fiction

All posts tagged fiction

Departure

Published June 1, 2014 by Kim

She stood in the doorway of the room, taking a last look at where he had been. The motel was stripped bare–sheets and blankets gone, furniture gone, any usable electronics long since looted–there was no trace of his presence. She knew, however, that he’d stayed in this place, died in this place. Glancing down at her phone, she reread the final messages she’d ever received–

I wish I could see you.
I miss you.
I love you.
Be careful. Get out as soon as you can. I love you.
Goodbye, honey. I love you.

She blinked back tears, thoughts churning. “I’m sorry I didn’t make it.” The words sounded overly loud in the empty space. “I tried. It’s just–everything’s falling apart, and we couldn’t get away, but…” She heard a noise behind her, and turned.

He was a few feet away, a backpack on one shoulder pulling him slightly off-balance. He wasn’t meeting her eyes, but looking at the threshold of the motel room. “Why are you doing that?”

She swiped at the wetness on her cheeks. “I wanted to say goodbye.”

He didn’t respond.

She ignored him, stepping just inside the room. “I’m sorry. I miss you, too, and I wish I could see you again. I love you.” The silence in the room was interrupted by the distant sounds of their group loading up.

He followed her in, his hand brushing against her arm. “We gotta go.”

She pulled away, making a quick circuit of the room, checking again for anything she could take with her.

There was nothing.

She stopped, frozen in grief. After a pause, she closed her eyes and listened. She tuned out the other refugees, his brother, even the sound of her own heart.

Only silence.

When she opened her eyes again, she sucked in a deep breath. “Goodbye, honey.” She turned slowly, scanning the room, and walked out.

He watched her walk away, then fell into step just behind her.

Advertisements

Adrenalin

Published January 10, 2014 by Kim

She squinted in the sunlight, looking up–up, up, up–the cliff face, watching for a flash of yellow to mark his turn to jump.

Cliff-diving. Of all the things… She shook her head. There was no convincing her. He’d tried, but she wasn’t one to give in easily.

Besides, she didn’t need the rush. It had never been a need.

*

The clack-clack-clack of the chains, pulling the cars up the incline, the coaster at a steep angle to the earth below–

Her heart thumping, palms sweating, a smile on her face that faltered as the first car crested the hill–

Screams of laughter turning to a pained silence, and a burning need to be on the ground as soon as possible–

Pulling back into the station and a sense of calm coming over her, feeling convinced she’d enjoyed herself…

*

Stars.

Planets.

Fuzzy spots that vanished when she looked directly at them–clusters. Nebulae. Galaxies.

Millions of years shining down on her–photons traveling at unimaginable speed through the void, past clouds and worlds, to end their travels in her eyes. What had they passed? Who else might have seen what she was seeing? Who might see it a thousand years from now?

The earth, uninhabited by humans. Perhaps, in time, uninhabited by any creature–just a rock in the dark, turning endlessly around its star, other stars moving across its sky, unobserved. Time marching on endlessly…

*

She shivered.

Match #6

Published May 14, 2013 by Kim

March; Tuesday

Her bags were sitting on her bed, half-emptied as she picked through them and started her laundry. The conference swag bag was lying, forgotten, in the floor–a mix of thumb-drives and insulated travel mugs, miscellaneous advertising junk she’d hand out to her colleagues when she got back to the office in the morning.

Right now, however, the fridge was a study in last month’s calendar, she was hungry, and driving anywhere seemed to take more willpower than she had to offer. Instead, she ordered a pizza online, haunting the front door when the tracker told her it was on the way.

She answered the bell before the tones died in the hallway.

She saw the pizza box first, then the red hat and smiling face. He was youngish and lean, with only the barest hint of adolescent softness in his cheeks.

“Jensen?”

“That’s me.” She smiled.

“If you could just sign here, please.” He passed her the receipt and a pen, and she fumbled for a moment with where to lay it. He held out the box, and she dropped the slip onto the lid, scribbling her signature and a tip amount while he held it steady.

She flashed another quick smile as she took her pizza. “Thanks.”

He jerked his chin in a nod and vanished into the dark.

April; Monday

She dragged her laptop across the couch, bringing up her order and submitting it. She didn’t move until the doorbell rang, and shuffled down the hall to answer.

