Unabridged Me

JUST ANOTHER WRITER

Morning Routine

August 13, 2019

She takes a sip and cringes.

Coffee is cold. She debates pouring a fresh cup, knowing she wastes at least 3/4 of the coffee she brews every morning. With a sigh, she stands to pour herself more, if only for routine comfort.

Hearing sounds of movement upstairs, she glances at the clock. The nighttime symphony of crickets was replaced hours ago with a chorus of waking birds. Now even the birds are hushed as the day heats up outside. Moving towards the fridge, she looks towards the family room windows, just to make sure she remembered to close up the house. An almost empty fridge offers up and takes back the milk from her hand, and she drags her willpower as she moves around the kitchen.

He coughs. She pauses.

The coughing subsides, replaced by her hand clinking the spoon against her mug’s edge. The fridge clunks as ice is pushed into the door bin, and she takes a sip. Lukewarm. She grimaces and disposes of the mug, the ceramic against porcelain echo going unnoticed as a plane flies overhead.

Her eyes pull towards the microwave clock again. She sighs. The vacuum of time sucks at her as the house settles back into the quiet hum of appliances. He is shuffling upstairs, starting his wheezing decent onto the main floor.

She looks at the breakfast waiting for him on the tv tray. Also cold. His days are starting later, and time is moving slower. She tries to coax minutes into moving by wiping the counter for a third time while his slippered feet scrape the hallway towards her. She turns as he steps into the kitchen, her expressionless face open to his weary one.

“Good morning,” she says, careful to not let him hear concern, though her eyes search his face and body for clues.

“Arhmf.” His response is part cough and part grumble as his cloudy eyes search the spotless counters.

“Next to your recliner.”

“Thanks,” he huffs, turning into the family room, “and my tea?”

“Same. Do you want me to heat them for you?”

“No.”

He sits down, the leather creaking under his shifting weight. Another coughing fit causes her muscles to tense, preparing her to move in a heartbeat. The hacking halts, followed by shuddering breaths and throat clearing. She leans against the counter, waiting. His breathing returns to normal, and she relaxes.

He falls asleep, and the silence deepens. Her eyes drift towards the window over the sink, watching trees move with muted wind. She pulls oxygen deep into her lungs, turning to look at the digital clock before letting the air murmur past her lips. The stillness of a tomb pushes at her eardrums.

She picks up the kitchen rag, wiping at the counter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Testing the Water

July 20, 2019

*** Once again I am participating in NYC Midnight’s flash fiction challenge. The assigned flash fiction is romance/reservoir/bagel, and I had 48 hours to write the story. Feedback is always welcome and wanted. Please enjoy!*** 

Synopsis: A woman learns to trust her intuition and the potential of love from an unexpected source.

The ceiling fan clicks above me, doing little to cool my heated skin.

I hear his panting slow as my own breathing returns to normal. For a few minutes I lay still, unwilling to disturb the rare quiet in my mind. As my internal monologue restarts, I am stuck with awkward indecision. Do I stretch my limbs and succumb to sleep that is pushing at my consciousness, or do I slide out of his bed and fake confidence as I pull on my clothes? Choosing the safest option, I sit up and lean towards the edge of the mattress.

“Please, don’t go,” he whispers, placing his hand on the small of my back.

I shove down the giggle that bubbles up from my stomach, lying down and curling up on my side facing away from him. He scoots closer but leaves space, the only contact between us is his hand resting on my waist. My back relaxes, and soon I am asleep.

***

“It’s time you get on with your life, get out and date,” Gillian says, “You wasted five years with Jack, don’t waste any more.”

I meet my best friend’s eyes across the picnic table before breaking contact to look around the party. In general, I don’t like spending time at reservoirs. The water smells, and people mingle in chaos with the ability to disappear without warning.

“I’m over Jack. That’s not the problem,” I reply, “The problem is I don’t trust my intuition, and I don’t trust people. Trust is kind of important.”

Gillian sighs before saying, “yes, you are right. But how do you starting swimming again if you refuse to get within 100 feet of the water?”

***

“Hey, how are you?” he asks, leaning over me.

I want to answer that I don’t know what to do with my body, that I am a bundle of anxiety, that my heart is going to run from my chest and hop a train far away from him.

Instead, I answer, “I’m good.”

“You hungry?” he asks, searching my face and staying on his side of the bed as I try to hide my face from his eyes.

Those eyes. Those amber orbs that make the world disappear. Those golden irises that shine from his olive-skinned face like sunshine glinting off quartz in beach sand. I glance up at him and smile, nodding my consent. He flashes his dimples, then his eyebrows come together in a slight frown.

“You’ll be here when I get back?”

I nod again.

***

“What about him?” Gillian asks, pointing as she warms up to her new game.

“Nah, lunkhead,” I reply, barely looking.

“Okay, what about him?”

