Highly Commended Story - Partner Problems
“Partner Problems” by Kira Chapman, Inspire Charter School, USA, is the Highly Commended story in the junior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Joy Jensen stared at the clock. 4:03 pm. Where was Faith? She had said she would come at 3:45 that afternoon! Suddenly, as if in answer to Joy’s questions, the phone rang. “It’s for you, Joy!” her mom called. Joy raced to the kitchen. If it’s Faith, she’d better have an explanation waiting for me, Joy thought indignantly.
“Hi, Joy!” Faith greeted. Before she had a chance to say another word, Joy broke in.
“Where are you, Faith? You said you would come at 3:45! You’re 20 minutes late!”
Faith sounded embarrassed. “Well, you see, Joy, I… I had to stay after school to help Mrs. Brown. By the time I got home, it was too late to come over to your house. I have to leave for dance practice at 4:30. Maybe we could try tomorrow?” Faith asked.
“But I can’t do tomorrow, Faith. You know that. I have softball practice the rest of this week. We need to meet soon! The craft fair is only four weeks away!” Joy exclaimed.
“How about we try to talk tomorrow at recess?” Faith suggested hopefully.
“Well, I guess we could try,” Joy agreed reluctantly.
“Hi, Joy!” Faith called the next morning. The sun shone brightly over a grassy field and a playground. Joy was grateful for the shade the sparse trees provided.
“Over here, Faith!” Joy replied. The two friends sat down under a large oak tree. “So, Faith, what have you sewn for the craft fair?”
“Well, I haven’t really done much because… well, you see, I…”
“What, Faith? Did your sewing machine break? You should have made at least a few things by now!” Joy interrupted.
“You see, I…I just don’t have enough fabric for what I want to sew, Joy. I want to make some tote bags, but I don’t have enough fabric. Could you give me some of yours?” Faith asked.
“You should have told me last week! I could have gotten you some at the fabric store. Now I don’t have enough to give you. I would have to go shopping again.” Joy replied, irritated.
“Do you think that next time you go shopping, would you get me three yards of the prettiest fabric you can find?” Faith wondered.
“Well, I guess I could try,” Joy grudgingly agreed. “You will have to pay me back for it, you know.”
“I know. Thank you so much.” Faith said. “What have you made?” she asked, quickly changing the subject.
“Oh, me?” Joy asked, surprised. “I’ve made…let’s see-some little wallets, a set of napkins, and some little change purses. I hope I sell a lot of my stuff at the craft fair.”
“I hope I sell a lot, too,” Faith said quietly.
It was a bright summer afternoon. However, Joy wasn’t out enjoying the sunshine. Instead, she was in her room, which by now looked like someone had dumped random sewing supplies all over it. The loud noise of the sewing machine covered up the sound of the phone ringing. There was a loud knock at Joy’s door. “Come in,” she called.
“Joy,” said her mom, “Faith called to confirm that she will be coming this afternoon for your meeting. However, she can only stay for half an hour.”
Joy felt like shouting. Finally, Faith could come, and they could make a plan about their sewing for the craft fair.
“Faith said she’ll be over in about fifteen minutes, so you should probably get your room cleaned up,” Joy’s mom teased with a smile.
“Don’t worry, I will.” Joy laughed.
Sure enough, at 3:30 that afternoon, Joy and Faith were sitting on the carpeted floor of Joy’s sewing studio. “So, Faith, did you bring the tote bags that you’ve made?” Joy questioned.
There was silence in the room for a few seconds. Faith seemed embarrassed. “Well, you see, Joy, I…I’ve been sick for the past couple weeks. I haven’t really gotten the chance to get started sewing. I hope you’ll understand.”
“Understand? UNDERSTAND?! Faith, we only have two weeks until the craft fair! You have to start sewing!” Joy shouted. Immediately she regretted her words. “I’m sorry for yelling, Faith. I just can’t believe you haven’t started.” Joy peered intently into her friend’s face. Had she really been sick?
“Is everything okay in here?” Joy’s mom asked, peeking in the door. “I thought I heard someone yell.”
“We’re okay now, Mrs. Jensen.” Faith said before Joy could explain. “Joy was just frustrated about something.”
“Alright, but call me if you need help,” Joy’s mom said hesitantly before heading back to the kitchen.
“Please forgive me, Faith. I didn’t mean to yell,” Joy begged.
“It’s okay, Joy. I’ll try to start sewing soon,” Faith replied nervously. She glanced at the clock. “Oh, sorry, Joy. I have to go now, or I’ll be late for my dance class,” Faith said, jumping up and heading for the front door.
