31 DaysDay 23: CLOSET {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

{start}

Search and Rescue

We broke up at 9:17 p.m. Tuesday night. Who breaks up on a Tuesday? But, I guess when you finally decide you’re going to break up, you do it as soon as the next opportunity presents itself. For us, that was Tuesday night. Study group night for our Senior presentations. Me, Jack (the artist formerly known as my boyfriend; seriously, he’s an artist, mixed media mainly), my best friend, Amber, and Margo, Delia, Ryan and Luke.

The group session ended at 9:10 and me and Jack? We ended at 9:17. I wish I could say that I had some idea, but I didn’t. Honestly? I was sure we’d make it all the way through college, come out on the other side and travel to Europe before getting jobs. If I’d had to predict that we’d break up, I would have said it would happen in Italy over an incredible spread of antipasto, bread and red wine. All I know is I’m still going to Europe after college, and I’m starting in Italy.

Anyway, it’s Friday afternoon and I’m standing outside Jack’s apartment. He’ll be in class right now, the class I’m skipping so that I can be here. In all his hurry in breaking up Tuesday night, he forgot to ask me for the key he gave me, the key I’ve used a thousand times before. I’m not exactly sure why I’m here or what I’m hoping to accomplish with this little adventure except that part of me wants to sneak in here all ninja like and erase all evidence that we ever dated.

I’m just about to fit the key into the lock and for a split second I wonder if he didn’t ask for the key back because he’s changed the lock. I have no idea why I even think that, but I guess you never know, right? I mean, I never expected him to be the kind of guy to break up with me at 9:17 p.m. on a Tuesday night, so maybe he’s the kind of guy who changes his locks after a breakup. The key slides in smoothly, just like the thousand times before and I slip inside closing the door gently just in case maybe he’s decided to skip class, too. After a moment, I call out, Hey, Jack, it’s Laurel, you here? 

Only silence responds and I set to work, starting in the living room, taking pictures from their frames and tucking them in my messenger bag. Methodically, I move around the room collecting photos and retrieving books I gave him for gifts or loaned him from my personal collection, and, if you must know, poking around things I haven’t seen before to see if maybe he broke up because he was cheating on me. I decide to skip the kitchen for last, mostly because almost all of our eating at Jack’s was takeout on the couch in the living room or on his bed in front of the television. Cooking took place at my place and I was usually the chef while he sat in one of the kitchen chairs sipping his wine and regaling me with stories of his childhood. And honestly? It seems like everything interesting that happened to him happened right up until he graduated from high school. His stories never spanned our time here at Boston College.

Well, that just leaves the bedroom and, up until now, this has pretty much just been a recovery mission, you know? A search and rescue of my things and my memories from his space. But now, well, now a wave of nausea hits me like a tsunami and I think my messenger bag probably won’t be big enough to carry all the stuff that reeks of me from Jack’s room. With a deep breath, I start on the left side of the door and move around toward the bureau and the closet and the nightstand that I used and know holds a lot of my trinkets.

I’ve barely gotten the first picture frame undone and am removing the photo when I hear a key in the lock. A glance at the clock confirms that class isn’t over yet and he’s back too soon. With few options, I dash into the closet and fumble for a place to sit, stashing my messenger bag against the back wall and shoving aside some shoes and shoe boxes and squeeze myself into the corner just in case he decides he needs a different shirt or something. And I can’t help myself, I squeeze my eyes shut and pray, begging God to create a hedge of protection around me from spiders or other gross crawling things.

As I lean my head against the wall, I listen and realize that there are two voices; that Jack isn’t alone. For several minutes there is an animated conversation in the living room though I can’t make the words out quite clearly. Curiosity prickles up my spine and neck as I hear noises that sound like objects being touched, picked up and replaced. Animated conversation that lilts up and down, like a girl’s voice, follows the sounds of the objects being shifted around. The empty frames, I think. I didn’t bother to put them back together or right them. So much for my ninja search and rescue mission.

