Kate brushed her brown hair out of her eyes and worked her way book by book across the dusty shelf as she searched for a book recommended to her by a friend. After what felt like an eternity she finally found the thin book squeezed between two others on the shelf where it didn’t belong. Standing on her tip toes she reached up to free the book from its hiding spot. All of a sudden the flimsy metal bookend came loose and an avalanche of books dislodged from the shelf, raining down upon her head.
Thankfully for Kate, she was close enough to the shelf that she was not injured by the onslaught of books. Momentary confusion was replaced by embarrassment as she glanced around hoping no one saw the mess she made. She quickly gathered up the books that had fallen and stacked them neatly on the shelf knowing that one of the library workers would eventually find it and put them back in order. Kate's black messenger bag had been sitting open at her feet; she slipped it back over her shoulder as she looked around for the book that she had come to the library to find. It wasn’t in the stack of books on the shelf, nor was it on the floor or on one of the other shelves nearby. The shelves had a back to them, so it couldn't have slipped into the next aisle over. Sighing, Kate decided to call it a day. The book wasn’t particularly important, but simply one that had sounded interesting when it came up in conversation earlier in the week.
As Kate made her way out of the library she did not realize that her bag was heavier than it had been when she arrived.
"Mr. Socks! Here girl!" Kate called out to her cat as she opened the door of her apartment. It had been a long day, and her cat always knew how to make her feel better. Before she could even hang her keys up, she heard the jingling of the bell around Mr. Socks' neck, and felt the familiar tickle of the cat's long hair around her ankles. She scooped the orange and white cat up in her arms and felt Mr. Socks' internal motor start up as the sound of purring reached her ears. Mr. Socks had been rescued from a local shelter years ago; her niece was three at the time, and was convinced beyond any reasoning that the cat was a male, despite the fact that Mr. Socks would be more appropriately named Miss Socks. It became a family joke, and Socks' name eventually became Mr. Socks. Kate still laughs about it when she thinks about the origin of her companion's name.
Kate and Mr. Socks fell into their typical evening routine, which started with dinner being put out for Mr. Socks first, followed by Kate preparing her own dinner, cleaning up the dishes and then settling in to do grading and prep work for the next day. No matter what her students’ parents thought, her work as a teacher was never truly done, and she was never off the clock. She didn’t want to complain, though, because she knew she had it pretty good compared to some of her teacher friends who had horror stories galore about problem parents, problem school administrators, and more. Despite feeling like she never had enough time, and having to dip into her own wallet to furnish her classroom with the supplies she needed, Kate really did enjoy her job.
“Okay Mr. Socks, ready to see how the kids did on their math test today?” Kate put away the last of the dishes. Grabbing her bag, she shuffled through the various folders of paper to find the one that held today’s math exam. As she pulled out the folder, Kate noticed a book that had been hiding behind it. She didn’t recognize the book, so she picked it up. Notes was the only thing written on the cover. Quickly flipping through the book, Kate realized that it looked like someone’s personal notebook. She turned to the inside of the front cover, and was relieved to find the owner’s contact information written inside:
If found, please return to:
2768 E. Sanders Way
Denver, CO 80219
Kate scratched Mr. Socks behind his ears and wondered out loud how the notebook could have made its way into her bag. The zip code was a local zip code; she was actually pretty sure that it was nearby. Pulling up the address on the internet, she was surprised to find out that this Jessie Hunt actually lived only blocks away, on the other side of the nearest major street! “Well Mr. Socks, I guess we should give Mr. Hunt a call and let him know that we found his book. I’m sure he’s looking for it.” Mr. Socks looked up at Kate from her spot on the sofa and simply continued cleaning her paw.
“Hello?” A woman answered the phone number listed in the notebook.
“Um, may I speak with Jessie Hunt?” Kate replied.
“Speaking. How may I help you?” The woman responded.
Kate paused momentarily in surprise; she didn’t know why, but she had assumed that Jessie Hunt was a man. “Hello Ms. Hunt. My name is Kate Spalding and I’m calling because I found a notebook that appears to belong to you, according to the contact information on the inside. Somehow it ended up in my bag today, I think when I was at the library.”
“My notebook?” Kate heard a note of surprise in Jessie’s voice. “I wasn’t aware that I was missing it. Hold on one second.” Kate could hear some shuffling and then Jessie was back on line. “That is the strangest thing. I must’ve somehow dropped it or left it behind, but I don’t recall even taking it out when I was at the library yesterday. If you want to drop it in the mail, I’d be happy to reimburse you for it.”
