The Grand Canyon

This is a short story based on a prompt someone shared that went something like “If heartbreak creates a hole in your heart, describe the grand canyon.”

This is one of the pieces I am not happy with. I feel like its a summary of a longer work, and I can’t quite get past that feeling. I decided to post it anyways. You might notice that as a running theme, but I think sometimes writer’s get so worried about something being perfect that they don’t share it, and as you can imagine, it makes it pretty impossible to get any feedback that way. Maybe, at some point this will become something more, but for now, I am letting it go and moving on.


He thought he knew what it meant to be in love, to have his heart broken.

He had been dumped before. There was Ally back in high school, who was his first love. They were both going away to different colleges and she was not interested in long distance. He thought then that he would never get over it. He did.

Then he met Carol in college. She was his everything, and in comparison he realized that what he had with Ally was small, a crack, this here was heartbreak. Two years of devotion, and she said they had chemistry, but that was it. They were too similar, too driven, too uninterested in making time for the other to be anything more then friends. She was just distant at first, but after two long years, they had made it back to being friends.

There were a lot of people after Carol. His sister younger Lanie claimed the reason Carol hadn’t worked out was that she was a rebound. His older sister Betty said that while Lanie was correct, until he learned to be happy alone he wouldn’t be happy with someone else.

He took the combination of these pieces of advice and came to the conclusion that the solution to his issues lay in some casual sex. Okay, a lot of casual sex, with a lot of people, and some dates. When the dates left it felt less like a heart break and more like a paper cut. It didn’t really help him get over Carol, but he learned a lot about himself. He knew what he wanted out of a relationship, and that really. That he wanted more than just sex; he wanted a relationship.

He knew though that his masters wouldn’t leave him time to do one justice, and the last thing his GPA needed was another heartbreak induced crash, and soo he tried to do what Betty had said, and work on himself. That was when he ran into William.

Literally in this case. He wasn’t looking where he was going, then he looked up, got blinded by the sunlight and ran into William so hard he actually fell backward onto the ground. Most people would have been pissed to have been body checked by a stranger, but not William. William didn’t ask what he was thinking, or why he couldn’t look where he was going.

William looked down at him, golden hair literally glowing in a white halo of sunlight like a fucking angel and asked. “Are you alright?”

He of course was utterly useless, jabbered a bit, stood up too fast and almost fell back over. William caught him, like the knight in shining armor, rescuing him from distress. After that, they were inseparable. He tried to ignore his feelings for William, just stay friends, but the day William leaned over and kissed him… It was the best day of his life, the day everything changed.

It was little things that changed, t he not being alone in the morning, or at night. The way William took charge and picked out his clothing, and his food. The way William forced him to try new things, places, hobbies getting him out of his comfort zone. The way William got jealous when he spent time with other people, it made him feel wanted. William made him a better person, and he made William his whole world. It was a year and a half of bliss that he rode until he and William graduated from their respective programs. Then it was over.

There wasn’t a fight, or even an argument. There was no lead up, problems, anything. It was just over. William was saying goodbye as if the last two years hadn’t happened. William had found a job and was moving across the country, that simple,. There was no consideration for a boyfriend, even though he himself didn’t have a job yet. If William had asked him he would have moved; he would have done anything for William. That was the worst part, the indifference. The way William took him by the chin, and said, “It was a college thing sweetheart, and college is over. There is so much more out there for both of us. We have choices now.” Thats what killed him really, that he had chosen William, and William had seen him as a lack of better options.

What he learned from William was that heartbreak wasn’t the word for this. That other people filled your heart up, and when they left they took that part back with them, With Carol it felt like a break, but with William he felt the grand canyon formed between the parts of his heart and he ached. He didn’t get out of bed for days, and it was Carol of all people that helped him through it.

Carol who found him the psychiatrist. Carol who took him to the appointments, and held him as he cried after. Carol that took him to the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions that made him a little fuzzy, but able to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was all Carol.

