Answering the Call
by Charles C. Cole
Reba had been lying in bed late into the morning, wistfully daydreaming about her former high school boyfriend, Russ, living three states away, when she was startled by a knock on her apartment door.
Russ stood in the hall. “Can I come in?”
Reba quickly combed her long, wiry hair with her fingers. “Russ. This is weird. I was just thinking of you.”
“A voice told me to get here, fast. It was the creepiest thing.”
“I’m not exactly up for guests,” said Reba.
“Talk slower; I just got up. What voice? Is this your way of trying to get back together, showing up unannounced?”
“I heard a real voice, Reba. A deep manly voice. I was sleeping. There was nobody else in the room. Maybe it was in my head. I’d been thinking about you. Anyway I took it as a sign. I jumped in my car and drove three hours. I thought you were in danger.”
“From shock, maybe. How did you find me? I know my parents didn’t blab.”
“Libby Mitchell once told me you lived near campus, near a Thai restaurant. I asked some students in a park for your address. They gave you up for ten bucks.”
“You’re freaking me out. Is everything all right? Are you in trouble?”
Russ stepped in. “I don’t know how you did it, what technology you used, but you have my full attention.”
“You look good, a little wild-eyed from the long drive. I’ll bet you did it with the windows down. You must have left at the crack of dawn.”
“Why am I here?” asked Russ.
“We’re not getting back together, I know that much. You’ve got your world down here, and I’ve got mine. So why did you call me? You did, didn’t you? You said you were thinking of me.”
“I was having a girl moment. It wasn’t a big deal. Everything was quiet, inhumanly still, so quiet I heard the mice in the walls. Then I suddenly wanted, in the worst way, to hear you breathing beside me.”
“Driving here was the most impulsive thing I’ve ever done in my life. It may have been a man’s voice, but I know it was you.”
“You’re here because you heard a bodiless command in your head?” Reba asked.
“A booming voice: ‘Go to her!’ Maybe it was the voice of guilt. It almost sounded a little like your father. But it didn’t tell me I had to stay. So, it’s really nice to see you. You look fantastic, by the way. I’m glad there was no emergency. But I should probably get out of here before I realize how embarrassing this really is. Where’s the nearest gas station?”
“Maybe the voice can tell you,” Reba teased.
“Okay, I deserved that. Before I leave, just tell me how you are, that you’re happy, and I’ll be going. How’s school? How’s your family?”
“Everyone’s fine,” said Reba. “School’s hard, but I’m getting by. Weekends are a drag; no one to watch guy movies with; my girlfriends hate shoot-’em-ups. They’re more the romantic-comedy crowd. You?”
“I was working on an essay,” said Russ, “and I wasn’t sure if I was using the right word, so I opened a dictionary and this note from you fell out. It was from back when we were hot and heavy. It smelled like you.”
“I remember,” said Reba.
“The note or being hot and heavy?” asked Russ.
“Both,” said Reba.
“You probably have things to do today, things I’m keeping you from. But maybe you have time for coffee.”
“There’s always time for coffee, especially if you’re paying,” said Reba. “There’s a place around the corner. One cup for the road, then off you go, before someone realizes you’ve escaped from the loony bin.”
“You look great by the way, a little pale.”
“My mother thinks I’m anorexic,” she said. “I don’t have time to eat. It’s not a conscious thing.”
“You were thinking of me?”
“It was because of a dream.”
“You dreamt of me?”
“Involuntarily. It wasn’t romantic. More like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I hope you don’t think we’re picking up where we left off.”
“I’m hours and hours away, safely out of your orbit,” said Russ.
“I just mean, if you need someone to talk to, without worrying about it leading to something more, you can call me.”
“Sounds like I don’t even need a phone. What did the voice say?” asked Reba.
“It said, ‘Go to her. Go to Reba.’”
“And you don’t know any other Reba?”
“You’re the only one. You were always the only one.”
“Let’s go get coffee, before things get awkward.”
“Before we go, can I look around the place, while you get changed I mean?”
“I’m ready,” she said.
“You’re wearing your favorite sweats. I know those sweats. I’ll bet you slept in them.”
“The coffee guy doesn’t know that. And, no, there are no pictures of you or any other guy, so don’t bother looking.”
“Can I take anything back to your parents for you?” asked Russ. “I came all this way.”
“You’re dying to be a hero in all this.”
“Actually, yes. Then I can drive home with my chin held high, instead of my tail between my legs.”
“I borrowed Dad’s cordless drill. He doesn’t know. Leave it in Mom’s car. I’ll call her and explain. It’s on the counter.”
“Do you want me to get the mice out of the wall?” asked Russ.
“They came with the place. The landlord never said, but I’m pretty sure I pay extra for them.”
“Sorry for showing up unannounced,” Russ said.
“Sorry for using my heretofore undiscovered super mind powers for dragging you down here. I’ll be more careful in future when daydreaming about you.”
“What’s important is knowing if you need me, I’ll be here, even if it’s just for company for coffee.”
“And, even more important, admitting that there’s always time for coffee.”
Copyright © 2014 by Charles C. Cole