Part 5

DoorBerta was home by five, and had just started dinner when Franklin came through the door looking tired. He was never this late, not on Wednesdays when there were no extracurricular activities to oversee. She had no reason to question him, though. He was a good man, scarred but healing, and they were making a new life for themselves far from the constant insecurity of military deployments and reassignments. It had worked out better than she had hoped.

He came to the table, pulled out a chair and sat down heavy.

“I didn’t plan for this,” he said.

She looked over her shoulder, trying not to look too concerned. Looking concerned was a trigger, she’d learned. Just like putting away dishes, the pop of a light bulb’s death, the dog rushing down the stairs.

“What didn’t you plan for?” she asked.

“I just wanted to teach. But I can see that probably isn’t possible.”

Now she looked concerned. “Why? Did something happen at school?” Her tone gave away the worry that had blossomed in her mind.

“One of the students came to my office today. She’s in a lot of trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?” She brought two plates and set them on the table.

“She’s so talented. But you know how kids are. Always concerned with perceptions and hormones. They lack perspective. Anyway, apparently she’s involved with the biggest loser in the senior class.”

“Loser?”

“Well, not loser really. Not on paper anyway. Stephen Murphy. He’s the all-American kid, football, handsome, kind of a bully.”

“Okay? Doesn’t sound different than most other high school stories.”

“Yeah. But it’s just on paper with this guy. Rob said he threatened him.”

“Rob, the social studies teacher?”

“Yeah. He said that he made what he thought was an innocent joke about some of the silly answers he saw on one of the tests, and that afternoon he saw the guy hanging out in the parking lot by his car. He went up to open the door, said hi and all, and the kid wouldn’t move. He was leaning against the driver’s side door, smoking and smiling. He said “Those were some funny jokes,” and then he put his cigarette out on his hood.”

“Oh my God! Did Rob call the police?”

“No. I think he was afraid.”

Berta returned with two bowls. “He should have done something.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Why?”

“Well, for one thing, the kid knows that he’s important to the school, and to the teachers who will probably protect him. He’s really brutal on the field. It just wasn’t worth it for him. But I know he doesn’t make jokes about the student’s answers anymore. I’m sure the kid’s probably pulling A’s now.”

“And what about the girl?”

Franklin rubbed his brow, and she could see the blood tightening in his veins.

“I think he hurts her. Physically.”

Berta put her spoon down, paused, and swallowed.

“Did she tell you this?”

Franklin shook his head. “Of course not. Otherwise I’d be talking to the police instead of you. But she was pretty shaken up. She said that he’d made her do things she was uncomfortable with.”

“What brought this conversation on?” As much as she didn’t want to admit it, she felt the sting of being jealous at this girl expressing intimacy with him.

“She said she couldn’t be in the musical because he told her she couldn’t.”

“Is that all?”

“And she has a bruise. On her wrists, like the shape of a hand.”

“Franklin…”

“I’ve got to help her, but I don’t think it’s going to be easy.”

“Well, if anything happens you’ve got to stand up to him.”

“I know.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

They both jumped a little as the doorbell buzzed though the stale, fall air.

They exchanged a look, as if checking to see if the other was expecting anyone, until Franklin placed his napkin on the table and went to see who it was.

He opened the door and saw Stephen Murphy standing on the other side of the screen, smiling.

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20 thoughts on “Part 5

  1. The suspense is making it difficult to keep reading, lol. I want to know how things turn out but you’ve built such great tension I’m afraid. sigh. Are you going to do anything else with this beside publish to WordPress?

  2. After reading it, I was like, what’s going to happen next?! Aaacckkk! I don’t trust Stephen’s smile. :/ I can’t wait for the next part and it seems that I have a lot of catching up to do since this is already the fifth part. I’ve been gone for a long time, 😀

    I know you’ve heard this a lot of times but I still want to say it. You really write well! I wish I could write stories as good as yours. Keep it up! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. Just having readers like you honor enough for me. I hope you’ll stick around to see what’s really going on, and also take a look at how it began.

  3. Hi Daniel – I don’t often tweet about a story until I’ve reached the close but today I wrote, “Splendid story. Great tension, hidden descriptions with punch and damaged characters.

    You already know I believe you have a firm grasp on building a slow boil of tension. With today’s Part 5 I noted great deliverance of character description combined with emotion. You introduced Berta and she’s concerned Franklin comes through the door looking tired. She lets us know he ‘was’ a good man, scarred but healing. Did a previous military life leave him this way? I could see Franklin pull out the chair and sit down heavy — I’ve done that myself more times than I can count and it’s usually been at the end of an extremely weary day at work.

    We learn about Stephen Murphy with the exterior of the all-American kid who we meet in every city across America. The one that gets to slide through because they are an anthlete. This guy is a bully of the worst kind and you’ve painted him onto your canvas with perfect percision. We know he’s nothing but trouble for all he touches.

    Terrific that you pulled Berta back into the story when she put her spoon down after stiring the soup. She might have been a little surprised that she felt some jealousy but after all Berta is perhaps a stay-at-home wife and it’s easy to think all young high-school girls are sexy.

    And then – – – there’s more tension when the doorbell rings – the terrible Stephen Martin is on the other side.

    Terrific tension but I wanted to point out that you engaged all 5 of the senses in this portiono of your story and that’s such an important element of any work. Job well done.

    • I’m so grateful that you took the time to write such a detailed response to the story. I’m sure you know how much it means when a reader finds something you’ve written enjoyable. I hope you find remainder of the entries are not a let down, but are true to the story. I suppose the story is what it is, but you’ve made my day. Thank you. – Dan

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