Death of a Nation Chapter 1
May 2, 2017
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June 5, 2017

Death of a Nation Chapters 2-4

These are preview chapters of Death of a Nation. These chapters are unedited, so please excuse any errors. Also, the formatting is block, which I hate. The finished product will be formatted correctly.

CHAPTER 2: John and Everything’s Political

John didn’t hear the door. He was focused on Donna. The picture of professionalism. Her dark hair was in a tight bun, her makeup and skirt suit flawless. It was Donna that looked first, her expression changing from relaxed to wide-eyed in a microsecond. John turned and froze. He was looking down the barrel of a rifle. The gunman was pale, sweat beading on his shaved head. I’m going to die. Someone tackled the man from behind. There was a pop. John flinched, instinctively ducking his head. Agent Barnes grabbed John and pushed him toward the back of the building, away from the wrestling men.

“Keep moving,” Agent Barnes said.

They exited through the back door. They were in a wide alleyway behind the strip mall. Dumpsters lined the fence. Agent Olson hurried toward them, his FN handgun drawn. There were three more pops from the office.

“Extraction,” Barnes said.

Agent Olson hustled to the black SUV, scanning for threats. Barnes shoved John into the back seat of the Chevy Suburban. Barnes sat next to John, and slammed the door. Agent Olson gunned the engine.

“Are you okay, sir?” Barnes asked. “Sir?”

John blinked and nodded. “I’m fine.”

Agent Olson zipped through traffic.

Barnes talked into his cufflink, or his microphone. “There was an assassination attempt. We’re headed to the safe house. Legacy is secure and uninjured. We need an evac for Goldilocks and the three little bears.” Barnes lowered his arm and pressed the ear piece tighter to his ear. He listened, and put the cuff back near his lips. “I believe Agent Stokes has the shooter under control, but I can’t confirm.” Barnes lowered his arm again.

“I need to call Linda,” John said.

“Secret service will pick her up. They’re en route,” Barnes replied.

John’s stomach churned. “The kids.”

“We’re on it, sir. We have agents headed to the schools now. They’ll be meeting us at the safe house.”

“Donna … my staff?”

“I believe Agent Stokes has it under control. The police have been notified.”

John took a deep breath. “Thanks, Jake.”

***

Gravel crunched under the tires of the Suburban. They passed fields of knee-high corn, and cattle grazing on pasture. The occasional farmhouse dotted the landscape, complete with rundown barns and silos. Three cars marked, Luray County Police, were parked in front of the last farmhouse on the road. It was a two-story stone colonial with a split rail fence. There were no barns or silos, animals or fields of corn. This was a gentleman’s farm.

A uniformed police officer stopped them at the wooden gate. Agent Olson showed his credentials. The officer opened the gate and waved them through. Olson and Barnes escorted John into the farmhouse. John ducked his head on the way in. Agent Barnes and Olson were powerfully built men, but John was tall—an inch taller than Barnes and almost a foot taller than Olson.

Inside, the agents took John to a back office—no windows. There was a brown leather couch and a cherry desk with a swivel chair. John sat at the desk. His cellphone rang again. He removed it from his suit jacket. It was the eleventh missed call.

“Can I answer it now?” John asked.

“Sorry, sir. Not yet,” Agent Barnes replied.

John glanced at his phone and silenced it. It was Donna. “What’s the point of an encrypted phone then?”

“Sorry, sir. We need to figure out the situation, before we give away any information.”

“Let me know when you have.”

“I will.”

Barnes and Olson shut John in the office.

After the gun shots, the commotion, and the roar of the Suburban’s V8, the silence in the room was jarring. Someone wanted to kill me. John pictured the barrel of that rifle. He held up his hand in front of his face. It was shaky. He put his arm down and rubbed his hands together. I think Stokes tackled him from behind. He’ll receive a life-saving award. That’ll be a photo op and a half. And the guy’s black. That couldn’t be more perfect. Especially running against Art.

There was a knock on the door, and Linda spilled into the room, her angelic face streaked with tears. Agent Olson shut the door. John stood, and Linda rushed to him. She wrapped her arms around his waist, her face buried in his chest.

