#52weeks52stories “Frozen in Time, Part III”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 47

Word prompt: smack

Word count – 724

Reading time – 2 mins, 14 secs

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Frozen in Time, Part III

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Luci Gwynn yammered on about sanity napkins and belts as Petra huddled in the sofa’s corner clutching a hot water bottle against her stomach.

Neither of them heard Vance enter.

“What’s wrong with her?”

Startled, Luci looked up at her husband then smiled toward her daughter.

“My little girl’s growing up and entering womanhood.”

“Damn. Now I’ve got to keep an eye on her little hot ass, so she doesn’t go whoring around like the rest of the women in your family.”

Luci’s mouth gaped open in surprise and outrage, but she never got to respond.

Propelled forward by hate, disgust, and a new influx of hormones, Petra pounced on her father, hitting, biting, and scratching in a frenzy of rage.

Caught off-guard and stunned at first, Vance swept his arms down his body, knocking Petra to the floor.

She rose to her knees, panting like an animal ready to attack again, but Vance backed away looking at his hands and arms and feeling his face.

Undeterred, Petra tried to advance on him, but Luci wrapped her arms around her from behind, holding her back.

Vance left the room without a word, the only sound being the opening and closing of the front door.

Loosening her grip, Luci spun her daughter around. “What is wrong with you?”

Still shaking while hostility and loathing coursed through her, Petra was defiant.

“I hate him.”

“But what if he doesn’t come back?”

“Good.”

Luci’s anger grew to match her daughter’s.

“Good? What’s good about it? What about me, Petra?”

The teen sneered. “No more beatings and bruises.”

She knew the slap was coming and didn’t flinch.

Horrified by her own actions, Luci yanked her arm back, clutching her hands to her chest.

“Petra, baby, I’m so sorry.”

Petra back away, her sneer replaced by a smile, then giggles.

Luci reached out for her daughter, but Petra stepped back farther. Her giggles grew to roaring laughter.

“Petra… -”

Wrapping her arms around her stomach, Petra doubled over and tried to speak through gasps for air.

“This… is great. Daddy gives you a black eye for… something as dumb as wearing the wrong dress… and you take it. But you have no problem slapping me for standing up to the big bully.”

“Petra, baby… you don’t understand -”

“Shut up! Don’t say that! Don’t tell me I don’t understand.”

Her laughter abated, Petra rose to her full height.

“Me, Arnold and Leonard have tried to understand our entire lives. We sneak into each other’s rooms and cry together. We’ve been to the library, digging through books on domestic violence because we can’t tell anybody. We can’t ask for help, because we’ll be separated, and Arnie and Len are all I have. So, we decided you put up with daddy to protect us.” She scoffed. “But now I know we were wrong, mama. We’ve always been wrong. It’s about you, only you.”

“No, you’re wrong, baby. I do it for you and your brothers.”

“None of us should have ever been born. This isn‘t a family, it‘s a prison camp.”

“Don’t say that! You kids are everything to me.”

She hung her head in shame.

“Yes, your father hits me, but he’s never hit you. He’s never hurt any of you.”

“Hurt me? Did you see him, mama? I’m his daughter… a thirteen-year-old girl. He didn’t hit me—he didn’t fight back, and not because he’s some noble father. That was fear in his eyes. He’s not used to being challenged. Not used to anyone fighting back. You should try it sometime.”

Luci’s face crumpled at the truth of her daughter’s words.

“But you know what, mama? You don‘t have to use fists to hurt someone.”

Her words were heavy and toneless, and her body sagged, the emotional burden taking its toll.

Repeating her father’s movements, Petra backed toward the doorway.

“But he can’t hurt me anymore, mama. And he’ll never hurt me again.”

Reaching the doorway, Petra glared at the woman who’d given her life.

“And neither will you.”

“Petra!”

Ignoring Luci, she turned and left the room, not stopping until she reached the sanctuary of her bedroom.

