Short Story: The price of love

Love is stupid. Yeah, I said it. Maybe love makes people stupid, or at least makes sane people do stupid things. Maybe it’s part of it, or all of it, or maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. I used to know, just like everyone’s an expert until you’re mired in something and you realize just how little you know. I just don’t know.

Right now she’s clinging to life on the barest of threads. The doctors say she’ll go at any moment, but they’ve been saying that for almost a week. Experts my ass! It hurts to see her like this, a woman in the prime of her life. She should be living her life, but the irony is that if she were, she wouldn’t be here with me. Like I said, love makes people stupid, me included.

I was never the kind of guy girls noticed. Sure they were nice to me, smiled at me, became my friend. I was, as I later learned, non-threatening. I was safe, the kind of guy they could trust, the guy they could talk to because I was understanding, and kind. I was the kind of nice they all claimed they wanted, but in reality didn’t. I soon came to believe that nice was code for loser.

Then I met Carly. Carly was like the rest of them, except she gave me something no one had ever given me: a chance. We started dating my sophomore year of college. She had broken up with her boyfriend, a star on the basketball team. He was the typical douche athlete, and all the women wanted him, and he obliged, never mind that he had a girlfriend.

So she dumped him and soon started dating me. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I was just a rebound, worse still that she used me to make him jealous. Losing out to a guy like me made him crazy jealous, and I was too blind to see it. She soon dumped me and took him back. I was devastated.

Carly, just so you know, was, in those days, a beauty. The years and her illness have ravaged her, but beneath her withered and pained expression lingers the ghost of her former glory. She was blond, with hazel eyes, pale skin, and the cutest freckles on her nose. She had a magnetic personality, and she could make friends with anyone, even a recluse like me. She drew people to her, a flame pulling in another moth to become her next victim.

She was my first girlfriend, my first grown-up girlfriend, I should say. I had a few summer flings in camp growing up. Hold hands, an awkward peck on the lips, that sort of thing. I lost my virginity with her, fell madly in love with her, and it tore me to shreds being dumped the way she did me. I was just a cog in her plan to win back her dream boy.

I fell to pieces. No one knew it by seeing me. I was so straitlaced that no one would ever have seen my inner turmoil, not that anyone was close enough to have known. I was for all intents and purposes, friendless. I suffered alone. I just turned my attention to my studies to cope.

But I had become obsessed with her, but I just accepted it. What could I do? Even I, for all my naivette, understood that I had no chance to win her back. I could admit defeat and walk away with some vestiges of dignity, or I could pine for some woman who had made a fool of me.

Funny thing is that dating her had made me seem more interesting to some other woman. I began to date. I found a serious girlfriend my junior year, and we dated for almost two years, up until a week before graduation. I found myself as I broadened my horizons, and I found some confidence as I came into my own. I had become a man.

But I never got over Carly.

She would come around every so often, this damned woman. Every time she dumped a guy, or they dumped her, she would come by. I broke off a few relationships because of her, including that serious girlfriend, someone with whom I could have married. I know because she had been hinting at it for months. I loved her in a way, but she wasn’t Carly. She couldn’t compete with her, and she never knew she was competing with her. I did her wrong. I did to her what Carly had done to me, and I regret it.

Carly knew that I was obsessed with her, and she took advantage of it. She used me to boost her ego when she was feeling down. She used me to get over her failed relationships. I was nothing more than a plaything to occupy her time until some more suitable asshole stole her attention.

It went on like this for a couple of years, until the year we became 27. Almost everyone we knew was getting married, having children, settling down. Carly decided it was time to grow up and get with the agenda and get married, so she did, to a guy named Kurt. Just like that, I was cast aside for the last time.

By then I had grown used to it. I was tired of it and it came as a relief. Yes it hurt, and yes I cried, but I was also glad that I could gleam some measure of closure. This cruel game had come to an end, and I could finally move on.

I met a girl, dated, and we became engaged. Everything was going great, until Carly came into the picture to ruin my life one last time. My engagement fell apart, mainly because of Carly, but also because my fiancee was cheating on me with one of my friends, something Carly was all too happy to point out.

Carly’s marriage had fallen apart because her husband wanted a family, and she couldn’t conceive. It was impossible. Uterean cancer had taken her chance of having a family, and with it her hope for the life she had wanted.

The cancer was in remission, she told me, but I think she knew something that she didn’t let on, that the cancer would return, which it did a couple of years later. In the meantime, we rekindled our relationship, and this time it stuck. Carly had become domesticated. Gone was the wild girl I had fallen in love with. Her love was subdued, tamed, and I think it was because she knew she was dying soon.

