“Ann, when was the last time you ate?”
She had to think it through, she had worked through lunch the day before, and she had overslept that morning before work and skipped breakfast. It must have been Wednesday night. Yep. She’s pretty sure she ate Wednesday supper, still thankfully, left overs from their grill out that weekend. Or was that Tuesday? “It’s been a while” she answered.
“Tell me, when was the last time you ate?” Although his words were gentle and caring, she felt put on the spot and embarrassed.
“It doesn’t matter” she responded, a bit of sass coming back to life. Good, she thought, at least she hadn’t lost herself completely.
“It does to me. Damn it, Ann, you’ve looked after yourself long enough” strife echoing in his voice. “When was the last time you ate? Just answer the question, please” He said this time, more forcefully.
Resigned she answered, “Probably Wednesday.”
“Probably Wednesday!?! Wednesday? How do you expect to be able to defend yourself if you haven’t fueled your body?”
She just shrugged her shoulders. She hadn’t really thought of it like that.
He put the plate in front of her. Her stomach instantly knotted. She was certain that even if she tried a mere bite that it all would come back up. And that would be a huge waste on top of feeling like a leach. She just shook her head no. “I appreciate the thought, but no thank you.”
After a minute’s pause, he changed gears. “Fine. Would you like to play a game with me?”
“What kind of game?” she asked inquisitively.
“Truth or Dare” he responded.
Oh shit. This could be difficult, but it sparked too much curiosity. Not wanting to back down from a challenge, she accepted. She got to go first, “Tucker, truth or dare?”
“Hmmm… What do you consider your biggest personal achievement?”
He thought it over and answered confidently, “Being in your presence.”
“Oh you!” and she playfully slapped his shoulder. “The name of the game is truth – you have to tell the truth! Be brave, young grasshopper,” she said through a smile.
“Well, then, prior to meeting you my biggest personal achievement would be making a success out of the boxing club. Your turn. Truth or dare.”
“Tell me about the dream you had this morning.”
Oh shit again. He really didn’t waste any time with that one. “Which one?”
“And if I choose dare?”
“I dare you to eat that entire plate of food.”
Knowing the latter was impossible, she chose the truth.
Oh, no. The truth. How does one verbalize your biggest fear coming to fruition? Being able to sense, taste, feel a situation that was miles behind you?
“Well, it’s basically just a repeat of some of the things that happened. It’s never the same identical dream twice. Sometimes parts of what happened are exaggerated. Other times it’s just a replay of certain parts of the events.”
“What was your dream about this morning?”
Her heart stopped. Ugh. This is a stupid game. She wasn’t one to back down from a challenge, so she barged ahead the best she knew how. “Well. In this particular dream I was bound and beaten in my own garage. I tried to escape, but I was too slow.”
His voice gentled a bit. “Is that a replay of a particular event in your life?”
She looked down at the sand by her feet. “Yes.”
“Is that why running is so important to you?” he continued.
She thought about it for a moment, and yes. She never wanted to be overpowered or outran again. “Yes. Your turn. Truth or dare.”
He cleared his throat. “Dare.”
“I dare you to eat that entire plate of food” she said to him.
Surprise registered on his face. “Truth.”
Hm. “Who was your first crush?”
He gave an easy laugh. “That one is easy. Emily Mertens. First grade. She had the longest braided pony tail I had ever seen, and I couldn’t stop myself from pulling it every chance I got.”
She thought how cute that was now and wondered if he ever got lost in the moment as an adult and pulled hair.
She shook away that thought. He looked at her again. “Truth or dare?”
“I dare you to eat all of the vegetables on this plate.”
“And if I choose truth?”
“Tell me about your other dream.”
The other dream. That was not something she wanted to recount. To anyone.
Maybe he was right. She tried to bolster herself up for the challenge. Maybe talking about it could relieve some of the power it had on her. She thought it through. “Well. It was just a dream reminding me how stupid I can be. I believed that I could talk sense into someone who was senseless. In this particular dream I attended a meeting. I thought if I just finished the contract, did things his way, he would be finished with me. Wrong. He instead used the meeting to intimidate me into seeing things his way.”
“Did he hurt you?”
She took another drink of the water. Her throat was again going dry. “Yes.”
“Which hurt worse, knowing you had been fooled, or the physical pain?”
Without hesitation, “Feeling a fool hurts way worse.”
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