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The Sunday Squirrel: spoon (encore)

Kayla opened the box as soon as she stepped in the door. Brad had written her name, in the bold slashes that passed for handwriting, with a thick green Sharpie marker. Nestled among the wadded newspaper pages was a…spoon?

“What the hell?” She dumped the contents onto the table and smoothed every sheet of print, but that was it. A spoon.

It took every ounce of self-control she had not to call him to ask the question directly, but she’d see him in thirty minutes. She could wait. In the eight months since they’d met at a book signing for motivational guru Ed Godwin, Kayla had grown used to Brad’s little surprises. Like the flowers he’d sent her when she had to work on Christmas Eve, the box of chewing gum for her road trip to North Carolina to see her parents, the tub of ice cream—and some fun ways to use it—when she didn’t get the promotion she wanted.

But he’d never given her a spoon before. Maybe he had a special dessert in mind. She warmed at the thought, and quickly changed into a flirty skirt, matching top, and sandals before freshening her hair and makeup.

When she opened the door to him, he grinned and gave her a long kiss. “You look great. Ready to go?” he asked.

“Yep. Let me grab my purse.”

“Don’t forget the spoon,” he called from the doorway.

She returned and held it out. “What is this for, anyway?”

“Uh-uh.” He shook his head. “You’ll find out later.”

Dinner was torture. Every minute she expected some kind of surprise related to the odd gift burning a hole in her purse, but nothing happened. She ate and chatted distractedly. When they were done, he declined dessert or coffee, paid the bill and squeezed her hand.

“Let’s go,” he said.


“My place.”

Exasperating man. “Is that where I get to use the spoon?” she asked, trying to hide her irritation. Patience had never been her strong suit.

He gave her a quick kiss and smiled. “Yes.”

Jeez, finally.

Ten minutes later, he had her seated at the breakfast bar with her spoon, which had been washed and now lay on a napkin. He set out a bowl and filled it with her favorite ice cream. “There you go.”

She couldn’t help the sense of disappointment that settled over her like a layer of snow. He’d built up the suspense so much that she’d expected something…more. But he watched her expectantly, so she took a bite, the cold lump going down hard.

Brad leaned across the counter, his face serious. “Kayla? You know I love you right?”

Why did that not sound good? She met his gaze, her heart pounding, and nodded. “I love you too,” she said.

“Well, I bought the spoon so we could share it. It’s not from my drawer, and it’s not from yours. It’s something new that’s just for us.”

“O-kay.” What the hell was he talking about? It’s just a freaking eating utensil.

He grinned, probably at the look of consternation she could feel on her face. “I was hoping it would be the start of a whole set of silverware and other things that we could buy,” he took her hands in his, “to fill our new home. That is, if you’ll marry me.” He set a velvet box on the table and opened it to face her. Inside, an ornate gold ring twinkled with diamonds.

He was proposing? Her jaw dropped. He was proposing! She smiled at him, barely able to squeak out an answer. “Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.”

In a flash, he was around the counter and sliding the ring on her finger before pulling her to her feet and into his arms. “I love you so much.”

In between kisses, she managed to whisper in his ear. “Best surprise ever.”

Originally published 11/21/10.

The Sunday Squirrel: cheated

Kelly Adams sat on the plush couch in the Dean’s outer office and studied the laces of her lime green Chuck Taylors. Not even nine in the morning and she'd already screwed up. Her dad would be furious, livid, apoplectic.

The muted colors and hushed air of the anteroom were a stark contrast to the adrenaline rushing her veins as she waited impatiently for the wiry, old academic whose office she’d visited more than a few times.

Dean Woolerich’s secretary emerged from behind an imposing mahogany desk, patting her peach-tinted gray curls into place as she circled toward Kelly on thick legs. The bitch peered down through her bifocals and smirked. “You won’t get out of this one, young lady.”

Kelly clamped her mouth shut and stared the old bat down.

Finally, the woman harrumphed and strode toward the door to the Dean’s office, cracking it open. “Dr. Woolerich will see you now.”

Standing tall, Kelly marched into the wood-paneled office and shut the heavy carved door in the secretary’s face with a smirk of her own.

“Miss Adams,” the dean said in the tired, thready voice of an aging man. “Have a seat.” He gestured to one of the red leather wingback chairs, perfect for making a person feel as small as possible.

Kelly perched on the edge of the leftmost seat and waited, her eyes roving over the man’s many diplomas and certificates of accomplishment in the worlds of law and academia.

The dean let out a sigh and opened a thick folder on his immaculate desk. Kelly’s mother could have told her the era and style of the ornate piece of wood and whether it was reproduction or original. All Kelly knew was that it screamed money. Merridine University was nothing if not elite and expensive.

