Casualties at Home

Denise tightened her grip on the steering wheel as she turned left at the green light. There was absolutely no way that Charles was going to beat her to the restaurant today. She started getting ready for their date a full hour earlier than usual. Even with the extra special care she took with her hair and makeup, she still left nearly forty-five minutes earlier than she normally would have.

The problem was that there was no problem. Denise just ran into new and different problems every time she left the house.

Take last week, for example. How was she to know that she was going to turn down a one way street blocked by a broken down garbage truck? It had just happened, and it wasn’t even on the traffic report later, so she honestly didn’t have any way of knowing.

And last month, when those protesters decided to let the monkeys loose from the city zoo. Nobody could have predicted such a thing, nor that two orangutans would set up shop in the middle of the very street that Denise chose as her best route to the library.

The next light was red, and Denise toed the brake, adjusting the collar of her denim jacket as she slowed. She hummed along with the melody whispering from the car stereo, then reached for the volume knob to turn it up enough to hear the words.

peaceBut when she lifted her eyes back to the road ahead of her, a tank. A tank? Cruising down the street in the middle of a major metropolitan area? Denise threw the car in park and threw her hands in the air in defeat.

“I’m just going to stay home and write my poetry from now on. Charles is just going to have to survive on takeout and home cooking, that’s all there is to it.” She dug through her purse until she found her cell phone, and called Charles to repeat herself.

“A freaking tank, Charles. It’s unbelievable, I know. I’m not sure if I should even try to turn around and drive back home. I might get trampled by a brontosaur stampede,” she was beginning to sob. “What did I do to deserve this, Charles? For crying out loud, I can’t even go to the grocery store without a freak hailstorm destroying my windshield.”

That one happened three weeks ago.

Charles did his best to calm down his beloved, but she grew more and more hysterical with each passing second. Finally, he interrupted her long enough to state firmly that he was going to come and pick her up, and he would park her car somewhere safe nearby and come back to get it the next day.

Denise agreed, snot dribbling down her upper lip. She got off the phone and leaned over to open her glove compartment for some napkins to clean up. She straightened in her seat and blew her nose, and sat calmly and quietly, waiting for Charles to show up.

It only took him about ten minutes. With a shock of guilt, Denise realized how close she was to his work, and that he must have skipped out early to come and help her in her hysterical state. She got out of her car and threw her arms around his neck.

“You’re my hero, Charles,” she exclaimed, kissing him. “I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m so sorry for the drama and making you leave work and…”

He interrupted her for the second time, before she broke down again. “It’s perfectly okay, sweetheart. Come on.” He escorted her around to the passenger side of his car. “Now, just wait here a moment, and I’ll go park you right over there,” he said, pointing at the Chipotle across the street. “I won’t be but a few minutes, okay?”

Denise nodded, and as she waited for Charles to return, suddenly wondered where everyone else was. A tank was blocking the road before her, yes, but surely at least one other driver should have come up behind her at this light while she waited for Charles.

The thought occupied her mind so thoroughly that she didn’t even notice Charles come back to his car, and she nearly jumped out of her skin when he opened the door and got into the driver’s seat. She swiped at her nose once more with the napkin and cocked her head at him.

“Where is everyone else today?” The genuine confusion in her tone took Charles by surprise.

“They’re all gone, Denise,” he answered, now feeling as puzzled as she looked. “Don’t you remember? The city closed yesterday. They’re evacuating all of us in two days.” His grew more concerned by the second as he realized that none of this was ringing a bell with her. “Denise, are you even packed yet?”

“But where are we going? And why?” The tears were back in her eyes, the napkin forgotten in the loose fist that lay in her lap.

“Wherever there is room for us, my love. Because of the war.” Charles reached out a hand to comfort her, but Denise flinched away.

“None of this is making any sense, Charles. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just let me out! You’re lying!” The napkin tumbled from her hand as she scrabbled at the door handle, struggling to work it without unlocking it first.

Charles returned his eyes to the horizon. The last time Denise was like this, it took her a full six weeks to come back to him. He pressed his lips together and continued to her house, where he tucked her into bed and packed a bag of essentials for her before falling asleep on the couch.

***

LRose asked for a prompt; I gave her one, but I fell in love with it myself.


Girls’ Night Out

tickets

Alison rifled through the detritus littering the bottom of her purse a moment longer before giving up and dumping the whole mess on the coffee table.

“I can’t find the tickets to save my life, Liza, I’m so sorry,” Alison apologized to her friend. The tone of her voice was contrite, but the fury with which she continued to shuffle through her belongings betrayed another, overbearing feeling of discontent. “Let me check my wallet again.”

Liza leaned back into the waiting comfort of the couch and continued to watch the scene unfold, feeling completely disconnected even though without her presence, Alison would still be asleep. She kept her mouth shut, knowing better than to waste her breath on sentences that Alison would never hear in her current emotional state.

“Ta-da!” Alison called in a sing-song, bursting with pride to have found the tickets that she was sure she’d thrown in the trash with the series of receipts that marched constantly through her belongings. “I was positive they were in there!”

Liza smiled mildly, more amused by Alison’s reaction than impressed by the actual discovery of the tickets. She pulled her feet back and stood up, arching her back in a stretch that popped her back three times in a row, like gunshots in the new silence. “Let’s go then,” she said.

Alison cocked her head to the side. “Don’t you even want to know what we’re going to see?” she asked her friend.