She sniffled. “I was so worried.”

“I’m okay,” John replied.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I’m fine, really.”

She looked up, her blue eyes glassy. “Someone tried to …”

“I know. Maybe I’m a little shaken up. We should sit down.”

“They said the kids should be here soon.”

“That’s good.”

John removed his suit jacket and placed it on the back of the swivel chair. He moved to the couch and sat down. Linda curled up next to him.

“What happened,” Linda asked. “They just said there was an assassination attempt and that you’re unharmed.”

John shook his head. “It all happened so fast. I was talking to Donna in the office and this guy came in the front door and pointed a gun at me. One of those automatic rifles. This’ll play great for my gun legislation.”

Linda scowled. “Seriously, John.”

“There’s always a silver lining.”

She shook her head. “The guy had the gun pointed at you?”

“Right. Agent Stokes must have tackled him from behind. It was just in the nick of time because the gun went off. It was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard. That’s when Jake pushed me out the back, and we came here.”

“Was anyone hurt?”

“I don’t know. There were a few more shots, but we were already outside. I’m assuming Stokes had to shoot the guy.”

“That’s awful. I don’t know what this country’s coming to. It used to be that people were so patriotic. There’s so much hate now.”

“People are still patriotic. This is what domestic terrorism does. It makes people think these anti-government radicals are more prevalent than they really are.”

“Something needs to be done about these guns. It’s crazy. Who the hell needs a machine gun?”

“We’re working on it. We need to have enough buy in from the public.”

“How many shootings do we have to have before we have enough buy in?”

“The latest poll we ran, shows that most Americans support gun control legislation.”

“But not a ban.”

“No, but we may get an assault rifle ban.”

There were high voices and commotion from the hall.

“The kids are here,” Linda said with a smile.

She stood and opened the door. John stood. A little blonde boy spilled into the room wearing a miniature suit, with the crest from his private school on the jacket. There was a grin on his face. John picked him up and gave him a hug.

“The agent was driving really fast,” Bobby said. “It was so fun.”

“It was?” John replied, setting his son down on the couch.

Two girls, one teen, and one preteen entered the office. The older girl wore jeans, the younger one, her uniform—a plaid skirt and sweater. Olson closed the door.

“Why are we here?” Ellen, the older girl asked. She was a teen version of her mother. Beautiful, silky blonde hair, a perfect face, and an athletic build.

“Why don’t you kids sit down,” Linda said. “We have something to tell you.”

The girls sat on either side of Bobby.

“Is it bad news?” Ellen asked.

“Everything’s fine,” John said.

Charlotte, the preteen pursed her lips. She was short and chubby, with brown hair hanging past her shoulders.

“Someone tried to shoot me today,” John said.

“What!” Ellen stood up. “Are you okay?”

“With a real gun?” Bobby asked.

“Oh my God,” Charlotte said to herself.

“I’m fine,” John said.

“Why?” Charlotte asked. “Why did they do that?”

“Because your father’s a public figure,” Linda said. “Unfortunately, there are people out there that have a lot of hate in their heart, and they try to take that hate out on public figures.”

Ellen sat down.

“But that’s why we have Agent Barnes and Olson and Stokes, and all the secret service agents,” John said.

“Agent Stokes saved your father’s life today,” Linda said. “So, when you see him, make sure you thank him and give him a big hug.”

“I like Agent Barnes the best,” Bobby said.

“He saved me too,” John said.

Ellen wrenched her hands. “Are people trying to hurt us? Is that why you took us out of school?”

“It was just a precaution, honey,” John said.

“Nobody’s going to hurt any of you,” Linda added.

There was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” John said.

Agent Barnes opened the door. “Sir, you can use your phone now.”

“Thanks,” John replied.

Bobby hopped off the couch and ran to Agent Barnes, hugging him around his thighs, his head against the Agent’s stomach. “Thank you for saving my dad.”

Barnes blushed and smiled tightly. “You’re welcome, buddy.”

