For those who just joined, this is my last contribution to a collaborative pass-the-story game with Carrie Sorenstein and Nicole Pyles. Carrie stared it off a month ago now, and we're now up to the fifth and final installment.
If you need a reminder, we started here:
Riley's Story, Part one at Chasing Revery (Carrie K Sorensen)
Part 2 - Fate Calls at World of My Imagination (Nicole Pyles)
Part 3 - The Hands of Fate. Right here, by me!
Part 4 - Unexpected Fate at Chasing Revery
Saturday morning and I needed a break. From Fate and Kate and all this. It had started off as a lark, but what if it was real? Like I told Kate, I knew some of their stories. Not much of it, but enough to know one thing. You can't cheat fate. The storybooks - and maybe the history books - are littered with the broken fragments of people who thought they could. The problem is I didn't know what Fate wanted. Or what I wanted. For the fifteenth or twentieth or hundredth time I shuffled through the stack instructions torn off Fate's notebook. For the fifteenth or twentieth or hundredth time they made no damn sense to me. What does Fate even need an assistant for? I was jolted from my study by the sudden and unexpected ringing of the doorbell.
It was Caleb, and he had that look. The one where the muscles on his face tighten up just a bit, like he's about to cry or hit someone. The first time I'd seen that look I'd asked what was wrong, got nothing but an angry glare and a defiantly muttered "nothing". So, I learned. The look means he doesn't want to talk. Not about anything real. Not that he ever does.
"Hey Riley. I was around. Thought I'd join you, maybe play X-box, maybe a beer?" The last hopefully, almost a question.
I stepped back to let him in. "uh...sure. My folks're out and..." he brushed past me, up the stairs.
It went the way I'd expect. Caleb sitting next to me at the edge of the bed, leaning toward the TV, the game controller tightly clenched between to fists, grimly slaughtering virtual legions of space marines, soldiers, aliens. He'd leave a half-finished beer sitting on the side-table half forgotten, then suddenly grab it and take a deep pull.
Something else was wrong. He smelled. Caleb's never been the most impeccably groomed kid, but this was something different than usual - a faint but definite body odor, as if he'd gone a day or more without showering. I glanced sidelong at him, saw the tightness in his jaw and neck, then turned back to the TV, content with the companionable silence of gunfire and explosions for the time being. I was sure he'd open up eventually. It's fate, right?
The buzz of my phone jolted me out of the game-trance. Caleb flinched away from me as he felt the phone buzz, dropped his game controller to the floor. I didn't have to look. I knew who it was.
Caleb knew too. He dropped the controller to the floor, stood up with a quick, jerky movement. "That job again." He looked me in the eye for about a half second, then looked out the door. " I guess I'll go."
I got up, took the phone out of my pocket. The same no-number number as always. I took a deep breath, silenced the phone and tossed it back onto the bed. "No. I ... I deserve a day off." I grabbed his empty beer bottle. "Lemme get you a another."
Caleb nodded, sank back down to the bed. He muttered something under his breath that might have been "thanks". I trekked down to the kitchen, grabbed a couple of beers, carried them back slowly, willing the muscles in my gut to unclench. I'd just abandoned Fate, but if felt like the right thing to do. I hoped it wouldn't end badly.
This has been an interesting experience. The story didn't take the shape I expected from the beginning, nor did any succeeding chapter follow the previous in the way I expected - and that includes mine! My favorite part thus far was Carrie's opening chapter, and I clearly circled back there in an attempt to draw Caleb back into the story. None of this is what I would have written on my own, but I think we got something interesting out of the endeavor and am very glad to have taken part. Next week Nicole Pyles will close it out. Stay tuned!