Shouldn’t Love You – Reese Hart

T DANA he sun was shining perfectly over Shaver’s Pond as Laura, and I leaned back on the picnic blanket, trying to soak up the warmth on this overcast day. This was my favorite spot in all of Willa Creek, and I stole an hour or two here as often as I could just to decompress and spend some time thinking. “You’re telling me there’s no one in Willa Creek you’re interested in?” Laura asked, holding out a bag of chocolate chip cookies towards me. I took one as I rolled my eyes at her. “You mean the same people I’ve known since high school?” I asked. “Come on, Dana,” Laura said, bumping her shoulder into mine. “You can’t keep living like a nun! It’s not good for you.” “Tell that to Randy,” I said under my breath, though I instantly regretted it. “What?” Laura asked, her eyes going wide. “What does that mean?” “Never mind,” I said. I picked up the Nikon D5 camera that hung around my neck and tried to frame up a shot across the pond, hoping Laura would drop the conversation. “What does Randy have to do with who you are crushing on?” Laura asked. I knew she would only keep pressing me. Laura worked at Old Town Flower Shop, but she might as well have been paid to dig up dirt on every resident of Willa Creek. She certainly had a way of opening people up and unraveling all of their secrets.


Or at least pressing until they couldn’t keep quiet anymore. With a sigh, I brought the camera down from my face and turned towards her. “You know how he is,” I said, imagining my brother back at the newspaper office right about now, checking his watch and wondering where I was. “I know how he used to be,” Laura said. “But that was high school. You can’t tell me he’s still controlling your love life.” “As you so kindly reminded me, I don’t have a love life,” I told her, forcing a smile. This conversation was getting a bit too painful, and I wanted to move on. “Dana, you are twenty-four years old.” “And?” I asked. “Which means you’re an adult. You don’t need your big brother to tell you whether or not you can go on a date. Is that what’s stopping you?” “It’s complicated,” I said, thinking of the house I shared with my brother and my father. “You know how protective he is. Ever since my mom passed.

” “But that was almost twenty years ago,” Laura said. “I know. But then the accident— it was like it gave him another reason to watch out for me. He’s trying to do what’s best.” “By being your jailer? Come on, Dana. It’s not cool. You have to see that.” I shrugged. My relationship with Randy was complicated. Sometimes I wondered if his controlling behavior, his obsession with where I was at every minute, and even his comments about what I was wearing, had gone too far. But another part of me said that he had been looking out for me since he was nine years old. He was just overprotective. “Okay, I wasn’t going to bring this up,” Laura said, “But I am starting to wonder if Randy’s creepy obsession with you is starting to branch out to others. Me, particularly.” “Oh no,” I said, dreading what Laura was about to tell me.

“He was at the flower shop again?” “Twice this morning!” Laura said. “And it’s not because he likes flowers.” “But you told him you are not interested,” I said, feeling embarrassed for Randy and his hopeless attempts to take Laura on a date. “I’ve told him many times. That’s what I mean, Dana. It’s getting creepy. It’s like inbetween going to the bank and getting coffee, he just forgets every interaction he and I have ever had!” “God, I’m sorry,” I said, imagining just how Randy would lean against the counter and try to take Laura’s hand. “Do you want me to say something to him?” “Definitely not,” Laura laughed. “You and your brother have bigger issues to deal with. Let’s focus on getting you laid!” I felt my whole face go red at Laura’s words, but thankfully she was distracted by another cookie. She offered me one, but I refused, hiding my face by starting to pack up my lunch things. It would be time to head back to The Willa Creek Journal soon, the newspaper my father owned where Randy and I worked. “One battle at a time,” I said, finding my composure again. “Maybe if I get Randy to agree that I’m ready to open the dance studio, he will start to loosen the reins a little bit.” “Again, not something you need his permission for.

” A dancer and cheerleader in high school, I had wanted to open my own dance studio for as long as I could remember. I had dreamt about it with my best friend Crissy from the time we were middle schoolers. And after saving everything I earned for the past two years, I had a good amount of money saved. I had even gone so far as to look at a few buildings and tour some rental properties. I was just waiting for the courage to talk to Randy about it. I looked down at my watch to see the minute hand dangerously hovering over the six. My lunch break was over, and I was still at the pond a good five minutes away. “I have to run,” I said, quickly gathering up my things and shoving them into my bag. With a brief goodbye to Laura, I took off, sprinting along the pond with one hand held tight to the camera bouncing against my chest. Randy was going to kill me. He would make an example of me in front of the whole office, and I wasn’t up for public humiliation today. I ran the entire way, barely stopping for a breath until I was right outside The Willa Creek Journal. I stopped short and took a deep breath, trying to hide the fact I had been running only seconds before. With as much composure as I could muster, I pushed through the door of the newsroom. The familiar clack of typing and the murmurs of journalists greeted me.

It was a comforting sound, one I had heard since my time as a little girl coming to visit my dad at work. I glanced towards Randy’s office, relieved to see he wasn’t there waiting for me. I put my head down and headed towards my desk, already pulling off my coat. With relief, I dropped into my chair, slipping my bag under my desk and immediately throwing my hands to my keyboard. It didn’t matter what I was typing. Just giving the illusion of work was important right now, in case Randy glanced out at me. Thank god I made it back, I thought, finally catching my breath. But I relaxed too soon. All at once, the familiar, authoritative voice of my brother called out across the room. “Dana. Come in here, please.”

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Updated: 28 August 2021 — 06:27

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