Katie is in a funk after her fiance dumped her, and in order to help her get past it, her friends have dared her to use a magic eight ball to make all her decisions until Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, this dare falls at the worst time.
Chapter 1 - Katie
Crazy. My friends are crazy. Possibly certifiable. That is the only explanation for the words that just spilled out their mouths.
“You want me to do what?” I am sure that I have heard them incorrectly. Although, I probably should have suspected something when they suggested getting dinner in the middle of the week. Generally, we go out on Fridays, but we reserve the other days of the week for important things like birthdays, promotions, or interventions, which is what this appears to be shaping up to be.
“Just hear us out,” Hannah says, which sends up a major red flag. Hannah is the creative entrepreneur who started her own business, but she’s also an enneagram freak who talks about it so much it’s started appearing in my dreams. Seriously, I keep seeing the weird star pattern she drew for me once and wondering if that means I’m a three acting like a four or a one pretending to be a nine. I’d say look it up if you don’t understand, but really, it’s just better to feign understanding and remain ignorant.
Her obsession is a little over the top. Of course, she would say that’s my microaggression rearing its ugly head - yes, according to her, numbers have microaggressions too, whatever that means - but I’m not sure I buy that. Regardless, Hannah has a very take-charge attitude and I can see it rearing its ugly head as she glances at Charlie, Piper, and Belle who nod in return. “Remember when we were in high school and we used to make those pacts to try new things?”
Of course I remember. It would be nearly impossible to forget, especially since one of those pacts resulted in all of us dying our hair green one year. Our mothers were not pleased, and we were the laughingstock of the school for a week until we all broke down and returned our hair to its natural color. “Yeah, but we were in high school.” I lift a brow and look at each of them before continuing. “In case you missed the last decade, we are now out of high school and college. This is real life.”
Hannah holds up her hands. “I know, but remember how fun it was just to let loose and not worry? With Valentine’s Day coming up-”
I interrupt her with a sigh and a roll of my eyes. “I am convinced Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday to make florists, card makers, and chocolatiers money.”
“Actually, Valentine’s Day isn’t a made-up holiday, although when it was originally introduced, it was much more about getting women pregnant than giving them chocolates and flowers,” Piper says, pushing her glasses up her freckled nose. Piper is like a walking encyclopedia and definitely got the best grades of all of us in high school and college, but sometimes her timing is atrocious.
“What?” She shrugs her shoulders. “There was a documentary about it on TV last night and I couldn’t sleep.”
“Of course there was.” Piper is almost always the last one of us to go to sleep. She says it’s because her mind refuses to turn off, and I’m tempted to believe her. She has way more going on in her head than I do. It’s scary everything that goes on in there. “Anyway, Valentine’s Day stinks.”
“That wasn’t your view last year,” Charlie says. Charlie is the no-nonsense, take charge one who I’m pretty sure knows at least three different ways to kill people. She works as a professional trainer, and I’m fairly certain it’s because she likes making people feel pain and it’s one of the few professions she can do that without getting thrown in jail.
I shoot her a withering look. “Last year, my fiancé hadn’t just dumped me for one of my friends.” Not as good of a friend as I thought, it turned out, but still. Last year, I had a date on Valentine’s Day. I received the overpriced flowers that died within a week, the delicious chocolate that I rationed for a month, so I wouldn’t gain too much weight, and I was treated to an overpriced dinner at a fancy restaurant. It looked pretty, but it sure wasn’t filling. Still, I wasn’t alone like I will be this year.
“Exactly.” Hannah flashes a smile, but it does not give me joy. Instead, it fills me with a sense of dread, but oblivious to my discomfort she continues, “And that’s why we came up with this. For the next few weeks, you let the eight ball decide any time someone asks you a question. It decides if you go on a date, if you stay late at work, if you eat Thai food or Mexican.”
“I don’t know guys.” I shake my head at the suggestion and not just because putting my life in the hands of an eight ball is weird, even for my friends. The wound is still pretty fresh. Adam broke up with me just a few months ago, before Christmas but not before I’d purchased his gift that I’d had to return later, and I’m not sure I’m ready to date again. Especially not after hearing he’s already engaged again. My whining about his engagement is most likely what caused this friendtervention.
“Of course, you can set boundaries,” Hannah continues as if she doesn’t hear my objection. “Like obviously, you won’t do anything illegal or against your morals, but otherwise,” she shrugs, “you let the eight ball decide and just go with the flow.”
