Finding and Losing Ms. Daisy

This work of fiction is a short story I wrote a while back. I am currently trying to expanding it into a novel because there is so much more this story that I haven’t told in these 4366 words, but I still enjoy the short story as an entity of its own. I thought I’d share it with you all. I hope you enjoy this little slice of life. Feel free to comment with your thoughts and impressions.

Brooklyn traipsed down the dirt pathway weaving through low hanging branches and high grown tree roots. She had been down this path so many times that she memorized all the turns and tricky landscapes. She glanced back at the school every few minutes until she could no longer see it in the distance. A few miles further along, Brooklyn found what she was looking for. Back in her freshman year, when she first visited this place, she carved a little arrow into the tree so she could always find it again. Just around the corner, off the beaten path, was her thinking rock hanging over the edge of the creek.

. . .

The creek ran directly through the woods surrounding Katzenbach High School. The woods were infamous for delinquency; all the students went there to smoke, get high, and have sex. While redeemable students stayed towards the outskirts of the woods, the creek was a black hole for the students that people claimed had nothing left to offer. Authority figures stopped caring about them. The police didn’t bother chasing after them anymore. As a prideful group of people, the whole military community rejected and turned a blind eye to them. They couldn’t possibly be associated with failures.

For Brooklyn, the creek was sanctuary.  It was the only spot on this godforsaken base that she could escape to her own little world. Because her thinking rock was away from the main creek hangout, this allowed her to be alone. Every morning she trekked to her spot, bringing a book to read or her journal to write in. She sat there in solitude for five hours and then she climbed back up the path to the school in enough time to turn in all of her class assignments and leave.

Since it meant less disruptions for the other students, her teachers did not mind this routine. Truthfully, they had given up on trying to get Brooklyn to learn years ago. When she got to Katzenbach, she was already so far advanced that they had to stick her in repeat classes. Nobody in the whole school knew what to do for her. The administration found themselves disciplining her frequently because she would get so bored in class that she would act out or cause a scene. She would get into fact arguments with her teachers, she would back-talk, she had even been known to tell a lie or two to see if anyone would notice. Eventually, it just made more sense for her not to be there.

. . .

As she had done every day for the past four years, Brooklyn passed the arrow and rounded the bend. She sat on the edge of the rock letting her legs hang over the water. The sound of the water trickling over stones relaxed her. She took a deep breath, enjoying the sweet scent of the pine trees. Brooklyn opened her satchel and pulled out a tattered, paperback copy of the Great Gatsby. She carefully opened the book, trying not to rip any pages, and began immersing herself in Fitzgerald’s 1920s world of booze, betrayals, and undying affections.

A few hours later, Brooklyn’s concentration was broken by the sound of heavy footsteps and crackling leaves. She glanced up to see a tall, lanky boy jogging alongside the creek. He looked to be nineteen years old, twenty at most, and wore blue air force sweatpants and a grey, sweat drenched t-shirt. Brooklyn returned to reading her book. The boy ran into a tree branch, causing him to stumble towards her. He caught himself on her rock, and paused to catch his breath.

“Mind if I sit down?” he asked Brooklyn.

Brooklyn furrowed her eyebrows and scrunched her nose, looking up from her book.

“Yes, I do mind,” she said.

The boy laughed and sat down next to her on the rock anyways. Brooklyn gritted her teeth and turned away from him. Digging her feet into the ground, she moved herself to the very edge of the rock. He’s a foot and a half away from her, Brooklyn estimated. She set her book down, grabbed her water bottle, and took a swig. She swished it around in her mouth then swallowed. Picking her book back up and opening it to the last page she was on, she continued to read. The longer the man sat there, the more she felt the peering of his eyes on the side of her face. She fidgeted with the edge of her page, folding and unfolding the corner where the previous owner had dog-eared the book. Feeling the smoothness of the paper versus the harsh crease functioned as her safety blanket.

After a minute of uncomfortable silence, the boy said, “So, the Great Gatsby, huh?”

