1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Past Contest Submissions CLOSED for contest #161 - "The corner of the room"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Aug 5, 2014.

    Short Story Contest 161
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: The Corner of the Rooms" courtesy of @BeckyJean

    Submissions will be open for ~2 weeks.

    IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ THE CHANGES!

    If you wish to enter the contest post the story here directly in the thread. It will show up as an anonymous author.

    This contest is open to all writingforums.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As always, the winner may also PM me to request the theme of the subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 17th of August, 2014 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. Any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    If we reach 20 entries, the maximum number of stories for any one contest, I will consider splitting the contest into two. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permitted.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece basis to decide its legitimacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets [xxx words ] at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation). After the entries close, posting in the thread is open for comments.

    ***And thanks to even more long hours put in by our very special mod/member @Wreybies, winners are now awarded with olympic style medals displayed under their avatars.

    Thanks, and good luck!

    Be sure to preview your entry before you hit 'reply'.
    Check italics and bolding as sometimes the end code for bold or italics doesn't copy/paste affecting large stretches of text. If you need to fix the formatting, hit 'control a' to 'select all' and clear all bold and italics code. Then re-add it back in using the board's font controls before you hit 'post reply'. Same thing with extra line spaces, delete them directly from the post before hitting 'post reply'.
     
  2. kittie_pie
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    kittie_pie Member

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    Bittersweet Reunion (1,457 words) [Depressing content, including death]

    “That corner is all I have left. He lived a wonderful life, and he will be remembered by us all. When times are rough, I just need to look at that corner, and everything is okay.” She smiled as she thought back.

    “What’s on your mind Mom?” Sammy asked.

    Winifred laughed. “What isn’t on my mind these days?” She sat in her rocking chair. “This corner holds everything I love.”

    Sammy sat next to his foster mother. “What about me?” He asked playfully.

    “Aren’t you here?” She patted his cheek and picked up a picture frame. “See? All of my foster kids are here.”

    Sammy looked at the picture. A younger Winifred stands with her husband and three children. The oldest, a tall girl with blonde hair. The youngest, a toddler holding a ball. The middle child, himself, grinning at the camera. “I miss Leandra.”

    Winifred squeezed his hand. “We all do.” She put the picture back on the table.

    “I wish we could know why she left us.” Sammy hung his head.

    “She was too good for this world, sweetie. This is a cruel world, and the truly good people can't always handle it. At least she is at peace.” Winifred wiped a tear from his eye. She picked up a magnet emblazoned with ‘San Diego’ and a palm tree. “Remember this?”

    Sammy took the magnet. “I remember.” He smiled. “We never actually stepped in San Diego, though.”

    She chuckled. “We had a right good time anyway.”

    “Harry loved the sand.” He laughed. “Leandra was so afraid that he would run into the ocean and drown.”

    “Your sister was very protective of that boy.” Winifred put the souvenir down. “So many memories.”

    Sammy pulled his wallet out of his pocket. “I have one here.” He pulled a picture out. “Remember this?”

    She grinned. The picture showed Sammy’s wife in the hospital with their son. “I remember this. I was so proud of you two.” She sighed. “How old is he now?”

    He frowned. “Seven.”

    “Goodness, the time goes by so fast.”

    A nurse knocked on the door. “Mrs. Essleton, would you like to take your walk?”

    Winifred nodded. “Yes. My son will take me today.”

    “Okay. Don’t strain yourself.” The nurse disappeared.

    Winifred took Sammy’s arm. “Let’s not forget to see your father.”

    “Of course.” Sammy led her to the garden. He smiled at a group of flowers. “Don’t you have some of these in your room?”

    Winifred laughed. “I do.” She sat on one of the benched. “Forget me nots.”

    “They’re very pretty.”

    “Your father planted some in the front yard a long time ago.” She patted the seat next to her. “He said that they would remind me of him while he was overseas. They would be his way of saying, ‘forget me not’.”

    “That’s sweet. You never told me that.”

    Winifred leaned against Sammy. “Your father isn’t doing well.” She whispered.

    Sammy sighed. “I know mom.”

    “He doesn’t speak.” Winifred sniffled. “Why won’t he talk to me?”

    Sammy held his mother’s hand. “I don’t know mom.”

    After a few minutes, Winifred wiped her eyes. “Well, let’s get back. I have a few more things to show you.”

    “Of course, mother.” Sammy helped Winifred to her chair again. “Are you okay mom?”

    Winifred tousled his hair. “Sammy, baby. You don’t have to call me mom if you don’t want to.”

    Sammy frowned. “I’ve been calling you mom for twelve years.”

