#LyricalFictionFriday: Distance

“My love,” she says as she tilts the bottle under the rush of hot water raining down from the faucet. She looks over her shoulder. He’s standing by the door. It’s open behind him. Cracked. A sliver of light from the hall pours in. He reaches back for the knob…

Oh, how she wishes he would push it closed, take those three giant steps around the kitchen island with his long lanky legs to come behind her, as he used to, long days after work. Their bodies fitting together like puzzle pieces, how she wishes he would wrap his arms around her waist, whisper in her ear, “My love,” the way he did thirteen months ago, before—

A sudden cry from the monitor by the sink grabs her attention, for only a second, and in that second, the distance between them grows. The door is open wider now, his body fits between the crack, blocking the light, one foot already in the hall.

“Will you get that?”

But that isn’t a phone she can answer and tell its caller to ring back later, or a TV she can put on mute. That is a baby. Their baby. And has he even touched it? Fed it? Changed a single diaper? Does he know that it has his eyes? Does he realize that she still doesn’t feel like a mother, looks at it like it’s a thing, a thing that won’t be quiet, that won’t stop?

She wants to ask him…

If he comes back.

She’s left in darkness. The door closed, she hears the echo of his footsteps down the hall, but they don’t grow faint, they get louder, and the speaker from the baby monitor triples in size, the cries rising, flooding her ears, pushing her down to the floor, curled in the fetal position, hysterical, waiting for some kind of a miracle.

—Nortina


Written for #LyricalFictionFriday, a challenge that uses song lyrics as prompts. Today’s prompt is: …He’s only happy hysterical … I’m waiting for some kind of miracle…

Blurred Reality

I’ve been living on caffeine for the past few weeks, forcing myself to continue on with my various projects at the risk of losing sleep. I’ve managed to keep up with the A to Z Challenge so far, but I’ve neglected a lot of my favorite flash fiction challenges. Thankfully, I have a friend in Amina who can help me write a story! Here’s another one of our collaborations for your entertainment.

This one’s pretty dark, so you’ve been warned . . .

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Blurred Reality

A few days have gone by, and all I’ve done is write. I’ve run out of ink so I cut myself and use my blood. My thoughts need to be heard . . . need to be read. It’s been a long time coming . . .

Brick walls.
Shattered glasses.
Blood.
Sweat.
Tears.
Pain.

My phone vibrates against the porcelain tub and rattles to the floor. I don’t move to answer. It’s probably Kerry. I can’t talk to her now. I don’t want to hear her incessant complaining about Mike’s infidelity. If only she knew. I would do anything to be cheated on, to share my bed with another woman, who tangles herself in the sheets as the man I love pleasures every inch of her body with his tongue and lips as he did mine the night before. Instead, I can only taste the iron on his clammy palm from when he covered my nose and mouth, can only feel the shards of glass slice through my skin from when he thrust me through the window of the abandoned hospital building in the woods.

I lift my arm out of water. My skin is wrinkled like prunes. I wish I could trim it away, shed myself of the filth. How long have I been in this bath? An hour? Two? The water’s not even hot, not even lukewarm. I wipe away the soap suds to read what I have written. Most of the ink from the pen is faded, but the scratches are clear as day, a stark red against my pale skin. I take a corkscrew and continue my story, carving four more letters into my wrist:

R-A-P-E.

I trusted him.

I trusted him as a person.

I trusted his soul.

I remember the days when he was the one who made me smile. Dinner dates, movie night and cocktails. Maybe it was my fault . . . Did I not scream loud enough? Was my “No” in whispers? When I said, “Stop,” didn’t I mean it????

Maybe it was my fault for agreeing to go out camping with him that night. It started so beautifully. We stared at the stars and watched as the clouds danced in circles around the moon. The weather was perfect, and his smell . . . Oh his smell — the woody, musky scent.

My face breaks into a smile at the happy memory, and in an instant I remember . . . I remember him choking me, and my smile, it turns into screams as I cut the side of my face. I don’t want to be beautiful. I want this pain to take me . . . to a place where I’ll never be able to return, a place where I have no trust, a place where I will never be in pain.

I sink lower into the tub, my knees at the level of my eyes. It was so tempting . . . Just to dip my nose under . . . inhale . . . let the water flood my lungs . . .

But I want to see his face when I toss the small plastic rod at his feet. I want to watch his cold blue eyes turn a steel gray when he sees those two pink lines drawn right down the center.

It’ll be just our luck if we are having a girl.

The door bell rings. I sit in this bath tub contemplating if I really want to entertain guests tonight.

What time is it anyway??

If I ignore the sounds long enough, maybe they’ll go away . . .

Ding

Ding

Ding

Ding

Diiinnnnnng

Who the fuck is it anyway!!!!!???!

I find the strength to get out of the tub, grab my robe and walk sluggishly down the stairs . . . Hoping by the time I get to the door, whoever is there will be gone.

Dinnnnggg

Dinnnnggggg

“I’m coming, dammit.”

