I Held Your Heart Once

Here’s a short story (748 words) I wrote for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below:

I Held Your Heart Once

“I told you this was a bad idea!” he shouted.

Yeah, as if the entire idea had been mine. We sat in the house on the gray floor, my fingers almost completely numb. I wanted to shove a knife under his ribs. I plastered a faux smile on my face.

“You start the fire then.”

“Fine,” he said, grabbing the stick and the stone from me.

I studied El’s face as the light in the windows began to recede and the bitter wind howled. His cheeks were gaunt. When we’d left they’d been full of meat. Now, we both looked like shadow people; skinnier than we ever should have been. The lines of dirt on his cheekbones would have made him look like a football player if he were bigger. But now they accentuated the emaciated look of his face.

I tried to blow the blue out of my fingers.

El shouted at the stick as if it had ears.

I went to the door.

“What the fuck are you going to do, Mare?”

“Going somewhere else. I mean we’ll freeze to death in here.”

“It’s safe and it’s warm.”

“It’s not warm.”

“It’s warmer than out there.”

I looked out the window. The ferocious snow fell barricading us into this desolate place. We were stuck, and it was my bad idea that had brought us up here. I thought there’d be food, maybe canned goods. But when we opened the door a vacuous wasteland of dust greeted us. The back window had a crack letting in a constant stream of cold air and snow. No wood, except for wet, snow-bound logs sitting on the crumbling front porch. I could feel El’s hostility aimed at me like an arrow.

“I mean who the fuck goes up the mountain. We should have been going down.”

My heart felt like a worn stone in my chest. I stood by the door, not opening it, with my back to him. He struck the rock against the stick. Heat remained aloof. There was friction in the air but not enough to start a fire.

“My hands are numb,” I said. I turned toward him.

He put the rock and stick down and looked at me. I could see his old face hidden in his new one. The old face I’d fallen in love with. His eyes which had looked cold softened and his face crinkled into a smile. His smile warmed me up, and I felt the once familiar spark. The one that had been missing for awhile now, the one that reminded me that I’d held his heart once.

“Come here.”

I stood still.

He stood up and walked toward me, measured steps through the dust of the room. He pulled my shirt off before I could say no. His hands on my breast warmed me up. Body heat, the natural generator. He took off his shirt and grabbed my hands. He warmed them with his, rubbing them together like the stick and the stone. He placed my hands on his chest.

He slid down my pants then pulled down his. I shivered, and he wrapped his arms around me. We were like two unlit pieces of coal trying to catch an elusive spark. I felt him enter me and shivered again. We had not made love in ages.

“I don’t have a condom.”

“It’s okay.” It wasn’t.

Our bodies moved together filling the cabin with warmth. I imagined soft lights. I imagined a rope bed with a soft mattress, blankets covering us. I imagined the smell of chicken cooking in the oven. I imagined our children.

When I blinked, I felt his hip bone against my inner thigh. I’d never felt his hip bone before. The barrenness of the cabin stole my fantasy. He moaned and I squeezed my arms around him trying to find the heat in what should have been passion. I didn’t want the fantasy of what we once had to end. But he pushed hard, climaxed, and rolled off of me. The frigid air pierced my sweat-smothered skin. El sat with his back to me and took up the stone and stick again.

I had been wrong to come here. He’d held my heart once but it has since shattered like an icicle.

A sudden spark rose from the stick. El lit the wood then turned to look at me with fire in his eyes.

The smoke was blue and grey and smelled like a promise.

Snow Mountain

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The Last Push

Disclaimer: This is where I tell you that this story deals with adult themes and language. Do not read it if you don’t want to know that your daughter, aunt, mother, friend, whomever I am to you writes about adult themes.

I wrote this for Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. The assignment was to start with a BANG. I started with a banging.

The Last Push – 880 words

Banging her. Again. He looked out the window as he gyrated his hips. He couldn’t care less about this girl. She was loud in bed too. That drove him nuts. He just wanted to put his fucking hand over her mouth and tell her to shut-up.

