The Choice

So this is something I wrote for for new years. It was based on the prompt “Start your story with one character making a vow that they never would have made the year before.”. It is a tragically sad piece, warnings include suicide, depression, drug and alcohol dependence. This is a tragedy, so be forewarned. Please tell me if I missed any warnings.

“I choose myself’”

Les sighed as he made the vow, and he turned his collar up against the harsh wind. He looked down over the edge of the building. This building was 100-126 feet tall; he knows that because stating the estimated building heights from the number of floors was something Cal used to do as they walked by them. Every time they walked by one over 8 floors actually. It was a little-known fact but if you fall from a distance 48 feet you have a 50% chance of dying, if you take that up to 98 feet it increases your odds to 90%. 

On one of his darker days Cal had come up with the idea height of at least 100 feet, and mapped out every building above that height within walking distance of their 1-bedroom apartment. Then during his daily walks, he had visited each building, went to the top and scoped out the view. His reasoning was that if it was the last thing you were going to see you wanted it to be good. While some stuck to the more prominent, and taller buildings, Cal argued that they were heavily monitored for just this reason, and that he wanted to be sure to get it done right.

When Les had found out what Cal had been up to on the walks his therapist had recommended as an exercise to help with his depression, Les made an effort to make sure Cal no longer went alone.  To the point where at one time Les had almost lost his job after too many call ins to go walking with Cal, and had tried to set up a rotation to trade off with a few of their closer friends. 

It didn’t matter though, because Cal had stopped walking a few weeks later, and gotten more involved in his art. Les had seen it as a good sign at the time, but looking back, it was the beginning of the end. If you had asked Les then what he would do if he lost Cal, he would have said he wouldn’t be able to go on. Back then, maybe he couldn’t have. 

It wasn’t the first time they had gone down that road, with Cal landing himself in the hospital, and Les following soon after. In fact, twice in the 8 years they were together it was the other way around, with Les OD’ing, and Cal following to a locked ward days in. Dangerously co-dependent was the clinical term that the doctors used to describe it, madly in love was how they described themselves. Like Romeo and Juliet, Les used to say, I choose us over everything else, even life.

This past year had been different though, in that Cal had actually asked that Les start going to therapy again. That he quit the day drinking, and focus more on doing what he loved, on being happy as a New Years resolution. He went along with it, not because he believed in it, just because Cal has asked him and Les never could say no to him. Cal who followed through by walking Les to his weekly appointments, and holding his curls back in a make shift ponytail, and out of the line of fire as he spent countless nights in the bathroom drying out. 

Cal who organized Les’s leave from work, through the company’s employee assistance program. Being self employed, Cal had given a few of his better works, the ones he had always refused to sell off before now to his agent, and made a pretty penny. At the time Les had seen it as a great sacrifice, looking back it was another sign of what was to come.

It was a harsh few months, but things looked up. Les, who had always been told by his family that he wouldn’t make it to 30 and spent the last decade doing his damnedest to make sure he lived up to that, was, maybe for the first time since he left home at 17.  He went to the same job each day, but it was such a different experience that after a week back at work, rather than putting in his two weeks notice, he put in for extra hours.

It seemed that the mind-numbing monotony wasn’t the job, it was him. It wasn’t just work, it was everything, he felt like Dorothy, living in a world that was black and white and just now discovering color. Food tasted, better, more, everything was more, even the bad things, but something about them being more real made it easier, and Cal, Cal was better than he had been in years. 

They started planning a life together, 8 years and they had never planned, well anything. They called it living in the now, but really it was another way of saying dead broke in a shitty apartment full of too much booze and not enough food. Now though, they were saving money, between Cal’s commissions, his newer works flying out the door, and Les’s extra hours meant that they could look past just paying the rent. They were looking at nicer neighborhoods, they spoke to a financial adviser, they were adulting, and for the first time with some degree of success. 

They moved at the end of the summer, or the beginning of fall depending on who you asked, into a place that was a bit more suburban than Les thought they would ever end up in. It was in a nicer neighborhood, the place bigger and more done up than the one they had left, and for a rent that Les could afford on his own. Cal had said it was so that he could rent a studio, keep his art out of their place, so that they could get that dog they always wanted. When he showed up with Teddy, the 5-month-old chocolate lab mix that had just enough pit-bull in her to be abandoned by owners looking to start a family, Les let that last nagging doubt leave his mind. That had been another mistake.