“I need to call Donna, and check the news,” John said to Linda.

Bobby let go of Barnes and returned to his mother.

“Is there a room with cable,” John asked Agent Barnes.

“Upstairs, sir, master bedroom,” Barnes replied. “I can take you.”

“Not necessary,” John said.

John walked down the hallway to the stairs. There were more agents in the living room, a few he’d never seen before.

A couple of agents greeted him with a nod. “Sir.”

He climbed the wooden stairs to the second floor. The master bedroom was at the end of the hall. There was a king-sized four poster bed that dominated the room, a private bathroom, and a hutch in front of the bed. He opened the hutch and found a forty-eight-inch plasma. He grabbed the remote, flipped on the television, and turned the channel to WNN. It was a commercial. He called Donna.

“Jesus, John, I’ve been calling you,” she said in lieu of a greeting. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” John replied. “Are you okay?”

“You don’t sound too concerned.”

“Of course, I am. Are you hurt?”

“Not physically, apart from my ear drums.”

“The shot was loud.”

“Which one? The one you were there for or the dozen that happened after you left?”

“I heard two or three more when Jake pushed me outside. There were more?”

“Agent Stokes is dead,” Donna said.

“Shit. What happened?”

“I guess some bystander saw the guy with the gun, and tackled him—”

“I thought Stokes tackled him.”

“No. They were on the ground and Stokes came over and told them to put their hands up. The bystander rolled off the shooter, and the shooter had a handgun. He shot Stokes. The bystander took the gun from the shooter, and held him at gunpoint. The police showed up a few minutes later—”

“Please tell me they didn’t shoot him,” John said.

“The police told the bystander to drop his weapon, which he did. When he did that, the shooter grabbed his rifle from the floor and started shooting. The police shot back.”

“Christ. Any injuries or uh … deaths, besides Stokes.”

“Just the shooter.”

“Thank God. Anybody hurt?”

“The bystander was shot. Twice I think. There was a lot of blood.”

“Anyone on the staff?”

“A few bumps and bruises, but nothing serious.”

John exhaled. “That’s a relief.”

WNN returned from commercial break. Breaking News was scrawled across the bottom of the screen.

John turned up the volume. “Turn on WNN.”

“I’m watching it,” Donna replied.

They watched the news for eight minutes in silence. WNN cut to a commercial break.

“They know less than we do,” John said.

“That’s not surprising,” Donna replied.

“There is a silver lining to all this, politically that is.”

“I was thinking the same thing. Surviving an assassination attempt plays well with the public. It definitely helps bolster your credibility as a tough guy, which is always helpful for a non-veteran, anti-gun democrat.”

“I was actually hoping that it was Stokes that saved my life. It would be a great story for black audiences—the bystander wasn’t black, was he?”

“If only we were so lucky. You can still emphasize Stokes’s heroism. You could talk about how an African-American man gave his life for you. The only color he saw was red, white, and blue.”

John chuckled.

 

CHAPTER 3: Katie, Baby Killer

Katie sat poolside in a chaise lounge chair, the hood of her sweatshirt over her head. She was replying to You Tube comments on her laptop. A light breeze blew from the San Francisco Bay.

Crazy Davey123: Abortion is fucking awful. Don’t want a kid, don’t have sex. Fucking baby killer.

View all 474 replies

Jacob’s Ladder: There’s no justification for killing an unborn child. Katie, you said that a baby doesn’t have the right to “survive off of your body against your will”. That is the most selfish, egotistical, sick statement I’ve ever heard. A fetus is a human being. Unsub. #BabyKiller

View all 332 replies

Katie: I doubt I’ll convince you that a fetus isn’t a life. But you should consider the following: A fetus is 100% dependent on its mother’s body, unlike born human beings. Even if I concede that a fetus is a life, the “right to life” doesn’t imply a right to use a woman’s body. For example, people have the right to refuse to donate their organs, even if doing so would save the life of another.

CuddlyKitten77: If you can’t be responsible, don’t have sex.