I open the door . . . and blue eyes are staring back at me . . . I can recognize those eyes anywhere. I feel all the emotion rushing through me . . .

I can’t breathe. I can’t fucking breathe.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?”

“I was worried about you.” He speaks softly, then steps over the threshold and wraps me in his arms. “You haven’t been answering my calls.”

I extend my forearm and push him back. “You’ve got some nerve,” I sneer.

“Babe–” he starts, but stops and hangs his head. He should feel ashamed. Coming here. To do what? To gloat? To pretend my torment for the past several weeks was all in my head? Will he go so far as to say I wanted it, I asked for it, I was begging for it?

Instead he says, “You know I love you, right?”

I slam the door in his face. That kind of love is deadly, so says my bloody wrist, my scarred face.

“Babe please . . . Open the door.”

My calm breath turns into rage.

“You raped me! You raped me and you know it, and now I’m pregnant and I don’t want this child . . . I don’t want it . . . Take it away . . .”

I hear him stop breathing for a second.

“We are keeping MY child. Don’t you even think for a second you’re killing MY child.”

“Your child?” I say helplessly. I turn my back to the door and lean against it. What was I to him? An incubator? Just a surrogate? Collateral damage? He always talked about how much he wanted kids, almost to the point of obsession. I was the one who blocked it. I wouldn’t have a child out of wedlock. So he proposed. Again and again. Sometimes twice in one week. He was always in a rush. But why?

I thought my pregnancy would make him feel guilty for what he did. This couldn’t have been the way he wanted to conceive his dream family—a wife, a couple of kids, a three-story house in the suburbs—but I guess there’s always a dark secret behind every white picket fence. Would this be ours? It wouldn’t be as easy to deny him in marriage. How often would he take advantage?

My body bounces off the door as he kicks and punches it. “Just open up!” He shouts.

“Open up,” I scoff to myself, like he opened my womb. My stomach rises in my chest. I double over dizzy and start to dry heave.

He must hear me, because his pounding grows more invigorating. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks in.

It all happens in an instant . . .

The last thing I remember are sounds… Various sounds.

The sound of my hinges giving way to his strength . . . My feet shuffling on the marble as I make a dash for the kitchen . . . Him grunting as he grabs my arms . . . Me screaming at him to let go . . .

“I’ll kill you before you kill my child. If I can’t have you then no one else will, you filthy bitch.”

This can’t be how it all ends. Me — dead and pregnant for a psychopath. I still remember how every punch to my stomach felt . . . And in my head I am actually dead . . .

I finally begin to see the light . . . Is this what death feels like???? Just as I’m about to give up, I feel the corkscrew in the pocket of my robe.

Stabbing someone, on paper, seems easy. Hollywood would have you believe you can sink a knife into human flesh, down to the handle, and the blade would smoothly glide through, like slicing softened butter. In reality, you could use all of your strength, and the blade still wouldn’t go deeper than a quarter inch.

My energy depleted from the baby, my engraved wrist, the smell of Merlot I opened but never drank, I can barely lift my arm. I make it only to his waist, and blocking his blows with one hand, I jab his thigh with the corkscrew in the other. Once, then twice. It barely scratches the surface, but it is enough to stun him, and the minute he lets me go, I sprint for the bathroom, close and lock the door behind me, and dive for my cellphone on the floor.

It’s still vibrating. Kerry’s been calling this whole time.

“Kerry, call the police. He’s going to kill me. Help me, Kerry.”

The next sounds I hear are two gun shots and Kerry knocking on the bathroom door.

“Kiera, open up!!! He’s gone.”

***

“Miss Kiera you, were very lucky. You could have lost the baby . . .”

I’ve been in a trance for days. My memory is foggy. I remember bright lights and beeps and people talking . . . Faces, a lot of faces. Familiar ones. Unfamiliar ones. White robes. Blue suits . . . Needles, clanking metal.

“Miss Keira, can you hear me?”

I look up at the doctor and smile.

“Yes, I can Dr. Liam. I would like an abortion please . . .”

—Amina & Nortina

Depressed Deek

“Oh, I just wish I was dead!” a woman blurted.

I broke away from Grandma and followed the voice. Sitting on the plush, velvet cough against the wall left of Grandma, a stumpy old woman clad in a purple blouse and skirt matched so well with the fabric of the couch that if it had not been for her gray hair and pale white skin, I might not have seen her. She folded her arms over her chest, poked out her bottom lip—also painted purple—and said again, “I just wanna be dead!”

“Winifred, why would you wanna say a thing like that?” Grandma purred.

“Here we go again.” The woman with the eight-year-old hairstyle spun in her chair and turned her back to Winifred. “She says this all the time.”

“Such a damper,” said the older gentlemen sitting on the other side of Grandma beside the record player—the music gone silent again—in an armchair identical to hers. He lowered his head and with his middle finger, scratched the age spot on his bald crown. “You wanna die so much, why don’t you marry Millie? She seems to have mastered the skill of killing spouses.”

