A BRUSH WITH FATE

It was nothing, really; just an unsettling feeling.

The apartment was deathly silent – no water running, no sounds coming from the kitchen, no television – nothing, not even the comforting, barely perceptible reverberation of Matt’s snoring.

The quiet was oddly disquieting. Lying on the bed on my right side, I eyed the digital clock on the nightstand: 7:15 AM – a little early for our usual Sunday morning sleep-ins.

Gradually I shifted onto my back, staring up at the ceiling for a minute or two waiting to hear something, anything. I slowly turned my head and glanced over at the left side of the bed – Matt’s side. He wasn’t there. “Hmm, wonder where he is?” I thought. I listened again; still silence. I called out “Matt? Babe?” No response.

“Okay, maybe he went to get bagels and The Times.” It’s very unusual for us not to make love on a lazy Sunday morning. Sex in the morning is always delicious but last night was incredible; we really got carried away. I don’t know what came over me; my desire was insatiable and Matt certainly was ready, willing and able to oblige. I couldn’t help smiling as I thought about the night before; the images were so intense, I started getting aroused. I called out again: “Matt, honey! Are you here?” Still nothing.

Matt and I met about seven months ago, shortly after my breakup with Danny. I thought Danny was ‘the one’; we even talked about marriage. We really were a perfect match in all aspects of our lives. The fact that sex with Danny was the best I’d ever had was a bonus. But somewhere down the road things began to unravel and we just sort of drifted apart. That was a very low point in my life; I loved Danny and I still think about him often. It’s only natural that I would.

Then Matt entered the picture and there was an instant attraction between us. We were both on the rebound and took things slow. We decided not to move in together, not just yet, opting for weekends here or at Matt’s. We were committed to each other but not ready for anything as permanent as living together. We agreed the only thing we would leave at each other’s place was a toothbrush.

The more I thought about last night, the more I wanted Matt in my bed right now. Looking at the clock I was amazed to see that 45 minutes had gone by. Where the hell was Matt?

I got out of bed and padded barefoot into the kitchen, checking the living room on the way. I was clearly alone, not even the usual welcoming presence of a fragrant pot of coffee. I looked around in confusion.

Feeling the strong urge to pee, I raced back to the bathroom and there I found all the answers I needed. A sticky note with angry red letters on the mirror read YOU TALKED ABOUT SEX WITH DANNY IN YOUR SLEEP … AGAIN!! I’M OUTTA HERE!

 And there was just one lonely toothbrush in the holder – mine.  

NAR © 2021

WHY?

There wasn’t anything particularly special about the guy; he was actually rather ordinary looking but something made me uneasy. He just stood near the entrance, silently watching.

It was the usual Wednesday morning story time in the children’s room of the Lansing Library. Parents running errands could drop off their kids knowing they’d be safe and well-cared-for. The children listened intently as I read “The Adventures of Frog and Toad“.

I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable vibe I was getting from that guy. I caught the eye of my assistant, Grace, and with a slight tilt of my head I motioned toward the man. She glanced over and casually made her way across the room.

With cautious confidence Grace walked up to him and in a quiet but stern tone said “You’ve got thirty seconds to explain to me what you’re doing here”.

The man seemed rattled by Grace’s demand and stumbled over an apology. “I’m terribly sorry! I didn’t mean to alarm anyone. I’m here to pick up my son.”

Oh, really? Who’s your son?” Grace asked.

The man replied “Nathan … Nathan Fletcher. I’m Jacob Fletcher. My wife Emily isn’t feeling well. She asked me to come fetch him. She’s pregnant, you know.”

Yes, Emily. Of course! Such a lovely woman” Grace said. “Sorry to hear she’s ill. She seemed fine when she dropped Nathan off.”

Yes, she was” Jacob agreed. “It’s the morning sickness; it really knocks her for a loop sometimes. Emily said she would notify library security that I’d be picking Nathan up.”

Before Grace had a chance to call the security desk to verify Mr. Fletcher’s story, Nathan spotted his father; the boy was overjoyed to see his dad and happily raced to greet him.

Daddy! Daddy! I’m so glad to see you. Is Mommy here?” Jacob gave Nathan a big hug and scooped him up in his arms.

Hi, buddy! Mommy’s resting. She asked me to come get you.”

Yay! Can we get some ice cream? We can bring some to Mommy, too” Nathan asked, bubbling with excitement.

Sure!” Jacob replied laughing. “C’mon! We better get going.”

Grace looked questioningly at me and I nodded in approval, smiling at the happy duo of father and son.

The two left, hand in hand, Nathan gleefully skipping along beside his dad. All was right in the library once again.

Later that night as I watched TV, the show was interrupted by a news bulletin:

A police alert has been issued for the whereabouts of five-year-old Nathan Fletcher and his father, Jacob. The two were last seen leaving Longford’s Ice Cream on Lansing Street around 12:30 this afternoon. The body of Emily Fletcher, Jacob’s wife and the mother of Nathan, was found in the family’s home this evening by her sister. She had been brutally stabbed to death. Mrs. Fletcher was six months pregnant. At this time police believe Jacob Fletcher is the only suspect in the murder of his wife, unborn child and the abduction of his son.”

