Mona Lisa Smile #FlashFiction


Rainy Day

Flash Fiction: Word prompt – Mona Lisa smile

His chair was empty and cold just like the coffee he hadn’t drank.

She stared at the cup of coffee, unblinking and unmoved, the Mona Lisa smile still gracing her face.

She tried to remember the words he’d said. Something about ‘not working’, ‘better as friends’, and ‘he’d met someone.’

He had said more, but she wasn’t listening.

She was remembering.

When he said he loved her.

When he said she was the one.

When he asked her to marry him and slipped the ring on her finger.

She looked down at her hand, the ring still in place, heavy and laborious.

He told her to keep it and remember the good times.

Good times?

Instead, she remembered when he said he had to work late and turned off his phone.

She remembered him canceling their weekend trip to Vegas because the ‘big project’ at work was past due… and he turned off his phone.

Lastly, she remembered how he canceled their dinner… on her birthday… because of work.

And he turned off his phone.

She’d told all her friends she was spending her birthday with him and refused to sit home alone.

She went out to dinner and saw him… with her.

She didn’t know if it was a casual fling or a new beginning.

It didn’t matter.

It was over.

She went home and waited.

Waited for him to tell her.

Two days.

Five days.

A week.

She emotionally removed herself from the relationship.

She pulled away from his hugs and turned away from his kisses.

She knew she should walk away but she wouldn’t let him off that easy.

He had to say the words.

One day, he looked into her eyes and he saw it.

She knew.

He left quickly… because of work.

Three days later, he called and asked to meet her for coffee.

And he told her… at last.

She never spoke but just sat there before him cloaked in serenity, Mona Lisa smile in place.

He stood to leave, leaning in to kiss her cheek.

She turned away… and he left.

Looking at the two-karat emerald-cut ring on her finger, a wave of sadness passed over her.

Not for herself but for the woman she replaced… and the woman who replaced her.

They were all members of a club by default. There would be no meetings, only dues paid in full. His new woman would pay hers soon enough.

Gathering her things, she stood and placed a ten-dollar-bill on the table for the coffee no one drank.

As an afterthought, she removed the ring and left it on top of the cash.

Heading for the door, she noticed new customers arriving with wet umbrellas and damp jackets.

“It’s really pouring out there,” an older man said as she walked past him.

Her Mona Lisa smile grew. She loved the rain.

She reached to push the door open and felt a tug on her other arm. Turning, her waitress stood next to her, holding out the ring.

“Is this your ring, ma’am?”

She shook her head once and said, “Not anymore,” and stepped out into the cleansing rain.

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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Downsized

Supermarket

Flash Fiction: Word prompt – downsized

 

Ramsey felt God had punished him enough.

An honors graduate of Northwestern with nineteen years professional business experience should not be managing a second-rate grocery store.

He fumed thinking about the brand new sixty-foot boat his brother now owned.

Ramsey Carter’s pulse quickened remembering the sadness of his wife’s eyes viewing the photos from her sister’s European vacation.

The former new accounts director owned a boat once. Ramsey took his wife to Europe for their eleventh wedding anniversary… thirteen years ago.

But that was all in the past. The boat was sold two years ago in Ramsey’s second full year of unemployment. Unless they won the lottery, the Carters would never see Europe again.

Closing his laptop, Ramsey pinched the bridge of his noise. Grateful the new work schedule was complete, Ramsey wasn’t looking forward to the usual employee complaints. His penny-pinching regional manager decreased Ramsey’s allotted monthly staffing hours again. The deli and bakery would have to close five hours early to keep checkout lanes and customer service staffed.

Senior employees would scream. Insisting they’d already paid their dues by working the inconvenient shifts and doing grunt work, being scheduled for swing or short shifts was a slap in the face to long term staff.

Ramsey Carter agreed with them. He believed years of service and loyalty to an employer should mean something… have some value.

Or at least he used to.

He believed it right up to the day Bentek Corp’s security escorted him to the parking garage. Security manager Dick Roddy took Ramsey’s employee identification card, handed him an envelope, and walked away.

Downsized.

So, while understanding employee anger at their situation, Ramsey had a job to do. Take the newly allotted hours and staff the store for eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.

At least he wasn’t firing anyone. Yet.

Swearing under his breath, Ramsey eased his large, brawny frame from the cheap, aluminum office chair. Though he’d been tempted to bring in his own chair, Ramsey resisted. That spoke of a long-term commitment to Good Buy Foods he wasn’t interested in making. Grabbing his store keys, Ramsey headed for shipping and receiving to double check the evening lock-down.

Passing through Household Goods and hearing his name called, Ramsey turned. The throbbing in his head was immediate along with the bitter taste in his mouth.

Delia Pennock, health and beauty clerk, teetered toward him on heels too high… and unsafe for the workplace.

How many times would Ramsey have to warn this woman?

Before Delia caught up to him, Ramsey’s inter-store walkie buzzed. The display showed the call was coming from Ramsey’s intended destination — shipping and receiving.

“What’s up, Minas?”

“Need you back here, Ramsey. Now.”

“On my way.”

Red-faced and out of breath, Delia reached Ramsey as he returned the walkie to his belt-clip.

“I love how you’re letting your hair grow out, Ramsey. Those dark curls are sexy and rakish.”

He ignored her attempt at flattery. “What can I do for you, Delia?”

“Well, I know you’re working on the next schedule. Do be a dear and not schedule me for the opening shift or on the checkout stands.”

“Sorry, Delia. The schedule’s done. You open on the express checkout week two of the schedule.”

He turned to leave, but Delia caught hold of his arm. Ramsey looked back to find the bottle-blonde attempting a full-fledged pout. Pursing his lips, Ramsey stepped out of Delia’s grip.

“Ramsey! Six in the morning is just too early for someone with a social life as active as mine.”

“It’s your turn, Delia. You know the rotation.”

Delia had gall. He had to give her that. Most employee scheduling concerns were about babysitting issues, evening classes, and caring for disabled family members. Only Delia would want special treatment so she could sit in a bar all night.

Though her employee file carried a birth-date making Delia thirty-nine-years-old, Ramsey Carter would swear in open court sitting on top of Bible-mountain she was older than his forty-seven years. Even from where he stood, Ramsey could see the layers of makeup on Delia’s face intended to hide wrinkles. It didn’t.

“But, Ramsey-”

“I have to go, Delia. Problem in S and R. And Delia,” he looked at her feet, “the shoes.”

“Oh, okay. We’ll talk… later.”

Ramsey walked away in double-time to keep from laughing in the woman’s face.

If the employee rumor mill were to be believed, Delia Pennock lured three of the last four store managers into sexual trysts outside… and inside the store. The fourth manager was female and not into women, even though it was said Delia tried anyway.

Ramsey Carter had no intention of becoming the over-the-hill party girl’s latest conquest.

Toni Temple-Carter was the sunshine in Ramsey’s life. He’d loved her since the day she’d walked into their seventh-grade English class. But the shy, awkward Ramsey Carter resigned to be just friends with the dark-skinned beauty. For six years Ramsey watched Toni date other guys, his heart breaking piece by piece each time. When he learned Toni would also be attending Northwestern, it cheered him to know he would still get to see Toni from time to time.

Ramsey’s world spun out of control the day Toni Temple plopped down on the bench next to him in the Student Union.

“Do you like me, Ramsey… at all?”

Ramsey, still gawky at nineteen, sputtered for the right words.

“Huh? Like you? Of… of course, Toni. We’re… friends. Have been for a l-long time.”

“Why haven’t you ever asked me out?”

Ramsey’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“Ask… you out? Because… I thought… we’re friends. I didn’t think-”

“Ask me out.”

“Huh?”

“Ask me out.”

Understanding registered with Ramsey and the two young people shared a grin.

“Will you go out me, Toni?”

