic seat. “Do you KNOW how worried we’ve been about you? Dad told us what was happening but he didn’t tell us WHY you’re doing this! To us?” She gestured to her siblings. “What is WRONG with you?”

“I .. I made a mistake,” Janice stammered. “I got depressed and I had a bit too much to drink, but I have it under control now–”

“You’re unbelievable,” Chloe spat. “Even now, after all you’ve put our family through for the last three months, you STILL can’t admit that you have a problem.”

“I DON’T have a problem,” Janice said through clenched teeth. “Your father is trying …”

“Dad is not doing anything. HE’S still at home. HE’S the one making our dinners every night and making sure we’re going to school every morning.” Tears began streaming down Ashley’s face and Chloe stood up and went to her.

Brian sniffled and ran the back of his hand across his nose. Janice began searching for a napkin to wipe his tears when she heard a voice – a male voice.

As if the voice electrocuted her, she suddenly stood up and reached for Brian. “We have to go,” she said, struggling to keep the panic out of her voice.

“No mom,” said Chloe. “You do. You need help.”

“She’s right,” a man said as he stepped into the clearing.

“Who are you?” Janice said and moved to stand behind her children.

“I’m with the Sheriff’s department, Mrs. Powell. I’m afraid you’re all going to have to come with me.”

“What?” Janice gave a nervous laugh. “We’re just having a picnic. You have no right,” she began.

Chloe interrupted her. “I called them, mom, when I went to the bathroom at the gas station. Dad gave me this cell phone,” she held out a tiny, pink phone, “last week. He said you might try this.”

“Try what?” Janice said while giving the police officer a look as if to say, “kids! What are you going to do?”

“To take your children, Mrs. Powell. There’s a restraining order against you, ma’am.”

Brian blinked and moved closer to his sisters. His big brown eyes glistened with moisture. “Mommy?”

“Oh, it’s okay, sweetie. Everything’s fine.” She tried reaching out for her son, but he shrunk away from her touch.

“If you’ll come with me, Mrs. Powell,” another officer stepped forward and Janice suddenly felt the urge to laugh. Where had he come from?

Janice watched as the first officer guided her children back through the woods. She craned her neck to catch one last glimpse of them before the foliage swallowed them whole.

“Those are my children,” she told the officer weakly. “I love them.”

“I’m sure you do, Mrs. Powell,” he said while pulling out his handcuffs. He gently grasped one of her wrists. His hands felt cold and hard. “You’re under arrest, Mrs. Powell. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Janice tuned the rest of her Miranda rights out and blinked back her tears. She didn’t have a problem. The problem was with her husband and his suspicions. She simply wanted to see her children. She hadn’t seen them for weeks. Why was that such a big deal?

The officer gave her a tender push to coax her into walking in the opposite direction from her children.

“They were worth it,” she said over her shoulder. “They were worth every mile.”

Feel free to take any of these graphics to post in your own blog entry:

Thursday Thread “mending fictional relationships”
Thursday Thread “mending relationships”
Thursday Thread – sidebar button #1
Thurdsay Thread – sidebar button #2

Parenting, Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Severing the Friendship Ties

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

I will just tell you, right off the bat, that this story is based on real life. Stick around, I need your input at the end.


Severing the Friendship Ties

Matt clutched his paper lunch bag tighter between his fingers. He hated lunch, mainly because he never knew where to sit.

And it was the only time period in the day when he had to endure Lance.

Matt stepped behind a group of teenage girls and kept a few paces back from them as they entered the lunchroom. Maybe Lance wouldn’t find him today. Maybe he wouldn’t have to listen to Lance’s loud voice or put up with this immature attitude.

He lifted his head a bit to look over the girl’s shoulder in front of him. So far, so good. The girl, sensing him behind him, glanced back and gave him a disinterested once over.

Matt flashed a lop-sided grin and moved past the girls and toward a table at the edge of the lunchroom.

The noise was deafening. But even though it was loud in the lunchroom, it was nothing compared to Lance’s boisterous antics.

He gingerly sat down and opened his bag. He smiled. He loved the lunches his mom packed for him. They were always full of good stuff. He pulled out a crust-less peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Cheez-Its, a can of root beer and a baggie stuffed with mult-colored Twizzlers.

His favorite candy.

He popped the tab on his can and looked around. He didn’t really mind eating lunch by himself. It was a welcome relief from his day – it gave him a chance to unwind and de-stress a bit before he tackled his afternoon classes.

He released a long, soft sigh and ripped open his sandwich. His fingers dug into the spongy bread and his smile grew. He loved the frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, especially when they were soft and gooey. He lifted the circular sandwich to his lips when he heard it.