Kate shook her head, “No, that won’t be necessary. Actually, I only live a few blocks from the address on the inside of the notebook. It wouldn’t be any trouble to drop it off sometime. Will you be home tomorrow evening?”
There was a slight hesitation on the other line, and then Jessie spoke up, “Sure, that would be fine. I should be home any time after six or so.”
“Great! I’ll probably be by closer to seven,” Kate confirmed.
The phone call ended and Kate looked at the notebook lying next to her on the couch, then placed it back in her bag so that she wouldn’t forget it in the morning. “The mystery of the strange notebook has been solved… I guess it’s on to grading math papers.” Mr. Socks swatted at the first paper that Kate pulled out and then curled up into a ball.
The next day at lunch, Kate couldn’t help but peek at the notebook again. She knew she probably shouldn’t, but her curiosity got the best of her. The notebook appeared to be full of all sorts of information on different people; name, gender, hobbies, occupation, and so on. In another section of the book, she found some sketches of some floorprints, and some information on various places - cities, colleges, specific venues. Before Kate had time to really think about what it could all be for, she glanced at the clock and saw that she only had five minutes until her students would need to return from recess. Time for them to get back the graded math tests; most would be happy, or at the least not too disappointed, but a few would be going home this weekend with some extra credit assignments to make up for their poor test scores.
Once the students were back in their seats, Kate grabbed the stack of papers sitting on her desk. “I know you are all anxiously waiting to find out how you did on yesterday’s Math test…” She could see a mixture of smiles, nervous hand wringing, and ambivalence. “The good news is that most of you did well. The average score in the class was an 82%.” I’m going to hand your tests back out and then we will go over the answers together.
As she was passing the tests back, she came to the one F in the group. She was concerned, because she knew that Donny was a good kid, and he wasn’t unintelligent. It was early in the school year, but she talked to Donny’s teacher from the last school year, and found out that he typically met or exceeded the average when it came to grades. Kate didn’t want to embarrass him by calling his failing grade out in front of the class, so instead she left a note on the test asking him to stay after school for a few minutes to talk with her.
She saw the flash of shame and anger in his face when he looked at the score on the test. Just in the moment that their eyes connected, she knew that there was something going on. She just hoped that he would confide in her.
The bell rang at 3:15, and Kate stood up. “You are all free to go. Have a good weekend, and don’t forget about your book reports due next Tuesday!” She heard a few groans, but most of the kids were already in weekend mode. As the students filed out, she began erasing the whiteboard. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Donny slowly packing up his stuff, clearly not in a hurry to run out. When everyone else had left, he shuffled over toward the front of the classroom as Kate turned around.
“Ms. Spalding,” his voice was quivering, “I know I did bad on the test. Is there anything I can do to make up for it?”
Kate grabbed a spare seat, and gestured for Donny to sit down as well. “I do have some extra credit that I would like you to complete, but I’m more concerned with why you did so poorly on the test, rather than just the fact that you failed. I talked to Mrs. Perry and she said that math was one of your better subjects last year. You’ve been doing well on your quizzes and homework assignments so far. What happened?”
Donny’s eyes were glued to the floor, and he started biting his nails. “I… I was just really tired yesterday, and I didn’t feel very good. I promise I’ll do better. I’m really sorry Ms. Spalding.”
Kate had a feeling that he wasn’t giving her the full story, but she also didn’t want to make him too uncomfortable with her questions. She slipped the extra credit assignments out of their folder and handed them to Donny. “Here’s your extra credit. It won’t completely make up for the test, but it will help me know if you really do understand the material, and will make it easier for you to bring your math grade back up. It’s due at the end of next week. No excuses. Also, I’ll have to call your parents to let them know about your test grade.”
Donny’s face fell. “Do you have to?”
Kate steeled herself. “Yes, Donny. It’s school policy that we have to contact a student’s parents anytime there is evidence that they are performing unsatisfactorily. A failing test grade is a pretty big flag.”
Donny ducked his head as he took the papers. “Okay. Thank you Ms. Spalding. I promise I’ll turn these in next week.” He quickly packed the papers into his backpack and started moving toward the door.
Kate cleared her throat, “Donny?” He turned to face her, with an odd look on his face. “You know that you can talk to me, or any of the other adults here in the school if something is going on that you feel you need help with, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s a problem at home or at school. We’re here to help.”
