Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)
TITLE: Author's Remorse
By Karlene Jacobsen
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“How was it we lost touch?” Lauren asked. “Remember how inseparable we were?”
“Yeah, inseparable,” Libby repeated; only half listening to Lauren drone on and on about how close they were. I think WERE, is the operative word here! We were friends! We were inseparable! Remember how you stole my story with the school paper? Remember the awards you received, never mentioning the small detail that I was the author? Remember how that article won you the college scholarship? Libby screamed in her heart, wanting to let it all out, but feared her own anger. Instead she chose the charade. Maybe Lauren won’t visit long. “I wish I could remember why we stopped talking.” She lied. “We need to make sure another twenty years doesn’t pass between visits again,” another lie; twenty years would be too soon. There’s no way she wanted to spend more time with this thief.
“I know what you mean; we really need to stay in touch.” Lauren settled into the chair/sleeper in Libby’s guestroom. She smoothed her hands over the soft floral arms of the chair, apparently in deep thought. “Hey, I have an idea!” Her eyes brightened as the idea flashed in her head. “Why don’t you consider handling the publishing of my new book?”
A lump of something rose in Libby’s throat, “Publish your book?” she choked. Oh no, what do I say now? No, I’m sorry I’m a liar? I’m sorry, I don’t deal with plagiarists?
“Sure, it’ll be like old times!” Lauren, oblivious to the various shades of red Libby was taking on. “We can work together, just like we used to.”
“I’ll have to think about it some, I guess.” Libby’s head swam.
“Are you all right?” Lauren was concerned, “You look like you’re about to faint.”
“I’ll be fine once I get some sleep, I think.”
“Yeah, maybe; it’s been a long day. Do you need help to your room?”
*** *** *** *** ***
Libby woke early to the aroma of French toast, cinnamon and coffee. “You’re up early,” she commented.
“Well, I wanted to thank you for your hospitality this past week before I have to catch my flight home.” Lauren was quiet, sad almost. “Besides, I’ve need to talk to you about something, and I was hoping to warm up to it with your favorite breakfast.”
“Okay…” Libby slid onto a stool at the counter impressed that Lauren remembered. “What’s on your mind?”
“First of all, I want you to know that I understand why you are unable to take on another book right now; I’m not going to try talking you into it anymore.” She watched as Libby relaxed. She obviously thought that’s what this conversation was going to be about. “Maybe another time, right?” She paused, drew a breath and dove in, “I was so afraid you wouldn’t see me when I came to town.”
“Why would you feel that way?” Libby wasn’t sure she liked where this was going.
“I hurt you.” Lauren spit out. “I took your story, passed it off as mine. I was so lazy then, never doing my work on time. Our assignment was due that day or fail, as usual mine wasn’t finished and I panicked. I should have come forward when they offered the scholarship, but I was too ashamed and didn’t know what to do. Then after all these years I still couldn’t get free of the guilt and shame. I was sure you hated me even after so long, but you’ve been so gracious; it just makes me feel worse. I am so sorry. I think it would have been easier on me if you threw me out the first day.” She wrung her hands not allowing herself to look at Libby.
Libby sat riveted to her seat. What could she say now? Lauren just spilled her guts all over the kitchen; Libby had secretly fostered resentment, even planned revenge, especially this week. Libby lied. She pretended to be successful, to prove Lauren hadn’t ruined her life. What should she do? Could she fix this mess?
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