    Winifred frowned. “That’s right. I’m sorry my dear. I don’t know where my mind went.” She smiled again. “I want you to keep this.” She handed him a harmonica.

    “Why?”

    “It was George’s. Your father was amazing with his harmonica.” She pressed the silver and red instrument into his hand. “You learn to play it for your children, okay?” Sammy just nodded. “And, this is for Leandra.” She handed him a yellow yo-yo. “She loves doing those tricks.”

    “Okay mom. I’ll give it to her.” He whispered.

    “Tell her to come visit me. I miss her terribly.”

    Sammy nodded as he tried to keep the tears back. “Yes mother.”

    “These are for Harry.” She handed him two safety pins with bears on the tops. “I put these in his little baby booties. They looked so cute.”

    “Of course mom.” Sammy hugged his mother. “I’ll do whatever you ask.”

    She laughed. “I’m not done yet, Sammy baby.” She put three onesies in his hands. “These are for you and your siblings. When you three have children of your own, I want you to use these.”

    Sammy nodded. “Yes ma’am.”

    Winifred touched Sammy’s cheek again. “Take care of your sister. She needs you.”

    Sammy sobbed, but he nodded.

    “Are you okay sweetie?”

    Sammy hugged Winifred again. “I’m fine mom. I just love you so much.”

    She shushed him. “Do you need me to sing you a lullaby?” She patted his head.

    Sammy knew she wouldn’t be there much longer, so he nodded. “Yes. Just, please, lie down first.”

    Winifred nodded. “Let’s say goodnight to your father.” She walked to one of the beds in the room and kissed the pillow. “Good night George. I love you.”

    Sammy helped his mother into her bed and held her hand. “Please sing to me mom.”

    “Of course, my Sammy boy.” She squeezed his hand. “Hush little baby…” She closed her eyes. “Don’t say a word…” She took another breath. “Momma’s gonna buy…” And she stopped.

    Sammy cried as he held his mother’s hand. “Why?” He whispered to himself. “Why did you all leave me?” He wiped at his eyes. “Please wake up. Please mom.” He stood and held Winifred in his arms. “Please come back to me.” A nurse came in and touched his shoulder.

    “Sir? I’m sorry, but we need to work on your mother’s arrangements.”

    Sammy nodded. “Okay.” He left the room. “Her arrangements should be in her file. I’ll come back in the morning.”

    “Yes sir. We’ll see you then.”

    Sammy took the nurse’s hand. “Save all the stuff in the corner.”

    The nurse nodded. “I’ll see to it myself.”

    Sammy drove home in silence. Once home, he put his keys in the tray next to the door. “I’m home.” He whispered. The house was silent, save for the beeping of his answering machine.

    He pressed the play button. “Sam, this is Eric. I’m sorry to hear about what happened. Take as long as you need to recover. I’ll take care of things at the office.” The answering machine beeped.

    Sammy sighed and climbed the stairs. He opened the door to his son’s room. The bed sat in one corner, and the rocking chair sat next to it. He sat in the chair and shook his head. “This isn’t fair.” He left the room to prevent the tears. On his way out, he grabbed the stuffed bear. He took it to his room and pressed it’s stomach.

    “Good night Sammy Jr. Mommy loves you. Have sweet dreams.” A female voice spoke through the teddy bear. Sammy held the bear to his chest, and pressed it again. “Good night Sammy Jr. Mommy loves you. Have sweet dreams.”

    Sammy layed down, but when his eyes closed, all he could see was the crash. “Dammit. It’s all my fault.” He stood. “If I hadn’t decided to take that shortcut, they’d all be here with me.” He put the bear down and walked to his closet. “If we weren’t on that road, I wouldn’t be alone right now.” He entered the combination into his fire safe. “So here’s what I’m going to do.” He took the pistol from the safe. “I’m going to join them all. Leandra, Sarah, Harry, Sammy Jr., mom, dad. I’m gonna join them all.” He put the gun to his head. “I’m coming baby. I’ll be there soon.” He started to cry again, and he fell to his knees. “I’m coming.” He whispered, but his hand fell from his head.

    He put the gun back. “I’m sorry. I’m such a coward.” He curled back up on his bed and squeezed once more. “Good night Sammy Jr. Mommy loves you. Have sweet dreams.”

    Sammy fell asleep, and when he woke up, he saw a blinding light. After letting his vision clear, he saw his family. “Sarah.” He whispered. “Sammy Jr.”

    His wife smiled at him. “We missed you baby.” She kissed his cheek. “Welcome home.”

    ***

    “What’s the verdict doctor?” The detective asked.

    The doctor shook his head. “A broken heart. He just couldn’t go on.”

    “What’s his name again?”