Despite being the one to bring the dog home, Cal didn’t seem to want to spend much time with their new fur-baby. He rented a small studio space, a room basically, with a sink, a 20-minute bus ride from their apartment, and started to spend his days there when Les was at work. The commissions kept rolling in, and so Les didn’t question the change.

He didn’t question it when Cal wanted them to get involved with the local community, even though neither one of them had ever been what you would call joiners. Cal had joined a few of the local artist groups, and Les had joined a monthly book club and started dropping in on various writing events. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around Les was invited to no less than three different dinners and a potluck at the community center, having made quite a few more friends in the area than he expected. 

Cal joined him at two of the dinners and the potluck, and begged off the third saying he was heading to an art opening with a few of his new friends, but didn’t want Les to miss out. Les was so drained from the jam-packed weekend, it was the first year he didn’t think about the fact he wasn’t welcome back at home. He didn’t even have the energy to question the fact he hadn’t met any of these new friends of Cal’s, the ones he had spent so much time with in the weeks leading up to and out of the holidays.

He didn’t question any of it until that dark wintery day, he got home from walking the dog after work, and was greeted by a pair of somber looking police officers. Then he questioned everything, why he hadn’t seen it all. The rent he could afford alone, the dog Cal never let get attached to him to share the space, the community he was now deeply entrenched in with new friends, a support system, Cal leaving him for increasing amount of time to get him used to being without him, and the studio being on the 5th floor of a building that was over 100 feet tall, and had an amazing view from the roof.

It was all there, staring him right in the face, and Les knew that a year ago this would have broken him. Sure, he took a leave from work, rounded out the year laying in bed crying, but the dog made sure he got up if only to take him for the requisite bathroom visits. The therapist called when he didn’t show up, and the new friends brought him food and visits even when he didn’t want them.  Slowly, but surely, he went on, and that bitter Saturday morning in February when he got the call from Cals’s studio’s landlord explaining that he would either have to re-up the 6-month lease, or move out, Les actually answered the phone and had the energy to go meet up at the unit.

It was emptier than Les had expected, Cal had always had a habit of buying more supplies than he could use, canvases of all shapes, he was “saving for just the right piece. There wasn’t a single blank canvas in here, and Les wondered if that was why he had chosen to do it when he did, did he wait till he used the last one up. Did he donate them somewhere? His easel was still there, with a drop cloth over it, the kind Cal only put when he was planning to be away for a while.  The lone stool sitting in front of it made Les wonder if Cal had actually gone to any of those local artist meetings, had anyone else ever even been in this space?

The only other furniture was a cabinet, the bottom of which had a small crate with Cal’s agents’ names and address on it, postage paid stamped across the side. Les knew if he opened it, he would find finished canvases inside, ready for sale. The top shelves contained Cal’s brushes, cleaned and sorted by size, tidier than Les had ever seen them, and Cal’s favorite palette, paint covered as always. Les half wondered where the new one he bought Cal as a “studio warming” gift had ended up. There was less paint than Cal had ever kept before in the cabinet, mostly nearing empty, all dried up, all garbage now.

Les took a deep breath, at least it would it be easier to clean up than he expected. A text to Cal’s agent about the paintings yielded an instant response, he would be there in less than an hour, no need to ship them. Les laughed bitterly, dead artists always did sell well.  Les picked up the palette, the rest he would ask the agent to get rid of, he would take care of if it meant getting the work in the bottom. That left the easel.

Les hesitated as he reached for the dustcover, memories overwhelming him. Memories of the day he bought this for Cal, 10$ they couldn’t afford, but the way Cal’s face lit up when he came home and saw it sitting in the middle of the floor of their one room apartment made it worth the fact that he wouldn’t be able to eat anything but ramen till payday.

He pulled the cover off, tossing it aside, and when he turned back towards the easel he gasped. There was the palette he had bought cal. Not clean like when he gifted it, and not used like the one he held in his hand, but painted, a work of art. 

It was…goodbye. In abstract, not a style Cal usually favored, but dabbled in sometimes when he was depressed.  It was dark, and then it got brighter, and over it, so faint he wasn’t sure he was seeing it at first was his name, three letters, LES.

He choked back a sob, and picked it up. He couldn’t breathe, he had to get out of there, and then he reached the stairwell he found himself going up instead of down. Then he was on the roof. He stood there, holding the two palettes, the winding biting at his tears.  He looked down at the palette bearing his name and flipped it over not wanting to look at it any longer. It wasn’t blank as he had expected. It had 5 words in marker on the back, scribbled in Cal’s untidy scrawl. “It’s time to choose yourself.”

