The Gray Area

This is a bit longer than the stories I usually post. However, if you have the time, please tell me your thoughts. I would very much appreciate it. Many, many thanks, Sascha. (ps. I am happy to read your longer piece as well, just let me know…except if it’s novel length (sorry).

The Gray Area

I’ve been over twenty hours on this highway, watching the pavement slide under the tires, passing through rain that glosses the road over like ice and nighttime in which reality becomes the repetition of a white dotted line against black. My headlights show the tawny sleekness of deer at the edge of the highway, the fat waddle of groundhogs, and, for hours, a plentitude of nothing except images like a succession of stills from a movie many years old.

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Let’s Fly Away #amwriting

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To join in Sunday Photo Fiction, click here.


 

Let’s Fly Away

The phone slipped from her numb fingers to the carpet where she stared at it as if it had become a scorpion. She considered stomping on it with the heel of her shoe.

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P is for Perky #AtoZchallenge #amwriting

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“There you are!” the petite blonde with huge blue eyes says as she approaches with an equally huge smile on her lips. “Welcome to Burbank and Hughes! I’m Ellie with HR and I’m going to give you a tour of the offices and show you where everything is. Do you have any questions?”

She waits the briefest of moments, her lips pressed in a tight line as though it’s an extreme effort not to speak. “Great. Well, let’s go to the lunchroom first. It’s my favorite room in the building. You know why? Because it has windows to the courtyard! At my last job, the lunchroom had no natural light at all. It was so depressing. But, see. The windows are huge. The snack machines have a great selection and the coffee machine does caramel lattes. Isn’t that the best? It saves money from running out to Starbucks. Which is a great help when you’re saving for vacation or a nursery, not that I would know about that. Not since Jeff left,” she says, her voice suddenly strained. Quickly she replaces her 100 watt smile. “But, you know, some people are. Every little bit helps.”

“Now through here, we have a little waiting room. It’s for clients and staff. Look at the view from here. You can even see the river. Spectacular, isn’t it?” Her eyes grow momentarily vague as if reliving a memory.

I nod when she glances at me.

“Down this hallway, which you probably shouldn’t go along unless you’ve been called for, are the partners’ offices. Burbank and Hughes.” She pauses. There’s laughter at the end of the hallway and a very tall brunette in a very small skirt laughs broadly at something a man, I recognize as Jeff Hughes, says. I glance at my blonde tour guide who suddenly scampers down a different hallway, amazing me by her agility in those three inch heels.

“Down here we have the community room, nice name, right, where you’ll be working. Have you seen your cubicle? What I really like,” she says as she opens the door and lowers her voice as not to disturb the people working. “Is the natural light. Again! And your cubicle is over here. You have a skylight right above your cubicle. Fantastic! I’m so psyched for you.”

“Ellie, a moment,” the tall brunette who had been with Jeff Hughes calls away my tour guide.

Ellie smiles an apology to me and then stands in front of the brunette, looking up despite her very high heels. Every emotion plays across Ellie’s face as she listens, mottled red, creamy pallor, narrowed eyes, and finally pressed white lips. She nods without ever saying a word. When she returns, she looks suddenly as if she had run a marathon.

I’m about to speak, when her smile, maybe only at 60 watt this time, returns. “Back here is the supply room. We work on the honesty practice. Basically just sign out whatever supplies you take. If it’s the last, you just take . . .dammit. Honesty, what a laugh! You know I caught him back here with her? They thought everyone had left for the disaster planning seminar. Me included. And he was there just jackhammering into her. Where does she get off telling me not to waste time when she was doing my husband on the clock?”

Ellie has been speaking these words to the grey speckled carpet. A blush settles over her features.

“I’m so sorry,” she says. No tears. She shakes her head. “I thought he was the love of my life. Stupid, right? Well, I guess I was just as stupid as he thought I was. Right. Well, my extension is x642. I’m sure I forgot something. I’m just going to the waiting room and pour caramel latte in the potted plant.”

 

end 4/19/2017

S. Darlington

His Waffling Heart

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photo by Roman Kraft via Unsplash

Three Line Tales, Week 54

His Waffling Heart

He’s eating heart-shaped waffles since they’re the special while the fresh-faced blonde leans toward him, enrapt by the lines he’s spewing.

He glances up, sees me, guilt written on his face as I sit next to him and smile broadly at the girl who, in turn, frowns at me as I ask: “Are you joining our Valentine’s threesome?” and then she’s looking between our faces, panic widening her eyes before she hurries away.

