• Contributing Author

Wrong Number

“Hello.”

“Hi. Could I speak to Lexi, please?”

“No Lexi here.”

“Do you know when she'll be back. I need to talk to her.”

“No, you don't understand. No Lexi lives here. You have the wrong number.”

“Oh no. I really need to talk to her.”

“Please don’t cry. Can you tell me what the problem is?”

“Yeah. Scruff died.”

“Ok, take it easy. Who is Scruff?”

“My dog.”

“Oh, how tragic. How long did you have Scruff?”

“Since I was six. Twelve years.”

“That's a very long time.”

“It is.”

“Ok. Ok. Easy does it. Scruff sounds like a boy.”

“He is.”

“What breed was Scruff?”

“Mixed but mostly Bichon. He showed up at the door one day back when so many people were losing their homes. He looked terrible. Scruffy. Mom called him a 'foreclosure' dog.”

“It sounds like he was a very lucky dog to have you to take care of him and love him so much.”

“He was and I don't know what I'm going to do without him now.”

“Are you going to bury him?”

“I did, two days ago, in the back yard. I made him a coffin out of a shoe box. Lined it with light green satin from an old Halloween costume my grandma had.”

“That seems quite fitting and appropriately elegant for a good dog like Scruff.”

“Thank you.”

“You're welcome. Do you know about the Rainbow Bridge?”

“No. What's that?”

“Look it up on your phone or computer. It's just a short little thing that tells how some day you'll see Scruff again.”

“Ok, will you hold on?”

“Sure.”

“That's beautiful.”

“Does it make you feel better?”

“Yes, much better.”

“In that case I'm glad you called the wrong number.”

“Me too. Can I call you again if I need to? I'm Chloe and I'm 18.”

“I'm Matthew, 47. Uh, I guess you can...yes, call again if you feel the need.”

“Thank you, Matthew. Bye.”

“Good bye.”


"Can I call you again if I need to? I'm Chloe and I'm 18.”


*

“Hello.”

“Hi. This is Chloe. Remember me?”

“Of course. It's only been a couple weeks.” “I know but sometimes older people's memories aren't so good.”

“Okaaaay. What can I do for you?”

“I need to know if you think I should go to the prom.”

“I don't know if you should or shouldn't. Why don't you know?”

“Well, the guy who asked me got in some big trouble last year for drunk driving, also didn't have a license. We'd be going with two other couples in a limo so he wouldn't be doing any drunk driving, but I don't like drinking.”

“Can you set conditions, like absolutely no alcohol?

“I don't think so, not when you're only one of six people.”

“Well, I'd say it's up to you but what do your parents think?”

“You mean my grandparents. My mom died last year, I don't have a dad.”

“Oh I'm so sorry to hear that. You must miss her terribly.”

“I do. I could talk to her about anything. Grandma and Grandpa try but it's not the same.”

“I can understand that. As old as they must be, they probably forget what you talked about yesterday.”

“Sometimes they do. Last week I told them all about Drake, even played his Hotline Bling video for them. Two days later they didn't remember who he is or anything about him.”

“So tell me, what's your gut feeling about the prom?”

“Well, Jacob seems very nice. He's a football player, says he doesn't drink anymore. So I'm thinking about going with him. Do you think that would be ok?”

“Yes. I think it's up to you. You know your own mind.”

“Ok, thanks.”

“Let me know how it goes.”

“Will do. Bye.”

“Have fun, Chloe.”

*

“Hello.”

“Hi Matthew.”

“Chloe! I've been wondering what happened to you. The prom was about six weeks ago, wasn't it?”

“Yeah. I've been hanging out with Jacob. He's a really nice guy, and my boyfriend now.”

“Wow. Good for you. I'm glad you've found each other. Are you enjoying the summer?”

“We are. His parents have a camper at a nearby campground with a lake. We go swimming often. Fishing, too. I caught a two-pound bass.”

“That's so cool. What are your plans for the future?”

“I'm going to community college in the fall, hoping to find out in two years whether I’d rather be a journalist, psychologist, or English teacher.”

“Great. And Jacob?”

“He got an athletic scholarship to a university about 30 miles away, so we'll still be able to see each other. But I have a problem.”

