Prompt from The Daily Prompt: 2016 by J.C. Cauthon:
Use the following sentence as the opening line of a short story:
He was stunned–the stranger in front of him looked exactly like the girl he had been dreaming about.
Dream Girl by Sojourner McConnell
He was stunned–the stranger in front of him looked exactly like the girl he had been dreaming about. The same long brown hair, same bright blue eyes, everything was exactly the same. The only difference he could see was the setting. She did not belong in this time, she belonged in the small town that he had grown up in. Not here in the city.
When he dreamed about her, she was always near a creek. Wading in and then rushing out of the cold water. Her face was always smiling and looking at him with the most beautiful loving emotion shining from her eyes.
Today, she had nothing but anger showing from her eyes. He got that a lot. As an agent for the Internal Revenue Service, he was pretty much public enemy number one. He had accepted that as his fate, but today, he did not want to accept it. He wanted her to look at him with those old familiar soft, gentle and loving eyes, just as she had last night and the night before.
Instead he was looking into eyes filled with animosity. “Miss Ketchum, Thank you for coming in. How can I help you? I am Tony Page.” He stuck out his hand wanting to show her he wasn’t the bad guy. She briefly clasped his hand and her grip was firm. He liked that.
“I am here, Mr. Page, because of this.” Caty slapped the wrinkled letter on his desk.
The letter looked like she had wadded it up, stomped on it,then straightened it out again, he thought to himself a little taken aback.
He tried not to curl his lip as he picked up the letter that had certainly seen better days. He held it in front of him by one corner and glanced over it. The form letter was familiar to him. He saw these all the time.
“Miss Ketchum, Have you been adjusting your dependents on your W2 at work?”
Caty looked a little nervous and bit her lip before she spoke. “Only on bonus checks. That’s the only time. I swear!”
“That changing dependents on the W2 has caused you to accrue debt, debt that you do not appear to have addressed.” He looked at her to see if she understood what he was talking about. It was obvious that she knew all about the large debt. She showed no surprise in anything he was saying.
“There is a quite substantial amount due and it is delinquent also. Did you forget that you signed an agreement to pay it back in payments?”
He stopped talking and looked at her hopeful that she would have some reason to have this much debt to the IRS. He also hoped that she had a reasonable excuse for not having made any of the twenty four payments she had set up a year before.
“Mr. Page, I remember setting up the payment plan in this office a year ago. I did not, however, foresee a lack of sales that made my bonuses less than expected. So how was I to pay back a debt when my bonuses were so small?” She looked across the desk at him with unblinking eyes.
Tony looked away before he had stared at her too long. He had met with her last year? His mind took this news and rolled it round and round. That was how he knew her, that was why he was dreaming about her. He must on some level remember her. Somehow he must have expected this official office call.
He shook his head quickly and using his most professional voice asked, “How do you plan on paying this sum back? You do acknowledge it has to be paid back, correct?”
Caty rolled her eyes at him as if he had made the most preposterous statement to her. She spoke with some heat in her voice.” Of course I know I owe it. You explained too me last year what would happen if I didn’t make the payments. But that was before my bonuses went down. You can’t expect me to keep a bargain that was based on bad information can you?”
Tony rubbed his hands over his chin in total confusion. She seemed intelligent, but somehow she thought this could just be swept under the rug.
“Miss Ketchum, why don’t you tell me what you think we should do to resolve this now that we have all the correct information.” He was extremely curious as to what she would suggest.
Caty sat back swinging one leg over the other deep in thought. “Hmm… I guess we can set a smaller amount for a longer time. Yes, that’s what would work best for me. How does that sound to you Mr. Page?” Once again piercing him with those unblinking blue eyes.
“If I make a new agreement with you, will you honor this one? I mean, I trusted you last year. Didn’t I?”
“Oh Mr. Page, I meant to make the payments, I really did. But when I saw that little bitty bonus check, I just knew that you would understand how it was impossible to make that payment. You seemed so nice and understanding. That was why I got so angry when you wrote me that hateful letter.”
Her eyes filled with moisture and Tony was afraid she was going to start crying on the spot. She took a breath, swallowed and started speaking again.
I was so shocked that you would be so mean, after all we did seem to get along so well. I was kind of hoping that you would call me after we met last year. Maybe that was why I was so hurt, when you did finally contact me, it was about this.”
Tony did not know what to say. He remembered now writing the letter that initiated this interview and probably the dreams of her. But he wasn’t about to ask someone that he was working with out on a date. He knew that was breaking rules that would risk his job. He too took a deep breath before speaking.
“Miss Ketchum, although I think you are a very nice lady and I am sure you would be a fun person to go out with, I can not in any way have a relationship with you. Not while you have a payment plan in place. It would be a terminating offense. You understand, right?”
He looked at her with sympathetic eyes so that she would understand that he would if he could, but he wasn’t allowed. He did not want to make her angry, again.
Caty flipped her hair back over her shoulder and shook her head in a flippant manner. Her back was straight and her leg was kicking the air in front of her more than just swinging as it had been before.
I don’t think I want you to call me any more. I told you, I didn’t like the mean letter. I admit I was hoping you would call. But when you didn’t, I forgot all about you. I would never go out with you now. There is too much water under the bridge now. You lost your opportunity.”
“I understand Miss Ketchum, it is truly my loss. Now lets get the numbers figured out on the new repayment plan, shall we?”