Community Stories. Get Inspired, Get Underlined

Blackbird 1 – #youlikeit

By @MonicaPrelooker

1. morning coffee

“There’s a place where you can

Light a fire and watch it burn…

I gave all that I had when hope was gone.”

—Chris Daughtry


The phone buzzed in the empty kitchen, by the coffee maker dripping in no hurry. The rattle of rushing footsteps grew closer and Regan Gillian skidded in, her boots pulling sparks from the floor tiles. She turned off the burner just before the milk boiled and took the call on speaker.

The voice of a man filled the air, energetic, a little rough. “Morning, sunshine. Hope I woke you up.”

“Belly-Banks?” she asked, surprised, as she laid her son’s breakfast on the bar. “Carmen kicked you out? No room here, I’m afraid.”

“I’m outta your league, Reg. Now turn on the news.”

She grabbed the remote and aimed it at the TV past the bar, in the family room.

A reporter spoke to the camera from a sidewalk, police officers moving behind him and curious passers-by all around. “…stabbed to death at the Theatre District. He’s been identified as Roger Johnson, seventeen, junior student and star quarterback at one of the finest high schools in town.”

“Yuck,” muttered Gillian. “You’re up for this?”

“Cook just called me.”

“Need a hand?”

“Two or six. You guys busy?”

“Nope. Count us in.”


Gillian smiled at Banks’ relief. It’d be nice, working a case together like back in the old days. “Meet you at the station in an hour,” she said.

“I love you.”

“I know.”

Banks chuckled and disconnected.

Gillian turned her blue eyes to the coffee maker. Usually, one of her death glares would make a rock apologize and move out of the way. Not her coffee maker. The lazy thing ignored her and kept releasing drop by drop. While she waited for the carafe to gather enough coffee to fill her mug, she hung her Boston PD badge from the waist of her jeans and put her dark hair up in a loose bun in two expert moves.

The noises from the second floor distracted her from the TV. A moment later, Connor shuffled down the stairs to flop onto a high stool before the bar, not quite awake yet.

“Morning,” he mumbled, eyes hardly open.

With his deep voice, his neat goatee, and being six feet tall, people found it hard to believe he was only seventeen, especially because he’d graduated a year ahead of his class.

Gillian poured herself a coffee with a mild smile. It was a true miracle that he always made it from his room to the ground floor without tripping on the stairs and breaking his back.

“So early?” Connor grumbled.

She looked up to find him scowling at the TV and shrugged. “Work.”

“Rogue Johnson?”

Gillian glanced at the TV in time to see a picture of the dead boy. She turned to Connor with a questioning frown. “You knew him?”

“Yeah. He dead? He so had it coming.”

Gillian didn’t hide her surprise at his harsh words. Connor took his turn to shrug.

“Rich baby, not a care in the world, and a vicious son of a *****. Everybody hates him. Got in a fight with’im at Phoebe’s party, last month.”

“You. You picked up a fight with him.” Gillian’s voice stated she wasn’t about to believe it so easily. Connor in a fight was the definition of oxymoron.

“He’d picked on Tim, so I gave’im one his size to try.” Well, that made sense. Connor would always step up to protect his best friend. He shook his head. “Dirty *******, couldn’t even swing clean. Took’im down with two punches. Are you working the case?”

“Bob is, and he invited me for the ride.” She turned the TV off. “What’s your plan for today?”

“I’m meeting Mike later. Chess tourney this weekend in the park, so we’re getting ready to kick some Newton asses.”

She smiled. That was more like him—a chess battle. “Want me to drop you off anywhere?”

“Nah, it’s okay, Mom, thanks.”

She finished her coffee in one last gulp, left the mug in the sink and turned to Connor. The boy ducked to dodge her kiss on his cheek, but she had already mastered the art of hitting her mark anyway. She headed out, chuckling at her son’s grunts.

“Have a nice day, son. Behave.”


Ditto, she repeated to herself as she got in her car. One day she’d ask her son what he talked about, the ‘have a nice day’ part or the ‘behave’ bit.

Join the conversation

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry
Post a comment
2 Likes 5 Comments
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Become a Book Nerd

When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.

By clicking Sign Up, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House's
Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.