Happy Spring Break! I took a ton of midterms on Thursday and skipped class Friday to come home early. I’m excited to spend a week relaxing, reading, and practicing while I can before getting four wisdom teeth removed. Wahoo!
So this writing challenge has certainly been that… a challenge. I have regretfully skipped three days of writing due to busyness and studying, but I’ve made the decision to just drop those prompts instead of scrambling to scrounge up some half-hearted entries in one post. Alas, here is the prompt for Day 8! But here’s where it gets messy again—turns out me and Taylor looked at different prompts. Our apologies, but no worries! Tomorrow, we will just switch, and we’ll be right back on track.
The short story I wrote for Day 8 is a lot longer than anything else I’ve written (a whopping 1641 words!) But I really encourage you to read it because I really think you’ll love the story. The premise is that our narrator, John, has a speech impediment (stutter), but was also gifted with the ability to go back in time to “redo” his mistakes. Again, it’s relatively lengthy, but in my own opinion, it’s some of my best work thus far, especially considering that I came up with the idea and typed the whole thing in about an hour and a half this evening. Please tell me what you think of this short story! (Admittedly, I could hear my own heart breaking as I wrote the ending…)
Prompt for March 10, 2017: Your best friend catches you using a superpower they didn’t know you had.
“Redo” by Rachel Cernosek
Dates make me anxious. Especially first dates, and that’s what this was. I know I have no legitimate reason to be nervous, though, because my date just so happens to be my best friend. She looks beautiful, sitting across the table in a casual sundress, her cheeks glowing in the light of the restaurant. But that alone made me nervous anyway, so much so that I’d already had to redo a couple of lines which I’d stuttered the first time.
“You look lovely tonight,” I had told her a third time, more practiced and smooth this time. She had smiled and blushed, looking down—a much different and better reaction than the confused look she’d given me the first two attempts. A feeling of relief had rushed through me.
I have a stutter, but no one knows. That’s because I have unlimited attempts to say what I want to say as smoothly as I want it to come across. It’s hard to explain, but easy to do. I simply will it, and time reverses, and I have another chance to speak. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember, meaning both the stutter and the control of time. I guess some people consider me a really lucky guy, because nothing bad really seems to happen to me. In reality, I can just easily avoid bad situations after living through them once.
When I’d asked Kyra out for the first time last night, it had taken me thirteen attempts. But finally I’d spat it out, clear and seamless as she’d ever heard me speak. She’d grinned and accepted, knowing nothing of the sheer effort it had taken me. But that’s precisely how I want it.
We finish our food. The first time, I’d clumsily spilled spaghetti down my shirt, but there was no trace of the stain now, because it had never happened. I made it never happen. Kyra is sweet and caring and beautiful and patient, and all of that combined is part of why I am so nervous. I’ve already made so many mistakes tonight, but she’ll never know.
Dessert. Paying the check. Now we were just talking. “So, John,” she says, pushing the last bite of chocolate cake around the plate with her fork. “How long have you liked me, then?”
“I’ve liked you ever since you sang for the class in seventh grade choir,” I say with a smirk.
“No way!” She hides her face, giggling. “That was so long ago. I’d almost forgotten we were in the same class.”
“I’ll never forget that day. Your face was so red, but you sang so beautifully, and I’ve had my eye on you since then.”
“Well, gosh,” she says. “I must have been really blind, then.”
“I do a good job of hiding my emotions.”
“Why…” she starts.
“What is it?”
“Why did you wait until now to ask me out?”
I contemplate, anticipating a long series of restarts to explain my thoughts without messing up. But at that moment, there was a crash beside me as a passing waiter trips, and a tray of food comes toppling down all over me. The waiter profusely apologizes, feebly attempting to pick up the overturned bowls and plates from my lap.
“I am so, so sorry sir, please forgive me, I’ll help clean everything up!”
“It’s okay, I—”
I choke. The words won’t come out. This is expected; my impediment is worsened by shocks and surprises like this. I close my eyes, imagining the moment right before the accident.
When I open my eyes a second later, nothing has changed.
The waiter is dabbing at the soup on my shirt with a cloth. More wait staff has come around the table to help clean up. Kyra is staring at me with wide, surprised eyes.
“Are you okay?” Kyra asks.
“Yes, I’m— I’ll be— I just—”
Kyra is giving me that look she always gives me when I stutter during my first few attempts of speaking, her head turned slightly to the side, brows furrowed, eyes indecipherable. Only this time, I can’t seem to go back and fix it.
“Do you need some water?”
“Y— Yes,” I get out, as she holds her glass out to me. But the glass starts spilling in my shaking hands, wetting my already stained shirt.
“What is going on with you?”