Les gave a watery sigh he made the vow, and he turned his collar up against the harsh wind. He looked down over the edge of the building, and then he turned and headed back down the stairs, handing the keys to Cal’s agent as he passed him in the lobby “Do what you want with it.” And as he stepped out the double doors the brisk cold hitting him all at once, he felt lighter than he had in months. He could do this, he chose himself.

For a look at the reedsy contest take a look here for more prompts. It runs weekly Friday to Friday!


The Story of Her

So this was a prompt from Jimmie which can be found here, the challenge to be to write a 250 word microfiction based solely on the image shown. In support of pride month, I went with a gray aro/ace type protagonist playing the story of their life. I am not sure how well that came across, but that was the intention. The is also the kick off of my biweekly (hopefully soon to be weekly), Microfiction Mondays.

She looked down at the song she had written and smiled, lines creasing her face. It wasn’t the first she had composed, but it was  the most meaningful. It told her story.

It was first and foremost, a solo. There were other instruments early on, a few small duets here and there.  There were sections of accompaniment throughout, but pull them all away and leave only the solo, and it still worked.  It was complete, everything else was just extra. Something that added to the music, but didn’t make it.

She had a brief flare of nerves as the curtains opened. She had played for years, but she was not the musician she once was. Practice had made her quicker and sharper, but age had slowed and dulled her reflexes. She had considered having someone else play this, to do it justice, but it was her song. No one else would understand, would play it with the emotion she would

As she put the bow to the violin, and the first few notes rang out, she relaxed a little. She had made the right decision. She played with her eyes closed, not needing to see the music. Instead she watched the memories play by as she wove her tale. There were moments that brought a smile to her face, and those that brought tears to her eyes. She finished as she started, solo, and as the last notes faded she felt complete.   

There was silence, and then thunderous applause.

Microfiction Mondays


Just going to start by apologizing as this is not a story, just a quick update. I am launching Microfiction Mondays, so pieces that are 250 words or less. I will be starting off every other Monday until I get a little built up, and then I am going to go form there. Hopefully by September I will be able to do weekly Monday Microfiction as well as Thursday Short Stories. Anywho, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading.

Things Left Unsaid

This is another tragic type of story. I have learned I write mostly really sad and or twisted things. This is from the prompt of “End your story with a truth coming to light.” It contains mentions of death, aging, old age homes and Alzheimer’s. Yes, not very light reading, and made myself cry with this.

Oliver sat on the bed staring at the closet.  It was a daunting task, going through someone else’s belongings.  To look at what remained and decide what did and did not have value.  It felt wrong to throw away any of it.  Benjamin had had so little in the end that every bit of it must have been precious to him.

You acquire a lot of things over your life, as you and your space grow, but then there comes a point in your life where something shifts and the spaces stop getting larger.  The opposite happens, you go from a big house, to a smaller one, to a townhouse, to an apartment, and eventually you end up in a room like this.  

With each downsize you have to take a look around and ask yourself the same three questions. What do I keep? What can I give away? What do I throw away?  When you got to this point, the single room, you had distilled your belongings down to the most treasured.  Each thing that had made it this far was priceless, not in terms of material value, but in the memories it held.  To throw any of it away was an atrocity, but Oliver didn’t have much choice as he too only had a closet.

His would be cleaned out by his son, who would be too young to understand the importance of the things he had kept.  Mementos of important events, friends long gone, and his dear wife Sophia who had passed years before.  Oliver had gone through her belongings as well, but at least then he had Ben at his side to help him through it.  His dear friend had even offered to get a place together so that Oliver would be spared the indignity of this place so soon, but Oliver hadn’t wanted to be a burden.  It was a choice he regretted when Ben joined him less than two years later.  Ben deserved better than this place. 

Oliver wished that there was someone else to help him with his task, but Ben had never really had anyone else.  He had many a lover in his day, but not one of them lasted long. With the exception of himself and Amelia, Ben hadn’t even made any lasting friendships.  

Amelia was still with them, in a manner of speaking.  Alive in her body certainly, but in her mind…. On the good days she relived the heyday of their college years, thinking they were throwing parties and breaking hearts. And on the bad days… There had been a lot more bad days lately than good ones.

So here Oliver sat, alone, trying to go through the last belongings of a man who once owned more shoes than would fit in this paltry closet, trying to decide where to start.  Finally, he decided on the least emotional path, the clothing.  It was all good quality, and still in good condition.  Ben had always been so fastidious about his appearance, even as his looks faded with the years.  He folded the clothes neatly and put them in a large box labelled donate.  A helpful volunteer had gotten two of them ready, garbage and donation.  She said nothing, but the sad look she gave him let him know she understood there was no need for a large box for keepsakes.