“I watched a documentary on the eight ball once. Did you know it originally started in a tube and then a crystal ball, but it became the eight ball after a billiard company used it for a promotional idea. Not many things that go through three iterations continue to last as long as it has.”
“What’s an iteration?” Belle asks Piper, her forehead scrunching in confusion. I love Belle, but she’s kind of the airhead of the group. She is an actual Southern Belle who still sounds like she just got off the set of Gone with the Wind and she’s about as ditzy as they come. Her blonde hair is more than a perfect color. It’s like the punctuation to her ditziness.
“It’s a change.” Charlie shoots Piper a reproachful look. “Piper just likes to sound smart.”
“I am smart,” Piper quips.
“Oh, well, I think it’s a great idea no matter how many alliterations it has,” Belle says, turning back to me.
Piper rolls her eyes at the word slip, but the rest of us decide to let it go. No one wants to have to explain alliterations to Belle. Nor does her liking the idea give me warm fuzzies. After all, she nearly ruined Christmas last year when she thought a killer was after her. In the end, it worked out, but still. “Then maybe you should do it,” I say back, but going with the flow doesn’t sound all bad. Obviously, my taste in men isn’t what I thought it was, so maybe letting fate decide isn’t such a bad thing. Besides, it’s only for a few weeks. How bad could it possibly be?
“I say we make it a dare.” Charlie folds her arms across her chest and arches one eyebrow. Though not bulky, she is definitely jacked, and the muscles in her arms ripple as she flexes. Even so, I shoot her another warning look. She knows I won’t turn down a dare. None of us will. One of the stupid pacts we made in high school was that we would always accept a dare as long as it wasn’t dangerous. The thought at the time was that sometimes we could see what the other people needed when they couldn’t and we could issue dares that would help them get over fears. It was a good idea at the time, but I’m regretting the pact now.
“I second that.” Belle raises her hand as if she thinks this is a democracy.
“Even though I find dares to be antiquated, I will agree in this circumstance,” Piper says.
Hannah smiles triumphantly at me. “Well, the dare has been issued. What are you going to do now, Katie?”
I look at each of them and sigh. I should be mad that they’ve ganged up on me, but honestly, I love these girls like sisters, so I can’t stay mad for long. “Fine, hand me the eight ball.”
“Yes!” Hannah pumps her arm and then pulls it from her purse. She doesn’t carry an especially large one, so I have no idea how she got it in there, but she’s a master at packing, so it shouldn’t surprise me. “We picked it up specially for you, so it’s never even been used before. Well, I’m sure people tried it in the store, but you know what I mean.” She hands me the baseball sized object encased in cardboard.
“I can’t believe you guys.” I begin opening the box to pull the ball out. “I’m going to look like an idiot doing this.” I glance around the restaurant sure that every eye is watching us right now, but thankfully I am wrong and no one seems to be paying us any attention.
Belle flicks her hand. “Just explain that it was a dare and you couldn’t say no.”
“I doubt most people take dares as seriously as we do.” I manage to get the rest of the cardboard off and hold the plastic ball in my hand. I have a vague memory of having one of these in middle school, but I have no idea whatever happened to it. “Well, shall we put this baby to the challenge?”
“What are you going to ask it?” Belle leans forward, her eyes gleaming like it’s Christmas or her birthday, and she’s about to open a huge present. She loves birthdays and refuses to celebrate just one day. Instead, she has a birthday week.
“Am I going to enjoy this challenge?” I flip the ball over and ‘Yes Definitely’ pops into the viewing screen. “I think you may have to take this back. It’s broken already.”
Hannah leans over to read the decision and shoves me. “It is not. I think you will enjoy this challenge, and I for one will enjoy watching you have to consult it for your decisions.”
“How very type three of you.” At least I’m pretty sure she’s a type three. I still don’t understand how she tells the difference, but she swears I’m a type seven and she’s a type three, whatever that means. The rest of us don’t put as much faith into it as she does, but she is constantly pointing out our strengths and fears based on the chart.
“You’re just being a typical seven,” she shoots back, sticking her tongue out at me. “This will be good for you.”
“Ask it if you’ll have a date for Valentine’s Day this year,” Belle says, wiggling in her chair. She’s almost like a puppy trying to contain her excitement.
Though I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that question, especially since I’m not sure I’m ready to date again, I ask the ball and turn it over, chuckling when ‘My sources say No’ floats to the top. “Maybe it’s accurate after all. There certainly aren’t any prospects on the horizon.”
“But there could be,” Belle says. “I bet it changes before the fourteenth.”
