Story a Day 11: Exact

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Some people are just really fussy, you know?

 

My boss is like that but she calls it being precise.

 

She is always on my case about one thing or another – an e that is imperfectly formed on a handwritten note, a computer cord folded ‘backward’, the juice returned to the fridge in the ‘wrong’ spot, and let’s not even talk about how she corrects my pronunciation of my own name.

 

I am imprecise, or even sloppy, apparently.

 

But I *can* be precise.

 

For instance, for weeks now, I have been melting the precise amount of laxative into her daily hot chocolate. Enough to make her very uncomfortable, but not quite enough for her to suspect that anything untoward is happening.

 

Hmm, maybe I am not precise. Perhaps, when it is really important, I am meticulous.

Story A Day 10 – Chilly

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It was a lot warmer this morning, I swear it was. I left the house in a sundress, I didn’t even bring a cardigan.

It’s mid-afternoon and I’m sitting across from your empty mug in ‘our’ Starbucks. The tears haven’t started yet, but I can feel them gathering.

I have my arms folded, and I’m trying to smooth out the goosebumps with my hands.

It has really gotten cold, hasn’t it?

Story A Day 9: Key

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Even after it all went wrong, I still kept his key.

I guess he thought it would be awkward to ask for it back and I didn’t offer.

It’s funny to think of him worrying that I am going to let myself in at just the wrong time. Frankly, I couldn’t be bothered to open that door again.

I prefer to imagine that the key lets me keep him locked away.

Keys work both ways, you know.

Story A Day #8: Manners

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Apparently, I am getting quite a reputation in town.

Rumour has it that I am angry and unapproachable. That I am just not friendly enough. That I need to smile more.

They say that if I don’t adjust my attitude that I am never going to get a man.

Well, if just one of those assholes had said “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, PLEASE let down your hair.”, things might be different.

But, for now, let me tell you, this tower is looking pretty damn good.

Story A Day 7: Puzzle

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Marion laid the last piece of the puzzle into place. The edges of the red carnation didn’t look like the should match with this vase section but once the picture fit together nicely once she stood back to look at it.

She found that happened with a lot of things, really. When you had a lot of pieces, it seemed like they would never go together, but once you started working from a corner, you could start to see the picture.

That was how she figured out about Mike next door. All the different cars coming and going, the soft laughter that drifted from the open window, the fancy jewelry he bought for Leslie. Once she started putting the pieces together, she quickly understood what she saw.

Leslie had only needed a glimpse to put it all together for herself and then she shouted at Mike for hours.

Marion ended up having to close the window so she could concentrate on her puzzle.

Story A Day 6: Tea

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I add two teaspoons of sugar and ‘just a drip’ of milk. That is the way she has always liked it, with ‘just a drip.’

Every cup of tea I have made her for over forty years has had just a drip of milk.

Back when I thought it was worthwhile to argue about that sort of thing, I used to insist that she couldn’t possible taste a drip of milk. I told her about chemistry, and about proportions, all of the kinds of nonsense a know-it-all kid who turns into a know-it-all adult likes to go on about.

I didn’t know then about the power of the ritual, about how all the parts matter, even if they don’t make much sense.

I put the tea on the wooden tray, the one with the peonies painted on it. ‘All the way from France’ she used to say, even though ‘Made in China’ was stamped on the bottom.

I used to argue about that, too.

Now, I just put the two cups of tea on the tray with the napkins I embroidered in home economics class. I thought they were useless, then, but now I know better.

I carry the tray up the stairs to her room. The sun is across her bed. Her hair a halo on the pillow.

I moved the chair next to her night stand weeks ago, it’s not like it will be in her way.

The tea tray goes on the dresser.

Her tea goes on the night stand to grow cold, the cheerful napkin will be folded perfectly until I take it back downstairs.

My mug is in my right hand, my left hand curls around her fingers where they rest on the quilt.

After all this time, my tears are always silent.

I drink them with my tea.

 

 

© Christine Hennebury, 2018

Story A Day #5: Courage

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I’m lying on my side, curled into a comma. My eyes are squeezed shut, the blanket is over my ear.

I should probably get up. It would be the brave thing to do.

I should get up, go downstairs, and find out what that thunk was.

That would the grown-up approach.

Then I could laugh at the knickknack, picture frame, heavy book that caused me all the distress. I could post it on Instagram, on Twitter. I could get sympathy from all my friends who live alone and who have been terror-struck by a fallen object in the dark. I can picture the likes, the hearts, the long string of comments saying ‘Same.’ The idea gives me courage.

I slow my breathing and uncurl under the blankets. I toss them off and swing my legs over the side of the bed.

I’m an adult, a very capable adult, and I can take care of myself.

I roll my shoulders back. I shift into standing.

I grab my phone from my dresser, flick on the the flashlight. Overhead lights will wake me completely, I don’t want that.

My first step shoots a creaking noise across the floorboards into the hall. I imagine them cracking, like the ice on a pond, disaster imminent.

I hear the voice from downstairs.

He just says, “Oh.”

Story A Day #4: Satisfaction

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Depending on how you looked at it, I was doing what was expected of me.

I started with laying out everything for his breakfast, then I set out his clean clothes.

The bills were next on my list, then I assembled everything I needed to clean the house.

The kids’ homework, a birthday card for his Mom, his shirts to iron. I followed that with the magazines about house decorating, and the latest book about how to find fulfillment in your service to your family.

The evening paper next to a home-cooked meal was the finishing touch.

When I stood back and considered it all, it was quite satisfying.

Setting the pile on fire was more satisfying still.

Story A Day May #3: Buried

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Buried

She replaced the books, the sweaters, the stuffed bear and rabbit that used to sit on her bed. She tucked them all into the wooden trunk with the crocheted blanket her grandmother had made and then closed the lid. The letter was at the bottom, still in the envelope, held in place by the weight of everything she had placed on top.

It was a foolish thing to keep. She knew it was.

She was Pandora, trapping hope in her chest and wishing that it would all somehow work out.

If she didn’t actually answer, there was always that chance.

Story A Day #2: Explorers

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I’m taking part in Story-A-Day May 2018 so I will be posting a piece of flash fiction every day this month. Each 7 days I will have a new theme, this first week the theme is ‘Open’. My interpretation of the theme will be broad.

Explorers

A finger of light from the open door pointed toward them.

It was not an invitation.

Even knowing it was a trap, they didn’t resist.