He just nodded and slipped out the door. Kate closed her eyes and hoped that things would get better for Donny.
“2738… 2748… 2758… 2768 - here it is,” Kate stopped in front of the address inscribed in the front of the notebook she was returning. It was an older but well-maintained single-story home. Small yard in front with a single large oak tree, and a small flower bed along the path leading up to the front porch. As is common in some older neighborhoods in the city, most of the homes didn’t have driveways or garages, and this one was no exception. Kate imagined that this neighborhood would be beautiful with fall colors in another month or so, since it was peppered with large, deciduous trees.
Kate grabbed the notebook and wondered why she suddenly had nervous butterflies in her stomach. Locking the car, she followed the path up to the porch and rang the bell. After what felt like forever, but was probably only fifteen or twenty seconds, the door opened and a tall, fit woman with short black hair and an olive complexion stuck her head through the opening. She seemed to take measure of the woman ringing her doorbell before speaking. “May I help you?”
Kate swallowed, “Jessie? I’m Kate. I have your notebook?” She raised the book with her left hand.
A light went on in Jessie’s eyes and she nodded. “Yes, forgive me. It’s been a busy day and I completely forgot you would be coming by.” Kate extended the notebook toward Jessie, and Jessie took it. She quickly flipped through the notebook and smiled. “Thank you so much for returning this to me. I’m still mystified as to how it ended up in your bag.”
Kate shrugged, “I haven’t been able to figure that out, either, but it was really no trouble. I live across Federal, only about 3 blocks East from here. I remember losing a notebook once when I was in college, and it was a pain in the ass. I’m happy to save someone else the pain I went through!”
Both women stood there for a moment, shifting uncomfortably on their feet, unsure what to say. Kate gestured to the house, “I love your house. It’s quite charming. I’m in an apartment right now and dream of the day when I can live in a full house of my own.”
Jessie nodded, “I lucked out, and was able to buy this when the housing prices were bottoming out a few years ago. It’s not huge, but it’s a good fit for me, and it’s not a bad neighborhood.” After another momentary lull in the conversation, Jessie opened the door a little wider. “Would you like to come in? I was just getting ready to make some tea. It’s the least I can do to thank you.”
Glancing at her car, and then at the woman in front of her, an odd feeling came over Kate. She couldn’t remember the last time she met someone new who wasn’t a coworker. “Sure… It’s Friday night. I’m not in a rush to get home.” Kate stepped in as Jessie opened the door the rest of the way and ushered Kate inside.
48 Hours Earlier
Jessie ran her right hand through her black hair and tried to resist the urge she had to throw her computer out the window. It wouldn’t be a great loss for her, but she guessed the library wouldn’t appreciate it much. She’d worked so long on setting up the characters, the locations, the outline of the novel she felt bubbling up in her mind. But lately, every time she sat down to write, it’s like every idea in her head would just disappear. *Time to call it a day,* she thought to herself. *They’re about to close, anyways.* Packing up her laptop, she made her way out of the library.
On days like this, Jessie heard echoes of Valerie’s voice in her head. “Why would you ever want to be a writer?” she would ask. “Most writers never amount to anything, scraping by and churning out piles of paper that no one would really ever pay money to read.”
“Oh Valerie…” Jessie muttered to herself, “You’ve been out of my life for five years now, and you still manage to screw with my head.”
When she arrived home, Jessie hung her bag up by the door and kicked off her shoes. She knew she could be a writer, she just had to get past this block. If only she were rich so that she could just write full-time. Instead, she had to squeeze her writing in when she could around her job as a construction worker. It wasn’t a bad job; she grew up learning how to do work around the house. One of her fondest memories of her father was spending one summer helping him re-roof their house. He paid her fairly for her effort, and she learned a great deal over those few months. Her father was a 50-year veteran of the local construction worker union, and rarely did a weekend of her childhood go by without several of his work buddies coming over to watch football games or just to knock back a few beers.
All of that said, Jessie knew that construction work wasn’t her passion. It was a decent, stable, honest job, but nothing about it compared to the feeling she got when she found herself transported through time while reading a novel. The thought of helping someone else feel that through a novel she could write made her heart race and her mind whirl. It would happen, one day… if she could just get through this damn block!