“Dr. Leitner has alleged that you cheated on your Constitutional Litigation exam,” he said, pushing his frameless glasses up his nose as he focused on her. “Do you deny the charge?”

She took a deep breath and held his gaze. “No sir. I did it.”

His mouth opened in surprise before he slowly sat back and studied her, steepling his fingers beneath his pale chin. “You’ll have to sign a statement. You understand that this will go on your permanent academic record?”


Confusion knitted his brows and painted a frown on his thin lips. “The punishment for cheating is expulsion,” he declared with a hint of exasperation. The poor man was probably calculating the endowments from her fearsome lawyer-turned-politician father that Kelly had just cost the school. “Not even your father can get you out of this one, Miss Adams.”

Exactly. Attempting to look ashamed, she cast her gaze down. “I understand, sir.”

Fifteen minutes later she practically danced out into the sun-dappled courtyard ringed with trees, unable to contain the smile that spread from deep within her soul.

She was finally free.

Photo credit: OLD BOOKS © Alexvalent |

The Sunday Squirrel: embarrassment

I pulled into the parking lot of the old McDonald’s where I had worked for six months when I was sixteen, and wondered if anyone I knew still worked there after three years. It was only March, but already warm in the Tucson foothills. With a quick motion, I turned off the engine of the compact rental car and yanked on the key.

It wouldn't budge. Dumbfounded, I pulled a few more times, turned the car on and off, and tried again. Nothing. I pushed on the key, checked for a release button, beat on the steering wheel… Nothing.

This was the first time I’d ever driven an automatic transmission, but how hard could it be? It was an automatic, for crying out loud. The worst part was how I kept trying to push in a clutch that wasn’t there every time I slowed down. But getting out of the car should have been the easy part.

I looked around the quiet shopping center in desperation. I couldn’t leave to ask for help when the keys were still in the ignition. Nice neighborhood or not, that was just plain idiotic.

Of course, so was getting the key stuck.

I had to be missing something obvious. I took a deep breath and did a survey of the dashboard, steering wheel, and controls. Engine off, key in the off position, no release button. I looked down at the gear shift knob. Hmm…

So, who knew the car needed to be in Park before you could take the key out? 😉


The sunday Squirrel: love? (encore)

The premise of today’s squirrel was to write a love scene where the characters do not touch, or say anything similar to “I love you”, and there is no internal dialogue. (Think distant 3rd person.) Here’s my attempt at making it clear that these characters love each other…

He met her gaze. “Stay.”

Her hand slipped from the doorknob, and she stepped toward him, her eyes glistening. “I want to…but I can’t.”

He shoved trembling hands into his pants pockets. “You belong here. With me. The house is empty without you.” He shifted and whispered down to her, close enough for his breath to move wisps of her hair. “It has no soul when you’re gone.”

The tears finally spilled over, leaving black tracks down her cheeks. Her hand came up, palm out, and hung in the air, somewhere between a sign to stop and the beginning of a caress. She held it for a beat and then her face crumpled. “I’m sorry,” she sobbed, turning away and covering her mouth. With a quick twist on the knob, she yanked open the front door and ran to her car.

The door slammed shut with a gust of cold wind, and he watched her blurry form through the frosted glass until she drove away. He sank to his knees on the Oriental carpet runner and rubbed his chest, leaning forward until his forehead rested on the blue and red yarns. He beat the polished wood floor with his fist as a low moan escaped his lips. ”Carrie.”


The Sunday Squirrel: vice

Katie stared at the empty carton in horror. How could she be out already? She pawed through the drawer digging out notecards, old pens, a pair of scissors, and a ticket stub. No, no, no.

Today was not the day to go cold turkey. Not when she had a presentation in front of the new CIO and dinner with her sister.

She pulled out her wallet. One quarter. If she went up to the roof would anyone hear her scream?

Her fingers trembled on the mouse and she squeezed the knot at the base of her neck. Two more hours. No sweat. Except for the little drop trickling down her side.

Mindy had left early. Maybe she had a stash in her desk. Katie walked casually into the next cubicle, glanced over the wall to make sure no one was around, and rummaged through Mindy’s desk drawers. Nothing. Of course. Mindy was one of those super health nuts who ate sprouts and only drank water or fresh juice.

Barry. Katie snapped her fingers. Surely, he’d have some.

Using every bit of willpower not to race down the hall, she glanced into Barry’s cubby as she strolled by. Damn. He was meeting with someone.

Defeated, Katie passed through the lobby and out the side door. A group of smokers huddled around the ash can, and she sighed with relief at the sight of Ron.