We got married as soon as the ink from her divorce had dried. At thirty-one I had my dream woman, but I could sense that it was not going to last. Her fire had been extinguished, and she no longer felt the need to lead me on. I knew she was using me again, and because I was so in love with her, I let her, and I let her to this day.

She came back not because she loved me, but because I loved her. She knew no one would take her. Carly was damaged goods. Those are her words, by the way, not mine. She didn’t want to die, and though the doctors had told her that her cancer was gone, she felt that they were wrong.

After four years of marriage, the cancer came back. This time there was nothing to be done. It had spread to her lungs, her kidneys, her brain. It was attacking her, killing her slowly, and no chemotherapy, no radiation, could save her.

Now, a week before our fifth anniversary, she lays in our bed, a hospice worker coming in daily to check up on her, and a nurse does as well. She didn’t want to die alone and she knew I would take her back.

I hate myself for letting her do this to me, but I am powerless. I’ve come to believe that I don’t really love her. I think I’m obsessed with her as the woman I couldn’t hold on to, Now that I have her, I’ve come to see that I don’t love her like I thought I did. Even so, I never walked away. I’m a nice guy after all. I ended up with the girl, though not in the way I might have wanted, but I have her. Til death do us part. I just wish I hadn’t had to find a way to give her cancer to make her come back to me. I wish I didn’t need to kill her to keep her from leaving me again.

She’ll never know that my work with cancer was never to find a cure, but to learn to manipulate it, to weaponize it. She’ll never know, and soon, she’ll never know anything again.

Love is stupid? Maybe, but love turned me into a monster, and I’ll never be nice again.

 


Short Stories

Next story –
Previous story – Porcelain

 

Short Story: Porcelain

“I’m getting wet!” The sound of the little boy’s whining set the Enzo Bousquet on edge. Why he agreed to look after the little brats, he didn’t know. Well, he mused as he opened his umbrella to shelter the boy, he knew quite well. The family’s fortune was in decline. Tastes in fashion were changing, and though his father was once renowned for his skill in dressing the elites in the city, fashion left him behind. The rich moved on to more fashionable tailors, while his father was left scrounging for business. Once, when Enzo was a child, his father commanded a hefty fee for his work. Now, well Enzo was reduced to babysitting.

“Under here, boy,” Enzo commanded with a strained smile. The girl followed her brother, but Enzo didn’t notice. She was a peculiar child, especially for a girl. She didn’t say much, but Enzo suspected there was more to her than just a shy disposition. She had a knowing look to her. She noticed everything, which made him feel uneasy.

“I thought you were taking us to the theater,” the boy growled. “Mama told us you were taking us to the theater.”

“And so I shall, young Rene” Enzo replied through gritted teeth, “but first we must get you settled in. You will be staying with me until your parents return from London. I have one room for each of you. You will find your lodging satisfactory.”

“Humph!” The boy stomped down the street, making sure to jump into every puddle, clearly enjoying the annoyance he was causing his temporary caretaker. The girl followed behind, almost a shadow to the man. She said nothing, did nothing, except clutch a porcelain doll with hollow eyes. The chill morning did nothing to dampen her spirits. She didn’t complain. There seemed to be no emotions from the girl.

“Come!” Enzo commanded the boy, who turned with a look of annoyance, but obeyed nonetheless. “First, we will put your things away, then have a quick bite to eat. Then we shall go to the theater. I have a friend who will act in the production this afternoon. He really is a sight to behold.”

“You have a friend who’s an actor?” Rene scoffed, thinking the association a bad recommendation on his caretaker’s reputation. He made a mental note to tell that to his father, that this man associates with the dregs of society.

“I consider many people to be my friend,” Enzo replied, knowing what the younger was thinking. In my line of work, I deal with many people, from the lowly servants to those in the highest echelons of power. What do I care so long as they can pay for my services?”

“And what is it that you do?” Rene asked in his sniveling tone.

“I do what I must,” he responded. “A jack of all trades, I suppose. My father was a tailor, formerly a soldier in the war. My mother came from nobility, though her family fell on hard times, and she took to tutoring the children of the president, until she married my father. I learned from the best, though I apprenticed with none. I joined the army, became a sous-lieutenant before an injury left me unable to continue. I’ve acted, cooked, become a banker. I worked for your father for a time, years before you were born. As much as there can be friendship between us, I consider him such.”

“I think you’re a buffoon,” Rene scorned. “A sad little clown without a circus. You’re almost as useless as a woman. Worse than that thing following us.”