Out the window the leaves had turned orange and red overnight. He pushed into her, and she squealed like a goddamn magpie. He didn’t like that. He wanted it over, but unfortunately they’d been screwing so much this weekend his stamina had improved. He pulled out and moved off of her.

“That’s it. You came?”

“Does it look like I did?” he asked, waving his hand toward his still erect dick. “On top.”

She obliged. He closed his eyes so he didn’t have to look at her face as she started moving and moaning on top of him.

On Saturday, he’d woken up and realized he’d spent the night. He kind of liked her smell. Melon—fruity—something like that. At the breakfast table, she poured a bowl of cereal and sat next to him. He ate his Cheerios and looked at the box, reading the words, but her loud chewing distracted him. Then she started talking. He thought they always ruined it with the talking.

“Next weekend my friend is having a birthday party. It’s going to be, like, this big blow-out. And you should come, Daniel.”

He should come. Like right now, come. He looked up at her, a mess of blonde hair in front of her face. He put his hands on her hip and adjusted how she sat. She thrashed about on top of him and made noises like a dying whale.

He’d known her exactly two weeks. They’d met at a party. He’d never invited her to his place. And for those two weeks all they’d done was spend time under the covers. He couldn’t talk to her about anything. She didn’t even know who Tolstoy was. “Is that one of your friends?” she asked when he mentioned the Russian author in conversation.

But she had a nice ass. And was a good lay except today with his mind on overdrive thinking about all the shit that made her so totally wrong for him. She looked nothing like Florrie. Maybe that was the only good thing about her. He couldn’t stand girls who looked like Florrie. He’d seen girls with short hair and that straight nose with the little upturned tip, and he’d run in the opposite direction.

And so he’d ended up with May. For the last two weeks. And he put in minimal effort. I mean, minimal, minuscule, the tiniest of tiny efforts. But she called him, texted, and sent him silly memes. He texted her too at like 10 PM every night to ask if he could come over. And then he’d come. A lot. And he liked that part. Well mostly, except moments like this when it felt like it would never end. When her groans were loud and annoying. When he knew implicitly that she wasn’t and could never be Florrie.

He pushed her over onto her back again. He needed to think of something, but Florrie’s face kept coming back to him. Once, a few years after he and Florrie had ended things, he’d been in the heat of the moment with a girl he actually liked. A girl he thought could maybe be more than just another fucking hookup, and he’d said Florrie’s name. The girl had freaked out. She beat his chest with her fist like some douchey cartoon character and demanded to know who Florrie was.

“Nobody,” he said. But the guilt of that statement stuck with him. Because she was somebody. Somebody he couldn’t forget or let go of no matter how many girls he’d been with since.

That girl had never called him back and since then he’d floated from one mattress to another. He’d seen purple sheets and pink sheets. He’d seen girls with OCD-clean rooms and disastrous clutters. He’d seen almost every size and shape one could think a woman could come in. Pear shaped, hourglass – that was his favorite–curvy. He’d seen girls who took care of themselves meticulously, and unfortunately, girls who didn’t.

And now he was here, in bed with May, wishing for an ending.

With May on her back, he began tracing her face with his fingers. He looked at her. He transformed her face into Florrie’s. He imagined the smile lines. He pretended she had Florrie’s deep set blue eyes. He erased May’s long hair with his eyes and transformed it into the short pixie haircut Florrie always wore. He saw the way she always bit her left lower lip toward the end of sex. He saw her face, and he began to move in a rhythm. May looked suddenly serious, but all Daniel saw was Florrie. He saw her on the summer day when they sat surrounded by dandelions in the middle-of-nowhere field where they stripped down naked and made love surrounded by picnic ants. Like some fucking Nicholas Sparks book. He saw all of the faces of Florrie on this girl in front of him. And he felt so turned on imagining her below him.

He put his head down on May’s shoulder, taking in her scent and pretending she smelled like Florrie. He felt the moment of explosion and his whole body shook with the last push.

One final release. He came. Goodbye to May. Bang over.