It was the same young man. No hat, this time, and she could see unkempt brown hair sticking up on the crown of his head. She smiled.

“Jensen?”

She nodded. “Yeah.”

He glanced at her, taking in the lavender robe and bare feet. He grinned. “Day off?”

“I wish.” She reached for the receipt. “I feel like I’ve got the plague.” She held out his pen. “Might want to sanitize that when you can.”

He exchanged it for the pizza, making a face. “Thanks for the warning.”

She watched him clean his hands in the car before backing out of her drive.

May; Friday

She called, this time, on her way home from work. He was waiting when she arrived.

“I am so sorry–I got caught at the corner of Clark and Collins when some idiot hit a woman in the back.” She fished out her keys. “I can’t believe you waited.”

He shrugged. “Had a couple of stops nearby. I came back.”

“Oh.” She pushed the door open. “Thank you.” She dropped her bag and shoved it aside with her foot. “Let me grab some cash–hang on just a second.”

He was leaning against the wall when she returned. She passed him a twenty and waved off the change. “Keep it. It’s the least I can do.”

He hesitated, as though he wanted to speak and stopped himself. “Thanks.”

She turned to go back inside and paused. “What’s your name?”

“Daniel.”

“Thanks, Daniel. See you next time.”

May; Sunday

“Twice in one month.”

She looked up from the receipt. “Sorry?”

Daniel grinned at her. “I was here a couple of weeks ago.”

She smiled. “Yeah, well–I’m not in the mood to do dishes.”

He took the receipt. “Thanks–have a good night, Mrs. Jensen.”

“I’m not–it’s Nicole. Just me.” She blushed as the words left her mouth.

His smile hitched a little higher. “‘Bye, Nicole.”

She closed her door and leaned against it until her heart stopped hammering.

June; Monday

“It’s your birthday?”

She nodded, counting out the bills in her wallet.

“No charge.”

She looked at him, brows furrowed. “What?”

He held out the pizza box. “Happy birthday.”

She laughed. “Are you serious?”

He nodded. “Absolutely. My treat.”

Nicole smiled. “Well, I guess I’ll have to tell the girls at work about the nice man who bought me dinner on my birthday.” She held out a few bills. “At least take the tip?”

“No–I’m good.”

She tilted her head, looking at him. After a moment, “You sure?”

He smiled, again. “Completely. Happy birthday!” He was still smiling as he walked backwards down the porch steps.

June; Thursday

“We have to stop meeting like this.”

“I know. My neighbors will start to talk.”

They laughed.

June; Friday

“Got any plans for the Fourth?”

“Not really. I’ll probably go to the park and see the fireworks–that’s about it.” She handed him a twenty. “You?”

“I have to work.”

She frowned. “You have to work on a holiday?”

He opened his arms wide. “The masses demand pizza regardless of season or celebration!”

She giggled. “You’re an idiot.”

He leaned close. “You like it.”

Her cheeks were burning. “Go away, you. The masses are waiting.”

He waved when he drove away.

July; Saturday

He answered when she called in her order. She didn’t catch his voice, and he didn’t recognize her until she gave her address.

“Nicole?”

She paused. “Yes?”

“It’s me, Daniel.”

“Oh, god–Daniel, I didn’t even realize.” They both laughed. “I’m not used to you answering.”

“My manager had to leave, so I’m filling in.”

“So I guess this means it won’t be your smiling face at my door.”

“Probably not.”

“Well–next time, then?”

“Sure.”

July; Wednesday

He didn’t answer, and he didn’t come.

She skipped pizza for a while.

September; Monday

She was on the phone when she opened her door. “No, Mom–”

He was waiting, hair cropped short, shirtsleeves tight across his arms.

“Mom–let me call you back. The pizza just got here…okay–love you, too.” She hung up and looked at him. “Long time no see.”

“Sorry…it’s been crazy.”

She reached for her wallet. “Well, it’s good to see you.” She passed him a twenty.

When he offered her change, she took it.

October; Saturday

It was an uncommonly warm evening, and she was stretched across the couch in front of her open windows, a book on her stomach, enjoying the occasional breeze and the sounds of the families living around her.

Something tapped on the glass above her head, and she opened her eyes. “Daniel?”