View all 183 replies

Katie: It is your opinion that giving birth is the “responsible” choice. What if the mother can’t provide for the baby? In this situation, it’s more responsible to have an abortion. This will prevent poverty and misery, not to mention the societal costs of increased criminality of unwanted children. Pro-choice is not about being pro-abortion, it’s about being for the woman’s right to have power over her own body.

“Why don’t you get in?” Declan called out. “Babe?”

Katie looked up from her laptop. Declan sat in the hot tub adjacent to the pool, with a pork pie hat on his head. He leaned back. One arm was out of the water, resting on the sandstone pool deck, revealing a jungle of dark armpit hair, and a wrist full of rubber bracelets.

“I’m trying to finish this,” Katie said. “These crazy pro-lifers.”

“I tried to tell you,” he said. “You should stick to sex advice and making fun of Republicans.”

“I’m trying to use my reach for something other than horny dudes and hit pieces.”

“You getting in? Maybe you could use your reach for one horny dude.” He grinned, his bushy beard concealing his dimples.

“Give me like twenty minutes.”

“A slave to social media.”

Katie scowled and went back to her laptop. An alert popped up on the lower corner of her screen.

“Holy shit.” She clicked on the alert.

“What?”

Katie watched the WNN breaking news report. There was a helicopter view of a strip mall. The parking lot was littered with police cars and emergency vehicles. The windows were shot out of a storefront with a sign that read, Representative John Bradley.

“What is it?” Declan called out.

Katie was glued to the screen.

The newscaster, Lisa Kelly said, “Earlier today, an unidentified gunman entered the campaign office of Representative John Bradley of Virginia.” WNN showed the office with shattered glass windows. “Eyewitness reports indicate that the gunman brandished an assault rifle, and attempted to assassinate the Congressman.” They cut to pictures of AR-15s. “The Fairfax County Police Department reported that a Secret Service agent and the gunman were killed in the attack. No identities have been released.” WNN cut to a square jawed man with wavy hair. Hair that was cemented in place with product. “Our very own Chase Manning is on the ground.”

Chase stood back from the police tape and vehicles, but close enough to see the campaign office framed in the background. There was a middle-aged woman standing next to him.

“Babe?” Declan said. He climbed out of the hot tub and grabbed a towel off the nearby chair.

“I’m here with Stacy Landry,” Chase said into his microphone, “a volunteer for Representative Bradley’s campaign, and an eyewitness to the attack.” The camera zoomed in on Chase and Stacy.

“This better be good,” Declan said, walking toward Katie. He was wearing a towel and a sweatshirt.

“Stacy, can you tell us what transpired here today?” Chase asked.

Declan peered over Katie’s shoulder at the screen.

“I didn’t notice the man at first,” Stacy said, “but I heard someone scream, and I looked up from my computer and there he was pointing a gun at Congressman Bradley. He had one of those machine guns.”

“What did the man look like?”

“He was white. He had a shaved head and a long jacket.”

“What happened next?”

“A man came in from outside and tackled the man with the gun, and the gun went off.”

“Was Congressman Bradley hit by the shot?”

“I don’t know. I was under my desk after the gun went off. And there were a lot more shots before it was over.”

“Did you see if anyone was hurt?”

“The gunman and a secret service agent were shot and killed. And the guy who tried to help, he was shot.”

“Thank you, Stacy, for your harrowing account.” They cut to a close up of Chase, Stacy now out of the picture. “Lisa, we still don’t have an official comment from the Secret Service, or Congressman Bradley’s office.”

They cut back to Lisa Kelly, a leggy blonde with heavy makeup. “Thank you, Chase,” she replied. Lisa turned from Chase on the monitor, to the camera. “We’ll keep you updated as information becomes available.”

“Holy shit,” Katie said. “This is huge.”

“Guy with a shaved head, assault rifle,” Declan said, “You know what this is about.”

Katie nodded. “I need to make a video.”

She closed her laptop and hurried to the pool house. Declan ambled after.

The pool house was the same one-story, flat-roofed modern design as the main house. Katie set her laptop in the office—a small room with a glass desk.