“That’s a horrible thing to say,” the girl spoke up. “Useless as a woman? You’re the one who’s useless. What a terrible thing to say to our friend.”

“Thank you,” Enzo said, startled at her quiet defense. Until now, he was unsure if she could even speak. She only murmured unintelligibly at the doll, stroking its silk hair. That she should speak up defiantly against her brother struck him as ominous, though he couldn’t figure out why.

“Oh, letting little girls defend you now? You’re pathetic.”

“In here,” Enzo ignored the jibe, instead opening an ornate iron door. The dwelling was small, at least to what the children were accustomed to. Rene looked around and sneered, but Mathilde looked around dreamily, her eyes alight with excitement and expectation.

“This place is smaller than our servant’s quarters.” Rene spat maliciously. “I demand you take us somewhere better. Take us home.”

“You’re father left you in my care,” Enzo sighed, regretting that he agreed to watch the brats for what amounted to nearly a years wage. “You are to remain here for the next two months, or until your parent’s return from London.”

“This place is wonderful,” Mathilde mused in a singsong tone. “Isn’t it Celia?”

“Celia?” Enzo asked

“That stupid doll,” Rene growled. “Give me that!” He made to tear the doll out of his sister’s arms, but Mathilde parried his attempt with a swipe of her arm. Rene tried again, but this time Mathilde grabbed her brother’s arm, twisted it, and shoved him into the wall. “Let go of me!”

“Not until you apologize to Celia,” Mathilde informed her brother harshly. “I won’t tolerate that kind of disrespect, and neither will Celia.”

Enzo looked on, unsure of whether he should intervene, but the look on the girl’s face had morphed into something else. She no longer looked like the innocent little girl that had walked quietly behind him. Her face looked bestial, feral, almost demonic. Her eyes looked almost as hollow as the dolls eyes had been.

“Let go of me!” Rene said, this time pleading, his eyes tearing up. “You’re going to break my arm! Please stop!”

“Let him go,” Enzo said calmly, gently touching Mathilde on her shoulder. “And Rene, apologize.”

“I’m sorry,” Rene cried. “Please, I’m sorry!”

“That wasn’t all that hard, was it?” Mathilde gave a tinkling laugh, her face returning to normal as she released Rene. “Where’s my room, Monsieur Bousquet?”

“What? Oh, it’s up the stairs. Follow me. You too, Rene.”

Enzo climbed the flight up to the next floor. “You will sleep here, Rene,” Enzo pointed to the room on the left. “Mathilde, you will have this room here,” he pointed to the door on the right.

“Where do you sleep?” Mathilde inquired.

“At the end of the corridor,” Enzo replied, unnerved by the seemingly innocent question. “You’re things are already in your room. Change and we will leave in an hour.”

Enzo waited for the children to walk into their room before retiring to his. He sat at a small desk he had tucked away in the corner and waited. He tried to push the memory from his mind, but the look on Mathilde’s face seemed to be burned into his mind. There was something inhuman to her, and he wondered if….

He stood up and strode to a cabinet where he stashed his personal correspondences, ruffled through several folders, until he found what he was looking for, a letter from Monsieur Astier, the children’s father. He returned to his desk, sat down, and began to read.

We must depart at once, and with all due haste. Faustine is having nightmares, insisting that my sweet Mathilde is possessed by the devil. I have no use for that nonsense. Why did our fathers fight for over a century ago, to rid ourselves of the oppression of the crown and the subjugation to the papacy? No! Devils indeed!

I shall take my dear Faustine to London, to a colleague of mine who has begun to dabble with the study of the human mind. He believes he can help her. Perhaps the stresses of raising children is too much for her, or perhaps losing her father in that horrific fire last year has taken its toll. We inherited everything in his inventory, sold what could be salvaged, except for a doll that Mathilde has grown fond of. Maybe….

Enzo set the letter down, his brows furrowed in concentration. Possessed by the devil. That’s what she believed. Could it be? Could such a thing be possible? He didn’t believe in such things, but all the same, he was haunted with the belief in Mother Church, forced to take the sacraments by his overbearing mother until he was old enough to refuse to take part in that superstition.

But witnessing what he saw, what if it wasn’t superstition? What if the devil was real? Satan, Lucifer, the Morningstar? What if he was real? What if he could possess the body of mortals? What if Mathilde was being influenced by the Prince of Darkness?

He shook his head and laughed. Certainly it was a trick of the light, or else he was tired, or hungry. He had missed his morning respite in his haste to pick up the children. His mind was playing tricks on him. Perhaps he needed to see this colleague of Monsieur Astier.

