One in a Million

I wrote this piece in two parts, part one on a good day where I was happy and in a good mood, and the second when I was not having a great day. I am sure you will be able to see where the switch happen. This is a tragic romance featuring a quirky young woman that meets the man of her dreams, plans to marry him, and well…the best laid plans.

Joey was her other half, and before Connie met him, she made fun of people who said such silly, sappy nonsense. She didn’t need another person to complete her, she was more than capable of being happy on her own.

She wasn’t looking for anyone when she met him. It was at a writing group at a bistro downtown, and at first she thought he was a bit pretentious. Well, actually, he was a bit pretentious, but over time she saw the rest of him too, and there were worse things to be overall.

Really, it wasn’t love at first sight. They didn’t even date for over a year, they were friends right up until she was trying to write the perfect love interest for her thinly veiled self insertion character, add she realized that she was making up him. She didn’t ask him out then though. It was another two months of self reflection, and self deprecation, and asking the question, why would he want someone like me, before she realized that the worst that could happen is he would say no. Maybe it would be awkward, maybe it would be unpleasant, but all in all, it was better than thinking about it all the time. When he said no, she would have her answer.

And then, and then he did the unexpected thing. He said yes, and Connie was flummoxed, but why would he say yes? The weird part was, at first almost nothing changed, they already met up outside of group, they did dinner, and went to movies, and it was humiliating to explain to your other friends, that you were mostly dating before, and the kissing was great, but you kind of expected the change to be a little more dramatic than that.

The sex didn’t really change it either… Okay, it did a little, but in a good way, but for the most part, they were still them. They still argued about which writing books were shit, and which were on point. They still both liked hot cocoa when writing over coffee, and he still ordered cake and shared it, even though it was mostly the allow her to eat 90% of a piece of cake when she couldn’t justify the expense on with her budget.

She didn’t fall in love all at once, it was by degrees, it was the cliché of all clichés, him catching her when she started to fall, that made her realize. He was watching, and he knew she wouldn’t be, and he was there, ready to catch her anyways rather than trying to get her to stop reading while she walked and she didn’t know why that sparked love to her, but it did. It was who he was, who they were, and it was a little ridiculous, but that was when she knew it.

She had never been happier than the day he asked her to marry him. She didn’t expect it, she wasn’t that girl. He had dragged her on a nature hike, she didn’t hike and when they got to the clearing she was hot and sweaty, and really, really, over trees. Actually, she thought that people were into trees were stupid, and didn’t get that they were just trees. It would be like bees making bees fly all over the place cause they were like into flowers, and she was explaining this entire premise to Joey when he smiled and said he loved her. Ya ya, she loved him too, and then he dropped to one knee, and asked and she said yes, but on one condition.

He looked worried, but agreed, not even asking the condition, and she leaned in and whispered in his ear. “You never make me go hiking again.” He looked stunned, and then they laughed, until they cried.

They were half way home, when he finally admitted it. “I should have gone with plan B.”

“What was plan B?” She was more than a bit curious.

“Well everyone said it was a bit on the nose.” He said with a flush. “It was in this bookstore-”

She stopped him there. “I need a list.”

“What?” He looked over, eyes wide.

“I need a list, of every idiot, who told you it was better to drag me on a nature hike instead of going to a book store so that I can beat them to death with my sweaty hiking boots.”

He looked a little dismayed, but she let out a laugh. “No, no, it was good, perfect. I might have expected it then. This, this was perfect, spontaneous, and since I will never do anything like it ever again, both unqiue and memorable” And well, he wanted to marry her.

She had grown up on Disney and princesses, and from the moment she was old enough to realize that life wasn’t like that, a prince doesn’t just pick you based on a song in the woods, she had never thought that someone would want to marry ME!

She was a train wreck, volleying between depression and anxiety like a yo-yo, except those truly horrendous days where thy teamed up to make her absolutely crazy, and he knew that. He had been her friend before they dated, and he knew that there were going to be times she was late because she couldn’t find her umbrella, and the forecast said rain, and when she finally showed umbrellaless she was going to be upset and distracted, because thats who she was, and that was the crazy ass person he wanted to marry.