He was wet–hair plastered to his forehead, shirt clinging–and smiled weakly. “The house two doors down has a hell of a sprinkler system.”

She jumped up, opening the door and letting him in before hurrying to the bathroom and getting some towels. She tossed one on the floor and he stepped onto it, taking another and scrubbing his head. He looked at her, tufts of hair sticking up all over, and sighed. “Thanks.”

“They turned the sprinklers on?”

He cut his eyes at her. “Their kids did.”

She grinned. “And suddenly, not being a mother doesn’t seem so bad.” She exchanged the damp towel for a dry one. “I hope they tipped you well, at least.”

He snorted, rubbing at his shirt. “They gave me exact change.”

She stopped at the bathroom door. “You’re kidding!”

“Nope.” He tossed her the last towel. “Can I use your phone? I left my cell in the car.”

“Certainly.” She handed it over, waiting at the kitchen door and watching.

“Mike? It’s Daniel…you mind if I swing by my house and change clothes? Some kids got me with the sprinklers…I’m at a friend’s house a couple of doors down…no…okay…really?…thanks, man. See you tomorrow.” He put the phone on her couch. “He told me to cut my shift early. I can go home.”

“What about the money from your deliveries?”

He shrugged. “He knows I’m good for it. I stepped in for him when his wife had their baby early–I guess he figures he can trust me with sixty bucks.”

She smiled, a little confused. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-three.”

“Oh, I thought you were–”

He raised his eyebrows in question. “What?”

“I thought you were still in school.”

He grinned. “I am. Well, until December.” He shifted in his shoes, making a face. “I got hit by a car my sophomore year. I’m still catching up.”

She didn’t bother to hide her surprise. “Oh, my god! How bad were you hurt?”

He shrugged, reciting like it was an all-too-familiar list. “Tibia, fibula fractures in both legs; femur fracture in my right leg; fractured pelvis, fractured ribs–a concussion–road rash like you wouldn’t believe…” He looked at her face. “I was on a bike. The cops said I’d have gone under his car if I’d have been walking.”

“Well…then, good for you. On not giving up, I mean. That’s a lot of hurt and recovery.”

He went back to the door and stepped outside. “My mom and dad made sure I kept my focus. I wouldn’t be graduating without them.”

She followed. “What are you studying?”

He looked down for a moment, then into her eyes. “Can we talk about it over dinner?”

“Daniel, that’s…” She shook her head. “We shouldn’t.”

“Right.” He backed away. “Okay. See you.”

November; Tuesday

He didn’t avert his eyes, he watched her more intently than ever. It felt like she couldn’t sign the receipt fast enough.

“Nicole–”

“Daniel, no. Don’t–please.”

“You don’t even know what I was going to say.”

She winced. “Okay, fine. What?”

He smiled. “Go out with me.”

“Daniel! Please.”

He turned serious. “Why not?”

“I’m older than you.”

“And?”

“And–” she looked around, voice dropping to a whisper, “and I’m not some cougar!”

He laughed. “You think that’s what this is?” He pocketed the receipt. “You’re not old enough to be a cougar. You can’t be more than thirty-five.”

She frowned. “A little high on the guess, big boy, but still a cougar.”

He rested a hand on the doorframe and leaned in. “You’re overlooking one important thing: cougars chase boys. Are you chasing me?”

“No.”

He leaned back. “I rest my case.”

“Even so!”

He sighed. “Go out with me. Please.”

She looked at him–his tousled hair, growing back to its pre-summer lengths; his broad shoulders and long legs; his dancing, knowing eyes–and nodded. “Fine. But the first time someone asks me if I’m your mother, it’s on your head.”

He winked.

Match #5

Published February 28, 2013 by Kim

(language warning)

~*~

She walked in, the harsh fluorescents of the hallway giving way to warm, shaded lights in the ballroom. A banner, welcoming everyone to their fifteenth class reunion, was strung along the far wall–a table stood beneath it, laden with wrapped packages and cheap trophies.

She stopped at a desk by the door, finding her name badge and pinning it on her lapel. She permitted herself a look around the room, forcing down the unease that sprang up the moment she recognized some of the faces.

This was a bad idea.

Motion caught her eye, and she smiled broadly in relief. “Julie!”