Lance’s voice, calling out his name.

In the middle of the lunchroom.

People began to twitter in amusement and turned their heads trying to locate him.

Many found him. And to Matt’s utter horror, so did Sarah. The girl he had been in love with since 4th grade.

He sighed and slowly lowered his sandwich, his appetite dissipating into wispy smoke.

“Matt! Dude! I’ve been looking all over for you.”

Matt didn’t answer.

“So, what’s up?”

Matt very calmly, and with precise movements, pulled out his book with one hand, and lifted his sandwich with the other.

He took a generous bite and was chewing quietly when it happened.

The temper tantrum.

“What the heck? Why are you ignoring me? What, I’m not GOOD enough for you?”

Matt tried to ignore the stares from his peers, but he knew they were looking – and laughing.

At him, most likely.

“I DON’T LIKE BEING IGNORED, MATT.” Lance crossed his arms and openly pouted.

Matt took a breath. He kept his eyes trained on his book and though he appeared outwardly calm, his heart was hammering so hard in his chest he felt light headed.

“You’re embarrassing me, Lance. I’ve already told you. I don’t want to hang out with you if you don’t learn to control yourself. I’m right here,” he glanced quickly at the boy, “you don’t have to yell.”


Matt just looked at him with raised eyebrows. He shook his head and went back to reading. The words wavered before his eyes and he had no idea what he was reading.

He never thought he would ever think this, let alone mean it, but he was actually looking forward to going back to class.

And away from Lance.


Matt? Is MK. Lance? Is MK’s “friend.” We’ll continue to call him Lance.

Let me explain …

We are now into the fourth day of the school year and MK is miserable. Not because of his teachers, his classes, or even his peers, but rather because of one lone boy – a boy he’s known since second grade.

This boy has always been loud (and in my opinion, obnoxious). And MK has always rolled with that loudness and seemed to like this boy and liked to hang out with him.

Until this year. Apparently, MK has done a bit of maturing over the summer and he no longer finds this boy quite so amusing. In fact, this boy is still stuck in grade school, apparently, because MK tells me that a lot of kids are now making fun of this boy and his loud voice and overly-dramatic gestures and attitude.

In fact, MK sort of thinks the boy acts feminine – if you catch my drift.

But that’s not even the real issue (though that makes him uncomfortable). The real issue is he’s not sure how to handle this. He’s tried talking to the boy, “Dude, you’re embarrassing me. Cut it out.” And the boy gets all bent out of shape, raises his voice and just causes a scene so that it’s just better to endure his behavior than try and confront him about it. (And yes, MK has tried to talk to him privately, but it still escalates into a problem, from what MK tells me).

MK’s other friends are too freaked out to be around Lance, so they avoid him, leaving MK holding the embarrassment. MK doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t want to hurt this boy’s feelings, he’s tried talking to him but Lance doesn’t seem to get the message.

MK is now thinking about emailing the boy – maybe Lance will actually LISTEN to what he has to say instead of making a scene and getting all defensive.

What would you advise your son to do if you were in my shoes?

EDIT: MK and his friend talked on the phone last night. He told the friend that he’s under a lot of stress this year with all of his music activities and he doesn’t have time to stress about his freinds’ behaviors. I was very impressed with how he handled himself – he was very mature and understanding, “I know you’re like that … I understand … but this is how I feel.”

I don’t know if anything was resolved but it was a very proud momma moment – we are really raising this kid right. It’ll be interesting to see how this kid handles the “truth.” Hey, if you don’t have honesty, then what do you have.

Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Sometimes, There Isn’t a Choice

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

This was based on the stranger than fiction headline: Man jailed when daughter fails to get diploma. If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you had to know this would be the one I chose, right? 😀


Sometimes, There Isn’t a Choice

“Dad, what the hell are you doing?”

“I’m dropping you off at school,” was his overly sarcastic response.

Leyna released a long pent-up sigh and rolled her eyes. “Duh. I mean, why aren’t you dropping me off at the curb?”

“Because I can’t trust you not to go into the building.”

“What are you kidding me?” Leyna huffed and sank back into the truck seat. “I’m nearly 18. I can do what I want to do.”

“You can do what you want to after you graduate. Right now? I’m making sure you GET that diploma.”

“School SUCKS!” she yelled and chomped on her gum.

Earl’s shoulders slumped and he gave his daughter a wary, side-long glance. “Look Ley,” he began, “you only have six months to go. Six months and you’ll be free to do whatever you want to do. You can get your license …”

She shot him a hateful glance at bringing up that sore subject.