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see.” I set the ball to the side. “Now, can we focus on something other than my love life or lack thereof?”
The girls agree, and the topic switches to the struggles they’ve been facing at work, but as the conversation continues, my eyes slide to the magic eight ball. Even though I know it’s a gimmicky toy and nothing more, I want to ask it if Adam’s happy. If he loves Amy? If he ever loved me? This is going to be a long few weeks.
Chapter 2 - Derek
Coffee. I smell coffee. The sweet, earthy aroma always invigorates my senses. Wait. Why do I smell coffee? I’m supposed to be showered and dressed by the time I smell coffee. My eyes snap open, and I shoot out of bed. I’ve overslept again. What is going on with me? My alarm is set for the same time every day. It goes off like clockwork. I’m like clockwork. Or at least I’m supposed to be. Something’s been shifting in the last few weeks, but this is not the day to be late. No, this is the day I need to be at work earlier than normal, to show Philip how determined I am, how dependable.
Dependable has been my moniker. Dependable Derek. It’s not a bad moniker. There are certainly worse things I could be than dependable. Dependable looks good on a resume, it gets you interviews, it generally even results in job offers, but it doesn’t grab your attention. It doesn’t scream ‘promote this man’ and I should know because I’ve been passed over for at least two other promotions. And today is another chance. Maybe the last chance. So today I need stellar, outstanding, perfect, but as I survey the contents of my closet, I wonder which suit screams that? The black pinstriped? The blue pinstriped? The gray pinstriped? Yes, I know they probably look the same to everyone else, but I can see the variations - the subtle differences - and it’s enough for me. I just wish I knew which one screamed success to everyone else. With a sigh, I grab the gray pinstriped, hoping it will be enough to push me over the edge.
This would be easier with a woman in my life. Yes, women come with their own challenges and finding one who could put up with my need for routine might be tough, but I know they generally excel in this area and would be handy to have around for times such as these. Normally, a woman is the furthest thing from my mind as I can take care of myself. I cook - my father taught me that at a young age though he was disappointed that I didn’t excel at cooking like he did. I clean - a wonderful trait passed down from my mother, who always ran her finger along my shelves when she checked my room. I learned very early to make sure and clean every surface, and once I learned that lesson, she rarely found a speck of dust. And I’m successful - mostly. I’ve been employed by the same company for several years, and while I’m rarely praised, I’m never reprimanded. So, my life is on the right track, I think, but this promotion would help solidify the feeling that this is the track I’m supposed to be on, and something tells me the right image could clench the promotion.
Image was never my strong suit. In high school, most kids wore jeans with holes in them - I never understood that trend - and ratty t-shirts with some obscure band pictured on them. That was not my style. I was a member of the chess club and the AV team. My clothes were slacks and button-down shirts. On tournament days, I might add a suit jacket for the ‘extra professional touch.’ I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I didn’t feel like I needed them either. The two guys I did connect with were enough for me, and they dressed like me.
No one at my current job wears holy jeans or ratty t-shirts, thank goodness, but I doubt they notice or appreciate the extra care I take in my appearance. As long as I show up on time, give one hundred and ten percent, and stay longer than everyone else they’re happy. Which I do. Every day. But today is not every day. No, today the boss is announcing who is getting the new promotion, and I’m in the running, but so are others from what I’ve been told.
My watch beeps, reminding me that my coffee has finished brewing, and it is time for breakfast. Giving myself a final glance in the mirror, I adjust my tie one last time - the knot has to be perfectly centered after all - wipe the sink with the towel to pick up the few water droplets that escaped my attention after brushing my teeth, and then flick off the light. If I get this promotion, perhaps I can finally get the timer for the lights. Maybe another visual cue will help on the rare days like today when I sleep through my alarm. That and remembering to go to bed at the right time. I knew I shouldn’t have stayed up late reading, but the book sucked me in.
The subtle aroma of coffee tantalizes both my nose and my stomach as it begins its morning aerobic routine of letting me know it is hungry. Grabbing my freshly washed mug from the dishrack, I fill it with coffee first then add a splash of milk. I can drink it black, but if I’m at home, I’ll add a little milk. I take a satisfying sip and then turn to the task of making my eggs and toast. Some people would find this routine boring, but I’ve learned the value of routines and I consider eggs to be the breakfast of champions. Not only do they contain many needed vitamins, but you can make them in so many different ways - fried, scrambled, over easy, sunny side up. You can literally have a different form of egg nearly every day of the week which decreases the likelihood of boredom occurring.