She held her breath and waited for one of the usual reactions to the books she reads: “I never read that book,” “That book was so boring,” or “I hated that book; I only read it in high school because I had to.”

“’Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget,’” he said, beginning to quote the book.

She let out a sigh and her muscles eased into an amused, impressed smile.

“’A singing compulsion, a whispered ‘Listen,’ a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour,’” he said, finishing the quote.

“Oh yeah?” She said, turning towards him, “’’I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’’”

“Well then, Ms. Daisy. I guess you win,” he said.

“Yes. Yes, I do. And, you’d do well to remember that,” she said.

The boy stood up dusted off his pants. He looked down at her once more and began jogging back the way he came. She felt triumph run through her veins; once again, she was the keenest. Then, the boy stopped and turned around to face her.

“Yeah, you do win,” he said, “Except when you don’t. ‘I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything.’”

He chuckled, flashed her a mischievous smile, and turned on his heals to continue on his way. A flushed heat rose through Brooklyn’s face and she tried to formulate any kind of comeback.

She inarticulately shouted, “Well, nobody says shit like that anymore!”

The boy glanced back over his shoulder for a second then took off. Brooklyn watched him until she could no longer see him through the trees.

. . .

The next day, Brooklyn sat cross-legged on her thinking rock facing the direction the boy had come from. She wasn’t sure if he would come back and, truthfully, she wasn’t sure if she wanted him to. His presence created a churning of emotions in the pit of her gut. A part of her felt invigorated by his mental stimulation, but she still felt uneasy being near him. Pushing the thought of him out of her head, she pulled out her newest book from her satchel and began to read. Around the same time as the day before, the boy came running her way. This time, he dodged the branches and intentionally came to a stop right by Brooklyn. She glanced up at him and instinctively smiled.

“You’re here again,” she said.

You’re here again,” he said back.

Brooklyn wasn’t sure exactly what to do. Would he sit next to her again? She moved further over on the rock so he could sit down if he wanted. But, this time, the boy leaned against the nearest tree. She sighed in relief and took the opportunity to stretch out her legs.

“So, what are we reading today, Ms. Daisy?” He asked.

“Hamlet,” Brooklyn said, holding up the book.

He smiled and started into an over-dramatized performance of: “’To be, or not to be: that is the question: whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer—‘“

Brooklyn interrupted, “’The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles.’ Everybody knows that quote. You can’t get a win off of that one.”

“Good!” the boy laughed, “I was testing you. I thought you might go soft on me because I charmed you so much with my dashing good looks.”

Brooklyn looked at him disbelievingly. How could someone she barely knew be so cocky and yet still so exhilarating?

“Really? You think I’d go easy on you after last time? I am the queen of classic literature and I’m not giving up my throne so easily,” she said.

“Well, I could always be your king,” he said, smirking at her.

“Oh, get over yourself,” she said, rolling her eyes and smiling.

“’The lady doth protest too much, methinks,’” he said in retort.

She couldn’t lie and say she wasn’t intrigued by the idea of being around someone as intelligent as her, so she settled for saying, “try getting some original lines.”

“Well, I was never much of a Hamlet guy, I’m much better with Macbeth,” the boy said shifting his weight off the tree and back onto his feet. “I concede to you this time, Ms. Daisy. But, I will be seeing you again. That’s for sure.”

As Brooklyn watched him turn on his feet and jog away, she decided that she enjoyed his company well enough. He challenged her which was an entirely new experience. His fun-loving and spirited demeanor settled well in her mind. Though he was very intrusive, she really didn’t mind him being around so much.

The boy came back each day for the rest of the week. By the end of the week, Brooklyn realized this had become a routine. The boy jogged up along the creek. She sat on her rock with a book. He leaned against the tree. They sparred back and forth with their wit and knowledge of classic literature quotes. Somebody would concede his or her loss. Then, the boy would run back to where ever he came from. Brooklyn found that she really enjoyed these encounters. The longer they went on, the easier it became to be around him. She had grown fond of him.

. . .