Tomorrow was going to be a long day; while it was only an eight hour shift, she would be starting a new home renovation job with a new crew. There would be three guys besides herself. One of them she knew from other jobs, but there was one guy she had never worked with before, and another who was just fresh out of his internship. The job was expected to last several months - they were finishing the basement, gutting and rebuilding the master bathroom, and doing a major overhaul to the kitchen.
Jessie slipped into her bed and got comfortable. The last thought she had before drifting off to sleep was that it sure would be nice to have someone to snuggle up to again.
The next day was about as Jessie had expected; not horrible, but a long day of going over the job with her crew, setting expectations and getting to work. By the time she got home that evening she was ready for a hot cup of tea and a good book. Right as she was getting settled, her phone rang. “Jesus!” she exclaimed, as she fumbled around for her phone. It was buried somewhere in the stack of books next to her.
When she found the phone she was tempted not to answer since it wasn’t a number she recognized. After a moment of wavering, she pressed the button to answer the phone. “Hello?”
A few minutes later she hung up the phone. She had no idea how her writing notebook had gotten into some stranger’s bag. She hadn’t even taken it out of her bag when she was at the library the other day. Thankfully this Kate who found it was nice enough to put in some effort to return it.
For the longest time Jessie hadn’t included any contact information in the notebook, but then she went through the unfortunate experience of having her wallet stolen. Whoever took it only wanted the cash, and then they dumped it in the street with everything else intact. A good samaritan found it and returned it to her, which saved her the trouble of having to replace her driver’s license and the few other cards she had. That experience got her thinking, and she decided to put her name and contact information in her notebook so that she at least had a chance at getting it back, were it to ever be lost.
Jessie searched through her bag one more time, just to make sure this wasn’t some cosmic joke, but there was still no sign of her notebook. She picked up her tea, which was now the perfect temperature, and after taking a few sips set it down to get comfortable once more with her book. She wondered what the odds were that one, her notebook would end up in someone else’s bag without her even noticing, and two, the person whose bag it had ended up in would live only a few blocks away.
Friday went by quickly as her crew started to get into its rhythm. She was pleased; it’s always a coin toss when she has to deal with unknown crew members, but John and Gary both seemed like they would work out well. She was glad she had Nick on the crew, since he already knew how she like to run her jobs and helped keep things going smoothly.
John wasn’t new to the job, just to the area. He had moved to the Denver area six months ago from Kentucky. He had family here in Denver and needed a fresh start after a nasty divorce. Kate was able to tell right away that John was good at his job.
Gary was the baby of the group. He was only 22, having just completed an internship with another local construction company. He was enthusiastic and full of energy. Kate could tell that he wanted to do a good job, but sometimes his eagerness got in the way. Halfway through the day on Friday, Kate pulled Nick aside. “Hey Nick?”
The gruff-looking redhead walked over from where he had been eating his lunch. “Yeah Chief?”
“Do me a favor and keep an eye on the kid. He’s doing okay, but I’m afraid that he is a bit too excitable. I would hate to see him do something stupid.”
Nick nodded. “Yeah, I was noticing that too. I talked to Jimmy the other day, who worked as part of the crew that Gary was on during his internship. He said that Gary’s a good kid and that if he can learn to slow down a little, he will become a solid worker.”
As a green station wagon pulled up at the curb to drop Gary off from lunch, Jessie nodded to Nick and patted him once on the shoulder. “Thanks man.”
That afternoon, Jessie made a run to the local hardware store to pick up some materials they had ordered for the basement. When the worker pushed the flatbed cart out from the back, Jessie immediately knew something was wrong. Stepping forward, she picked up one of the tiles and grimaced. “This isn’t what I ordered.”
The worker, who looked like he was probably still in high school, or just out, stood there nervously for a moment and then started stuttering an apology. “Uh… Um… Let me go get our store m-manager.” He scurried off without looking Jessie in the eye.
A few minutes later, Howard Derkins accompanied the clerk back to the counter and waved to Jessie. “Good afternoon Ms. Hunt. Ben here says that there’s a problem with your order?” Jessie had been shopping at Howard’s store for close to 30 years now; first as a kid with her father, and then on her own as she followed her father’s footsteps into the industry.
Jessie shook her head. “How many times do I have to tell you, Howard, Ms. Hunt is my mother. Please, call me Jessie. Ms. Jessie if you must.” Howard just laughed and shook her hand. “And yes, there’s a problem. I ordered twenty sets of tile #A21659. It’s a rust-colored, rough-textured tile.” She gestured toward the cart and raised her eyebrow. “That is the funniest rust-color I’ve ever seen.”