“Yeah, me neither,” I mutter before leaving him.

end 2/9/2017

S. Darlington

Bus Stop, Baby

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Thanks to Rochelle at Friday Fictioneers for the Photo Prompt. If you’d like to participate, visit here.

For more stories, visit here.


Bus Stop, Baby

Was there anything special about her? 40’s, blonde, a bit thin. Her throat showed work done. She frequently fondled her platinum hair during dinner.

I viewed a subtle glance from my boyfriend to her. He placed his napkin on the table.

“I need a rest.”

A moment later, she left her table.

Clang. Not an idiot.

I glanced at the man she left behind, face pressed against his iphone.

I slung my purse over my shoulder, edged to the restrooms, heard the reverb of grunting.

Done.

I always dreamed of taking the bus to Santa Fe.

end 12/30/2016

S. Darlington

So Long, Marianne

She was in bed, almost asleep, when he entered the room, performed his ritual of removing his watch, folding his pants, hanging his shirt and then taking off his boxers before sliding between the sheets. His cell rang. It was after midnight.

He sat up, glanced at the screen, his face illuminated silver by the glow. He looked quickly at her and then left the room.

“Yeah, I remember the concert of his we went to. So Long, Marianne. Yeah, I remember. Great songs,” he said.

She knew who it was then. She turned over, attempting to ignore the old jealousy that seeped through her with hot, ugly blood. She thought the woman had stopped calling, but that was the landline. Obviously she had his cell.

“I miss you too,” she heard him say and her stomach dipped. She felt stupidly vulnerable lying in bed in a black lace nightgown listening to him talk to his old lover. She felt open to scores of wounds that had healed ever so slowly, always threatening to abscess.

His words became whispered. She thought they sounded loving, respectful, devotional as if part of a Sunday hymn, something sacred, something for a beloved.

“Monday’s not good,” he said.

She hugged the pillow against her, its coolness discomforting, and all of the old feelings of mistrust returned, with their long foul “fuck me red” fingernails. He was far enough away she couldn’t make out the words, but not far enough away that she couldn’t make out the tone. The tone seared through her abdomen, a knife jutting and yanked upward.

When he returned, he slid between the sheets, his back to her. In moments she heard his breath flatten and the emptiness of soft snores as he padded to dreams, leaving her to awakened, disconsolate sorrow.

end 11/10/2016

S. Darlington

Alone

She wed her piano teacher

she: starry eyed romantic, dreaming of children

laughter, holidays, aromas rising from the kitchen,

constant cheer, noise, hide and seek, changing diapers.

Cocktail parties for his rising star, cocktails for her

in the kitchen impaired, bitter, vitriolic.

 

Late, the last baby, afterthought or salvation

Amidst recriminations, anger for him and infidelities

Women coddled him, men he fucked

Home to screams of drunk wife and baby girl,

Sons pounding each other, other daughter jealousy green.

 

Baby daughter smiled always, mostly,

Fearing though the vicious mother temper

One word yielded spankings, one wrong turn more,

Child she was never bad, just curious, seeking, observing =

spanked, but not by philandering, adoring dad.

 

Too young she became fatherless

The mother’s temper calmed, bitterness never

Anger ruptured over all things, grudges grew

Daughter tried to mollify the feelings,

learning inward growth,

 

smiling alone, being alone, understanding alone.

 

Alone no one hurt you.

 

end 9/5/2016

S. Darlington

Not so complicated

It’s complicated.

No.

Yes.

That’s an excuse you give for not telling me the truth.

No.

Okay, then tell me.

I can’t.

Why not?

It’s complicated.

What if I told you I loved you?

I can’t.

Why? Because it’s complicated?

Yes.

There’s always been someone else.

Silence.

She can’t look at him. The silence takes her in, it coddles her, it negotiates for her, and finally it releases her so that she can stand up and walk out of the apartment with her head held high, wondering if she will be just as naive the next time.

 

end 8/16/2016 (3)

Purposefully

He says: “I didn’t do it on purpose” as if his lack of intent absolves him.

Is he saying instead: I didn’t think of the consequences? I didn’t think of you? You weren’t in my mind when I flirted? When I trailed my fingertips up her naked forearm to her bicep? When they entwined in her silken blonde hair, when they caressed her nape, when my lips pressed on hers, when I fucked her, when I woke up, when I texted I was staying at Roy’s?

“I was drunk.”

Purposefully. You leave him.

end

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