Exercising the craft—May 20, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: Write a story in which a character finds an object that he or she has no intention of returning.

http://www.npr.org/2013/05/04/180596004/three-minute-fiction-round-11-finders-keepers

Katie smiled nervously at Adam’s mom.  The woman hadn’t looked her in the eye since Katie had walked through the door with the rest of the gang, even though she had acted friendly enough.  But Katie could tell when someone didn’t feel comfortable around her.  She’d tolerated the same from people who saw her in the mall or walking through the park.

All they see is the hair, the piercings.  Why don’t they get that I’m a normal girl like anyone else?

The day she’d dyed her hair hot pink, she hadn’t put a lot of thought into it.  But then she didn’t know that day that she’d meet Adam and think he was hot.  She didn’t know he’d invite her over on a Friday afternoon with some of their other friends for a movie marathon.

I don’t care what his mother thinks.  He likes me, and that’s what counts.

But Katie knew she couldn’t lie to herself.

She did her best to ignore Mrs. Wellings for most of the evening and just chilled with the rest of the gang.  They talked and laughed, and for the first time in a long time Katie felt comfortable with people her own age.  The teenagers passed snacks and sodas between them, and every once in a while Adam would glance at Katie and smile.  She smiled back every single time and felt a little flutter in her stomach.

Adam smiled at her for the umpteenth time and then caught sight of the empty chip bowl.

“I’ll go get some more chips,” he said, grabbing the bowl and heading to the kitchen.  He smiled at Katie again as he walked past her and somewhat accidentally brushed her shoulder with his arm.  She felt some tingling.

Paula nudged Katie and raised her eyebrows suggestively in Adam’s direction.  Katie rolled her eyes and hit Paula playfully.

“Hey, Wellings forgot the dip bowl,” Eric said.  “What good are chips without dip?”

“I got it,” Katie said, popping out of her seat like a lottery ball.  She grabbed the dip bowl and tried not to hurry to the kitchen.  As she approached the kitchen doorway, she heard Adam talking in a low voice to his mother.

“I’m sorry, Adam,” Mrs. Wellings said, “but I don’t see why you like her so much.  She’s just so—so—”

“So what, Mom?” Adam challenged her.  “Just spit it out.”

“Well, I mean, just look at her, dear,” she replied with a nervous laugh.  “I mean, the hair, and all the piercings.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s got several tattoos.”

“Who cares what she looks like, Mom?  She’s cool, and I like her.  What does it matter?”

“It matters to me,” Mrs. Wellings said, trying to caution Adam with her tone.  “I care what she looks like.  You can defend her all you want, Adam, but it’s a known fact that kids who look like that are usually in some sort of trouble.”

“Just back off, Mom, okay?  I like Katie, and I know she’d never do anything to get into any trouble.”

“You listen to me, Adam Wellings,” his mother said.  “I understand what you’re saying, but your father wouldn’t be happy if he found out you want to date someone who looks so—well, unconventional.”

“Oh, Mom, get over it.”

Katie heard movement in the kitchen, and she backed up five or six steps so it wouldn’t look like she had eavesdropped.  She paused and waited until Adam made his way through the doorway with a full bowl of chips, then approached him with the dip bowl clearly in front of her.

“You forgot the dip,” she said a little too brightly.  “Eric wanted some more.”

“Uh, thanks,” he said, surprised to see her there.  He blinked a couple of times and then smiled at her.  Despite what she’d just heard, Katie felt her knees go a little soft.

“Here, why don’t you take this back to the others and I’ll get the dip,” he said, handing her the chips.

“Sure, Adam,” she said, her voice sounding as soft as her knees felt.  She smiled back at him and kept smiling until he’d gone back into the kitchen.  But as soon as he left, Katie’s smile faded.

She turned around and went back into the family room, handing Eric the chip bowl.  Paula grinned at her, but Katie only managed a weak smile back.  As she sat down, her hand brushed a soda can and it tipped right into her lap.

“Oh, geez!” she said, jumping back up again.

“Are you okay?” Paula asked automatically.  She grabbed a bunch of napkins and began dabbing the floor, then handed a few to Katie so she could try to clean her jeans.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Katie muttered.  “I have my sweat pants in my bag.  I’m just gonna go to the bathroom to change.”

She grabbed her backpack from behind the sofa and left the family room, making her way down the long hallway as she continued to brood about Adam’s mother’s words.  What was the big deal with how she looked anyway?

As she changed her clothes, something registered in her memory.  When she left the bathroom with her backpack slung over one shoulder, she confirmed it: on the way back down the hallway, Katie spotted the half-open door to Adam’s parents’ bedroom.  Suddenly, Katie had an urge to take a look.

She leaned back from the doorway and listened for a moment.  It sounded like no one had missed her; the chatter continued as the third movie they’d chosen played in the background.  Katie could hear Mrs. Wellings chatting with Paula, and she took that as an all clear.

Taking a deep breath, Katie carefully opened the door the rest of the way and glanced around the room quickly.  It looked like an ordinary bedroom—bed, headboard, footboard, dresser, jewelry box, curtains, a chaise lounge.  Another door on the opposite side of the room looked like it led to the bathroom.

The jewelry box.  Katie walked into the room holding her breath and crossed the room as she could to the dresser and the cherry jewelry box.  She lifted the lid and peeked inside.  Stopping again to listen for someone approaching she let go of the breath and propped open the lid, brushing the various pieces in the tray with her fingertips.

Her eye fell on a brooch, obviously old.  The metal had dulled slightly, but when Katie picked up the antique piece its weight told her that the metal—gold, it seemed—had to be real.  A large gem in the middle acted as the center for a variety of spokes that each held smaller gems of various colors.

It reminded Katie of her grandmother.

Nana would have loved this, she thought wistfully.  It looks a lot like the one she was wearing in the casket.

Katie closed her eyes for a minute, thinking of the last time she saw her grandmother and how her nana had always supported her and loved her no matter how quirky her ideas.  In fact, Katie had confided in Nana about wanting to dye her hair.

“Do it,” Nana had said immediately, “and if you hate it, at least you know it’ll grow out.”

That had been three weeks before she died.  Before the edges of Katie’s world had frayed.

She closed her hand around the old piece of jewelry and opened her eyes.

I’ll give you “conventional,” Mrs. Wellings.  How’s this for conventional?

She slipped the pin into the small cell phone pocket in her backpack, softly closed the jewelry box lid, and quietly left the room.

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