You might or might not know that I’ve written fiction stories in the past. I’ve done two longer stories (essentially novels, but they’ve never been published outside of the web) and several short stories. I recently shared a couple of these with a friend of mine, and she suggested I share them here on the blog, so I’ve decided to do just that – give new life to old stories, so to speak.
The first story I want to share with you is called Check Yes or No, and it was written for a contest (I won 2nd place). The theme of the contest was “Musical Cues.” Contestants were instructed to choose any song they wanted and use it as inspiration to write a story. I chose George Strait’s Check Yes or No. (I’m not so clever at coming up with titles, clearly.) I’ll share part of the story each week for a few weeks, and when it’s all posted, I’ll make a page with the story in its entirety. I have several stories that I’m excited to share with you here, so when this one is over, I’ll dive right in to the next one – a military story called More Than My Own Life.
In case you’d like to listen to the song as you read, I’ve embedded a YouTube video with the lyrics here.
I hope you enjoy my new feature: Tales on Tuesday.
I remember the first time I saw the new girl. I was in third grade, Mrs. Rose’s class. Mrs. Rose was strict; she made us sit in rows even though the other teachers all had their students in pairs or groups; I knew – I had friends in those other classes, and I asked. There were five rows of six desks each, but several of the desks were empty, including the one in front of me. The girl walked in the first school day in January, looking cold and uncomfortable.
“Class, this is Lillian Glass,” Mrs. Rose said, and the girl turned an obnoxious shade of red. She stared at her shoes, looking like she wished she could just sink into the ground. I knew the feeling. I’d feel the same way if Mrs. Rose did that to me. “I trust that you’ll all make her feel welcome here.”
There were snickers all over the room. I looked around and saw stupid Jason Smith leading the brigade. He was such a jerk. I didn’t know how he was so popular, but he was. Everyone seemed to like him. Even me, up until this year. He’d always been nice to me, but suddenly this year he’d decided that I was no longer worth his while. I glared at him for laughing at the new girl, but it didn’t stop him.
“Lillian, why don’t you have a seat right over here,” Mrs. Rose continued, walking with the girl to the desk right in front of me. I was secretly glad she was short. It had been nice having that desk empty all year – made it easier to see the board.
The girl, Lillian, looked nervously around the room, still that unhealthy shade of red. When her eyes landed on me, I offered her a friendly smile. Or what I hoped was a friendly smile, anyway. She smiled back, but still looked like she was withholding her trust. And somehow her face grew even redder at the sight of my smile. I didn’t get it; I mean for one, I was just me. Dorky Peter Jamison. Younger brother of eighth grade baseball star Patrick Jamison. He had the girls swarming around him already. That was something else I didn’t get. It was okay to be nice to girls; I mean, they were people, after all, but to encourage them the way Patrick did? It was like he liked having them hanging around him all the time or something. Gross. And then a horrible thought slammed into my brain. What if Lillian thinks I was being nice to her because I think she’s pretty or something? I was mortified.
I spent the rest of that day, and frankly, the rest of the week, trying to walk the fine line between not being mean to the girl and not drawing too much attention to myself. It was hard.
It seemed that I had succeeded, because Lily—as I learned she preferred, through my vague friendliness—didn’t seem to be paying much attention to me. A month passed, then two, and things were good. Then my friend Marcus came up to me after school one day. He was in Mr. Peterson’s class next door, but his best friend, a girl called Jennifer—I still didn’t get that one, but Jennifer seemed pretty cool, for a girl anyway—was in the same class as me and Lily. She’d become fast friends with Lily, and that meant that Marcus had spent some time with her. Anyway, the last day of school before spring break, Marcus came up to me and said, “Lily likes you.” He was so matter-of-fact and unashamed and blunt that he caught me off guard, and I felt the tips of my ears burn.
“No, she doesn’t,” I argued.
“She does,” he insisted. “She told Jennifer and Jennifer told me.” Jennifer had always been a blabber mouth. She couldn’t keep anyone’s secret. Before I could say the words condemning Jennifer’s behavior, Marcus hurried on. “But it’s okay. Lily said that she was going to try to tell you soon, anyway.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” I said, getting defensive. I didn’t want Lily to like me. She seemed nice enough, but I didn’t want a girlfriend. Or a girl friend. Ew. I was just fine with Marcus. If he wanted to be friends with girls, then whatever, but I was not interested.
That was the last time I would get to talk to Marcus about it. His parents were taking him to Disneyland for the break. I thought it was pretty unfair of him to drop a bomb like that on me and then leave for nine days. I thought about what he’d said the whole bus ride home. By the time I was dropped off at my driveway, I was positively moody.
“What’s wrong, Peter?” my mother asked when I stomped into the kitchen.
“Stupid Marcus says some stupid girl likes me,” I grumbled. I was a lot less fond of Lily than I had been an hour ago.
“Well, what’s wrong with that? I’m a girl and I like you,” she said, smiling at me.
“You’re not a girl, you’re my mom.” I laughed.
“I might be your mom, but I am a girl.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine, but you have to like me. You don’t have a choice.”
“I’m not sure I agree with that, either,” she replied. “I’ll always love you, but I’m sure there will be times when I don’t like you all that much. For instance, I’m not entirely sure how much I like your brother right now.” She chuckled lightly at that.
“What do you mean? How can you love someone without liking them?” I didn’t get it.
“I’ll always love you, both of you, because you’re my kids, and you’re you. But there are some behaviors that I don’t like, and that makes it a bit harder to like you sometimes. Make sense?”
“Kind of,” I replied honestly. I wasn’t sure how to phrase a follow-up question, though, so I just let it go. “So how come you don’t like Patrick right now?”
“I do like him. I was mostly kidding before. He’s just growing up; he’s more interested in the other girls than he is in his beloved mother.”
“I know,” I muttered. “It’s gross.”
“Oh, Peter. I wish you’d stay my little boy forever. I know that you’re going to grow up and like girls one day, too.” She’d walked over to me and wrapped me in a big hug.
“No, I’m not,” I said, pulling away from her.
“Yes, you will. I promise,” she replied.
“Ew, Mom. Can we not talk about this anymore? Please?”
“Of course. Mark my words, though, you’ll change your mind. I know you will. They all do.” She sighed wistfully.
“Whatever, Mom.” I walked to the other side of the kitchen and pulled a couple of Oreos out of the cookie jar, popping one into my mouth as I hurried out the door, up the stairs to my room. I needed to get away from that conversation. My mom was supposed to be on my side, not telling me that I was going to end up like Marcus. Or worse, Patrick: girl crazy.
The rest of spring break passed incredibly slowly, what with Marcus gone on vacation. I had no one to hang out with. Even Patrick, whom I’d normally try to tag along with, was no fun. He brought a girl home every day—Leslie something or other. After the talk with my mom that Friday, I avoided everyone of the female gender as much as I could. So, with Patrick’s new girlfriend following him around like a lost puppy, I was on my own.
I hope you’ll join me next Tuesday for the second installment of Check Yes or No.