“Yes, Ramsey Carter. I thought you’d never ask.”

They’d been inseparable ever since, marrying five years later.

Committed to each other, the Carters had avoided most of the pitfalls which darken some marriages. When their second son entered college, Toni and Ramsey were excited about the future and making plans. Plans which imploded less than a year later when Ramsey was downsized out of Bentek Corp.

Toni was steadfast, never complaining about their financial situation. At the end of her work day, the nursing manager would often pick up extra hours in patient care to help with their household budget. Toni never blamed Ramsey or even Bentek for their lot and Ramsey was in awe of her. Each time he looked at her, Ramsey saw nothing but love in her eyes.

Other downsized Bentek employees lost everything… homes, savings, and their marriages. But Toni was Ramsey’s fortress, holding him up and shielding him from the depression which threatened to take him.

Yes, the Carters sold their boat, the cabin upstate, and their timeshares. And they no longer splurged on artsy furnishings or ate out. But they had saved their home and kept both their sons in college. Toni often said they were an unbeatable team, but Ramsey knew better. Toni’s love for him was his armor against the world, and her endless faith in him gave him the strength to keep moving forward.

When Ramsey suggested putting their artistic sides to good use by getting into the on-line graphic arts business, Toni not only agreed, but she researched and found the best on-line classes they could afford. Eighteen months later, the couple was close to realizing their dream and beginning a new journey together. Ramsey knew it would be a struggle at first, both of them working full-time while trying to start their own business.  But Ramsey looked forward to the day when he was his own boss.

Opening the security door separating shipping and receiving from the rest of the store. Ramsey Carter gawked at the sight before him.

Department manager, Minas Fortuni, stood at the bay doors attempting to unbend metal around a three-foot hole in the door.

“What the hell?” Ramsey inched forward, his stomach churning at the paperwork in his immediate future. “What happened, Minas?”

Shaking his head, Minas gave up his futile attempts to close the hole.

“That last delivery guy… from Buckley Dairy… didn’t swing the back end of his trailer wide end enough. Backed right into the door. He leaned out the window and saw what he’d done. Know what he did then, Ramsey?”

The store manager stared at the hole in the door, still incredulous.

Minas continued. “He said, “Oops, sorry, dude” and drove off. Just like that.”

Ramsey hung his head defeated. He was tired, hungry and he wanted to go home. This day had to end.

Ramsey Carter decided it was time to delegate. “You busy this evening, Minas?”

“No, and I already put in a call to Rolla-Doorz. It’s going to cost extra, but they’re sending a guy over.”

“Good thinking, Minas. If you’re willing to stay and cover for me, I’ll authorize the overtime… as long as it takes.”

“Of course, I’ll stay. It’s Patty’s turn to host girls’ night. You’re saving me from watching a bunch of baby boomer females get drunk and cavort around the house to the soundtrack from “Grease.” It’s a win-win situation for us both. Go home, man… I got you covered.”

“Thanks, Minas. I owe you for this… big-time!”

Returning to his office in record time, Ramsey made quick notes about the incident and put the Buckley Dairy file on his desk for tomorrow. Before Ramsey could lock his file cabinet, Dale Johnson from the meat department leaned into his office.

“Hey, Ramsey… got a slip and fall near aisle twelve. The woman says the floor was wet and Good Buy Foods is going to pay for her pain and suffering.”

Ramsey leaned against his desk, ready to scream.

“Is the woman okay? Anything broken? Bleeding? Do we need to get paramedics here?”

Dale smirked. “Ramsey… she’s fine.”

“Is someone with her?”

“Yeah. Gail from the front desk.”

“Okay, on my way.”

Ramsey pulled an accident report from the file cabinet along with the store’s Polaroid and headed out of his office. He stopped and returned to his desk, grabbing his cell phone.

Ramsey had to let Toni know he’d be late getting home… again.

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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Anderson Bell and His Dead Lobsters


Lobsters


Anderson is my protagonist for a proposed full-length romance novel. This is not a story excerpt, but more character development.


How many seafood wholesalers does it take to sell five hundred dead lobsters? Just one. One slimy, sleazy, lying bag of garbage! Rage still coursed through Anderson Bell. Focusing on the road, he took deep breaths trying to calm down.

This was a rare feeling for the forty-seven-year-old restaurateur. Running an upscale restaurant with as many as one hundred employees during the summer months had its own unique stressors. Overbooked reservations, rude dinner guests, sick employees and late supply deliveries were weekly issues Anderson had long ago put in their proper place…deal with it and move on.

He’d learned this as a child from his father.

But the lobsters. The dead lobsters. The five hundred. Dead. Lobsters.

A sense of foreboding swept over Anderson when the delivery truck driver rang the exterior bell for entrance to the back lot.

He was six hours early.

Anderson immediately headed for the delivery bay. Falling into step behind Vance and Eric, two members of his stock crew, the three men silently approached the bay doors. Eric threw the release lever, and the doors began to rise. Anderson couldn’t wait. Just as the doors reached waist height, he bent over and went under them, walking out to the end of the dock.

The driver was already at the rear of the semi, releasing chains and keying in codes to get to his precious cargo. However, before he was finished Anderson could smell it. Spoiled food. Decay. Rot.

The driver smelled it too. He frowned as he caught hold of the door latch and swung the door open.

Simultaneously, the four men took several steps back and turned away. The odor was indescribable. During a special assignment, back in his Air Force days, Anderson’s unit had stumbled upon the decomposing bodies of murdered locals. The fumes coming from the truck were ten times worse.

Vance suddenly ran to the truck, slamming the door closed.

Eric fell to his knees and gagged.

Feeling a wave of nausea, Anderson took a few more steps away from the bay and tried to inhale fresh air in through his nose. Turning back to the truck, he saw Vance advancing on the driver.

“Man, what the hell is this? You got shit for brains or something? Those lobsters have been dead for days!”

“I-I…I didn’t know. I just picked the trailer up less than an hour ago!” He backed away as Vance approached, his hands raised in front of his face.

Returning to the edge of the bay, their words replayed in Anderson’s head. Dead for days. Picked up the trailer less than an hour ago. He didn’t like where this was leading.

Jumping off the dock, Anderson’s face didn’t reflect the pain that shot through his recently repaired ACL. Gesturing for Vance to stop, Anderson questioned the driver.

“What’s your name?”

“Dell. Dell Hanks.”

“Was this a scheduled run for you, Dell?”

“N-No, sir. I just got in this morning with a load of coffee from Georgia. I was ahead of schedule and my boss will get every damn second out of you he can. Anyone else would have let me go home to sleep. But Paul said he’d just got a call for a local run I had to do before my shift timed out. He gave me two addresses. I was to show up at the first one, and they would hook up the trailer, then take the load to the second one—here—and it would be unloaded.”

“Son of a bitch!”

Anderson glanced at Eric who had figured out what Anderson was already thinking.

He’d been scammed.

Anderson Galen Bell had been a mild-mannered, easy-going person all his life…much like his father. A successful and well-respected dentist, Arthur Bell believed life was far too short to spend it angry and vengeful. He and his wife, Sara, had taught their boys it wasn’t so much about turning the other cheek, as it was deciding their own path and who they allowed to control them. His line of thinking didn’t always work, but it had served Anderson well for most of his life.

Now was not one of those times.

“Eric. Vance. You guys get the protective gloves and masks out of storage. And bring some for Mr. Hanks, here.” The driver tried to protest, but Anderson cut him off. “This goes above and beyond anyone’s job description. You, as well as my men over there, will be well compensated for disposing of this nightmare.”

Dell’s eyes widened at the thought of making a few bucks.

“You’re not going to call my boss, are you?”

“As far as I’m concerned, Dell, you made your delivery and went on your way.”

The long-distance trucker relaxed.