Petra Gwynn remembered that day, not for the onset of her periods and the first step toward adulthood, but as the day both her parents no longer mattered to her.

 

 

To be continued

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “Frozen in Time, Part II”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 46

Word prompt: smack

Word count – 414

Reading time – 1 mins, 43 secs

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Frozen in Time, Part II

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Vance Gwynn was a mountain of a man who used his bulk to intimidate his wife, Luci.

When his size and words failed, he pummeled her plus-size body with his massive fists.

Luci not only took the beatings, but she’d also always apologize and promise to be a better wife.

She shielded and protected him from law enforcement and concerned neighbors and praised him to their three children.

To no avail.

By the time Petra was eight, she had a deep, soul-wrenching hatred for her father, as did her two older brothers, Arnold and Leonard.

Vance saved the physical abuse for Luci, visiting verbal and psychological tirades on his children instead.

Regardless of how much they grew, the Gwynn children only received new school clothes every other year. Their ill-fitting apparel made Petra and her brothers the targets of abuse and bullying at school. The thrift store items Luci bought to bolster their wardrobe only worsened their plight.

Birthdays and Christmas weren’t recognized, and Vance’s practice of destroying any gifts sent by extended family ceased the flow of gifts… and communication.

The siblings grew closer, bound by their misery, their confusion about their mother’s complacency, and their intense hatred for their father.

At the end of his last year in junior high, Leonard received an engraved plaque for maintaining a perfect 4.0-grade point average—the only one in the district at the junior high level. He was on-track to receive multiple scholarships for college.

He beamed with pride when he presented the award to his mother that evening. Leonard refused to allow her blatant indifference to steal his joy.

Vance took care of that.

Snatching the plaque from Luci’s hands, he banged it against the kitchen sink then dropped it in the trash.

“Stop acting like a girl. It’s just a hunk of wood and means nothing. You’ll still end up cleaning hubcaps down at Remington Car Wash… you and your brother. That’s all you’re good for.”

Standing at just under six-feet-tall, Leonard was bigger than most of the boys in his ninth-grade class, but he was almost a hundred pounds smaller than his father.

Still, his murderous glare that followed Vance as he sauntered from the kitchen both scared and excited Petra.

She didn’t want her brother to get hurt, but had he grabbed a knife from the butcher block and ran after their father, she wouldn’t have stopped him.

Just as she couldn’t stop herself two weeks later.

 

To be continued

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “Frozen in Time”

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It’s week 52 and the last post of 2018!

It’s been quite a writing year for me. I didn’t publish the books I’d planned but I’m good with that because the year was a giant leap forward in finding my writing voice.

Challenges like #52weeks52stories coaxed forced me out of my comfort zone and I haven’t looked back.

My last post is a serial in six parts that I have to complete and post by 11:59 PM Monday.

This should be fun!

Have a great Sunday!

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#52weeks52stories: Week 52

Word prompt: smack

Word count – 429

Reading time – 1 mins, 42 secs

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Frozen in Time, Part 1

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“Please don’t come here again.”

The battered woman trailing police to the front door turned and whispered in a hard voice, “You don’t understand. This was my fault. I shouldn’t have pushed Elliott about coats for the kids.”

Petra Gwynn smirked. “You remind your husband your three children are wearing nylon jackets in freezing temps and he has the right to smack you around?”

Sonia Milan glanced over her shoulder at the cops standing next to their squad cars.

“Elliott’s been through a lot. He lost his mom at a young age… lost friends while serving in the middle-east and got an injury that ended his military career. He has to be handled a certain way.”

“Bullshit! He’s not the first person to lose someone or get injured in combat. Those are excuses, Sonia.” She turned her neighbor toward the hallway mirror. “Look at your face. That’s not how you treat someone you love.”

Sonia’s temper flared, and she whirled around to face her neighbor.

“Don’t you dare judge my husband. You have no idea what it’s like for him. Keep your opinions to yourself and mind your own damn business.”

Petra clenched her fists hanging at her sides.

