2022 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 4

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Flash Fiction Challenge

For today’s prompt, let’s write about a dream coming true.

Remember: As mentioned yesterday, these prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.

(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at mrichard@aimmedia.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)

Here’s my attempt at making dreams come true:

Ever After

Jay paused in the doorway, the takeout bags bumping gently against his thigh. Beth sat at their dining room table, but she didn’t look up at him.

“Popeyes had some coupons,” Jay said. He cleared his throat and set the bags on the table, his laptop bag sliding off his shoulder. “Rough day?”

“I have to tell you something,” Beth said.

“Yeah, okay.” Jay pulled out the chair closest to her and sat down. He tried to ignore the way the back of his neck was sweating.

There was a pause. A long one. It was quiet enough that he could hear Marty across the street mowing his lawn.

Jay, who had never been good at silence, broke first. “Are you going to tell me, or—”

“I don’t want to get married.”

Jay sat back. “Um. Okay.”

“Okay?” Finally, she met his eyes. “That’s all you have to say?”

“I’m, like, processing here, babe.” Jay loosened his tie and scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Do you mean you don’t want to get married this year or at all?”

“At all.”

Jay watched her eyes slide away from his again. “At all, at all or…at all with me?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you…I mean, is there someone else?”

“No. God, no. And stop pausing so much when you’re speaking!”

He wanted to laugh at that—she was always so uptight about the weirdest things—but then he thought she might yell at him more. He fiddled with the end of his tie before pushing the food bags farther away. They crinkled loudly. Beth’s shoulders were so tense, they were almost to her ears.

“I mean.” Jay stopped. Cleared his throat. That wasn’t a pause, right? “I mean, I wish you’d told me this before we put all the deposits on things. And sent out the invites.”

“God, I know.” Beth covered her face in her hands. Her voice was choked. “I’m so sorry, I just—”

“Hey, c’mon,” Jay said. He reached out to take her wrist. Then he reconsidered and let his hand fall on the table between them. “Look, I’m glad you told me.”

Quiet. Then, “Yeah?”

He huffed a laugh. “Yeah. I don’t want to be married to someone who doesn’t want to be married to me.”

Beth laughed a little too, but it didn’t sound happy. She sniffed and pulled her hands down so he could see how red her eyes were. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah.” He fiddled with his tie some more. “Hey, we should eat the chicken before it gets cold and less crunchy.”

She stared at him.

He held up his hands defensively. “I’m just saying! You’re not, like, planning on leaving right now or anything, right?”

“Do you want me to go.”

This time, he thought the pause would be appreciated. “No, babe. Not unless you want to.”

She wilted. And watched him while he unpacked the food and slid a little plastic spork her way. And crunched into her first chicken leg, which he knew was way more satisfying than when the bag steams it, and the batter gets soggy and weird.

“So, you don’t want to break up?” he asked when the pile of discarded bones was a little higher between them.

“No.” She tried to wipe the back of her hand across her greasy mouth.

“Me either.” He handed her a napkin. “We could just not get married?”

“Would you really be okay with that?”

They’d been together almost 10 years; he was pretty used to reading her by now. She held the chicken thigh in front of her face, partly to hide her expression and partly to give herself something to do. She wouldn’t make eye contact with him. Her elbows were pulled into her sides.

She was nervous. And sad. And didn’t want to break up.

“Beth, I just want to be with you.” Jay pointed at her with the tip of a chicken wing. “I want to trade off on takeout nights and let you take so long picking a movie that we go to bed without watching anything. I want to go on vacations together and spend holidays listening to your Uncle Bob swing between discussing his latest health crisis and yelling about government conspiracies.”

Beth burst out laughing. “Oh, no, not Uncle Bob.”

Especially Uncle Bob.” He threw the chicken wing on top of the bones pile. “I dunno, babe. Whatever’s going on, we can talk about it. Because I love you. And I want the happily ever after thing with you.”

“But that’s for people who get married,” she said.

“No. It’s for people who meet their soulmates. The rest is just details,” he said.

She sniffed and wiped her face with a greasy napkin. “God, you sap. I love you too.”

Something in Jay settled. He picked the last piece of chicken out of the box. “I get this one today because you scared the crap out of me.”

“Fair,” Beth said. “But just this once.”

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