Brooklyn sat in the far corner of the base library flipping through pages of a new book. It had been raining for a few days now. The first day, she still showed up to her thinking rock around the time the boy usually arrived in hopes that he would run around the bend up to his tree. She thought maybe they could walk over to the Shoppette and get some coffee. Sure, it would probably taste rusty and stale from being brewed the day before and they would have to listen to airmen talk about all the tail they’d gotten last weekend, but it would give them a chance to get out of the rain and hang out in public. Brooklyn sat and waited for the whole hour he usually spent with her. He never came. The second day, she decided it wasn’t worth wasting her time and getting soaking wet if he probably wasn’t going to show up. Brooklyn walked across the base to the BX and spent the day wandering through the aisles. She enjoyed this time of the day because there were very few people around to annoy her with questions and meaningless conversation.  Since the third day, she had been going to the library to avoid running into anybody. It was a weekend on the base which means that people would be everywhere, especially during the evening. She didn’t have the tolerance to deal with any bullshit, so she sat in the farthest corner of the room. She continually glanced out in the direction of the school and the woods, curious as to whether the boy ever showed up.

As the library filled with more people, the noise grew louder and louder. Brooklyn gritted her teeth and focused entirely on the paper she was filling with dark pencil marks. She drew and redrew pictures of a dandelions and dog tags, trying to settle on a tattoo design for her eighteenth birthday coming up in a few months. She already had gotten the Air Force logo and an airplane on her inner triceps for her sixteenth and seventeenth birthday.

After a while of sketching, Brooklyn glanced up to the doorway. A few airmen were laughing as they staggered in from the pub across the street.

“Oh I heard this real good joke!” One of the guys said, “’Why was the woman crossing the road?’ ‘Who cares? What the fuck’s the bitch doing out of the kitchen?’”

The guys laughed as if the man was a real Lou Costello. The first few airmen in the room made an a-line to the table with a couple of girls reading magazines. Emerging from the crowd of testosterone-driven males was the boy. He was in jeans and a khaki t-shirt. The boy scanned the room and met eyes with Brooklyn for a minute. He stumbled over to a close chair and plopped down. The boy pulled his hand up and rubbed his neck. While his arm was up, his shirt raised, showing off the edge of a tattoo. Brooklyn couldn’t help wondering what his ink was.

The boy glanced at the blond girl with the glasses who sat next to him. A sloppy smile crossed his face and she leaned in towards him.

“Hey Luke,” she said, putting her hand on his arm. “You winding down for the evening?”

Luke. His name was Luke.

Brooklyn watched as the girl grabbed a lock of her hair and moved her feet so that their legs were interlocked. Luke grabbed the girl’s hand and Brooklyn felt acid rise through her throat into the back of her mouth. This was like a hurricane—it was horrifying to watch but she just couldn’t peel her eyes away from the sight.

“I’m just going back to the dorms, I guess. It beats staying with these idiots all night,” Luke said.

“You want some company?” the girl asked, practically crooning.

“Sure, let’s get out of here,” Luke said, standing up.

Luke pulled the girl through the crowd up front and out the glass doors. Brooklyn just stared after them.

. . .

On Monday, Brooklyn trekked back to her thinking rock. Though the sun was shining once again, she felt like all the storms of the world had crashed down on her. She had so much new information to process and she was nauseous at the idea of seeing Luke again. The sight of him leaving with that girl was engraved in her brain. Yeah, Luke and Brooklyn weren’t actually dating one another. Hell, they hadn’t even seen each other outside of the forest until the weekend before and she had only just learned his name. Still, she thought that they had something developing, something he wouldn’t risk by going off with some slut. Brooklyn couldn’t bear the thought that she might have made up their connection in her head.