There was a bloodcurdling scream out in the corridor. Enzo jumped from his chair, raced to the door, and threw it open. Rene was pinned to the wall again, his feet dangling a foot from the ground, Mathilde grabbing him with one hand by the neck. Again, her face was demonic, and a power radiated from her being, and it hit Enzo in waves, like heat from the furnace, except many times more powerful.

“What’s this?” Enzo demanded, terror clutching at his heart.

“He insulted Celia again,” Mathilde replied, her voice harsh, lower than it should be. “There shall be no forgiveness this time.”

“No! Wait!” Enzo cried, not daring to get closer, but inching forward all the same. “Please, you don’t have to do this. Let’s talk this through. Can you put him down? Will you at least look at me?”

Mathilde turned her head, and her eye sockets were empty causing Enzo to screech in terror. “Mon Dieu!”

Mathilde laughed as she threw Rene to the ground like a ragdoll, a cold, mirthless laugh. Enzo looked around, wishing he had a Crucifix or Holy Water, or anything. He caught sight of the porcelain doll on the ground, and what he saw made his heart falter for a moment.

Enzo fell back, unable to speak, mortally afraid for the first time in all his life, pleading to a God he didn’t believe in until now. Mathilde’s eyes were staring back at him from Celia’s porcelain face, pleading to him, begging to be released from her imprisonment.

“I know you’re heart’s desire, Enzo Bousquet. You fancy yourself a lady’s man? You love to bed with wives of those you call friends and patrons. Why don’t you show me what you can do!”


Short Stories

Next story – The price of love
Previous story – Roadtrip

Short Story: Roadtrip

He kept his eyes resolutely locked on the sign ahead, ignoring what was happening outside. “Aren’t you done yet?” he asked.

“Don’t look!” she cried out. In spite of himself, he looked out the passenger-side window, but all he could see was the top of her head. A few moments later, she stood up, pulling her pants up at the same time. He hastily turned his attention to the Deer X-ing sign ahead.

“Were you peeking?” She inquired as she zipped up her pants.

“I’m not into watching girls pee,” he laughed. “And watch out for the puddle.”

“What? Shit!” She cried out, looking at her shoes.

“Great,” he laughed again. “The car’s going to smell like pee the rest of the trip.”

“You distracted me,” she pouted as she slid back into the passenger seat.

“You could have told me sooner, that you needed to go. There was a rest stop about fifteen miles back.”

“I didn’t need to go then.”

“Really?” He shook his head as he stepped on the accelerator pulled back onto the road. “You didn’t need to go then, but ten minutes later you had me pull over so you could pee on the side of the road?”

“Whatever,” she groaned. He chortled quietly for a few seconds before restarting the audiobook they had been listening to. They rode together for several miles in quiet companionship, he focused on the road ahead while she looked out the window, enjoying the sight of the trees and the snowcapped mountains in the distance.

“I don’t want to be in a relationship,” she announced suddenly, keeping her gaze on the passing landscapes.

“What?”

She hit pause and the car became silent, save for the sound of the tires on the asphalt road, and the roar of the engine. “I said, I don’t want to be in a relationship.

“I wasn’t aware you were considering it,” he deadpanned, smirking slightly as he said it.

“Smart ass,” she grumbled. He laughed again.

“Where is this coming from?” He inquired, curious as to why she decided to revisit the old conversation yet again.

“Because I know you,” she shrugged. “I know you want us to be a couple.”

“I suppose,” he replied, “but I’m okay with how things are.”

“Are you really?” She asked, skeptically.

“For reals, I am. I know you’re not ready for anything, and truth be told, I’m not very good at them, either. All my previous attempts ended badly for me. I suck at being a boyfriend.”

“I don’t think you suck at anything. I think you’re just a little too insecure.”

“Wouldn’t you be,” he grumbled, “if you were cheated on by every person you’ve been with?”

“I have, for the most part, been cheated on,” she added when she caught side of his quizzical look. “No one values honesty and fidelity anymore.”

“I do,” he muttered unhappily.

“I know you do,” she replied soothingly, patting his arm, “and so do I, but are we really a fit for each other, or are we misfits that found each other and we just settled?”

“I think we click because we get each other,” he said pensively. “We understand each other, and we’re a match for each other intellectually. Frankly, I think you’re just a shade smarter than I am.”

“Guys hate it that I’m smarter than they are. They don’t get me and it intimidates them.”

“But I’m not most guys, and I’m attracted to you because of your intellect.”

“Most guys just like my ass,” she guffawed.

