In the first picture, Zoey was screaming, her face beet red, while Jackson’s finger was firmly implanted up his nose. Delete. Second photo – Zoey shoved Jackson just as the camera flashed. Delete. By the 10th photo, Zoey and Jackson wore bright smiles, their arms wrapped around each other like loving siblings. Brandi posted it to Facebook with the hashtags: #blessed #bliss #momlife.
In another city, Brandi’s friend Sandra was scrubbing vomit out of her shirt as something crashed in the next room. They’d been snowed in for days. She glanced at Brandi’s latest Facebook update on her phone, and sighed.
It was clear that Bianca, the nervous patient fidgeting in the reclined chair, didn’t remember her. But Lauren, Dr. Asher to all of her patients, certainly remembered every cruel word Bianca had ever said, despite the intervening decades.
“Is it going to hurt much? No offense, but I hate coming to the dentist,” Bianca squeaked.
“It won’t hurt a bit,” Lauren said with a placid smile as she wielded the drill. She asked her assistant to shut the door.
She could feel his breath on the back of her neck. She felt the shift in the air as soon as he stepped inside. She had to think, while she had this tiny, secret moment. If she failed, she’d be proving all the naysayers right. The family members who said she had no business living alone, especially somewhere so remote. That she’d come running back to mommy soon enough.
Should she run? Somehow try and contact the authorities via her laptop without his noticing? Then she saw it, the silver letter opener, it’s shiny handle sticking out from under the stack of mail. She exhaled softly as she slowly moved her hand toward it, until her fingers were wrapped around its handle. She squared her shoulders, took another deep breath, then, with a guttural cry, jumped from the floor and swung her body toward him in one fell swoop, aiming for his neck.
Later, as the man lay bleeding on her living room floor, she went outside and sat on the porch, remembering the look of fear and surprise in his eyes, and smiled. She could see the red and blue lights through the trees.
This would be CeCe’s and Ricky’s last date. She’d been infatuated with him for so long, actually becoming his girlfriend had been thrilling, surreal. She’d felt like Molly Ringwald at the end of Pretty in Pink.And the first kiss…a warm shock of excitement shot through her still when she thought of it. It always would. But they just weren’t compatible.
They stood in front of the scarecrow at the edge of her family’s property, CeCe knowing that they were in full view of her mother’s reproachful gaze. She told Ricky she thought they’d be better off as friends and Ricky seemed genuinely surprised.
“I thought things were good,” he protested.
If you only had a brain.
Alone in her room that night, CeCe’s disappointment faded. Ricky would spend his life in this town, as his family had done for generations. There was nothing wrong with that, of course. She just wanted a different life. There were places she wanted to explore, strange boys she wanted to kiss.
She’d been writing the same book since college. The story was a beautiful one that had come to her in a dream. She’d sprung from bed in her tiny dorm room, startling her roommate, and run to jot the idea down before she forgot it.
Today, the girl with the eager smile and a head full of dreams was gone. She was a mother. A wife.
A thousand words. I need a thousand words.
“Coming to bed, babe?” Dean asked as he passed her office in the hall.
“Not yet.” She blew him a kiss, then opened her laptop.
The tour guide continued to drone on as Nikki stifled a yawn. She was only on the Historic Homes tour because of Denise. She had no interest in this sort of thing, but Denise seemed to be drinking it all in with an intense, almost religious-like, fervor. She didn’t think Denise had many other friends, poor thing.
Thankfully, the tour guide wrapped things up right on time so Nikki could rush to her next engagement, lunch and shopping with her bestie, Shana. She felt such pride in herself as she drove away, staring at Denise waving goodbye in the rear-view mirror.
“Do you think this works with my coloring?” Nikki asked Shana after a long lunch at their favorite bistro. She held a blush pink dress up to her neck. “Should I try it on?”
Shana nodded and smiled politely. As Nikki ducked into a changing room Shana checked the time, hoping Nikki wouldn’t try on ten different ensembles before making a choice as she had on their last shopping trip. She was meeting a group of her best girlfriends for drinks in less than an hour.
Written for Sunday Photo Fiction, and also inspired by this scientific study, which says that only 50% of the people we consider friends actually consider us a friend as well. Interesting read, if you have time.
It was too hot to sleep. The air was so still in the bedroom that sisters Cora and Emily had shared growing up that they decided to move to the screened in back porch, praying for the slightest breeze. They hadn’t spoken in months. Their father’s funeral had drawn them both home, but only for a night. In the morning, they’d leave, continuing on opposite paths.
Hours later, they were still awake, and restless, when Cora began to recall a memory. Their father, tiptoeing out of the back door in the middle of the night, venturing to the covered bridge that bordered their property. He would emerge an hour or so later, wearing a mysterious smile.
Barefoot, the women tiptoed through the dewy grass in their nightgowns, giggling, their arms around each other. “It was really dark those nights, but I’m pretty sure this is the place,” Emily said as they looked around for their father’s secret treasure. They easily found the shallow hole he’d dug. Inside – a half-empty bottle of his favorite bourbon. Emily dusted it off and took a long swig as she sat in the dirt, passing it to her sister who followed suit.
They leaned against the dirty wall in silence, as a cool breeze began to encircle them.
“Take your order,” the gum-popping waitress said impatiently, flipping her curly hair out of her eyes, a slight smile forming on her lips. Her table of young male customers looked at their beautiful server in awe, tongue-tied; they’d been planning to pull one of their classic pranks, dine-n-dash.
“Four waters, please,” said one of the boys, finally regaining his ability to speak. She rolled her eyes but dutifully brought the waters, keeping their glasses filled as she served her other tables over the next few hours. At the end of the night, they pooled their funds and managed to leave her the most generous tip she’d received all evening.
“Come back anytime,” she called after them with a wink as she put the cash in her pocket, thinking she’d splurge and treat herself to a nice dinner on her way home.
She was born into a world of silence. She’d never known any different, so she never viewed it as a disadvantage. She cherished the friends she’d made, the community that had embraced her, the life she built herself.
She spent her days walking the grounds of her secluded estate, dreaming and jotting ideas for future novels in her journal. When the weather didn’t cooperate, she sat indoors near the window, clicking away at her laptop. That’s what she was doing when the man entered through the carelessly unlocked back door. He made as much noise as he pleased entering her home; he knew it didn’t matter.
When he reached her living room, where she sat with her back to him, he stood close enough to see the hairs on the back of her neck, the dots of lint on her well-worn sweatshirt. He would wait for her to turn around, to see him, her eyes widening with fear and surprise. Then, his game would begin.