He continued, “You can move out. Get your own job, your own money, live your life however you want to but for right now, for the next six months at least, you have to go to school. And you HAVE to go to class. If you miss any more school, you’re not going to have the credits you need TO graduate. Don’t you understand that?”

“I’m not stupid, dad,” she said succinctly, the words oozing venom.

“That I’m quite sure of,” he answered back despondently.

“I wish mom were here.”

He ran a hand over his tired eyes and returned his gaze to the numerous cars moving at a snail’s pace in the school parking lot before answering. “Well, she’s not, okay? So … we’ll just have to deal with all of this without her.”

“I hate this,” she hissed out while shooting venomous looks toward the school building.

“No one likes high school, Ley. That’s just the way it works, buck up.”

“The teachers are stupid. The other kids are idiots – I’m like surrounded by insanity. Why can’t I just drop out and get a job?”

“And what kind of job are you going to get if you don’t have a diploma? Flipping burgers?” He snorted in disgust.

“Mom didn’t finish high school and look at her.”

“Yes, let’s look at her for a minute, shall we?” he snapped back.

Leyna blinked in surprise. Her father never raised his voice with her. She sat up a little straighter and looked at him with new interest.

“One,” he ticked off on his fingers, “your mother didn’t graduate from high school and in fact, quit when she was a junior.” He shot her a meaningful glance. “Two, your mother has never held a job for longer than three months – ever.” Yet again another quick glance at her as he navigated traffic. “Three, she quit our marriage. She never even gave us a fighting chance.” He said quietly. He paused for long moments before clearing his throat and continuing. “But the one I can not ever forgive her for, the one thing that I think she quit that is truly unforgiveable?” He turned to look at her. “She quit being a mother to you. What kind of person leaves her child, Leyna? Do you think your mother has led, or is possibly leading a better life now? Is that what you want from your life?”

Leyna squirmed and stared with unusual interest at her backpack. She absently fingered the zipper before answering. “Not really.”

“That is exactly the sort of life you’re going to have if you don’t finish what you started. Sure it’s hard. Sure it sucks. But if you don’t finish, then you’re just setting yourself up to fail later. And I don’t know about you, but no daughter of mine is going to fail.”

Leyna immediately stiffened at his words. “I can do what I damn well please.”

“Not on my watch, you’re not,” he answered while pulling up to the door.

“You can’t make me do anything, dad.” Leyna tilted her chin and looked down her nose defiantly.

“Leyna …” he began before issuing a sigh. “Grow up.”

She blinked in surprise at him again. Why was he being so harsh with her? Her chin dropped an inch and doubt began to swallow her confidence. “Why are you making me do this, dad? You’ve never made me do something I didn’t want to do in the past.”

“And I regret that now,” he shot back without blinking an eye. “I’ve been too easy on you, Ley. Mainly because I felt bad about Zoe leaving. But I realize now that that attitude has only hurt you, and not helped you. Look,” he jerked the transmission into park and twisted to give her his full attention. “We have a lot of issues, Leyna. Issues that are actually a lot of my fault. I’d like to talk about these things but,” he glanced around, “this isn’t really the time or place to talk about all of that. But I’m going to tell you something and I want you to listen.”

Leyna slipped on her dark sunglasses and pushed them into place on her nose. This was a side of her father she had never seen before and she wasn’t quite sure how to process the emotional influx that suddenly closed around her heart.

“I got a call from the school board a few days ago.”

Leyna’s spine started tingling and she could feel a headache tickling her temples.

“If you skip any more school, they will be forced to file charges against me. Do you want to see me go to jail?”

Leyna’s eyes widened at the news. “Oh, come on. They can’t do that, can they? How can they do that?” her voice rose with each word until it was hovering just below hysteria.

“It’s a law, Leyna. Parents are required to make sure their children receive an education. You’re not in school, so how can you be getting that education?”

“Dad,” Leyna whined.

“Do it for me, Ley,” he said quietly.

Leyna continued to stare at her father. She was certainly surprised to hear that the school had contacted her father, though she supposed it was bound to happen. She had indeed been skipping too much. At first, it started with leaving after lunch. And when nothing was said about her absence in her afternoon classes, she began skipping a day here and there. And still, when no one called her on it, she began skipping consecutive days – now she was lucky if she made it a full day in a week’s time.

It’s not that she wanted her father to get into trouble, but she just couldn’t stand the whole dull routine of going to class. She felt like a piece of meat being lead by the nose from one stall to another to be closely examined and criticized for her actions and thoughts.

She wouldn’t allow herself to dwell on the fact that she didn’t understand half of what they were trying to teach her and she was too embarrassed to ask for help.

