Lightning in a Jar: Wounded Prey


I was raised on romance. Songs like, “Fly Me to the Moon” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and countless memories of sitting in a darkened theater watching the larger-than-life romances of Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Louis Jordan and Leslie Caron, not to mention Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and their respective princes.

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

Romance on the Silver Screen: Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

At home, I was hooked on late night movies. Two o’clock in the morning and you could find me watching Fred Astaire blithely dancing across a ballroom, in his top hat and coattails, whisking Ginger Rogers into his arms as they danced cheek to cheek. Or, a debonair Cary Grant gazing passionately into Grace Kelly’s eyes. Ditto, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who suggestively asked Bogie to pucker up his lips and blow.

As a little girl, I imagined one day meeting my own knight-in-shining armor. I even had a dream about this mysterious someone. He was on the battlefields of World War II (don’t ask), injured in combat and I was a nurse who had to nurture him back to health. We fell passionately in love and when I awoke, I had the faint memory of something that never happened. At least, not to me.

But then Jake swept me off my feet. There had been other crushes, as far back as first grade, but none amounted to anything but a passing fancy. With Jake, it was different. For six months we spent every possible moment together—in school, after school, on the weekends, and it seemed, whenever we couldn’t be together, we were on the phone. Kismet.

Maybe I would’ve been better off growing up on the set of a movie. I could have gone to the school sock hop with Andy Hardy. I would’ve treated Clark Gable a whole lot better than Scarlet O’Hara ever did. I could’ve danced in the rain with Gene Kelly, forever living my happily ever after on a Hollywood sound stage.

But instead, I grew up in reality and real life doesn’t promise the same happy endings. It’s filled with twists and turns, jealousy, misunderstandings and ultimatums. There’s love, yes, but there’s also love gone wrong, growing apart, moving on, and that’s all she wrote.

So, when Jake unceremoniously dumped me for another—a senior with soft brown curls, upturned nose and a smattering of freckles—I was devastated and downright miserable. Nothing and no one could console me.

James had said I was bubbly, which is why he called me Bubbles. But after Jake dropped me cold, it was hard to believe I had ever been upbeat or could be so again. Laughing and joking seemed pointless. Crying came naturally.

The shock of the breakup paralyzed me. After crying on my mother’s shoulder for two and a half hours, I took to bed, and stared at the ceiling, wondering how I would ever be able to return to school and show my face. The humiliation of it all. I had neglected many of my friends while I was dating Jake. Would they welcome be back into the fold or would I need to find new ones?

My best friend, Liza, had never liked Jake in the first place. “You could do better,” had been her refrain. I could do better, but it scared the bejezus out of me. I thought I had done better with Jake, but now Jake had a new girlfriend and they were in love. I wondered if Liza would say the same about her. That she could do better.

I couldn’t sleep that night or the next. I had no appetite, not even when my father offered to take us all to Sizzler’s for charbroiled burgers. I was mad at him. I blamed him for forcing us to go to D.C., certain as I was that the trip was the source of my problems. After all, had I not been gone a week, Jake and I might still be together.

I briefly thought about James. Last time I saw James, I was angry and said things I now regretted. I wondered what it would be like when I saw him again come Monday. How could I face him? Ugh. I wasn’t looking forward to going back or seeing him. And, I wasn’t sure which would be worst.

I heard the phone ring. Three times. My parents had a rule that the phone had to ring three times before you could pick it up. No more, no less. Go figure. There was a persistent knock on my bedroom door.

“Mónica, teléfono,” said my mother in Spanish.

Exhausted, defeated I dragged myself into my parents’ bedroom to take the call, carefully shutting the door behind me so as not to be overheard. A thought crossed my mind. Maybe Jake was calling to apologize, to beg me to take him back.

Picking up the receiver, I said, expectantly, “Hello?”

“Hey, heard what happened. You up for some company? Say the word and I can make it in 10.”

