Please see the note on my profile about why this was taken down. I truly am sorry and I thank you all for reading!
"You're going to fall," the girl's voice said matter-of-factly. She stared at him, head cocked to the side and hand on her hip, a perfect imitation of her mother although neither of them thought of that.
David pushed himself up until he was standing on the top beam of the split rail fence that surrounded the horse enclosure. His skinny arms swung out to the sides as he teetered for a moment then righted himself, standing with one foot in front of the other as if on a tightrope.
"I do this all the time," he lied, scowling down at the girl in front of him.
She squinted into the sunlight. "I don't believe that. You would have gotten up a lot faster if that were true."
David hated when Sophie's family came to visit and he hated himself even more right now for trying to impress her. She was 10 years old and he was practically a teenager, why did he even care? Her grandparents were the closest neighbors that his family had. When Sophie's family came to visit David's mother would always insist that he run down and invite her over to play. When he'd been a kid it was almost fun; she liked to play hide-and-seek and didn't seem to mind about getting dirty. But the last time he'd seen her she had squealed when he'd wanted to collect worms from the rain soaked earth, her blond ponytail shaking vehemently in disgust. She had wanted to ride horses but David, unwilling to admit that he was rather afraid of the animals at Sophie's grandparent's ranch, had refused. He was growing up and didn't want to be bothered with squeamish, squealing girls. This morning when his mother had encouraged him to go visit her he'd rolled his eyes and chewed more loudly on his cereal, thinking of the new comic book he'd been saving to read that afternoon.
"David, what is the matter with you. I thought you liked Sophie."
"Yeah mom, when I was like…ten. She's annoying and I have stuff to do today."
His mother raised an eyebrow. "Stuff? What stuff?"
He sighed. "I have a new comic. Plus, I'm working on my computer, you know that."
"Oh, dad's old junker from the garage? Aren't you happy with the brand new computer we have?" She dried her hands on a dish towel and muttered, "I just don't understand your fascination with taking things apart. If had known you'd rather play with a battered old Commodore 64 I never would have bought the new one. I should just return it."
"I like the new one," he said quickly, hoping she wasn't serious. "It's just…I don't know, I like to take stuff apart and see if I can make it work again." He paused. "And it's not a Commodore 64. If we had one of those I'd be selling it, not rebuilding it. People buy them now because they're so ancient…it's like a collector's item or something."
His mother couldn't keep from chuckling. "Well thanks for making me feel old. Now go on down to the Danforth's and play with Sophie. I told Colleen you'd be there. "At his pained look she ruffled his sandy brown hair. "Last time, I promise."
David was now regretting his reluctant compliance as he stared down at Sophie's, her blond hair and lightly freckled face staring expectantly up at him. Five minutes ago he'd insisted that he could walk the fence all the way around the horse paddock, not realizing once he got up on that third rail just how high off the ground it was.
"I think you're going to fall. You should get down," Sophie said again, this time walking backwards so she could face him as he slowly edged forward.
David made a face. "I am not going to fall. I told you, I've done it before…just on our fence at home." He didn't mention that he'd actually only thought of doing it and that their fence had two rails. "Why is this fence so high, anyway?" he asked, hating the strange pitch to his voice. Over the last few months it had been breaking and cracking, much to the amusement of his older sister. He wished that his height would catch up with the rest of him. It was one thing to be a skinny nerd but entirely different when that skinny nerd went to high school in a year and was a good four inches shorter than everyone.
"Because Dancer can jump really high," Sophie answered, pointing behind him to the elegant Appaloosa munching on grass several feet away. How he wished he could have four legs planted firmly on the ground right now. Teetering for a moment, he miraculously recovered in time to reach the next post. He bent over and rested his hands on it, looking forward through a fringe of hair to see how far the fence stretched in front of him.
"You don't have to do it to impress me," Sophie said, her adept assessment of the situation annoying him even more.
"Why would I want to impress you? You're just a kid," he countered, not caring when her face fell slightly.
Sophie's pink lips turned into a smug looking smile. "Fine. I don't care anyway. I take gymnastics and I can tell that you have no sense of balance." Her words sounded like something she had heard and was repeating and he hated the way she emphasized the word "I" each time she said it. "I can do a cartwheel on the balance beam," she said tartly. "And you can barely get one foot in front of the other."
"I bet you can't take a hard drive apart and put it back together," he said.
"Who cares? What's a hard drive, anyway?" was Sophie's reply. "You're such a nerd, David."