“Now, do me a favor, and pull the rig around to the incinerator. It’s to your right over there, down a small incline. Eric and Vance will meet you over there and you can give these poor crustaceans a…proper cremation. Don’t dump the water. God only knows if it’s toxic or not. I’ll go call the water treatment plant.”

Trying not to visibly limp, Anderson returned to his office. Placing a call to the water treatment plant, he wrote down the instructions for getting rid of the tainted water. He then made out three checks, each for five hundred dollars and sealed them in individual envelopes. Turning to his computer monitor, Anderson scrolled through his recent invoices until he found what he was looking for, and made several notes.

Satisfied, Anderson attempted to stand. Pain shot through his knee, causing him to cry out and fall back into his chair.

Dammit! Dr. El-Kass had warned him about doing too much too soon. He had not been happy when Anderson cut his physical therapy short and returned to work. The doctor told him one wrong move could not only undo the repair but also do additional damage.

Anderson Bell had grown tired of sitting around at home with his leg up.

He had an efficient staff and good managers. Luminarias did good business whether he was there or not, and the customer feedback box was always full of compliments for food and staff. But the summer months were special to Anderson. As a child growing up just outside Detroit, Anderson’s family made several day trips to Bayview during the summer, and always spent the first two weeks of July there, without fail. Those trips were the best times of his life, and Anderson couldn’t miss out on another chance to try to recapture the simplicity and innocence of his youth.

Bayview was gearing up for the arrival of tourists and no less than ten festivals before the cool breezes of fall swept in off the water.

Anderson had to be a part of it. It was all he had to look forward to. The restaurant and the days of summer.

Not much of a life, but it was his.

He’d lost his dad to bone cancer six years ago. Sara Bell died less than a year after her husband from a heart attack. Anderson’s brother, Lawrence, lived in northern California. His parents each had one brother and neither had ever left Pennsylvania as his parents did. Anderson knew little or nothing about them or his cousins.

He was alone.

Taking a deep breath, Anderson slowly rose from his seat. The pain was subsiding, his knee almost numb. He knew that meant swelling.

Dammit!

He didn’t have time for this.

Anderson grabbed the bottle of anti-inflammatory pills and swallowed two without water.

Taking a few steps toward his office door, Anderson tried not to limp. He didn’t want to stress his knee or appear weak in front of his staff.

He also couldn’t appear weak during the errand he was about to run.

Clutching the envelopes in his hand Anderson Bell went in search of his day manager, Gayle Norman. He frowned finding her office empty. Passing the banquet rooms, Anderson heard Gayle’s deep throaty laugh. Following the sound, he found Gayle at the beverage counter instructing the newest member of his summer staff on the proper way to change the filters in the ice maker.

“Did I demote you?”

Gayle turned at the sound of Anderson’s voice, already laughing at his comment.

“Bennie’s wife went into labor, Nina had a flat tire on Old Highway 14, and Willie fell off his porch this morning. Broke his wrist. I am the wait staff now.” Laughing at her own words, Gayle gestured at the young woman next to her. “This is Donna, the new hire I told you about a couple of days ago. She wasn’t supposed to start until next week, but she has prior experience, which I need today. Donna, this is Anderson Bell, the owner.”

Anderson shook hands and exchanged greetings with the pretty African-American young woman, and turned back to Gayle.

“Vance and Eric are doing a disposal job at the incinerator. A delivery driver is helping them. When they’re done, give them each one of these.” He handed her the envelopes. “And give this to Vance—I have a quick errand to run.” Giving her the instructions to dispose of the near toxic water, Anderson was already thinking about his next stop.

Shaking her head, Gayle pointed at Anderson’s leg. “That knee says otherwise.”

“I’ll be fine, Gayle, and this won’t take long”, bowing as he backed away, “thank you, ma’am!”

Anderson almost believed he would be fine until he reached the doorway and turned. The jolt of pain caused him to freeze in his tracks. Checking over his shoulder, he saw the two women were back to work and hadn’t noticed his misstep.

Exiting his restaurant, Anderson quickly made his way to his late-model Chevy Tahoe. Taking one more look at the address he’d scribbled down, his anger easily reared its head again as he pulled out of the parking lot.

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Retta


Woman in the Mirror


This is unedited excerpt from my 2017 NaNoWriMo project, Sacrificial Daughter.

She brushed her long, dark tresses without thought, mesmerized by own her gaze.

The dark brown eyes, once vibrant and alluring, were now dull and lifeless, witnesses to her lifetime of abuse and excess.

The lines which used to appear around her eyes when she laughed were now permanent fixtures her best makeup couldn’t conceal.

To be seen, her thin lips needed the deep red lipstick tones she favored, or she always appeared cross and sullen.

At fifty-seven-years of age, Margaretta Marie Sellers was still an attractive woman.

But she no longer met her own standard of beauty.

Retta’s looks made her stand out among her contemporaries, which was a point of contention for more than three decades.

But it wasn’t enough for Retta. She wanted to be a standout, regardless of age.

She wanted… needed to be admired and envied by younger women.

Retta wanted to be an icon.

That desire was her downfall.

Blessed with a perfect mezzo-soprano voice, Retta longed to perform in the spotlight like her idols, Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price.

While her parents, Mae and Albert Sellers had the means to finance a music education for their daughter, neither thought it a practical career and pushed Retta towards a business or teaching degree.

Headstrong and determined, seventeen-year-old Retta ran away to find her destiny.

All the sheltered, naive teen found instead were men with little interest in her natural vocal talent and more interest in her shapely, young body and exotic looks.

With promises of fame and lucrative contracts, Retta bounced from party to party on the arm of different men who plied her with alcohol and drugs.

Less than three years after leaving home, Retta returned an alcoholic junkie.

Albert Sellers rushed his baby girl into rehab.

Mae was less welcoming and had little to do with her daughter. During Retta’s absence, her younger brother, sixteen-year-old Joseph, succumbed to rheumatic fever. Mae was devastated. Her gifted and studious son had a bright future ahead of him before illness took him. Yet, her selfish, narcissistic daughter ruined her voice and her life abusing anything she could get her hands on and she still lived… and manipulated her father.

Albert tried to be the cushion between the two women but never got to see them reconcile.

A week before Retta was discharged from the rehab center, Mae dropped dead from a coronary embolism.

Retta came home drug-free and sober but her partying ways were still with her.

Craving the attention of men, Retta put her appearance first and abstained from liquor and drugs.

During a south side party for a local city commission candidate, Retta connected with her first love, Ham Burford.

Now a college graduate working for the city’s finance department, Hamilton Charles Burford fell in love with Retta Sellers when they were fifteen-years-old.

But despite the above average living Albert Sellers made from his co-op farming business, Ham’s parents considered Retta socially unacceptable and forbade Ham from seeing her.

The smitten couple sneak around and get together when they can, but after Retta learned her parents wouldn’t support her music career, she changed, becoming depressed and more withdrawn.

It was bad enough she’d never get a life with Ham, but to also not have a life in music was more than she could bear, and she left on a morning train bound for Chicago.

Now they were both back in Corwin, but any dreams Retta had about being with her first love were snatched away when Ham introduced Retta to Belinda Foley, his fiancé.

Retta Sellers has no time to mourn her broken heart when Albert is injured in a farming accident and dies two days later.

The sole survivor of her family, Retta feels cheated by life and closes off her heart.

She continues to stare at her reflection, her jaws tight and as hard as her heart.

Her hand shakes as she lowers the brush. Her chest burns with anger for the betrayals by those closest to her.

The man she loved.

And the daughter she didn’t.

Retta launched the brush into the mirror, not bothering to shield her face or body from the glass shards.

Satisfied, she stood and left the room.

©2017 Felicia Denise

The Last Medal

Medal of Valor

Image from NCO Journal

Word prompt: ambush

She didn’t need a shrink to tell her she had PTSD.

