Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Five Simple Words

Here's my regular February submission for the Flash Fiction Carnival. I'll try and get one up for V-day too. The prompt for this one was COWARDICE.

Five Simple Words

I don't love you anymore.

They're hard words to say, even harder to hear. How do you tell someone that everything you promised with your lips, your name, your body . . . was a lie? How do you walk away from a life that you've built from nothing? We don't fight. We don't cheat. But I don't love her. I never thought it could happen to me - the statistic. And at first, I thought it was just a phase, something all couples go through. But she doesn't see me. I'm invisible. And even if I tried, I don't think I could understand her anymore. I try to see the girl I fell in love with once, and sometimes I get a glimpse of her. It's like an icicle to the heart, because it's just as temporary.

Wine. Pasta with red clam sauce - her favorite. Which aisle is the salad dressing on? She would know. She would have left the store twenty minutes ago, and have made three phone calls while she was here.

Tonight's the night. I'll make the dinner, drink the wine - better get two bottles - and have Chopin playing in the background when she gets home. We'll eat, and make polite conversation, just like always. But tonight, I'll say it.

I wonder if that redhead was really smiling at me, or was she just being nice? I can't even tell anymore. How the hell am I supposed to do this?

It's just five words. Five simple words, and then I'm free. We can both stop pretending, and move on. God, I don't want to hurt her. I hate to see her cry. When she cries, when she hates herself, and rages against the world, she becomes that vulnerable girl again. And the part of me that loved her rears up and panics. Shit. I don't think I can do this.

When the hell did Parmesan get so expensive?

Maybe she'll come home, and it will be different. Maybe there will be something there, a spark, something to hope for. Maybe when I look at her, I'll feel something again, besides indifference. But I'll cook the dinner anyways. I'll cook the dinner, drink the wine, and try to remember why I'm doing this, the years that we've already wasted. It will be better for both of us. We're good people. We both deserve to be loved. If we can't love each other . . . what if she still loves me? Can I really say those words to her? I know that will be it. There's no going back. Never. It would be over.

***

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just keep the promise I made – to love, honor and cherish? I never expected to stop, I really didn’t. If I still loved her, everything would be fine, if I could only find away. But instead, I’ll make her favorite dinner, and set her up to hear the five ugliest words I could say. Of course, I’ll probably choke on them, like I did last time. She’ll come home, and she’ll be tired, but grateful, and she’ll think it means I want sex. And I won’t say them, and we’ll eat, and we’ll go to bed. We’ll pretend that there’s something there that’s not, and I’ll stay invisible. Because I’m a fucking coward.

“Jim, I’m home. You won't believe what happened today on the Burke deal. Oh! You’re making clam sauce?”

“Yeah, I thought it might be nice.” Fucking coward.

-- 584 words

8 comments:

Rebecca said...

Wow! This was good!

Unfocused Me said...

Bravo, Gwen. Well done. Very crisp. The only real criticism I can give you is that you should have more confidence in your ability to convey your main character's cowardice without telling us; we got the message without the two places at the end where he calls himself a coward.

That's more of a style note than a substantive comment, though. Nice job.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I can't imagine it would be easy to be where Jim is. You've conveyed his quandry nicely.

Kathleen Oxley said...

You did a great job conveying the tough situation Jim was in and how conflicted he was about it. I like how he goes back and forth, not making up his mind - talking himself into and out of it! I think your use of the word "invisible" is particularly strong in the piece.
~Kat

Genevieve said...

I like that you used his inner voice so successfully...agonizing over what he's about to do and then wondering why parmesean costs so much. Makes it bittersweet but real. I'm not sure you need the paragraph after the asterisks, as you've conveyed much of this already (and successfully).

Thanks for this.

Arachne Jericho said...

Very nice! Excellent first person without shattering the POV (which can be hard to do).

You could probably merge the two parts and leave the backstory as something that's already happened. That way you still get the nice closer of the last two sentences.

Arachne Jericho said...

Excuse me, I meant final two lines. Starting with "Jim, I'm home...."

AlannahJoy said...

Outstanding work! Very clean and sharp writing, making me see the clear cowardice in the situation ... yet I empathize with the characters.

Beautifully done!