The freakin’ nerve!

She approached Sonia until their noses were almost touching.

“That’s exactly what I was doing until you banged on my door. You cried out for my help. You begged me to call the police.”

She brushed past her clueless neighbor and stood by the open front door.

“And you are leaving my home… now.”

Kowtowed, Sonia turned for the front door.

Petra thrust her arm out blocking the woman’s path.

“He needs help, Sonia, before something even worse happens. But if you don’t care about yourself or somehow feel you deserve to be his punching bag, think of your children. They see everything and forget nothing. And it’s doing more damage than you can ever imagine.”

Sonia’s jaws tightened, and she pushed past Petra, storming down the walkway.

Closing the door, Petra sagged against it as the anger dissipated from her body.

I shouldn’t have lost my temper. Sonia needs understanding, not my contempt. Elliott has beaten her down so low, she believes she’s to blame for his shortcomings.

Petra slid to the floor, remembering the look of terror in her neighbor’s eyes when she’d first answered the door.

It was the same look she’d seen in her own mother’s eyes for most of her life.

To be continued

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “The Christmas Gift”

The Christmas Gift banner

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“I last posted during week 44 and it’s week 51, which means I have six entries to post.”

One down, five to go! 😉

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#52weeks52stories: Week 45

Word prompt: journal

Word count – 281

Reading time – 1 mins, 10 secs

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“Wake up, sleepyhead! It’s Christmas!”

Gordie Williams bolted upright.

Aw, man. I overslept.

He rolled out of bed, brushing past his older brother.

Not slowing down at the top of the stairs, Gordie took them two at a time.

He raced into the family room and dropped at the foot of the Christmas tree, his eyes searching the piles of boxes and gift bags.

Finding the box with the Tompkins Fine Writing Essentials label-tape, the twelve-year-old’s heart leapt into his throat.

Gordie lifted the box with reverence and leaned back against the sofa.

Removing the top, his fingers caressed the faux leather journals. His lips twitched at the corners as he picked up one of the balanced pens.

No more one-subject notebooks. No more of his father’s cast-off legal pads with the scant few pages left, or dried-up pens from the 99-Cent Store left too long on the shelf.

Gordie fanned the pages of the matching undated planner wondering which story he should write first—the epic pirate adventure or the one about the magician’s son with low self-esteem.

He jumped when his mom knelt next to him, sliding her arm around his shoulder.

“Merry Christmas, baby.”

“Thanks, mom. Merry Christmas.”

Celeste Williams kissed her youngest son’s forehead.

“Mr. Lawrence is a great English teacher, Gordie, but never let anyone tell you your imagination is too broad or unbelievable.”

She reached out, touching the gift box.

“Write your stories, baby. Your way.”

Gordie dropped the writing tools and pulled his mother into a tight hug. It muffled his reply as he buried his face into her neck to hide the tears forming.

“I will, momma. I will.”

And he did.

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

It’s time for a Drabble!


Drabbles


Back with another Drabble!

I believe I’m getting the hang of the rhythm.

The difficult part–word usage–is… coming.

Much like any story, writers want readers to be able to empathize with the protagonist (good or bad), and visualize and feel the scene.

Tall order for a hundred words but it is fun!

How did I do?

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C H A N G E S – Drabble #2

Kerri Kennedy sat alone on the swing watching her four former friends play across the schoolyard.

They treated Kerri as though she’d changed.

The accident last winter took her father and left Kerri with mangled legs.

She couldn’t stand up straight and walked with a limp, but she was still the girl who liked pineapple on her pizza.

She wasn’t the one who changed.

A soccer ball bounced against Kerri’s foot. She kicked it back to the girl running toward her.

“Thanks. Wanna play with us?”

“I can’t. My leg.”

“Sure, you can.”

Surprised, Kerri smiled at her new friend.

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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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I Wrote a Drabble!


Drabbles


I wrote my first drabble!

YAAY, me, right?

