Rash Decisions

Prompt: Home

Colorbock-Wide-Brim-Summer-Hat-Boardwalk-Style

“But I just started moving in here!” cried Envy. She removed her hat in a dramatic gesture and flung it across the room. It was straw and had a floppy brim and soared like a frisbee, landing gracefully on a stack of unopened cardboard packing boxes.

They’d spent the day at Spanish Beach, lounging and cuddling and eating the picnic Bob had prepared and transported in an old-fashioned basket, where the plates, wine glasses, cutlery and other accoutrements all had their special storage places. He’d made, of course, fried chicken and potato salad. Envy’s contribution was a cold bottle of rosé.

Envy’s skin burned easily. She found hats uncomfortable, but she needed to wear one in sunny weather even as they sat in the shade. Now, that hat had found another use.

Drama.

Bob purported to hate drama. But, Envy found, all drama-creators hated the drama they created.

“And it’s a pretty nice apartment,” said Bob, strangely calm in the face of Envy’s outburst. “I like the big windows and the balcony. Nice crown moulding. What’d you pay for this place again?”

Envy gritted her teeth. Ok, they were engaged now, but she hadn’t ever told Bob what she paid for the condo. He continued to open his mouth and spit out whatever was closest, no matter how intrusive or bad mannered it was. Well, she could be radically honest too.

“I never told you what I paid. And I don’t intend to.”

Bob shrugged. He always said he wouldn’t be radically honest to others if he couldn’t take it himself. Envy didn’t know if that was true or whether that shrug was a carefully crafted and honed reaction that hid outrage or hurt.

She sighed heavily. “I don’t want to move into your house. I don’t like the location. It’s suburban, miles from everything.”

“There’s that giant park next door, the outlet mall is only a five minute drive, and there’s a satellite college campus—“

“Whatever ,” said Envy unpleasantly, wondering absently when had been the last time she’d been so rude.

“It’s not like you to be so abrupt,” said Bob.

“We’ve had this conversation. I don’t want to move, I haven’t even moved in here.”

“You’ve been living out of cardboard boxes for six months. I took that as a sign of your reluctance to settle in here.”

“I don’t need your amateur psychology, Bob.”

“I’m glad we’re having this conversation,” said Bob.

Envy stifled a scream.

Why hadn’t she unpacked properly though? This was the apartment of her dreams, light, bright, with high ceilings and polished wood floors, plenty of wall space for her art— yet none of it unpacked.

And what was the real reason she didn’t want to move in with Bob at his suburban but otherwise charming Victorian reno home right beside the park with the rose garden, which she adored and remembered visiting as a child? Bob even wanted to get married there.

Envy said, “I’m not ready to move.”

Bob nodded. “Not ready to move on, you mean. From Marcus. From all that.”

She thought of the last time she saw Marcus. In prison, when her leg was still in a cast, and he didn’t even have a lawyer. She got him one, and he pleaded guilty to the arson but not to the attempted murder.

That was love. That was passion. That was simpatico, trust, joy, heart-stopping sex, loyalty, even fealty. It was impossible to pinpoint the day when their connection began to erode. If there ever truly was a connection. If.

She was twisting the ruby engagement ring round and round her finger. She and Bob noticed this gesture at the same moment.

“No rash decisions,” he said.

“No rash decisions,” said Envy.

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Alarm [Repost]

Prompt: Observe

 

diamond cross 2

“You have to know I would never harm you,” Marcus said.

“Setting fire to the house with me in it kind of belies that statement,” said Envy.

Twice he had tried to reach across the table to take her hand, and twice had been rebuffed, once by the guard, and once by Envy herself.

He didn’t look like a prisoner waiting for a trial date. He looked like he had just turned up from a round of golf: a little tanned, a little tired, wondering what was for lunch. In fact, an outsider who observed just the two of them, seated at a small, pine-veneered table, would have pegged Envy for the convict; her hair was tangled, she was pale and nervous, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She was still a little battered from the fall from the balcony. Never a famous beauty to begin with, Envy was not at her best.

“The smoke alarms should have warned you,” said Marcus. “Why didn’t they?”

“That will remain a mystery for the ages,” said Envy, “since they were destroyed in the conflagration.” She wore a white gold chain with a diamond-encrusted cross pendant. She was thinking of returning to the church.

“You saw how upset I was,” said Marcus.