“You do have a nice ass,” he admitted. “Hey, I might have looked at time or two!” He added defensively. “I might like your body, but I love your mind and your soul. I love our conversations. I’ve never had anyone quite like you. I enjoy your companionship.”

“But you want more, don’t you?”

“You know I do,” he confessed. “I think we’re good for each other, but I understand you hesitation. That’s why I don’t push it. You don’t want to be hurt again.”

“Yeah, but it’s more than that. I don’t want to hurt you. I love you too much for that.”

“I know you do,” he nodded. “That’s why I’m content to let things be the way they are. I love you too, and I’d rather keep the status quo rather than to force something that isn’t there. I’d rather keep you as a friend than to see you go as an ex-girlfriend. I can’t see myself without you. My life’s better with you in it.”

“Mine too,” she sighed. “But I do think about it. About us. I wonder if maybe there’s something there.”

“I think there might be, but I don’t want to rush it. I think if something’s going to happen, it will eventually. If not, then I have a great friend in my life.”

“But you want to sleep with me.”

“I wouldn’t mind if our friendship came with some benefits,” he admitted with a mischievous smile. “I’d be okay with the occasional cuddle in front of the television.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad,” she nodded. She looked out the window and noticed a few deer lingering along the tree line.  “There’s a lot of them,” she said.

“What?”

“Deer. It’s getting dark and I’m seeing more and more deer coming out.”

“My uncle likes to come out here and hunt deer.”

“Barbaric,” she huffed before smiling. “Mom makes a mean venison roast. Dad used to hunt.”

“You’re changing the subject, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. I’m just confused about us, I guess.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he took his eyes off the road for a moment to look at her. “Let’s keep it the way it is and see….”

“Look out!’ she screamed.

He looked back on the road as a couple of deer leaped onto the road. He jerked the steering wheel to the right, trying to avoid hitting the buck but hit him, causing him to lose control. The car skidded into the ditch and missed hitting a tree by less than a foot.

He looked over to see her leaning forward, her head bleeding and a the passenger window shattered but not broken.

“Lana!” He cried. “Lana!”

“Fuck,” she moaned.

“Are you okay?”

She moaned again but didn’t say anything else.

He pulled out his cellphone and dialed 911.

“Dean?” she moaned in a pained voice.

“Yeah?”

“I love you, man. Just remember that, okay. I love…you.”

“I love you, too. Are you okay?”

“Yeah. No,” she shook her head slightly. “My head hurts.”

“The ambulance is on its way.”

“How’s the car?”

“Screw the car. How are you?”

“Been better,” she smiled weakly, her eyes unfocused. “I think I’ll be okay.”

“You better be. I don’t want to lose you. Not like this. Not at all.”

“You won’t lose me. I promise. I’m yours.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I know it’s the truth.” Lana waited for him to respond, but after waiting for a few moments she turned to see if he was okay. “Dean? You okay?”

“I’m…not…sure,” he groaned. “I’m feeling…funny.”

“Ambulance is here,” she said, seeing the flashing red and blue lights. “It’s going to be okay. Don’t leave me, okay?”

“I promise,” he said weakly, his strength failing. I’m yours, too.”


Short Stories

Next story –
Previous story – Fortitude

Short Story: Fortitude

I’ve always admired those who possess an inner strength, a source of conviction in themselves that sees them past the dark moments in their lives. My mother had it when she kicked that bastard of a father of mine when she caught him cheating on her with the neighbor’s daughter, my former babysitter. I witnessed it firsthand when my sister’s husband was sent to Afghanistan, returning in a flag-draped casket.

My grandfather displayed a quiet sort of courage when my grandmother was diagnosed with ALS, staying by her side as her physical strength failed her. He helped her around until the moment she was bedridden. Cleaned out her trach when she was put on a respirator. I saw him feed her through a g-tube in her stomach, changed her diaper, sponged her clean and combed her hair. He never complained, even as he saw the love of his wife succumb to the disease, dying finally of respiratory failure shortly after their forty-ninth wedding anniversary.

I’ve seen so many examples of courage, and I envy them that strength for it’s something I lack. I was born a coward. I don’t know how else to say it. I’m weak. I’m pathetic. I’m that guy no one likes because I can always be counted on to slink back into the shadows when it counts, and I hate myself for my own weakness.

I have a 9mm in front of me, next to the half-empty fifth of Jack. I just stumbled back into my hotel room, a trailed by the ice I spilled as I came back, locking the door behind. I downed the tumbler in one gulp, threw a handful of ice and splashed another measure into my cup, drowning myself in licor, wallowing in my dispair. I’ve been in tears for the past few days, hiding here, ignoring the constant calls and texts on my phone.