Virgie Hudson knew of the price she’d paid for thirty-two years of military service – twenty-two of those years… on the front lines.

The day after passage and ratification of SB 1200 allowing women into combat, Virgie left behind ten years of desk and training duties. Like her father and brothers, she would now get to serve on the front lines.

As one of only four women who would lead combat forces, Virginia’s service was legendary. She had numerous medals and awards. She also had numerous scars… on her body and her mind. Virgie remembered all too well how and when she’d received each scar – physical and mental.

For every inch of ground taken, every hill won, every town liberated, there was a memory attached.

The good memories made Virginia smile.

The day her unit entered the town of Ras al-Ayn, the grateful Kurdish women’s militia cheered. After fighting ISIS forces for days, the exhausted women thanked the Americans’ for their help… and for some relief. With American support, ISIS guerrillas made a hasty retreat.

The memories of losing team members played on repeat in her mind often. Pfc. Jeff Ollenbeck – lost to a land mine. Pfc. David Jencks and LCpl. Donald Morgan – killed in an ambush attack. 2ndLt. Shelley Cooper – taken down by a sniper. There were more. So many more.

Why did she survive?

Virgie squeezed her eyes shut and yanked at her thick, black curls attempting to block out the faces of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

She grabbed the tumbler of bourbon from the table in front of her, gulping it down in one breath. Even in those brief periods when fallen Marines didn’t cloud her thoughts, there was always the children.

The children Virgie couldn’t save.

It took several days to get into the small isolated town east of Mosul. When a ten-thousand member Iraqi counter-terrorism force arrived, militants soon scattered over the borders into the mountains of Turkey and Iran.

Villagers wept as Col. Virginia Holman Hudson’s team set up aid stations. It was obvious many of the town’s residents survived severe beatings and torture. Virgie knew one young woman wrapped in a thread-bare blanket and shielded by an older woman was a rape victim.

A silent signal to her senior officers was acknowledged only by their scattering to inspect the village. One of her team interpreters called out to Virgie.

“Col. Hudson, the children!”

“What about them, Lance Corporal?”

Accompanied by two female villagers, LCpl. Dirks approached her. “A man took the children yesterday morning.”

In rapid speech and dialect Virgie didn’t understand, she did recognize the word for ‘hill’. The woman gestured and pointed at something behind Virgie.

Virgie looked over her shoulder and saw a small, flat, mud-brick building sitting on a low hill about four hundred meters away. With one movement of her hand, the strike team fell into formation, heading for the building. Virgie led them until her second-in-command, 1st Lieutenant Reynolds pulled her back.

“Excuse me, Colonel, but you know I can’t let you do that.”

She nodded once. “Dammit, Rey… find those children!”

Led by Reynolds, the strike team moved forward up the small incline to the building. Virgie fell into step behind them.

They had traveled half the distance to the building when a man threw open the building’s only door. His maniacal laughter was rife with anger and madness.

“Hold fire!” Virgie held up her hand while glaring at the insurgent.

Stepping forward, Virgie questioned the man in flawless Arabic. “اين الاطفال?” Where are the children?

Not getting any response other than wild-eyed mania, Virgie switched to Kurdish. بچوں کی کہاں ہیں?

Recognition dawned in the mad man’s eyes. He lifted his arms and yelled, “کان کے بچے ہیں!” The children are mine!

Virgie recognized the small detonator in his hand, attached to a wire feeding into his sleeve. Before she could give the order to fall back, the crazed terrorist yelled out again, “Allah is great!”, and detonated the bomb.

What happened in the next few seconds was an eternity to Virginia Hudson.

The expression on the bomber’s face never changed as the impact of the explosion behind him ripped his body in half, each section set ablaze. Virgie lost sight of him when someone threw her to the ground, covering her body with their own. Except for the monstrous roar of the burning building, silence bathed the area.

Then sounds flooded the area.

Like a chorus, the wails of the villagers pierced the silence. Virgie pushed against the body holding her down, but stopped struggling and listened. She heard a different noise… coming from the burning building.

With one final shove, Virgie pushed the body off her enough to roll from under and to her feet. Reynolds lay a few feet away rubbing his chest from the impact of her blow. Virgie headed for the building but another team member grabbed her.

“Let go or you’re losing a stripe! I don’t care who it is!”

Anger rose inside of Virginia as she spun around and looked up into the face of Cpl. Lawrence.

“Col.… there’s nothing we can do for them.”

Her body sagged, already knowing the truth. The tears streaming down the big Marine’s face caused Virgie to look at the rest of her strike team. They all wept–male and female alike.

Donnelly watched out for Dirks, now on his knees, giving up the contents of his stomach.

Sanchez clutched the cross around his neck.

Though his face was wet with tears, Gilmore’s eyes flared with rage.

“Dirks? How many?”

Without raising his head, Dirks responded, the words causing him physical pain. “T-Thirty four, ma’am.”

Anger and grief warred inside Virgie. Anguish strangled her heart as bile rose in her throat. Closing her eyes, Virgie called upon the false sense of calm needed to do her job. Opening her eyes, Virgie spoke, knowing Reynolds was back at her side.

“Secure the perimeter, Lieutenant.”

Virgie gave the order almost as an afterthought, not moving from where she stood. Only after the cries for help stopped did she turn to look at the building crumbling in the fiery blaze.

Col. Virginia Holman Hudson knew her military career was over.

She’d had enough.

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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Hypocrite


Stapler

A scene from an ongoing (never-ending!) WIP. Quinn Landon can’t get a break! Determined to divorce the adulterous Oscar Landon, she can find no respite from her family’s judgment and harassment. Quinn draws a line in the sand when older brother, Aaron Clark, shows up at her job.

Aaron held out his hands in front of him. “Quinn, be reasonable. Just because a man has a little fling or two on the side, it does not mean he doesn’t love his wife.”

She froze, willing herself to not throw the stapler on her desk at her brother.

“What does it mean, Aaron?”

Caught off his guard, Aaron scrubbed his hand down his face, “It just a guy-thing, Quinn. Not a big deal.”

Quinn dropped the stack of files she was holding and leaned across her desk.

“What about you, Aaron? Is it just a guy thing for you too?”

Aaron Clark folded his arms across his broad chest again and returned her glare. “This isn’t about me.”

In the span of seconds, Quinn saw the truth in his eyes.

She was crushed.

Quinn covered her gaping mouth with her hand, shaking her head. She stood and walked over to her office windows still reeling from her brother’s non-admission.

Tears formed in the corners of Quinn Landon’s eyes. No. She would not cry. Enough tears were already shed over a situation that didn’t deserve them. Quinn looked over her shoulder at Aaron.

“This isn’t about Oscar’s infidelity, is it? This isn’t about his betrayal of our marriage, or my… what did you call it? Inability to be reasonable?”

She turned and fully faced him.

“This is about male privilege. Guys just being guys, right? Who else, Aaron? Who else gives lip service to their marriage vows? Junior? Clinton? Daddy?”

“Now, sis. If you’d just calm down and think-”

“Oh, I’m calm, Aaron. Probably calmer than I’ve been in the last five years. I’m glad you came here today, Aaron. You’ve given me not only true clarity, but the resolve to follow my heart and my mind. Now, get out.”

“Quinn-”

“I said get out. And Aaron… never come here again. If you do, I’ll have you removed by security.”

“Quinn! Listen to what you’re saying! We’re family, for god’s sakes!”

“We’re siblings, Aaron. Something we had no say about. But family?”

Quinn returned to her desk and sat in her chair. With a small, bittersweet smile, she continued.

“Family is always there for you. They support you, lift you up and cheer you on. They love you unconditionally. My family doesn’t do that for me. When I think about it, the Clark family abandoned me and supported Oscar even before we were married.”

