Sunday, August 02, 2015

Writing Prompt: Revise This Boring Opening Page

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt focuses on an exercise designed to work on a particular skill or technique, such as a POV exercise or character builder. Today’s skill: Revision!

I’ve written a very flat, very boring opening page. It’s your job to revise it into something worth reading that will grab a reader. Edit the bad writing, strengthen and clarify the goals, conflict, and stakes, develop the setting, establish the character, etc. You know the drill.

I’ve left enough clues to take this is any number of directions, so have fun with it. Send it to a dark and scary place, or make it the start of a romantic comedy. Add whatever details strike you, as long as you can still identify this scene as the scene I started—so no completely rewriting it from scratch. The goal is to make this monstrosity better.

Revise the opening page below:

Sara walked out of the building carrying an overfull bag. The streets were cold and damp. The sounds of cars rushing past made her ears hurt, but she didn’t stop. She had to get home.

Her car was sitting in the parking lot. She got out her keys, unlocked the door, and got inside, setting her bag down on the back seat as she fixed the seatbelt across her chest. She took a deep breath and sighed dramatically. She knew she had little time left, and it was so important she get home in time.

As she drove home, she thought about everything she had to do to get ready. So much, she thought, and she’d never have enough time. She sighed, heaving her shoulders heavily. Maybe she should call in help, but that would bring in a whole other set of problems she’d have to deal with. But she might not have any choice in the matter.

She hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” She faltered. Did she really want to do this?

Sara fidgeted in her faded and stained car seat. The last time she’d called Jessie, they’d fought. It was a stupid fight, but some stuff stuck around like a bad smell left in the trash too long without anyone taking it out to the curb.

Her finger hovered over the button again.

Skill tip: Pay attention to the elements that are driving the scene and think about ways to improve those elements. What is this scene about? What opening scene elements are missing? What can be fleshed out? How can you bring a sense of character and goals to this page?

Random Critique Contest!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a random contest, and this writing prompt feels worthy of one. The best revision will win a 1000-word critique from me.

And the catch (there’s always a catch): You guys vote on the best revision. Just reply to the comment of the opening page you like best (also use the name in case the comment doesn’t get embedded). The revision with the most comments win.

Rules: One vote per commenter please. And you’re on the honor system here—feel free to invite friends to come read them, but please don’t stack the deck by getting random folks to vote for you. I reserve the right to disqualify any submission that looks fishy -grin-

Post your entry in the comments section. Deadline for entries is next Sunday, August 9th, at noon, EST. I'll announce the winner on Monday, August 10th.


  1. Don't enter me in the contest. I just saw this and wanted to have fun with it. :)


    Squelches sounded from Sara's shoes with each step across the damp and puddled parking lot. She glanced over her shoulder, but no shadows followed her.

    It would be okay. No one else knew her plan.

    Besides, for as loud as the squeaks from her soles rang in her ears, the rushing of cars from the street behind her drowned out the noise. No one would hear her--at least no humans would. But one of them...

    At her car, the door creaked loud enough to make her cringe. She should have fixed that darn thing last week.

    She slipped inside and hugged her overfilled bag to her chest. The bands of stress around her ribcage loosened a notch. So far so good.

    Once she made it home, she just had to pray that she'd be able to decipher the genetic mutations from the notes of her company's experiments. Somewhere in there had to be the proof that their splicing and dicing had purpose beyond their claims. They weren't the innocent "Find the Fountain of Youth in Your Genes" company their advertising portrayed. They were creating--and their creations weren't human.

    Doubt tickled the back of her mind. Jessie was the expert at reading genetic code, not her. But the last time they'd talked, Jessie had called her a bigot.

    Her finger hovered over the call button on her steering wheel. Maybe these records would force Jessie to see the truth. This wasn't about Sara rejecting the differences of other humans. They weren't human at all.

