I met Brett Battles last year at an RT conference (yes, there are a few roosters – besides the cover models – who visit that hen house) and liked him immediately. Not only that, I LOVE his thrillers. If you haven’t read him, you MUST give him a try. But wow – you get a test run, absolutely free today! Not a thriller, but so much fun, here’s Brett’s brand new short story seen for the first time anywhere on TopDown today – MAKE OR BREAK. Oh, and did I mention, Brett is also giving away a book to some lucky commenter so, come on down!
MAKE OR BREAK
Here’s the deal.
We’ve got ten minutes. Ten minutes that are the difference between what will be and what won’t be. I’m armed with a sandwich, you with half an apple. I stare at it, jealous. I shouldn’t have eaten my apple first. But we have what we have, and if we don’t do something, the world as we know it will end. I’m not talking big cataclysmic fires in the sky and civilization melting into the dirt—I just had an image of that…I don’t like that image—I’m talking about us. You and I. If we don’t deal with this now, there is no you and I. And I like you and me. I want to keep you and me. And, yes, if you force me, I’ll tell you the truth. I love you and me.
Dammit, there I’ve said it.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m holding a sandwich, a sandwich that’s getting limp as the mustard and ketchup seep into the bread. I might have to give up on it, but it seems too early to abandon a potential weapon.
“I have faith in you,” you tell me.
That makes one of us.
“I have faith in you, too,” I reply.
The twinkle in your eye makes me think you have faith in yourself, too, so I guess that makes two of us on that count.
“So what’s the plan?” you ask.
When I look at you, I try to keep the obvious question off my face. Plan? You’re the smart one. I was hoping you’d come up with something. But I guess this is my hour. We had agreed to that division of duties. That is one deal that has sure come back to bite me in the—
“Because if you don’t have anything in mind, I might have an idea.”
Sweet mother of God, I love you. You want me to shout it out loud? Because right now I’d have zero problem with doing that.
“What’d’ya got?” I ask, playing it cool. I think cool is good. I know you don’t stay with me because I’m the King of Cool, but, when I can, I want to prove to you I can pull it off.
“First off, don’t eat that,” you say. “Because we’re going to need it.”
You look at my hand, so I do, too. My sandwich is now doubling over and nearly touching my thumb. I can’t for the life of me imagine what you could possibly have planned for the unappetizing lump I’m clutching between my fingers, but I don’t ask. I trust you. I’ve always trusted you. Remember that whole love thing? It’s unconditional for me. Dammit again. I probably shouldn’t admit that either. At least I didn’t say it out loud.
“I trust you,” I say. “I’ve always trusted you. It’s unconditional.” Sometimes I’m my own worse enemy.
“Uh, thanks?” you say, and I know my proclamation of love has not been received in quite the way I would have hope. Whatever. We can deal with that later. If there’s a later.
“If you love me, just say you love me,” you tell me. “Because you know I love you.”
Suddenly I want there to be a later more than anything I’ve ever wanted.
“I love you,” I sputter.
“I mean a lot.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“A whole lot. “
“You can stop now.”
“Right,” I say. “Too much?”
A smile graces the corner of your mouth. “Not too much. But save some for after.”
“So there’s going to be an after?” I ask. I want to believe it, but I’m still unsure.
Falling into your eyes, I am no longer unsure.
The scream comes again. It’s from the back of the house, down the hall I have yet to travel. This isn’t my place. It’s not yours either, but you know it better than I. You’ve been here before.
As you stand, you say, “Let’s do this.”
I look at the table. You’ve left your apple there. “Shouldn’t you take that?” I ask.
The questioning look on your face tells me this is something you haven’t remembered. “Why?”
“When they left,” I remind you, “they said the apple…” I leave it hanging, knowing you will connect the dots, and after a moment you do.
You smile again as you pick up the fruit. “Excellent catch.”
Your praise causes me to blush. “I have my moments.”
“So. Ready?” you ask.
“Ready,” I say, but can anyone be ready for this?
With a deep, synchronized breath, we head to the bedroom where the wild one has awoken.
I’d thought the nickname was an odd one for your sister to give her three year old son, but his screams for attention have already proven me wrong. I look at my watch as we reach his door. Eight minutes until your sister and brother-in-law are due home. Until then it’s you and me and a limp sandwich and a piece of apple and the wild one.
“I love you,” you say, giving my hand a squeeze then reaching for the doorknob.
“I love you, too.”
Sometime stories just come to me screaming—like the wild one above—to be told. When Cindy asked if I’d like to guest post here at Riding With The Top Down, MAKE OR BREAK just started pouring out of me. Though I wasn’t sure what I was going to write, I would have never expected this. But it was so much fun, I decided to just go with it.
I don’t always go in search of stories. More times than not, they come in search of me. Such is the case with most of my novels, too. I like it that way. It’s more fun for me. Hope you liked it, too.
So what was a make or break moment for you? How did it turn out? Do you think you put too much importance on it, or not enough?
In case you hadn’t heard, I’m running a special on the ebook version of my novel LITTLE GIRL GONE. The Kindle and Nook versions are only .99. Yep, a whole, well- reviewed novel for less than a buck. Hope you check it out, and thanks for letting me hang out here for the day.