Fiction Friday: Leonard's Blind Date

Leonard didn’t like poetry. Hated reading in general. But he knew better than to say so since responses fell into one of two categories: pity or disgust. He would fare better if he didn’t own a television or was gluten free. So, he kept his mouth shut. It was this lack of sharing that had led him to this moment.

“You’re going to love her,” his sister insisted. “She’s smart and funny. Cute. And she’s a poet.”

She rolled poet off her tongue like it was bubbles or candy or unicorns. But Leonard felt the sharp edges of the word striking through every nerve in his body. The instant dread sent his mind grasping too quickly at excuses, mushing them together and leaving him unable to form a single, cohesive argument against it.

Now, as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his blind date tried in earnest to dust away some of the awkwardness between them.

“So, Kelly tells me you work in corporate sales?”

Leonard flipped his fork over a couple times and nodded. He knew social norms required him to respond with: And she tells me you’re a poet. But the thought made his fingers curl around the fork handle and he had to will himself not to it jam in his eye.


There was an underlying plea in Juliet’s tone. For him to respond with actual words or to even send a glance her way. The problem was that his sister was right. Juliet was cute.

But the future he imagined with her was bleak. A never ending carousel of feigning interest in words she slapped together in the name of art. Why couldn’t she have chosen a life as a dentist? Or a barista?

Thankfully, the waiter arrived to take their orders. Juliet lit up at the opportunity to really talk to someone. The comfortable Juliet was light and funny and the waiter genuinely laughed at her clever banter.

Leonard knew he should appreciate this. The real her. But he also knew he couldn’t. For as long as he could remember, he fixated on things. Too many times it led to him being alone. Snorts when she laughs? No thanks. Inserts ums between every word? Nope. Yammers on and on about whatever book she’s reading? Uh-uh.

And it wasn’t like he was such a catch. Leonard wasn’t foolish enough to think that. Clearly his social skills needed a complete overhaul. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. He was ruthless at his job and grew more isolated every day in his personal life. Evenings consisted of getting food delivered and watching television. It was no wonder he didn’t know how to talk to people. How to make them comfortable. How to give them a chance.

The waiter took their menus and a tortuous silence fell over the table again. Leonard swore he could feel the heat generated from Juliet’s mind working overtime on what to say next. With her gaze focused absently out the window, he found himself staring at her. She gnawed at her lower lip and her furrowed brow twitched every once in a while. No doubt the manifestation of an idea of what to say being shot down. The passing headlights lit up her eyes and despite the intensity in her face, Leonard couldn’t overlook her softness.

It triggered something in him. A lightness. An understanding. His sister was one of the only people in the world he trusted. And one of the smartest. She had to have known what she was doing when she arranged this date. She didn’t need him to tell her about his aversion to poetry. That was the kind of thing she just knew. Just like how she probably knew the path his life was heading down was a lonely one.

Juliet’s poetry wasn’t what was ruining the date. Or what made him believe her to be undateable. Reality socked Leonard right in the jaw. Shocking and painful and difficult to accept, but ultimately undeniable. So, he cleared his throat, drawing her attention. The hope in her eyes scared him, but there was no turning back. Instead, Leonard took a moment to toe the edge before taking a giant leap into what he hoped to be a new life. A new Leonard.

 “So, Kelly tells me you’re a poet.” 

Fiction Friday: [Table For One]

“Green tea latte with almond milk.”

This time—the third time—the barista’s voice cut through the air with an edge, meant to slice the person inconveniencing her with a dose of public shaming. Rodney Melliver knew the drink was his, but he couldn’t respond. Shoulders slumped forward and chin to chest, he realized there was a distinct possibility the tiny round table dappled in pastry crumbs might be the last thing he ever saw.

The first tingles danced up his arm while he stood in line, waiting to order the ridiculously overpriced drink everyone at work had talked about. He ignored it at the time because, as had been the case for the past several days, he found himself lost in the past. Memories flooded his mind without warning. Each one bringing him to his knees with shame and regret.