In the bedroom, her video camera was mounted atop a tripod that pointed at her king-sized bed. She took off her sweatshirt and tossed it on the bed. Declan leaned against the doorway with a smirk. She removed her T-shirt, exposing her underarm hair, and black bra. Katie reached behind her back and unclasped the bra, releasing her double Ds. There were red marks on her shoulders where the straps dug into her pale skin. She rummaged through her dresser while Declan stared. Katie found their favorite pink T-shirt. She put the shirt on, sans brassiere.

Declan stepped closer, narrowing his eyes at her chest. “I can see why they like that one.”

She frowned. “Turn on USN. What do the newscasters look like?”

“They do wear bras.”

“They’re not feminists.”

She grabbed her camera and tripod, and hauled it to the office.

“Can you make sure I’m centered,” she said, sitting in the chair behind the desk.

Declan turned on the camera, and made a few adjustments. “You’re good. You know what you’re gonna say?”

She nodded. “I think so.”

Declan started recording. “You’re on,” he said.

“Earlier today,” Katie said, “there was an assassination attempt on Congressman John Bradley. This is really scary. Congressman Bradley is one of the good guys. He cares about racial equality and gender equality. He cares about the poor, and the wealthy paying their fair share. He cares about women’s rights and bringing the troops home. He’s one of the few shining lights we have. He’s someone that threatens the status quo, and wants to bring power back to the people. This is why I believe an attempt was made on his life.

“The lamestream media hasn’t identified the shooter yet, but an eyewitness described him as white, with a shaved head and a long coat. I’m not much of a gambling woman, but I bet you he was an anarchist. These anti-government radicals are no different than the terrorists we’ve been fighting for almost twenty years now, and they are a much bigger threat than ISIS, or Al Qaeda ever was. The anarchist movement feeds on fear, fear of the government. This is why I believe they targeted Congressman Bradley. Because he represents the good in government. That doesn’t help the anarchist agenda. The anarchist agenda needs you to be afraid, needs you to hate. They call us violent, but they’re the ones taking the law in their own hands. We only want to live in a society of rules and safety and fairness.

“Everyone who watches this channel knows I cover government corruption all the time. I know government’s not perfect. But that’s why it’s up to us to elect the right representatives to lead us. Congressman Bradley’s one of the good guys, and I think a possible Presidential candidate for 2020. I’ll record updates on the shooting as more information is released. Thanks, everyone, and don’t forget to subscribe.”

Katie kissed her hand and blew it toward the camera.

 

CHAPTER 4: Julie, My Match

Julie walked past the bar, her purse on her shoulder, a plastic bag in her grasp.

“Where you going so early?” Eric asked.

Julie stopped and turned to the bartender. Eric’s dirty blond hair was pulled back in a man bun. He sported the obligatory beard that was all the rage.

“Rodney sent me home. It’s dead, in case you haven’t noticed.”

Eric turned and pointed up at the television behind him. “Someone tried to kill some congressman.” He turned back to Julie. “It happened at the Giant shopping center not too far from here, so everyone’s freaked out.”

Julie read the subtitles and watched the silent images on the screen.

The screen read, The good Samaritan has been identified as George Smith Chapman, forty-one, a resident of Pennsylvania.

There was an image of a clean-shaven man with short dark hair, small deep set eyes, and a strong jaw.

“That’s the dude that supposedly saved the congressman,” Eric said. “A secret service agent was shot and killed.”

Julie nodded and turned her attention to Eric. Her shoulders were slumped. “That’s terrible. The congressman is alive, right?”

“I think so.”

“That’s good. Hopefully, this blows over. Tips were terrible tonight.”

“For me too.” Eric narrowed his eyes at Julie. “You look like you could use some fun. I’m off in a couple of hours. You wanna get a drink or something?”

“It’s Monday night.”

“I said, or something.”

She forced a smile. “I should get home, but thanks.” Julie started for the exit.

“Next time,” he called out.

***

Julie drove through her neighborhood of mostly vinyl-sided townhomes. A few of the end units sprung for brick facing. There were For Sale signs on every street, and even a few foreclosures. The parking lot was full, and then some. She parked in her designated spot, and turned off her headlights. She shuffled up the walk to her middle-unit townhome.

