Friday, October 7, 2016

The Letter

“Oof!”  Jenn turned from slipping the letter into the slot in the post office and slammed straight into someone. Sturdy and relatively agile, she stayed upright, but the other person was not so lucky. He met the tile floor in a tangle of lanky limbs. A pen and a notebook went flying.

The man (boy? He couldn’t have been older than 20) scrambled upright before Jenn could offer him a hand. He towered over her, the definition of a beanpole, and she tilted her head back to offer him a sincere apology. “Sorry. I didn’t know you were there.” He blinked nervously down at her, opened his mouth as if about to say something and clapped it back shut. He shoved his glasses up the bridge of his nose self-consciously and began to pick at his cuticles.

When no reply was forthcoming, Jenn shrugged, stepped around the jittery kid, and headed out into the sunlight on her way to work. It was unusually busy on Carrier Ave. Streams of people flowed north toward Duffy St., her neighbors among them, looking almost… panicked. If she didn’t know better, she would say that they were running away from something. Weird.

Jenn was crossing Canal Street when she noticed she had a tail. Sending that letter had already frayed her nerves, even if there was no return address, and her temper was on a short leash. Fed up, she stopped short and whirled on her shadow, itching for a fight. “What the HE- what are YOU doing here?” Jenn went from furious to bewildered in a second flat.

It was that same weird kid from the post office. He startled, a deer in the headlights, then seemed to recover himself. Waving his pen and notebook as if they would protect him from any forthcoming wrath, he said, “I’mworkingforSouthernLivingandIneedyoutotellmeyourstory.” There was an expectant pause, as he waited for her answer. Jenn stared at him, uncomprehending. “What?” He colored. “I’m here to interview you. It’ll be published in Southern Living.”

Jenn’s heart rate skyrocketed, and she jerked instinctively backward. Her nerves frayed further. She’d be damned if this kid was gonna get a word out of her. Not when she’d worked so hard to leave all that behind. “No!” she snarled. “Leave me the hell alone.”

“Hey!” he protested. “It’s just a couple questions about where you come from!” He’d materialized some cahones from somewhere, apparently. But that was the last straw. Jenn grabbed his wrist in a bruising grip. “Sweetie, apparently you don’t understand the meaning of the word no.” She talked slowly, as if to a small child. “You cannot interview me. Do not try and follow me. Do not try and get anyone else to interview me. If you do try, I will call the police. And wouldn’t it look great for Southern Living to be fighting charges of harassment?” He stared at her, shocked speechless. “Good. I’m glad we understand each other. Now run along.” She released his wrist and gave him a little shove in the opposite direction.

When she looked back, he was still standing in the middle of the road, rubbing his wrist.