While in line, Rodney was in the midst of reliving his daughter’s birthday. Well, the last one he remembered and, more impressively, acknowledged. Two days past the day she was born, he got her a card and didn’t even bother putting it in the envelope. The freshly turned nine year old was on the couch watching television when he got home. He tossed the card next to her and mumbled happy birthday without breaking his stride to grab a beer from the fridge. Now, eleven years later, remorse had found him, demanding as much attention in the spotlight as the dull prickles traveling up and down his arm and the painful contractions in his chest.   

Rodney imagined himself outside of his body. An observer to his own pathetic state: slouched and alone. So alone that there wasn’t even an empty seat at the table for him to welcome potential company. Borrowed earlier by the fleshy-faced guy at the neighboring table. When he watched him carry it away and join his friends, Rodney was gut-punched with jealousy. It had become increasingly difficult for him to see what life could have been if he had only tried.

But he hadn’t. And here he was.

“Green tea latte with…you know what? Forget thi…”

The barista’s voice trailed off and darkness crowded the edges of Rodney’s vision, he hated that his last act before dying would be to add another person to the list of people he had angered.

As the sounds around him melted together into a tinny, echoey jumble, Rodney vowed that if he was given another chance, his life would be different. He would be better. Do better.

And he would definitely try the green tea latte with almond milk.

Fiction Friday: [Five Little Words]

It was there when I arrived home early from work. A letter. No envelope. Just a single, tri-folded sheet tucked into our door jamb. Five words. Typed.

You’re dating a serial killer.

A deep tingling of unease crawled along my skin, making its way over a rocky landscape formed by tensed muscles. Despite the empty hallway, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. The keys jangled loudly in my quivering hand as I aimed for the keyhole.

Once inside, I fell against the door, clutching the letter to my chest and crumpling it in my clammy hand. It took a while, but I forced myself to slow my breathing. To ease the deafening thump in my chest.

Memories with Thomas flooded my mind. Laughing on our first date as we walked along the Hudson River. Realizing my true feelings for him as we danced during our first New Year’s Eve together. How at the stroke of midnight, he told me he loved me before I could say a word. And how just the other day, I cried tears of joy when I found a ring-sized velvet box in his underwear drawer.

Thomas was the kindest person I’d ever met. Flaws and all, he loved me more than I knew anyone ever could. I saw it every time he looked at me. There was no room in his heart for even the tiniest hint of malice. And that was the truest truth I knew.

He would be home soon. A decision had to be made. And it wasn’t a difficult one. I tore the letter again and again until it rained down into the trash like confetti.

The letter was gone, but I knew it wouldn’t be the end of it. There would be more. Unless, of course, I found the person attempting to destroy our relationship.

It shouldn’t be too hard. Leaving it in the door was a sloppy move. A wiser tattletale would have ensured that Thomas got the letter directly. But, lucky for me they didn’t. 

Fiction Friday: [Christmas Waffles]

Sunlight streamed through the window and Charlotte grunted, rolled onto her side, and snuggled even deeper into the down comforter. The thought of crawling out of the cocooned goodness didn’t appeal to her. Not even a little bit. But despite her best efforts, her mind had other plans and slowly climbed awake mountain until she remembered what today was.

Her eyes shot open and she was wide awake. Despite friends and family warning not to get her hopes up, Charlotte had no doubt that today was the day. The day when she would go from “girlfriend” to “fiancée”.

The sound of clanging pots and pans drew her attention down the hall and she flung off the comforter and jumped out of bed. She plodded down the hall and found Todd in the kitchen. The counter was covered with cracked egg shells, powdery piles, a package of bacon, and whatever was in the bowl he was attacking with a whisk. Standing out from all of it was a square box draped in beautiful paper that shimmered with glittered snowflakes and was secured with a bow tied so perfectly she knew he hadn’t wrapped it.

Doubt needled its way in when she noticed the size of the box. It was large enough to hold dozens of engagement rings. But knowing that Todd considered himself clever, she shed the disappointment, rebounding with a smile.

“Morning,” she said, trying to tamp down the excitement in her voice.

“Morning, Char.”

He abandoned the bowl and wrapped her up in a hug before spinning her around. His level of excitement was duly noted and she added it to her “Oh my God, I’m getting engaged” list of evidence.

“What are you making?” she managed to ask over the pounding pulse of her heartbeat.

“First,” he said, grabbing the present Charlotte had never quite let leave her sight. “Merry Christmas.”