Howard frowned and picked up the paperwork that went with the order. “Let’s see here…” Licking his thumb, he flipped through the pages until he found the original form used to take the order. “I think one of my clerks needs to improve his penmanship.” He thumbed through a few more pages and then pulled out the printed confirmation from the system. He held both papers out to Jessie. “I’m guessing that when someone went back later to input this into the order system, your A21659 was misread as A21859. I’m so sorry for the mix-up. Let me check something really quick.”
While she was waiting, Jessie started calculating how much of a delay this would cause them if they couldn’t get the tile until late next week. This is not the type of problem you want to run into. Howard cleared his throat and looked up. “Good news. The local wholesaler has more than enough of this in stock. Could you come back later today, say, 5 o’clock? We’ll put a rush on it, and we’ll take 10% off your order.”
Jessie immediately felt relieved. “Sure, that’ll do.” She shook Howards hand and nodded. “I’ll see you in a few hours.”
The rest of the day flew by as the crew made some adjustments to their schedule so that they would start laying the tile next week instead of that afternoon. By the time Jessie picked up the order, dropped if off at the site and then got home, she was more than ready for the weekend.
Feeling the need to burn off some energy, Jessie quickly slipped into some light sweats and grabbed a bottle of water. She locked the door and took off for a jog around the neighborhood. Fall is her favorite time of the year; the air in the evenings and mornings has a slight crisp feeling to it (or not-so-slight, depending on the day). As she ran along the sidewalk, critters could be seen gathering food for winter, and the leaves were just starting to show the first signs of summer’s end. After the first five minutes, she picked up her speed and pushed herself a little harder. Jessie could feel the blood pumping through her veins, and it felt like her heartbeat was syncing up with the beat of the world around her. *There are few things that feel better than this,* she thought to herself.
Thirty minutes later she stopped in front of her house and did a few stretches. Jessie was tired, and the teapot was calling her name, but a shower was most definitely in order first. As she stepped under the spray of the water, she let the stress of the week flow down the drain. Washing herself with a soapy sponge, she could see evidence of her physically demanding day job. A bruise on her thigh from a near-accident with one of the guys on the crew; a small scratch on her hand from when she was opening up a particularly stubborn spackling container; a scary-looking toenail from a dropped two-by-four several months ago.
Jessie dried off and slipped into her favorite pair of jeans and an old sweatshirt. Right as she put on some water for tea, the doorbell rang. “Now who on earth could that be?” She asked out loud. She had completely forgotten about the visitor who would be stopping by. She pulled open the door wide enough to see a beautiful woman standing on her porch, looking around. A small black four door hatchback was parked at the curb. Jessie felt like she should know why this person was standing in front of her, but her mind was drawing a complete blank. Realizing she should probably speak up instead of just staring, she cleared her throat. “May I help you?” The woman nodded and after a moment, Jessie realized that this was Kate, the woman she spoke to on the phone the evening before.
A huge feeling of relief washed over Jessie when she took her writing notebook back from Kate. You could safely bet that she would not be leaving it behind again anytime soon. They exchanged a few minutes of pleasant, polite conversation and Jessie had to keep telling herself not to stare. Kate was a natural beauty; average height with straight, dark brown hair and striking olive-green eyes. She kept shifting her weight as if she was a little nervous, but Jessie felt nothing but positive energy coming off of this stranger.
The teakettle started whistling, and Jessie decided to be impulsive, which wasn’t something she was usually very good at. She invited Kate inside, for tea. It wasn’t often that she held conversations with strangers, so she figured that she might as well see where this might lead.
Kate’s senses were on full alert as she walked into Jessie’s home. She took in the simple but elegant decor, and the comfortable, homey feeling. There weren’t many pictures around, just a few of an older couple that Kate assumed was Jessie’s parents. The main draw in the living room was a large antique, gorgeous bookshelf that must have held hundreds of books. There was a T.V., but it was tucked into a small corner entertainment center, and it didn’t look like it got much use. There was one pair of running shoes, a pair of heavy-duty workboots, and some slip-on sandals by the front door. One winter coat, one umbrella, one bag and one light jacket hung on a coat stand.