He finally understood what his older sister had meant, that he needed to be happy with himself before he could be happy with someone else. It took a few years, but eventually he was content. He had a job, an apartment, a life that was sufficient. Then he met Elijah.

He was more than a little gun shy when Elijah kissed him, and unlike William Elijah backed off, became his friend. A real friend, a distinction he had learned in the intervening years. With Elijah he was allowed to have other friends. There was no upset, no jealously when he talked to Carol or spent time with his family.

It took another three years before he could trust it, trust himself. The feeling he got when he was with Elijah, his Eli. It was less intense than what he felt with William, but at the same time deeper, wider, more. He was a stuttering mess the day he asked Eli to go to dinner with him, and he wasn’t very clear at the reasoning. After all, it was halfway through the meal when Eli suddenly looked around the restaurant and back at him and asked, sounding a little bewildered. “Is this a date?” He had tried to backtrack, but he gave it away, and to his astonishment Eli was okay with it.

After that they went on dates now and then. Occasional dates turned to dating, turned to engagement, and to a wedding, and now he was here. Looking down at the bundle in his arms, and knowing. This was it; this was love. All consuming, all encompassing, the kind of love that would kill him if he lost it. It wasn’t something as paltry as the grand canyon, it was the whole world holding a single one of his fingers clasped in her tiny fist.

In a single moment his whole life changed, and now he knew all the pain he been though before was getting him ready for this, and he was so glad that he’d made it long enough to learn the true meaning of love.

Ambush

I wrote this one for the reedsy prompt. “Write a story where a meal or dinner goes horribly wrong.” It is the story of Ellie, who is Aro/Ace and walks into the worst dinner party ever with some well intentioned but rather ignorant family members.


Ellie was running late.  She had considered canceling when she realized, but knew that would raise questions that she did not want to answer.  Instead she arrived home, late, and exhausted. She changed into an “appropriate” outfit and headed out the door. She cursed as she almost got her dress stuck in the door of the car. It wasn’t a new drew, but she didn’t wear this kind of thing often, and between the dress and heels she felt off balance.

She was still out of sorts when she grasped the ornate door knocker, just in time to be almost pulled over by the door swinging open.

“You are late.” Her mother accused, and then turned and walked back into the house. The sound of her heels clacking against the ceramic flooring drowned out Ellie’s attempt at an explanation.

She took a deep breath in, and then let it out. And so it begins. 

When she stepped into the dining room, it went silent and everyone turned towards her. She fought the urge to flee, to wither under their stares and said simply, “Hello.” not making eye contact with anyone as she walked towards her empty chair and sat down. She spread a cloth napkin over her lap, and then looked upwards at the chandelier as if it somehow was completely entertaining.

“Oh, Elanor,” Her Aunt Greta started. “You missed introductions earlier,” Greta paused a moment there to let the ‘because you were late’ that she did not say resonate. “This is Joseph, he works with your uncle Thomas. He’s new in town, and so we invited him to join us all for dinner tonight.”

Ellie made the mistake of turning to look at Thomas. He appeared to be her age, was nice enough looking in a well tailored suit, and oh, no. She looked around at the expectant smiles and felt her heart plummet as she recognized the set up for what it was.  No wonder her mother was so adamant that she must come to this month’s big family dinner. 

She gave a polite hello, and then answered each of the prompting questions from her well-meaning relatives as they attempted to force the get to know you phase of the evening. She lifted the napkin ring, and turned it over and over again in her hands in an attempt to keep herself calm as the onslaught continued. Why had she come?  Her mother brought out the bread as if she had actually cooked it, but Ellie’s appetite was gone the second she realized that they only wanted her here to fix her up. Fix her, really. 

To coin her mother’s favorite guilt trip, she wasn’t angry, she was disappointed. Last month she had sat her mother down and explained that was okay, happy even, alone.  It wasn’t the first time she had done so, but she had thought that it had sunk in this time. That they had all understood that this was who she was, and there wouldn’t be any son-in-laws, or grandbabies in her future.  