She blinked back the sudden moisture in her eyes and without another word, snatched up her backpack and slid out of the truck. She slammed the door shut, purposefully not meeting her father’s gentle hazel eyes and maintaining a purposeful stride, she entered the torture chamber.

“Whoa Leyna, you’re here!” Her best friend, Peaches, greeted her just inside the door. “What’s up girlfriend? I thought we were going to meet at Starbucks in about,” she glanced at her black, alligator skin watch with the lime-green triangle face before continuing, “ten minutes. What are you doing here?”

Leyna lifted her sunglasses to her head with one hand and thumbed behind her to indicate her father’s truck, still idle at the curb with the other.

“Ah. The old man is watching you, eh?” She gave her friend a knowing wink. “Let’s move in a bit so he can’t see you anymore.” She took her arm and they moved into the sea of students surrounding them. “Give it a few minutes, he’ll take off.”

Both girls glanced back out the doors and when Leyna’s father moved back into the flow of traffic, she released a sigh of relief. “Wow. He was really riding me today,” Leyna complained before rudely popping a bubble.

“Yeah, parents.” Peaches rolled her eyes and then started toward the front door. She glanced back when she realized that Leyna wasn’t with her. “Are you coming?”

Leyna shuffled her feet and looked down at her holey black Converse sneakers. “Um, I’m thinking I might stick around today.”

Peaches burst out laughing and then realizing her friend was serious, immediately sobered. She quickly glanced around before moving to stand in front of her. “Are you nuts?” she asked, the glitter from her lip gloss sparkling in the overhead light. “We’re so far behind now, we’ll never catch up. It’s too late, man. Sticking around is just a waste of time. Let’s go grab a coffee.”

Leyna licked her lips and looked longingly at the front door of the school. Bright sunlight bounced off the sidewalk and shimmered around the bare branches of the trees. It was almost as if it was opening its arms and inviting her to appreciate its beauty.

She didn’t want her father to get into trouble, but Peaches was right. It had been so long since she had been to class, she knew she was several assignments behind. It really wouldn’t do any good to go to class – she had waited too long to listen to her subconscious.

“Right. Let’s go.”

Peaches looked relieved and smiled. She hooked an arm through Leyna’s and fell into step beside her; they headed toward the front door. They had just reached the point where they had exited through one glass door and was getting ready to exit the second glass door to the outside when Leyna stopped cold in her tracks. Peaches stumbled.

“What the … what are you doing?”

Leyna nodded toward the husky, attractive man with a slight limp coming toward them. “My father,” she swallowed and stared at the male moving toward them, his steps determined, his jaw set. “He’s back.”

Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Caught on Tape

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

This was originally posted May 16, 2007.


Caught on Tape

“What in the world does she hope to gain by doing this?”

“I’m not sure,” Sharon replied, her eyes glued on the fourteen-year old girl on the TV monitor. “I honestly don’t know what to think.”

Kathy placed a comforting hand on Sharon’s arm. “I’m really sorry about this, Shar.”

Tears welled up in Sharon’s eyes and she blinked them away impatiently. “I have to say, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it.” Sharon could sense Kathy nodding beside her. She sighed. “What am I going to do? I mean, do I ignore this and hope it’s a phase? Or do I confront her so she can act oblivious and lie to my face?”

“I … honestly don’t know.”

“If it were your daughter going through your jewelry box …” Sharon slapped a hand against her thigh and gestured hopelessly at the screen, “and now going through your purse, what would you do?”

The two women watched the girl pocket three twenty-dollar bills into her jeans and then dangle a gold necklace from her fingers. She appeared to be mulling over whether or not she should take it.

“Maybe she won’t take the necklace,” Kathy offered helpfully. The girl shrugged and stuffed the necklace into her pocket. “Or maybe not …” Kathy’s voice trailed off.

“I simply can’t believe my own daughter would steal from me. I mean, if you hadn’t talked me into planting a video camera in my bedroom, I never would have bought this crap.”

Kathy sighed next to her. “Teresa is my friend, Sharon. I knew she wasn’t the type of person to steal from you. She’s been cleaning my house for, oh God, years and we never had any problems. I just didn’t want you to falsely accuse her of something.”

“So instead of firing my housekeeper, now I have a delinquent daughter to deal with.”

They continued to watch the girl rummage through Sharon’s purse before finally giving up, glancing one last time through the room to make sure everything was in its place and finally leave.

“This is going to break her father’s heart,” Sharon mumbled. “I can’t let her out of the house with her stash.” She spoke the last word bitterly. “Is she going to buy drugs? What else would a fourteen-year old girl need money for?”