“But it all makes sense now. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. No one was shocked and appalled when I found out about Oscar’s first affair. It was me everyone told to calm down. It was me who was told to not do anything hasty… to think things through.”

The small smile faded from her lips.

“It was me who was shamed because I wanted to end my marriage. All because my family doesn’t see adultery as wrong… for men. They rant and rave about the sanctity of marriage and how it’s ordained by God, and is forever. But adultery… it’s just a little thing. A minor detail. Forget that it’s listed in the Bible as a reason for divorce, or on God’s top ten list. No… no. Men are entitled to a little tail on the side every now and then. God’s a guy, he understands, right?”

“Quinn, you’re-”

“How would you feel if Vanessa had an affair? Or two? Three? How many have you had, Aaron?”

“Vanessa would never-”

“Hypocrite!”

“I take care good care of my wife. I’ve given her everything she’s ever wan-”

Quinn bolted from her seat.

“Except honesty and fidelity!”

“I’ve always been honest with Vanessa.”

“Oh! Well, that’s different. If you tell her up front you’re a lying, cheating asshole, it’s okay.”

“Quinn-”

“I believe you were leaving.”

“Quinn-”

“Goodbye… brother.”

“This isn’t over, Quinn Avery.”

“Yes, Aaron. For me, it is.”

He held her gaze as he backed toward the door.

“No, it isn’t. If you go through with this divorce, you’ll pay a steep price you’ll never recover from.” Aaron left, leaving her office door open.

Stunned, Quinn stood there, her mind replaying her brother’s words.

“… you’ll pay a steep price you’ll never recover from.”

What the hell?

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Her End Game #FlashFiction 18+

Her End Game Prompt: games

Derrick slammed the door of his Denali and kicked it for good measure. Turning abruptly and heading for his second-floor condo, Derrick stopped, his shoulders slumping.

That was stupid.

He looked back at the gunmetal gray vehicle he’d saved so diligently to buy searching for signs of damage from his size thirteen Ferragamo loafers.

Relieved at finding none, Derrick Greene followed the walkway leading to his private entrance.

He had to calm down. Anger wouldn’t change his situation, and it certainly wouldn’t help it. After entering his condo, Derrick tried to close the door without announcing his anger to his neighbors.. He plopped down on his sofa and massaged his temples.

I am such a fool!

His friends warned him, but Derrick had been too smitten to listen. He thought himself  in love with Anita Banks and no one could convince him otherwise. For the last ten weeks, he made her his world. Taken her out for expensive dinners and shows, on weekend getaways, and even assisted with her monthly bills.

Derrick wasn’t deterred two weeks ago when he saw Anita snuggled up with a former boyfriend outside an all-night taco stand on the east side of town. She explained she’d met with him to tell the man about Derrick and to make a clean break. The old beau became upset over losing Anita and she’d offered him a moment’s comfort.

Sounded reasonable to a love-struck Derrick Greene.

But his friends weren’t buying it.

“Man, she is playing you.”

“She’s nothing but a party girl.”

“Anita is always on the prowl for the fattest wallets and deepest pockets.”

“Neither one of them live or work on the east side, Derrick. Man, why go all that way for a damn taco unless they wanted to hide and not be recognized?”

But Derrick had seen them. Returning from dinner with his brother’s family. A dinner he invited Anita to but she declined saying she had to prepare a presentation for work the next day.

I am too stupid for my own good! Fuck! I’m too stupid to live!

Determined to be a good boyfriend, Derrick was always trying to show Anita how important she was to him. She was home off work again today with one of her terrible migraines. Anita complained about them often. Derrick stopped by her favorite restaurant for her favorite salad, hoping his surprise visit with lunch would make her feel better.

Parking behind her late model Saab, Derrick let himself into Anita’s duplex with the key she’d given him.

He wasn’t surprised to find the living room dark. Derrick’s chest tightened at the thought of the agony the bright light caused his woman.

Walking towards Anita’s bedroom, Derrick was about to call out to her—not wanting to startle her with his presence—when he heard noises coming from the kitchen.

Changing direction, Derrick headed for the kitchen.

His steps slowed. He recognized those sounds. It was Anita, and those whimpering and moans meant one thing.

His first thought was to leave and never come back.

But he couldn’t. Derrick had to see for himself. He had to face the truth about the woman he was so sure he loved. And she needed to see him. Anita would have no wiggle room to talk her way out of this.

Derrick paused in the archway which separated the kitchen from the dining area. His anger dissipated and Derrick Greene pursed his lips to keep from laughing aloud at the scene before him.

Anita Banks was naked and covered in sweat, reclined on the counter-top next to the sink. Her skinny legs gripped the back of some guy who had his head buried in her neck… and his pants around his ankles.

Neither of them spoke, each lost in their own lusty race for release.

Since both were still unaware of his presence… and showing no signs of stopping soon, Derrick felt it was time for a reality check and cleared his throat.

Anita’s attention snapped to the archway, her eyes widening. She pushed the anonymous man away from her as though he’d been attacking her. She half jumped, half fell off the counter, attempting to cover her body with her hands as she approached Derrick.

He took two steps backward and glared at her. Glancing over at the still unnamed man who was scurrying to get his pants up and fastened, Derrick spotted the company logo on his shirt.

He laughed aloud this time, but it was more of a joyless growl.

“The water delivery man, Anita? You’re fucking the water delivery man?”

“B-Baby, no! It’s not what you-”

“Shut up, Anita!”

Giving up on her futile attempt to cover herself, Anita reached out to him. “Baby, listen for-”

Derrick stepped back again. This left enough room for the hapless water delivery man to squeeze past Derrick, his back sliding along the wall. He kept his eyes on Derrick Greene… waiting for the man to attack.

Derrick shook his head and returned his cold gaze to the naked woman before him.

“Let me explain, Derrick! Willie and I go way back and-”

“And you told him what? You’re with me now? Then what? You thought you’d just give him one fuck for old time’s sake?”

“No! No! It’s not like that! I’m not like that!”

“No, Anita, you’re not. You’re worse. You lie to my face about loving me, and as soon as I turn my back, you got your legs spread wide for any man willing!”

“Don’t talk like that, Derrick! I’m not a slut!”

“Name it and claim it, Anita.”

Derrick bolted for the front door, wanting to be anywhere but near Anita Banks. He froze midway through the living room when he realized he was still holding his keys in one hand and Anita’s lunch in the other. Setting the bag down, he removed Anita’s door key from his key chain. When he turned around, Anita was rushing toward him, wrapping an old brown throw around herself.

“Here’s your key, Anita.”

“No, Derrick, please? Let’s sit down and talk about this. We can fix this.”

He frowned and tossed the key at her feet.

“We? We? There’s no “we” here, Anita. There’s just you, Miss Fuck-‘Em-All, and me, the dumb-ass who fell for your games.” He grabbed the bag. “I came here today because I was worried about you… worried! You said your head hurt so bad you couldn’t see straight. I decided to surprise you with lunch.”

He upended the bag. The southwestern salad with grilled chipotle chicken and house dressing on the side fell to the floor in a colorful, but messy pile.

“Surprise! Enjoy!”

Before she could respond, Derrick stormed out of Anita’s apartment, never looking back.

She watched him speed off, then closed her door.

Why did I ever give him a key?

Anita Banks wasn’t sorry Derrick caught her cheating. She was angry with herself for not being more on her guard. Derrick Greene was pissed off for right now, but she’d win him back. Nice guys like Derrick were no match for her wiles. Anita would wear him down… in time. Just in time for that trip to Ensenada he’d promised her.

(Image from Google)
©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

The Back Forty #FlashFiction

Dark Alley

(Flash Fiction – Word prompt: alley)

Camryn hated this part of her walk home.