There was an attractive man in his mid-thirties sitting beside her though. This told her whatever message they had taken from the conversation; it most certainly was not the right one. She starting bouncing a foot on the floor under the table as her anxiety mounted.  The way everyone was looking at her, they all knew. Obviously not the truth, but whatever her mother had spun. They all knew and were trying to fix it.  It would be heartwarming if it weren’t so unbelievably sad.

She picked at her food through what seemed like an endless number of courses. She couldn’t have named a single thing she ate though, it all tasted like cardboard. With each new round a food her family got a fresh wave of encouragement to “help” her with Thomas. It was humiliating.

Dessert was the breaking point. She was going to say something.

“Elanor dear, would you join me in the kitchen to help bring out the coffee?” Her mother said, like she didn’t have two people working in the kitchen who could carry it our for her. Well they couldn’t really, not without ruining the illusion that she had cooked. 

Elanor froze, she knew what awaited her in the kitchen.

“Please, let me help.” Thomas volunteered. “After all, its the least I can do after you have so graciously invited me into your home.” Thomas completed with a 1000-watt smile. If she were looking for a guy, this one really did seem to be a keeper.

“Oh, no, Thomas, please you are our guest.” Her mother tried, but Thomas was relentless.

“Really, please. Elanor already worked two jobs today, it doesn’t seem fair to make her serve coffee after that.” Thomas said, and it was her mothers turn to freeze. She couldn’t ask Ellie to help her again without being rude, and at the same time the last place she wanted a guest was the kitchen. 

Ellie hid a smile as Aunt Great leapt up. “I am retired, and so I have not worked at all today. I can definitely serve up some coffee.” With the family distracted by the outburst, Ellie took the opportunity to sneak a peak at Thomas. 

He gave her a conspiratorial smile as he leaned over and whispered under his breath. “Me being here, complete ambush? Take a sip of water for yes.”

She reached out and picked up the crystal goblet of water, taking a long drag. Had she seen that her mother had gotten out the good crystal before she had sat down she would have realized that the woman was up to something. 

Thomas let out a small huff of a laugh, as her mother and Aunt Greta returned with the coffee. Aunt Greta sat down, and her mother went back for the dessert as everyone fixed their coffee

Thomas took advantage of this to continue. “So do you want me to play along, get food poisoning, or suddenly remember that I am actually quite gay?”

Ellie who had been taking a sip of her coffee at that moment, answered the only way she could given the circumstances. She choked a little, and then spit out her coffee. Spit was an understatement, as was spray, given the range of it.  Jets of coffee left her mouth, coating the table. The other cups of coffee caught in the cross-fire as the lions share of struck Aunt Greta’s lovely white suit jacket. How could so little coffee go so far?

There was half a moment of silence and then pandemonium. Aunt Greta leapt up with a screech her chair toppling over under the momentum. Her mother chose that moment to step out of the kitchen taking the chair to her midsection. The cake, and a large bowl of chocolate pudding flew from her mother’s hands in what felt like slow motion before finally crashing into the table.

The cake seemed to explode on impact, gobs of icing propelled like shrapnel into Thomas, Ellie, and her two cousins. The pudding bowl hit on an angle and went careening down the table on its side, with small bits of pudding firing off like buck shot covering Aunt Greta, her mother, and everyone on the other side of the table. Her stern Uncle Henry, the only one spared, shouted. “Why I’ve never!” and Ellie watched in horror as he brought his fist down in his customary table strike. He missed the table and hit the side of Aunt Sarah’s plate, knocking over his wine glass, leaving him drenched in a nice Pinot Noir.

Ellie cringed as her mother turned red. She started to shrink back into her seat, to brace herself against the coming blow when Thomas let out a loud laugh.

 “Sorry to eat and run, but I do have to get going. You have a lovely house, and an even lovelier daughter. If I were not completely gay, I would be enamored.” He stood, and then turned frowning a little as her looked at Ellie.

“Did you drive here?” he asked suddenly.

“Uh, ya.’ She stammered.

