Archive | fiction RSS feed for this section

Beautiful Disaster: A Love Story

8 Mar

When Kathy first met Howard, she didn’t like him very much. She had met him on the Internet, and they had always gotten along great during their online chats. But the second she met him in person, she knew that the chemistry was not right. In spite of herself, she said yes when he asked her to be his girlfriend the third time they went out.

The attraction isn’t always there in the beginning, she rationalized.

The truth was that she was lonely. She had moved into the city six months previously and she didn’t know anyone. She had yet to make any real friends and she was desperate for a human connection. She knew this relationship wouldn’t last, but she thought it would keep away the loneliness for a while.

Kathy’s quest to avoid loneliness would turn out to be very costly. Howard slowly sucked her into a web of manipulation and control. He alienated her from the small amount of social contact that she had, took her for weekends away and “forgot” to bring his credit card to pay the hotels, and forced her into sexual games that she did not feel comfortable with.

One day, Kathy arrived at Howard’s weirdly sterile apartment to find another woman there. When he introduced the woman as his wife, Kathy staggered back in shock. She’d had no idea he was married. He’d always claimed to be divorced.

By the time Kathy left that night, she had discovered that Howard shared everything with his wife. Everything. Including his girlfriends. She limped to her car, broken and humiliated, and wondered about going to the police station.

What would she tell them, though? Hello, officer. I’ve just been raped by the man I’ve been having consensual sex with for the last four months, and his wife. Kathy had not even known until this day that it was possible for a woman to be raped by another woman.

She decided not to go to the police. They wouldn’t believe her. They would laugh at her and she would feel even more ashamed than she already did. She pointed her car towards home and started to drive. What a disaster this had been. She would never use online dating again.

All of a sudden, Kathy was overcome by tears. Great big wrenching sobs that shook her entire body and blinded her vision. She pulled over to the side of the road, lurched out of her car, and stumbled into the park. She sat on a bench and hugged herself tight as she wept. Thank God it was late enough for the park to be empty. If there were people around she would have been making a real spectacle of herself.

She buried her head in her hands and tried to breathe deeply to calm down. She needed to get out of this park and into the safety of her apartment. She needed to lock herself away from the world and wash this nightmarish day from her body.

A shuffling sound made her look up in alarm. A man was standing a few feet away, keeping his distance and looking distinctly uncomfortable.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, as if he could smell her fear. “It’s just that I heard you crying. I wanted to see if I could help. I’m Frank, by the way. My name is Frank.”

He stopped talking abruptly and moved a little closer, staring into her eyes. He peered at her intently, as if he had just had a revelation.

“I hope you don’t mind if I say this,” he said hesitantly. “But you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

Kathy stared back at him. In that instant, through the layers of her pain, she saw her future in this shy, gentle man.

Yes, Howard had set her on a path of disaster. But it was a disaster that had led her to be in this place, at this time, having a chance encounter with the man who would become her destiny.

It was a beautiful disaster.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, k~ challenged me with “Beautiful disaster” and I challenged Jason Hughes with “Chasing rainbows”

Advertisements

The Man On The Train

26 Jan

By the time I got onto the train I was exhausted. I’d been up until almost midnight finishing my packing, and when I’d woken up I’d forgotten where I’d packed my passport. The cab had been late and there had been an accident on the highway. I had made it to the train station with seconds to spare.

I  was so tired it hurt. As the train started pulling out of the station I relaxed gratefully into my seat and closed my eyes. I was almost asleep when I became aware of movement near me. I opened my eyes to see an old man sitting down opposite me. He was tall and skinny with long white hair and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. As I said good morning to him, he stared at me in a disconcerting way. I closed my eyes again.

A couple of minutes later I opened my eyes to see the old man still staring at me.

“Can I help you?” I asked, feeling distinctly uncomfortable.

He kept staring at me in silence – the kind of silence that gets louder and louder with each passing second.

All of a sudden, he spoke in a deep Southern accent that I really had concentrate on to understand him. What he said took me completely by surprise.

“My maw was making gravy for the chicken when my paw died.”

“Oh,” I said hesitantly. Then, because I felt that I had to, I asked, “What happened?”