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School Girl Crush

Yesterday, I wrote a scene for a work in progress about a childhood crush. In this yet-to-be-named novel I’m writing, the man had a childhood crush on a girl who spent the summers with him in Cape Cod. At a certain point, she never comes back. He spends his life tracking her down, and then stalking her until they meet again under strange circumstances on the METRO in Washington D.C. This scene had me thinking about my own crushes through my lifetime.

When I turned 12, which was a lifetime ago, my dad decided he wanted us to have family time by learning how to SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). Yes, I had a privileged youth. I remember the nights we spent in the pool, learning how to breathe underwater. I also remember the book I was handed to study up on SCUBA, because all SCUBA divers have to pass a written test, even the twelve year olds.

Lauren SCUBA

That book with its blue cover sat by my bedside as I simultaneously thought of boys and played with Barbies. I had entered that time in my life where my body was changing and I was going through puberty, but I still loved my dolls. I straddled the line between childhood and adulthood, not sure where I belonged yet. As an aside, I also wore a heck of a lot of Laura Ashley jumpers. Twelve year olds today do not dress the way we did in the early 1990’s that’s for sure.

When the test day came I stared at the problems, and they looked like gobbly-gook. In all truth, I think there was a whole lot of Algebra. Math wasn’t my forte, and I hadn’t even started Algebra yet. (Now they seem to start it in Kindergarten, but then they didn’t).

And so, Phil, a tall, buff, blonde dive-pro at the shop sat next to me and gave me hints. He knew I knew the rules and how to dive. He just needed to give me a little bit of encouragement, so I could pass. And pass I did, with his help.

I’m sure dive-pro Phil knew I was in love with him. I made it blatantly obvious. I followed him around like a puppy-dog. I asked for him to be my dive partner on numerous occasions. I thought, me, a twelve year old child had a chance with this grown-up twenty-five year old man.

And Phil, knowing I was a child, dealt with it in such a nice way. He was kind. He didn’t blow me off. He never belittled me or was condescending. I’ll never forget, on one of our dive trips—I can’t remember if this was in Florida or in the Cayman’s—my mom burst her eardrum. I wanted to go back out in the water, because I was looking for sand dollars. So Phil went out with me, and he dragged his knife through the sand so we could find our way back to the boat, and took me out to a whole colony of sand dollars. This meant so much to my twelve-year old heart. He dealt with my school-girl crush with such grace, but he also gave me no allusions that he reciprocated (thank God—I was just a child).

Now I’m a grown-up, and I know the crush on dive-pro Phil was an adolescent awakening to the world of love and romance for me. It’s funny thinking back on those days and remembering how young and naïve I was. I had many more crushes after that, and I’m sure people had crushes on me. That’s just the way it goes. But the thing that makes crushes feel so poignant is the impossibility involved that doesn’t exist in a loving relationship. A crush is just that, a crush, and if it never moves forward it wanes and dies and both parties move on with their lives.

I don’t remember how I felt when I heard dive-pro Phil was getting married. I remember thinking it was logical, because he was an adult. But being only twelve or thirteen years old, it didn’t hit me the same way as other crushes who rejected me, who went on to get married, who left me when I felt like I needed them the most, or who moved on when they should have for the benefit of us both.

The thing about crushes, as illustrated in this story, is that they can teach you about love. Dive-pro Phil looked at me as a child, someone he could help teach to dive. He mentored me, and taught me about kindness, which is such a huge aspect of love. And he did it in a way that was appropriate, even knowing that I had a school-girl crush on him. I’ve learned a lot from all the crushes I’ve had, because pain also brings insight. I moved on and I learned how to apply that knowledge to my relationships, and now to my marriage.