She equally divided her attention between watching the shadowy alleyways and her footsteps. Used needles and condoms, broken liquor bottles, and random pieces of clothing carpeted the dangerous two-block section of 36th Street known as the Back Forty. Grown men avoided the area in mid-day. A woman walking alone just after six in the morning was asking for trouble.

But Camryn had to get home. She didn’t own a car and public transportation in this part of town started an hour later Sunday mornings.

Montgomery Clemens, spiteful, forty-six-year-old married father of five, knew this. Camryn had declined his offer of dinner and cocktails after work a month ago. Monty sought to punish her. As a human resource supervisor at Patterson Banking Systems, weekend scheduling fell into his lap every two weeks. It was a task he despised at first. Now, Monty saw it as a valuable tool he wielded to punish female employees who rejected him. Women like Camryn Evers.

Determined to beat Monty at his own game, Camryn said nothing and worked the bimonthly schedule changes in silence.

She didn’t have too. Camryn could have requested a hearing with the department manager and reported Clemens. However, Camryn was number three on the promotions list. It wouldn’t be long before Camryn was a member of management. When that happened, payback would be a bitch named Camryn Evers for Monty Clemens.

She could have bought a car. Camryn had more than enough money in either of her savings accounts for a car… and a home. But one of those accounts had been started long ago… when she was a different person. When her life revolved around the words of a man. Camryn trusted him. She loved him. And he’d lied and manipulated her. That would never happen again.

Camryn would buy a car when she was ready. Not because some horny, old fool at work didn’t like the word no.

Fortunately, except for the dreaded two-block section of 36th Street, the seven-block walk home wasn’t that bad. The route was well-lit most of the way, crossing through metropolitan and residential areas. Traveling the edge of the Back Forty, however, filled Camryn with dread. Law enforcement made infrequent passes through the area. The one alternate route would add six blocks and forty-five minutes to her journey home. Camryn pushed on.

As she neared the middle of the second block, Camryn’s steps quickened-the bright street lights of Perry Avenue in view.

“Cammie?”

She froze. No one had ever called her by that nickname except family… and her girlfriends from high school. Despite her better judgment telling her to go home, Camryn turned towards the voice in the shadows. A tall figure leaned against the edge of a dilapidated building.

Even though Camryn couldn’t see the face, she knew the owner of the voice. In all her thirty-four years, Camryn had only known one woman who stood well over six feet.

Belinda Glass.

“Lindy? Is that you?”

“Yeah, girl. What are you doing here?”

The former best friends each took two steps forward. Belinda was now under a street light, and Camryn was stunned at the woman’s appearance. Once a mocha beauty, member of the homecoming court, and a standout player and captain of the girls’ basketball team, the years had not been kind to Belinda.

In a stain-covered dress far too short to be considered decent, Belinda leaned against the street light pole. A matted faux-fur waist coat and cheap, spiky shoes completed her outfit. Camryn couldn’t tell if it was a wig or weave, but the long chestnut curls framing Belinda’s face were matted. Camryn could also see traces of lint through the hair even from where she stood. But it was the tall woman’s face which took her voice away.

A mixture of wrinkles, acne, and bruises covered Belinda’s face. Camryn didn’t see an inch that wasn’t marred. Camryn’s gut churned when she reached Belinda’s eyes. While glassed over, her eyes were also empty, flat… dead.

Camryn watched her friend grip the light pole for balance. She didn’t know if Belinda was high, drunk, or both, but she was on something.

“Cammie? Did you hear me? Why are you here… in the Back Forty?”

“I-I… I’m on my way home… from work.”

“Thought so.”

“What are you doing here, Lindy?”

The altered woman glanced upwards as though she was expecting… and dreading the question.

“This is where I… work.”

Camryn’s hand clutched at her abdomen, trying to calm the rising bile. Sadness washed over her when she realized what the stains on Belinda’s dress were.

“Lindy… why?”

“Life is just a bowl of shit, Cammie, and shit happens. But get that look off ‘a ya’ face now. I don’t need or want anybody’s pity.”

“But Lindy, tell me something! What happened? You left the country with Lawrence after we graduated. You both signed to play ball in-”

“Men lie, Cammie. They do it on purpose. Always needing to control women. They say whatever it takes.”

Belinda’s words hit home deep in Camryn’s soul.

“What about you and Raymond, Cammie? I knew you two would get the happily-ever-after.” Belinda didn’t miss the stricken look on Camryn’s face. “But if you were with him, you wouldn’t be out now walking alone, would you?”

Camryn smirked. “Like you said, Lindy, men lie.”

“I’m so sorry, Cammie. You deserved better. You always were the best of us.”

Camryn waved her off.

“I was no better or worse, Lindy. We were kids, trying to grow up. Raymond covered up his true nature for a long time. But once I found out, I walked away.”

“See? Strength of character. You always had it, Cammie. Even with all the lies Lawrence told, the choices were still mine. I knew he was a liar. I chose to believe him. I chose to stay with him.” Belinda glanced away. “Until he didn’t want me anymore.”

“But Lindy, why didn’t you let me know? Or Cyn or Tammie? We could have-”

“Pride, Cammie… pride. I may not have much left, but I have enough to not want my girls from back-in-the-day to know how far I’ve fallen.”

“Bullshit! That’s no ex-”

“Listen! Do not come this way again. Back Forty’s no place for someone like you.”

“Oh, Lindy, stop- “

“Bitch, we are not having a discussion!”

Camryn flinched at the woman’s tone.

Belinda stood to her full height and let go of the light pole. Though an imposing figure, her eyes softened.

“This is the third time I’ve seen you out here, Cammie. And, if I have… other people have too. People with black hearts and no souls who will do what it takes to get what they want.”

She motioned at Camryn with one hand.

“Look at you. Almost thirty-five but still with a school girl’s good looks. Thick, shoulder-length hair, perfect makeup, manicured nails. Morris is always giving me shit because I have no ass. Yours would have him salivating.”

“Lindy, let me hel-”

“Dammit! You always were stubborn! Go home, Camryn Nicole Evers… now! Never walk this way again… ever!”

“Belinda-”

“I said go! Damn!”

The large woman turned and walked unsteadily back to the alley. She paused after a few steps and looked back over her shoulder.

“Cammie… please. Nothing good happens in the Back Forty and I want nothing bad to happen to you. If you keep walking this way… it will.” With that, Belinda Glass disappeared down the darkened alley.

Camryn stood frozen where Belinda left her. Her heart ached for her childhood friend. They had shopped for prom dresses together, prank called boys, and stolen cigarettes from their parents. Camryn knew she could help her friend. It wasn’t too late.

The sound of trash cans overturning and someone crying out startled Camryn. She knew Belinda had fallen. Camryn wanted to go to her and get Belinda out of this nasty, rancid place.

But instead, she backed away shaking her head. Tears were pooling in her eyes when she turned and ran towards Perry Avenue, not stopping until she reached the corner traffic light. The pedestrian crossing sign lit up, and Camryn made her way across the large thoroughfare, thankful for providence.

Camryn leaned against the post to catch her breath. Only then did she look back across Perry Avenue… and down 36th Street. Despite the rising sun, the outskirts of the Back Forty remained blanketed in darkness, untouched by the light of day.

“Never walk this way again.” Belinda’s warning played on repeat in Camryn’s mind.

They were once close as sisters.

Their lives had taken two very different paths… both lain by the lies of men.

Belinda accepted her empty life fueled by drugs and alcohol. Yet she wanted better for a woman she once called friend.

Camryn wanted it too.

She took a few steps from the traffic light and turned right onto Perry Place. Not for the first time, Camryn marveled at the difference in her tiny tree-lined street and the desolate wasteland only a quarter of a mile away.

By the time she reached the door of her street-level cottage apartment, Camryn had made two decisions. First, when the HR office opened at nine, she was calling off work for the next two or three days. Hell, maybe even the whole week. It would serve them right. Camryn had not had an unscheduled day off in almost three years.

