Hi, this is Pat and Matthew at 555-1121. Please leave a message after the beep.
Groggily Matthew raised his head from the pillow. He’d slept a bit later than usual, but it was still earlier than he’d expect anyone to call. Unless they’re in a different time zone, which means—
“Hey, M, it’s Pat. Hoping to catch you before you head out for work—”
Matthew grabbed the phone—the plastic off-white cordless handset originally from Pat’s parents’ house—off its charging cradle, and tried to put as much enthusiasm into his voice as he could. “Hi, Pat.”
“Oh good, I did catch you.” Matthew could hear the smile in Pat’s voice. “Did I wake you, love?”
Matthew grimaced. So much for enthusiasm—but then, this was Pat. “Didn’t sleep too well,” he replied, keeping the why pushed aside for the moment.
“Sorry to hear it,” Pat continued. “I’m afraid I have bad news as well. My mother fractured her hip yesterday, and the doctors want her doing as little as possible right now.” There was a pause. “Would it be all right if I stay here another week?”
“Of course, love,” said Matthew. He yawned, then grinned. “I’ll miss you every day, though.”
“Trust me, I’d rather be back too,” Pat said, sounding a bit too serious.
Matthew frowned. “What happened?”
He heard a pause and a crackling noise. “I’ll tell you when I get back. And hey, I’m sorry about the money and all—”
“Don’t worry about it,” Matthew said automatically. “That’s what the emergency fund is for. Unexpected…things.”
Pat snorted. “Yep, well, this was certainly ‘unexpected’.”
“Hey, you’re staying at your mom’s place anyway,” Matthew continued, trying to get Pat to stop worrying. “It’s not like you’re paying for a hotel.”
“Yeah, that’s true.” The phone crackled again as Pat took a breath. “All right. I should be back next Monday—I’ll forward you my flight info once it’s all worked out.”
Actually, this really wasn’t going to be great for them. But Pat knew that, and chose to stay in Jersey anyway, so it had to be serious. They’d make it work.
Matthew took a breath. “Okay, love.”
“I’ll let you get up and get ready for work,” Pat said.
Matthew paused. With Pat’s “bad news” explained and worked out, and with Matthew now fully awake, yesterday’s near-accident had once again shoved its way to the front of his mind.
“M, you there?”
No choice. “Hey, Pat.”
“Yes? What is it?” Pat’s voice sounded more alert.
“I should probably tell you this now. You’d be upset if I didn’t.” Great, build up the suspense. Nice going, Matthew. “I was nearly in an accident, yesterday.”
“Shit, M, are you okay?” Pat said instantly.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Matthew replied. “Totally fine. It happened right in front of me but I didn’t get a scratch.”
“Shit,” Pat said again. “That’s still super scary.”
“Yeah.” In contrast to his words Matthew realized he was squeezing the phone tightly, and forced himself to relax his grip. “Pat—”
I assume you might also care for the life of the one who is close to you.
Matthew swallowed. His heart was pounding at the memory…but the more he thought about it, the more outlandish it seemed. “A girl came up to me after the accident and told me you might be in danger. Oh, and she said she was a witch.” Yeah, right.
And he didn’t want to make Pat worry, not on top of everything else. So it was probably better not to bring it up at all, or at least not until next week. “Be careful, okay?”
“Okay, M.” Matthew could hear the smile again. “I’ll be back before you know it. Love you.”
“Love you too,” Matthew said back, and found himself smiling as well. The phone beeped softly and he set it back in the cradle, then swung his legs out of bed. In the soft morning light coming through the curtains, yesterday’s events were already fading, dream-like, into the kind of story to share at work. The Lady Erica thing nagged at him, but he could deal with that later.
Today would be a normal Monday.
Finally worked out what needs to happen in Part 4, which means I feel good enough to post Part 3. And Part 5 is already written, so there shouldn’t be any trouble there either. It’s getting from Part 6 to the end I have in mind that’s going to be tricky.
I’m hoping to post a section a week for the rest of October (key word “hoping”), but “Determination” is likely to be put on hold at this point: as I mentioned in “The Rules”, I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo again this year. The mystery/fantasy idea I had at that point is crystallizing, and I’m getting excited about it, which is a good sign.
One more thing on “Determination”: although Pat’s name was established in part 2, I didn’t realize until I wrote this section that I had made “Pat & Matt” a couple. Good thing Matthew doesn’t like “Matt”.