Flash Fiction #74 – Dog Days Are Over

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Don’t panic…you’re in the right place. I just did some remodeling over the weekend. What do you think? Anyway, on to the post.

This month’s song fic was inspired by “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine. You can read the lyrics or watch the video and listen to the song. Or both. Or neither. Totally your call. But anyway, here’s the story it inspired.

Lizzie’s phone lay on the couch between her and Cilla, vibrating almost constantly with missed calls and ignored texts.

“What do you mean you told him no?” Cilla stared at her best friend in amazement. “Literally all you’ve been talking about this past year is how you couldn’t wait for Grant to propose. You were going to be so upset if he didn’t. I can’t believe you turned him down.”

Except that she kind of could. She’d had a feeling this would be how it would go if Grant ever asked Lizzie to marry him.

Lizzie  wiped her her eyes and nose. “I don’t know. One minute we were having dinner at that little pub down on on Cherry, and the next, he gets up and starts singing, and a bunch of diners got up and started dancing–”

“Wait,” Cilla said. “He proposed with a flashmob?”

She sniffled and nodded miserably.

“But you love flashmobs. You…you have a whole Pinterest board devoted to them.”

“I know.” She sniffled again.

“What happened then?”

“He did the whole getting down on one knee thing.”

Cilla covered her face and peered at Lizzie through her fingers. “I’m afraid to ask,” she said, her voice a bit muffled. “but then what happened?”

Lizzie grabbed a throw pillow off the couch and wrapped her arms around it, doubling over as she leaned forward. “It’s awful. I don’t even want to tell you.”

“Too late now,” Cilla muttered.

She buried her face in the cushion. “Mraphaffal nramd.”

“What was that?”

Lifting her head partway, she repeated, “I hugged him, and then I ran.”

Cilla’s mouth fell open. “Oh, honey…”

She felt bad for Lizzie, but goddamn, right now, she felt worse for Grant. Normally, Cilla would be going down with the ship of sisterhood, But it wasn’t like Grant had just proposed out of the blue. Lizzie had been dropping hints for months. Showing him flashmob proposals and talking about how Art Nouveau was the most gorgeous era for jewelry.

“Did he also happen to propose with a nineteenth century style ring?”

“Actual antique from the looks of it,” she murmmured, staring at the floor. She look up at Cilla, eyes swollen and red from crying. “Why do I do this? Why can’t I just be happy? That was everything I ever wanted.”

Cilla scrubbed her hand over her face, dread and frustration tightening the muscles in her shoulders. “How long have we known each other,  Lizzie?”

“What?”

“How long have we known each other?” she asked again.

“Since freshman year of college, so…what–nine…ten years?”

Cilla nodded. “Okay, I need to know…do you want comfort? Or do you want the truth?”

“I want a big cup of do-over.”

Cilla frowned at her. “But would you really change anything if you could do it over?”

“I don’t know–yes, I do. I would have canceled lunch today.”

“That’s not making a choice–that’s avoiding one.”

Lizzie scowled at her. “Fine. Since you seem to know all about what’s in my head, give me the truth.”

Wondering if their friendship would survive this, Cilla took a deep breath. It was too late to stop now, anyway. “You don’t want to be happy.”

Lizzie opened her mouth, but Cilla cut her off.

“Before you say you do, I want you to think for a minute about every relationship you torpedoed. It’s like once you start feeling comfortable with a guy, you start picking fights with them until they break up with you. Except Grant didn’t go anywhere–so you had to.”

Lizzie didn’t say anything. She just stared.

“I love you, Boo, but it’s like you’re afraid to be happy. You want it, but you hide from it. And if that doesn’t work, you kill it however you can.”

Lizzie sat there for the longest time–not speaking, not crying, not moving. Finally, as if she were a living marionette and someone else was pulling the strings, she grabbed her phone and stood then walked toward the door. Cilla watched her go, wondering if her calls and texts would get answered or if they’d just vibrate into nothingness on someone else’s couch.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories.

Jess  *  Kris  *  Siobhan  *  Deelylah  *  Gwen

Promptly Penned: I Swear to God, I’ll drop this cake!

