Why Can’t I Answer the Phone When I Desperately Need Help?

As the phone on the worn laminate continued to pulse, I was unsure whether to answer. On the one hand, I was desperate to connect with someone who could help me, but on the other scared the person calling now was the one hunting me. My hand hovered over the vibrating device, frozen with uncertainty.

Unexpected yelling at the other end of the lunch counter stole my attention. A squabble had broken out between the two locals who had been there since I sat down. One man shoved the shoulder of the other and I was afraid there was going to be a fist fight. With tension coursing through me I watched the scene unfold.

When I had come in they had appeared to be friends, what could they have possibly been arguing about? Even with their voices raised I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I caught a word here and there but I couldn’t make sense of it.

“Cheat!”
“Liar!”
“Asshole!”

I was sure one of these men was going to punch the other when the waiter/cook walked over and said something to them I wasn’t able to hear. Just like that it was over. What had moments before been escalating into something violent was suddenly amicable. They exchanged glances, then started laughing. How was the proprietor able to diffuse the situation so quickly?

It was almost a minute before I realized my phone had stopped vibrating. I had missed the call. Once again indecision had prevented me from moving forward. How long would fear control my actions?

With trepidation I watched for a voicemail notification, hope and dread mixing into a sour cocktail in my stomach. Nothing. Chills went down my spine and a feeling of foreboding washed over me.

Before I could fully consider the implications of what had happened, my burger appeared before me. I couldn’t help but ask what the disagreement had been about.

“Those two have been having lunch here every day for as long as I can remember. They have been having the same argument just as long. It was nothing.”

It had sure looked like something to me, but maybe I was overreacting because I’ve been on edge for weeks. Oh how I missed hanging out with my friends, missed the simple routines of everyday life. Would I ever have that again?

Taking a bite of my burger, still with one eye on my phone, I saw my brother-in-law’s face appear on the screen along with his number. He was finally calling me back. I desperately hoped for good news as I clicked the accept button.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Squabble and is part of something longer I am working on.

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