  2. The bang of a can hitting pavement echoed through Sara's ears. She would never find out what had dropped, but just remember that it was gone. There was no time to turn around.
    No matter. It probably wasn't important anyway. Sara kept assuring herself of these thoughts, not wanting to add another mistake to her long list of troubles. The supermarket clock read 3:10. With just twenty minutes to fix everything that had gone wrong, there was no room for mistakes. She closed her eyes, pushing away the distracting rumble of traffic that clogged her mind. She just had to get home.
    Spotting the starlight silver of her car forced a relieved sigh out of her. With the trunk door opening with little trouble, she quickly found the relaxing comfort of her body against the seat, all the groceries put away. With one hand running through her hair, combing out all the stress woven through, she checked her watch with the other.
    3:16? Impossible. The supermarket clock didn't read this late. Multiple short panicked breaths coursed through her. One clock was off and chances were six minutes had been scraped off her schedule. Sara pushed her foot agienst the gas, wasting no time before she ruined everything again.
    Today was thanksgiving. Today, dinner was at her house. Today would be the day her family finally forgave her from moving away. After seeing her divine food and breathtaking apartment, how could they say she was irresponsible, a fool?
    Unless the food was burnt and grotesque. Unless the house was a mess when Sara got home. Unless her family already decided who she was and never bothered to show up.
    Tears threatened to burn through her eyes as her thumb hovered over the call button on the steering wheel. She needed help. Jessie would know what to do.
    But why would jessie even bother with her? Sara couldn't count the weeks since they had last talked. She couldn't even remember why they were fighting.even if she apoligized, Jessie would take offence that Sara couldn't even remember her own stupid actions.
    Taking her thumb away from the steering wheel, Sara forced her foot harder into the gas pedal. If one thing was for sure, she didn't need another person calling her stupid and worthless today.


  3. Sara shivered as she jerked on the strap of her bag one more time. It was digging into her shoulder, but she couldn't possibly leave anything behind. She needed every single thing in there. No matter what anyone said, she would never believe she was any kind of hoarder. Those people were sick whereas she simply had a lot of needs.

    At the moment, she needed to get home. Her cat needed to be fed, the dog needed to be let out, and that pile of papers needed to be dealt with. Who knew that selling her family home, the home where she grew up, would be so taxing. Perhaps she could call for help.

    She was still thinking about it, thinking about calling the one person she knew could help her, when she got into her car. When she pulled into traffic, the horns honked and the tires skidded as people slammed on their breaks, but she heard none of it. She was driving slowly, cautiously, and they would simply have to wait.

    Her hand hovered above the button on her steering wheel, but she pressed it before she could reconsider. "Call..." she faltered.

    The last time she’d called Jessie, they’d fought. It was a stupid fight, but memories like that stuck around like something left in the trash too long without anyone bothering to take it out to the curb. Her finger hovered over the button again.

    1. Tina
      Nice, effortless prose, and we get a great picture of the MC. I especially like the line "...they would simply have to wait."

  4. Sara trudged down the steps of the brownstone, holding the rail with one hand while wrestling a bulging tote into submission with the other. Cars honked and slalomed along the flooded street, coating sidewalks and passersby with an unspeakable icing. She wished, not for the first time, for an additional set of hands to cover her ears.

    Four hands. My client list would double.

    Sara grinned and briefly entertained the idea of returning to his apartment and waiting out the weather. But she had to get home.

    Rabe waved from the attendant's booth as she headed for her car. A loud screech announced the opening of the fly specked service window.

    "Hey babe, if you're sellin' I'm buyin'!"

    Sara flipped him off with practiced ease and swung her bag forward to search for her keys. Half of a scarlet bra was dangling cheerfully from the hastily zippered front compartment. There was a time when she would have felt humiliated, but that was $100,000 ago. The Push Up Killer Extreme Size 36D sailed in an impeccable arc through the window and into Rabe's ample lap. He solemnly placed it on his head.

    "Thanks honey. You be safe tonite. Hear me?"

    A random note of kindness in the cacophony of life.

    She gave him a thumbs up as she slung her bag in the back of the dented Buick, made sure that her left buttock was situated over the partially exposed seat spring (otherwise, she'd be a fascinating story at some gynecologist's cocktail party) and fastened her seatbelt. One deep breath stifled her sudden urge to cry. Another deep breath cleansed some of the anxiety from her mind. No time to indulge in histrionics, as her husband dearly loved to point out.

    Time. She had to be home in time.

    Snaking through the clogged expressway (a misnomer if there ever was one) gave her time to think. It wasn't humanly possible to cram everything that had to be done into the time allotted. She could round up a few people to help, the ones who still owed her favors, but that would create an additional set of problems. A defeated sigh morphed into a tremendous belch, promptly steaming up the windshield.

    Jessie would die laughing. There was a thought.

    She hit the call button on her steering wheel, the one high-end option that still worked. “Call…” She faltered. Did she really want to do this?