Wait. Don’t you know what a drabble is? It’s a short story written in 100 words or less, and it’s easier said than done.

I’d never heard of it either until a couple of weeks ago when I saw this post on Connie J. Jasperson’s Life in the Realm of Fantasy. Do you follow Connie? You should. She gives great writing advice… with examples!

After reading Connie’s post, I went on a drabble info search.

Google drabbles. I dare you! The search returns were mind-boggling. I felt like the planet was drabbling (← I have NO idea if that’s a word!) without me!

What’s the point of drabbles?

You’ll find several reasons listed on Connie’s blog, but prime for me is there is no room for anything which doesn’t move the story forward. Words must be chosen with much thought… because you can’t use more than a hundred.

If you’ve read anything by me, you know I have a love affair with the written word and don’t believe there can ever be too many, wonderful, glorious words! *Glares at last sentence* So, um… yeah.

I give you… my first drabble!

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Calling His Bluff – Drabble #1

She removed her scarf and wiped her brow. The apple tree’s shade did little to protect her from the oppressive heat.

“Raelene – ”

“I’m done with this, Willie. Daddy is sick and needs me here to run the orchard. I can’t marry you.”

“He ain’t sick, Raelene! His mind is gone. He’s never getting better. Sell this land and put him in a nursing home.”

“No.”

“I thought you wanted to be with me?” He smirked. “Patty Walters would love to marry me.”

Raelene grabbed her basket. “I hope you and Patty have a nice life.”