Interestingly enough, another Phil came along when I was in college, and I thought I loved him so much. I put him on a pedestal, and I didn’t walk away even when he hurt me. I didn’t walk away even when I started hurting him. He was my best friend, my confidante, but the truth is a relationship wouldn’t have worked between us because we didn’t know how to communicate our deepest feelings with one another. It made the time we had together thrilling and fun, but it also made it hurtful, confusing, and frustrating. It took me a long time to move on from Phil2, and my relationship with my now-husband suffered because of my grief associated with losing my friendship with Phil2 and the possibility of what could have been between us. Once I processed all those heavy emotions, my relationship with my husband grew.

Crushes crush. They’re intense, yes, but they’re meant to end. Relationships bring a whole new level of love to your life, one that grows and changes with time. A crush is fleeting and not meant to last forever, but a lesson for how to love in your true and meaningful relationships.

Who was your first crush?

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Xs and Os

I haven’t shared my flash fiction in awhile, because I haven’t been writing it as much. Between promoting The Devil Within, editing Little Birdhouses, and writing my no-name work-in-progress I haven’t had time. But this week, I decided to write for Mid-week Blues-Buster.

The song this week is Little Blue One by Cowboy Mouth, which is an upbeat song about a sad subjectWhen I heard this song, after not having listened to Cowboy Mouth for years it took me back to a crowded concert venue in Atlanta in the late 90’s or early 00’s, where I’d gone to visit my childhood friend, Stacy, at college. I hadn’t heard them before I attended the concert with Stacy and Andrea and a few other friends, and I immediately liked their music.

Fair warning: the subject matter is about divorce or the end of a relationship.

Here’s the song if you’d like to have a listen:

So here’s the Dear Jane letter…


Xs and Os
554 words
@laurenegreene

Dear Jane,

The dream again. Your face. But when I wake up you’re not beside me in the ocean swell of what-used-to-be our king sized bed. The room wreaks of your ghost. I pretend not to think of you. I tell my repetitive thoughts to still the image of you in my mind as I pour two cups of coffee instead of one for the third time this week. Without thought, I pour the second one down the drain. I think about picking up the extra cup and smashing it against the wall, but instead I set it in the sink and think about how you would have told me to “just put it in the dishwasher.”

The photos of you and me in the Caymans eating turtle soup. The smile on your face is eternal. You don’t live here anymore with me, but every waking moment I have to tell myself you’re gone. Today, I’ll take the photos down. It’s been six months, and I know you’re not coming back. I’ll put them in boxes, and I’ll wrap them up, and it will be like our life together never existed. That’s what you wanted.

When your text pinged my cell at 2 AM, I had to stumble from the couch where I’d fallen asleep watching Geraldo. I knocked the half empty bottle of wine onto the rug. You remember that rug, don’t you? We spent four hours debating on whether to get blue wool or the checkered cotton at Pottery Barn. I, like the sales clerk, wanted to gouge out my eyes with knives before you’d make up your mind. Back and forth. Wishy washy. That was always your way. Maniacal laughter erupted from my lips when I thought how ironic it was that this rug, your baby, your precious, had been left in my incapable hands. It’s in the green trashcan waiting for pickup on the curb now. So long sucker.

The laughter turned to tears when I read your text. “I want an annulment.” The words stung. Married for six years and just like that you wanted to pretend we didn’t exist. Well maybe you didn’t exist, but I did. I waited for you, lost in your blue world of depression as you were. I stuck with you when no one did. I made sure they pumped your stomach. I made sure you didn’t die on the pink title floor of our bathroom by sticking my finger down your throat. Covered in your puke and half-digested pills, I helped get you to the hospital. I saved your life…literally. And I helped you find your way. Even if that way was away from me.

So, my little blue one, now that you’ve found your way you want to pretend that none of it ever happened? Move on, put me behind you and that period of your life when you couldn’t control yourself. You couldn’t control your emotions.

The answer is no. I’ll grant you a divorce, but not an annulment. Because not every day was filled with vomit and fights over rugs. I walked on the beach with you. I kissed you under a gazebo. I imagined our life together, complete with babies, and I thought I’d be with you forever. I can’t pretend that never existed.

Xs and Os, the answer is no.

–John


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Thought of a Day: The best way to help a newbie author like me is to read, review, and recommend their book!