Amazing the impact a single word can have. It might even knock a planet off its axis. Jack stared at it far longer than he intended to. The muscles in his jaw clenched and he read it again. He put it on the counter and sat down across the room, stiff backed, on a wooden chair. Still looking at it. As if it were a rattlesnake and his only recourse was to smack it with a hoe. He clearly had no experience with hoes. Maya came and sat on her haunches beside him. She looked at him, then she looked at the card… and then back at him. A soft whine and a lick.
“You just be quiet. I’ll figure this out on my own,” he grumbled, though he did put his hand on her head, gently stroking her ears.
It occurred to him that if he said the same word to Maya and then got up and walked across the room, she wouldn’t move from her spot. It wasn’t a question and it wasn’t an assumption either. It was a simple command. For a dog. But for a man? That word had so many implications. It could mean many different things. Regardless of what she meant, it made him feel way outside of his comfort zone and he wasn’t sure how to respond. In this moment, his word would sound more like.. Go!
He didn’t think she was asking anything of him but he wasn’t sure, and that uncertainty made him want to throw all of his things into a bag right now and hit the road. It had been a great couple of days, but staying a weekend was one thing. Staying… indefinitely?
Dammit Izzy! You’re a prolific writer! Couldn’t you have added a few more words to that card? Words like… “Do you want to stay another day?” Or, “Do you think we should stay in today?” Or, “Are you planning to stay awhile?” Easily quantifiable things. Anything would have been better than just one glaring, stupid, confusing word.
It seemed to echo off the walls.
It wasn’t quite light yet but there was enough spilling through the trees that he decided to go for a run to clear his head. He still had shorts on and he threw on a t-shirt, grabbing his socks off the floor and stepping into his boots. He looked ridiculous and hoped she was fast asleep and wouldn’t see him walk to the truck like this but his sneakers were behind the passenger seat where he kept them and he wasn’t about to go hopping across the gravel in his socks.
Half way there, she came out of nowhere. “Morning,” she grinned. He flinched.
“Maya, you traitor!” he growled. “Why didn’t you warn me?” He could swear the dog was grinning.
Isabel smiled warmly as she bent down and kissed her dog on the nose. “How did you sleep?” He wasn’t sure if she was talking to him or to the dog but he answered anyway.
“Great.” Silence. If she could do one word, so could he.
“That’s good,” she said softly, her eyes narrowing slightly.
Awareness was beginning to register on her face, but he didn’t want to see it. He wanted to run. Right now! He sat in the front seat of his truck and pulled his boots off, exchanging them for sneakers, focusing on his feet and refusing to meet her eyes. He hopped down and took off without a word. After a few paces he felt rude and turned to say, “Be back shortly.” But she was already on her way to the water. He turned away then and sprinted hard before he changed his mind. His breath came heavy and he was reminded again, how out of shape he was. It only made him push harder. He followed the road they came in on, staying out of the woods at this time of morning. He thought it wiser to be where he was relatively sure of his footing. After a time, he found his rhythm and he let it carry him far away. Then his thoughts turned to Annie.
His mind wandered to a time when she had called to talk to him while he was on a job in the village. She asked if they could meet somewhere for lunch, and she requested that “somewhere” might have a table on the porch in the sunshine? She was in a great mood that day and full of mischief. She said she had something to tell him, but that she needed to do it over an extra delicious cheese sandwich. Preferably with bacon on it. And could he please find her one. On a porch. In the sunshine. Amused, he had called around everywhere but no one currently had them on the menu. He hated to disappoint her so he took her to a restaurant she knew well and loved, hoping that would suffice. It had a porch. And it was soaked in sunshine. So it did. She was happy. But she was always happy.
When they sat down…she explained that she had been walking in the park that morning and she overheard two friends joking with each other.. something about magical levitations, the latest playoffs, and an extra delicious cheese sandwich. She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop. But now all she could think about was extra delicious cheese sandwiches and she just had to have one. When the waitress came over she mentioned her craving to her, and in the end, she got her extra delicious cheese sandwich with 4 strips of extra delicious bacon and then handed him a little baggie with a stick that had two pink lines running through it, as she took a huge bite and waited calmly for his reaction. It wasn’t very often he was speechless, but he picked her up out of her chair and hugged her to him in that moment, not caring who in the place was staring at them. And he made a lot of extra delicious cheese sandwiches in the coming months.
He started running harder then. He ran until his body gave out, and then he walked the rest of the way home.
Gathering all of his things together, he tidied up the cabin leaving it the way he had found it. Turning off the lights, he clicked the lock and closed the door softly behind him. Isabel watched him silently from her window upstairs, her heart in her throat, as his truck backed up, slowly and disappeared around the bend. The last thing he saw as he adjusted his rearview mirror… was her face.