“That I survived,” Envy said.

For the third time, Marcus tried to take her hand. This time she slapped it. She was surprised to see his face contort in something that looked like pain. Existential or physical? she wondered.

“When did you stop loving me?” Envy said at last.

Marcus fiddled with the little sign in its plastic casing, propped up on the table. No touching. it said. No item exchange. No food. No shouting. Visitors and/or residents can and will be removed at any time at the guards’ discretion. No smoking.

Marcus looked out the window to an empty field, then back to Envy. “I never stopped loving you,” he said. “That’s why I asked you to come. I need your help.”

“Carmen got the police to describe you only as a ‘person of interest’,” Envy said.

“Carmen?”

“Your lawyer.”

“Ah.”

“That is the help I am giving you,” said Envy. “Take her advice. Tell the truth for once in your fucking life.” She stood up and leaned on her crutches. “And I’ll pray for you.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Marcus.

“Exactly,” said Envy.


  • Original Prompt: Burn, July 2, 2016

smoke-detector-monitoring-system

Alarm

Prompt: Burn

smoke-detector-monitoring-system

“You have to know I would never harm you,” Marcus said.

“Setting fire to the house with me in it kind of belies that statement,” said Envy.

Twice he had tried to reach across the table to take her hand, and twice had been rebuffed, once by the guard, and once by Envy herself.

He didn’t look like a prisoner waiting for a trial date. He looked like he had just turned up from a round of golf: a little tanned, a little tired, wondering what was for lunch. In fact, an outsider who observed just the two of them, seated at a small, pine-veneered table, would have pegged Envy for the convict; her hair was tangled, she was pale and nervous, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She was still a little battered from the fall from the balcony. Never a famous beauty to begin with, Envy was not at her best.

“The smoke alarms should have warned you,” said Marcus. “Why didn’t they?”

“That will remain a mystery for the ages,” said Envy, “since they were destroyed in the conflagration.” She wore a gold chain with a diamond-encrusted cross pendant. She was thinking of returning to the church.

“You saw how upset I was,” said Marcus.

“That I survived,” Envy said.

For the third time, Marcus tried to take her hand. This time she slapped it. She was surprised to see his face contort in something that looked like pain. Existential or physical? she wondered.

“When did you stop loving me?” Envy said at last.

Marcus fiddled with the little sign in its plastic casing, propped up on the table. No touching. it said. No item exchange. No food. No shouting. Visitors and/or residents can and will be removed at any time at the guards’ discretion. No smoking.

Marcus looked out the window to an empty field, then back to Envy. “I never stopped loving you,” he said. “That’s why I asked you to come. I need your help.”

“Carmen got the police to describe you only as a ‘person of interest’,” Envy said.

“Carmen?”

“Your lawyer.”

“Ah.”

“That is the help I am giving you,” said Envy. “Take her advice. Tell the truth for once in your fucking life.” She stood up and leaned on her crutches. “And I’ll pray for you.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Marcus.

“Exactly,” said Envy.

Learn to Fly

Prompt: Prophecy

rainy windshield

“What is your name?” the woman asked. Beside her, on the floor, a small child played with a plastic pail, shovel, and a box of ping pong balls.

“My name is Envy.”

“How did you come to find me?”

“A friend,” said Envy. “She said, tell Mrs Calabash that the cat strayed from the pier.”

The woman laughed. “Oh, that friend. Good.” The tea was ready. She poured hot, strong tea into two small porcelain cups, white edged in gold, resting in their white saucers, and pushed one towards Envy. “Milk or sugar?”

“No, thank you.”

The woman took a peanut butter cookie, which looked homemade, off the matching porcelain plate, and handed it silently to the child. Envy could not tell if the child, in a yellow t-shirt and denim overalls, with long hair and skin as fine and pale as the porcelain saucer, was a boy or a girl.

They were in the woman’s apartment. It was small but tidy, and they sat at one end of a rectangular, polished maple dining table. At the other end there was a large white sewing machine, beside banks of thread, attached to a Sony notebook computer. Instead of a sideboard there was a long open credenza, full of neatly stacked fabrics and fabric covered boxes. A length of deep blue silk was draped over the back of a dining chair.

“How can I help you?” the woman asked.

“I feel like my world is ending, I’m completely lost,” Envy said bluntly. “My personal, social, work, and family life is, well…” and she mouthed the word “fucked”, out of respect for tender ears.