“Hey,” he said with a smile as he exhaled. “You look stressed.”

“I’m dying.”

“I have just the thing.” He reached into his coat pocket.

She held out her hand for the miniature chocolate bars. “Thank you,” she said almost on a whisper, rapidly unwrapping a piece of candy and popping it into her mouth. So good. “I owe you one.”

Ron chuckled.

Katie ate another piece of chocolate and sighed with pleasure.

I just might get through this day after all.


The Sunday Squirrel: expectations

Harry’s gaze raked over his apartment. Gone was the undignified mess of laundry, old soda cans and text books. The dirty dishes had been washed and stashed in the cabinet, the magazines neatly stacked. Gina was a smart girl, a good student. She’d appreciate his tidiness, think he was like her.

And if they made it to his bedroom, she’d recognize a kindred spirit in his neatly-made bed, organized CD collection, and clean floor.

He could do nothing about Roger’s bedroom, but his roommate didn’t matter. The door was shut and Roger was gone for the weekend. With luck, Gina would stay the whole time. He sat back and grinned. Five more minutes until she arrived.


Gina stepped into Harry’s apartment and nearly gagged. The place smelled like rotting garbage. The small living room was uncluttered, but the dust on the end table was thick enough to draw in, and there were stacks of magazines and books in every corner.

Large stains of indeterminate origin dotted the once-beige carpet, competing with similar stains on the threadbare couch.

She turned to Harry and forced a smile. “Thanks for loaning me your book,” she said, handing back the French textbook she’d borrowed the previous day. “I finally got mine out of my roommate’s car.”

“No problem,” he said, a grin lighting up his handsome face. “Would you like something to drink?”

Yikes! “Um, thanks, but I have to get going. I’m meeting a friend in a few minutes.” Or she would be, as soon as she called one.

His smile sagged, but he nodded and held the door. “Sure. Maybe next time.”

“Yeah.” Maybe never.

Gina escaped into the hall and took a deep breath. Note to self: no study dates with Harry.


The Sunday Squirrel: cook

Kailey set her grandma’s prize-winning lasagna on Todd’s stove. Too bad she wouldn’t be eating any of it.

For just a brief moment, she imagined herself sitting at the table, laughing at her witty companion, his chocolate eyes sparkling with interest as he looked at her. Not that Todd would ever be that guy. But the fantasy was nice. It had been a long time since any man had given her a second glance.

She turned to leave. “Have fun tonight.”

“Thanks for everything. I owe you.” He pulled her into a hug.

With a little laugh, she backed away. “When I finally collect on all of those IOUs, you’re going to be in big trouble.”

“Don’t I know it.”

The doorbell rang and she turned in alarm. “Oh no. Uh, just say that I came to loan you some candles.”

“It’s fine.” He opened the front door and stepped back. Two dark-haired men stood on the threshold, both handsome, and nearly identical except the second one was a few inches taller, and maybe a year or two younger.

He had two dates? She blushed, not even wanting to go there mentally.

“Hi,” the shorter man embraced Todd quickly and then turned to the man behind him. “This is my brother Steve. I really wanted him to meet you and since his date got sick…”

Todd quickly hid his surprise behind a welcoming smile and an outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Okay, maybe not.

“Sorry about this.” Steve shook Todd’s hand and gave him an uncomfortable smile. “He’s pretty damn stubborn.”

“Don’t I know it.” Todd chuckled and tugged her to his side. “This is my friend Kailey. She made dinner for us. How about we set the table for two more and make a party out of it?”

Steve met her gaze and gave a friendly smile that melted her right down to her painted toenails.

“Hi,” she said in little more than a whisper, wanting nothing more than to crawl in a hole and die. She wore jeans and an old 10K race shirt, her hair in a ponytail, and no makeup, whereas this Adonis looked good enough to eat in pressed khaki pants and an oxford shirt that matched his blue eyes.

“I appreciate the offer,” Steve said, “but I don’t want to intrude on your night.”

Figures. One look at her and he was ready to bolt. “Nice to meet you both,” she said, heading for the door. “Call me tomorrow.” She squeezed Todd’s hand and stepped into the hall.

“Hey,” Steve said, putting his hand on her shoulder as he closed the door behind him. “Want to get a bite to eat with me? It seems only fair that someone else should feed you tonight.”

She glanced down at her clothes. He actually wanted to go out with her? “Can you give me five minutes to change?”

“You look fine to me, but go ahead.” He smiled. “I’ve got all night.”

Oh boy. Her face split into a grin as she opened her door. If she got a second date with Steve, she’d dress to kill next time.

And she’d clear all of Todd’s IOUs.