“Well,” he said, in his peculiar gravelly voice. “I was just a boy then. I just come in from the fields with Paw. The chicken and the potatoes and all was already done, and Maw had the gravy in this jug, beatin’ it with a wooden spoon like she was trying to punish it.

“All’s a sudden, the dog barks outside, right outside the window. Maw gets a fright and drops the jug. The jug bounces on the counter, and gravy goes everywhere. Some of it splatters on the cat that’s sittin’ on top of the ’fridgerator. The cat gets a fright and jumps right onto Paw’s back. And Paw is spinning round and around, tryin’ to get the cat off his back. He loses his footin’, topples over and hits his head on the corner of the stove – one of them old cast-iron stoves. By the time he hit the floor he was a goner.”

As he finished the story, the old man buried his face in his hands. I felt a stab of compassion for him. What a terrible thing for a young boy to witness. But then the old man looked up again and I realized he was laughing.

“It was the most ridic’lous sight,” he said, slapping his knee with mirth. “My old man, drunk as a lord, spinning around with a cat on his back. Butt-ugly cat it was too!”

The old man was laughing so hard that he was choking and wheezing, and tears were streaming from his bright blue eyes.

“Wow,” I said, genuinely taken with the story. And then, because I’d been watching Murder Mysteries while packing the previous night, I asked, “What did the police say when they came? Did they believe you and your Mom when you told them what happened?”

“Well now,” the old man whispered conspiratorially as he leaned forward. “We never actually called the ’thorities. We couldn’t, you see. Far as everyone in town was concerned, Paw had already been dead for years.

“You see, he had one of them fancy life insurance things. So when we was down on our luck one year, he burned out his tractor and Maw reported him missing. Last seen drivin’ off in the tractor, that’s what she told the sheriff. They didn’t have no fancy ways to prove nothin’ back then, so they just assumed he was dead. Maw got a pile of cash and Paw just stayed hidden. No-one ever came to see us, so as long as Paw was in the house or on his fields, we was OK.”

“So when he died, what did you do with – um – you know, him?” I asked. This story was unreal.

“Down past the apple trees, there was a big clump of dogwood trees, belonging to the neighbours. There was all kinds of bushes and plants growing under the trees. The bush was so thick under there, it was like a jungle. When I needed someplace to hide as a boy, I’d go there. No grown person could get in through all of those bushes and trees and stuff.

“We waited until nightfall, then Maw helped me put Paw on the wheelbarrow. He kept fallin’ off, but finally we got him to that clump of bushes and trees. We got Paw off that wheelbarrow, and I climbed in under them bushes.  Maw pushed, I pulled, and we got him in there. No-one would ever find him there.”

The old man paused. He seemed to be immensely proud of his story. Clearly, his conscience was not bothered by things like insurance fraud and the concealment of human remains.

“But what if your neighbours decided to cut down the trees?” I blurted out, suddenly worried on behalf of the small boy from long ago.

“Why would they do that?” asked the old man, incredulously. “If they cut down all the dogwood trees, where will the raptors live?”

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, pamela challenged me with "If they cut down all the dogwood trees, where will the raptors live?" and I challenged Seeking Elevation with "In the Canadian city of Toronto, it is illegal to drag a dead horse down the street before midnight. Tell a story – real or fictional – about how this law came to be."

The Getaway

19 Jan

“Do you not like the salmon, dear?” The matronly old lady bustled around my table, refilling my water glass and clearing away the unused place setting opposite me.

“Oh no, it’s lovely,” I assured her. “I just had a long drive from the city. I’m a little tired.”

The old lady smiled in understanding and moved away. I picked up my fork and poked at the salmon. What had  they done to it? Parts of it were burnt, other parts were so undercooked that they were rubbery and transparent. I put down my fork and took a bite of my bread instead. It was stale, but I didn’t see any mouldy bits and I was feeling faint from hunger.

The old couple who ran this place were so kind, so eager to please. They had fallen over themselves to make me feel welcome. At one point, the old gent had quite literally fallen over himself.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell them their food was inedible. They would have been far too upset. Maybe the chef was just having an off-day.