The girl’s voice seems to do a lot of the talking in the living room and I wonder who she is. His sister, Marian? One of our study group? Much to my chagrin, Jack and company enter the bedroom. My eyes have adjusted to the darkness of the closet, though the horizontal slats help with that, allowing in a bit of dull light. Above me I can smell leather and my mind immediately pictures Jack in his bomber jacket heading out to a movie or a club. Here’s hoping he and whoever he’s with aren’t planning to head out like that and that he wants this coat.

“You didn’t get her key back?” the woman’s voice says. It’s familiar, but I can’t quite place it yet.

“Never occurred to me,” Jack says. “Look, it’s not a big deal.”

“It doesn’t bother you that she let herself in and rifled through your stuff?” she says.

I catch my breath. No, it can’t be. It seriously cannot be her.

Jack doesn’t say anything and I’m guessing he just shrugged it off because that’s typical Jack. Water off a duck’s back and all that.

“I’d be at least a little pissed if I were you, that’s all.”

It’s her. It’s definitely her. Amber. My best friend.

“Well, I’m not, okay?” Jack says and Amber doesn’t respond. The light shifts and flutters and I picture Jack moving around to where she is standing, giving him her pouty look with her blue eyes wide and locked on his. There’s nothing but silence and I imagine them standing close, moving closer, an urge to kiss coursing through their hands that are barely touching. I’d put money on the fact that Amber will make the first move mostly because that’s just her style with guys.

There’s a loud bang, as if something on the dresser was knocked over, but not just one of the empty frames I left behind.

“Damn,” Jack mutters.

“Are you okay?” I hear Amber closer now, moving toward the bureau. Perhaps Jack backed away suddenly, bumped into the bureau, hitting his arm and knocking over one of his trophies. Or, maybe it’s the opposite. I picture Jack and Amber in each other’s arms, their first kiss. Is it there first kiss? In their passion, he stumbled into the dresser.

“I’m fine,” Jack says, but his voice says otherwise, cracking slightly and he clears his throat. “So, hey, I’m supposed to be making you dinner,” he says, “and I’m a pretty damn fine chef, too.”

“So you say.” I can hear the teasing in her voice. She’s obviously flirting with him and I can see the dimple in her left cheek as she smiles at him, hoping to reel him in quickly. “I guess you cooked a lot for Laurel,” Amber says.

Bad move, Amber. She’s always been too easily jealous and I was his girlfriend after all.

“Ah, no, actually,” Jack says.

“Oh, really?” Amber attempts to capture that lilting flirty voice of hers, but doesn’t quite get it.

“Laurel loved to cook, and, well, I loved to watch her cook,” he says. “We did takeout here because, well, I didn’t want her to know I could cook.” He clears his throat again.

“Wow.” That’s all Amber manages and I imagine her face as she looks at Jack, trying to read him, trying to guess what she should do next. But Jack doesn’t give her time to figure it out.

“You know, I haven’t been shopping yet. What do you say we grab a pizza on the way to the movies?”

“Sure,” Amber says lightly. “We’ll do the dinner thing another time.” She’s managed to recover a bit because I’m pretty sure I hear a smile in her voice. I’m guessing her blue eyes are blinking a few extra times and that she touched him lightly on the arm. “For now,” she says, “pizza sounds great. Tell me you’re a pepperoni guy.”

“Among other things,” Jack says, and I hear the lightness making its way back into his voice, too.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: CLOSET – Write a story in which the narrator is snooping around an ex-boyfriend’s (or girlfriend’s) apartment because he or she still has a key. The whole story takes place in a closet in the bedroom that the narrator retreats to when the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend comes home with the narrator’s best friend. The narrator must endure, inside the closet the interaction of this couple. Describe only what the narrator can see and smell inside the closet and what she can hear and guess is going on outside the closet. Simply show us the events unfolding outside his view, spending as much detail as you can on what is happening rather than on the emotions of the trapped, guilty, outraged observer. {Exercise 23 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

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2 thoughts on “Search and Rescue

    1. I love how much it drew you in and the questions you ask. Even as the writer I ask those questions. Thank you for reading and commenting every day. I lnow how busy you are so i appreciate you taking the time. And I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

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