Samson jumped up on the table while Jay was reading. Jay stroked his fur without looking up from the paper. He was trying to concentrate. No matter how silly some of the items on the list seemed, they were all important to him. He thought if he could say them with a straight face, Melanie wouldn't tease him too badly about them. "Learn to drive," he said, "swim in the Thames, spend the night at the British Museum, kiss someone in Paris—”
Melanie snorted. Jay ignored her and kept reading.
"Stay up all night talking with someone I love, get in a fight and win, get drunk, have s—” He stopped abruptly. Melanie didn't need to hear that one. Maybe he could skip it without her noticing. "Eat an expensive French meal—”
"Wait," Melanie said. "I think you skipped one."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did. You started to say one thing and went straight into another." She leaned forward on her elbows. "You can't do that. It's cheating."
"Says who?" he asked.
"Says me. Go back to where you were."
Jay folded the note back up into a neat square. "Never mind. This was stupid, anyway." Melanie tried to snatch the note out of his hand, but he jerked it away from her. When she got out of her chair, he leapt out of his seat and clutched the paper to his chest. There was no way she was reading it. He'd die before that happened.
"Jay," she whined, "just let me see it."
"No," he said. "It's over."
Samson jumped down from the table and rubbed against Jay's shins. He took a step backward, away from Melanie. Samson darted past him, probably fearing that his tail was going to get stepped on. Melanie took a step forward.
"Jaybird," she said.
"I told you not to laugh and you laughed anyway," he said.
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did. You laughed when I said that thing about Paris."
"Okay, okay," she said. "I'm sorry. Can you please keep on reading the list?"
Jay thought for a minute. The item he hadn't read was embarrassing. It revealed something that no one knew about him, and he wasn't sure he wanted anyone to know about it yet. He wondered what Melanie would think of him when she found out. He was afraid to read it to her because he didn't think she'd like him anymore. She might think he was a loser. Then again, if he was going to be dead in two weeks, maybe it would be better if somebody knew.
"Okay," he said, "just please, don't laugh. I mean it this time."
"Fair enough," she replied.
.@brianawrites shares her latest installment of BLOOD AND WATER, in which the bonds of friendship are tested. (Click to tweet)
"Then again, if he was going to be dead in two weeks, maybe it would be better if somebody knew." @brianawrites (Click to tweet)