After dinner I went out (“Just going exploring,” I chirped cheerfully to the old lady, who was now at the front desk.) I bought a sandwich from the local deli and ate it on a bench overlooking the sea. The man at the deli laughed heartily when I told him where I was staying. Apparently, most people who stayed at the small seaside inn ended up there, desperate for food.

Back at the inn, I took a shower and got ready for bed. It didn’t matter that much that the water was cold. It was invigorating, and I did get a blast of scalding heat whenever someone anywhere in the building flushed a toilet. Maybe I would talk to the old man tomorrow and ask if there was some knack to controlling the water temperature.

It took me a long time to go to sleep. The mattress was hard and lumpy, and every time the wind blew outside, the windows rattled alarmingly. Character, I told myself. This place has character.

At about five in the morning I gave up on sleep and decided on a seaside run. I quickly threw on running clothes, glancing around the room as I did so. At least there weren’t any bugs. I always seemed to hear stories of people staying in posh hotels with good food and hot water, and finding bugs.

Ready for my run, I left the room and started making my way down the stairs. There was an elevator here, but I thought that attempting to use it would be pushing my luck.

When I’d gone down half a flight of stairs, I heard two people whispering on the landing below me. That was odd, at this time of the morning. Something about the tone of the whispers made me hide myself behind an enormous frondy plant in a small alcove.

Snippets of the conversation reached me.

“…will find out…not even a real hotel…”

“…know we need the hotel…cover for…police”

My jaw dropped in surprise. From what I could hear, it seemed that the hotel was just a cover for some illegal activity. That would explain why this place was so bad, but what on earth were they doing here? And wasn’t it risky to be doing it in a place where some hotel guest could stumble upon it? It hadn’t taken me long to overhear something – but then again, the owners probably weren’t expecting their guests to be creeping down the stairs at five in the morning.

When the sounds of the whispering started drifting away, I crept out from behind my plant and followed the two people – it turned out to be the old couple! – as discreetly as I could. I just had to find out what was going on. I felt mildly ridiculous, like Nancy Drew, but my curiosity got the better of me.

The old couple went down several flights of stairs, all the way to a large basement. When they opened the door and flicked on the lights, I could not believe my eyes. There before me, was an enormous collection of machines, all seemingly printing vast quantities of money.

What would I do with this information? Would I shop this lovely old couple to the police? Or would I tell them what I had seen?

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Hannah Pratt, who gave me this prompt: You are on a weekend getaway at a secluded place. The food is terrible. The accommodations are awful. However, the staff is so endearing that you do not find it in yourself to complain.
I challenged Cheney with the prompt: You are trapped in an elevator, and realize that the only other person in it is someone who was recently reported missing in mysterious circumstances.

The End Of Days

29 Dec

Laura might have been dying, but she wasn’t stupid. She chuckled inwardly as she listened to Peter and Holly talk in hushed tones at her bedside. Along with everyone else, they assumed that because she was non-responsive, she couldn’t hear or comprehend anything that was going on. She could not see anymore, and that put her at a dreadful disadvantage, but her hearing was just as keen as it had ever been.

Laura was 93 years old and cancer had been eating away at her body for over a year now. As soon as she had been given the deadly diagnosis, she had checked herself into this private nursing home. Peter and Holly had vigorously opposed this move, saying that she would be better off staying with them. They had made her read articles and statistics about how badly sick old ladies were treated in nursing homes, but she was having none of it. Peter and Holly – her son and her daughter-in-law – did not care about her. They just cared about her money, and they wanted to protect their inheritance.

It was no secret that Laura was a woman of means. She had always had a knack for managing finances. She had known when to take risks and when to be conservative, when to save and when to spend. Over the years, her wealth had grown slowly but steadily, with only the occasional minor setback. She had planned it all just for this eventuality. She did not care about big houses or expensive cars, but she had always known that she would want to spend her final days in a place where she would have her own private doctors and a bed with the best linen money could buy. This place cost an absolute fortune – hence the disapproval of her so-called family – but where she was going next, she wouldn’t need her money.