    The last call to Jessie had ended in a vicious quarrel over a project they'd worked on together years ago. That seemed to be a hallmark of all close relationships; you nitpicked over some imagined slight, then proceeded to drag up and rehash every single thing that each of you had done to one other over a lifetime. Even if you apologized, it still came back to haunt you. The trash might be gone, but the smell seemed to linger forever.

    Still, Jessie was the one person who might be equipped to deal with this particular clean-up job.

    Her fingered hovered over the button.

    1. Li
      This one is pretty creative. Especially near the end about the trash gone but the smell lingered.

    2. Li,
      I liked the mystery of this story. Nice.

  5. Sarah hurried out of the Lennox-Leary building. Carrying a bag that strained at its seams with the spoils of shopping, she noticed the cold damp streets on this February day. The blaring horns, from the cars careening past, made her ears sore but she did not stop. She had to get home before Nathan did.

    Her black station wagon in the parking lot seemed like an oasis of peace beckoning to her. She shifted the heavy bag in her arms and heard a soft ripping sound. She grabbed her keys and ran towards the car. When she opened the door the contents of the bag exploded onto the passenger side of the vehicle. She climbed inside and set the remains on the back seat.

    Sliding the seat belt across her ample bosom she sighed with relief. But only for a moment because there was little time left. That is if she was to get home first. Anniversaries are important and she wanted this one to pop and sizzle with excitement.

    On the drive home she considered her impromptu anniversary to do list. There were candles, a sexy outfit, and champagne. So much to do! Is there enough time? She sighed again, mildly overwhelmed. Maybe I should call in the big guns - but that would create a whole new wrinkle in her plans full of problems of its own.

    On Monday she succumbed to ordering dinner from Marlena"s instead of preparing her own. That was enough outside help, but there may be no other way to get this done. She tapped the call button on the steering column. "Call..." She hesitated. Do I really want to do this?

    Her Poodle Mix puppy - Sarah fidgeted in her seat as she reviewed her options. The last time she called Jesse, the first of the big guns, they fought. He always had a way of steering the limelight on his needs, his priorities. Tonight belonged to them. It was their anniversary. Jesse was definitely out. The fight was over something dumb. Unfortunately, her husband was still angry with Jesse for ruining their plans. Some things cling to you like cheap perfume or low quality booze - leaving a smell like trash left out on the curb too long and full of flies. Her finger hovered over the button again.

  6. Don't enter me into the contest, I have no work to submit. Just wanted to enjoy the exercise. Which proved to be quite enjoyable.


    The concrete was hard and cold, and the wind howling, but the over bulging bag weighed even more on Sara's shoulders. Even the chaos of the cars went unheard. The only thing that mattered was getting home. Quick and unnoticed, like old times.

    “Damnit, just work this time,” she muttered. Her once steady hands were trembling and refusing to slide the key into the familiar lock. Part of her wanted to turn and abandon everything. She'd done that before. Countless times. But that life had been left behind. This life was everything she had ever wanted. Gritting her teeth, she tossed the bag in the now open door and got in. Steeling herself, she gripped the wheel. Time was against her. Ever minute had to count now.

    The drive was second nature, but the planning would take all night. The old connections would not be easy to find, and it had been a different Sara who had used those lock picks last. That Sara wouldn't have given running a second though. Hell, she would have just left everything and everyone behind.

    Drumming impatient fingers on the wheel, she looked at the bag. Everything from her past was sitting in that bag. No one ever questioned her past, or who she was. Until that picture had shown up on her desk. Five years of hard work, building an alias and making a new life had been destroyed. With a single picture.

    The drive home was quick. Ignoring the red lights and stop signs had made it even faster. Gripping the wheel, she rested her forehead against it. Solving this new problem was going to be harder than creating an alias. Even worse than any other job she had pulled. Unless she had help.

    Jessie would know a way out of this.

    Holding her breath, Sara pushed the call button, “Phone....” Crap. She didn't even know his number anymore. Jessie had burned his old phone. Cut off all contact with her. This new life had not fit into his plan, and she had given up any hope of speaking with him.

    Still. They had been close, and she was desperate. Her past, and his, were going to be dragged out of hiding. He was going to be involved in this, even if he still hated her.

    This time, when she hit the button she knew just how she would get a hold of him.

  7. Sara raced out of the building. The neon green tail that poked out of her overstuffed duffel caught in the closing door and jerked her back. “Shit,” she said, backing up and releasing it. She checked for any rips in the fabric, and crammed it deeper into the bag. The costume had cost her a small fortune to have made. It would be just her stupid luck to tear a hole in it right before the big event.
    The streets were damp and slick. She started to jog but felt her high heels slipping out from under her. Did the world always have to conspire against her? She finally reached the curb, waited too long for a break in traffic, and then bolted across the street to the parking lot.