“What's that?”

“Jacob wants me to do more than I'm willing to do, if you know what I mean.”

“I do know what you mean. The question is, how do you feel about it?”

“Well, I want him to love me, don't want to lose him, but I'm not ready for that just yet so I don't think I'm going to.”

“Good girl. Not because you're not going to but because that decision is totally up to you. Not Jacob, your grandparents, friends, or anyone else. And you'll know when the time, and the person, is right.”

“That's what I think, too. I just wanted to see what you thought.” “Well, I'm flattered that you called. Keep in touch.”

“I will. And thanks. Bye.”

“Bye.”

*

“Hello.”

“I have a problem. A big one.”

“Oh my. What is it Chloe?”

“Jacob.”

“Uh-oh. What happened?”

“He doesn't love me. I thought he did.”

“Did he tell you he loved you?”

“No but said he would if I gave him what he wanted.”

“And apparently you did?”

“Yeah.”

“Don't cry, hold on a minute.”

“Ok.”

“Alright. Let's start at the beginning. Do you love Jacob?”

“I do.”

“So after you gave into him, he wouldn't say he loves you?”

“Worse. He said he doesn't love me. I did what he wanted. I gave him everything, Matthew. Everything. Now I have nothing.”

“Ok. Take it easy.”

“Ok.”

“So he just broke it off with you, won't see you anymore?”

“No. He wants to continue seeing me so I can give him what he wants, but he doesn't want to make a commitment. Wants to see other girls at school.”

“How's that make you feel?”

“Cheap. I don't know what to do. What do you think?”

“Would you like me to lay it out for you?”

“Yeah.”

“Ok. Once you experience intimacy it's like a book that you can't unread. In fact, you can't only not unread it, but are going to reread it again and again and again. Do you know what I mean?”

“I do.”

“Alright, blow your nose and wipe your eyes.”

“Ok.”

“The way I see it, you have three basic choices. Choice number one, you can continue seeing Jacob, which is fine if you enjoy being with him, and know that nothing more is ever going to come of it than the fun times, and physical relationship you have right now. Do you understand what I'm saying?”

“Yeah, that we won't have a future.”

“Right, and as long as you know that going in, and don't try to convince yourself it's something more, there's nothing wrong with that. You'll be fine.”

“Ok.”

“Choice number two is to find a new boyfriend, or even go through a series of boyfriends. Nothing says you have to stay with one guy forever. Right?”

“Yeah.”

“Ok. Choice number three, stop seeing Jacob and pleasure yourself for a while, until you feel ready to begin dating someone new.


“Any of the three will work, and if you decide to go with one or two, please make sure you don't end up with a STD, or pregnant. That means a condom every time. And don't trust him to have them. Carry a couple in your purse, wallet, or pocket, at all times. Ok?

“I will, Matthew. Thank you.”

“Sure thing. Take care.”

“Bye.”

*

“Hello.”

“Hi.”

“Hey, how are you, Chloe?”

“I’m chill. You?”

“I'm great. How do you like college now that you have the first semester under your belt?”

“It's fine. All As.”

“Wow! Congratulations.”

“Thanks.”

“Sure. Last time we talked you were trying to figure out what to do about Jacob. What did you decide, if I may ask?”

“You can ask. I'm still with him.”

“Really. How'd that happen?”

“Well, I thought about what you said, and it just made so much sense. I understand it's never going anywhere, and while I'm in college it's probably best that it doesn't. Plenty of time for a more serious relationship after graduation. But we enjoy being with each other, so we hook up whenever he's home, and sometimes I drive out there and see him.”

“That's cool. I'm glad you have a clear picture of where you are, and what you're doing. Many girls your age don't.”

“Can I ask you something, Matthew?”

“Sure. Anything you want.”

“Where do you live?”

“I'm in a little burg you never heard of called Wellington, Ohio.”

“The home of the Lorain County Fair!”

“You know it?”

“Yeah, been there. I live in Medina. Jacob goes to Kent State.”

“Jeez. We're practically next door neighbors.”

“I've only been here two years. Before that me and my mom lived near Los Angeles.”

“So that's why you have a California area code.”

“Yeah. Can I ask you something else?”

“Have at it.”