I roll my eyes at Gillian, tiring of her insistent desire that I have a one-night stand to dip my toe into the water. I stop listening to her as she rambles about the positive attributes of each male, my eyes scanning the ever-increasing crowd with a sense of dread. I notice a group that just beached their catamaran, and I watch them pull their sails and wrestle the sailboat further up the beach.  One man looks in my direction, and I am arrested by a pair of eyes looking into my soul.

“Him,” I whisper.

Gillian stops mid-sentence to look towards the boat. She looks at me, and then back at him, before shaking her head.

“No, absolutely not.”

“Why not?” I ask, struggling to turn my attention back to her.

“He’s not a dip your toe kind of guy,” she replies, shaking her head, “he’s a jump in the middle of the ocean with no lifeboat or life jacket kind of guy.”

I don’t hear her warning.

***

After 15 minutes of tossing and turning, a knot forming in my stomach, I get out of bed and put on my clothes. I walk around his apartment; self-consciously aware I am a stranger. I pick up a photograph of a younger him, his arms around a young woman with them looking at each other and laughing. My heart hopes she is a sister or a childhood friend, but the tiny voice gains ground and whispers it’s a girlfriend.

I move past the photographs, trying to avoid the feeling like I’m intruding on his life. I read the spines of books. I look out the window. I stare at the microwave clock, willing time to pass. I try to not listen to the voice saying he is regretting me, he is regretting his choice, he is taking a long time hoping I will give up and leave before he gets back. The anxiety becomes too much, and I grab my purse.

I hear the key in the door, and I freeze.

He walks into the apartment, unaware of me for the first few moments, and I watch him as he deadbolts the door and moves into the kitchenette. He feels my gaze and looks towards me. In one moment, his glance takes in my body posture and purse.

“Leaving?” he asks, his brows furrowing.

“Um, I wasn’t sure,” I stutter.

“Here, I have bagels and coffee,” he offers, lifting the drink carrier in his hand towards the bag he put on the counter.

“What kind?” I ask, moving through molasses as the air in the room thickens.

“You seem like an Everything kind of girl,” he replies, watching me.

Something pops in my chest, and my lungs pull in air for the first time since I woke up. I grin, avoiding his eyes.

“How did you guess?”

He shrugs. I move closer to the bagels, the smell of freshly baked bread and caffeine warming my stomach. He hands me one of the coffees, his fingers brushing mine. As I take my first sip, I close my eyes and sigh with contentment. When I open them, he is in front of me. He leans forward and gives me a gentle kiss on my lips.

“Thanks for staying.”

I relax into his eyes and smile.

Weekly Visit

July 12, 2019

We avoid looking at each other.

He stares at the floor, his eyes not seeing the worn wood grain or the edges of dust creeping into sight from under the furniture. My eyes run laps around the room, no longer noticing the unmoved books and tiny mementos of a life now receding into the crumbling memories of his mind.

Click click click

The overhead fan keeps time, reminding us of each passing second. The chain hits a single light shade with a steady violence, distracting me as I ponder how the fan does not break from its thin metal anchor and spin through the living room window. The dam in my chest breaks as if the propelled fan had driven into my heart, and I stand with buzzing anxiety.

He doesn’t move. Not a look. Not a twitch.

The bookcase draws me, her figurines tempting my restless fingers. I pick up an angel, her shoulders brown with neglect.

“Do. Not. Touch,” his words ring out like gun shots, startling me. My fingers dance, trying to keep the delicate porcelain from cracking against the shelf before easing the angel back onto its clean spot amidst the grey blanket of disregard.

“You know, I can clean…,” I squeak past the lump that forms in my throat every time I walk past the house’s threshold.

“No! Leave me alone!”

His red eyes stare at me from below his unkempt hair, his hand bringing down the now empty tumbler hard on his TV tray.

I visualize shouting at him, full of adult anger and frustration, to pull himself out of his whiskey cloud and accept that she is gone. I imagine balling up my fists, stomping my feet, and screaming at the top of my lungs like a petulant five-year old that he is a selfish bastard and not the only one in pain. I envision throwing my arms around his legs like a little girl, sobbing out my heartbreak as I beg for him to see that I miss her too, with every cell in my body.

Instead, I clear my throat. I look at the clock on the wall. I put my hands in my pockets. I pace around the room, trying to run away from memories that stare at me from every object and catch me in every corner. His eyes return to the floor, his fingers twitching on his glass.

“Um, well,” I whisper against the clink of the chain and his rejection.

“Isn’t it time for you to go,” he states, releasing me from my indecision.

“Yeah,” I pull myself together, “I put enough food for the week in the fridge, and your snacks are in the pantry. I leave for a business trip on Wednesday, but I will be back Friday and will come by Saturday.”

I pick up my keys and walk towards the door. My back receives his reply, “don’t bother.”

Taking a deep breath I call out, “I love you, Dad,” before closing the solid front door against sounds of a television coming to life.

Which is why Jack found himself, irritated and exhausted, about to enter a yoga studio. He avoided these places, shops where most personnel were holograms or humanoid. A tall blond looked up from the receptionist desk as Jack moved into the space filled with woods and incense.