    In the car, she tossed the duffel onto the passenger seat and fastened her seatbelt. She couldn’t risk tempting the gods and getting herself killed in a crash because she didn’t take the time to strap in. Not making it home wasn’t an option—not tonight, not ever. What she had there was way too important.
    Sara sped onto the freeway, glancing at the car’s clock. She’d made a promise and now that promise was threatening to be broken. Damn. Why’d she let her boss corral her for “just one more little item.” She should have told him she had to go. But he probably wouldn’t have understood anyway. He’d never had kids. How could he understand how important opening night of Puff the Magic Dragon was to the little girl playing lead?
    Maybe she should call in help. Call Jessie. Sara took a deep breath. That would bring in a whole slew of other problems to deal with. But she might not have a choice.
    She punched a button on her steering wheel. “Call…” She hesitated. Did she really want to do this?
    The last time she’d called Jessie they’d fought. It had been a stupid fight, at least Sara had thought so. There was no way Sara had been flirting with Jessie’s husband. He might be totally hot and she might wish she’d married him instead of the cheating jerk she’d ended up divorcing, but steal him away? No. Jessie was her best friend. It sucked that stuff like this seemed to linger like the sickening smell of a dirty diaper left in an open pail too long.

    Her finger hovered over the button again. She needed to call. But what if it wasn’t Jessie who answered the phone?

    1. Robin, I like the everyday humor here (the tail catching in the doorway) and the hint of mystery at the end: "what if it wasn't Jessie who answered the phone?"

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  11. [without spelling mistakes noted]:

    Sara walked out into cold and damp and noisy streets with an overfull bag in her hands. Though her ears hurt from the noise she didn’t stop. She had to get home.

    In the parking lot, she unlocked the door, setting her bag down on the back seat as she fixed the seatbelt across her chest. She took a deep breath and sighed dramatically. She knew she had little time left, she had to get home in time.

    Driving home, she thought about everything she had to do to get ready. So much, she sighed, heaving her shoulders heavily, and she’d never have enough time. Maybe she should call in help, but then ... But she might not really have a choice there.

    She hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” She faltered. Did she really want to do this?

    Sara fidgeted in her faded and stained car seat. The last time she’d called Jessie, they’d fought. It was a stupid fight, but some stuff stuck around. Small things, like a bad smell left in the trash too long without anyone taking it out to the curb.

    Her finger hovered over the button again.

  12. Blood pounded in Sara's ears, coursed through her veins, her heart pushing the bacterial sludge into every organ, every capillary. She hefted the bag of clinking vials over her shoulder and rushed from the research building. Well past midnight, no one was around but the security guards, and they weren't due for another three minutes.

    Sara hustled across the sidewalk, gleaming wet in the November night. A horn honked from the main road, and the sound exploded in her ears. Upon reaching her car, she placed the bag on the passenger seat as if it were a delicate newborn. She fastened the seat belt around it. The cold air had revived her for a moment, but as soon as she shut her door, waves of nausea blew through her entire body, and she leaned back to catch her breath.

    Time was running out. It had taken ten minutes to get from the restricted area to the parking lot. The drive home would be fifteen, assuming she could manage a reasonable speed with her head spinning like this. But getting home was only half the battle. The sludge was working far faster than she'd expected. She'd be so out of it by the time she made it to her apartment, someone else would have to give her the first dose of serum.

    Her thumb hovered over the call button. Jessie was the only colleague not already locked up who knew about Serum 174C. He was also the only one to tell her she was an instable, perpetually PMSing bitch who deserved a jail cell like the rest of them.

    She slammed her hands on the steering wheel. If she didn't call now, she'd never prove her team was innocent, and that the cure worked. Damn Jessie for making this so hard on all of them. Damn him. She stabbed the Call button and prayed he'd pick up.

    1. Laura
      Oh the drama. Could be good reading.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Laura,
      (I removed my comment above because I forgot to add your name per instructions.)
      I want this one to continue because it pulls me right in.

    4. Laura,
      I liked this one. I want to read more!

  13. “Crap!” Sara stumbled as she moved to grab the items spilling from her overfull bag, while making out of the building. It was comic; everytime she grabbed an item another fell. And tonight she needed to be on time. The cold and damp caused her left elbow to burn. She ignored the pain of her elbow, and the ringing in her ears from the loud passing cars, and didn’t stop. She had to get home.