“Could we meet sometime? I feel like I know you so well that it's strange not to know you. You know what I mean, like on a personal level, the in-the-flesh way I know my other friends?”

“I suppose we could meet. What do you have in mind?”

“Well, since you're in Wellington, grandma and me stopped at a bakery-cafe place there once. It's on a corner but I can't remember the name of it.”

“Bread-N-Brew.”

“Yeah, that's it. They had some delicious butternut squash soup.”

“Yes, everyone talks about that soup. I suppose we could meet there. When?”

“How about Saturday at one o'clock?”

“Cool. Look for the gray-haired guy with the red beard.”

“Ok. See you then.”

“Looking forward to it.”

*

“Matthew?”

“Chloe!

“Gee. I hope I didn't squeeze you to death. It's just so nice to see you.”

“It's fine. I love hugs.”

“Let's get you some coffee and something to eat.”

“A bottle of water will do. I ate a protein bar on the way over here.”

“Ok. Have a seat. I'll be right back.”

“Here you go. Gosh! It's so great to see you. I feel like I know you really well.”

“Same here.”

“I was thinking before you got here, I've never had this kind of relationship where I've talked so intimately with a young lady, or with an old lady for that matter, whom I have not met.”

“I know. It's strange but oddly good.”

“Great way of putting it. I would guess people your age, who are into cell phones, computers, and all, probably have lots of friends they haven't met in person.”

“We do. Facebook, Twitter, game sites, and all the rest. I feel closer to you though. You've helped me through some things. That means a lot.”

“Glad I've been able to help. You're a really nice girl. Pretty, too, if you don't mind me saying.”

“I don't mind, thanks.”

“I know how you've done, how's Jacob doing in school?”

“Bs and Cs, and that's with football. It's quite time-consuming.”

“I got Bs and Cs when I was in college, didn't play football.”

“What's your degree in?”

“Archeology. So I work in marketing. How's that for being sure of what you want to do when you start out.?”

“I think lots of people do that. My mom did, had a teaching degree, ended up as a movie set designer.”

“Cool. You look vaguely familiar. Have you worked in Wellington, or maybe Oberlin?”

“No, I haven't. I look like my mother, Missy Harrison.”

“Oh wow. You do. I went to high school with her. With your mom. Gee, the last time I saw her was...Oh my God….”

“At your 10-year class reunion when the two of you had a one-night stand.”

“So you are...”

“Your daughter.”

“Holy whackamocca! How?”

“How do you think, the same way as always.”

“No, how, I mean why, why didn't she tell me?”

“She didn't tell me until a couple weeks before she died. She said you went to Midview High School together, told me about the reunion, gave me your name and where you lived. I guess she always kept track of where you were. She said since I was going to be living so close, she'd like me to look you up.”

“But she didn't tell me. If she had, at the very least, I could have seen you once or twice a year, and provided child support.”

“Mom's parents were divorced and like 2000 miles apart. She lived with her father, my grandfather, hated going to see her mother for two weeks every summer, said it was like being with a stranger. They never did bond. She felt it was her fault they didn't have a mother daughter relationship, it haunted her all her life. She didn't want that for me. And working in the movie industry, money was never a problem.”

“Why didn't you tell me sooner?”

“I had to be sure about you. When mom passed I decided I wouldn't contact you. I had gotten along fine without a father for 17 years, didn't figure I needed one.”

“What changed your mind?”

“Scruff. When he died I no longer had mom to talk to about those kinds of things, needed a dad. I needed you. But I didn't know if you were a good guy, a good man, didn't want anything to do with you if weren't. So I guess you could say I've been testing you, for the better part of a year.”

“How'd I do?”

“Flying colors.”

“So all those things you told me weren’t true, just situations you made up for your test?”

“No, nothing I told you was made up. Unless you count allowing you to think I called the wrong number. It was all true, every word of it. I hope you're not mad.”

“No, just kind of overwhelmed. It's not an everyday thing to have a girl say, ‘Hey I'm your daughter.’”

“How do you feel about it?”

“Good, right now. But I think when the shock wears off, I'll be thrilled beyond belief. This is going to be a new adventure, and I love adventures.”

“Cool, Matthew. I do too.”

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