    The doctor looked at the toe tag. “Sammy Essleton.” The doctor sighed. “Who do I inform?”

    “His only living relative died earlier the same day. There’s no one to inform.”

    “That’s terribly sad.”

    “At least they’re together.”
     
  3. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Serendipity (670 words)


    “Daniel Askey go to the corner of the room right now!” yelled the teacher. “I will not have you disrupt the class. What were you doing sprawling your legs under Jenny’s chair? Have you got ants in your pants?”

    Jeff and his goons began to snigger. Dan’s cheeks reddened and his head sank down.

    “Dunno miss,” he said with a shrug.

    “Dunno, dunno,” Mrs Norman shrieked. “It should be ‘I don’t know miss’,” she corrected. “You don’t know what you were doing with your legs or you don’t know if you have ants in your pants?”

    Now the whole class began to laugh. Dan made a sideways glance at Jenny. If she was giggling too he would die of embarrassment. She was looking at him in a quizzical way, not laughing, but obviously confused as to what he had been doing. Their eyes met. She held his gaze for a second and then averted her eyes to the ground, a smile appearing on her lips. Her left hand pushed her hair back behind her ear and she glanced again at Dan.

    Dan’s heart beat faster. She had smiled at him. He could not suppress his smile either. Mrs Norman’s shrill voice broke through the mist, “Ok, that’s enough class, get back to the chapter and Daniel go stand in the corner, facing the window please. Rupa, please begin reading from the top of page eighty seven.”

    Rupa began to read from the book and the class resumed. Dan pushed back his chair and tried to squeeze through the gaps between other pupils’ chairs and tables to get to the corner. He was still grinning and reliving the moment he had just had with Jenny. He had not noticed Jeff Hartley winking at his friends. Just as Dan passed in front of Jeff’s desk Jeff deftly poked Dan in the testicles with his pen.

    The pain shot through Dan and he let out a yelp as he automatically bent double and recoiled back from the pen. This had a domino effect as Dan’s backside pushed into Will Detto and sent Will sprawling over his desk; his books and pens crashing to the ground. The raucous caused everyone to look round at Dan. Jeff and his gang broke out into laughter.

    Mrs Norman shouted, “that’s enough class! What is going on? Daniel what on earth are you doing?”

    “Sorry miss,” he mumbled, “I tripped.” The code did not allow him to snitch but he had to get Jeff back at break. Dan had blown his chances with Jenny now for sure.

    “Really, Daniel, please just go back to your desk and try not to disrupt the class further!” she exclaimed. "Rupa, please can you resume. The rest of you, face the front . . . now!” Rupa began again to read from the text and pupils turned back to their desks. Dan sheepishly made his way back to his own desk, shoulders hunched, feeling humiliated.

    One of Will’s pens had rolled under Jenny’s desk. He was gesturing at Jenny to pick it up and return it to him. Just as Dan sat down at his own desk he saw Jenny bend down to retrieve Will’s pen. Dan’s heart began beating faster. Jenny’s head popped back up and she was holding Will’s pen and a piece of paper she had found under her desk.

    Jenny promptly returned the pen to Will and nimbly opened the paper without drawing attention to herself. She read the message inside. All Dan could see was the back of Jenny’s head. Dan waited what seemed to him like hours for a response from Jenny. Turning her head slightly towards Dan, Jenny mouthed the word, yes, silently. She smiled and then quickly faced the front of the class.

    Dan could not repress the smile and the sigh of happiness. Thanks to Jeff’s antics Jenny had noticed Dan’s note and now Dan had a date with Jenny Ramsay, the most beautiful, the most wonderful girl he had ever met.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2014
  4. huskies
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    huskies Member

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    Dark corners (2055 words)

    Betty clung to her mother.

    “i don’t want to go, please don’t make me”

    Her mother had tears streaming down her face and held her as tight as she could

    “you will be fine, its only for 3 weeks”

    Betty stepped away and dried her eyes and her hankie. She took a deep breath and smiled a small smile..

    She knew her mother was right she would be fine but the thought of spending three weeks with her aunt who she had only met once sacred her.

    “what time is your flight?”

    “i need to be there in a couple of hours i will ring you as soon as i land, your aunt will meet you on the platform don't wonder off just wait for her”

    “I'm fourteen not four”

    her mother smiled Betty was a strong girl but having to leave her for this long pained her especially so soon after her fathers death.

    “stay safe” she kissed her gently on the head and gave her a soft push in to the train.

    Betty sat in a cart on her own and hoped no one would join her she waved with a smile on her face as the train pulled out the station then burst into tears.

    Her aunts name was Victoria she had always sent cards for birthdays and christmas but had only met her once when she was eight and all she remembered of her was a musky smell and the thought that she was dark like there was a permanent shadow on her.