There were only six senior account analysts, and while two had more seniority, Camryn was the one with the knowledge and skill. A week of scrambling without her would make them appreciate her more and receptive to her complaint about Monty Clemens. Because she would demand a hearing.

So caught up in her own head to not be manipulated by Monty… or any man, Camryn had played herself. Instead of reporting Monty, she fretted over a job promotion. She had put her life at risk… for a job promotion.

Belinda’s eyes continued to haunt Camryn as she entered her apartment.

She bypassed the living room, tossed her bag and jacket into a corner chair, and turned on the shower. She had enough time to squeeze in a quick nap before calling her job. Then, she would see if any of the numbers she had for Cynthia Kelly and Tamara Alsworth were still good. Camryn wouldn’t tell them about Lindy, but she wanted to touch base with them. The years had passed too fast, making the distance of a few miles seem even greater.

The rest of her day would be spent binge watching the programs stored in her DVR while she scoured the Internet for deals. Tomorrow morning, she’d take on the second decision she’d made.

It was time to buy a car.

©2017 FeliciaDenise, All Rights Reserved

“Christmas with You”


Christmas with You banner


Returning the teakettle to the stove, he stumbled but righted himself before falling face first into the large casserole dish of Marti’s prize-winning cornbread dressing.

Cal placed both hands on the counter to make sure he was steady, then picked up the two mugs of steaming cocoa. He took his time, each step slow and deliberate as he made his way back to Marti in the family room.

The smile she greeted him with made his heart swell just as the sadness in her eyes gripped the same heart.

“Here you go, sugar plum. One hot cocoa, extra cocoa and no marshmallows.”

“Thank you, honey.”

This time the smile she gifted him with was genuine. The bright flecks of gold and amber in her dark brown eyes glowed and never failed to bring a smile to his face.

She was everything to him.

Cal set his own mug on the low table in front of the sofa before easing down next to his wife.

“That hip acting up?”

“Hips, knees, arms, elbows,” he chuckled, “I am joint pain personified.”

Marti sat forward, a worried look on her face.

“Should I get you a pain pill? Or would you like a rubdown with some of that new joint cream?”

Cal pulled her back close to him. “No, pumpkin. I am fine. This is our last night alone during our last Christmas-season here. I’ll not spend it lying around worried about aches and pains. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and the tribe is descending upon us. I’m cuddling with my woman while I can.”

Resting her head on his shoulder, Marti sighed. “I can’t believe after all these years, it’s over.”

“What?” Cal pulled away and raised her chin to see her eyes. “What’s over, Marti?”

She gestured around the room with one arm. “This. Our life on the farm.”

“No, Marti. This is not an ending. We’re starting a new chapter, taking a different path, going on an adventure. Call it what you will, but nothing’s over, pudding.”

“Cal, this is where you were born, just like your father… and his father. The cemetery on the other side of the apple orchard holds half of your family. This just seems wrong. I’m still not sure we should leave.”

“Are you kidding? I am grateful we can leave. Farms aren’t selling the way they used to. Cal, Jr. negotiated a great price for us.” He kissed her hand. “We’ve lived a wonderful life here. We’ve raised livestock and farmed just about every vegetable under the sun. We had a dairy farm and even had scenes from two movies filmed in the orchard. I’ve loved every minute. But it’s time for a change.”

“I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault we-,”

“Martha Ann Dempsey! We’ve had this conversation… several times. This is no one’s fault. There is no blame. We have worked side-by-side for fifty-three years, only taking time off when you had the kids, and then to visit them after they left and started families of their own. It’s past time for us to enjoy more of this life we worked so hard to build.”

She took his hand and brought it to her lips, planting a small kiss then holding it against her cheek.

“We have had a good life, haven’t we?”

Cal looked at her, considering her question. The laugh lines around her eyes had multiplied over the years, and the body once lean and robust from long days spent working at his side and taking care of their six children, was now soft and plump. The once dark chestnut hair was now snow white, but still long and thick. He couldn’t even tell a patch had been shaved away where the small bandage now rested over her right ear. All Cal Dempsey could see was the sixteen-year-old beauty who kissed him on the cheek for retrieving her school work after a gust of wind scattered papers everywhere as they walked home from school.

“No, we haven’t had a good life, cupcake, we have a great life, and it’s not over yet. Now drink up. Your cocoa’s getting cold.”

Reaching for their mugs, they drank in silence enjoying each other’s company.

Cal’s mug was almost empty before he spoke again.

“I love this cocoa, but I should have added rum to my cup.”

Marti grinned, shaking her head and cast a side-eye glance at him. “Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

He pursed his lips and looked up at the ceiling as though trying to remember and shook his head.

“No. No… not since lunch. You’re late.”

She giggled like a school girl, set her mug down and snuggled deep into his arms.

“I love you Calvin Thomas Dempsey, and I’m grateful for the life we lived here.”

“Six kids… six college graduates. Few folks can say that. They’re all happy and successful and would do anything for us.”

“There were days I thought I’d pull my hair out. TVs and stereos blaring. Six kids practicing six different instruments. Sibling rivalry. And they each had their own dog! What were we thinking? What a madhouse.” Marti grinned. “But, I’d do it all again.”

“Me too, peanut. Some of our friends went through some bad times, but we were blessed. No major kid rebellions or catastrophes.  And despite droughts and floods, and skyrocketing prices, we’ve always made it. We did good, Mrs. Dempsey.”

Marti pressed her lips together stifling a laugh.

“What?”

“What about ’94… when the washing machine exploded?”

Cal slapped his free hand against his forehead.

“I never realized how much water a washing machine held. That was a nightmare.”

Marti smacked his chest.

“Oh please. Between the manufacturer and our homeowner’s insurance, all you had to do was sign your name. I was the one who had to pack up dirty farm clothes and drive seventeen miles to the nearest laundromat.”

“And you did it with a smile!”

“Yes, I did!”

“You also smiled when I fell off the roof in ’96.”

She covered her mouth, hiding her toothy grin.

“Look at you. Over twenty years later, and the memory still amuses you. Shameless woman! Laughing at your husband’s pain.”

“Oh, you know I’d never laugh at your pain… and you only broke your wrist. But the sound you made as you dropped to the ground? That was priceless. I’m sure they heard it in downtown Shoney.”

Narrowing his eyes, Cal stuck his tongue out at his longtime bride.

Marti scoffed at Cal’s silliness and burrowed down into her husband’s side again.

He watched the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, content.

Cal thought Marti had drifted into an easy sleep when he felt her body tightened against him.

“Honey?”

She fisted his shirt collar as he heard her first soft sobs.

“I’m scared, Cal.”

Wrapping both arms around her, Cal kissed his wife’s forehead.

“I know, sweetie pie, I know.”

Pulling away and sitting up, Marti swiped the errant tears away.

“I know you try to distract me so I won’t think about it, Cal. But what if the doctors are wrong? What if it’s not as easy as they believe? You’ll have lost your family home for nothing.”

Cal sat up, cupping his wife’s face. “Stop, baby. Please?”

“But-,”

He silenced her with a soft kiss.

“But nothing. Marti, we should have left here ten years ago when my knees started giving me problems. But I was pig-headed and stubborn as usual, and you never put up a fuss.”

“I only wanted you to be happy.”

“Make me happy now and stop acting as though you’re ruining my life.”

A lone tear slid down her face. Marti raised her hand to the bandage over her right ear. The biopsy proved the tumor wasn’t malignant, but it was increasing in size. Even with the good news the growth wasn’t cancerous doctors warned that might not always be the case. If it continued its rate of growth, Marti’s headaches would worsen, and she might experience some impairment to the left side of her body due to the pressure the growing mass could cause.

