Kindergarten was a lot of fun. I made several friends there. I can’t say that I learned a whole lot because my parents had taught me to read books far beyond my age level and to add, subtract, and count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s long before I walked into the classroom at Harvard elementary school. But the joy of that initial year of getting together five days a week with twenty-five other kids my own age and sharing our thoughts and imaginations — not to mention our lunches — was an experience I still treasure.
That’s why, when Sabrina McKluckey called me last Monday evening and told me she had searched for me on Google and tracked me down because she wanted to reconnect after all these years, I was more than happy to arrange a meeting. Sabrina had been my best friend in kindergarten – from day one – but she and I actually had more in common that that. We had gone through all six grades of elementary together in the same classrooms. By junior high, though, my family had moved to a new town, and I lost track of Sabrina.
In fact, I lost track of all my early classmates. My family moved again before I had finished high school, and that broke some more relationships for me, not to mention affecting my grades during my junior year. When I got to college, I finally stayed in one place four whole years, so I did manage to make a couple close friends who are still close today. But when I picked up the phone and found Sabrina on the other end of the line, she started talking about things that we had done in school together, and, suddenly, years just sort of slipped away, and I was transported to a happier time and place.
Now, it’s not that I don’t have a good life. I guess I’d call it a basically “happy” life — depending on how one defines happiness. But once we get to the age of responsibility — college days are gone, and we’re struggling to make good on that first job so that the landlord won’t kick us out of our first apartment, and so relatives who come to visit will find more than a carton of milk and a can of sardines in the frig — things just aren’t as much fun. And for me, now well past the first job and four years into my alternate vocation (having nixed the nine-to-five high finance job I’d landed right out of grad school), life was a passel of everyday bills and aggravations, occasionally relieved by an evening with friends or a week-end holiday.
So, back to Sabrina: She said she now lived about three hours from me, so we arranged to meet at a restaurant about half way between our homes and catch up on each other’s lives over a long lunch. When I arrived, she was already at the table. I figured I wouldn’t recognize her, but to my surprise, she really did look the same: Long dark brown hair, perky nose with a sprinkling of freckles, and a sunny smile. She was slender and prettier in a mature sort of way, but definitely still looked like the Sabrina of my memory.
My hair was still the ebony color it had always been, but I had worn it quite long in those school years, and now I had a slick, short cut that lay close to my head. My blue eyes were still the same, of course, and I was moderate weight for my size, so I was pretty sure she’d consider that I was still recognizable.
And sure enough, when I was within six feet of the table, she turned her head and saw me, and jumped up to greet me, calling out my nickname. “Tessy!” She held out her arms and hugged me as I got to the table. I was glad there weren’t a lot of other people close to our table, but I did hug her back very briefly and dropped into a chair as soon as I could. “Oh, you look good!” she said. “And you really haven’t changed much except for your hairstyle.”
“I recognized you right away too,” I answered, and at that moment our waitress approached to give us menus.
Over lunch, we reminisced, but during the conversation, I felt Sabrina was a nervous and unsure of herself somehow. I couldn’t think why she should be, so I didn’t ask right away. But by the time we were to dessert and coffee, I was sure there must be something troubling on her mind, so I decided to just be honest.
“Sabrina, correct me if I’m out of line, but I keep getting the feeling that you’re agitated or nervous about something, and I’m just wondering if you wanted to talk to me about something besides our past. Is there anything else on your mind that you’re hesitant to bring up?”
She looked at me earnestly, nibbled on her lip, looked away, took a sip of water, and then heaved a sigh and looked me right in the eye. “Yes there is, Tess. I wasn’t sure if I would bring it up or not, and after we sat down together, I thought that I’d been foolish to even think about involving you in this … situation, I guess you’d call it … but since I’ve gotten you here and you can obviously see that there’s a problem, I might as well go ahead.”
“If something’s going on that I can help with, please tell me,” I said, not really sure I was all that eager to get involved in someone else’s problems, but feeling more or less obligated to at least act as if I were willing.
She picked up her fork and sort of rolled it around in her fingers as she concentrated on her thoughts and then started to talk. “When I said I had Googled you, it was actually for a little more than just wanting to reconnect and talk over old times. I had heard from some of the other people in town who had kept in touch with your parents that you are a private detective now. And … well —” She paused and looked me right in the eye again.
“Yes, that’s correct,” I said. “Are you saying you need a private detective?”
She glanced down at the fork she was still twisting in her hands and then back up at me. “Yes,” she said in a rush of breath. “Yes. I want to hire you.” Then she leaned closer and whispered. “I need to find out who’s ……………..”
Please go down to the “Comments” section and tell me how YOU think this last sentence should end. I’ve thought about going two or three different directions with this story, but I cant make up my mind. I’d like to know what readers think. What direction would you like this story to go? In your own imagination, what is Sabrina’s problem? Maybe your suggestion will give me the next paragraph — and the next chapter.