Inside, the lights and television were on in the family room. She exhaled, picked up the remote from the coffee table and turned off the TV. She flipped off some of the lights and trudged to the kitchen. Julie set her purse, keys, and the plastic bag on the counter. The kitchen was cramped, and filled with outdated appliances. A dining room was adjacent to the kitchen. She stepped to the stairs, and looked upward. It was quiet.

“Max, come down here,” she called out. “I brought dinner.” She listened. Nothing. “Max, come down here.” She listened again. Still nothing.

Julie trudged up the steps. She knocked on her son’s bedroom door. There was no answer. She knocked harder. Still no answer. She opened the door and peeked inside. Max sat up on his bed, his pillow wedged between his back and the wall. He wore earbuds and focused on his iPad. The glow of the screen reflected off his wire-rimmed glasses.

“Hey, honey,” Julie said.

He was glued to the screen, his mouth half-open.

Julie moved closer to her son. “I brought some food.”

He was unresponsive.

“Max,” Julie said louder. “I know you hear me. Take those things out of your ear.”

Max took out his earbuds. “What are you doing home so early?”

Julie mock-frowned. “It was slow. Aren’t you happy to see your mother?”

Max returned her frown.

Julie leaned over the bed, and kissed Max on his chubby cheek.

As she stood up, he discreetly brushed the shoulder of his T-shirt against his cheek.

“I saw that,” she said, grinning.

“I don’t like lipstick.”

“I’m not wearing any.”

“What did you want?”

“I brought dinner. Are you hungry?”

“I had pizza.”

“Oh.”

“I was hungry. I didn’t know you’d be here for dinner.”

“That’s okay, honey. What are you doing?”

He scowled. “Mom.”

“What? I’m just interested.”

He blew out a breath. “Just reading.”

“What are you reading? A comic?”

“They’re graphic novels.”

“Right. How was school today?

“Fine.”

“Just fine?”

“Yeah, just fine.”

“Anything interesting happen today?”

“No.”

“Honey, I’m not trying to be a bother.” Julie pursed her lips. “I guess I’ll get out of your hair.”

“Ellen Bradley got taken out of school because of the shooting.”

“Are you talking about the shooting with the congressman?”

“Yeah, is there another one?”

“I hope not. Who’s Ellen Bradley? Is she a friend?”

Max shrugged and blushed. “No. She’s the congressman’s daughter.”

“Are you sure she’s not a friend?”

Max scowled again. “Mom.”

“Well, hopefully her dad’s okay.” Julie started for the door. She stopped in the doorway and turned around. “Max, honey, can you please not leave all those lights on downstairs. The electric bill’s been expensive.”

“Sorry.”

Julie went back to the kitchen and heated up a plate of pecan crusted chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and green beans with onions. She sat down at the dining room table and scrolled through her Facebook feed as she ate.

Summer Caldwell changed her profile picture. There was a picture of an attractive blond in her forties, with a gray-haired man, flanked by two pretty teen girls wearing stretchy pants and blousy sweaters. The J Crew family sat on a park bench, with the Chesapeake Bay in the background.

An instant message popped up as she took a bite of chicken.

Speak of the devil.

Summer: Have you signed up yet?

Julie: Do you ever stop?

Summer: No. You should know that.

Julie: I have not.

Summer: Your dating market value is in decline.

Julie: That’s just rude.

Summer: 🙂 It’s true. The pool of eligible bachelors that are willing to date someone your age with a child is getting smaller every day you delay.

Julie: Adding a 🙂 doesn’t make it less rude.

Summer: Or less true. I love you, sis. I’m just worried about you.

Julie: I’m fine. I have Max.

Summer: Not for long. In three years, he’ll be off to college.

Julie: If I can afford it.

Summer: Don’t be so fatalistic. There is a lot of government money for college. Especially with your income.

Julie: You mean lack of income.

Summer: Well, we’re going to pay a fortune for Abby and Heather.