    The keys hit the pavement with a tink and she grumbled as she stooped to grab them. That was when her compact tried to make a break for it.

    “Oh no you don’t!” she scolded, stuffing it back in her bag. Away bounced her cell phone. “Gods….” Sara sighed and closed her eyes for the briefest moment, pulling herself together. Everything in hand, she stood once again, and moved forward with purpose. She tossed her bag to the passenger seat as she sat down, squealing at the wetness soaking into her bottom. A glance at the window and she remembered forgetting to roll the window the rest of the way up when she parked that morning. Sara sighed dramatically. She knew she had little time left, and it was so important she get home in time.

    “There just isn’t enough time,” she mumbled to herself. She thought about everything she had to do to get ready. Here hands beat out her frustration on the steering wheel. Maybe she should call in help… “Or not.” Sara shook her head and rebuked herself. That was another set of problems she did not need to deal with. “Of course I have a choice,” she argued.

    She hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” She faltered. Did she really want to do this? Sara fidgeted in her seat, as if that would help her damp bottom. Maybe it would take care of some of the stains, at least. She acknowledged she might possibly be a bit messy.

    Sara’s last conversation with Jessie ended with more than a bit of yelling and some choice four-letter words thrown in for good measure. "He probably won’t even remember what it’s about."

    You chew way too loud over the phone, she thought.

    “Hey! Whose side are you on anyway!” she yelled at her stupid, accurate mind, deciding not to grab the bag of chips sitting in her bag before she called.

    Her finger hovered over the button again.

  14. A carton of eggs teeter-tottered on the rim of her grocery bag, as Sara scurried out of the store into the cold, damp night. The drizzle made her sore throat worse, and the city traffic hurt her ears. A headache ricocheted between her dark brown eyes.

    The 21-year old shoved the bag onto the back seat of her well-worn, old Ford. Of course, the eggs fell out, missed the seat and landed upside down on the floor. Sara's shoulders slumped and she groaned, but she left them there and slammed the door.

    (Doesn’t matter. Just gotta get home!)

    Sliding into the front seat she took a deep breath, puffed out her cheeks and blew a stream of air at the steering wheel. Hot tears began their trip down her pale cheeks.

    (I’m not going to make it - too much to do and not enough time! My boss will think I’m a liar; I’ll lose my job, my car, my apartment. Sis and I will be living on the street with no one to help us. I’ll have to work as a prosti…Dear God!
    I need Jessie’s help… I can deal with his snooty I-told-you-so attitude if I have to. Crap, crap, crap! What else can I do?)

    Sara hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” She pushed her long hair behind her ear and began nibbling on her fingernails.

    (That stupid fight we had is like a rotten potato left behind the fridge. Time to let it go. If I apologize and let him know how much we need him, he’ll come around…please!)

    Her finger hovered over the button again.

  15. Sara lugged her bag out of Birthday City. The pink napkins and inflatable magic wand threatened to spill out. She balanced the bag on a knee, so she could rearrange her hands in a better grip. If anything fell, she’d leave it. The recent winter rains had turned the parking lot into spit-infested waters. She knew the drill with the male species.

    “Do you need a cart, lady?” One of *them,* probably a spit-offender, stopped when she hugged the bag and leaped across a puddle.

    Sara growled low in her throat. He gave her a wide berth. Hmm, at least some of them possessed brains. She traipsed toward her car. The vehicles whizzing past on the interstate made her ears ring, but she didn’t stop.

    So she had the signs of another migraine. Whatever, as long as it didn’t hinder her from fulfilling her promise. Cindy wanted a princess-themed birthday party. Her daughter deserved that at least.

    As if the migraine wasn't enough torture, Sara ploughed straight through a puddle. Icy water splashed up her left leg, seeping through the jeans. Since she’d skipped breakfast, nothing came up during the two gags, which doubled her over.

    The napkins tumbled into the puddle. She'd cut the loss. A five-year-old never asked for one anyway.

    Sara reached her car and brandished the keys from where she had looped them around her ring finger. Getting the door open might be tricky. Maybe she should have grabbed a cart like the man suggested.

    Men were never right.

    By wedging the bag between one hip and the car, she managed to stretch her arm out and open the door.

    “Me woman. Me smart.” She deposited her burden on the backseat and sealed it shut.