Sharon stood up and headed toward the door. She paused and turned around. “Unless …” she swallowed. “She doesn’t need the money for drugs. What if she’s …” Her eyes widened in horror. “And she needs the money for a doctor …” Her hand flew up to her mouth and she hurried out of the spare bedroom after her daughter.

“Sara!” She walked briskly to the stairs and grabbed her first-born child by the arm before she could get away from her. “We need to talk.”



I started a new tweet (I guess that’s what you call them) on Twitter called, appropriately enough, Blog Fodder. Every day I post a writing prompt, just something extra to help you get through the blogging humps. It’s not really a question, per se, but rather something that might trigger a memory, or something you can use as a springboard to write a story, or a blog post. Anything goes. Use the prompt any way you wish.

Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Change of Plans

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

This was originally published May 16, 2007


Change of Plans

Sherry placed the pads of her fingers just under both her eyes and rubbed gently. “If I don’t see another box in my lifetime I’ll be happy.” She chuckled and laughed up at her husband. “So, are you packed?”

Mike smiled and looped an arm around her shoulders. “Let’s take a break, shall we?”

“Ugh, sounds good to me,” She leaned her cheek into her husband’s strong arm and allowed him to guide her toward the living room. “Can you believe the time has finally arrived? I mean, who would have thought that we would be moving to New York City?” She sighed happily and thought about the editing job waiting for her in the Big Apple. She still couldn’t believe she had landed her dream job.

“Yeah, that’s pretty remarkable,” Mike said next to her. She smiled against him, soaking in the deep timbre of his voice as it vibrated against her face. “You certainly deserve it. You’ve worked hard enough for it.” He eased down onto the couch, pulling her down beside him.

They settled more comfortably into the deep cushions, placed their feet on the oak coffee table before them and gazed into the fire. “Mmm, this is cozy,” she said.

Long moments went by, each of them hypnotized by the flame’s seductive dance and deep into their own thoughts. A log cracked and the pop caused them both to jump out of their reverie.

Sherry chuckled in response. She wasn’t sure why but she suddenly felt shy and a bit on edge.

“Are you nervous?”

“Not really,” she replied. “I mean, I’ve basically been doing this type of job for the past six years so I know I can do it it’s just …” She twisted around to get a better look at him. “It’ll be hard to leave, ya know? Our families are here. Our friends…”

Mike nodded and continued to stare into the fire.

“But,” she swallowed, “we’ll make new friends. It’s just going to be …” she paused to inhale one long shaky breath before exhaling one lone gusty word, “great.”

Mike patted her shoulder before removing his arm from around her. His wedding ring nabbed a few strands of her hair and she felt her scalp jump in protest. “Ow.” She reached back to rub her head.


She waved his concern aside and settled herself more comfortably against his side. “I lied,” she began. “I am nervous. It’s all this anticipation. I mean, what if I get up there and totally bomb this? What if I’m not good enough? A lot of people are taking a chance on me, I can’t let them down.”

“You won’t.”

She sighed in contentment. “I love you, you know.”

“I know.”

A crack of thunder sounded in the distance and a sudden gust of wind rattled the windowpanes. Sherry struggled to sit up. “We better load the car before it starts raining.”

She stood up and tugged on her pants legs. She looked toward the door. “Where’s your luggage? I thought you brought it down already.”

Mike heaved a long, slow sigh and also rose from the couch. He shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at the floor.

Sherry shot him a quizzical look before walking over to her luggage stacked neatly by the door. Mike’s black matching set of luggage was definitely not there. She glanced through the half-circle of windows in the front door in time to see a nasty streak of lightening slash it’s way through the sky. She mentally counted to herself …

One one-thousand … two one-thousand … three one-thousand … four one-thousand … five one-thousand …

A deep rumble rolled through the house causing the crystal clock on the foyer table to tremble.

“It sounds like it’s about five miles out. We better hurry.” She reached down and grabbed a suitcase in each hand. Mike still hadn’t moved and continued to stand in the same exact spot.

“Mike,” she said sharply. Enough was enough. She was sad to leave too, but it was time to go. Their flight was scheduled to take off in just under three hours. “Earth to Mike, hello?” She tried to keep her tone of voice even but she was rapidly losing patience. “Mike come on, get your stuff and let’s go.”

Her husband continued to stand there, only now he had turned to stare into the fire. His shoulders were slumped and his head was hanging so low it was hard to see his face.

“Mike?” She struggled to lift the heavy cases and volleyed the extra weight on the balls of her feet. “Mike, seriously, let’s go. If we leave now, we can beat the storm.”

He finally turned around to face her. His face was hard and his mouth was set into a grim line.

“Mike?” She gritted her teeth. She hated that look. She always had.

“I’m not going.”