If you missedChapter 24, I posted it yesterday for Fiction Thursday.
As always, this is a first draft of the story and as always, you can catch the first part of Blanche’s story, A Story to Tell, on Kindle. You do not need to read A Story to Tell to follow A New Beginning.
Also, as always, this is a work in progress so there are bound to be words missing or other typos. To follow the story from the beginning, find the link HERE or at the top of the page. This book will be published in full later this spring on Kindle and other sites.
Let me know what you think should happen next and what you think of the story so far in the comments.
A few days after my night out with Thomas, I kicked off my shoes inside the door and flopped on the couch, my eyes heavy with exhaustion. Despite months of trying to avoid Stanley and Thomas about the freelance featuring writing job, I’d finally taken my first assignment: interviewing Sam about how he was adjusting to work after being shot eight months before.
After a long week of starting a dress for Ellie Tanner for her sweet 16, hemming three sets of pants for Mrs. Jefferies five boys, and interviewing Sam for the newspaper, I wanted to eat some dinner and curl up with a good book on the couch.
Jackson skipped out of the kitchen with the phone receiver in one hand, the base in the other, the cord trailing behind him.
“Guess who’s on the phone?!”
I yawned. “I don’t know, bud, who is it?”
“Judson! And he called to talk to me! But now he wants to talk to you! I’m not done telling my story yet, though. Hold on.” He put the receiver back to his ear. “And then Grandpa and I went fishing after school because Mama went to dinner with that guy from the newspaper. Not the old one who is going to be my grandpa, but the younger one with the Flash Gordon hair. And when they came home, he smelled like beer and I told him that Mama doesn’t like people to drink beer and he said he understood but someone had just poured beer on him so that’s why he smelled like it. Okay. You can talk to Mama now! Bye, Judson!”
I stared at my son in horror as pushed the receiver into my hand and ran up the stairs toward his room. I wasn’t ready for a conversation with anyone after such a long day, but I definitely wasn’t ready for one with Judson now that my son had blabbed to him about my night out with Thomas. How was I going to explain that to Judson? What would I say, ‘Well, yes, Judson I did kiss you by the lake that night and then a few weeks later went out with another man. Apparently, I’m breaking out of my shell at a high rate of speed now.’
I held my hand over the mouthpiece, rolled my eyes, and then cleared my throat before speaking.
“Hey.” I was surprised by the pleasure I felt at surge through me as I heard his voice. “Just the person I wanted to talk to.”
I had this sinking feeling he might want to talk to me about that night at the lake, the kiss, the outburst, all of it.
I pulled the phone into the kitchen and sat on the floor, away from Mama in the laundry room and Daddy in his office working on paperwork he’d brought home.
“How are things going?” I asked. “How’s your Dad?”
“Dad came through the surgery okay. He’s still at the hospital recovering.”
“I’m glad to hear. Do they know how long he’ll be in?”
“Probably a few more days.”
I picked at a piece of dirt under my fingernail, unsure what to ask next, but knowing I needed to ask something to avoid any other, more uncomfortable topics. “How’s your mom?”
“Tired but hanging in there. My brother called from college to check in. He’ll be up this weekend to visit.”
A silence fell over us and I knew there was so much unsaid between us that neither of us knew where to start.
“So . . .” Judson’s voice trailed off.
Oh, God, help me, he’s going to talk about it.
“You went out with Thomas, huh?”
Oh, he’s going to talk about Thomas. Well, that’s awkward too.
“Oh, well . . yes, but just to hear a band at a place up in Nichols. One of his friends was playing with the band and he asked if I would like to ride along.” I knew if I rambled much more, I would sound even more guilty, but then why did it matter if I sounded guilty. It wasn’t as if Judson and I were in a relationship.
“Was it fun?” Judson asked in a tone of voice I couldn’t exactly recognize. It bordered somewhere between mocking and polite.
“Actually, yes,” I said. “The band was great and it was nice to go somewhere different, get out of the area. I met some new people. They seemed nice.” I cleared my throat. “Listen, I heard Jackson talking to you. I can explain about Thomas smelling like beer. . .”
“You don’t have to. It’s not really my business . .. just because you kissed me a couple of weeks ago.”
I twirled the phone cord tight around my finger until it turned red and slightly purple. I took a deep breath. “Yeah, so anyhow, Thomas’ friend, girlfriend, whatever, was trying to get her brother home and her brother threw beer on Thomas when he thought he was someone else.
“Ah. I see.”
An awkward silence settled over us and I bit my lower lip, trying to think what else to say to avoid the topic I knew we should be discussing.
“So we’re just not going to talk about what happened at the lake that night?” he asked abruptly.
I drew in a sharp breath. “Judson . . .”
“You kissed me.”
I chewed on my thumbnail as I tried to figure out how to answer.
“Yes, I know I did, Judson, but . . .”
“You admit you kissed me then, right?”
“Yes, but. . .”
“Because I was going to kiss you but I thought I was being too forward. Imagine my surprise when you kissed me instead.”
“Judson, I know I kissed you, but listen, it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done that.”
He laughed. “It was the nicest mistake I’ve ever been a part of.”
“It’s just … I shouldn’t have …” I let my voice trail off. I didn’t know how to explain why I shouldn’t have kissed him that night.
“You shouldn’t have kissed me or shouldn’t have enjoyed it?”
I nearly chewed my nail off trying to figure out how to answer. I let out a long breath, deciding I’d try changing the subject.
“Is the weather nice down there?”
Judson cleared his throat. “Okay. Have it your way. But we’re going to have to talk about it sometime, Blanche. So…Yeah. It is. Warm.”
There was another long gap in the conversation as my mind raced. I could hear voices in the background on Judson’s end, laughing, sharing stories. Restlessness hung heavy in the silence between us.
“Cool down up there yet?” he asked finally. I could hear a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“Yeah. Maybe we will actually have autumn here soon.”
“Maybe we can take a walk together in the leaves when we get home.”
“Sure, that would be nice.”
I twisted the phone cord around my finger again, listening to the faint hum of conversations on his end, Jackson in his room upstairs playing with his cars on my end, reading frustration behind Judson’s silence.
“I miss you, Blanche.”
His words revealed an ache in the middle of my chest that I began to recognize as a sense of loss at no longer seeing Judson in town or in our backyard helping Daddy or throwing the ball with Jackson. I was missing him too, even if the rest of my feelings about Judson were complex and mixed up inside.
“I miss you too,” I said softly.
“Is it okay if I call again?”
“Yes. Please do.”
After a ‘goodbye’ we both hung up and I sat alone in the dimly lit living room, in the confines of a suffocating loneliness I hadn’t expected to feel. I leaned my head back against the wall, my hand on the receiver, and started a mental list of all the reasons I shouldn’t feel so lost with Judson gone. I knew I had a long, sleepless night ahead of me.