Note: This was written for The Review Game's August Writing Challenge Contest. Check out The Review Game and the WCC in the General Forums. :)
It looked like any other book in the family library, though much older and worn from far more use than the rest. It had a dark leather cover, rough-cut pages, and a few flecks of gilding left on the spine, tracing out the initials TL.
No one in Zoe's family knew who TL was anymore. For that matter, no one knew how long the family had owned the diary, though over four generations of her relatives had written their names on the inside cover. No one knew how it came to their attention or who figured out what it could do for its owner.
They simply knew that if you wrote your name on the inside cover, the diary would guide you to prosperity.
Zoe inherited the diary on a Wednesday. On the first page of the diary, she saw nothing. She wrote her name on the inside cover, right under the signature of her recently deceased father. Then she looked at the first page again and the diary said, "For four months you will read me and then get rid of me." Zoe had seen the diary make her grandparents and then her parents very wealthy so she had no idea why anyone would abandon it. On this count, she was sure it was wrong.
On Thursday, the first page of the diary told her to take the left road home from work. Zoe obediently did so, though it wasn't what she'd normally do. A man was carjacked and beaten to death on the right road that evening. Zoe was happy she had the diary to keep her safe.
On Friday morning, the diary told her to drive into town immediately so Zoe took the left road into town. Her car broke down halfway there and a nice man passing by waited with her until the tow truck came to take her car into the shop. Zoe questioned the diary's reasoning but trusted it knew what was best.
That weekend, the diary said little. It advised her to stay at home and bake cookies so on Saturday Zoe stayed home and baked oatmeal cookies. The nice man from the road stopped by to see how things were going. She offered him some cookies and they talked on the porch until sunset.
Sunday she stayed home and baked chocolate chip cookies and the nice man showed up again. He told her his name was David and they talked on the porch until sunset.
On Monday the diary still said to stay home so she stayed home to bake sugar cookies and the oven caught fire. Zoe saved the diary but the house was gutted in the flames. David showed up for cookies and she cried on his shoulder until sunset.
As the sky darkened, David asked, "Do you have a place to go tonight? My place isn't much but you're welcome to stay there." Though Zoe was hesitant, she accepted his offer and stayed with David the rest of that week.
That Friday, the diary told her to invite David to breakfast at the local diner so Zoe did. They chatted and had a wonderful time. David's friend Anthony showed up as they were leaving and introduced himself to Zoe.
"We'll have to get together again sometime," Anthony said. He smiled and she blushed and she was very pleased to meet him.
On Saturday the inspector informed her the house would be better off demolished and he could take care of it for her. Zoe expected this since that morning the diary simply told her "Accept his offer." So she accepted what little insurance money she'd get and walked away, washing her hands of the house.
Anthony stopped by that afternoon and offered his condolences on the loss of her house. "Let me help you find a new place," he told Zoe. "I know all sorts of people in real estate." He smiled and she blushed and she agreed to go looking for houses with him.
On Sunday, David made breakfast and they ate together on his patio. He told her, "I know it's probably creepy of me to say this, but its times like these that make me glad your car died and your house burned down." Zoe laughed and agreed with him and suddenly realized she hadn't read the diary's advice yet. It told her, "Go with him."
Zoe frowned at the diary as the doorbell rang and Anthony arrived to take her out to look at houses. David looked on as Zoe walked out the door. She had a good time with Anthony that afternoon and he kissed her on the sidewalk outside David's home.
The pattern stayed the same every weekend for three months. Saturday and Sunday morning she had breakfast with David. Saturday and Sunday afternoon she followed the diary's instructions to go house-hunting with Anthony and he took her to all the nice places in town.
It took Zoe two months to realize the diary wanted her to date Anthony. It took her another month after that to realize she didn't want to.
That weekend, on Saturday morning, David made breakfast and they ate together on his patio. The diary said, "Go with him," and Anthony rang the doorbell at noon. But Zoe and David weren't home because Zoe invited David to walk with her in the park.
Anthony called Saturday night. "You'll love the house I'm taking you to tomorrow," he told Zoe. She looked at the diary and it said, "Buy the house." She apologized to him and said she already had plans for Sunday.
On Sunday morning, David made breakfast and they ate together on his patio. Zoe left the diary on her nightstand and kissed David on a park bench during their walk.
It was Wednesday morning before she took the diary off the nightstand and opened it again. On the first page, in large letters, it said, "Call him immediately." Zoe looked over at David sleeping in the bed beside her and placed the diary in the trashcan.
David and Zoe never became wealthy or powerful like her ancestors had with diary in hand, dictating their lives. They lived in his little house with the patio, got married, and lived poor but happy. Zoe saw Anthony gain the wealth and power she always suspected he would gain and she was happy for him. But she made her own decisions in life, with David beside her, and that was her kind of prosperity.