Madeline was starving. She’d been too nervous to eat the entire day, her stomach churning as she sat anxiously in her work cubicle, waiting for 5 o’clock. Now, it seemed as though all of the hunger stored up from the entire day had decided to take over her body at once. I hope no one heard my stomach growl. But she was sure someone had.
Her foot tapped a silent beat against the plush carpet. She made up a recitation to go along with the rhythm. Which-fork-do-I-pick? Which-fork-do-I-pick? Which-fork-do-I-pick? She couldn’t remember. Her mother had mentioned it to her long ago in passing but hadn’t made a big issue of it. Clearly she hadn’t thought Madeline had too many formal, black tie dinner parties in her future. Madeline had never seen so much silverware at one place setting in all of her life. Do I start at the outside and work my way in? Or is it the reverse? She didn’t want to look like a fool.
David had introduced her to his parents only about a month ago. His mother, Claudine, had seemed decidedly underwhelmed by Madeline, coolly taking in her off-the-rack clothes and scuffed shoes before offering her a dry handshake and a tight smile. David had told her not to worry when Madeline fretted that his mother didn’t like her, and sure enough, a week later Claudine had begun planning a dinner party to introduce Madeline to all of their closest friends and family. It was their coming out party.
One piece of advice from her mother that Madeline did hold on to – if you’re ever unsure, watch to see what the other dinner guests do first. Great advice, except no one had begun eating yet. Claudine was in the middle of a lengthy anecdote, something about her and her husband’s recent visit to the South of France, and they all seemed to be hanging on her every word.
David was seated at the opposite end of the table. He’d warned her this would happen. Traditionally at dinner parties, he’d explained, couples were separated to give everyone a chance to meet someone new, make new acquaintances. Madeline didn’t see the point. To her right, David’s great-aunt Dorinda was already lightly snoring into her uneaten garden salad. To her left, the wife of David’s best friend from high school, Tiffany, kept leaving her seat every five to ten minutes to make suspicious trips to the powder room, wiping at her nose upon her return. Is that going to be me in a few years? Madeline wondered as she stared once again at Tiffany’s retreating form. It also wasn’t lost on her that David had been seated next to his beautiful ex-wife, Elisa, who put her hand on David’s forearm and laughed lustily every time Claudine made a joke, or what passed as a joke in this house, anyway, tossing her hair back and leaning into David as though he were still hers.
Screw this. Madeline raised the fork she thought was meant for the salad course and decided to go for it. The salad was dry and underdressed but it was the first sustenance she’d had all day. She bit down on a huge chunk of carrot and a loud crunch seemed to echo through the dining room. Claudine stopped mid-sentence and every eye turned on her. Seriously? How do these people eat carrots? Do they pay someone to have them pre-chewed?
Sheepish, Madeline, unable to remove her eyes from Claudine’s steely glare, went to set down the fork on the side of her salad bowl but accidentally knocked over her water glass and a glass of red wine, dousing the front of her dress and splashing poor Aunt Dorinda, who still didn’t wake up.
Are you okay? David mouthed from across the room. Madeline nodded as she rose from the table, gathering all of her confidence. “I’m sorry to disturb you. Excuse me for a moment, please.” She rushed from the room as quickly as good manners would allow, making her way to the powder room Tiffany was exiting, glassy-eyed.
As she scrubbed at the front of her dress with a towel and made little headway, there was a gentle knock at the door. Her heart lifted. David.
But it was a fiery-eyed Claudine who opened the door, quietly shutting it behind her as she stepped inside.
Today’s Story A Day prompt is Write at Your Natural Length.
- Today I give you permission to write a partial story, a scene, and extracts from a longer tale. It doesn’t have to feel complete, like a short story should, but it should still have something of a story arc. Use today to practice that.
I decided to write a scene instead of a complete story. Instead of writing a scene from the novel I’m writing, I decided to write one using characters from a short story I wrote a while ago.
Read Part 2