Kate’s observations were interrupted by Jessie clearing her throat. Kate’s immediately turned to look at her host and blushed. “Sorry, I was just admiring your home. It’s even cozier inside than it is outside.”
Jessie smiled and waved Kate toward the island counter separating the living room from the kitchen. “Pick whichever tea you’d like.” A large wooden box was open on the counter with dozens of types of tea bags.
Kate’s eyebrows went up as she commented, “Wow, you must really like tea!” Jessie picked her tea bag: a green tea with toasted rice inside the tea bag. It gave it a very full, complex flavor. Kate spent several minutes looking until she finally threw up her hands. “I’ll admit I rarely drink tea. I’ll have whatever it is you’re drinking. It smells pretty good from here.” At that, Jessie dropped a tea bag into the other mug and handed it to Kate.
“Be careful, it’s hot - I don’t want you to burn yourself.”
The women migrated into the living room; Jessie sat on one side of the couch, and Kate sat in the chair that was at an angle next to the couch. There was an awkward moment of silence until Kate cleared her throat and took a sip of the tea. “Mmm - this is good! Great pick.”
Jessie raised her mug in salute and smiled. “So, Kate, you said you live just a few blocks away. How long have you been in the area?”
“I’ve been in my current apartment for three… or is it four… years now, but I grew up in the Denver suburbs. My parents still live out on the east side of town near the tollway. How about you?”
Jessie shifted to make herself more comfortable, and folded her legs up under her. “I’m from Denver, too. Born and raised here. I did some travelling when I was younger, all around the country, but at the end I knew my heart was here in Colorado. I love it here and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Kate laughed, “When you were younger? You mean, a toddler? You can’t be more than your early thirties!”
It was Jessie’s turn to blush, “I’ll take a compliment when I can get it. I don’t expect you have room to speak, though - I’m guessing I have at least ten years on you, if not more. You’re what, one or two years out of college?”
“I wish! I’m actually coming up on the big three-oh soon. My coworkers are wanting to throw a big party, but I’d much rather order in some pizza and just relax. I’m not sure I’ll be able to talk them out of it, though. Turning thirty doesn’t bother me - I actually feel like my age is finally catching up to me. I never did go through the wild-twenties phase.”
Jessie smirked. “Yep - I have ten years on you. I know what you mean about parties, I’m more of a small-group person. I’ve never particularly enjoyed spending much time in large groups.”
Kate shook her head, “Well, I hope I look as good as you do in ten years.” As soon as the sentence came out of her mouth, her internal censor starting jumping around. *What are you doing, Kate? You don’t even know this person. You’re acting like she’s your childhood friend!*
Before Kate could berate herself too much more, Jessie spoke up. “You mentioned that your coworkers want to throw you a birthday party. What do you do?”
Now work was something Kate knew she could talk about without making a complete fool of herself! “I’m a fifth grade teacher.” She laughed at the look on Jessie’s face. “What?”
Jessie shook her head. “I just can’t imagine being around kids all day, or having to try to actually teach them things. Total kudos to you.”
Kate smiled, “It’s a tough job sometimes, but I love it. It’s totally worth any hassle that I may go through. I’m lucky enough to work for a school and school district that does its best to support teachers and get parents engaged. I have some teacher friends who aren’t so fortunate; I’ve heard many a horror story from them.”
Looking around the living room once more, Kate looked for any obvious signs that would give away Jessie’s profession, but couldn’t find anything. “How about you? What do you do?”
“I work in construction; I’m a crew supervisor for one of the local construction companies. We mostly do renovation.”
*The shoes!* Kate thought to herself, *That explains the heavy duty workboots by the front door.*
“Well, It’s my turn to give kudos. I wouldn’t even know how to start on most home renovation projects. The most complicated I get is filling nail holes in the wall.” They both laughed.
“It’s easy when you grow up learning how to do it,” Jessie continued. “My dad worked in construction for over fifty years. He’s retired now, but everything I learned came from him.”
Kate pointed to a picture of an older couple on a nearby wall, “Is that your dad?”
Jessie nodded, “Yep. He turns seventy-four this year. Mom passed away ten years ago.”
“I’m sorry,” Kate never knew what to say when the topic of death came up. Jessie waved her hand as if to say not to worry about it.
The two women kept talking, about their jobs, their families, their favorite spots around town. At one point, a deck of cards came out and they played a game of cribbage, which was quite short, to Kate’s chagrin. Two refills of tea later, Kate found herself yawning. She glanced at her watch and was shocked to see that it was almost eleven. “Goodness! I didn’t know how late it was getting… I should probably head home. My cat is probably plotting my murder as we speak, for being so late with her dinner.”