Rejection is something I’ve never learned to deal with. I’m not talking about getting shot down by somebody, or not getting something I wanted. I’m speaking of falling in love and having my heart ripped out of my chest. The kind of heartbreak that makes you want to kill and seek revenge. I had experienced it a couple of times before, and tried to kill myself both times, but I was discovered by my mother at the last moment, and locked in some psych hospital until I got over my suicidal thoughts.

That’s when I learned how to deal with it. I learned to read the signs, learned to read the body language of my lovers. I learned to anticipate when they were done with me and I learned to steel myself and dump them first. There was something satisfying in seeing them begging me to stay, eyes shot red with tears, their egos unable to cope with being dumped, even when they were already planning on dumping me.

It was a rejection of a sort, but I took control, and that made the difference, I think. But this? I could never have predicted it. It was a wholly different sort of rejection. She still loved me, or she said so countless times as I ran from the room. I heard her sobbing on each message she left on my phone. I heard her heart cracking in her voice, but I didn’t give a shit. She broke me first.

I had left town for a few days, my job sending to negotiate a contract with some  son of a bitch with deep pockets and a need for a new supplier. The negotiations went quicker than I had anticipated and came home a day early. I didn’t tell my fiance, wanting to surprise her. Instead, I was the one who was surprised when I heard her upstairs, recognizing the sounds of her moans in the throes of ecstasy. I hoped she was playing with herself, like she usually did, several times a day in fact, but I didn’t think so. I recognize her every moan and grunt, with me and when she plays with herself. This was different.

A slunk upstairs, praying not to see her in bed with some other guy, and my prayers were answered in a fashion. Instead of another man, I found my sister’s face buried between her legs, my fiance’s eyes rolled back. Nothing could have prepared me to see my naked sister, her ass in the air, mocking me as she went down on the woman I loved. I must have made some sound as what I saw hit me in the gut, and I sobbed as my heart fell into the pit of my stomach. My sister turned in horror as she saw me and tried to cover herself, but I didn’t have eyes for her. My eyes were locked onto the woman I had allowed myself to fall in love with, though I had long promised myself never to allow myself that unfortunate weakness.

But I had, and here I am, drunk and wishing I had the courage to either face the world after being humiliated by my once fiance and that bitch of a sister, or put the barrel down my throat and pull the trigger. Pills and drink won’t do this time, nor will cutting my wrists. It has to be the gun and the one bullet with my expiration date written on the casing. I want the pain to end.

It’s been two days and no one knows where I am. I parked my car and hitched a ride out of town, taking only the gun I keep on me at all times. I paid for the room with cash, and everything else for that matter. I didn’t want a way for anyone to track me. I don’t want to be found. I just want it all to end.

I’ve played with the gun, running my fingers down the barrel, caressing the potential instrument of my dispatchment with loving strokes, before setting it down and picking up my Jack again. Two days of toying with my eminent death, wondering whether or not I can do it, but not wanting to face the world mocking my embarrassment. The pain is too much to bear.

I jumped to my feet as I heard voices outside the door, picking up the gun to protect myself. “Johnny?” I heard my mother’s frantic voice pleading to me from the other side of the door. “Are you in there?” I shrank back as she pounded on the door. “Please open up! Don’t do this to me!”

How did they find me, I wondered. I put the gun into my mouth, tears streaming down my face. All I need was one moment of courage to ease myself into oblivion. Let the others worry about cleaning up the gore I leave behind. No one gave a damn about the mess they put me in. One moment is all. All that’s left is to pull the trigger. My whole body shakes with anticipation and fear. Either this or a lifetime of dealing with the aftermath of their betrayal.

I close my eyes as someone breaks down the door and they rush in. Now or never, courage and strength and the eternal darkness. Now or never….


Short Stories

Next story – Roadtrip
Previous story – Nice Guy

Short Story: Nice Guy

Lance sat alone, stirring his Jack and Coke with his finger, gazing morosely at the clock above the bar. He would have preferred to have stayed home, not wanting to meet the woman whom had already kept him waiting almost half an hour, but she had begged and pleaded until at last, in exasperation, he gave in. He regretted his weakness.

After waiting another five minutes, Vanessa finally showed up, looking slightly harried, but otherwise unapologetic for being more than thirty minutes late. She walked to the table and waited for him to acknowledge him, but he continued to play with his drink. Finally she cleared her throat. “Lance?” she said inquiringly.

“Vanessa,” he retorted flatly, keeping his eye resolutely on his drink. “Have a seat, I guess.”