She took a deep breath, then she took him in wanting to remember every moment. Todd’s eyes sparkled, the perfect accessories to his lopsided smile. With misty eyes and lips turned up fully end to end, Charlotte reached her shaky hands toward her glittery future.

The shock made her smile falter a bit. There was a weight to the box that allowed the doubt to creep in again. Studying Todd’s face didn’t help. His crooked smile and look of anticipation hadn’t changed.

With only one way to find out, she was indelicate as she ripped the paper away from the box. Her smile fell flat, but her eyes remained misty. She paused a moment before glancing up at Todd’s now irritatingly excited face.

“Ta-dah! It’s the waffle iron you wanted,” he said, oblivious to the energy shift darkening the moment. “And you think I never pay attention. Pop it out of the box, I already made the batter.”

Todd cleared the counter and turned to discover Charlotte hadn’t moved. Not only that, but her lips had pulled impossibly thin, arching toward the floor. Her eyes twitched at the corners as they narrowed.

“What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” Her voice projected in a lower register than normal. Even he had to know this couldn’t be good. “We’ve been together for five years. We’ve lived together for three. You can’t give me a waffle maker and then ask me what’s wrong.”

Anger and hurt seeped from every pore and grew stronger with each memory of past Christmas’, birthdays, and Valentine’s Day’s. She would have even happily accepted an Arbor Day proposal. But, no. Apparently it was too much to ask that they be on the same page.

“If you don’t know what’s wrong, then…well, that’s just the root of the problem isn’t it?”

The glare she shot his way was meant to cut through him. But no matter how hurt she was, when his crooked smile faded, her eyebrows softened a bit. Her gaze fell to the floor and she was flooded with the heat of embarrassment as the truest memories of what their relationship was reflected back at her.

How no one could ease her sadness or anger like Todd could. How he answered every time she called. How he asked about her day with actual interest. How every time he looked at her, she had zero doubt that she was loved.

She wasn’t sure when she had become this person, but she regretted allowing it to happen. Especially when she recalled the moment so many months ago when she had fleetingly pointed out the waffle maker in Macy’s. The fact that he remembered was a more accurate measure of the man Todd really was.

Charlotte knew she needed to apologize. But what she didn’t know was that when she looked up, the man she loved would be smiling again. A smile that grew more mischievous every time he squeezed the box in the palm of his batter splattered hand. 

Fiction Friday: [Zazen]

With the dulcet tones of New Age music surrounding her, Audra felt weightless. Inhaling deeply, she held it for a moment as she floated. She exhaled and her mind filled with images of…violence and murder.

She untangled her legs and plodded down the hall trying to recall the last time her boyfriend had annoyed her this much. He was on the floor with his back against the couch, fingers dancing frantically over the game controller. She stared at him for a while, but it was clear that he didn't realize she was there..

“How am I supposed to meditate when you have this thing blasting?”

Her exasperated gesture toward the television went unnoticed, his eyes never leaving the gun-toting, carjacking character on the screen. The silence hung in the air so long she doubted that he’d heard her.

“Sorry, babe,” Denny finally said.

The rich colors of the game reflecting in his eyes and the lack of remote control reaching betrayed the sincerity dripping from his voice. A string of past apologies played in her mind and she questioned the authenticity of each one. A pain radiated along her jawline drawing her attention to her clenched teeth and pressed lips. All of this wasn’t worth a fight right now. She wanted to feel centered, not angry.

She shot one last look toward Denny through narrowed eyes and grabbed the headphones off the coffee table. Heading back to the room she had to remind herself to breathe.

“I really am sorry,” he said and with the sounds of squealing tires and utter carnage dissipating, she believed him.

Audra crossed her legs, inhaled deeply and smiled as she placed the headphones on the floor.

Fiction Friday: [The Trouble With Caring]

Lights from street lamps sparkle and spread into abstract shapes as the rain pours down on the windshield. The urgent squeak of the wipers echo through the car, but do little to help Oliver see the road ahead. It hadn’t rained in weeks and the roads were slick, but he had no time to think about it.

Time was ticking, of the essence and every other cliché related to life or death situations. Slick roads were the least of his concerns.

The message was clear and if he was late, she would die.