If Connie was surprised, her parents were floored. Ya, it was a blow to the ego, but apparently even her Mom thought it was weird that this dude wanted to marry her.

So Joey and her started planning, keeping it small, potluck, taking the money that her parents gave them to put the down payment on a small house. They spent the months up the the wedding in renovations, living in drywall dust, and no kitchen, and it was great because this was it, and they were in love, and when they got back from the honeymoon, a single night at a non-budget hotel, they were gonna have a house that was done. She planted flowers in the front garden, her, who was well known in her hatred of gardening, because there was something about a home to begged for a little bit of flowers. Before she knew it, it was her wedding day.

The dress was her mother’s, tailored to fit, and free to boot. It was only their immediate family at the justice of the peace, the rest of the gang would show for the reception later at the hall. Connie stood there with her parents, and his, and his sisters and waited. And waited, and then everyone started calling him, and it was okay, because despite the looks on her parent’s faces, the lingering doubts, she knew he loved her, and he wouldn’t just not show up.

They were shuffled aside and she watched as six other couples get married while they waited. Finally his sister said she was going to go looking for him. She would keep her phone on, and they were call her to come back when he showed. Connie loved that she had said when, she understood.

When Connie saw his number on her phone, she rushed to answer it, and her heart fell when it was his sister, so much so that she didn’t register the tone until a few seconds had passed.

“Connie.” Her voice was hoarse, and wet and Connie felt dizzy hearing it.

“No.” Connie said, and her parents rushed to her side, sure she was being jilted.

“Connie, I. I’m so sorry. Con, he, he’s” His sister broke into sobs and she knew.

“Dead.” She finished and his parents and hers froze.

“They are sending someone. Con, he’s still in bed, he’s cold, I think, I think he died in his sleep.” Sh nodded numbly, and looked at her parents. “We need a cab to Joey’s” and She handed the phone to his parents, and a few moments later his mother began to wail.

It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. It had been, and all she could think is that he never got that, never woke up to see this day.

She stood at the funeral, not quite a widow, and then she went back to their perfect house and sobbed. She couldn’t sleep in it, not even a single night. She sold it, against the advice of those around me to wait six months before making a big decision, and bought something smaller.

Two bedrooms instead of 4, no basement, no big backyard for the kids. Her Mom said she was making a mistake, she would regret it one day, but she wouldn’t. Joey was a fluke, one in a million, and she knew that as long as she lived she wouldn’t find anyone else like him.

Her writing improved with the pain, the tortured artist cliché was now her life, and she lived alone in that house, with her writing until she was with him again.

Myosotis Sylvatica

If you haven’t listened to The Amazing Devil, I highly recommend them, their song “Elsa’s Song” was the inspiration for this one, along with Girlontheedge’s six-sentence-prompt BOOK. This is what I would say is a Dystopian piece about something doing something against the rules, for all the right reasons.

Elsa could hear nothing over rushing sound of her own blood pounding in her ears, as she walked along the mostly empty street, her head down, not making eye contact with those she saw, knowing any one of them could be secret police.

She needn’t be worried, not really, there was no reason to suspect her, buying a new jacket wasn’t a crime, and she was assured that the shape of the garment would conceal the secret it carried, the one that she was risking her life for.

The walk took only minutes, but it felt like hours, every glance towards her an accusation, every nearby step made by the Krali, come to arrest her for what she had done, was doing, was planning yet to do.

Finally, she had made it, she was home, and better yet, she still had it, here, safe.  She carefully removed the stiches from the jacket lining, and pulled the thin, worn, book from between the layers, gently, as it was, by far, the most previous thing she had ever owned.

Her eyes filled with tears, as she opened it to the first page, and saw not only the handwriting of her lover, whom she had not seen in so many months, but the small blue flowers dried between the pages, forget-me-nots.

Part 2

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!