“Are you sure, Faith?” Joy asked. “We’ve only just started planning.”
“Maybe I can come next week,” Faith called over her shoulder, jogging down the sidewalk. “Bye, Joy.”
The next two weeks sped by in a blur of sewing, school, and sewing again. Joy felt like all she did was sit at her desk with her sewing machine in front of her! However, her excitement was building rapidly as she anticipated the day of the craft fair. Finally, the day arrived- July 23-the day of the craft fair.
At 3:00 that afternoon Joy packed up everything she had sewn and went with her mom to pick up Faith. Joy stood at the door and knocked excitedly. Faith’s mom opened the door. “Faith! Your friend is here to pick you up!”
“I’ll be there in a minute, Mom!” Faith called. Soon she was seated next to Joy on the leather car seat.
“Faith, can you show me what you made with the fabric I got you?” Joy asked. “If I remember correctly, you said you were going to make some tote bags.” Joy glanced at the bags
Faith held in her lap. “Are those what you made?”
“Yes, Joy. I made four tote bags out of the fabric you got me.” Faith replied. “Can I see what you made?”
Joy handed her the four bags of things she had sewn-napkins, little wallets, change purses, and more. Faith fingered each item with a longing look that Joy didn’t quite understand.
Soon the friends had arrived at the craft fair. The time sped by quickly, and Joy sold a lot of her items. In no time at all the anticipated craft fair was over. Joy and Faith cleaned up their booth. By the time they were done, the building was practically empty.
“Let’s see…I made-121, 126, 130 dollars! Wow, Faith! I’ll be rich!” Joy exclaimed, rifling through her bag of bills.
“And after I add my 30 dollars to what you made, we’ll each get…” Faith paused, doing some quick math. “We’ll each get 80 dollars! We did great!”
Joy raised her eyebrows. “But Faith, you only made 30 dollars from selling your tote bags. Why would you get 80 dollars?”
“I thought we were splitting the profits in half,” Faith explained.
“I never said we were! You didn’t do as much work as I did, so why would you get the same share of profits as me?”
“Well, I could have done more,” Faith said an edge in her voice. “It’s not my fault that Mom’s machine broke-that I got sick.”
“What did you say?” Joy asked, confused.
“Oh, never mind. It’s not important.”
“I thought you said that your mom’s machine broke. You told me you were sick,” Joy accused.
“Well, that doesn’t matter anyway. I should get half the profits because I put in my time to sew those tote bags.”
“But, Faith,” Joy cried, “that’s not fair!”
“Well, I don’t care,” Faith shouted, stomping over to their booth. She grabbed Joy’s container of money and then dashed out the door.
“Faith, wait!” Joy screamed. “You can’t take all my money!” But it was too late. Faith had disappeared into the night.
Faith sank down behind a car, sobbing. She wanted so badly to go back in and tell Joy everything- how she had wanted to sew a lot of things, but hadn’t had much practice. Her first tote bags hadn’t turned out, and she was too embarrassed to admit this to Joy. Just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse for Faith, her mom’s sewing machine broke down. Faith was stuck. She wanted to explain to Joy what had happened and ask for help, but another part of her was too embarrassed to do so. Surely Joy would understand… but would her friend ever forgive her now? Faith stood up. She had gotten herself into this mess, and she would have to get herself out.
Joy sat at her booth, her head in her hands, when she caught a glimpse of a purple skirt. She sat up and looked around. Was she just imagining things, or-
“Joy.” A voice startled her. Joy spun around to see her friend!
“Faith!” she cried.
“Oh, Joy, I’m so sorry,” Faith explained, tears coming to her eyes. “Please understand me. I wanted to ask you for help when mom’s machine broke, but I was too embarrassed. Please forgive me, Joy,” Faith begged. “I really wanted to sew for the craft fair, but I haven’t had much practice. I really wasn’t-“
Joy cut her off. “Of course I’ll forgive you, Faith. We’re still friends. But could you please start from the beginning? I want to know what happened.”
The two friends sat down at their booth, and Faith told Joy everything. By the time she was finished, light from the full moon shone through the open door. “I hope you’ll understand me,” Faith finished. “I really wasn’t trying to lie, but I was too embarrassed to tell you the truth. Please forgive me, Joy.”
There was an awkward silence. Finally Joy spoke. “This is hard for me, Faith, but I will forgive you. But Faith, you didn’t have to make excuses. I would have understood you and tried to help. You can trust me, Faith. I’m your partner-and your friend.”
The light of the full moon shone into the silent room, reflecting the shadows of two girls clasping each other in a tender embrace.