Julie shook her head, and stabbed at her green beans. It must be rough.

Summer: You still there?

Julie: I’m here.

Summer: Since I know you’re so busy. I took the liberty of signing you up.

Julie: I don’t want it. Seriously.

Summer: I already paid for a year, and put all your info in. You might want to check it out to make sure its correct. 🙂

Julie: I think the 🙂 actually makes it worse.

Summer: LOL. Love ya, sis. Username: Jules123 Password: Ineedtogetsome

Julie: 🙁

Julie sighed and navigated to MyMatch.com. She smirked as she typed in the password. Her profile featured a three-year-old picture. It is a good picture. Summer’s fortieth birthday party I think. In the photo, Julie wore a knee length skirt and a tight sweater, highlighting her athletic, but feminine build. Her head was cocked a little, and her reddish-brown hair looked shiny. Her face was oval-shaped and symmetrical. She was smiling, with a glass of wine in her hand. That might send the wrong message.

She read through her profile.

Username: Jules123

Age: 37

Julie shook her head and edited the field.

Age: 40

Location: Fairfax, Virginia

Looking for: Male 30-50 for serious relationship

Height: 5’4”

Body Type: Athletic

I wonder if they have weight for men?

Hair: Auburn

Children: One teen boy

Personality: sweet, easygoing, and happy

Julie deleted her personality traits. She thought for a moment, tapping her finger on her plump lower lip. She moved on.

Personality:

Relationship Status: Widow

Occupation:

Julie added the information.

Occupation: Waitress

Interests: Travel, theatre, books, movies, music, nutrition, politics, psychology

She made a couple of deletions.

Interests: Books, movies, music, my son

Sports: Running, yoga, golf, tennis, sailing

Julie edited the field.

Sports: Running, yoga

Smoking: No

Under the statistics were a few paragraphs entitled: A bit about me …

I’m the type of woman that is just as comfortable at a sporting event as I am at a five-star restaurant. I’m sweet and fun, and beautiful from the inside out. For the right man, I’ll be a great cook, and a better friend. I love animals, but I don’t have any of my own.

I’m looking for a serious relationship with the right man. It’s important that he’s kind, has a great sense of humor, and a professional career. No players and no games please.

Julie deleted the paragraphs. She stared at the blinking cursor for a few minutes. She logged out and went to bed.

***

Julie bounded down the steps in yoga pants, running shoes, and a long-sleeved running shirt that covered her butt. She filled up a glass of water in the kitchen. She stood at the counter, checking her email on her phone. Two hundred and eighty-two matches.

She sat down in the dining room, with her water and her phone. She clicked the link to MyMatch.com. Whoa. She had fifty-three messages. She scanned through the first few. They were all pushing her age threshold. 49, 47, 50, 48, 46. She sighed. They always go younger. She scrolled down and found someone that was forty. The subject of this man’s message piqued her interest.

She clicked on the message.

From: Agent00777

To: Jules123

Subject: I know you. Go Vikings!

Jules123,

I could be wrong, but your picture bears a strong resemblance to a Julie Adams that I went to Woodbridge High School with. You still look great, by the way. You haven’t changed a bit! Larry Nicholson here. You may not remember me, I was very skinny and not particularly popular. I was on the debate team. We won state my senior year, not that anyone cared. 🙂

I’m still thin, but at least I look normal now. Anyway, I always thought you were really nice and pretty in high school. I’d love to catch up sometime.

Sincerely,

Larry Nicholson (Class of 95’)

 

She clicked on his profile. Larry Nicholson. I don’t remember him. His profile picture was a headshot. He had short dark hair, and a receding hairline that made his forehead look large. But it wasn’t terrible. He wore hipster black-rimmed glasses, and a polo. He was a little thin, but he did look normal. At least he’s healthy. And his message was sweet. Julie scrolled through his profile.

Username: Agent00777

Age: 40

Location: Fairfax, Virginia

Looking for: Female 25-40 for serious relationship

Height: 5’11”

Body Type: Athletic

Hair: Brown

Children: None

Personality: Adventurous, outgoing

Relationship Status: Never married

Occupation: Government Agent (Really!)