“Nope. It’s more fun when it’s a surprise. And besides, even if it turns out to be some horrible hypnotist, if I don’t know who we’re going to see, I can blame all of my discontent on you.” Liza smiled again, more sweetly this time, but with a hint of venomous honesty.

“I swear, Liza, I’m through apologizing for that lackluster son of a bitch that we wasted nearly a hundred bucks on. That was three years ago, for crying out loud, and he was so highly reviewed in that Examiner article. You can’t put all the blame on me. I won’t take it.” Alison was so upset that she was mangling those poor abused tickets in the hand fisted at her side. Her purse swung loosely from her shoulder, empty of her belongings.

Liza scooped up Alison’s wallet from the mess on the table. “Put the tickets in the change compartment. I’ll grab your keys.”

Alison’s jaw dropped when she realized that Liza was utterly refusing to rise to the occasion and fight about the ventriloquist they’d seen at the Lake Theater. It would have been the fourteenth time they’d fought about it; two more and Alison would probably have paid Liza to drop the whole thing once and for all. But she didn’t consciously understand that. It was more a feeling of poison ivy, itching just behind her right temple every time Liza brought up that spectacularly failed girls’ night out.

A reflected flash of light blinded Alison as Liza paused at the door, swinging Alison’s keys around and around the first finger of her left hand. “Get it, girl. Shoes on, show’s starting.” Liza winked and walked out of the apartment without bothering to make sure that Alison was following instructions.

Alison slipped into her pumps and trotted obediently behind her friend, locking the door behind her on her way out.

 


The Dance

Her enthusiasm flags; his dancing is not what he had led her to believe. They pull apart, staring into each others’ eyes. She looks away first. He drops her hand, unsure of how to proceed.

A cricket chirps from the corner. The light of a passing car flashes across her face, and he holds his breath, taken aback by her beauty anew.

She returns to his embrace. Dancing isn’t everything.

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Weekly Get-Together

Carrie’s car backfired, and she jumped, letting go of the clutch and causing it to stall out. She rubbed the tense muscles in the back of her neck and took a deep breath. Some life lessons are easier to learn than others, I guess, she thought.

“Yoo hoo!” Someone called from the garage door. “Anybody home?” It was Carrie’s main accomplice, Sky. Their annual Labor Day Weekend bash was the stuff of legend. Mostly because of that one year when the twins had one too many raspberry mojitos and tried to go home with each other’s boyfriend.

Carrie gratefully exited her vehicle, dropping the keys in the seat behind her. She welcomed Sky’s arrival because it meant tapas were near. “Just let me grab my shoes,” she called.

Sky nodded and bounced back to her own properly maintained car to wait. Carrie was horrible about being ready on time. Today Sky ran ten minutes late on purpose just to see if Carrie would notice. Her bet was on not.

Today, it only took Carrie eight minutes to find the most disgusting pair of sandals she owned. At least, that was Sky’s assumption. They might once have been Birkenstocks, but time and abuse and disfigurement caused them to look like some alien creature had attached itself to Carrie’s flesh. And the color was just gross.

Sky shrugged, and put the car in reverse. Tapas Thursday was a tradition that wasn’t worth losing over a pair of godawful ugly sandals. Besides, Carrie’s existing fashion sense wasn’t ever anything to write home about.

On the way to the restaurant, they passed the train station, which was decorated in a giant banner welcoming some gymnast to the local competition. Sky pointed a finger at it, and Carrie scoffed.

“I haven’t been interested in gymnastics since my mother stopped forcing me to go,” she said. “Not that I was interested before then, either.”

Sky laughed. “I know, silly. Just like me and piano lessons.”

They pulled up to the fine dining establishment where all the Thursday staff knew their names. Sky parked the car, and the pair walked up to the door. A moth flew down from the awning, flapping in Sky’s face, and she flailed her arms wildly at it, panicking.

“It’s just a bug, girl, you look like you’re directing a ship into port,” said Carrie.

Sky’s face was red, and she briefly tried to defend her actions, but quickly gave up and shrugged. “I know, I just don’t like them.”

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They went to their usual table in the corner by the kitchen, not normally a popular table, but they liked it because the chance of the waiter dropping their tapas down someone’s back was pretty much nonexistent.

Natalio was their waiter tonight, and he was their definitive favorite. Even before they figured out the near-the-kitchen trick, he’d never dropped a single item from their order.

Sky picked up a dot of sauce with her finger and licked it off before continuing the conversation that had flagged due to their mutual admiration of Natalio.

“So, you don’t think that I’m being stupid about Fletcher, huh?”

Carrie quickly shook her head. “Of course not! He was absolutely faithless assuming that you were going to dump him for losing his job. He’s the one being stupid. I mean, a preemptive breakup over local employment? I know it sucks, but he’s being a jerk.”

“I know, but still…it just breaks my heart. I thought we were so good together. I didn’t know about the big streak of crazy he had until it was too late. But I guess it isn’t too late, since we’re broken up.” Sky shrugged. “What about you? How does your blood work look?”

“Oh, it’s fine, lately. My serum levels are down, which is good. Hopefully it’s just a waiting game now.”

***

Today I generated a list of twenty random words from this site. I wrote half at work this morning and finished the rest tonight. If you pay attention, you can tell where I started to struggle with the last few words!


Date Night

We went to Shogun and had sushi and steak and fried rice and vegetables. 

Then we got tattoos. 

Pics tomorrow, it’s late.