Handle with Care
Kristina England | Jordan Wester
Jacob stood in a line of men. Apparently, they had all read the same ad.
“Seeking a single man between the ages of 30 and 35 to deliver a fragile package. Must show extreme dedication and patience.”
Okay, Jacob hadn’t read the ad himself. Most young people read their news online and were desensitized by marketing ploys years ago (or so most young people would say. Jacob was among the few without cable, wireless, or a smartphone).
Jacob’s grandmother had called him about the ad.
“Gramma, I work for a living.”
“Well, take tomorrow off. They give you time, don’t they?”
“Well, use it or lose it, young man. And you better use it. I have a good feeling about this.”
Jacob was a workaholic. His friends and family were worried about him. Most were afraid he’d wake up one morning and realize how empty his life was.
Jacob got off the phone with his grandmother and immediately called his sister. She was his sounding board.
“You need to live a little,” she said. “Do it. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Famous last words,” he replied.
“Yeah, if that was your normal protocol. But you are the opposite of reckless. Just use your best judgement. If things seem fishy, leave. But only if things seem fishy. Don’t go talking yourself out of something that could be good for you…”
“Did you hear me? It’s so hard reading your response over the phone. Just don’t over-think things.”
“Um… So you are asking me not to be me?”
Jacob looked up. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed. A guy closer to the front of the line checked his watch. A man came up to the guy, said something, and the guy left the line.
Another two men began to ask when the doors would open. Others chimed in. The same man came up to the group, talked to them, and they left.
The line began to shrink. Some men just up and walked away on their own. Others received the same tap on the shoulder.
Soon, Jacob was one of five men left. The door opened. They walked into a small room and waited. No one said anything to each other.
Jacob’s phone rang. He didn’t look down.
“Aren’t you going to get that?” asked one of the other four.
“Nope. It’s probably work. It can wait. I’m here now, not there.”
The man that had weeded out the line leaned against the door staring at him. Jacob nodded at him, then looked back at the other four guys.
“We can make the best of the wait and get to know each other.”
The other four blinked at him.
“Or… We could just sit here, not say a word to each other and see how awkward it gets.”
The other four blinked again.
“Okay, awkward it is,” he said, leaning back against the wall and stretching out his legs.
“We were asked to be patient,” one guy said.
“Yeah, but no one said patient meant bored and unfriendly. Patience has everything to do with being relaxed and happy. I’m just trying to make the best of it.”
The man at the door cracked a smile.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Jacob, come with me.”
Darn, he had blown it. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.
Jacob walked out with the man. The man waited for the door to close behind them. He beckoned Jacob to follow him.
Jacob hesitated but remembered his sister’s lecture and followed. The man stopped at a car and handed him the keys.
“There’s a box in there. Don’t look inside. You’ll find directions to your destination. Please follow them.”
Jacob nodded, then shook his head.
The man froze. “What?”
“I’ll follow the directions the best I can but if I’m detoured, I’m detoured. There’s always a few bumps in the road,” he said looking at the box in the passenger seat. “I’ll take good care of it, though. Don’t you worry.”
The man’s face relaxed.
“I know you will.”
Jacob got in the car and read the directions. He had expected a cross-state trip. Come to find out, he was only going a few miles.
He wondered why the man needed someone else to deliver the box, then stopped himself. Who cared? That had been his problem most of his life. Caring too much about the outcome.
Jacob drove to his destination and parked. He grabbed the box and walked into an apartment building. He climbed five flights and walked down the hall to apartment 508.
Jacob knocked on the door and waited.
The door swung open. A young woman stood in front of him. She had auburn hair, an hour-glass figure, and the hands of a piano player.
“Oh goodness. I see my brother has been at it again.”
“At what again?”
“Trying to find a man who is willing to give me his heart.”
For the first time, Jacob looked at the box. He could feel it pounding to the rhythm of his chest.
Heck, he had made it this far.
Jacob held out the box to her.
“What is a heart if it can’t be shared?”
The young woman smiled and took the box from him. She unwrapped it and looked inside.
Jacob frowned. “It’s a bit damaged from past adventures.”
“Whose isn’t?” she said with a laugh.
He smiled and extended his hand.
“The name’s Jacob. Jacob Higgins.”
“Bridgette. Bridgette Lotwell. Welcome home.”