It was funny how Peter and Holly had ignored her for the last twenty years, only to conveniently reappear in her life when it became apparent that her death was imminent. Peter was her only surviving family: Emily had been cruelly taken by ovarian cancer twelve years ago, and Frankie had only been twelve when the drunk driver had slammed into him while he was riding his bike. Laura’s husband was long gone, and so were her sisters. She didn’t have anyone else to leave her money to, really. But she loathed the idea of her greedy son and his greedier wife getting their hands on it. They had always had more regard for her wealth than for the person she was. It saddened her to think that she had raised a man who expected the world to provide for him without giving anything in return.

Now, as she lay listening to their chatter, she knew that her time on this planet was very close to being at an end. She didn’t mind. She had lived a good life. She had been happy and she thought she had treated her fellow man in a way that would guarantee her entrance into Heaven, if such a place existed. She was ready to move on.

Peter was going to get the surprise of his life when she died and her will was read. He knew that he was the only person his mother would logically leave her fortune to. She wasn’t the eccentric type who would leave everything to a cat shelter, like the woman in the newspaper article a few weeks ago. But little did he know that the money would come with conditions, that he would have to prove his worth as a human being before he saw a dime of it.

Laura’s son might be 56 years old, but she didn’t think it was ever too late to teach him some values. If the promise of money was what it would take to make him give something to the world instead of taking all the time, then so be it.

It’s never too late, she thought, moments before she died. It’s never too late to be a good human being.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Niqui, who gave me this prompt: "Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." – Mark Twain
I challenged Michael with the prompt: "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." (Douglas Adams)

No Fixed Destination

30 Nov

Phil looped his camera around his neck and trudged out to his car. The rain was pelting down and the wind was so strong that it was making his eyes burn. For a moment he considered staying home, but he dismissed the thought immediately. Every Sunday for the last twelve years, he had gone driving around the countryside in his battered old Volvo, taking photographs of whatever he happened to see. He was a good photographer, good enough to have acquired a decent following and sold a few pictures.

That’s not why he did it, though. He did it because it gave him a sense of purpose. He had worked so hard to overcome the addictions that had destroyed his life, and he was afraid that if he stopped these Sunday excursions, everything would fall apart again.

Phil pulled out of the driveway and headed north, with no fixed destination in mind. As he drove, he thought of Lily. She had been nine when he had seen her last. His heart ached as he remembered his ex-wife calling him an alcoholic junkie who had no business trying to raise a child. He had begged her not to take his daughter away from him. He had actually fallen on his knees before her, sobbing.

She had stopped yelling then, and looked at him with something approaching sympathy. “I know you love her, Phil, but you’re destroying her,” she had said. He had buried his head in his hands so he wouldn’t have to watch them leave.

After they had gone, Phil had allowed the drugs and alcohol to take over his life completely. Within a year, he had been out on the streets. He had lost his home and been fired from his job, and he had spent a few nights in jail for possession of illegal drugs.

One afternoon as he was staggering down the road with a newly acquired bottle of rum, a woman with a couple of kids had looked at him with thinly veiled disgust before crossing the street in order to avoid him. He stopped walking and stared after her, feeling as if he’d been hit with a sledgehammer. I’ll never see Lily again, he thought.

He slowly started walking again, barely paying attention to where he was going. His head was filled with images of his daughter. He wondered if she still had that pink feather boa that she loved so much. She would wrap it around herself and twirl around so fast that he thought she was going to fall over.

Now, as Phil drove, he remembered how the thoughts of Lily and her boa had stopped him in his tracks, and how the tears suddenly streaming down his face had attracted some curious glances from passersby. If it had not been for the kindly stranger who had offered him help, he did not know where he would be now, or if he would even be alive.

After he had gotten his life cleaned up, Phil had written to his ex-wife.

Tell Lily that I’m clean from the drugs and alcohol,  he wrote. Tell her I that I love her, and that I am more regretful than words can say for the pain I caused her. Let her know that I understand if she doesn’t want to see me, but if and when she is ever ready, I want to be her Dad. And this time I will do it right.

Throughout the years, Phil sent letters to his ex-wife. He told her about the night-course he had gone on, the job he had got, the photos he had sold. He proudly wrote about the modest house he had bought, the quiet, solitary life that he lived, and the handful of friends he had acquired through his AA meetings. He sent birthday cards to Lily.

