Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Sarah Jane checks into a hotel and gets a voicemail from Jesse telling her he was sorry about her father’s death and that her sister Rachael is coming to the service. Sarah Jane realizes that she saw Rachael arrive, but she left anyway, missing her chance to see her sister and be reconciled.


Chapter 18


A week after my arrival in Glendale, I was gainfully employed and had a place to live. I had a long term substitute teaching job in a private school. It didn’t pay even as much as the job I left behind in Rosedale, but I still had my savings to add to my earnings. I’d need the extra cushion since I’d never paid rent, and I think my heart stopped when my new landlady told me how much for a studio apartment.

“That’s for one month?” I gasped. “Not six months?”

She chuckled. “No, sweetie, that’s the rent per month. And it’s a good deal for this neighborhood.”

Her name was Jana Ryan. She was a no-nonsense talking woman who wore long flowing skirts and Reeboks. She had thick gray curls that she kept pulled away from her face by a wide brown headband. I’d seen the ad in the local paper and called right away and she agreed to meet me right after my interview at the school.

So far, my new life was coming along just fine. I’d had an uncomfortable phone conversation with Anna who heaped guilt on me and tried to tell me I should come back for April’s sake. I tried not to let her upset me, but I’d finally interrupted her, said good-bye and hung up.

Now, it was the night before my first day at the new school. I had an inflatable mattress, a card table, two folding chairs, and dishes for four that I bought at the dollar store.

I stretched out on my mattress and stared at my cell phone.

To call Jesse or not to call.

To try and find my sister, or … figure she always knew where to find me and never bothered. It would be ironic if now that I had moved on, and she returned home to look for me.

I stabbed in Jesse’s number and held the phone to my ear, not sure if I hoped he’d answer or I’d go to voicemail.

“Hello?” His voice held a questioning tone.

“It’s Sarah. I mean Sarah Jane.” Since I was starting a new life, I’d decided to go with a new name, too.

“Oh … hi?”

I don’t know what I expected, but this seemed odd. Jesse was never unsure of himself, what he wanted and what he planned to do to get it.

“I need Rachael’s phone number.” May as well get to the point.

“Oh. Uh … Didn’t you see her at your dad’s service?”

I didn’t want to go into the whole story. “No.”


For an English major, Jesse sure seemed to be having a problem with his native tongue. Forming words was an issue.

“I’d like to call my sister.”

Silence met my declaration.

“Ummm … Jesse?” The monosyllables must be contagious.

“Yeah. Well, the thing is Sarah Jane—”

“Sarah. Just Sarah.”

“Right. Sarah, see the thing is, Rachael was upset that you left as soon as you saw her and she thinks she should stay out of your life.”

“You just asked me if I saw her. You already knew I didn’t?”

More silence.

“Jesse. Things … have been crazy. In fact, I should tell you, I decided—”

“Look, Sarah Ja—I mean Sarah. I’ll tell Rachael you called and you want to talk to her, but she’s not planning to go back to Rosedale anytime soon. Well, probably anytime at all.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I—”

“Don’t get your hopes up is what I’m trying to tell you.”

“Fine. I understand. Rachael doesn’t want to see anyone. If you won’t give me her number, will you please ask her to call me.”

“I can do that.”

“Thanks, Jesse.”

I hung up, torn between seething and obsessing over why Rachael didn’t want to see me. Or I could put the whole thing out of my head and go to sleep and get up tomorrow, ready to start a new job with a group of fourth graders whose teacher just had a baby.

Tomorrow would come soon, so I went to bed and seethed.

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