“Perfect. Would you by chance be able to give me a lift home? Or to the nearest tube stop? Or, no, what is it you call them, subway stations? It would save me the bus.” He said with a smile. 

She froze, wanting to say no, but the look in his eyes stopped her. She followed his gaze as it darted to her angry mother and back. She realized with a rush of relief that he was offering her an out.

She tried to give a confident smile. “Of course I can give you a ride. Public transportation is SO slow, it would take you half the night to go home. Its not a problem, is it mum?”

Ellie could practically hear her mother teeth grinding, ass she forced out “Of course not dear. We will talk later.” Ellie ignored the threat; she would be steering clear of her family for a while after this.   

She walked out the door with Thomas. She half ran to her car down the street and when she got to it she turned, looked at Thomas, and promptly burst into laughter. Thomas joined in, and they laughed until Ellie couldn’t breathe. 

Finally Thomas spoke up. “You really don’t have to give me a ride.”

“After that rescue, I owe it to you.” She replied, unlocking the car. They drove to Thomas’ apartment in near silence. It was actually on her way home, so it only took her a few minutes out of the way.

Thomas thanked her as he got out, and then stopped with a sheepish expression on his face. “I know its rude, and you don’t have to answer, but.” She interrupted him.

“Aro/Ace. Told them for the fourth time last month. They aren’t anti -…well anything. They just don’t get it.” She said resigned.

He pulled something out of his pocket. “Ah. Well, I really am gay, but I also am new to the area. So if you ever want to do something.” He handed over a business card. “My personal number and email are on that. I really did have a good time tonight. I have to admit, I was dreading it when I got the invite, and when I showed. I understand if you never want to see me again, but if you do, well. Anywho, good luck.”

She smiled at him, “Thanks, you too.” And she tucked the card away into her purse. All in all, it wasn’t the worst family dinner she had ever been to.

Take a look at the reedsy contest take a look here for more prompts. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/. It runs weekly Friday to Friday!

Aftermath

So the main comment about last week’s six, seemed to be “What happens next”, so this week’s response to girlontheedge’s prompt DEAL is the continuation of what happened next. While I think this would stand alone, here is a link to last week’s six: Fugue.


She took the small bag of her belongings back from the desk clerk, shaking with fatigue after the 43 hours without sleep.  She couldn’t begrudge the long interrogation, as with their contentious history and the many calls into the station, she wasn’t exactly without motive.

The whole thing had come to a grinding halt when the fingerprint results came back on two of the corpses, tying them to a string of home invasions.  The knives on their bodies matched the one that was pulled from the corpse of the person who laid them down with two bullets, and it all added up to a robbery gone wrong.

She stepped out into the afternoon sun, a smile on her face that faded a little as she flashed back to the deal she had made two weeks prior.  It had cost her more than money, and she would admit had she been told the details she wouldn’t have agreed, but it the end it was done; she was free.

The Escape

This one was an entry for the Reedsy.com prompt “Start your story with someone sitting on a crowded train and end it with them looking out over beautiful natural scenery.” and I wrote it while using an ambient noise tool so that I could hear the noise of the train. Its dark, there is implied abuse, running away, basically a guy on a train leaving a bad situation.


He sat pressing his right cheek up against the cool window. He had his arms wrapped around his messenger bag, trying to make himself as small as possible. He tried to focus on the rhythmic clanging of the train running along the rails, the rain on the window, anything to take his attention away from the claustrophobic number of people on the train. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum

He felt a foot tap against his and shifted to press his feet under his seat. It wouldn’t be sustainable for long, but the constant touch of bodies against his was almost as overwhelming as the smell. There were too many people and too little ventilation, and with each breath he had to resist the urge to gag as it felt like he was breathing their sweat.

He hated this train. Usually trains were better than subways or buses, but this train was unique.  It was the only one that ran out to the suburbs, part of a cross country line. As a result it shared its track with freight trains, so it only ran during rush hour, and it was always packed. Usually he would have tried to leave early to make make this journey. He would have tried and catch the first train out, but this wasn’t a planned trip.