The woman who’d waved at her hurried to her side. “Dawn! I’m so glad to see you. I didn’t know if anyone would actually make it to this thing.”

You came.”

Julie smiled, rolling her eyes. “As if Ron would miss this. How else is he going to relive his glory years?”

“Ah, the Great Debate of ’98.”

“Oh, shut up. You just wish you’d been on the team.”

“Because I needed one more reason to be a pariah?”

Julie took her hand and tugged her, leading her across the floor to a small cluster of people. “Hey, Dawn made it.”

A circle of smiling faces greeted her, and she relaxed. This isn’t going to be so bad, after all.

~*~

What was I thinking?

She was trapped at a table between Julie and a brunette she didn’t know, waiting for the former class president to finish doling out “awards.” So far, it was a mish-mash of cute and insulting titles: Longest Marriage, Shortest Marriage, Most Children, Furthest Traveled. The pile of prizes was still too large for comfort.

She wanted out. Now.

“Dawn Flicker?”

She cringed, standing. The titters and whispers followed her to the podium, and Marianne Houseman (now Patel) stood beaming, a gift-wrapped block in her hand.

“Congratulations, Dawn, you’ve not changed at all!”

She didn’t miss the not-quite-in-jest jab.

“Is there anything you’d like to say?”

She froze, feeling every eye on her. Looking out across the crowd, she felt the flush climbing her neck, saw the knowing smiles on some of the faces. She set the gift down, tearing the corner of the paper and pulling it back enough to glimpse at the contents. The Dirty Minds Game. She could sense her blush darkening. She swallowed, forcing a smile, and looked back at her former classmates. The tears began welling up, and then she saw him, recognized the shaggy dark hair, those lips curled in a knowing smile. He dipped his head.

She felt a surge of happiness. Here–finally–one person she could trust absolutely.

She turned her body half toward Marianne. “Thanks, Marianne. Actually, there is something I’d like to say.” She picked up the gift, peeling back the paper. She smiled down at it, then tossed the box at her old classmate. “Fuck you.”

The people closest to her gasped.

Dawn smiled out at everyone. “I’m here because I wanted to see someone, someone I haven’t talked to since I was in college. The rest of you don’t matter. So…thanks. For reminding me.” She stepped away from the podium, making a loop past her seat for her purse.

Julie grabbed her hand. “What the hell, Dawn?”

Dawn shrugged. “I gotta run.”

Marianne was yelling obscenities into the mic.

When Dawn reached the door, he spoke, pushing away from the wall and glaring up at the stage. “Shut the fuck up, you damn harpy.”

Marianne screamed at him.

He flipped her off with both hands, hitting the doors as Dawn exited.

~*~

She could hear him walking behind her.

“Language, Miss Flicker.”

She stopped, biting back the smile as she turned to face him. She couldn’t stop the bright blush that painted her cheeks at his words. “Mark.”

He wrapped his arms around her and let her bury her face in his chest.

His hand slipped over her hair. “You always let them get to you.”

“I can’t help it.”

“I know.”

She snaked her arms around his waist. “I’m so glad you were there.”

“Yeah, well, you got lucky.”

She squeezed him once, hard, making him grunt in protest. “You were always there.”

He didn’t say anything, just stroked her hair. Then, quietly, “You always needed someone.”

She laughed, then, pulling away and wiping her nose on her jacket sleeve.

“Classy.”

“Shut up.”

They looked at one another. She was grinning at him.

“What?”

“You are so my John Bender.”

He snorted, looking across the lot and back to the hotel’s entrance. A beat, then–“Does this mean I get to watch you put on lipstick with your boobs?”

She punched him in the arm. “No, you jackass.” She looked down at her chest. “Besides, I doubt the girls could’ve done that trick then, let alone now.”

He flinched. “That’s a new side of you.”

She frowned. “What? Speaking my mind?”

“No. Being…blunt.”

She laughed, again. “Blunt? You have no idea.”

He looked at her for a long moment. “So, you don’t mind if I say you were completely fuckable back there?”

Her face turned crimson. “Mark!”

He turned to walk away, bumping her shoulder with his. “I just wanted to see if I could still make you blush.”

She fell into step beside him. “You always could. Why do you do that?”