“I see,” said Mrs Calabash. Envy had the feeling that she really could see. That was why she was there, in the apartment, on a Thursday evening when she should have been at bridge classes, which she was only taking to please Marcus, though she didn’t know, most of the time, why she bothered, especially after their giant row on the Alaska cruise. Marcus, for all his forays into their household finances, had a only a slim grasp of the concept of insurance, and had not forgiven her for throwing the bracelet overboard. She did not enlighten him. It felt good, for some reason, to be unforgiven by Marcus.

“Have you heard the expression,” said Mrs Calabash. “about ‘assume’?”

“That it makes an ass of u and me?” Envy said uncertainly, recalling perhaps a corporate poster, somewhere, some time out of memory.

“Right,” said Mrs Calabash. Then she paused. She stared into Envy’s eyes, and Envy tried to hold the gaze, but Mrs Calabash’s pale blue eyes belied the intensity of her stare and Envy found herself looking away. Her eyes rested on the child, who was now crushing a ping pong ball with the bucket. It made a brittle, crackling sound, which was a little unpleasant.

“I don’t understand what I see,” Mrs Calabash said unapologetically. “I rarely do. But I will tell you.”

“Please do,” said Envy.

“Learn to fly,” said the woman. “It could save your life.”

“What?” said Envy.

“I see jewels raining down on you,” Mrs Calabash continued. “Bright against the sky, like millions of falling stars.”

She was still looking into Envy’s eyes.

“I see a child, hiding in shame,” she said. “Crying. Laughing. Crying.”

The child on the floor looked up, but had been well-trained not to interrupt, for he or she said nothing.

Mrs Calabash fell silent then. She looked out the window for a moment, at the cars pausing at the stop sign on the corner, then inching forward in the rain. “That’s all,” she said.

“Hmm,” said Envy.

Mrs Calabash would not accept money for the visit, so Envy took a ballpoint pen she had in a zippered compartment of her purse. It was a novelty pen; you could click a button and change the colour of the ink, from blue to red, and back again. She showed Mrs Calabash, raising her eyebrows in query, and Mrs Calabash nodded. Envy handed the pen to the child, who took it and smiled.

Envy started the car, and turned off the radio so she could drive home with just the sound of the windshield wipers. It was the most soothing sound she knew, and she often took drives in the rain to calm herself, to empty her mind and find a few moments of peace.

A week later, as she stared at the remains of her house, she realized that Mrs Calabash had prophesied all that happened.

Don’t assume. Don’t assume that Marcus knows nothing about insurance. The house and contents were insured, by Marcus, for close to 2 million dollars.

Learn to fly. Their bedroom was on the second level. Marcus was late, much later than he had promised. She had wondered whether he would come to bed, or sleep in the guest room. She dozed fitfully, and had troublesome half-dreams, and when the smoke oozed into the room from under the closed door, she realized she could not escape into the hallway. She went to the balcony, where, because she was unable to fly, she climbed over the railing and hung over the lawn in the back yard, and when she saw flames she let go.

Jewels raining down. She crawled to the front of the house, feeling no pain from the fall, not yet, and a neighbour ran to her and told her the fire trucks were on their way, and Envy could hear them in the distance. She looked up at her beautiful home, engulfed in flames, embers falling from the night sky like a million stars.

A child crying. Marcus thought she might die. Envy didn’t know why she didn’t die; it was only that she was uneasy, and couldn’t drift off to sleep, so she was alert enough to see and smell the smoke. It was likely Marcus had cried as he set the fire, since he wasn’t a monster, not really, and maybe laughed, thinking of the windfall he was about to receive. But when he saw her at the hospital, still in a wheeled bed in the hallway, waiting for her leg to be set, he cried in breathless gulps.

Marcus was not a monster, nor was he a brilliant mastermind. It was shockingly easy to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and he found himself facing more serious criminal charges than he had ever foreseen.

Envy learned to get around on crutches, but was not able to get in the car and drive. She was not able to find whatever peace or comfort the sound of the wipers in the rain offered. Her closest friend was away. Her therapist seemed like an irrelevant stranger. Her parents were stunned into incomprehension. She found herself sitting in a taxicab outside a small, stucco and wood-sided apartment building, with a child’s wooden puzzle, wrapped in yellow paper, clutched in her hands.