In twelve years, he had not received a single reply. But he never gave up.

Phil was abruptly pulled out of his reverie when the old Volvo suddenly blew a tire. He pulled over onto the shoulder of the quiet country road and pulled out his cell phone. Damn. Not enough battery life to make a call.

Phil got out of the car and started walking through the pouring rain towards the only building he could see. Maybe they would have a phone. It wasn’t until he got right up to the front door that he realized it was a pub. Instantly his palms started to sweat and he was shaking. He couldn’t go in there. He hadn’t had a drink in well over a decade, but he was still terrified of being in the same room as alcohol. He thought he had enough self-control to avoid drinking – it was the memories he couldn’t face.

He was unbearably torn. He needed to call Roadside Assistance for a new tire, and this place might have the only available phone. But if he went in, the memories of his old life would come flooding back, and he would feel like a ruin in the architecture of humanity. He found himself alarmingly close to tears.

As he stood in the doorway, a young woman ran from her car into the pub. As she was going through the door, she turned and looked back at him curiously.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

Phil stammered. He was not good at talking to strangers.

“Well, you see, my car. It, uh, broke down, just down there, and I need to call for help. But my cell phone died and I cannot go in here because I’m – uh, an alcoholic. That is, I’m dry, but I don’t want to be anywhere near – you know.”

He tapered off and shrugged helplessly.

“You can use my phone,” said the woman, rummaging in her purse. Phil registered random details about her: the scuffed black boots, the flaky nailpolish, the red-gold hair tucked neatly under the hood of her raincoat.

As she handed him the cell phone, she said, “Actually, I’m not from around here and I could use some directions. I’m visiting my dad, only he doesn’t know I’m coming. I haven’t seen him since I was a little girl, and I want to surprise him. But this little town he lives in is impossible to find.”

Phil stared into her eyes, eyes that were exactly the same colour as his. And he knew that the second chance he had been waiting for for so long had finally arrived.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Bewildered Bug, who gave me this prompt: Write about anything you want, but include the following words/phrases:  pink feather boa, Volvo, architecture of humanity, flaky nailpolish.
I challenged floreksa with the prompt: You are at your own 100th birthday party, reflecting back on your life. Tell us about the best day of your life, from the standpoint of your 100-year-old self.

Looking For Heaven

17 Nov

Jade crouched in the corner of the dark, dirty room and wondered when her food was coming. She hadn’t eaten all day and she was hungry. She kept listening for the familiar sounds of The Master’s footsteps above her, but all she heard was an eerie silence. She supposed The Master had been drinking that gold liquid again, the stuff that made his breath smell funny. Sometimes it made him sleep for a whole day. Jade lay down on the filthy mattress and covered herself with her worn old blanket. The Master would come tomorrow.

Every night as she lay waiting for sleep, Jade thought of Mama and Papa. When they had been here, so long ago now, she had been allowed to play outside. Papa would lift her up and swing her round and round as she squealed with delight, and then, at night, Mama would read to her from the huge storybook beside her bed.

Then one day, Papa had gone away. Mama said he’d gone to Heaven, but Jade didn’t know where that was. She had promised herself that someday, she would find out where Heaven was and go there to see Papa.

After Papa left, there was no money, and Mama started saying they would have to go to the poorhouse. Jade didn’t know where that was either, but it didn’t sound good. When The Master came to stay, it seemed like all of their prayers had been answered. The Master had enough money to buy them food, and they didn’t have to go to the poorhouse.

But then Mama had gone away to Heaven as well, when Jade was twelve. The Master had started locking her in this room for longer and longer periods to punish her for being bad. One day, he simply hadn’t let her out again. Every day, he’d come in to give her food and empty the bucket he left in the corner of the room for her. Sometimes he’d come in to “keep her company”, but she had taught herself not to think of that.

She wasn’t sure how long she had been living in this room. She thought she was about sixteen now.

When Jade woke up the following morning, her stomach was growling and she felt sick. She put her ear right up to the door, but all she could hear was absolute silence. She sat on the mattress and waited.