David ignored her, despite the sting her comment left. He stood up and stepped over the post and onto the next rail. It bent a little under his weight. Tentatively he picked up his other foot and cleared the post, only to flail his arms helplessly as a resounding crack echoed and the old wood splintered like so many matchsticks. He hit his head hard on the way down but the pain from that was forgotten in seconds as he landed on his outstretched arm. The shock reverberated up his arm and into his shoulder and he could almost hear the bone splinter.
At that moment David couldn't have cared less what Sophie witnessed as he cried out in anguish. The girl was already on her knees in front of him, her blue eyes wide and frightened. He looked up at her and couldn't stop the tears that streamed down his cheeks, the pain so acute that his mind felt numb.
"I told you that you shouldn't do it!" she said, her voice warbly as tears sprung easily to her eyes. A tentative hand reached out to touch him but he moved slightly away.
"Don't touch it."
"David…" her voice was hushed, almost reverent. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes.
"I wouldn't have gotten up there if it weren't for you," he said. "This is your fault."
She began to cry harder.
David leaned on his good arm and growled "Go get your parents you idiot," before collapsing back down onto the ground and clutching his broken wrist to his chest, writhing in pain.
Later he only would vaguely remember what he'd said to her. Born out of embarrassment and pain he regretted the comment it but figured it didn't matter because she'd forget. His parents were called and had driven him to the hospital, the whole time he remained silent about what had possessed him to climb up on that fence in the first place. He was too embarrassed to admit that he'd been trying to impress an annoying 10 year old girl who had told him he couldn't do it.
The next few years of his adolescence would be nothing but a harsh reminder that she was right.
"Sophie, can we go over the seating arrangement again?" her boss asked, bending down over her desk so closely that his coffee breath made her gag reflex kick in. She leaned back slightly in her seat and attempted to pull a breath of non-contaminated air through the side of her mouth.
"What are you doing, are you having a stroke or something?" Mr. Lucas muttered, not giving her a chance to respond. Todd Lucas was not one for sympathy, most days. "Look, you have Cooper Conrad sitting next to some woman named Gloria. I thought we were putting him at the table with the people from the Kaplan firm? I'm certain there's no one there named Gloria. I don't want to cause any bad blood here, we have to be very strategic in where we place people. I know that we only arrange this award function once every few years and you might not be privy to some of the insider knowledge I have but-"
Sophie's face was turning red in her attempt not to breathe and she finally interrupted him. "Gloria is Cooper Conrad's wife. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to put her at a different table." Pushing back from her desk she pulled open a bottom drawer and pretended to be rummaging for something. "You have to trust me that I'm going to do this right," she said, hoping her voice didn't contradict her fear that something at the event would go horribly horribly wrong….although the thought of reenacting Carrie's bucket of red paint dumped over Mr. Lucas's bald shiny head at the mid-point of his speech hadn't escaped her.
Holding in a giggle she waited until he'd retreated into his office before sitting up straight again. Sophie considered her job an educational hazard – something she had to have in order to pay her rent while in graduate school. Her parents had offered but she'd refused, much to even her own surprise. There was something about making her own way that had been touched off for her in college and now she felt more fiercely independent than ever.
That was, of course, until it came to figuring out to work her damn computer, Sophie thought as she hit control/alt/delete again for the second time. She could type and use the internet and create a Word file or spreadsheet but other than that she was, in her opinion, embarrassingly useless. She'd been too busy for the last few years to really care all that much but now, as she opened the email from a client in Europe and tentatively clicked on the attachment, she cringed as the error message popped up again and her computer froze for the third time that morning.
This time she really did kick it.
"Contrary to popular belief, that won't actually help," said a sultry voice from the doorway.
Dominique Williams was at least ten years older than Sophie. Even though she'd known the woman now for nearly a year, Sophie still hadn't asked and was pretty sure that the information wouldn't be offered. It didn't matter really because she was still Sophie's closest friend at work. Her closest friend at all really, Sophie reminded herself. Classmates not-withstanding she hadn't taken the time to really get to know anyone in the city since she'd moved here. Her mother would shake her head and wonder what happened to her perky and personable daughter. Sophie had gently reminded her that she was still personable but just too busy to worry about anything other than work, school, and the occasional terrible date at the moment.
Dominique's dark hair was in neat, short dreadlocks, pointing straight up from her face. Deep brown eyes and dark skin made her look even more exotically beautifully and Sophie, although conventionally pretty, was eternally jealous of the effortless way that Dominique projected herself. The older woman settled down in the stiff-backed chair across from Sophie and crossed her long legs.
