Writing Prompt: Barbara hadn’t been around much lately.

Happy Friday Everyone! I hope you have had a fabulous week and are planning an amazing weekend. We had a pretty crazy week here and as the last two weekends were taken up with home improvement, I am looking forward to a quiet weekend of nothing but bad horror movies and setting up my seed planting schedule. I need to get a bunch of seeds started in the green house so they will be ready for spring planting. which is always fun to do when the world outside is covered with ice and snow. But before we get to the weekend, we have Friday. So let’s start Friday off with our regularly scudled writing prompt. Timers at the ready? Then let’s get to it.

That was interesting. I wasn’t entirely certain where it was going to go, but in the end it was fun to play around with. I think this almost feels like the middle of the story though instead of a beginning. It feels like I would need to work up to the scene where people think something might have happened to Barbara. Still kind of fun.

Friday, February 19th: Barbara hadn’t been around much lately.

Barbara hadn’t been around much lately.  Tony seemed somehow at a loss.  I was so used to seeing them a a pair, Barbara and Tony, Tony and Barbara, that it seemed strange to see one without the other.  It felt strangely off balance as though Tony was missing a limb.  He kept turning as though expecting her to be there and finding her gone, he had to recalculate.  All of use, so accustomed to her presence, felt the imprint of a Barbara shaped void hovering around him.  Twice Nathan poured two drinks when Tony arrived, anticipating Barbara. 

For a while no one said anything.  It was as though we could still see her standing there so it felt wrong to actually say anything.  Like talking over a person you couldn’t think understood you.  She still felt there.  After a time though, Nathan stopped automatically reaching for two glasses when Tony walked in and I, along with the rest of us, started feeling as though Barbara was actually just absent instead of being an invisible presence.

At that point the curiosity was too much.  As Tony settled himself in his habitual chair, turning slightly away from where Barbara usually sat, I approached.  I tried to decide if Tony was shunning the Barbara shaped space as if in anger or sadness, but the only emptions he wore featured his habitual good natured grin.

“So Tony,” I said, easing myself into the conversation. “How’s …things?”

“Doing pretty good,” he said nodding.  “I can’t complain.”

“Right,” I said.  “Good to hear.  And Barbara?”

There was a collective holding of breath as the words slipped free of my lips.  After weeks, we all wanted to know.

“She’s fine,” he replied.

“Is she?” I asked.  “It seems like I haven’t seen her in forever.”

“Yeah she’s been pretty busy.  No time to hang out much these days.”

“What’s keeping her so busy?” I asked. 

I knew, we all knew, Barbara was an illustrator for children’s books.  While she often worked on deadline, I could imagine there being such a run on new picture books that she had to stay chained to her desk for so long. Usually her pressed for time deadlines ran for two days maximum and then she completed the project and rejoined our group.

“A big project,” Tony said. 

“Really?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he said.  “A really big project, the biggest.”  Something in his grin faltered and for a second something dark peeked through.  I knew I wasn’t the only one to see it as I heard Nathan’s intake of breath behind me.  I looked over to him and saw the frown line furrowed between his eyes.  I knew Barbara before she was part of Barbara and Tony and in fact became a part of the group through her introductions.  The others knew Tony longer but I only knew him through Barbara and wasn’t certain what the look meant.  It wasn’t one I had seen before.  I looked back to Tony but his good natured smile was as it had been before. Still I felt an unease sitting in my belly.

“It must be something huge.” I said.  “I’ve tried calling her a few times but it rolled straight to voice mail.”

“She usually does that when working on a project,” Tony said.

I nodded.  “True,” I said.  Her habit was one of the reasons I hadn’t been worried by her long absence.  Now I felt the worry begin to creep in.

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