Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

I'm enjoying writing Sarah Jane's story. It's completely Seat-of-the-Pants. I have no idea what's going to happen from one chapter to the next. It's kind of fun to see what's going to happen and where the story is headed. I'm writing each chapter and pretty much copying and pasting it with little to no proofing. So this is my writing, typos and all. I probably shouldn't admit that. Or at least I should read each chapter before posting it. I'll do that. Next week.


Previously, Jesse asked to meet Sarah Jane, telling her he had news of her long lost sister Rachael.

Chapter 6

I pulled a deep breath and stared through the window.

Jesse Hofer.

The boy not-quite-next-door. We grew up on adjoining farms, but in California’s Central Valley, that could be hundreds of miles apart. Okay, at least dozens. The Hofers and the Richters lived about three miles apart with acres of peach, plum, and nectarine trees in between split level ranch houses.

Jesse looked up and our gazes met. He always knew when I was looking at him. It was quite annoying in high school. I could never gaze across a classroom at him without being caught.

Get a grip, Sarah Jane. You’re an adult now, not a moonstruck teen.

I slung my purse over my shoulder and pushed through the drugstore doors.

“Hi, Jesse.” I dropped onto the seat across from him and waved at Mrs. Caldwell. She ignored me but moved to the soda machine and filled a glass with ice and Diet Coke. After she deposited the frosty glass and a straw on the table, I met Jesse’s gaze.

“Thanks for coming.” His arms made an arc around his coffee cup.

“What’s so important? You said it had to do with Rachael.” I stabbed the straw on the table, trying to get it to break free of its paper prison.


I looked up at the drawn out syllable. “Jesse?”

His eyes, the same brown as our old German Shepherd Rusty’s, locked with mine. Their depths called to me like a Siren on the Tyrrhenian Sea. I blinked to clear my vision and reminded myself I was in Rosedale, not Capri.

“Yeah. Look, I know I left in a bad way and I was rotten to do it. I know you’re angry and I don’t blame you.”

“That’s in the past.” I said it because a) it was true and b) it’s what a good Mennonite girl should say about anything she needs to get over. Also, c) I was a little irked that he assumed I spent the last seven years pining for him. “I’ve been busy too. I went to Cal State, got my teaching degree. Moved in with Jake and Anna after Mama died. Jake and Nathan are building me my own apartment over the garage.”

“Really?” His gaze warmed. “That’s great. I’m happy for you.”

“So, what about Rachael? That’s how you got me here, remember? News about my sister.”

“Yeah. See, the thing is—” His coffee cup suddenly became very interesting and he ran his finger over the white looped handle. Around the outside of the little ear, then along the inside.

I reached and touched his hand. “Jesse. Just spit it out. Whatever it is.”

“Okay. I ran into her about a year ago. At a coffee shop in Pasadena. She looked just the same. Long hair swinging. I heard her laugh before I saw her and I knew it was her.”

Tears filled my eyes. “Our Rachael? She’s okay?”

He nodded. “She feels bad about how she left. Without saying a word to anyone.”

I fell against the back of my seat, heat rising to my face. “She should feel awful. She ran away from Peter, her brand new baby. From Mama and Dad. They all needed her.”

“She’s changed since then. Grown up. She went to night classes. Got a degree, too.”

A part of me knew I should be happy to hear this. My sister, missing for ten years. Why wasn’t I pumping him for her phone number or address? But another part of me was just angry. Rachael bailed when life got hard. She ran away. I stayed. How dare she think she could come back and everything would be forgiven and Dad would kill the fatted calf.

“She’s scared.” Jesse always could read my mind.

“I bet.” The derision crept into my voice in spite of my best intentions. Well, in spite of my pretty good intentions.

I pushed out from behind the table and stood. “Thanks for the information Jesse. I’ll tell Dad and the boys.”

“But, Sarah Jane—”

I spun on one heel and fled out the door. I had to talk to Emma and Dad and Nathan to figure out how I felt about this.

Rachael alive and well and living less than four hours away. For the last ten years. Never trying to see her son. Mama took over a year to die after her diagnosis. Rachael didn’t bother to call, much less come visit.

The key jangled as I tried to fit it in the door lock.

“Sarah Jane!” Jesse strong-armed the door open and strode through while shoving his wallet into his back pocket.

The lock clicked open and I flung myself into the driver’s seat.

Jesse had to pause for a dairy truck trundling through the intersection.

Thank you, God, for VanderGloss’s milk pickup.

I made my escape while Jesse waited behind the gleaming silver truck.

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