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Prompt: “Take a step closer to me and I swear to God, I’ll drop this cake! I’ll do it! Don’t test me!”

From the corner of her eye, Laura watched her older sister, Katy, slowly navigate the perimeter of the room, mingling with the twenty or so guests who’d chosen to spend their Saturday here, in hell. Though, none of those people had heard her sister bitch about the centerpieces. Apparently, reusing the ones from their sister’s wedding last year made Katy feel like no one really cared about her impending marriage. Nor had they heard her complain that only a quarter of her guest list had bothered to RSVP.

Laura was still baffled that this many people had decided to attend yet another bridal shower for Katy. Of course, Laura was just as baffled that she’d agreed to host another bridal shower for her. But after their youngest sister had bailed, Laura didn’t really feel like she had a choice. Well, not one that wouldn’t warp their family dynamic even more than it already was.

She carried the oversized punch bowl back into the room and set it on the table, barely avoiding Katy’s sister-in-law-to-be, Tina,–or was it Gina?–as she wove drunkenly into her path. Laura envied the woman’s foresight to drink heavily prior to this exercise in self-torture. But, at least the meal and present opening were over–the only thing left on the agenda was cake.

She carefully arranged the color coordinated napkins and plates Katy had insisted on and darted into the kitchen to get the cake. The sooner she got this cut and served, the sooner she could get the hell away from her sister before she said something she really regretted.

Lifting the cake from the counter, she turned and nearly ran into Katy who stood there holding a napkin. “What is this?” she asked, waving the offending paper product in front of Laura’s face.

“Normally, I’d say it was a napkin, but I’m guessing it’s about to become an objet d butthurt.”  She tried to step around her sister, only to have Katy move in front of her.

“I thought I told you my colors were cashmere and apricot. This is peach.”

Laura counted to ten before opening her mouth. It didn’t help. “Cashmere isn’t a color. And those are  the apricot napkins. You can check the trash for the label.”

Katy sniffed. “Well, it was mislabeled, then.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“Maybe not to you! But this is all part of my special day!”

“Oh, my fuck. Are you serious with this? They’re just napkins. You are forty-three years old. This is your fourth special day. You need to get a goddamn grip.”

Shh!”

“What? Your new inlaws don’t know that Greg–”

“Craig,” she corrected.

“–is about to become husband number four?”

“Shut. Up.”

“Just get out of my way, and we’ll get this over with–you know, before the napkins ruin everything.”

Katy lunged toward her.

“Take a step closer to me and I swear to God, I’ll drop this cake! I’ll do it! Don’t test me!”

Katy never did listen.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories!

Jess  *  Siobhan  *  Jessica  *  Deelylah  *  Kris

Flash Fiction #73 – Winter Road

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Rural winter snowy landscape

Welp, it’s the first flash fiction of the new year, and I’m staring at this picture that looks entirely too much like it looks outside and trying to come up with story that’s not me whining about how cold I am and how much I hate to drive in the snow. Both of these things are true, but me whining doesn’t make for good fiction.

*  *  *  *  *

The snow blushed pink under the glow of the early morning sunrise as Ruby walked in the tire ruts of the rarely used road that led to the farthest edge of her family’s contested property. Her boot prints from last night were still clear in the tracks, heading in the opposite direction. She supposed she could have spent the night there at the farmhouse and saved herself the trouble and strain of walking the five miles back and forth from the motel. After all, she had a key to the house.

But the estate had been tied up in probate court since her grandma had died four years earlier, and the gas and electricity had been shut off while the lawyers tried to sort out who got what and when. It was far too cold to stay there in the winter. Besides, it was a little too haunted for her tastes.

Ruby climbed the wide, but rickety, front steps and unlocked the front door. The house smelled like it always did. Old grease, stale cigarette smoke, and underneath it all, old mothballs and decay. The decor hadn’t been updated since the forties, and the whole house looked like a time capsule. Whichever relative ended up with the house could probably make a killing on antiques in this place.

Swallowing thickly, she pulled her supplies from her bag. Just like she’d done every New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, she sprinkled holy water and salt around the perimeter of each room, taking care to lay extra at the threshold of basement stairs. Making sure the dead stayed buried.