    She saw her straight away Victoria was dressed in dark purple long coat with a hat and scarf on, Betty didn't really think the weather was cold enough for the extra wrapping but smiled when she approached.

    “did you have a good journey dear” her voice was low almost a whisper.

    “it was ok. Long, my mom called she’s just boarding and will call when she's landed”

    “very good thing she's doing going to help all those people lets hope she doesn't catch anything while she's out there”

    Betty's mother was a doctor and she was flying to the middle east on an aid mission, she knew her mother was torn from doing what she loved and leaving her. It had never been a problem when her father was alive but now she had struggled with the decision. Betty hadn't made it easy either begging her not to go she was so scared she was going to loose her too.

    The drive from the station was quiet Victoria didn't really speak much Betty didn't mind she just had to get through the three weeks and then she would be back with her friends mom and her own room.

    “this will be your room while you stay here, its not much”

    “its fine thank you”

    “i will go do dinner come down when your ready”

    At that she turned and left shutting the door behind her.

    The room was dark even though the walls were painted a bright yellow and the main light and a lamp was on, it still felt dark and damp.

    There was an old walnut wardrobe on the one wall opposite the bed Betty put her bag in there and didn't bother unpacking at all. She got her kindle out and her tablet and checked Facebook to see what everyone was up to.

    She waited and waited but there was clearly no internet connection her phone wouldn't tether as she had zero reception. She started to feel panicked how would her mother call her how would she get through three weeks with no contact with home at all.

    She started to get a tingling sensation up her back it felt like someone was watching her she turned her head quickly but there was no one on the room the corner was empty and dark, it made her shiver so she decided to go downstairs and ask her aunt how she could get internet connection.

    “sorry Betty we don't get it out here at all the nearest place is the coffee house in town about ten minute walk from here, your mom will call the house phone though so don't worry”

    Victoria was right her mom called a couple of hours later and was fine, the conversation made her feel like crying again but she just had to keep thinking that it was only three weeks not forever.

    They had dinner pretty much in silence and then watched tv for a while, at nine o'clock her aunt turned the tv off and got up to go to bed.

    “i suggest you go to bed too and go straight to sleep”

    Betty wasn't sure if she was being serious as she hadn't had a bed time since she was nine and what was wrong with stopping up and reading.

    They walked up together and her aunt gave her an affectionate tap on the shoulder.

    “goodnight Betty I'm just next door do try and get some sleep and leave your lamp on so you can see if you wake in the night”

    Betty closed the door behind her and went about getting ready for bed she had an on suite which was a luxury so had a hot shower and pampered her self a little with moisturiser and a nice face cream her mom had bought her.

    When she went back into the bedroom she felt cold instantly like someone had left a window open but all the windows were closed, she thought it must of been as she was so hot in the shower.

    She switched the light off and got into bed and read her book with the light of the lamp.

    After a while her eyes started to get heavy so she put the book down and turned the lamp off and closed her eyes.

    She immediately felt wide awake and like someone was watching her again, she lay very still and listened to the noises of the house, it sounded like someone whispering nothing that she could make out but it didn't sound like the wind or central heating.

    She felt freaked out so quickly put the lamp back on, the light spread across the room but didn't seem to reach the one corner she tilted the lamp in that direction but still the light didn't cast the shadow away.

    She got out of bed and put the torch on her phone and walked slowly towards the corner, she could still here the muffled whispering it almost sounded like her name.

    She was petrified but couldn't stop her self walking towards the corner the light still didn't shine any light on the shadow at all it stayed black.

    She had a uncontrollable urge to reach her arm towards the corner and as she did her had didn't connect with anything at all. There was a gap an empty space where the whispering was coming from the light didn't illuminate it at all but the whispers were more clear.

    “Betty come your father is here he wants to see you quickly”

    She shuffled forward a little more she cold feel the other walls around her but knew she could fit throughout the gap if she shuffled a little more.

    All of a sudden she felt the floor disappear but couldn't correct her weight in time and she started to fall she heard her aunt burst through the door and scream.

    “no don't take her you promised you wouldn't take her”

    Betty fell and fell like she was free falling there was no light and no sound now just a feeling of getting more tired almost exhaustion.

    All her energy was being taken from her she could feel it being pulled from her body she just wanted to sleep now.

    Her last thoughts were if this is what dying felt like it wasn't too bad just like going to sleep.

    Then there was pain in her arm she was being dragged she could feel her arm being bruised and the pull was so strong she wanted to scream surly her arm was going to come off she couldn't make a noise couldn't move.

    then there was just dreams she knew she was dreaming but couldn't wake her self, she could hear voices she thought it was her mother but it couldn't be she was in the middle east.