He shrugged.

She reached out, clutching at his elbow. “Mark.”

He stopped, brows lifted in question.

“I saw it. What you wrote.”

“Huh?”

“In my annual.”

He stiffened. “I forgot about that.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

He shrugged, again. “Wasn’t important.”

She rolled her eyes. “You all but admitted you were in love with me. That’s not important? You should’ve told me!”

He shook his head. “Dawn–you’ve always been the good girl.” He pointed back at the hotel. “That’s why they always gave you hell. And I was never the nice guy, you know that.”

“You were always nice to me.”

He smiled. “I didn’t want to be.”

“Then why were you?”

He leaned against a sedan, crossing his arms. “I couldn’t not be nice to you.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“You wouldn’t talk to me anymore, Dawn. If I’d said one thing outta line, that would’ve been it.”

“That’s not true! We were friends. I wouldn’t have just cut you off for one little thing.”

He tilted his head back, looking up at the stars. “Dawn…”

“You should’ve asked me out.”

His head snapped forward. “What?”

“I said, ‘you should’ve asked me out.’ Who knows what would’ve happened.”

“Nothing good, I can promise that.”

She made a noise like a hiss. “How do you know that?”

“Because I wasn’t what your mom and dad wanted you with. I’d have been a bad influence.”

Her face was practically glowing. She stepped toward him. “That’s not fair. It’s not true.”

“Trust me, I have a knack for screwing shit up.”

“Shut up. Just shut up.”

He threw her a dark look.

She waved him off. “Keep your glares to yourself.” She stepped between his legs, nudging his knees apart, and tugged on his arms until he loosened them and they hung by his sides. She wrapped herself around him, tucking her body closely into his, her face against his chest, above his heart.

He let his arms curl around her, and held her there.

She clung to him, not moving or speaking until he shifted under her.

“What about now?”

He cocked his head. “Meaning?”

She looked up at him. “Now. What would you do now?”

He turned away. “I’d kiss you.”

She tugged his jacket sleeve, and when he looked back, she pressed her lips to his.

Match #4

Published December 20, 2012 by Kim

“It’s a commonplace book.”

He looked up at her, the little brown journal in one hand, a tube of mascara in the other. Her things lay scattered on the floor between them. “Beg pardon?”

She dropped her eyes, snatching up her wallet and keys and tossing them haphazardly into her purse. “Commonplace book. It’s just a thing I do.”

He sat back on his haunches, handing over the mascara but keeping the book on his knee. “What sort of thing?”

She blew at the hair falling in her face, finally giving up and scraping the rest of her belongings up in two handfuls and dropping it all in her bag. She met his eyes. “I collect quotes. Passages from books–speeches–lines from plays–whatever tickles my fancy. I copy it down in the book.” She held out her hand. “If you please.”

He smiled, eyes crinkling at the corners in that way that she always loved on a man, his dark hair falling over his forehead just so, and he cracked open the book. Looking down, he read the first thing his eyes landed upon. “‘Half of the harm that is done in the world is due to people who want to feel important.'” He lifted his eyebrows in mild surprise, then turned a few pages ahead. “‘Wearing underwear is as formal as I ever hope to get’?” His smile curled a little more tightly, his eyes darting up in a glance. He flipped back near the beginning. “‘And though she be but little, she is fierce.'”

“I’ve never been considered little, but I love that one.”

He eyed her, from her grown-out bob to her knee-high boots. “I’ll wager you’re fierce.”

She blushed, barking out a laugh. Shaking her bag to settle its contents, she rose to her feet. He followed suit, graceful even when coming up from being on his knees, and she stopped, just…waiting.

He towered over many, but she wasn’t petite–and in her boots, she wasn’t terribly far from matching him. As it was, he was looking down at her journal, eyes cutting to the side as he scanned further passages, and giving her ample opportunity to admire him: from the straight, clean lines of his features, past broad shoulders and onward, ending in long legs–and leaving her with the recollection of “Nature might stand up / And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!'”

“There’s much Shakespeare in this little book.” He tapped a two-page spread–Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy.

She nodded. “I’m fond of Will.”

“And of the Bible, too, I see.”

“It is the Good Book for a reason.”