After the clothes it got harder, and the hatbox he opened next was a loaded prospect, full of layers of bow ties.  The top few easily slid into the donation box, the plain stalwart affairs he had favored recently.  When Oliver reached the last layer though, the memories swept over him.  

The bright red bow tie that Ben had gotten to match school colors for the first time and last time he acted as an orientation guide.  That was the day he and Oliver had met, and Oliver wondered if that was why he had kept it. The ridiculously purple one from graduation. 

Oliver chuckled to himself as he pulled out the sleek silver one that Ben had worn to three out of four of Amelia’s weddings.  He had tried to go for a hat trick, but when Amelia had caught on she was furious demanding he take it off. In response Ben went around the entire night making bigger and better excuses as to where his bow tie had disappeared to.  

There twelve total in this layer, and Oliver could name the origin of eight.  The other four were a mystery, the strangest of which was a small faded brown bow tie sized for a child.  Was it Ben’s, or someone else’s? He would never know.

The pictures weren’t even a question, Oliver would keep them.  He would have to get his son Roger to scan them into the computer when he visited next.  He had room for the albums under his bed until then.  They weren’t supposed to keep things under the bed, but the nurse who checked their rooms from time to time had a soft spot for him, and she would understand how important these were.  

Most of what was left went in the bin.  He knew the ticket stubs, and playbills had meant something, but not to him.   Some of it he recognized as being something that Ben and Amelia had shared, but well, Amelia didn’t have any need of it.  He wondered if they had even told her about Ben, and if they did, would she remember it? Would she still look up each time she heard a knock at the door and expect him to be there to invite her to the latest party?

He took a shuddered breath, and chastised himself for wishing for that kind of ignorance.  For never having to find out that Ben was gone. In the end there was a single box left, labelled important papers. There was the obvious, life insurance, will, etc.  He put that in a smaller labeled box on the floor, Estate.  The lawyer was supposed to come pick that up later in the week. Ben’s diploma, certifications, awards, did he just throw them out?  It seemed like such a shame, but what were they worth to anyone now. He threw them in the bin and looked away from it.

He took the twelve bow ties from the hatbox and put them in a small shopping bag with the pictures.  It was overly full, but he hadn’t wanted to risk bringing a bigger bag, lest he fill it.  As it was, he would have to re-evaluate his own belongings when he got back to his room.  If he wanted to keep hard copies of the pictures it would be even harder, but that was tomorrow’s problem.    He tipped each container of Ben’s over to ensure it was really empty, and then threw them either in the donation or garbage boxes.   

When he flipped the last one out, the important papers, an envelope slipped out from between the bottom box flaps.  Oliver almost tossed it; he had already found all of Ben’s legal papers.    He stopped though, it was yellowed with age, and something Ben had kept that long had to have been worth something. When he flipped it over, his heart skipped a beat. There in Ben’s perfect calligraphy was a single name “Oliver”

He sat back down hard on the bed and flipped the letter back over to verify what he had seen before, it was sealed. What Ben could have possibly written so long ago, but never sent, and never opened? Should he throw it out?  Was this something he was never meant to read?  But he couldn’t go through with it, curiosity had always been his undoing. So with trembling fingers he gently opened the letter and unfolded it. It was dated 54 years earlier. 

Dearest Oliver,

I am writing you this letter, the one that I will never send to tell you that I still love you.

You probably won’t believe me, after all, I did go to such lengths to break your heart. But it’s true, you are the love of my life, but I am a mess, and you Oliver, deserve so much better than me.  I know that Sophia is still interested, even though you did your own heart breaking not too long ago.  With her you could have what you always wanted, a happy family, children, and with me there will be none of that.  

So I made a choice, and because I love you, I let you go.  I don’t regret it, not knowing that you will be happier without me. It is my only hope that you were being honest when you said that you would still be my friend, because your presence is what brings joy to my life.  As much as it will kill me to live out each day with you never knowing how I feel, if you are there, it will be worth every second of pain.  

Maybe someday I will be as brave as you were the day you kissed me in the middle of that crowded classroom, and I will tell you the truth and this letter will be something you laugh at when you find it.  Just your sweet Ben being dramatic as usual.

But if not, please know that I have always wished nothing but the best for you. 

Love Benjamin

For a look at the reedsy contest take a look here for more prompts. It runs weekly Friday to Friday!