    She slowly opened her eyes, she was in a hospital room that was flooded with light.

    Her mother was asleep in a chair next to her and her Aunt Victoria was sat at the end of her bed just staring.

    Her mouth was dry and as she went to sit up her head started to spin she thought she was going to be sick as Victoria handed her a glass of water.

    Her arm was in a cast.

    “what happened to me” It came out as a whisper she could barley hear her self.

    “the darkness took you”

    She just sat looking no other explanation just that.

    “how did i get back”

    “i pulled you out”

    “what is the darkness”

    she looked down at her feet and gave a huge sigh.

    “I'm not really sure, i was first taken when i was about twelve i don't know how i got out or whether it just gave me up. Since then it has followed me everywhere i have lived. No one believed me when i told them they thought i was lying for a while i thought i had gone mad but then it came again for me”

    “you screamed at it like you could talk to it”

    “didn't you hear it talking?”

    “I'm not sure, i heard whispers about my father”

    “yes its the same for me it will tell you anything it thinks you want to hear, i don't think it means to hurt us it just needs to borrow our energy to survive”

    “it nearly killed me and you had to break my arm to get me out i think it had full intentions of hurting me”

    “I'm not sure it would of given you back eventually but i was worried for you i didn't want you to be scared like i was, i wanted to explain”

    “you could of told me before i went to bed”

    “i didn't know if it would be drawn to you i have had people stop before and it has only ever taken you”

    “and you”

    At that point my mother woke and rushed to my side.

    “oh Betty I'm so sorry i never should of left, when your Aunt rang and told me that you had fell in the shower i got straight back on the plane”

    “i fell in the shower”

    Victoria offered no explanation just gave Betty the look that said no one will believe you.

    Betty spent a week in hospital recovering from concussion her aunt stayed with her the dark never came to the hospital.

    “will it ever come back for me”

    “i don't know betty try not to fear it though i wasted many years being scared and now i just know it is there talking to me, sometimes i talk back sometimes i don’t"

    “i hope it never comes back to me ever”

    They all said there farewells at the station platform Betty felt closer to her Aunt more so than most of the people back home.

    They shared something that no one else would understand that everyone including Betty would fear.

    That night when they returned home Betty felt warm comfortable she didn't fear her own room it was light and airy.

    She hoped that the darkness was attached to her Aunt and wouldn't follow her or come for her.

    “good night Betty i love you sweet heart”

    “love you to mom”

    Her mother switched the light off on her way out and Betty read till she felt tired then turned her lamp off.

    She lay there listening to the wind out side and the hum of the tv that her her mother was watching she couldn't help but glance to the corner of the room, then gave her self a little shake and closed her eyes. then the whispering started.

    “Betty come back to us your Aunt is here come join us we are never going away”

    The end
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2014
  5. BeckyJean
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    BeckyJean Member

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    The Corner of the Room (3300)

    Journal Entry; 9/17/99

    It’s been a long time. Too long, I know. A lot has happened since my last entry. I’m sorry I’ve neglected keeping you in the loop. Let me start with what’s happening now.

    I’m in Michigan. Have been for three years. I came here with my husband; a man you haven’t heard about yet. His name is Ron.

    Our time here has gone by quickly. We’re about to move to Virginia. I’m thrilled to finally be leaving this place. The packers will arrive in three days. I still have a lot to organize, but I wanted to touch base since it’s been, well… forever.

    Getting stationed here was a miserable event for me. But then living with another man in uniform was, too. That wasn’t my plan – not in a zillion years was it my plan. And that fact has become a sticking point in our many fights.

    Let me catch you up on a few things, though.

    When I met Ron seven years ago he was a different man; ponytail, pierced ears, and his rock n’ roll thin physique perfectly filled out his faded 501’s. He wore a constant five o’clock shadow; very trendy at the time. His shiny black hair was like something from a magazine, and his coal black eyes seemed to see right into my soul.

    Watching him pull into my driveway at the end of each day – clad in his vintage leather jacket riding his red Suzuki crotch-rocket… it was almost more than I could stand. He was the sexiest thing I’d ever seen. He took my breath away. My skin tingled in his presence, my organs trembled… you get the picture.

    Falling in love with him was easy. But that’s what three years in a loveless marriage will get you; a heart too willing to be wooed. I was still young and foolish… late-twenties is still young enough to be foolish in my book.

    My marriage to Jim, the Marine Corps pilot I told you about the last time I wrote (was that nine years ago?) had ended. While with him I’d realized I wasn’t cut out to be a military wife. Didn’t have the DNA for it, even though I grew up a Navy brat and was surrounded by military my whole life.