“I don’t— I don’t know wh— what—”
“Why are you stuttering? What’s wrong with you?”
It was my worst nightmare coming true. “Kyra, I— I can exp— exp— explain—”
“Explain what?!” She sounds angry, but she looks so concerned.
Something dawned on her expression. “It’s okay… It’s okay. Let’s go, John, come on.” She grabs my hand, dragging me out of the restaurant. She must realize something is terribly wrong based on the arrant panic on my face, an emotion she’s never seen from me, an emotion I’ve never let myself show her. Because every time something had gone wrong, I’d started over and fixed it.
Kyra leads me to my car parked at the side of the building. It’s dark and we are alone, since we were among the last ones at the restaurant. We don’t go in the car but stand outside it on the passenger side. Kyra is looking at me with a baffled expression, probably noting the frantic skirting of my eyes to and fro as I attempt to make sense of what was happening.
I’ve lost control. No matter how hard I think about it, I can’t go back. I try to think to a different moment, to when we first walked in, from when I picked her up at her house. Hell, I even try to think about going back to a moment from hours ago, something I avoid doing except in emergencies because it nullifies all those painstakingly tedious trials of redoing conversations.
Nothing works. I’m still here, standing outside beside my bewildered best-friend-slash-date, food staining my shirt and pants, a thousand words encircling my brain like a swarm of bees, yet I know I’ll never be able to get them out.
“John…” She squeezes my hands with her own, tight. “What happened?”
I look around, willing the words out that will never come. “I— I— I st—”
“John.” She’s grabbed my jaw, forcing me to look down at her. Her eyes plead to mine. “Look at me. It’s okay. Take a breath… It’s okay, John. Just breathe…”
I do, and my heart rate starts to go down. She releases her grip with her hands, but not with her eyes.
“Are you good to talk?”
“It’s okay if you’re not.”
“I am,” I say. Now that I’ve calmed down, it’ll be a lot easier…but not perfect.
She exhales a long breath. A dog barks from a yard, a police siren sounds in the distance, cars whir by the adjacent freeway. “I’ve never heard you stutter before.”
I think long and hard about my words before speaking them. “I know… I know you haven’t.”
“What changed?” she asks softly.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I w—wish I could tell you.”
She still looks so concerned. “But I don’t understand why…”
“I’ve been hiding it,” I say. “Th—This whole time.”
“I understand that, John.” She’s blunt, but not harsh. “I’m saying I don’t understand why you would hide it.”
She doesn’t understand? How am I supposed to make her understand why I hide my impediment, why I go back in time after every mistake to redo it? How am I supposed to express to her the truth, that years and years of living with my ability has rendered me unable to accept mistakes, or imperfections? How am I going to tell her how happy she makes me feel, how beautiful she is to me? How after years of knowing her, of watching her laugh and smile through life with the vibrancy of the sun, I could never settle for being anything less than perfect for her?
She must have seen this flash through my eyes, because she holds my face again. “It’s okay. You can trust me. You can tell me anything. Will you tell me? You can tell me as slowly as you need to. I want to know.”
I panic, but Kyra is sincere. A thought crosses my mind: if there’s anyone out there that would be patient enough to listen to me stutter out a paragraph without trials of rehearsal, it would be Kyra.
I take a deep breath before starting, and because I don’t have a choice, I tell her everything.
By the end, she has tears in her eyes. She’s looking away from me, and I can’t tell for sure, but I know how hurt she must be. How horrible she must find me now that she knows that I controlled my own destiny. How much she must hate me for manipulating her, by steering our conversations my own way.
“I’m sorry, Kyra,” I say, because it’s all I can. “I’m so sorry.”
And at that moment, she turns toward me, bringing her glassy eyes to meet mine, and I immediately register that the tears do not hold the anger I’d suspected. Instead, they show solicitude. I don’t realize what’s happening until her hands lace behind my neck and she kisses me softly. My heart feels like it’s jumpstarting. I close my eyes.
There’s a familiar whirring noise in my brain, and I feel weightless, my body wrenched from the stability of the ground for all but a single heartbeat before the reality of the world comes back to me.
Jazz music plays through soft speakers. The dimly-lit restaurant, the white-clothed table. My shirt, dry and unstained. And Kyra, smiling gently, pushing the last bite of chocolate cake around the plate with her fork.
“So, John. How long have you liked me, then?”
~ ~ ~
Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to check out my friend Taylor’s writing entry for this same prompt at her blog! If you would like emailed updates from my blog, please scroll to the top of this page (or go to my homepage) and press the “+Follow” button at the bottom right of your screen to enter your email address. Don’t forget about my bullet journal and hobbies Instagram account, also called turbulentrhapsodies, to see all of my creative and academic endeavors!