I sat in abject horror staring at the TV screen; in the upper right corner was the face of the man from the library.

How could I have made such an unforgivable error in judgement? Oh my God! That poor woman! My heart froze when I thought of Nathan.

Why didn’t I follow my instincts?

NAR © 2021

THE PORCH

“Walnut hair and skin so fair

Freckles like stars on her nose

Green eyes glittering like precious jewels

And lips as soft as a rose” 

“Hey, Pops, what’s that you’re singing? I’ve never heard it before”. 

Brady, I didn’t see you there” replied Ben Williams as he leaned his guitar against the porch wall. “Just an old number I wrote for your Mom. Another lifetime.” 

Pops, can I ask you something? It makes me sad how little I remember about Mom. What was she like?” 

“Oh, son. That’s not easy to answer. Your mom was a real beauty, a feast for the eyes. And we were happy. We had you and your sister  our first three years together. Then I got that trucking job and your Mom was alone a lot. It’s hard on a woman when her man is away for days at a time, especially with babes to care for. She was special and she loved you kids – don’t you ever forget that – but she got lonely. 

“When Ron Carter’s wife died your Mom befriended him. They were both lonely and found comfort together. I don’t blame her for that. One day when I was home from the road she brought Ron a cherry pie. She took your sister with her and they never came back. From that point on it was just you and me.” 

Father and son sat in contemplative silence. 

You know, Pops, at first I thought Mom would be back soon. Then I gave up on that dream and convinced myself she had died. Strange thing is, thinking she was dead was easier than believing she abandoned us.” 

Ben let out a ragged sigh. “Thank God I had you, Brady. You didn’t know it but you kept me from falling apart. Getting that steady job at the hardware store was a life saver and I was able to be here for you.” 

“Then I started dating Rebecca and I was hardly ever home!” Brady laughed. “Marrying her and moving in here with you made my life complete.”

“That sweet gal of yours made my life complete, too, son. She filled a void in my heart and never once complained about having to live with her pain in the ass father-in-law! Rebecca’s like a daughter to me” declared Ben. 

“Pops, did you know Rebecca was the one who insisted we live here with you. Not too many women would do that. And our kids are crazy about you! You’ve taught them a lot.” 

“I love those munchkins, Brady! You all made this house a home and a broken old man whole again.” 

Rebecca poked her head out the screen door. “Dinner in ten minutes, you two. Would you round up the kids for me please?” 

That night Rebecca asked Brady what he and his father had been talking about. 

“Just reminiscing, mostly about my Mom.” 

“I wish I had a chance to know your Mom.”

“Me too, Becca” Brady replied wistfully. “Me too.”

NAR © 2019

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

9:30 AM Friday/Drew texting:  “Hey! Got any plans this weekend?”  

OMG! I’m paralyzed. My biggest crush in forever is asking me if I have plans this weekend. OK, get a grip. I don’t want to appear desperate .. after all, we’ve never actually dated ..  just walks in the park with our dogs – his terrier Arlo and my pug Charlie. 

Alright. A sufficient amount of time has passed.

9:50 AM/Me texting:  “This weekend? Um…. nothing definite. What’s up?”  

Just the right tone. Cool and calm .. which I’m neither. Gotta love texting. It’s so impassive when necessary.

9:53 AM/Drew texting:  “Fantastic!  I scored two tickets to Springsteen for Saturday night in .. are you ready for this?  Vegas!”  

Vegas! I love Vegas! I’m practically hyperventilating. Settle down, girl?

10:05 AM/Me texting:  “Just double-checking my calendar. We’re good to go, Drew.”  

10:07 AM/Drew texting:  “Excellent! Even Arlo’s excited!  Can you hear him? We’ll be getting back late Sunday. Are you cool with that?”  

Am I cool with that?? It IS a bit sudden but what the hell. Just go for it.

10:10 AM/Me texting:  “Yeah, that’s fine. Hi, Arlo! How’s my buddy? Charlie can’t wait for another play date.”  

10:12 AM/Drew texting:  “This is gonna be epic, Amy. I wasn’t sure how you’d react. Hey, Arlo really misses you. I’ll be at your place tomorrow morning at 9:30.”  

10:15 AM/Me texting:  “Perfect! See you then.” 

My head’s spinning. After work:  get a bikini wax, stop at Victoria’s Secret, pack.  

Excitement kept me awake most of the night and I finally gave up at 6:30. After coffee and a shower, I finish packing and get dressed. A quick glance at the clock .. ten minutes to go. 

*DING DONG*!!  

Forcing myself not to lunge for the door, I casually open it to see Drew’s smiling face, one arm cradling Arlo, his other arm around the shoulder of a stunning brunette in tight jeans and a Springsteen tank top. My grin has frozen in place. 

“Hi, Amy! This is Charlotte. I’m so glad you can take care of Arlo; Charlotte and I are really looking forward to this get-away weekend. Same routine for Arlo as last time you watched him. We’ll pick him up Sunday night. Thanks, Amy. You’re a real gem!”  

Taking the pup, I wave goodbye to the departing lovebirds. Slowly I close the door, my stupid grin gone as I lean against the wall snuggling Arlo. “Hear that, buddy? I’m a real gem.”  

NAR © 2018