He pulls himself closer to the steering wheel and scrunches his neck, hoping to see how far he’s gotten. A beam of light penetrates the curtain of rain and travels across the windshield. The lighthouse.

He’s close.

Vivian had gotten dressed and left for work, as usual, without a word. Their marriage had been slowly disintegrating for years now. And as the kids grew older and left home, it had become a competition of who cared less.

He no longer hid the affair he’d been having with their former nanny—and Vivian invited her for dinner. She started stepping out with the tennis instructor at the clubhouse—and Oliver signed up for lessons with him. The volleying, he knew, had gone on for too long. He’d grown tired of the antics and was ready to file for divorce.

He was surprised when she’d called him that evening, and even more so when she’d left a voicemail, after it had gone unanswered.

She'd had enough and decided to take her life. At 5 ‘clock she was going to jump from the lighthouse. The lighthouse that had once been their special place. She’d only given him the details because she knew he wouldn’t care enough to stop her—their love too far gone.

Oliver had reached the elevator before the message ended, his secretary calling behind him about a meeting in ten.

The message.

Sitting in its cradle, he reaches over to his phone and hits the voicemail button. As Vivian’s voice fills the car, he realizes she’d left a new one.

“Oh, Oliver. I can’t believe you were foolish enough to think I’d let you file for divorce. I haven’t suffered these last years of our marriage to be dragged through the mud and come out with nothing in the end. Now, I don’t want you to worry. I will wear the mask of the grieving widow for the sake of our children. I do need to thank you for them. And the weatherman for an accurate forecast. I can only imagine how recklessly you’re driving through this downpour. Oh…and I also have to thank the makers of the hedge trimmers I used to cut your brakes.”

Before he can react, the car hits a watery patch and hydroplanes. For the briefest of moments, he gets lost in the feeling of weightlessness before trying to right the vehicle. Jerking the wheel back and forth, the car doesn’t respond and his hands grip tighter as it slides across the road until it ends. Tumbling over the embankment, Oliver feels light as a feather.

A revelation fills his mind before he has a chance to truly grasp that these are his last moments.

Vivian has won.

Not only had she led him to his death, she proved that he had, in fact, cared more.

Fiction Friday: [A Glimmer in the Gloom]


The key is in the lock and now he's home. I feel him in the room and my body screams.

Get up. Go to him.

But I don’t. I can’t. I hate myself for it.

Just add it to the list.

For the past week, this has been the ritual. Every single day. I wish it hadn’t been, but what can I do?

He comes home and I don’t acknowledge him. I don’t even look at him and as much as my heart is already broken I can feel it crack a little more each time.

I hear him take off his coat. Then his shoes. I close my eyes when I hear him walk over to me. I squeeze them tighter as he bends down to give me a kiss on the forehead.

I need him.

I need him.

I need him.

I want to tell him. Every molecule in my body screams for me to tell him, but I don’t. I can’t.

I can't look at him. I know that's all it will take to rip the stitches that are barely holding me together. The stitches that once removed will release more pain than I can handle. My mouth, my eyes, my heart—I have to keep them closed. It’s the only reason I haven’t been torn in two.

He whispers in my ear, tells me he loves me and I want to scream. I want to beg him not to say those words to me. To remind him that I don’t deserve them. How can he love me now? How can he be so kind and patient when I know he’s hurting, too?

These thoughts push on the stitches. I clutch at my belly to hold in the pain, but it only weakens me as I look down at my hands. They are folded, one on top of the other, over the spot that had been the source of overwhelming joy.

Just last week it was filled with life and hope. Our future.

Now its emptiness threatens to drag me into the darkness.

I feel the stitches slip. Eyes, mouth, heart—I shut them even tighter to fight against the ocean rising within. I know this is a losing fight. I know the time has come.

It starts as a whimper. Then I start to cry. And then I start to wail. I scream out against a pain greater than I have ever felt before. A pain that is mine. A pain that I deserve.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop. The tears fall in waves. Giant heart crushing waves. There’s no way I’ll ever stop.

Then, he’s here. He’s rocking me gently and telling me that it wasn’t my fault. Telling me that it will be okay. Telling me that he loves me.

He says it again. And again. And again.

He loves me.

He’s here.