She waited for him to stand, thinking he would at least do that one gentlemanly duty that common courtesy demanded, but seeing that he had no intention to do anything but keep his attention focused on the glass in his hand, she pulled the seat out and sat down.

“Thanks for agreeing to see me. I thought for sure you’d turn me down.”

“I did,” he grumbled, “repeatedly. I only agreed to shut you up.”

“Oh,” she look embarrassed. “Sorry.

He shrugged. He finally looked up at her, and the years had taken their toll. It had been more than fifteen years since they last met, and he remembered it well. They had been on a few dates over the course of a few months, and he adored her. For her part, she pretended to be interested in him, at least until he arrived.

Kenny was his polar opposite. While Lance was academic, Kenny was athletic. Lance was artistic and Kenny was unimaginative. Lance was quiet, shy, and introverted, and Kenny was loud and the life of the party. Lance had trouble finding a woman to date while Kenny had women begging for his attention.

Lance didn’t give him much thought, though he should have. She had dated him a few times, but he tried not to let it get to him. They weren’t exclusive, yet. That last time he saw her, he had wanted to get her to agree to go steady, which he later regretted as well. They hadn’t even slept with each other. He had barely gotten a swift kiss good night. He discovered later from a friend that Vanessa had slept with him even before they had gone on their first date.

“I like you, Lance,” he remembered her telling him. “You’re a nice guy, a real sweetheart, but you’re too good for me. You deserve better.”

The seemingly gentle rejection still rankled, even all that time. How many times had he been called a nice guy but some girl rejecting him? A dozen? More? He had lost count even before going out with Vanessa. After her, well he had about given up.

Her relationship with Kenny had been volatile from the start. He drank too much, cheated on her, and rumor had it, he had physically assaulted her a few times. Still, after a few months they married, and she had two kids with him before leaving him after he had tried to strangle her in a fit of rage.

Then came Karl, who was of the same mold as Kenny. Then there was James, Freddie, and too many more too keep track. Lance hadn’t wanted to know, but his friend kept bringing her up, unaware that he was digging the knife further into his gut, and pouring salt into the still gaping wound.

“Are you listening to me?” Vanessa asked, breaking into his dark thoughts.

“What? Oh, yeah,” he stammered before asking, “What were you saying?”

“I was asking you what you had been up to? I can’t believe you’re still single. I would have thought someone would have snatched you up ages ago. You’re such a nice guy. A real catch.”

He shrugged. “That’s the thing about being such a nice guy, I suppose. No one wants one. They all rather date abusers and rapists and the like. I’m done being the nice guy no one wants, so I gave up. Haven’t really dated in years. I don’t see the point.”

“Don’t be like that,” Vanessa scolded him. “I don’t see why anyone would reject you for being a nice guy.”

“You did,” Lance said, barely containing his rage. “So has just about ever other bitch I tried to date. Might as well have called me a fucking unlovable loser. It would have been more honest.”

Vanessa sighed. “You need to stop this. You’re not….”

“What the hell do you want?” Lance interrupted her.

“What?”

“You begged to see me. I want to know why.”

“So were’re not going to catch up?”

“You lost you chance by being over thirty minutes late. Now, what the fuck do you want?”

She looked annoyed by his rude behavior but shook it off. With difficulty she looked at him, and replied. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?”

“Yes, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have rejected you. Truth is, I thought you were cute and a great guy, but I was stupid, and naive, and I thought I wanted something more.”

“What do you mean by something more?”

“No offence, but I thought you were safe, and maybe even a little boring.”

“Oh, why should that fucking offend me?” Lance scowled before gulping down his drink in one go.

“I said I was sorry,” Vanessa said weakly, tears welling up in her eyes. “I was wrong. He wasn’t exciting. Kenny was an abusive prick. He was a lying, cheating, manipulative alcoholic. He almost killed me and the kids several times before I worked up the courage to get away.”

“Yeah, and straight to another abusive prick’s bed.”

“You don’t have to be so rude!”

He shrugged and began to play with the fresh drink the bartender set before him. “Is that it? You’re sorry? Kind of a waste of time, if you ask me.”

“No, there was more, but under the circumstances.”

“Oh-ho! There’s more! Then pray tell, what could be so important that you would want to see me after all these years?”

“I was hoping, maybe, to make up for a mistake.”

“What mistake could that be?”

“Not choosing you in the first place.”

He glanced up and scrutinized her. There was no hint of anything but sincerity in her tone and demeanor. It didn’t surprise her. He had expected it the moment she called him. He knew it was coming and had never hoped so hard to be wrong.

“I liked you, and I know that I could have loved you, but I was young and stupid. I chose excitement over stability. I preferred flash over substance. I’ve suffered for years because of it. I want to make it right.”