She pulled her husband into a tight hug, whispering in his ear. “I’ll try my love. I promise I’ll try. I know this is our last Christmas here, I just don’t want it to be our last Christmas together.”

He pulled back enough to see her face.

“Woman, I’ve got big plans for us. We’re officially condo owners. This time next month, we’ll be all moved in and you’ll be recuperating from your surgery. Then I’ll have these rotten joints taken care of and by summer, we’ll be professional senior citizens. Cute and annoying as we flash our AARP cards near and far.”

Marti laughed, caressing his cheek. “What am I going to do with you?”

Cal cleared his throat. “I was getting to that.”

“To what?”

“Well, this time tomorrow, it will be you and me… and six kids, three daughters-in-law, two sons-in-law, fourteen grandchildren, and three great-grands. It will be loud and crazy here. A 747 could land in the dining room and we wouldn’t know it.”

“True. So…?”

“So, I was thinking. You could trim a couple of slices off that steer masquerading as a rib roast and make me a snack…”

Marti raised an eyebrow. “Or?”

His devilish grin told her what was coming.

“You could take me in the bedroom and be my snack.”

Her grin matched his as she ran her hand over his chest.

“Calvin, Calvin, Calvin. Don’t you know people our age aren’t supposed to still be having sex? All the magazines say so.”

Cal scoffed as he released her and stood, showing his traitorous joints he was still in charge. He pulled Marti from the sofa and into his arms.

“Those articles are written by soulless thirty-year-olds using apps to find love. They’re all bitter they swiped left when they should have swiped right.”

Marti chuckled as she took his hand, leading him from the room.

“I believe I will take option B, after which you get option A.”

“Woo-hoo! I love the way you think, my little hot tamale.”

“Cal?”

“Yes, muffin?”

“Stop calling me food names.”

Her husband roared with laughter… and was still laughing when he closed the bedroom door.

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Her End Game #FlashFiction 18+

Her End Game

52-Week Writing Challenge – Week 14.  Prompt: games

Derrick slammed the door of his Denali and kicked it for good measure. Turning abruptly and heading for his second-floor condo, Derrick stopped, his shoulders slumping.

That was stupid.

He looked back at the gunmetal gray vehicle he’d saved so diligently to buy searching for signs of damage from his size thirteen Ferragamo loafers.

Relieved at finding none, Derrick Greene followed the walkway leading to his private entrance.

He had to calm down. Anger wouldn’t change his situation, and it certainly wouldn’t help it. After entering his condo, Derrick tried to close the door quietly. He then plopped down on his sofa and massaged his temples.

I am such a fool!

His friends had warned him, but Derrick had been too smitten to listen. He thought himself hopelessly in love with Anita Banks, and no one could convince him otherwise. For the last ten weeks, he had made her his world. Taken her out for expensive dinners and shows. On weekend getaways and even assisted with her monthly bills.

Derrick wasn’t deterred two weeks ago when he saw Anita snuggled up with a former boyfriend outside an all-night taco stand on the east side of town. She’d explained she’d met with him to tell the man about Derrick and to make a clean break. The old beau became upset over losing Anita and she’d offered him a moment’s comfort.

Sounded reasonable to a love-struck Derrick Greene.

But his friends weren’t buying it.

“Man, she is playing you.”

“She’s nothing but a party girl.”

“Anita is always on the prowl for the fattest wallets and deepest pockets.”

“Neither one of them live or work on the east side, Derrick. Why go all that way for a damn taco unless they wanted to hide and not be recognized?”

But Derrick had seen them. Returning from dinner with his brother’s family. A dinner he had invited Anita to, but she declined, saying she had to prepare a presentation for work the next day.

I am too stupid for my own good! Fuck! I’m too stupid to live!

Determined to be a good boyfriend, Derrick was always trying to show Anita how important she was to him. She was home off work again today with one of her terrible migraines. Anita was complaining about them often. Derrick stopped by her favorite restaurant and got her favorite salad, hoping his surprise visit with lunch would make her feel better.

Parking behind her late model Saab, Derrick let himself into Anita’s duplex with the key she’d given him.

He wasn’t surprised to find the living room dark. Derrick’s chest tightened at the thought of the agony the bright light caused his woman.

Walking towards Anita’s bedroom, Derrick was about to call out to her — not wanting to startle her with his presence — when he heard noises coming from the kitchen.

Changing direction, Derrick headed for the kitchen. His steps slowed. He recognized those sounds. It was Anita, and those whimpering and moans meant one thing.

His first thought was to leave and never come back.

But he couldn’t. Derrick had to see for himself. He had to face the truth about the woman he was so sure he loved. And she needed to see him. Anita would have no wiggle room to talk her way out of this.

Derrick paused in the archway which separated the kitchen from the dining area. His anger dissipated and Derrick Greene pursed his lips to keep from laughing aloud at the scene before him.

Anita Banks was naked and covered in sweat, reclined on the countertop next to the sink. Her skinny legs gripped the back of some guy who had his head buried in her neck… and his pants around his ankles.

Neither of them spoke, each lost in their own lusty race for climax.

Since both were still unaware of his presence… and showing no signs of stopping soon, Derrick felt it was time for a reality check and cleared his throat.

Anita’s attention snapped to the archway, her eyes widening. She pushed the anonymous man away from her as though he’d been attacking her. She half jumped, half fell off the counter, attempting to cover her body with her hands as she approached Derrick.

He took two steps backward and glared at her. Glancing over at the still unnamed man who was scurrying to get his pants up and fastened, Derrick spotted the company logo on his shirt.

He laughed aloud this time, but it was more of a joyless growl.

“The water delivery man, Anita? You’re fucking the water delivery man?”

“B-Baby, no! It’s not what you-”

“Shut up, Anita!”

Giving up on her futile attempt to cover herself, Anita reached out to him. “Baby, listen for-”

Derrick stepped back again. This left enough room for the hapless water delivery man to squeeze past Derrick, his back sliding along the wall. He kept his eyes on Derrick Greene… waiting for the man to attack.

Derrick shook his head and returned his cold gaze to the naked woman before him.

“Let me explain, Derrick! Willie and I go way back and-”

“And you told him what? You’re with me now? Then what? You thought you’d just give him one fuck for old time’s sake?”

“No! No! It’s not like that! I’m not like that!”

“No, Anita, you’re not. You’re worse. You can lie to my face about loving me, and as soon as I turn my back, you got your legs spread wide for any man willing!”

“Don’t talk like that, Derrick! I’m not a slut!”

“Name it and claim it, Anita.”

Derrick bolted for the front door, wanting to be anywhere but near Anita Banks. He froze midway through the living room when he realized he was still holding his keys in one hand and Anita’s lunch in the other. Setting the bag down, he removed Anita’s door key from his key chain. When he turned around, Anita was rushing toward him, wrapping an old brown throw around herself.

“Here’s your key, Anita.”

“No, Derrick, please? Let’s sit down and talk about this. We can fix this.”

He frowned and tossed the key at her feet.

“We? We? There’s no “we” here, Anita. There’s just you, Miss Fuck-‘Em-All, and me, the dumb-ass who fell for your games.” He grabbed the bag. “I came here today because I was worried about you… worried! You said your head hurt so bad you couldn’t see straight. I decided to surprise you with lunch.”

He upended the bag. The southwestern salad with grilled chipotle chicken and house dressing on the side fell to the floor in a colorful, but messy pile.

“Surprise! Enjoy!”

Before she could respond, Derrick stormed out of Anita’s apartment, never looking back.

She watched him speed off, then closed her door.

Why did I ever give him a key?

Anita Banks wasn’t sorry Derrick caught her cheating. She was angry with herself for not being more on her guard. Derrick Greene was pissed off for right now, but she’d win him back. Nice guys like Derrick were no match for her wiles. Anita would wear him down… in time. Just in time for that trip to Ensenada he’d promised her.

(Image from Google)