He smiled, snapping the book shut. He looked down at it, the leather battered, the embossed sun all but faded. He stroked the cover with his thumb, peering at her through his lashes. “This be madness.”

One corner of her lip twitched; she fought back the smile. “There is method in it.”

He held out the book. When she reached for it, he pulled back. “Come to dinner with me.”

Her eyes widened. “I can’t. You’re–you–”

“I’m no one. Just a man you happened to bump into coming around a corner.”

She laughed, but it was edged with something frantic. “Hardly.”

He pursed his lips, then suddenly reached into his coat, retrieving a pen. She waited, puzzled, as he opened her journal to a page near the end, writing quickly. He paused, looked up at her once, then closed it gently before handing it over.

She watched him walk away, around the corner, before hurriedly leafing through the book. His neat, angled script covered an entire page:

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.

She hesitated only a moment, then spun on her heels and ran around the corner, colliding soundly with the same lean figure she’d crashed into only minutes before. He caught her by the arms and held her tight. “You changed your mind.”

She smiled until she dimpled, her cheeks high with color, and disentangled herself. “I have to know who said it.”

He laughed–a rich, deep sound. She curled her toes in her boots.

“Perhaps I’ll remember when I’ve a full belly.”

She tucked away her book. “I know a fabulous little trattoria about three blocks from here. Will that do?”

“I count myself in nothing else so happy.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, a smile teasing her lips, and she walked away.

A quick run-step had him beside her, hands thrust in his pockets, shoulder brushing hers.

Match #3

Published November 30, 2012 by Kim

She swore, dabbing at the sauce sliding down the front of her blouse.

Her brand-new, on-clearance-at-Neiman-Marcus, blindingly white blouse.

Casting a quick glance at her date and blurting out an apology, she darted for the ladies’ room.

“Damn, damn, damn!” She looked at herself in the mirror. Tomato sauce made an orangey-red oval alongside her left breast. She thought of her date, waiting at their table by the window, his perfectly steamed lobster cooling.

She grabbed a handful of paper towels, dampened them, and began to scrub furiously. Another woman exited a stall behind her, threw a pitying glance her way as she washed her hands, and smiled weakly before leaving.

The stain was getting worse. She flung the paper towels into the sink and stomped her foot, her Louboutin knock-offs clacking against the tile.

The bathroom door opened, and a man walked in.

She glared at him. “Um, not the men’s room.”

He smiled, lifting a bottle. “Seltzer water.”

“Excuse me?”

He came closer, holding the bottle out to her. “Seltzer water’ll take out the stain.”

She cocked her head. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. My grandma swore by it.”

She nodded. “Good enough for me. What do I do?”

He folded another paper towel into quarters, then opened the water and soaked it. He reached for her, then stopped. “You, uh, you need to blot it. You won’t get it all out here, but it should help.”

She smiled, taking the wet towel from him and resuming her efforts to save her blouse. “Who are you?”

He smiled back. “David. I’m the bartender.”

She lifted a hand in a small wave. “Nice to meet you, David. I’m Sophie.”

“Sophie.” He cracked a grin. “That’s a lot better than what I was calling you.”

She smirked at his reflection in the mirror. “God help me, I have to ask. Pasta Girl?”

“Chocolate Martini at Table Seven. But Pasta Girl has a nice ring to it.”

She eyeballed her top. The stain wasn’t gone, but it was much better than before. Aside from the huge wet spot. “I can’t go out there.”

He looked pointedly at her chest. “It is a little transparent, isn’t it?”

She blushed.

“Look…wait here another minute, okay?” He waited for her nod, then left.

She looked at herself. Her hair was escaping its clasps, her lipstick was wearing off, and her blouse was showing the world that she’d worn the lacy bra to dinner. She sighed. Not her best night.

The door bounced open, and David reappeared. He stopped short, glancing around. “Anyone else come in?”

She shook her head.

“Good. I’d rather not lose my job for being in here.” He held out some black cloth. “I borrowed a vest from one of the girls. It’ll keep you covered until Scotch Neat can give you his jacket.”

She slipped the vest on. “Thank you. Really. You didn’t have to do all this.”

He grinned, showing dimples. “My pleasure.” The smile shifted, and his look gave her butterflies. “Anything you need, I’m happy to help.”