"So, how did your date go?"
Sophie shook her head, double clicking again on the file she was attempting to open. "Tragic. I ordered wine, he ordered Hawaiian Punch."
Dominique laughed. "They serve Hawaiian Punch at Alejandro's?"
"I can only guess that they don't," Sophie answered. "Because he didn't take me to Alejandro's. That was his carrot to get me to go out with him." Sophie, being somewhat of a foodie, had been dying to go to the upscale restaurant downtown since it opened a few months ago. "He claimed that he hadn't been able to get a reservation after all and took me to Olive Garden."
Dominique blinked. "You're kidding."
Sophie shook her head, blond waves falling in front of her eyes. She brushed them away. "Nothing impresses me like never-ending breadsticks and salad," she muttered, ticking away at her keyboard.
"You're such a snob," the other woman said, chuckling.
Sophie shrugged. "I call it discriminating. That's the last time I agree to go on a date with a client…" She started to say something else but instead slammed her hand down on the desk prompting her boss to clear his throat loudly. "This stupid file. Every time I open it my whole computer freezes."
Dominique peered over her shoulder. "I think it's because you don't have Photoshop. What program are you trying to open it with?"
Sophie waited for a second, hoping that the crickets chirping were only in her head. "Um…"
The other woman laughed. "Just write him back and tell him to save it as a jpeg and send it again. I won't try to make your head explode."
Dominique threw her one last amused look and then left as Sophie turned and pushed the three keys that were practically worn through. "Control, alt, delete," she said softly and then opened a new email.
Looking back, Sophie would try to pinpoint that moment; that benign and completely ordinary moment that would change everything.
To: Stephen Goodall
From: Sophie Danforth
Re: please re-send file
I'm sorry to bother you but I can't seem to open the file you sent. I need to send it down to printing but wanted to give Todd the chance to give it a final proof. Could you save it as a jay-peg and send it again? If it crashes my computer one more time I'm going to send you the bill. :)
She hit send and forgot about it practically the next second as Mr. Lucas was back in her office, his coffee breath clouding her thought with more input on the award function that her company and several other competing firms hosted every year. For what purpose she still hadn't figured out, other than the opportunity to one-up each other or pat themselves on the back for brilliant ad campaigns. Sophie still hadn't had the courage to tell her boss that she couldn't make it that night because school commitments.
Nearly an hour later she looked up from the book of proofs on her desk to glance at the clock, counting down the minutes to lunch. A new email flashed at the bottom of her screen.
To: Sophie Danforth
From: David Rennigan
Re: FWD: please re-send file
Stephen is out of the office on vacation this week and for some reason has his email set on forward to me. I work in the IT department so while I can't help with the actual content of the ad I can certainly reformat it into a jpeg file (which, I'm assuming, is what you meant). Please let me know if you have any trouble opening it but don't sue me for the money to fix your computer. Rent is through the roof here in London.
This is either going to make complete sense to you or you'll think I'm crazy (some might attest to that regardless) but you're not the same Sophie Danforth whose grandparents lived off of Fulton Road in the country outside of St. Louis, are you? If so then it's a small world (and you should know that my wrist still hurts when it rains).
Brewer & Associates, London Branch
Sophie stared at the screen for a few moments, her brow furrowed slightly. Dark lashes blinked a few times before a smile grew on her face. David Rennigan. He broke his wrist trying to impress her by walking the fence at the ranch where her grandparents still lived. After that summer she'd never seen or heard from him again and until this moment had completely forgotten he existed. With the smile still lingering on her lips she did something that in the coming months she would sometimes regret, for it started a chain reaction of things going haywire in her carefully planned out life. She hit "reply" and began to type.
Hi friends! I seem to have this habit of when my school life ratchets up the stress I get an idea and want to start writing it immediately instead of tending to the paper that I have due at the end of the week. I am in full-on avoidance mode. Plus, I just plain missed writing. I have never started a story wherein I didn't have much of an idea where it was going. It's about as impulsive as I get. :)
I'm hoping it'll be less melodramatic than my last few efforts but, knowing me, that won't last for long. If any of you have read "Both Sides Now" you may vaguely recall (probably not) the chapter that was all emails. That was so much fun for me to write that I've been thinking of a way that I could do another story that involved a lot of emailing, IMs, etc. For anyone that's ever shared an email or two with me (*pointed looks* You know who you are) then you'll know that I am a voracious emailer and troller of the internet. So there's a lot of David in me. Or maybe it's the other way around.
Anyway, thoughts are appreciated and so are readers! :)