Short story: Secrets

Molly sat stunned by the revelation. She had known there was something not quite right between her and the man she had planned on marrying. Was she still planning on marrying him, or would she call it off and take the chance on finding someone new?

Across from her sat Steven, his hands clasped together, his elbows resting on his knees as he leaned forward, more to support himself than to be nearer to her. His hands shook slightly, but the worst was over for him. He had purged his greatest secret. All he could do now was wait.

Was he a he? Molly glanced at Steven. A she? An it? It was all too confusing. What was it that was creating this gender confusion? Was it something in the air? In the water? In the food? Was it the chemicals that industry and government was purported to be pumping into the populace? Or was it simply a matter of time, of the community believing it was time to stop living in the shadows.

She didn’t know. She didn’t care. Molly never thought of herself as a homophobe. She had many gay and lesbian friends. Her own brother was bi, though he wasn’t exactly out to everyone. Even she had dabbled with women a couple of times in college. She didn’t see anything wrong with it. It was a simple matter of wanting an experience, one she was happy to have had the opportunity to take advantage of.

This, however, was something completely different. She had been to the drag shows. She had been friendly, if not really friends, with a few drag queens. They were different, a group of men mimicking women for the entertainment of an audience.

Was that what Steven was? She didn’t know. Steven claimed it wasn’t. It wasn’t a fetish or some other cheap sexual thrill. “I’m supposed to be a woman,” he said unsteadily, terrified of sharing his secret. “I can’t in good conscience allow us to get married with this hanging over us. I won’t do that to you. To us.”

“Does that mean you’re planning on having a sex change?” Molly asked, not wanting to know the answer, but needing to know it as well.

“I don’t really know,” Steven shrugged. “I mean I haven’t dressed up in ages. I don’t want to be some creepy guy in a dress,” he tried in vain to joke. He cleared his throat. “I just know that I’m miserable and depressed, and my therapist believes it’s related to me being transgender. Whether or not I transition is still kind of in the air, but….”

“But you’re preparing me for it, just in case?”

Steven nodded.

Molly stood up and walked away, stopping short of leaving the room. She didn’t know what to do. Should she stay? Should she cut her losses and walk away? Though they have been dating for almost two years, their engagement is only a few weeks old. They hadn’t even begun planning for the wedding. Now she knew the wedding would have to be put on hold for now, at least until she knew what she was dealing with.

“I never wanted this,” Steven said quietly. “I never did. “That’s why I never dated anyone. I didn’t want to be put in this position. I didn’t want to put anyone through it.”

“So why did you ask me out?” Molly cried. “Why me?”

“You asked me, if you remember,” Steven smiled. “I resisted for months.”

“And I refused to take no for an answer,” she chuckled darkly. “I never knew enough to just let things go. Where does this leave us?”

“It leaves us with a decision, I guess,” Steven smiled sadly. “Either we stay together, or we break up. Either we accept that I may become a woman, or rather that I accept that I am a woman, or refuse and watch me become more and more depressed. I mean, I’ve been close to just ending things several times.”

“Do you mean breaking up with me or…?”

“I mean killing myself. It’s exhausting to live a lie, and my life has been a lie since I was old enough to learn to act my part. I’m kind of done pretending. I’m done playing the part of Steve.”

“Does she – do you have a name?”

“I’ve always been partial to Victoria,” Steven admitted.

“I would have thought you would have choses Stephanie,” Molly teased.

“I never liked the name,” Steven confessed. “I want a clean break from this identity, a new start.”

“It sounds like you have already made up your mind.”

“No, but I guess I’m leaning towards a decision.”

“And that’s why we’re here.”

“Yeah.”

“I can’t make any promises,” Molly sighed. “I wanted a family. How does that affect your, well, your swimmers?”

“Already ahead of you. I have an appointment at the sperm bank next week, just in case.”

“You’re doing this, aren’t you.”

“Probably, but I’m not a hundred percent. Not yet.”

“I’m with you,” Molly walked back and fell onto the couch next to Steven. “I’m here, and I’ll support you regardless. I can’t promise I’ll want to get married, but, I’ll be here.”

“Thank you.” Steven relaxed. “That’s more than I expected.

“It’s the least I can do,” Molly shrugged.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean you stood with me when I had my health scare last year.”

“I don’t think it’s the same thing.”

“Maybe not, but we’ll just have to see where this goes.”


Short Stories

Next story – The raging storm
Previous story – The price of love

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 – Secrets
Previous story – Porcelain

 

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

Hours to go

Nanowrimo starts in a little less than five hours. Unfortunately for me, I’ll be in bed asleep. I have to be up at four so I can be at work by six. Luckily, I’ll be out early in the afternoon, and I’ll have plenty of time to write. A group of writers will be meeting tomorrow at Roasters for a write in, if you can call a three people a group. Hopefully we all show up. It’s be better if more do.

I was having trouble coming up with something to write this year. I wrote a few short stories this past week, trying to spark something, but neither inspired anything. It was more an exercise in working through some negative emotions that had been bringing me down for a while. What it did was bring me back to one of my favorite short stories, Harvest Moon, which I wrote back in 2013.

The story follows a woman who is visited by the spirit of her teenaged love, who died when they were both attacked after sneaking out late one night. On the anniversary of his death, her spirit leaves her body and she walks to the secluded field, the scene of his death, to endures his pleading for her to leave her life behind and join him, he being unable to move on, his destiny tied to hers.

I’m not one to write supernatural stories, but this one struck a chord with me, and I’ve shared the link on my Facebook and Twitter several times since I wrote it. For me, it’s a story about being stuck in the past, unable to move on, enduring the torture of reliving the same heartbreak time and again. She haunted by the memory, haunted by his ghost, unable to live in the present, unable to change the past.

I have no idea how the story will actually play out. Well, that’s probably not true. I have a few ideas. I will have to flesh out the characters more, especially her husband and children. I’ll probably also come up with new names since I hate the original names I came up with, Evie and Bryce.

What kills me is that I have to wait a few more hours, really almost a whole other day before I can start to write. I want to write now. I have a clear vision of how I would like to start. I don’t want to lose it! I wish I didn’t have to go in so early. Even an hour would be better than nothing.

But at least I have something to write about, a story to tell. As I write, I’ll figure out what questions I need to answer, what problems need to be solved. What is it that keeps my protagonist attached to her life? Who is the antagonist? What role does her family play in keeping her in this life?

I have a whole month to discover it. I’ll continue to write until I’m done. I have thirty days to write fifty-thousand words, a little less than two-thousand words per day. I’ve done it before, no sweat. Okay, I’ll be sweating a little. November is a horrible month for me. Let’s see where it takes me.

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