One Thousand Words of Relying on the Rules

I thought I ‘d try another first line writing prompt from www.thefirstline.com tonight.

“The rules are clearly spelled out in the brochure.”

I was starting to dislike the girl behind the counter, with her condescending smile. She was the type of woman who used her beauty to look down on other woman, to excuse the fact that she worked a dead-end job at a time share company in Boca Raton.

I smiled back at her and tilted my head to the side a bit. I may not be pretty, but I can speak the language when I have to.

“Chrissy, I understand that I have to take the tour to get the free trip. In fact, I’m looking forward to taking the tour. But something’s come up and I just can’t take the tour today. I promise I’ll come back tomorrow. I’m sure you understand.”

Chrissy didn’t look like she understood, or that she believed me. But her smile didn’t fade. Neither did her resolve. She wasn’t going to let me leave.

Finally I handed her my credit card and, after she had charged an amount that would have bought me four trips to Boca online, I stepped out into the Florida sunshine.

My battle with the Time Share Queen had taken longer than I expected, leaving me twenty minutes to rent a car and meet Tom at the restaurant.

I had taken the time share trip on a whim. My schedule at the hospital was crazy and in a weak moment I called the number on the fax promising five days and four nights in Boca.

I always thought those faxes were scams, but it turns out you just have to tour one or two of their time share units. The catch was you couldn’t reschedule, apparently.

When I posted about my trip on Facebook, my old college boyfriend Tom had sent me a message. He lived in Florida now, not too far from where I was vacationing and wanted to have lunch. We were supposed to have met on Friday, but I got a text this morning asking to meet today. He said it was urgent.

When I pulled into Captain Sam’s Seafood Hut and Lounge, the parking lot was practically empty. I understood why when I went inside. Dark and dreary, it was definitely more lounge than hut.

A couple of old timers were sitting on their stools drinking Boilermakers at 12:15 on a Tuesday, and the woman behind the bar looked like she had worked there for fifty years.

“What can I get you, honey?” she called over to me after I had sat down at a table.

“Coffee?”

She exchanged looks with the old timers and then exited through a swinging door. I couldn’t tell if she was getting me a coffee or not.

Before she returned, Tom arrived.

Tom had been my first serious boyfriend. We met when we were junior at Northeastern and dated for a little over a year.

If I were being honest, I’d say that I had fallen for Tom because he was handsome. Incredibly handsome. I don’t know what he saw in me. Maybe it’s true that opposites attract.

Time had been kind to Tom. He was still good looking, even though he was dressed like a retired golfer in a red flowered Hawaiian shirt and tight white pants.

He spotted me right away and when I stood he swept me into a bear hug that took my breath away.

“Jessica! You look beautiful!”

He finally released me when the ancient bartender dropped my coffee and a couple of packets of sugar on the table.

“What are you drinking, honey?” she asked Tom.

“Diet Coke and rum. Thanks.”

I settled back into my chair, feeling awkward. “Wow. How long has it been, Tom?”

He put his elbows on the table and leaned forward to grab my hands.

“Uh uh. No small talk.”

“Uh… ok. What do you want to talk about?” I extricated my hands and stirred sugar into my coffee

“Us.” Tom smiled at me. It was the smile I remembered from college. The one that makes you feel like the only person in the room.

“Us?”

“I have been thinking about you for twenty years, Jessica. I never should have let you go.”

The bartender shuffled over with Tom’s drink and a bowl of corn nuts. “Wanna see a menu?” she asked.

Tom turned his smile on her. “Not right now, ma’am. But thank you so much for the drink.”

The bartenders face lit up and she grinned at Tom. “No problem, honey.” She winked at him and left.

Tom turned back to me. “Marry me, Jessica.”

My coffee cup froze halfway to my mouth. “What did you say?”

“I asked you to marry me. I never should have broken up with you in college. You’re my destiny.”

Did I mention that Tom wasn’t very smart?

“Tom, you didn’t break up with me. I broke up with you.”

You probably wouldn’t believe it to look at us, but it’s true. I did break up with Tom. We were getting close to graduation and I was moving to Chicago for medical school. Tom said he wanted to come too, but I wanted a fresh start.

The fact that I left him didn’t seem to bother Tom now.

“Whatever. Marry me.”

“We don’t even know each other anymore.” I was starting to think that Tom had gone crazy.

“I know all I need to know. I read everything you post on Facebook. You’re a doctor, you have a dog, you went to a Nora Jones concert.”

I pushed my chair back from the table and stood up. “It’s been great seeing you, but I have to run. I have to take that time share tour.”

“Marry me!” he cried out, causing the old timers to look in our direction for the first time.

“Sorry, Tom. I have to take this tour. The rules are clearly spelled out in the brochure.”

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