    Ca la Vie. He got rid of me to marry his mistress after three years anyway, so I guess in the end it didn’t really matter.

    From then on, though, I knew – I would never again date or get involved with another man with what I called a “testosterone laden job”. No policemen, no firemen, and absolutely no military.

    Don’t get me wrong; I know there are good and decent men in the armed forces. I was just done with the life; didn’t want someone telling me where to live, how long to live there. I grew to hate the haircuts, the smell of boot polish and those hideous green tee shirts. The jargon “At ease!” and “Acknowledge?” made me want to puke.

    I wasn’t meant for that life. I was glad to learn this about myself.

    So when Ron crossed my radar he was like a Greek god from another world. He was the antithesis of what I’d known my whole life. His flowing black hair was the complete opposite of the USMC high n’ tight I saw every day. His lithe, agile body was nothing like the muscle-head I’d been married to. His smile could light up a room. My ex would spend the evening making fun of everyone in it. He was the polar opposite of Jim, and I was spellbound, hooked, addicted.

    Our courtship was swift, as often happens when one is swept off their feet. My feet were already floating on air, though. I was anxious to find love, to feel loved. I don’t think I could’ve resisted, even if I’d wanted to. And I didn’t want to.

    I remember when my mother met him. I could tell she was impressed. Who wouldn’t be? He was stunning. Then one day she referred to him as a Casanova. I was floored. What was she saying? That someone like me couldn’t hold onto someone like him? That I wasn’t stunning enough in my own right to keep him loyal to me?

    Probably not what she meant, but was what I heard. And then I promptly pushed it, and all of its meaning aside. To me it was just one more thing my mother said to make me feel shitty. She was brilliant at that; could’ve won medals. I’m sure you remember. We’ve discussed it before.

    I stuffed her comment under a bunch of other things I forgot to remember. Looking back, it was as if the act of loving Ron came with a complimentary set of blinders. I couldn’t see. Or rather; I chose to look the other way. Kind of the same thing.

    I’d shared my feelings about being a military wife. He understood it; said he did, anyway. But when he was later laid off – without my knowledge or consent – he joined the Army, moving us here, sticking me in that role again. He fiercely denies the calculated manipulation of it. But the level of betrayal I feel is profound. It can’t be undone.

    So, these three years in Michigan have been hard. Unhappiness breeds other shit. We’ve both revealed sides of ourselves the other hadn’t seen; my temper, for one. It can be ugly. Big ugly. Mom had a big, ugly temper, too. I lack the emotional intelligence to know how to feel hurt and not strike out. In fact; if I feel vulnerable and wounded, then I am taking you down with me. Your armor, no matter how thick, cannot stand up to my wrath.

    Ron learned this. He didn’t like it. But that’s okay. I’ve learned things I don’t like about him either. Like his allergy toward truth-telling.

    The truly skilled and genius liars have a knack for weaving a little truth in with deceit, like a big ol’ pot of Fib Stew. There’s just enough truth to make it sound plausible. And the lie that’s told sounds like it could be true… maybe it’s true… it probably is true. Because who could come up with such complicated tale to tell?

    Ron could.

    I’ve learned that when faced with doing what’s right, especially if it means feeling shame; Ron will always choose self preservation. I think his conscience must be allergic, too - because good people couldn’t sleep at night, eat their food or smile at their spouse; couldn’t not develop ulcers if they spent their days manipulating those they supposedly love.

    But Ron can.

    Twice I’ve flirted with leaving; one time when I found an old video of him and his ex-girlfriend engaged in bedroom play. True; it was a video made before we were a couple. But what was that shit doing in my house? I screamed, I yelled, I cried… he explained, he apologized. I got over it... which is to say – I tried to.

    Another time, here in Michigan, I got home early and found him coming out of our house with that redheaded girl from work. Seeing them, smiling and laughing, coming out of my house together… I don’t know if anything feels quite like that. You don’t want to look, to watch them in that connected moment of carefree fun, but you can’t look away. At the same time you’re scared they’ll look up and see you seeing them - as the outsider you clearly are. It’s a cauldron of complex, fucked up feelings that make no sense.

    Of course they did see me. And Ron very innocently explained he was just taking her for a motorcycle ride, “because it was such a nice afternoon and I wasn’t home to go with him”, he’d said. As if this was normal, what married men do; have women their wives don’t know snuggled up against them on the back of a bike.

    Ron worked hard on that one; came up with numerous reasons for why it wasn’t what it looked like. The brilliance with which he tied truth to untruth was Oscar worthy. I’m still unsure what really happened. My weakness – as shameful as this is to admit – was that I couldn’t look at it; emotionally, I couldn’t. It would mean I would have to do something… make a move. I wasn’t ready.