    Only the confounded door bounced back open because of the smashed hood. Sara shoved, kicked, and pounded the door into submission. She slipped behind the wheel, breaths coming out in gasps.

    The clock on the dashboard read 12:05. Noon already. And the cake needed frosting, the decorations required assembly; there were the balloons…the mental list ran on. How would she ever get everything done before Cindy got out of school?

    She could bring in reinforcements. Jesse would help, but then she would have to see him. Talk to him. *Thank* him.

    No denying she needed help, though. She hit the phone button on her steering wheel. “Call…”

    Jesse yelled at her last time she called him. Okay, she’d yelled a touch too. He blamed her for smashing the garage door on top of her car. She blamed him for not showing her how to work the remote control better. Nothing a brother and sister couldn’t work out, but he still hadn’t apologized.

    The thought left a bitter taste in Sara’s mouth like black coffee left on the counter too long.

    But for Cindy.

    The thing’s a single mom had to do. Her finger hovered over the button again.

  16. Sara walked out of the hospital carrying an overfull bag. The late afternoon light was grey and cold. "Watch out, lady!" a voice yelled as she hazarded the road against the flashing red hand to get to the car park. "Fuck off," she muttered, her mind heavy and numb. Home. She had to get home.

    His car was sitting in the parking lot. She got out her own set of keys, unlocked the door, and got inside, setting her bag down on the passenger seat. Her hand groped for the lever to adjust the seat. "Some short person has been driving this car," he'd always say after she'd used it. "Don't go there, Sara," she told herself. "Shut up and start driving." She knew she had little time left, and it was so important she get home quickly.

    As she drove, she tried to make a mental check list of everything she had to do to, but her mind kept going back to the events of that morning. Jessie. One minute just drinking his coffee and reading her random news items, the next minute crumpling to the floor. She gripped the steering wheel and bit her lip. God, God, God! She couldn't do this on her own, she needed help. But there was no one she could ask, not without inviting in a whole other set of problems she’d have to deal with.

    She pulled the car into the driveway and lugged the bag of Jessie's things into the house. "Call someone, Sara," she urged and walked toward the wall-phone. She hesitated. Did she really want to do this?

    The phone rang, jolting her from her reverie. She grabbed the receiver as if afraid of the noise. "Hello?"


    "Hello?" she tried again.

    "Did you get the message, Sara?"

    "Who is this? Hello?"

    "Keep your mouth shut if you don't want to end up like Jessie."

    1. I want to read more of this one!!!!

  17. New beginnings my ass. Sara zipped her jacket and pushed through the door with a little more force than she intended. Sidestepping puddles, she shoved the bag under her arm and fished for her keys. Ten in the morning and her head pounded with the list of to-do things the woman had pushed on her. “Remember, time is of the essence. Get in and get out.”

    She hated women like her, overconfident with an answer for everything. A car horn blared and she nearly dropped the bag. Jumpy as a whore in church, Sara hit the remote, threw the bag into the car, spilling its contents onto the floor, and slipped behind the wheel, hitting the lock.

    Her hands shook as she buckled her seatbelt. Time, you won’t have much. You can do this. Maybe Jesse would help her if she’d even speak to her. The last time they’d argued. Things were said, on both sides, she regretted. Regardless, they were still sisters. Jesse may be mad, but she wanted this for her.

    She hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” Her hand hovered, then disconnected. Jesse had been right. This time Sara had to her to find her own courage. He’d been a bad choice from the get go. She glanced at the clock, took a deep breath, and pulled into traffic.

  18. Sara hustled out of I.R.A. headquarters and into the wet streets. Her gear bag weighed on her like Commander Kegan’s expectations. She reached the parking lot and other agents zoomed past her in their car. She covered her ears. How had they not recovered? Her job in Puerto Rico was months ago!
    She hoped in her car and heaved a sigh. Tonight, she would bring down Dragomiroff. She threw her bag in the back seat and started the engine. Everything had to be done before the gala started.
    She stopped at a red light and began to drum her fingers on the wheel. Her heart raced, her stomach churned. Could she really do this by herself? She’d never hacked a security system before. Nor had she ever poisoned someone purposefully. Maybe she could call Deborah? Deborah was far more accomplished in these fields. But would it reflect well on her? Did Sara really need others to hold her hand? She needed to do her job right…
    She hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” A lump formed in her throat. She knew Jesse was still mad at her for taking this job and she did not want to apologize for defending her choice. Still, she couldn’t blow the assignment.
    She pressed Jesse’s number.

