This year Eden Baylee and I are offering two stories a month. The stories have now been running for over a year. Our intentions have been indicated several times previously so we’ll offer no more ‘explanations’ and just get straight on with this month’s effort.
Prompt: On Tuesday she asked me the most peculiar question.
PARTS 1 and 3 EB
PARTS 2 and 4 BK
Girl’s Best Friend
I don’t know why Lucy behaved the way she did. She came from a family similar to mine—white, middle class, two parents. The only extraordinary thing about her was her shock of red hair and freckles. Like me, she was an only child, so maybe that’s why we gravitated to each other.
All I know is Lucy had a way about her that both attracted me and made me feel uncomfortable at times. She was edgy.
“Janice, feel like a drink after class?”
We still had half an hour before the end of Chemistry. “Lucy, we need to study. We have an exam in a week.”
“Yes, but that’s in a week. We can always make up for it tomorrow.”
I gave her side eye.
Later that night as we sat in the bar with other students stressed over upcoming exams, I asked Lucy, “How do you do it?”
“Stay calm when you’re failing your classes? Convince me to drink with you even though I should be studying? Your power of persuasion is impressive.”
Lucy laughed and signalled the bartender for another round.
On Tuesday, a day before our exam, she asked me the most peculiar question.
We were sitting on a bench in the park beside school watching kids from the nursery play on some swings and slides.
“When you’re twenty-something, right?” she said, “And you’re married and that…”
“Yeah,” I said “And…?”
She took a deep breath and went on “Well, d’you want kids or pets?”
I just stared at her. She looked back at me, her expression completely normal, as if she’d just said “hello” or something.
“That’s a stupid choice,” I said.
“Not really,” she said. “Mind you, it depends on your husband, I suppose. I mean, if he’s like my dad, you’ll have no choice anyway.”
“Why not?” I said.
She shrugged. “He says women don’t have thoughts, they have hormones.”
I didn’t know what to say. I’d seen her dad. He was enormous. Not fat, just big. And her mom was tiny, like her.
We didn’t usually talk about family stuff but I suddenly felt afraid for her.
“Are things… you know… OK? At home.” I said.
She looked at me, puzzled.
“What d’you mean?”
“You know. Your mum and dad. That sort of stuff.”
Her expression just got more puzzled.
‘Want a go on the swings?’ she said.
Lucy didn’t show up to meet me as planned on the day of our exam. The final wasn’t until one in the afternoon, but I’d insisted we go over study notes in the morning. I was heading into the final with a B+. A little extra work would move me up to an A. Lucy was satisfied to just pass the course. I sent her a text and figured she’d decided to sleep in.
By lunch time and the absence of any texts from her, I was beginning to worry. I called and left a message. I checked all the social media networks but saw no recent posts from her. With only enough time to pick up a sandwich and wolf it down, I headed to campus in hopes of seeing Lucy there.
Hoover Hall was packed by the time I arrived. No sign of Lucy, though it would’ve been near impossible to find her in this crowd. I put my cell phone in my backpack and turned in my belongings at the front desk.
When I entered the exam room and saw rows and rows of desks at least twenty deep, my anxiety ratcheted up a notch.
It’s amazing how quiet a roomful of exam takers can be. All those students but only the occasional rustles of pages being turned and the tap, tap, tap of the invigilator’s footsteps as she makes her regular little checks, stepping down from her rostrum to stroll among the desks.
We’d been at it for maybe half an hour when, suddenly, the door at the back of the room creaked open and made us all jump. Everybody turned to look. It was Lucy. She had a little mongrelly dog on a lead and a big smile on her face. The invigilator was standing but just staring at her, obviously not knowing what to do. Lucy looked around, saw me, waved and came along to my desk.
“Hi Janice,” she said, then squatted down beside the dog. “This is Princess Elizabeth the 4th. I got her this morning. We’re just going down the beach. See you later, OK?”
I didn’t know what to say. The invigilator seemed to be just frozen at her rostrum, staring at us. Luckily, Lucy wasn’t waiting for an answer and, with a “Come on, your majesty”, she led the unprotesting royal dog back the way they’d come.
We hope you enjoyed it. It would be good to have some feedback.