    Why, you might ask, does a woman with any semblance of pride, a woman with any dignity stay with such a man? Even I hate that trite, cliché answer too many women give, “Because I love him.” And surprisingly, that’s not why.

    I guess the truth is – I’m afraid. My family’s history is peppered with failed marriages; my father has seven under his belt, and my mother, somewhere around four. If my second marriage fails it means I’ve inherited their curse. I’m doomed to follow in the footsteps of these two very flawed people – people with NO skill for picking a mate. They suck at it. And if I walk away, then clearly I suck at it, too.

    Oh shit, the time! I don’t know why I decided to write when I’m so busy. If I get more time before we leave I’ll write again. Let me just say it’s good to be back. My life feels more real when I have you to tell it to. I’ve missed this.


    Journal Entry ~ 9/22/00

    It’s been a while… almost exactly a year. I should have written sooner. Much has changed. What happened after that last entry – the very next morning... well – here's what happened.

    If you remember, the packers were scheduled to arrive three days from that last entry. There was a lot to do. Stuff was everywhere; junk mail stacked on the counters, old magazines piled next to the toilet, and by our bed; Ron’s almost-clean clothes slung over the chair in the corner of the room.

    He kept his backpack there, too – something never used. It seemed silly he even had one. He wasn’t a student, after all. It just took up space. I decided to ask him if I could give it to Goodwill.

    I was moving it out of the way to reach the tee-shirts behind it when something dropped out; small slips of paper. They scattered, fanning out along the floor. I was gathering them up when I realized they were receipts.

    Then I glanced at one. I saw something that didn’t sound right; the words Nail Art jumped out at me. It had a charge of fifty dollars.

    Ron had just left for the base moments before; it was a fifteen minute drive. A part of me screamed to leave it alone. I called his cell phone instead.

    “Hey,” I said. “I was getting things organized and came across some receipts you might need. One of them said Nail Art, though. What was that for?” There was a slight pause, but only slight.

    “Oh, that! It was for George. He’s been really helpful these last two months. It’s just a thank you,” he told me from his car. George worked with Ron. “It’s a piece of African art I thought he would like for his new apartment.” George was also African American.

    “Oh,” I replied, unable to think of anything else. It sounded like it could be true. “Did he like it?” I asked.

    “Yeah, he did!” Ron’s voice was casual and easy. But something bugged me. That feeling in my gut I’d spent years ignoring was screaming at me. LISTEN, it said.

    “That’s nice. Okay, I’ll see you tonight.” I said coolly. But I had a plan.

    I dialed the office on the base knowing George would answer. He’s always the first one there. He picked up. I made small talk. Then I asked the question. “Oh, how did you like the piece of art we got you? Ron said it’d be perfect for your new place!” I said cheerfully.

    “The what?”

    “You know, that piece of art…?”

    “I don’t know wha…” He paused. The gears were turning. “Oh, that…yeah, I really like it…” he trailed off, sounding stilted, awkward, suddenly desperate to get off the phone.

    “Oh, good. Okay, let Ron know I called, would you?” I said nonchalantly, but my heart was pounding. There seemed to be no oxygen left in the air.

    “Sure,” he said. I hung up and waited. The phone would ring… it was only a matter of minutes, I was sure of it. But first I hurriedly dialed 411 and asked for Detroit’s listing for “Nail Art”. I dialed the number. A foreign voice answered on the other end.

    “Naiw aht,” I heard.

    “Um – yes, is this Nail Art?”

    “Yes! Naiw aht. Can I hep yew?” the foreign voice said.

    “What kind of store are you?” I asked. I had no idea what Nail Art was supposed to mean.

    “Naiw, we do naiw”

    Then it clicked; nail art… fingernail art… art for fingernails.

    Call waiting clicked in. I knew who it was. I told the foreign voice thank you and clicked over.

    “Hey!” Ron said cheerfully, unruffled. “George said you called.”

    I was sure George had told him what I’d asked, but you wouldn’t know it by Ron’s voice. He was right as rain; completely relaxed.

    “I asked him about your gift. He didn’t know what I was talking about.” I could picture his smile; his calm, at ease, maddening smile. “I found out what it is, Ron. It’s a nail salon…” My accusation was clear.

    “Awe, dammit babe!” he laughed. “You totally blew my surprise!” he said, still laughing. “I’d gotten something for you for our trip. Remember how you used to love having your nails done? I got you a surprise for the three weeks before you have to start working again.”

    My current profession prohibited me from having anything but clipped, short fingernails. It was true I had my nails done often when we met; long, red, glossy fingernails. I’d loved them.