It wasn’t just that her grandfather had died down there, it was all the people he’d killed down there. Farm hands. Migrant workers. People from the halfway house looking for work. And she was doing her part to follow her grandma’s wishes–making sure the dead stayed buried.

But this was it–this was the last time she’d do it. The case would finally get a hearing sometime in the spring, and the house and its dead would be someone else’s problem. She’d be on a beach in Mexico, living off the money she’d found hidden in the back of the cupboard last night when she was looking for a can of anything edible and non-expired.

If the ghosts followed, at least she’d be warm while they haunted her.

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories. 

Siobhan  *  Kayleigh  *  Gwen  *  Kris  *  Jess

Flash Fiction #72 – Chances

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The last song fic of the year was inspired by Chances by Five for Fighting. Here are the lyrics and video if you want to take a peek.

Heads up: this story is probably going to be the shortest of the short. Unless you’re super new here, you know the drill, I’m averaging three – five hours of sleep a night as I frantically try to finish sewing and knitting Christmas presents. To be honest, I can’t even promise it’ll make sense since I’m pretty sure I can see through time and space at this point.

I scooped Jordan’s clothes out of the dresser drawers and tossed them into garbage bags.His games and movies were already boxed and ready to go. He was coming to get his stuff today. And if he didn’t show, I was donating all of it.

It wasn’t that I wanted to break up with Jordan–not really. What I really wanted was for him to just magically disappear from my life as if he’d never been there. I just wanted to have a do-over on the last nine months or so. It wasn’t that those months were horrible. They just could have been better.

Jordan wasn’t a terrible human being, but as it turned out, he wasn’t my favorite, either . About three months ago, he had a really bad cold, so he’d bailed on going out with the the rest of our friends. I think he was pissed that I didn’t stay home and fawn over him. But if I had, I’d probably be in jail for homicide with one of those little plastic medicine cups that comes with the jumbo bottle of Nyquil. I don’t know how I would have killed him with it, but I would have found a way, because nothing is more annoying than Jordan with a cold.

Once I was out with my friends, I realized that I was having fun for the first time in months. The rest of the time, it was like he just kind of sucked the joy out of everything. Even sledding. How the fuck can someone make sledding awful? Jordan could. And did.

I thought about all of the other times he’d cast a pall over my life. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even enjoy having gotten into grad school (he didn’t have the money to go) or a raise at work (his boss doesn’t like him) or running her first 5K (he gets blisters when he runs.) He hadn’t started out that bad, but he’d gotten there quickly.

I finally had the last garbage bag filled with his stuff, and I dragged it out to the porch. I dropped it next to the box that had his toiletries and a bottle filled with sand and shells that he’d collected on the beach during our one and only vacation.

He’d already arrived and was loading everything into his brother’s pickup truck. He returned to the porch and looked up at me. “Do you think someday you might consider giving me another chance?”

I shook my head. “I think it’s better if we both move on.”

His brother picked up the box with the toiletries, and Jordan grabbed the bottle with the sand and shells, pulled the cork, and began dumping the contents on the ground.

“What…are you doing?” I asked.

“You can’t expect me to keep this reminder of us if you won’t give me another chance.”

I stared open-mouthed at my ex, and his brother muttered, “Jesus fucking Christ, dude. Dial back the melodrama, already.” He turned and started back toward the truck, but I heard him mutter, “And you wonder why you can’t keep a relationship.”

Okay, so that’s it for me, today. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories. 

Jess  *  Siobhan  *  Kris  *  Gwen

 

 

Flash Fiction #71 – Place Setting

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Hayley fussed with the place settings for the the forty-seventh time.

“Oh my god, would you quit obsessing, already!”

She startled, and I tried to soften my words by wrapping my arms around her from behind and pressing a kiss to the back of her neck. She quit fussing with the  ribbon and lifted her hands to rest on my forearm where it rested across her chest.

“I’m sorry. I just want it to be perfect.”

I kissed her again. “There’s no such thing as perfect.”

She sighed. “I know. I guess I keep hoping that one of these days, they’ll realize I’m not the antiChrist.”