So Brooklyn sat on her rock without any book or notebook or anything but her thoughts. The more she played it over in her head, the more Brooklyn realized she actually knew very little about Luke. He was one of the smartest people that she had met and one of the only people to challenge her. She now knew that he was legal and in the military. She knew that he was smooth-talking, maybe a little too charming. Lastly, she knew that he went back to his dorm with some girl last weekend. The last thought left a stone in the bottom of her stomach. So, when he came running up that day, she decided she was going to remedy the problem. She sat cross-legged and waited patiently with her hands in her lap. The boy slowed his pace down to a walk and sauntered over towards her. He looked her up and down.

“No book today?” He asked.

“Nope,” she said, staring at him blankly.

Luke crossed his arms and leaned against the tree. There was a pause of silence between the two.

Brooklyn didn’t realize how upset she looked until Luke said, “Oh great. What did I do this time?”

This question took Brooklyn by surprise.

“What do you mean?” She asked.

Luke sighed and said, “Nothing. I’m sorry I—I just have a really bad tendency to fuck up the good things that I have going for me. And you looked upset, so I just assumed. Sorry. Anyways, what’s up? Are you okay?”

Brooklyn frowned. This made no sense. He just said she was a good thing, but he also went off with somebody else. Maybe she was wrong about what she saw. Maybe she should just let it go.

“Did you realize that we have been seeing one another on a daily basis for a while and we still know almost nothing about each other?” Brooklyn asked changing the subject.

“Well, Ms. Daisy, what would you like to know?” Luke asked.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Brooklyn blurted out before she could stop herself.

Luke raised his eyebrow. Brooklyn could feel a flush creeping up her face. She opened her mouth and closed it again because she had nothing to say. She decided to just own the question.

“You don’t beat around the bush at all, do you? No. I have some girls that I hang out with, I have hooked up with girls occasionally, but I don’t have a girlfriend,” Luke said.

Brooklyn looked him up and down, unsure of what to say.

“So what do you want to know about me?” Brooklyn asked him.

Luke laughed and shifted his weight on the tree.

“That was all you wanted to know? Really?” He asked in disbelief.

Brooklyn pulled her knees up into her chest. She looked down at her hands to avoid having to meet his eyes. She felt her insides churning with confusion. She wanted to explode and tell him about seeing him at the library, about watching him leave with that girl, about wanting to go after him and ask him why.

“What’s your favorite color?” She asked, half smiling apologetically.

“Green,” Luke said walking over to the rock. “Like the light Gatsby watches.”

Brooklyn moved over so Luke could sit with her. He moved in to the space next to her and put his hand on top of hers. For a moment, they laced fingers and then she remembered him lacing fingers with the other girl. She let go and moved her hands to be between her knees. She searched her mind for something to talk about besides her seething jealousy. The question from earlier.

“So, you never answered. What do you want to know about me?” Brooklyn asked

“Nothing,” said Luke. “I already know everything I need to know.”

Brooklyn frowned at his brevity. She was not sure whether to be offended by his lack of interest in her. Maybe he was just more interested in that blond bimbo.

“You don’t even want to know my name?” She asked

“Nope.”

. . .

One day, after a quotation challenge which he had clearly lost, Luke playfully smirked across at Brooklyn. It had been a couple months of meeting up and they were more comfortable joking back and forth. He raised his eyebrows seductively and started strutting towards her. It was clearly an attempt to distract her from his lack of conceding. Brooklyn pursed her lips holding back a laugh but the corner of her mouth curled up into a half smile. Her stomach did acrobatics with every step closer. The girl with the glasses. The blond ringlets bouncing on her shoulders as he drags her out of the room. Though so much time had passed since that evening and she had never mentioned it, Brooklyn could not force the memory out of her mind. Luke stopped in front of the rock and held out his hand hopefully. Her heart pumped so hard that she felt blood flowing into the tips of her fingers. Taking a deep breath in, Brooklyn coyly shook her head no.

“Come on,” he said.

She questioningly rose an eyebrow and shook her head no again. He put his hands on the rock and inched them closer towards her. She chewed on her bottom lip in anticipation. She knew from the beginning that she would cave, but still every hair on her body stood at attention.