  19. A roll of paper towels shifted to a more precarious position perched on top of the swollen canvas bag. Stepping out of the building, she paused to search for her car. There it was, waiting for her at the other end of the vast and busy parking lot. She took a deep breath and started her journey.
    A car passed, splashing water onto her already soggy socks and squeaky shoes. The hard edge of something in the bag reminded her of its presence again. To prevent another jab to the thigh or the towels falling out, she held the bag a little further out. Not easy as she dodged more puddles and other passing cars.
    Her fingers were flaming red and aching from enduring the straps of the 20 to 30 pound bag all the way to the car. She fumbled one-handed for her keys, trying not to drop them or the towels then unlocked the door. After setting the bag in the back seat so nothing spilled, she tossed her purse onto the car seat, got in and struggled with the twisted seatbelt. She took another deep breath, blew out her mouth then started the car.
    Thoughts raced through her mind as she stopped at two red street lights. Glancing at the time again, she mapped and remapped her plan of attack. There’s just not enough time for all this. It’s almost impossible. Maybe Jessie can help, but ooh… Being the poster child of organization and Jessie being so haphazard, the two of them almost never agree on anything. But in the end, the work gets done, and done well. If it wasn’t for the bumper-to-bumper traffic getting here and that incident this morning, maybe she’d be there by now. And a trip to the hardware store could be avoided.
    At another red light, she groaned. Why are all the lights red? She tapped the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” hm. She hesitated and tried to think of other options as she fidgeted with the faded and stained car seat next to her.
    Then a car pulled alongside her that, out the corner of her eye, looked familiar. She glanced at it then stared at the driver with wide eyes then gasped.
    Oh no, not him. Not now.
    She tapped the call button again and said “call Jessie.”

  20. Buckling her seatbelt, Sara shivered in her cold car as other vehicles rushed past. What a sad, fitting metaphor for her life. She rolled her eyes at her own morose thinking. Now was not the time for regrets. She had to get home and pack, time was running out.

    In her hurry, she pulled out without looking and a blaring horn made her heart jump to her throat as she slammed on her brakes. She deserved the middle finger the driver flipped as he shot around her. Taking a deep breath, she looked this time before pulling out. She needed help.

    Hands shaking, she hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call...” She hesitated. Did she really want to do this? Would it give her false hope if Jessie did answer and agree to come to her rescue, yet again?

    Their last encounter had ended up in a stupid fight. All of their fights lately seemed stupid, yet the aftermath lingered like the stench of day old garbage. Another fitting metaphor, she mused. She needed to turn off her inner writer. Besides, Jessie never remembered to take out the garbage.

    But he always had the coffee ready in the morning...

    Her finger hovered over the button again. She fidgeted, trying to think of other options. "Call Jess--, no wait, don't!"

    "Sara?" The familiar rumble of his voice washed over her as the tears slipped down her cheeks.

    1. Oops, forgot to say I'm not entering the contest. I did it as an exercise!

  21. Huddled against the cold and damp, Sara buried her head even the noise of rushing cars was an irritation. Her overfull bag bumped her legs she wanted to scream all she could focus on was getting to the refuge of her home.

    The old shopping center clock annoyed her that arm those hands, they dragged the time from her, she scanning the parking lot she never could remember where she parked her car.

    "Mam. Maam" she realized the voice was directed at her.

    She glared and then softened the old car guard, was pointing out her car. Seconds ticked as she fumbled for change, he followed her to the car scuttling like a crab. Scratching in pockets for the keys, the old man held her bag,"this is really heavy." he commented offhandedly.

    "I didn't ask you to guess the weight." she instantly regretted the words, he looked hurt.

    "I am sorry." it sounded so lame, "I need to get home.

    Locked in her car she felt safe for a moment before the urgency gripped her chest like the seat belt. She checked the back seat, her bag stared back at her accusingly, she sighed, "oh don't be so dramatic" she scolded herself .

    The old man's hands fluttered for her to reverse while he held some other irritated shopper at bay desperate for her parking. His hands reminded her, she had to get home she had no time. Reversing stretched her neck the old aches and pains forced her to heave her shoulders the weight of the bag had made her muscles knot.

    She eased the car into traffic, someone honked she glared and shouted and realized it was not her he honked at. Feeling ashamed of her actions she focused on what needed to be done, it had to be right so much to do, how would she get it all done? She went through the check list in her head one more time. Time, time wasn't that the white rabbit story her thoughts wanderd who would be her 'mad hatter?'