Interests: Travel to exotic locales, books, politics, movies, music, candlelit dinners

Sports: Tennis, golf, running, weight training, sailing, racquetball, squash

Smoking: No

A bit about me …

I’m the quintessential nice guy. I open doors, and remember birthdays and anniversaries. I’m a great listener. I believe everyone wants to be heard. I believe in treating others the way I want to be treated.

I love adventure and the outdoors, whether it’s overseas travel, or just going for a hike. I would love to meet someone that I can be friends with first. I believe friendship is the unbreakable foundation of love.

It doesn’t always pay to be the nice guy, but I know I’ll eventually find the right nice girl. If you think we might be a good match, send me a message. I always respond.

Julie hovered the cursor over the instant message icon. She took a deep breath and clicked.

Jules123: I am Julie Adams, actually Julie Welch now. Thank you for the note. It was nice. How are you doing?

He responded a few seconds later.

Agent00777: Julie! It’s great to hear from you.

The screen said he was typing.

Agent00777: I’m doing well, thanks for asking. I’m single. Obviously! I work for the IRS. I know, nobody likes the IRS, but I investigate criminal enterprises. I put away bad guys, and I love it.

Jules123: That’s great, Larry! It sounds like you’re doing a lot of good in this world. I’m just a waitress.

Agent00777: I find it difficult to believe that you’re just anything. Besides, people need to eat!

Jules123: 🙂 That’s sweet. I do have a son, Max. I suppose he’s my big contribution to the world. He’s a great kid.

Agent00777: See, I was right. You’re a fantastic mom. The hardest job in the world.

Jules123: That’s really nice of you to say.

Agent00777: How long have you been on MyMatch?

Jules123: Since last night. My sister signed me up. I was not happy about it.

Agent00777: Selfishly, I’m glad she did.

Jules123: What about you? How long have you been on MyMatch?

Agent00777: About a year. I tried some of the other dating sites, but it was just a big meat market. Very superficial. At least here, people are looking for serious relationships.

Jules123: That’s a relief. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Julie’s phone chimed. She glanced at the number. It read, Fairfax, Virginia. She sent the call to voice mail.

Agent00777: I know you just signed up, and are probably interested in looking around, but I’d love to meet up for coffee or lunch. We’re in the same city! It would be as friends, of course. No pressure. You won’t hurt my feelings if you’re not interested.

Julie’s stomach fluttered as she read the message. She thought about the proposal and typed a response.

Jules123: That sounds nice, Larry.

Agent00777: Great! I’ll check my calendar and send you some dates and times. I look forward to it!

Jules123: Me too!

Julie’s phone chimed. It was Fairfax, Virginia again. She checked the time and sent the call to voicemail. I need to get moving if I’m going to make it to work on time. Julie left her phone on the dining room table and stepped outside. It was a crisp and clear cloudless day. Her lawn was the longest on the block. Max needs to mow as soon as he gets home. I really don’t want to see Dan.

Julie ran on the asphalt path that circled her neighborhood. She ran it twice, and walked it twice. Four miles, not bad. She stretched on her front stoop. Her hair and her shirt were soaked with sweat. She stepped inside. Her phone was ringing.

She hustled to the kitchen, but the phone stopped ringing before she could pick it up. She checked the number. Fairfax Virginia. She had five missed calls, and four messages from that same number. Julie bit her lower lip. Telemarketers aren’t that persistent.

She signed into her voicemail, and pressed one.

“Mrs. Welch, this is Principal Justine Taylor from Fairfax High School. I’m sorry to leave you this message over voicemail, but I wanted you to know that there was an accident today, involving Max. He fell on the stairs, injured his neck and hit his head. He was taken to the Fairfax Hospital emergency room. The school nurse that examined him thinks he’ll be fine, but we wanted to be cautious. You can never be too careful when you’re dealing with a head trauma. Hopefully, you get this message. In the meantime, I’ll keep trying you. My direct line is 703-474-6533 extension 100.”

 

 

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