He hadn’t wanted to go. God he hadn’t wanted to go. He reached up with one hand and touched his left cheek bone, wincing as his fingers made contact with the hot flesh. Staying was not an option. He took a shuddering breath and looked out the window, watching the tall buildings of the city pass by.

He braced himself as the train shuddered to a stop, to prevent himself from leaning against this neighbour.  He breathed a sigh of relief as with the outflow of people there was just a little more air. If only the woman in the seat next to him would leave he could relax. 

She shifted, elbowing him in the ribs.  He flinched in response, first from surprise, then from pain at the sudden movement. He couldn’t stay there, and he couldn’t go back. The train started up again, and he clenched his eyes closed as he heard his phone vibrate. Once, twice, three times. He shouldn’t look. Nothing could be said that would make this okay.

“If you aren’t gonna answer that, turn it off or put it in another pocket.” The woman beside him said sounding angry. The phone had been pressing against her side as well as his.

He sighed and twisted gingerly to reach the pocket with his phone. He pulled it out, and debated if he should turn it off. It vibrated in his hand, and the screen lit up showing previews of the messages he had missed.

“Are you alright?”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“It will never happen again.”

“I’m sorry.”

As he read them a fifth message came up.

“Please come home.”

He turned off the phone and jammed it in the front of his bag, zipping the compartment shut. It should never have happened at all. He had no idea what he was going to say when he got to the end of the line. What would he say? How would he explain this?

 He pressed himself back against the window staring out, and tried to focus on the rhythmic clanging of the train running down the tracks. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.

Each station shed more and more people. The tall city buildings gave way to sprawling suburbs crammed with row housing, squat apartments, and little houses on tiny lots.  

When he heard the call of the station signaling the half way point he looked around. The train was a lot more than half empty, but his little four square was still fully occupied. He spied two seats facing forward across the aisle and when the train pulled into the next station he went for it.

“Excuse me, excuse me.” He said, as, by the awkward shriek, he had stepped on someone’s foot in his rush to get out. He hauled himself into the aisle and then collapsed into the seat on the other side of the aisleway. He sat his bag on the seat beside him, but still kept it pressed close against him. He sat with his arms crossed, even though he now could have spread out. As he looked around he saw a glare aimed at him by his seat mate, whose foot must have been the collateral damage in his move. He ducked his head down, and pressed it against the glass.

He winced again, as his tender cheek made contact with the window pane, but didn’t pull away allowing the cold window to sooth it. Maybe it wouldn’t swell so much this way.  He should have packed a bag; he didn’t even have a change of clothes. He wouldn’t be able to charge his phone when it ran low on battery. Maybe it was a good thing he had turned it off. 

He could picture his keys in his mind’s eye, hanging by the door; he hadn’t even stopped to grab them. A clap of thunder startled him from his thoughts, and he was surprised to see it wasn’t raining anymore. The storm must be moving in the direction they had come from. A good thing too, as he hadn’t brought a coat or an umbrella.

The train shuddered to a stop, only three left to go for him, but they were further apart now. The tiny houses had given way to larger houses, on even larger lots. Rolling hills, and seemingly endless fields now filled the windows. He felt something loosening within him at the sight. He sat back uncrossing his arms, and closed his eyes listening to the train. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.

He hadn’t even realized that he had fallen into a doze until he heard his station being called and was jolted back into awareness. Oof, he was sore. He pulled himself up out of his seat, and noticed the car was almost empty. He was the only one waiting at the door for this stop, and as he stepped off he could hear the buzzing of the cicadas in the nearby trees. 

The sunlight was hot on his face, but heavenly. The train pulled away, it’s ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, fading into the distance.  A chirping bird flew by, and what had loosened on the train unfurled completely.

He looked at the field of long grass, untouched and full of wildflowers that he could smell on the breeze. He took the first deep breath that he had in hours, and all of his problems seemed so far away. He was safe here, and the rest he could figure out later.


For a look at the reedsy contest take a look here for more prompts. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/. It runs weekly Friday to Friday!