    He gave more details. What he said could have been true. Maybe it was true.

    “Oh,” I said again, “Okay.”

    We hung up. I decided to clear out the junk drawer in the kitchen. But then something dawned on me. I called the nail salon back.

    “Naiw aht,” the voice said.

    “Hi. What do you sell that costs exactly $50?” My heart was in my throat. I knew the answer before he said it.

    “Foo set ackqwilick naiw, fity dollah,” he said.

    “No tax?”

    “NO TAX!” the voice yelled.

    My whole world stopped. Everything decelerated, like the end of a carnival ride. Even the blood in my veins slowed. It was like the entire room had been dowsed in hardening wax. I asked again to be sure I’d heard right. He repeated the answer, impatiently this time. Still in shock, I hung up.

    I get how weird it sounds for this, of all things, to have caused such a visceral reaction. Especially after everything I told you in my last entry. But this was somehow more real. A strange woman walking out of my house with my husband should have felt real, but Ron’s explanation that day… his talent for making insane things sound perfectly plausible… it made me look the other way.

    This time there was proof. Unless he’d suddenly decided to start wearing acrylic nails, he was clearly spending money on another woman. And in order to buy what he’d bought, there would’ve had to have been a woman with him to receive it, which meant the next thing.

    Ron was dating… I was the wife of another cheating husband.

    I don’t remember if I sat. I think I just stood there, staring at the chair in the corner of the room…gaping at that backpack that so innocently hid his marital crimes. I know there were multiple crimes because I went through the rest of the receipts; expensive dinners, hundreds spent at stores I didn’t recognize, movie costs clearly for two people.

    Totally disheveled in baggy sweats with my hair in a ratty ponytail – looking every inch the sloppy hausfrau – I drove to his office. I had no plan of what I’d say, what I’d do. I just felt eaten up with desperation; chewed to the core by it.

    I often wonder; what is that grotesque, humiliating part of a woman that practically demands the comfort of denial? What is that frantic need to hold her dysfunctional existence together? It’s like a disease, an emotional tumor. I still don’t get it, but it was me in that moment.

    I arrived at the office, receipts in hand, and walked through the building’s doors, straight to George’s office. I ambushed him; closing the door and trapping him inside. He backed into his desk trying to get away from me, dread stamped all over his face.

    “Tell me… you have to tell me,” I pleaded, “Is Ron having an affair with that redheaded girl?” He looked everywhere but at me.

    “I don’t know. Honest.” I just stared at him. “I would tell you, I swear!” I knew he was lying. Of course he wouldn’t rat out his friend. Guys stick together.

    I walked into the next office; the room where the redhead worked. She had a file-folder gripped so tightly in her fists; it was bent around her fingers, hiding her fingertips. Intentional, I thought – like she’d been warned.

    “Hold out your hands,” I demanded. She hesitated, looking defiant… and scared. “Let me see them!”

    She fanned them out before her; ten brand new acrylic nails, complete with a French Manicure. I gawked at them, gave her a look that could’ve sent her to her grave and left the room.

    I found Ron’s office. He was at his desk talking with some asshole that I couldn’t stand. “We need this room,” I told the asshole. He rolled his eyes, gave Ron a knowing look and left. Ron’s face was grave with worry, as if I were there to tell him some horrible tragedy, like somebody had died.

    “What’s wrong?” he asked, standing anxiously.

    “I know what these are,” I said, and threw the receipts at him. He didn’t look at them, didn’t flinch. “I know you’ve been buying SOME OTHER WOMAN this shit!” I screamed. I screamed like a banshee. I knew how hysterically absurd I sounded. It was mortifying, but I couldn’t stop. I was sure all eyes were aimed at Ron’s office from the other side of the door. I didn’t care, and I always care.

    And then his face did that thing it sometimes did; a thing that scared me… a disturbing thing. The sincere concern simply evaporated and reptile-Ron surfaced. His eyes went dead cold. He slinked down into his chair and crossed his arms. With his head cocked to one side, he looked straight at me. “So?” he said.

    “So?” I balked, incredulous. “So that means you’ve been fucking DATING, Ron!”

    His face never changed. I remember looking at him – truly seeing him. A voice sounded in my head, the voice of Maya Angelou, of all people. ‘When a person shows you who they are – believe them!’ she’d told Oprah one day on her show.

    That was it…the moment. I felt suddenly calm, suddenly relieved, suddenly done… forever done.

    “I’m not moving to Virginia with you,” I told him. I left the building.

    I left him.

    I left that life.

    A year later – single again, surrounded by my dogs – I’m happy. I feel joy again, and cannot describe how grateful I am for that pile of receipts tucked into that backpack in the corner of the room.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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