She walked away… relieved.

~~~~~

Okay, so I didn’t redefine drabbles, but… I did have the key elements: a setting, one or more characters, conflict, and resolution.

It’s a start!

I feel an obsession coming on. You know, after all my other writing obligations.  Averts eyes.

On average, drabbles will take about an hour to write.

It took me longer than that. A lot longer.

But don’t tell Connie.

 

©2018 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

Mona Lisa Smile #WritingChallenge


Rainy Day

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 37
Flash Fiction: Word prompt – Mona Lisa smile

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

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.

Save

Dumped

Homeless Man

Week 17 – 52-Week Writing Challenge
Word Prompt – “Dumped”
Based on a true event.

Angry and upset, Bradley strode from the office building. The meeting had not gone as he hoped. The marketing deal did not go through. Sam, his boss, would not be happy. Bradley decided not to prolong the inevitable and pulled out his cell. Head down, focused on his phone, Bradley didn’t see the man sitting on the sidewalk until he tripped over him.

“What the hell? You idiot! You better hope my cell phone isn’t broken!” Bradley jumped to his feet and checked out his cell, turning it over in his hands. The screen wasn’t damaged, but there was a small scratch on the titanium case.

“Son of a bitch! Do you have any idea how much this phone cost me?” He smirked at the unresponsive man. “Of course, you don’t. I’ll bet you know the price of the cheapest bottle of wine the liquor store sells though, huh?”

The disheveled man remained silent, but Bradley Harper noticed his shoulders slump. He leaned toward him.

The clothes he wore were not his own. The coat, too hot and heavy for summer, was at least two sizes too large. The pants stopped just below his calves, leaving his long, pale, ashen legs exposed. Ragged white socks covered his feet, but instead of shoes, he wore light slippers.

“What’s wrong with you? Can’t you talk?” The man said nothing. Bradley glanced around the trendy Inland Empire business square. People went about their day. No one paid any attention to them.

“The cops are good about keeping this area clear of your kind. How did you get this far downtown without being stopped?”

The man mumbled something, still not meeting Bradley’s gaze.

“Oh, great! A homeless drunk who makes no sense. I do not have time for this bullshit. I’ll let the cops deal with you, buddy.” Bradley backed away from the man, looking around the area for security. More mumbled words caught his ear. “Are you saying something?”

He tried to nod, but Bradley noticed the movement caused the man’s whole body to shake.

“I don’t have time for this! I need to get back to my office and find out if I still have a job.”

The man struggled to remove something from his pocket. Without raising his head, he thrust a handful of folded papers in Bradley’s direction.

Exhaling with a growl, the harried advertising executive shook his head, walked back to the man and took the papers from his outstretched hand. Bradley unfolded the thick bundle and read, his brow furrowed. Bradley’s eyes widened at the information the documents held.

“These are hospital discharge papers. Dated today.”

One nod from the silent man.

Bradley read on. “You’re Patrick Peterson?”

Another single nod.

“You spent the last three days in San Antonio Regional Hospital with pneumonia and they discharged you this morning.” Bradley frowned. “But how did you get here?”

“Van.”

“Van? A van brought you here? What kind of van? Why?”

“Hospital… van. No insurance.”

“Patrick? Are you telling me the hospital discharged you and dumped you on the street because you have no insurance?”

“Yes.”

“Son of a bitch! Those heartless bastards! This can’t be legal! Damn! Patrick, I’m sorry about my-”

A violent coughing spasm wracked Patrick’s body. Bradley could hear the wet, phlegmy infection rattle in the gaunt man’s chest and throat. Patrick’s body convulsed. Bradley Harper thought the man might lose consciousness.

“You’re still sick. They dumped you on the street… and you’re still sick.” Bradley shook his head. “This is too fucked up for words.”

Patrick thrust his head back, gasping for air. The movement helped, and the coughing subsided, but his breathing was so shallow, Patrick rested his upturned head against the building taking in as much air as he could.

Bradley saw the chain around his neck. He waited a few more minutes for the coughing to stop.

“Patrick, were you military?”

“Yes. Marines.”

Bradley fumed. This was no way to treat someone who served their country.

“Why didn’t they take you to the Veteran’s hospital?”

“No beds.”

“Family?”

“Don’t want me… too much trouble.”

“You’re too much trouble for your family? What the hell?” Bradley caught himself and gave Patrick an inquisitive look. “Why does your family feel you’re too much trouble?”

Patrick hesitated. He clenched and unclenched his emaciated hands several times before allowing them to rest limply on the sidewalk.

“PTSD.”

Bradley wasn’t surprised by Patrick’s answer. “Are you violent?”

Patrick shook his head. “I… never… hurt anyone.”

Frustrated, Bradley waved the papers around like a mad man.

“Man, I don’t understand! If you’re not violent, how are you too much trouble? Why did your family just turn their backs? That’s some evil bullshit!”

For the first time since Bradley tripped over him, Patrick raised his head and looked Bradley in the face. The haunted look of the ex-Marine’s piercing, ice blue eyes shocked and saddened the concerned accountant.

“Because… I’m not myself. Voices… from that morning… fire fight. First Lieutenant. Sargent. Hollenbeck. All gone.”

Bradley watched as the distraught man’s eyes pooled with tears.

“It plays on repeat in my… head. No one… can make it… stop.” Fatigued from illness and conversation, the poor man slumped back against the building.

Compassion and anger battled inside Bradley Harper. This man served his country and watched his team die. He was blessed to be alive himself… to return home and live on the streets. Patrick Peterson deserved better. He deserved treatment. He deserved proper care. Patrick deserved respect, not to be treated like trash.

There was no way Bradley could walk away from Patrick. He had nowhere to go. Bradley knew if he abandoned the sick man, it would only be a matter of days before his lifeless body was found.

Pulling out his cell again, Bradley scrolled to Sam’s name and clicked Call. He wasn’t concerned with the customer inside the building or any damn contract. Bradley wasn’t even concerned about his job for the moment.

Sam Lemmer was a retired Marine and would know how best to help Patrick. It took little to send the former Captain off on a tangent about the country’s treatment of its military personnel. Meeting Patrick and hearing his story would be spark enough to set the decorated war hero into action.

Light snores caused Bradley to glance down at the abandoned man.

“Don’t worry, buddy. You’ll never sleep on a sidewalk again.”

Image from Google.

©Copyright Felicia Denise 2017