Friday, May 7, 2010

Flash Fiction -- No Slate at All

"The night, it isn't so young," she said.

She opened the car door, her other hand already fumbling for her keys in her purse.

Gord smiled. "Neither are we."

His seat belt was unbuckled before she could blink, his hand on hers. She felt like she was trying to swim in mud.

"I'm sorry, Gord," Kelly said, "I can't do this. I thought I could, but I can't."

Gord's smile disappeared. His retracted his hand, put both of them on the steering wheel. At ten and two. Overcompensating, she noted, without meaning to.

"I thought you said we were trying again. I thought you said there'd be a clean slate."

His words were a metronome. Kelly tried to remember a time when there was music to them, too. She shut the door, and waited for the flock of memories in her mind to land on a single branch.

"I said I'd try," she said finally.

She couldn't look at his face. She'd break right in two if she did. She stared at his hands. Ten and two, Kelly thought, ten and two.

"And yet you haven't." His knuckles were white on the steering wheel. "You haven't tried at all."

Kelly sighed. "That's not fair. I have tried. And if you hadn't--"

"It's not a clean slate if you're allowed to say 'if you hadn't'. If it was a clean slate, there wouldn't be anything on it, don't you see? How can I win? How can I win if the rules are always changing? Tell me, Kelly. You have all the answers, right? Tell me how to win."

His knuckles were bulging out oddly, white islands in the tanned sea of his hands. Kelly could feel her whole body tense. She wanted to tell him to let go of the wheel. He couldn't win, he couldn't steer away from the cliff their marriage had fallen off -- it was too late. But she couldn't say it. She couldn't say anything.

"How many times do I have to say I'm sorry?" Gord shouted, "It's like you don't even hear it. I could be saying 'beer' for all you'd care."

"You might as well be saying beer!" she said, "I'd believe you if you said 'beer'. I'd believe you meant it. I'd believe it's what you loved, what you wanted, what you cared about. What is 'sorry'? When you say it, it's random sounds that happen to sound like a word people know how to say."

His hand became a fist then, and he punched the steering wheel, hard. She flinched, and hated herself for it. The honk pierced the silent night, and echoed in Kelly's ears long after his fist had reverted back to a hand.

"Please," Kelly said, "The neighbours..."

"I don't give a damn about the neighbours."

Kelly laughed. She couldn't help it. "That's because they're not your neighbours anymore."

"Yeah? Yeah? Or it's because I care about our marriage more than you ever did," he said.

"Gord. We don't have a marriage anymore. We had a separation, we had another try, and now we have nothing. We have a dream that became a nightmare that we both should have forgotten by now."

"I'll never forget," he said, "And neither will you."

He locked the door in the same instant she reached to open it.

"Let me out, Gord." She tried the door even though she knew it wouldn't open.

"I don't think so. I let you out, and it's all over, isn't it? That's what you're telling me. Not only do I not have a clean slate, but I don't have any slate at all."

"Unlock this door, Gord. Unlock it or I'll scream."

It was his turn to laugh. "You're the one who cares about the neighbours, not me."

Panic rose in her like a sudden storm. She tried to stay in the eye of it. It was a quality she'd cultivated well, considering all the years she'd had to perfect it, living with the tornado that had been her husband.

"You'll meet someone else. I know you will. We just don't belong together. Please, Gord. If you ever loved me, please let me out."

He leaned back, considering her words. "Do you think I ever loved you?"

Kelly stopped trying to pull up the lock. She twisted her head back to look at him. "Didn't you?" she asked.

He smiled. It reached all the way to his watery blue eyes. "I didn't think you thought I did."

Clarity hit her then, like lightning in her panic storm. The sky lit up and power jolted through her.

"You're wrong. I didn't think you didn't love me," Kelly said softly.

Slowly, she leaned over him.

"I think, deep down..." She ran a finger across his chest. "In your heart of hearts..."

"Yes...?" he breathed.

Her lips nearly brushed against his. Her knee was on the seat between his legs. He didn't move.

Then, finally, her searching fingertips found the button.

"....You never really gave a damn what I thought," she finished.

The lock released; its 'click' punctuating her sentence. Without hesitation, she slid back to her seat, opened the door, and slammed it closed behind her.

"Kelly!" Gord yelled through the window, "You'll regret this. You just made the biggest mistake of your life. You're going to wish you died here tonight. I know how to win now, Kelly. I know how to win!"

Kelly kept walking, keys resolutely in her hand. She didn't look back. She didn't want him to see that she was smiling.


  1. Wow. This is an argument I'm glad I wasn't a part of. Very raw and real, and tragic. You've drawn them wonderfully, as hard as it is to witness.

  2. I'm commenting on my own story here, but I just had to say that I really thought I was writing a different story. I had intended to have Gord drive off with Kelly still locked inside. He was going to intentionally crash the car, killing them both. (Cheery, I know.) Kelly saved herself from Gord -- and from me, really -- and I just wanted to give her credit for that.

  3. I actually saw that ending coming, Natalia -- and I suspect the fact that you thought that's where Kelly and Gord were headed is what makes the middle of the story so tense and suspenseful. Eeeee, creepy.

  4. Tragic application of your title. I wondered how it applied, and when it came up, it was the best line in there.

  5. Thank you all for your comments!

    John -- I struggled to come up with a title, so I kind of love that you commented on it! : )

  6. This part was perfection:

    "Panic rose in her like a sudden storm. She tried to stay in the eye of it. It was a quality she'd cultivated well, considering all the years she'd had to perfect it, living with the tornado that had been her husband."

    I'm glad you didn't kill them. This way was so much better. Great pacing, great dialog. Very real.
    Karen :0)

  7. I loved the similes and metaphors. Beautifully done, not overused, perfect.

    And I love that she saved herself from the bastard in the end. Wonderfully written and surprisingly hopeful.

  8. I thought that might be where you were going with the story too, Natalia, and I was so glad when she saved herself. Nicely done!

  9. I think you should have gone with your original idea. There's not a whole lot of conflict here. The little conflict there is gets resolved way too quickly.

    This is really well written, though. Don't ever stop!

  10. Hmmm... Interesting perspective, Elizabeth! Thanks! : )