Fiction Friday: The Band-Box Hat

You may have noticed that this story had kind of stalled. Besides not posting for two weeks, the several weeks before that were kind of static. Nothing much had happened to Sarah Jane since she got to LA. Well, that’s about to change. I dreamed this next development. Really.

Yesterday, I told myself I had to think of something that was going to happen to Sarah Jane. Last night, I dreamed this. Next week’s installment will reveal what’s going on. Suffice it to say, Sarah has a decision to make that could potentially change her life forever.

See if you can tell what’s about to happen.


Previously: Sarah Jane decides she’ll now be named Sarah. She calls Jesse from her new apartment but he doesn’t listen to her, that she’s moved and now in LA, too. He says Rachael doesn’t want to see Sarah Jane or anyone else from Rosedale.


Chapter 19

My week flew by so I had no time for more seething or wondering about Rachael or Jesse. By Saturday morning, I yearned for a few minutes of quiet and peace so I headed to my new local Starbucks for a grande caramel macchiato and a book I’d picked up in the school library.

The fourth graders had been a handful, testing my limits and my new rules, but by Friday we’d come to an understanding. I wouldn’t assign weekend homework and they wouldn’t poke holes in my coffee cup.

Walking up to the Starbucks, my heart sank. It didn’t look like I’d get a table to myself, much less any peace for reading. The place was packed with people spilling out the door and filling all the chairs. They were even perched on the side of the brick planters lining the sidewalks.

“Excuse me.” I tried to get past a trio of girls in shorts and gladiator sandals who blocked the door. Once inside, the line snaked past the condiment bar. I took my place at the end and craned my neck to see how many people were between me and my macchiato.

A weird fact began to register. Everyone in line, at the tables, and waiting for their drinks was female. In her late twenties or early thirties. Dressed in something sparkly or shimmery that showed either a lot of leg or cleavage or both. A glance at my khaki capris and white v-neck tee confirmed that I was way underdressed for this crowd.

Oh well. I shrugged and opened my book, since it looked like I’d be waiting a while for coffee.


A paper appeared on top of my book and I grabbed it in reflex as it started to slip off. “What?” I asked.

“I need you to fill this out.” A young man with horn-rimmed glasses shoved up on his forehead glanced at me then did a double take. “I mean, please answer all the questions and give it back to me.” He moved down the line, giving papers to the others behind me.

I shrugged and looked at the questionnaire. It must be some sort of survey, maybe for his statistics class. Besides the usual name and address and date, it asked how many siblings I had, where I went to college, hobbies, religious preference, and—I gasped and grabbed for a pen to make a big X. No, I’ve never had sex in a public place.

Except for that one and another about how many times I’d been arrested for being drunk and disorderly, it was a pretty standard questionnaire. I didn’t put my address on it though. I mean, I’m willing to help out a budding statistician or actuary or pollster or whatever he was, but a single girl can’t be too careful. Especially in the big city.

Feeling virtuous for having done a good deed, I handed the paper back to the young man just as I reached the front of the line.

“Grande caramel macchiato, please,” I said to the barista scribbling orders and names on cups.

“Thanks,” the budding pollster said. He tucked my paper behind some others, but he must have been a speed reader. I’d barely gotten my coffee and was heading for the door when he accosted me again.

“It says here that you’re Mennonite.” His glasses were now settled on his nose and he looked at me with searching blue eyes. “Is that like Amish? Where’s your bonnet?”

I smiled. “A lot of people think that, but there are several orders of Mennonite. The Amish and Mennonite are from the same roots. My order allows us to dress normally, although modestly.”

“Interesting.” He scribbled a note on my page then ran his eyes up and down my outfit. “You’re a teacher, too. Where do you live? You left that blank.”

“I’m from Rosedale, in central California. I live nearby now.” As nice as he seemed, I wasn’t about to give up my address.

He nodded. “Good. I’d like to schedule an interview for this afternoon.”

“With me?” My eyebrows rose. “What’s so interesting about my data?”

He smiled. “You’re kidding, right? You’re absolutely unique. Exactly what we’re looking for.”

Warmth filled my chest. I’d never been what anyone was looking for. Even though I was still only wanted for my statistics, it felt good. “Really?”

He nodded. “Can you be back here at 3:30?”

“Sure. I guess so.”

“Great.” He scribbled another note and walked away.

The pair of blondes in front of me, turned and gave me blistering looks and I felt my cheeks flush.

“Wouldn’t you know it?” one of them whispered to the other. “The place is full of models and actresses and they want a teacher-look.” She tucked her own survey under her chin and pulled her hair back into a pony tail that she twisted and secured with her pencil. “There. How’s this?”

Her friend clapped a hand over her mouth but giggles spilled out anyway. “Perfect.”

I spun on my heel and strode out the door. I didn’t need the mean girls to tell me what I already knew. I was out of place here.

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