She couldn’t hold back her own smile.

He held the door open, and she slipped out ahead of him, heading back to her table. Her meal was gone, a take-out box sitting in its place. She looked at her date. “Mike?”

“Oh, I had the waitress pack it up for you. I was already done–didn’t see a need to sit around while you finished half a plate of ravioli.”

She saw the little folder by his elbow, the edge of a receipt peeking out. He’d already paid. “No dessert, then?”

“I wasn’t in the mood, actually.” He stood. “You ready?”

She thumbed the vest. “I need to return this. Can I borrow your jacket?”

He grabbed her leftovers. “Don’t worry about it. I’m here all the time for lunch–I’ll drop it off, later.”

She hesitated. “Actually, Mike…you go on without me.”

He glanced at the tables nearby. “Sophie?”

“No, really. Go on. I’ll get a cab home.”

His voice lowered. “Sophie. What are you doing?”

She smiled, aware of the couple behind her desperately trying to listen in. “I’m dumping your ass.”

His face reddened. “Fine.” He dropped the container on the table and walked out.

She watched him until his car pulled away from the curb, then carried her ravioli to the bar and perched on one of the stools.

A pretty redhead smiled at her. “What can I get for you, ma’am?”

“David.”

The redhead’s forehead wrinkled. “Excuse me?”

“He loaned me this.” She pointed at the vest she was still wearing. “I need to give it back.”

“Sure thing.” The redhead disappeared through a pair of swinging doors at the far end of the bar.

David burst through the doors a few moments later. “…Sophie? Something wrong?”

“He ate without me. He skipped dessert. He wouldn’t loan me his jacket.”

He frowned.

She continued. “And now I need to call a cab.”

He looked hard at her.

She blushed, smiling and keeping on a brave face.

He relaxed. “What do you say to another chocolate martini, and skip the cab?”

Her smile widened. “I say I’m all yours.”

He sat an icy-cold glass on the bar, his thumb- and fingertips leaving ovals in the frost. “And I say I like the sound of that.”

The Guest

Published October 31, 2012 by Kim

Music pounded loudly enough to be heard outside, three houses away. She crossed the street and the lawn, ringing the doorbell out of habit more than anything, since no one would hear it over the noise. Even so, a young man of about twenty opened the door, looked her up and down, and smiled.

She did not like his smile, nor what it said, but she smiled back.

“What can I do you for?” he said.

“Mind if I come in?” she replied.

He opened the door wider, letting her enter the house. People were everywhere, young people–fit and beautiful and drunk. Her smile faltered, and she quashed the urge to roll her eyes. Nothing ever changed.

He tugged her hand, pulled her along to the living room. He held her close, grinding against her and giving her looks she knew he thought were seductive.

Oh, how she hated the game…particularly when so poorly played. Still, she bit her lip and smiled up at him. He tried to get closer.

One.

They moved to the deck, the cool autumn air chilling her arms, and his friend poured a beer for her. She eyed the red plastic cup and bit back a sigh, looking up in time to see the looks exchanged between them. The friend smiled at her, a little too widely, a little too surely. She sipped the beer and smiled back.

Two.

He led her back inside, through the kitchen, and an arm came up to block her way. She stopped, meeting the gaze of an older boy–they were all boys, to her–who seemed…nervous.

“Who are you?”

“She’s from down the road.” Their host held her by the wrist. She decided against reminding him that she had a name.

“She’s…older.”

“So?”

She spoke up. “You don’t like older women?”

Their host laughed. “Yeah, he does.”

She caught the quirk in the older boy’s face, the shift in his glance. No, he didn’t like older women. He liked them younger.

She smiled at him, all lips and teeth and wide-eyed innocence. He relaxed, smiled back at her.

Three.

They followed her out, the nudges and whispers and laughs grating on her nerves. The smiles she gave them, though, promised so much more.

She made them dance for her, her eyes following their movements as they grasped one another, their eyes wide in terror and surprise, bodies fluid and shining in the dark. They were beautiful to look at, but it was growing late, and the moon was high. She stood, pressing a kiss to their cold lips, each one in turn, and left them there. As she passed into the undergrowth, she clapped her hands once. Their bodies fell like marionettes with the strings cut.

(Happy Halloween, everyone. -G.)