Round Robin and Alternate Endings
I was perusing Facebook’s news feed, as I often do, and noticed a status update from my friend and fellow writer, Jillian Chantal. She talked about how she was driving one day and thinking about her college reunion and it made her think about choices. And how one choice led to another and what if she’d made a different choice? Fellow friend and writer Liv Rancourt commented on it as did I and well, one thing led to another and a round robin was born!
Without further ado, here is our round robin. Opening written by Jillian followed by my ending.
If you want to see Jillian’s ending, click here.
If you want to see Liv’s ending, click here.
If you want to write your own ending (500 words or so), comment on this post.
My grandmother was the first bolter. She left my grandfather with four young children when she decided it was all too much for her. My mother followed suit by leaving my dad when my sister and I were young. My sister married when I was sixteen and by the time I was twenty, she’d followed the family female tradition of dumping her spouse and moving on without her children. Determined to break the pattern, I vowed never to marry and never to reproduce.
As I drove along the lonely stretch of highway leading to my college reunion, my mind wandered. I thought about the choices I’d made. The breakup with Tommy, my high school sweetheart and the subsequent breaks in relationships including the circus aerialist, the engineer and the alligator hunter all passed through my brain. Even the fact that I was going to this college reunion and not the college I initially chose and decided not to attend because of some stupid fight with my band director who wanted me to go to his alma mater made me wonder if something was wrong with me. Then it actually hit me. I was a bolter, too.
The thought stunned me. Oh God, how did I let myself become what I least wanted to be? I looked up to find headlights heading straight toward me. I’d somehow crossed the center line in the dark. I jerked the wheel to get back in my lane and avoid a head on collision. I lost control and as my car flipped over into the shallow ravine, my last coherent thought was, “Let’s go back to where that didn’t happen.”
I had a headache. Not just one of those annoying little ones, either. The kind that split down the back of your skull and make you want to rip your own head off. The kind that make your eyes pulse, ready to pop out of the socket.
It could be from the squeaking clarinets. Or the obnoxious trumpet players. Or the screeching violins. Or a combination of all three.
Really, it was from being up most of the night. I’d gotten about two hours of sleep. Teaching beginning band to a bunch of sixth graders was not helping my headache, either. I pressed the pad of my thumb against my temple.
“Let’s take a few minutes to study the new music, okay?” I said.
The kids were all too happy to “study” when they realized I was about to bolt for my office.
“No talking,” I added.
A chorus of groans.
“I’ll be back and then we’ll continue.” I punctuated my last statement with a glare, touching on a few of my troublemakers.
Picking up my cell phone, I turned and went into my matchbox size office and closed the door. I heaved a sigh as I sat down.
My lack of sleep was due to a certain someone. I’d met him in college and our relationship had been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. We would have never met had I not gone to my band director’s alma mater, which almost didn’t happen because I’d fought with him. My stubbornness rivaled that of the bulls. Eventually I gave in and went anyway. That’s where I’d met Jack.
Jack had bright blue eyes and dark blond hair. Sometimes a scruffy beard when it suited him. Back then, he was the nerdy chemist and I was the nerdy flute player. After he got his doctorate, he ended up working for Dior as a fragrance chemist. He always smelled good.
We fought the night before. Mostly about my inability to commit. We’d broken up more times than I could count. It wasn’t fair to keep stringing him along. He wanted to get on with his life as much as I did. But I was a “bolter” and I knew this. I knew my life would follow my family pattern.
I also knew something else. I didn’t want to let Jack go. But even so, I knew I would have to make a decision one way or the other and today was the day. When dawn pressed through the bedroom blinds, I knew what I had to do.
Now, sitting in my office, I picked up my phone and called him. After two rings, he answered. His voice was deadpan. He was totally not excited to hear from me.
“Hi,” I whispered into the phone. “I’ve been thinking—”
“I’m sorry I pressured you,” he said, cutting me off. “It’s just that—”
“No, Jack. I’m sorry. Please hear me out.”
Silence. I waited. But he said nothing so I pressed on. After taking a deep breath, I plunged ahead.
“I thought about it all night. You’re right. I suck at relationships and I’m sorry. I don’t want to be like the rest of my family. I want to be with you. I don’t want to be a bolter. I want to be a committer. I commit to you, Jack. If you’ll still have me.”
Silence. Nothing. Dead air.
My heart did a rapid beat and suddenly I was unsure.
“Are you still there?”
“I’m still here.” And then silence again.
I closed my eyes, trying to stave off the headache and now the impending stomach-clenching fear. I wanted to retch.
“Are you sure?” he asked, his voice soft and serious.
“Yes, Jack. Yes.”
Pause. Then, “Okay but no back-sies. Not this time. Swear?”
I laughed at his middle school jargon. “Swear.”
“Well, then. I’ll pick you up for dinner tonight so we can seal the deal on a pinky swear followed by hanky panky.”
I laughed again. This was why I loved him. His quirky sense of humor. “You got it.”
“See you at seven.”
I hung up the phone just as a spit ball thudded against the window on my office door.
And then I woke up to the beeping sound of machines in a hospital room. I realized the entire thing had been nothing but a dream induced by my car wreck.