    She mulled the idea of help, she saw the broken cups and all the tea, "No!" she smiled to herself but maybe a sleepy mouse would be the answer? Help didn't sound too bad at that moment well the right help, she kept the smile on the corner of her lips, the first in a long time.

    Excited she hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” She faltered. Did she really want to do this?

    Sara fidgeted, she saw her life as faded as the car seats, the stains of her life mirrored in the old cloth the pattern almost gone. The last time she’d called Jessie she fought him, an insane argument she could not even remember the details, just another stupid fight she realized in a long line of stupid fights. He stuck with her like a bad smell from old trash, 'the curb or not the curb,' her finger hovered over the call button.

  22. Vickie Weeks8/08/2015 6:31 PM

    Please do not enter me in the contest as I have nothing to submit. Thanks for the challenge! It was fun!

    Sara stumbled out of the bakery carrying a huge cake box . The streets were cool and steamy from the summer shower! The constant hum of the traffic made her ears ring causing a slight headache. She knew she had to trudge on and follow through with her promise. The next and final stop "home"!

    Her red Honda Prelude was waiting for her in the parking lot, beckoning her like a long lost friend. She carefully lowered the box on the hood of the car. Fumbling for her keys, she accidentally hit the trunk opener on the key fob. Aggravated with herself, she knew she could not put the box in the trunk.
    She opened the passenger door and pushed the seat back as far as it would go, slightly reclining the seat. Then was able to fasten the seatbelt around the box so the cake would not shift. Finally, after closing the passenger door and trunk she was able to relax for a brief moment Breathing a sigh of relief when she sank down into the driver's seat which was sagging so badly that it was hard to get out of. She pulled the seatbelt across her chest and she couldn't help but notice it had fastened a little easier today. She had to get home in time to pull off a miracle!

    As she drove home, she thought about her long "to do list" and all the tasks that had not been completed. She sighed and reminded herself that the "to do list" was impossible to complete in the short amount of time she had left. She expected too much of herself! Maybe she could call in some help but who could she call? She did not delegate well! She needed more than one person. But that would open up another can of worms as her family did not get along and it would probably be all they could do to be civil for a few hours of celebration. She might not have any say so in the matter as she knew she could not hire help. At least, not now!

    She hit the redial button on her cell phone. "Really"? Does she really have the nerve to call Jessie after the fight they had over the phone last night? Wait a minute, she could just call and pretend the fight didn't happen and charm him into helping her. After all that's how some men do it! Get into an argument, don't apologize and call like things are hunky dory! That's it!

    Her finger trembled as she hit the redial button!

  23. Reply button wouldn't work on my computer for some reason. Sorry! :(

    Tina's entry gets my vote.

  24. Sara kept her face down and her jacket pulled high around her neck. But as she descended the stone steps of the W hotel her eyes worked double-time, scanning each face that brushed past her. Any one of them could be another agent. Another betrayer. A thought that would have made her smirk ten minutes prior. But who was the rat? Thomas? Jessie? A shiver ran through her. Couldn't be Jessie...

    She reached the street and released the steel-grip on her leather bag. She'd been pulling it against her side since she strolled out of the 14th floor hotel room. A large island of maroon blanketed her shirt. Damn, she'd only thought it was minor. Adrenaline was causing even her to make mistakes. She had to get home.

    She pulled door of her rental open. A bloody handprint melted into rivers of red off the handle. Had she known this wasn't a drop, that it was a freaking hit-job, she never would have accepted a white car. This was supposed to be the last job of her career, and she supposed it still was. Just that it was supposed to end with a bullet in her head instead of an intel pickup from her source.

    She drove quickly, replaying everything that had led to this moment in her mind. She had to figure out who had ordered the hit against her. Who could help her out of the country. Who was still a friend.

    She hit the call button on her steering wheel. “Call…” She faltered. Did she really want to do this? Yes. Jessie would never betray her. Not even after their last fight had ended in bottles from the mini-bar smashing into the walls. He wouldn't kill her. He loved her. It had to have been Thomas.

    She pressed the call button again.

    "Cancel that," a voice called from the backseat. She glanced up at the rear view mirror. Jessie's eyes, glossy with tears stared back at her. He pressed his gun against the back of her neck.

    1. This one was added after I had already voted, so I couldn't vote for you. Just wanted you to know, Will S, that loved your revision!