The electronic voice of Paul’s GPS informed him that he had arrived at his destination. He leaned forward to peer through his windshield at the sign that hung above the doors on the red brick building. Large orange letters trimmed in green spelled La Cantina Antelo.
An elderly man in a bright Tommy Bahama shirt began unlocking his car on the far side of the street. Cars covered every meter that Paul could see so he wasted no time pulling around and flipping on his blinker. It only took about three minutes and what looked like a well-practiced fourteen point turn for the man to get his Buick out of the small space. As he slowly rolled away Paul slid his little Honda into the space easily and threw it in park.
He still wasn’t sure why he was here. The invitation was most likely an elaborate way to get him to sit through a time-share presentation, but it didn’t have the same tone as a marketing ploy. He grabbed it off his passenger seat and twisted it until he could read it again in the streetlight.
Your presence is requested at The Other Eight event. This is a private affair so please, no guests. Dinner, dessert, and drinks will all be provided free of charge. Your participation in this event is of the utmost importance.
Sitting in these seats countless times before was not enough to keep Sarah from scanning the sanctuary. Each beige seat folded up against the backrest when not filled. A myriad of lights hung ready to be used with the flick of a button from the industrial looking ceiling. Memories of the first time she walked through the doors seemed like fiction now. It all seemed so large then, but the crowd of two thousand or so that would join her this morning now felt like a family.
The soft pop of a chair flapping down drew her attention. She was ready to explain that the seat was saved for a friend, but much to her surprise it was Mark that had sat down with a Starbucks cup in his right hand. Whatever caffeine the beverage was providing had clearly not reached his half-asleep eyelids yet.
Jenna barely heard the rough clicks of Sam’s key in the door over the gentle hiss of the water as she washed the vegetables. A quick sigh escaped from her mouth. As much as she loved her husband, after work he tended to be a bit grumpy. The fresh stack of bills that lay on the counter would only make it worse. She turned off the water and began to wipe her hands when she saw him come into their tiny apartment, turning to close the door and lock it behind him.
Jenna grinned at the sight of him. He had an unassuming cuteness about him. When she had first seen him at their church she never would have pictured them together. He had shaggy brown hair, hazel eyes, and an average frame that could easily be lost in a crowd, but he was smart enough to know that those were not his strength.
The first time Sam had approached her it was simple and quick. He introduced himself and came off as shy. Each time they spoke after that he emerged from of his shell a little more. It did not take long for Jenna to see his heart and know that it was more beautiful than any other she knew. He had a rare combination of a sweet spirit and powerful intellect. Sam could make you feel like the most wonderful person in the world or like you didn’t exist. He knew the power of words and just how to use them.
It looked like a normal letter from the middle school Max would be attending in the fall, but as I read a hollow rattle rolled through the page from the shaking of my hands. I dropped it on table, grabbed my keys and fled. This is my default action in the face of tragedy. I first learned this when I was about Max’s age.
We were driving to a cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks. An army of trees with shades of green that Crayola could never hope to box surrounded the road on both sides. Two yellow dotted lines marked the way to a perfect weekend. Just me, my dad, and a lake full of fish. I stared over the high dashboard looking for the sign that would mark our turnoff. This would begin our game of who can spot the water first.
A flash of movement was all I saw before the impact jerked me forward. My dad told me to stay, but I was so drawn to the front of our station wagon that I barely heard his words.
Tears streamed down his reddened cheeks as he sat holding his knees against his chest as tightly as his little arms could manage.
“I hate being little!”
Andy’s father plopped down next to him and thought about what to say while resisting the urge to rub the wavy locks of blonde hair that seemed to always look perfect no matter how messy his clothes were at the end of the day.
“I think I’m supposed to tell you how great being six years old is, but to be honest I bet it kind of sucks sometimes.”
Andy’s head shot up to look into his father’s before delivering a very serious reprimand.
Her eyes froze me. I had never met someone who could say so much without a single word. Thoughts played like pictures across two small blue screens. The slightest lift of her eyebrow could convey things more clearly than most of my dim-witted friends and it is no wonder. They had willingly traded in the treasure of words for the sake of fitting in. How am I expected to know the true feelings of a person who would rather say “LOL” than share the actual joy of laughter with me?
But it was not what she could say to me that chilled my soul, it was what she could read. I felt naked when her gaze held mine. (more…)
Valerie Michaels hoped that March 7th, 2045 would be a special day. And even though it was her eleventh birthday, she would always remember it for another reason.
The ceiling in her room began to illuminate as the soft sounds of classical music signaled that it was time to get up. Her step-mom would be in soon to help her. Until then she stretched and listened to the music drift down like snow upon her. A smile crept across her face as she recognized the soft song. It would only be the first of many surprises from her father. Christine opened the door just as a cello finished the last “Happy birthday to you.” (more…)