A long time later, The Master still hadn’t come. Jade’s head was starting to swim. She stood nervously by the door, trying to get up the nerve to knock or call out. She knew she would get into trouble, but she really needed to eat. She listened one last time, and hearing nothing, she tapped tentatively on the door. Emboldened by the lack of response, she knocked a little louder and started calling out, softly at first, and then louder and louder.

Still, there was nothing. Not a single sound.

With a superhuman strength fuelled by the instinct to survive, Jade sobbed and launched her entire body at the door. She screamed in fright as the door gave way and she stumbled into the narrow hallway.

She scooted back into the room and crouched in the corner, terrified. The Master’s punishment for this would be like nothing she had ever known. But despite the screaming and crashing, the silence prevailed.

Jade slowly unfolded herself and stood up. She peeked out into the hallway. Seeing and hearing nothing, she crept up the stairs. At the top, she opened another door and stumbled as the sunlight, which she had not seen in four years, assaulted her senses. It was a long time before she was able to crack her eyes open wide enough to look around.

She found him in the kitchen. He was lying on his back on the floor, staring blankly at the ceiling. The blood on his head had long since dried. At first she started, thinking he would be able to see her. But he didn’t move, even when she tentatively nudged him with her toe. He seemed to be sleeping with his eyes open.

Jade saw a loaf of bread on the counter. She clawed wildly at it and shovelled it into her mouth. It felt so good to eat.

She was halfway down the stairs, going back to her room, when a thought struck her. What if she went outside, just for a little while? She yearned to feel the grass under her bare feet, the way she remembered it from when Mama and Papa were here. She could go now, before The Master woke up, and he would never know.

Jade didn’t understand that The Master was never waking up again.

When she went outside, she almost darted back immediately, scared of the sounds and the sunlight. She still couldn’t open her eyes all the way. But then she stepped onto the grass, and her mind was immediately flooded with memories of her childhood.

Driven by a force that she didn’t really understand, Jade kept walking. She didn’t know where she was going or what she would do when she got there.

Maybe she would try to find Heaven so she could see Mama and Papa, and feel safe again.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from evenstarwen, who gave me this prompt: Write a story, in any genre, about or inspired by this photo: http://i.imgur.com/Xrhe0.jpg.
I challenged  Lance with the prompt:Write about the missed opportunity you regret the most.

Victor’s Wife

2 Nov

Victor looked at his watch and sighed impatiently. Last night, he had spoken to his wife about the importance of being on time tonight. This fancy shindig might be a party, but a lot of important people were here and he needed to make a good impression. The Directors would never trust him to lead an entire international division if he couldn’t even control his own wife. He had explained this to her in that special way he had that she always listened to, and yet she was late.

Someone clapped him jovially on the back, and he turned to see one of the Directors.

“The wife stood you up?” joked the Director. “She’s probably outside trying to decide which admirer to go home with.”

Victor laughed too loudly at the joke that wasn’t funny. He was seething inside. He prided himself on having the most beautiful wife of everyone in the firm, but now she was making him the butt of jokes. He promised himself that he would make her pay for this. He would make her pay so much that she wouldn’t be able leave the house for a month.

Finally, she arrived… dressed to kill.

And that’s exactly what she intended to do.

As she stood in the massive doorway to the grand hall, she felt his eyes cutting across the crowd at her. Anyone else would have looked at him and seen a handsome man lighting up at the sight of his wife. She saw the rage bristling beneath the smiles as he approached her with arms outstretched to embrace her as a normal husband would.

None of these people could possibly know that he was anything but a normal husband. They didn’t know that she was late because she had spent so much time applying her makeup, carefully covering up the effects of Victor’s “discussion” with her the previous evening. She was grateful for the dim lighting here tonight: there was only so much you could hide with makeup.

She didn’t think she could survive another one of Victor’s “discussions”. She wasn’t intending to find out.

At the bar, no-one noticed a tiny white pill slip from the palm of her hand into his wine. She excused herself to go to the restroom, and from the other side of the room she watched him drink from the glass. As he fell to the ground, she slipped out and disappeared into the night, to start a new life.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Britania, who gave me this prompt: She showed up–dressed to kill.
I challenged  Mary Terrani with the prompt: It all started with a single scrap of paper.