Grandma chuckled, but the tears still lingering in the corners of her eyes told me she didn’t appreciate his joke.

“Two broads marrying, humph.” The last of our group sat away from us, giving us only his profile. A newspaper lay open in his lap, and he flipped through the pages as he spoke. “Shit’s legal now, humph. And I thought we were done for when they let the races marry.”

“Then you’d love to hear about my husband Lindell.” Grandma stuck out her tongue. “Don’t mind him,” she said to me. “He used be in the KKK.”

“Marcos is his roommate,” Baldy added, then he yelled out, “Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it, Frank!”

“Stop all that cursing, Thomas,” Grandma swatted at his mouth, and he dodged the back of her hand.

“I was in the navy for thirty years! The sailor talk is bred in me.”

“Why won’t the Lord just take me now!” The wrinkles in the jowls hanging from Winifred’s jaw deepened as she shook her head.

“Oh, shut up, Winifred!” Thomas and Frank said in unison.

“You stop talking all that craziness, you hear?” Grandma added.

“I don’t have nobody,” Winifred continued. “You got all these husbands, I never even had one. Your granddaughter comes to visit you every week, I ain’t seen my niece since she put me in here. I just wanna die!”

Grandma slowly stood to her feet, her knees making a soft popping sound as she straightened up. She went over and sat next to Winifred on the couch. “Life’s too precious to want to end it before it’s time.” She put her arm around Winifred’s shoulders. “You know, I had a husband who killed himself.”

“Really?” I asked. Grandma nodded, though her attention was focus on Winifred, as if the rest of us weren’t even there. It was just the two of them in conversation now. This story was reserved only for Winifred.

D“Deek was a sweet man. I wasn’t smitten by him or anything, but I was happy. He was a great friend.” She looked up at the ceiling and wiped her eyes. “I remember that really bad blizzard of ’58. We sat by the fireplace talking for hours about everything we ever wanted to do in life, until we got soot on our faces.”

“Why did he kill himself?” Winifred asked.

Grandma inhaled deeply, raising her shoulders. When she exhaled, her entire body shrank, and she all but disappeared behind Winifred into the purple couch. “His mother was an awful woman. She gave him a hard time. I don’t think she liked me much. Eighteen-years-old and already widowed three times. I was getting a reputation around our little town. Most men thought I was some kind of witch. Deek was the only one who spoke to me after Carl died.

“I think he knew I wasn’t in love with him like I was with Andrew and Carl. I did love him, though. Maybe I just didn’t tell him enough.” She hung her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I should have been there.” Tear drops fell to her thighs, soaking the thin fabric of her dress. “I was at my parents’ house when he did it. Mama had asked me to go to the store and buy her some white beans for her three bean chili.” She titled back her head and whipped her hair off her face, blinking away tears. “When I got home later that afternoon, I found him hanging from the ceiling fan.”

“You poor girl,” Winifred said.

“Of course, his mother blamed me. Wouldn’t even let me go to his funeral. Me. His wife.”

“Funerals bring out the ugliness in people,” Thomas muttered. “Happened at my wife’s funeral.”

Grandma shook her head. “This woman was already ugly.”

“But you eventually moved on, right?” Winifred asked.

“I eventually remarried, yes,” Grandma said, “but it still haunts me all these years later. I just wish I knew what I could’ve done to prevent it.” One of Winifred’s gray curls stuck out behind her ear, and Grandma twirled it around her finger and tucked it down. “Take it from someone who’s been married twenty-six times and watched each of her husbands die. Death is never easy. Sometimes I’m just as lonely as you feel. But look around you.” She spread her arms, welcoming the rest of us in. “You have family here, and I’ll lend you my granddaughter every once in a while,” she said and winked.

“How bout lending her a husband,” Thomas joked. We all laughed, even Winifred and grumpy, old Frank, and the heaviness of the air finally lifted.

 —Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is in full throttle! Have you joined yet? Come back to read more from 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths. And be sure to check out more “D” posts from other A to Z bloggers.

No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge: Day 25

She had reached
her breaking point.

Her blood boiling,
anticipating her to end it.

Then the temperature cooled.

The wind blew her
hair across her face,

wrapped her shawl
around her shoulders.

White flakes of frozen
dust fell from the sky.

Standing center
of the intersection,

her arms outstretched,
she lifted her head,

stuck out her tongue.
She didn’t see the car

skidding on the frozen road.

—Nortina

Copyright by Jason Benjamin
Copyright by Jason Benjamin

No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge: Day 21

Bloodletting
a primitive practice—
physicians lacked
the knowledge of
modern medicine—
a strike of the hammer
against the pick into the
skin, let the thick
blood marred by
toxin, parasite, disease
drain from the body
and cure a soul of misery.
How is their belief
different from those
with zebra stripes
along their arms?

—Nortina


photo credit: history.com
photo credit: history.com