The only way that day would come is if she turned into a straight white male–preferably with a job in finance or real estate. No bisexual, mixed race social workers need apply.

I hugged her tighter,  and she snorted.

“What?”

She shook her head. I was just thinking that would take a Christmas miracle.”

Out in the driveway, car doors slammed followed by muffled yelling. Hayley and I both drifted to the window.

“He didn’t…” I muttered, watching my younger brother trying to corral an apparently drunk woman in a skirt shorter than I’ve ever seen.  As she slipped on the icy sidewalk and my brother caught her, she flashed her bare ass at my parents.

“He didn’t what?” Hayley asked. “And who the hell is that with Nate?”

The expression of horrified loathing on my mother’s face was too much, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Seriously, Vanessa, who is she?”

“Last time I talked to Nate, he said that his hot math tutor was a theatre major, and he was going to try to hire her to play the worst girlfriend in existence.”

Hayley’s mouth dropped open. “He did not.”

“Of course he, did. He adores you. I think he’s hoping this will help our parents will come around, too.”

I watched as the love of my life blinked back tears then pressed a kiss to my lips. “You and Nate and whoever that chick is are all the Christmas miracle I need.”

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out the other stories, too. 

Jess  *  Siobhan  *  Kris

Flash Fiction #70: Flaws

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Today’s flash fic song is Flaws by Bastille. Here are the lyrics and the song.

Despite the cold, damp weather, the minister at the graveside service droned on and on. It was almost as if he were part of her grandfather’s habit of making his descendents as uncomfortable as possible. Clutching a small stack of photos, Angela shifted from near-frozen foot to near-frozen foot, willing the feeling back into them. The wind shifted, and the sleet slashed sideways beneath the protective canopy, pelting her face to slide miserably down her neck.

As Becca, one of her cousins, stepped up near the casket to read a poem, Angela flipped through the small stack of photos she held. His voice whispered through her head with each image.

“You’re too old to run in the sprinkler.”

“Sure you need that second piece of cake?”

“I can’t believe your mother let you go out looking like that.”

“What did you expect wearing a skirt that short?”

“Why’d you cut your hair? You look like a boy.”

“What do you mean, girlfriend?”

Angela’s mom elbowed her then nodded toward the open grave where casket had just been lowered into the hole, and the rest of her cousins were gathering around the edge. Swallowing hard, Angela stepped forward to stand at Becca’s side, pictures clutched in her hand.

At the pastor’s nod, her cousins each scooped up a handful of dirt from the mounded pile, and one by one, threw it in the hole. The partially frozen earth hit the top of the coffin with a hollow-sounding thud. When it was Angela’s turn, she tossed in the photos, watching them flutter and land like dying butterflies.

Her flaws could be buried with his.

That’s it for me, today. Be sure to check out Kris and Siobhan’s stories, too.

 

Promptly Penned: Safer–Not Safe

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Prompt: “No, I said we were safer, not safe.”

“We should be safer up here. Did you make sure all the doors and windows are locked?”

Mark nodded. “I covered all of the windows, too.”

“Good.” Rowan pushed her hair off her face and wiped the sweat from her forehead with her forearm as she eyed the sun sinking lower on the horizon through the tiny space between the curtain panels. She had no idea how long they’d be able to stay here, but a cabin on a mostly deserted seemed way better than taking their chances with a town full of zombies. Especially a zombie high school homecoming parade. She’d be picking cheerleader out of the grill of her truck for weeks. “If you want to try to get some rest, I’ll take the first watch.”

She continued to stare out the window but startled when Mark settled his hands at her hips and startled nuzzling her neck.

She slapped at his hands and twisted away from him. “What the fuck is the matter with you?!”

“What? You said we were safe. I thought we could both use a little adrenalin-release. ”

“No, you asshole. I said we were safer–not safe.” Rowan wiped at her neck. “And besides that, we broke up three years ago. The only reason I even picked you up was because that trumpet player was about to eat your face.”

Mark just stared at her.

“Seriously, touch me again, and I’ll dump you right back on main street in the middle of the percussion section.”

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to read Jess‘ post, too!.