“Pretty please?” Luke asked in a cutesy voice, sticking his bottom lip out and batting his eyelashes. This was her Luke and only her Luke. Out there he was an airman, a drinking buddy, one of the guys. In here, he was vulnerable and sweet and entirely hers.

Luke reached out both hands out to Brooklyn this time. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t stifle a laugh anymore. She cocked her head the side and looked him up and down. Then, she took his hands and let him pull her onto her feet. Luke brought her closer and closer until their faces were mere six inches apart. The other girl’s hands getting closer and closer until she touches his arm. Her breathing shallowed and she looked down at her shoes to avoid eye contact. She wrinkled her toes and shifted her weight back and forth from one leg to the other.

“The game is changing, Ms. Daisy,” Luke said.

He slipped one hand around Brooklyn’s back and used the other to cup her chin. Her shoulders leaning in close to him. Brooklyn flinched at the feeling of his thumb against her cheek. She was hyper-aware of the sensation and placement of his hand. His hand was four inches above the dimples on her lower back. He was endearing yet still strong. Their eyes met for a moment. In that single moment, Brooklyn felt clarity. This is what she wanted. Then, Luke moved his lips to her ear and her level-headedness shattered.

“‘Alas, the frailty is to blame, not we for such as we are made of, such we be.’ Name the play,” he said.

Brooklyn struggled to think clearly with him being so close. All she felt inside her was the emotional concoction coursing through her veins.

“I saw you with that girl,” Brooklyn said stepping backwards.

“What?”

“I saw you drunk and leaving with that blond girl at the library the day it rained and you didn’t show up to lunch,” she said standing up and backing away from him. “You went with that girl back to the dorms and then you still came to meet me a few days later.”

“What the hell are you talking about? Were you following me or something?” Luke asked

Brooklyn didn’t realize she was moving so far away from the rock until her back was pinned up against a tree. She gripped her hands against the trunk and took a deep breath in.

“No. I went to the library because you bailed on me. Then, you showed up there, and left with some girl who was very clearly in to you,” Brooklyn shouted.

Luke turned and looked at her with a lost expression.

“I didn’t bail on you,” Luke said softly.

“You didn’t show up,” Brooklyn said, her voice still raised.

“You didn’t show up,” Luke said. “The first day it rained, I had to work through my lunch break so I couldn’t be there. The second day, I showed up and you were gone. I came here every single day for five days when you didn’t show up and just sat here hoping you would come around.”

Brooklyn tightened her jaw and closed her eyes. She knew she didn’t want to get into this topic. She wished she could just go back and undo this whole conversation. She wanted to go back to where they were before.

“That girl you saw, that was a friend of mine. She and I went back to my dorm and played video games all night. She just hung out with me so I wouldn’t have to hang out with my idiot coworkers,” Luke said.

After a minute of silence, Brooklyn opened her eyes to see Luke scrutinizing every inch of her.

“Really? You played video games? Why don’t I buy that?”

“Fine! We had sex. Is that what you want to hear? We had nasty, sweaty anger-sex because I was so mad that I cared enough to show up and you never did. Either way, it doesn’t matter because we aren’t together,” Luke yelled.

His hands were balled up and shaking. He stood up and walked to the other side of the rock. He took a few deep breaths and ran his hand through his hair. Shaking his head at her, he paced a few steps closer. Brooklyn scanned Luke with eyes reflecting sorrow and disappointment

“Look, I didn’t mea—“

“No. You’re right,” Brooklyn said. “We aren’t together. We have been meeting up every single day for weeks and we aren’t together.”

Luke’s shoulders shrugged over and his eyes lined with tears. She had never seen such a strong man looking so weak. She screamed at herself inside for not consoling him, for letting him be so upset.

“Please just go away,” Brooklyn said, tears running down her cheeks.

They made eye contact and so much transpired with just one glance. Brooklyn closed her eyes. She could hear the crunch of leaves with each of Luke’s footsteps. When she finally brought herself to open her eyes, he was gone. He was gone, but she could feel his presence, and she could feel the hole in her chest where he took a piece of her she might never get back.

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