Jessie’s stomach dropped. This was the best time she’d had with another person in a very long time. “Yeah, wouldn’t want your cat to kill you in your sleep - then we couldn’t hang out again!” She immediately regretted her words when Kate didn’t say anything at first. *Way to scare her away, dumbass!*
Kate couldn’t figure out what the funny feeling she had was, but her stomach was doing loops when Jessie referenced their hanging out again. She’d never been one to have super close friends, but she knew she wanted to see Jessie again. She looked up with a smile, “That would certainly be a tragedy.”
Jessie grinned back. “Let me take your mug.” They stood up and Jessie accompanied Kate to the door. “Well… thanks for rescuing my notebook.” Kate nodded, unsure of how to say goodbye to this woman who was a perfect stranger less than 6 hours ago.
“Call me sometime? Maybe we can meet up for tea again. I need a chance to redeem my cribbage honor.” She waved awkwardly and walked to her car. Kate felt like she’d just returned to her body from a four hour out of body experience. This sort of instant friendship happened to other people but never to her. She saw Jessie watching as she drove away, and hoped that they could meet up again soon.
“Good Morning Mr. Socks!” Kate gestured for her feline companion to jump up onto the bed next to her. As she scratched behind his ears, Kate yawned, “Do you want to read the paper with me?” Mr. Socks meowed in reply, and Kate laughed. She swung her legs over the side of the bed. and made her way to the front of the apartment. Opening the front door just wide enough to grab the paper, she pulled it inside and quickly scurried back to bed.
“Comics… Weather… Business… Entertainment… Where to start?” Mr. Socks rolled over and placed his paw on the entertainment section. "I guess I will begin there, then.”
Kate began flipping through the pages. Toward the back of the entertainment section, Kate saw an advertisement for a Shakespeare film festival that was running through the end of the day. She was about to turn the page, when she remembered something. When she was that Jessie’s house on Friday evening, she noticed that there were quite a few Shakespeare books on one of the shelves. “Hmm… Will Jessie think I am a stalker if I call her to see if she wants to go to the movies with me?”
This was new territory for Kate. She had friends, but she’d never been someone who invited friends to impromptu get-togethers. She was more of a get-together-with-friends-on-an- occasional-planned-basis-type-person.
Kate looked at Mr. Socks and at the papers waiting to be graded in her bag on the floor. “Screw it! I think it will be fun, and I haven’t been to the movies in forever.” After looking at the clock to make sure it wasn’t inappropriately early to be calling someone, she grabbed her cell phone off of her bedside table and flipped through her call history to find Jessie's number, which wasn't in her address book yet. She pressed the button to call the number and held her breath. Part of her wanted no one to answer, but part of her really wanted to talk to Jessie again.
After three rings, Kate was expecting a call to go to voicemail. However, just as the phone started to ring again, Jesse picked up. "Hello?"
"Hi Jessie, this is Kate. I hope I didn't wake you?" Kate could hear Jessie clear her throat and her stomach sank. *Oh God! I knew it! I woke her up!*
"Hi, Kate. No, you didn't wake me. I was zoned out reading… I tend to get lost in my books.” She laughed quietly.
"Oh, good. Speaking of books, I noticed that you had quite a collection of Shakespeare books when I was at your house the other day. Earlier when I was reading the paper, I saw that there is a Shakespeare film festival going on at the theater on 16th Street. I was wondering if you'd be interested in going with me? I haven't been to the movies and ages and thought this might be fun." Kate realized that she was pacing and practically holding her breath as she waited for Jessie to answer.
"Sure! That does sound fun. Do you know which films are playing?"
Kate picked up the paper and glanced at the advertisement. "There are a whole bunch of films playing. How about I grab the paper, pick you up and we can eat brunch while we decide what we want to go see? Unless you've already eaten, that is."
"No, actually I was just trying to decide what I wanted to eat. Can you give me 30 minutes? I need to clean up because I went for a run this morning."
Kate sat down on the bed next to Mr. Socks. "That sounds good; I need to shower and get dressed as well."
"Great, I'll see you in about 30 minutes, then."