It was George, one of Jake’s good friends. I recognized his distinct nasal voice. George, who was just a tad taller than me, had jet black hair and swarthy looks. He also had no discernible personality to speak of, told dull jokes, and had a few whiskers that appeared to be growing willy-nilly on one side of his chin, which he said he kept to impress “the ladies.” George and I had never hung out on our own. I barely knew him and I found him rather annoying the few times he tagged along on my dates with Jake. And, now suddenly he wanted to pay me a visit. Someone must’ve told the hyenas that the prey was wounded and it was time to come in for the kill.

The smell of fried plantains wafted through the closed bedroom door. My mother was making dinner, and probably also cooking up her fritters made with white rice and bananas. My favorite. Her way of trying to make me feel better, and normally it would do the trick. Normally.

Normally, I’d be racing down to the kitchen to steal a bite before dinner. But I no longer knew what normal felt like. I had no appetite, nothing. Just a bland feeling creeping over my heart, cut by the pain of losing Jake.

“So, would you like me to come over or not?” The hyenas were getting restless.

Summing up all the enthusiasm I could muster, I said, “Sure. But make it in 30.”

I needed time for the swelling in my eyes to subside. Too much crying, I suppose.

(To be continued.)

Missed an installment? Catch up by visiting the High School Years page.

24 thoughts on “Lightning in a Jar: Wounded Prey

  1. Tell me it ain’t so Monica, please tell me it ain’t so. You were surely more brilliant than this, not the left field rebound guy and with willy nilly whiskers no less.

  2. Monica, you’re painting a brilliant story here, and I’m loving every minute of it! Methinks poor George is going to be a poor substitute for the elusive Jake, though.

  3. The smell of fried plantains wafted through the closed bedroom door***

    I LOoove your small significant details, Monica.

    And about Cary–that’s when MEN were MEN. xxxx

  4. Monica, firstly, you like Cary Grant???? Me too, me too. He has a smoulder but a sweet gentlemanly smoulder … Not unlike Colin… Different looks though. I love To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest. I have not seen Charade with Audrey Hepburn, but I will. Okay moving on…. And I could talk about Mr Grant for a while 🙂 old soul that I am…
    You know how I feel about your writing, I am so engrossed, even when I am busy. I catch up late, but with two chapters at a time, I feel as though I am reading a novel.
    I don’t like the idea of George, he didn’t have good intentions… I don’t know, that’s what I got from reading this chapter. Not the guy for you… Look at me, so involved. I felt for your broken heart. I can’t wait to see how you bounce back.. I know you will and I wonder if James will make it back.

    • Oh, MM, I should’ve known you’d love Cary, too. He’s absolutely amazing, whether doing drama, mystery or comedy. North by Northwest, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, Notorious, Arsenic and Old Lace. They’re all superb! I adore Mr. Grant!

      Keep reading and all will soon be revealed. 😉

  5. Monica, the reference to old movies was brilliant! I love how you are portraying the angst, insecurity, and heightened suffering that are part of teenage breakups! Oh, the drama! I know it well. hee hee! This series is such a treat for your readers. I am so excited that you are delving into your memories and allowing us to have a glimpse of the “younger” you. I read this installment and thought, wow! Any young (and older) female can relate. Sister, you are on a roll! Thanks for taking us along for the ride! 🙂

    • Bella, I fell like my generation was at a crossroads. Still being taught that love and marriage was the end all, while standing on the precipice of the feminist movement. I held on to the former as long as I could, until it was shattered by my divorce. Sigh. Thank you so much for encouraging me to continue with this series. Hugs!

  6. Monica, I’ve been swamped lately and haven’t had time til now to catch up. I can compare this experience to being on vacation and coming home to an entire season of your favorite shows on DVR and getting to watch them all at once. I’ve been reading your postings all at once and now I am hooked and can’t wait til the next episode, I mean post :>)

  7. I like the reference to old movies and I think that they gave us a connection to our parent’s generation of appreciating and viewing things in their unique way that does not exist in today’s parent child relationship.

  8. Where did George come from, the back of the outfield?

    Springing these characters on us, I can just see this line of young boys sorting out the pecking order to come chasing after you.

    You can almost see whats coming, I think in the long run your going to end up being better off with the late night films and a box of paper hankies.

    Fascinating reading though Monica, I obviously skipped a lot of drama, excitement and heart ache growing up. Oh the delights of young love!!!

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