“How?”

“I know it’s a long shot, but I never got over you. Not really. You are my biggest regret. You’re the one I wanted to be with, the one I wish I could have married. I knew it the moment me an Kenny got together.”

“And yet you married him.”

“I know,” Vanessa squirmed.

“And then you went out with one loser after another,” Lance continued bitterly.

“I know,” Vanessa replied uncomfortably.

“And you expect me to believe that you wanted to be with me the entire time? You wanted to be with me, but how many did you fuck in the meantime? Yeah, one after another, but here I was, alone, with no fucking prospects, because I’m some fucking noble loser nobody wants. Yeah, you wanted me alright. You wanted me so much that you slept though half the town.”

“Yeah, I did,” she snapped angrily. “I did, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want you. I was so ashamed of my actions, and too proud to say I’m sorry. I knew I hurt you. I couldn’t get the memory of the way you looked at me the last time we met, and I couldn’t forgive myself. I fucked up, okay? I loved you and I let that slip though my fingers because I was too stupid to realize the truth.”

“And what? You think this makes up for anything? It doesn’t. Not by a long shot. If you’re hoping for some tearful reunion, you can go fuck yourself. Everyone else has. Well, everyone but me.”

“You’re such an ass. What happened to you? You changed.”

“What happened?” Lance laughed. “What happened is you. You and all the other bitches like you, that’s what happened. Nice guy, huh? Fuck you. I’m done being nice. If no one wants me, well dammit, I’ll give you an even better reason to not want me. Fuck you. Fuck all of you.”

“And I thought, maybe we could at least be friends.”

“Don’t. Don’t pretend to give a shit. I know the real reason you’re here.”

“Oh? And what is that.”

“You were hoping I was stupid enough to take you in.”

“What gave you that ridiculous idea?”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s the cancer currently killing you. Yeah,” he leaned in, a sneer appearing on his face, “I know all about it. You’re dying and you have no one to take care of you. No one wants you. You don’t really have much of a reputation left to salvage. Town skank isn’t really much to trade on, especially with death looming over you. No one wants you. I know I don’t.”

Vanessa blanched as she straightened up. “Who told you?”

“I have my ways. Don’t think that just because I no longer live in town that the gossip doesn’t reach my ears. You’re only here because you’re dying. I’m your last resort. That’s all I am, so don’t insult me by pretending otherwise. You didn’t care about me then, and you don’t care about me now. Goodbye.”

“That’s it? Goodbye?”

“That’s it. I won’t good guy you like you did me. No, I’ll tell you the truth. You’re beneath me. I’ll agree with you, that I deserve better than you, not that I’ll ever find anyone. Better alone than be some bitch’s no other choice. Goodbye.

***

The next morning Lance was woken by a phone call. “Hello,” he yawned.

“What the fuck happened last night?” A female’s voice came on the other line, sounding frantic.

“Melanie?”

“Who else? What happened with Vanessa?”

“What makes you think something happened with her?”

“Because, they just found her.”

“Who found her?”

“Her parents. They found her in the garage, with her children, dead. The drugged them, and then herself, turned on the car with the garage door down, and killed herself and the kids. What the hell happened?”

“I refused to take her back.”

“You what?”

“She wanted to meet, hoping I would take her back. She thought I was stupid enough to forget that she rejected me, and forget the parade of men she ran through after her marriage ended. She though I’d take her in just to watch her wither away and die. Fuck that!”

“Yeah, okay, but you understand that she’s dead?”

“Yeah, so?”

“So? Are you really that callous that her suicide doesn’t affect you?”

“Maybe I am. She killed herself. I didn’t do it. Why should I care?”

“Because, she murdered her children.”

“They’re not mine. I mean it’s sad, I guess, but they’re not mine. What should I feel sad? She didn’t give a damn about me.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

“Whatever. I’m going back to sleep. I had a long night.”

He didn’t wait for a response before hanging up. He smiled. She was dead. Of course, she hadn’t killed herself, but at least people were believing it. It had taken a while to convince her that he was sorry, and to get her to let him in. From there, it was a simple matter of drugging her first, and then the kids, with allergy medication and sleeping pills, carrying them to the car, and turning it on.

He had been a nice guy once, but something had broken long ago, something her arrival stirred up. No, she hadn’t loved him, and damn her for thinking he’d let her waltz back into her life when she had nowhere else to go. Revenge was sweet, a delicacy to savor. Whatever happens next, he knew that he’d never be a nice guy again, and began to wonder who he could do in next.


Short Stories

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