The phone call ended and Kate looked at Mr. Socks. She realized that she had a rather ridiculous grin on her face. “You know Mr. Socks, maybe this is what it feels like to have a best friend? I’ve had friends all my life, but never that BEST friend that you hear about. It does seem odd since I’ve only known Jessie a few days… but I guess stranger things have happened!”
At that, Kate jumped off of the bed and set off to shower and figure out what she wanted to wear. She wasn’t one of those girls who took an hour to get ready in the mornings, but she also wanted to look presentable.
Hanging up the phone, Jessie looked around, half wondering when the other shoe would drop. Deciding not to tempt fate by pondering too long, she jumped up to grab a shower.
Half an hour later, she heard the doorbell right right as she was slipping on her shoes. *Perfect timing,* she thought.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and waved at Kate. Kate was standing on her front porch in blue jeans and a stylish green sweater that really brought out her eyes, her shoulder-length hair up in a ponytail. Jessie felt herself melt a little. “Good Morning!” She stepped outside and locked the door behind her. “Where did you want to go for brunch?”
“Have you ever been to Larry's Cafe?” Kate asked. “It’s not too far from the theater, and they’ve got great food, fast service. It will probably be crowded, but it’s worth a little bit of a wait.”
Jessie grinned, “That’s one of my favorite breakfast places!”
“Larry's Cafe it is,” Kate walked with Jessie toward her car.
At the cafe, they discussed the different movie options and settled on two films; Shakespeare in Love and one of the Hamlet films.
After picking up their tickets, they settled into their seats to wait for the first movie to begin. Jessie turned toward Kate and asked, “Have you seen this before?”
Kate’s brow furrowed as she thought back and then she nodded, “Actually I saw this when it came out in theaters. It was my senior year of high school and it was the second or third date with this guy, Jason. I remember that the date was pretty crappy, but the movie was enjoyable.” She laughed softly. “I think we only went on one or two more dates after that.”
Internally, Jessie’s stomach flip-flopped at the mention of a boyfriend; romantic partners was probably one of the few topics they hadn’t touched on the last time they hung out, and despite the fact that she had been telling herself not to get her hopes up, she couldn’t help herself. She had a talent for falling for the straight girls. All through high school she’d crushed on this one girl who’d occasionally give off flirty vibes toward her, but who never went without a boy on her arm.
Realizing Kate was probably expecting her to say something, Jessie forced a smile and looked at Kate, “Geez… you were in high school when this came out? Now you’re really making me feel old! “
They chatted until the movie started, and then their attention turned toward the screen. Occasionally Jessie would allow herself to sneak glances at Kate, enjoying the expressions she showed on her face as the events of the movie unfolded. A few times, their eyes locked for a moment, and Jessie wondered what Kate was thinking.
After the movie ended, Jessie stretched and stood up. “Man, I’ve got to walk around a bit before the next movie starts.”
“Yeah, I need to go to the little girls room,” Kate raised her arms and yawned. “I think I like that movie even more now than I did when I was in high school.”
“Oh, rub it in why don’t you?” Jessie playfully bumped into Kate with her shoulder. They both laughed as they walked out of the theater.
Kate washed her hands and exited the restroom, to see Jessie leaning against the wall, staring off into space. She took a moment to really look at her new friend. One word immediately came into mind: handsome. *Where the hell did that come from?* Kate asked herself. *That’s what I get for watching a love story.*
She walked up to Jessie and cleared her throat. “So, I think there’s a coffee shop a block over. We have an hour until the next movie starts; do you want to walk over there?”
The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur and before she knew it, Kate was dropping Jessie back off at her house. It was hard to believe she’d just spent the last 8 hours hanging out with someone she only met a few days ago. Every minute of it was enjoyable, and a large part of her didn’t want the day to end.
Kate walked Jessie up to the house with her hands in her pockets. When they got to the porch, they turned to face each other. “Well…” Kate said, “Thanks for joining me today. It’s not as much fun going to the movies alone.”
“Thanks for thinking of me. It was fun! It’s been ages since I’ve seen a movie in the theater… and I couldn’t have asked for better company.”
Kate felt herself blush and looked away. As Jessie stepped up to put her key in the lock, Kate touched her shoulder. When Jessie turned, Kate reached up to give her a quick hug. She found herself wrapped up in Jessie’s arms, and it felt so wonderful. Dropping her arms and backing up before she could embarrass herself, Kate nodded and waved. “Goodnight Jessie,” then quickly walked back to her car.