Picture Perfect

“I’m taking you out to dinner, my love.” His fingers brushed a wayward strand of Ginny’s hair back into place. “Alejandro’s. Wear the green dress.” Richard smiled, the polar blue of his eyes glinting like crystals. Ginny wondered at the occasion, but didn’t ask. Opting for gratefulness, she hurried off to change.

The restaurant was a little fancier than she preferred, but he enjoyed opulence and show. Ginny didn’t mind too much. The food was excellent. Drinks were ordered and he began to talk about a new contract he was working on. Ginny nodded and asked the appropriate questions. The conversation was pleasant and she began to relax.

Halfway through their entrées, Richard cleared his throat as one might before approaching a wounded animal. “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you, my love.” His hand reached inside the tailored jacket, pulling out a brochure with a beautiful young woman on the front. Ginny couldn’t see the title, but thought maybe it was for a cruise as the woman was wearing a swimsuit. She smiled happily at her husband.

“I’ve been speaking to Ste-Miss Briggs and this is the place she had hers done. I’d like you to call them tomorrow.” He slid the pamphlet across the table.

Breast Augmentation and You.

Ginny glanced from the paper in front of her to him and back again. She stared at it in silence for a while. “You’ve been talking to your secretary about my chest?”

Underneath the table, Ginny played with the ring on her left hand. “I see. You really want me to do this?”

“You’re always talking about how you want to look better. This will help.” He was so nonchalant, it was hard to disbelieve. “You’ve been enjoying that gym membership I purchased for you. Now might be time for some medical intervention.”

She kept blinking at the leaflet and was almost relieved when his phone lit up. Stephanie Briggs’ name flashed on the screen. Richard murmured a polite excuse and left the table.

Ginny pushed the brochure under her plate and glanced around the room. An older couple sitting on the same side of the table held hands while their food got cold. Several children played a game of tic-tac-toe on napkins while their parents discussed the week’s schedule. A handsome, probably younger, single man standing at the bar, caught Ginny’s eye. He turned, saw her and grinned. The corners of her mouth began to respond, but she hesitated and glanced over her shoulder first.

A definitely younger women with a permanent sultry smile tilted her glass towards the bar. She didn’t seem to care that her date was only momentarily distracted with the menu.

Of course. He hadn’t been looking at Ginny. Embarrassment pulled her gaze back and she picked up her fork, but didn’t do more than push her pasta around in circles.

The waitress approached to ask about dessert just as Richard returned.

“No,” he replied. “My wife is watching her weight.”

LKT © 2015

The Croup

A violently ill dog would have made less of an eruption than my cough. The murderous intent with which it broke from my chest had me in tears. Inner elbows were no longer sufficient. I had taken to carrying handkerchiefs whenever I went out. They were only good for three uses—once, fold in half, again, and fold, last time. After that they were too saturated and had to be burned. The microbes that had invaded my body were resilient little bastards.

Doctors of the finest reputation had done all they could. The death rattle remained. My body continued to twist in a macabre dance at the end of a frayed and unraveling rope. Tonight’s effort was a last ditch grab a life ring on a boat far out of reach. The quack I saw two days ago seemed sympathetic as opposed to greedy. He gave me the number of one E. Crane Fullerton. Mr. Fullerton was not a medical professional. But I was told he could get rid of unwanted things. At this point, I was willing to give up one of my five senses if only the cough could be banished.

At the park entrance I leaned against the railing. Immediately regretting it. Rimy metal rolled against the denim covering my hip. The motion shuddered, like shifting tectonic plates deep beneath the surface. A frisson of ice lacerated through my veins, pulsing its way to weakened lungs, tormenting them once more.

After, when the cough had subsided but still hovered like a meddling biddy, I checked my watch. At the sound of boot heels on concrete, I looked up for the first time in weeks. He was taller than I expected—most quacks were hunched over from years of counting their ill-gotten coins. His lips were off center, with his philtrum directly under his left nostril. But I considered his high forehead to be a sign of intelligence. E. Crane Fullerton approached in a swath of leather and black fog.

He was right on time. Hopefully.

LKT © 2015

An Uncouth Scribe

“This paper is weird. It’s all stiff and thick.” Carla’s eyes dribbled back and forth across Dylan’s restless form. He lay prone and twitching on the couch. Her gaze paused just under his belt. “Kinda like yer-“

Dylan leapt up faster than a jackrabbit on meth, grabbing the white vellum out of Carla’s hands. “Don’t be writin’ yer stupid grocery list on that.”

“Whoa. Fine. So sorry to take your,” Her fingers twitched into air quotes, “special paper.” Lips contorting, Carla’s nose squished, creating a pinched expression. “Ya gonna git yerself a fancy pen too? What’s it for anyway?”

“None of yer damn business! That’s what!” The hinges on the screen door felt Dylan’s furious shoulder and the wood porch cracked under his feet. “Damn bitch, always gettin’ in my business.”

His pace slowed as he fished a lighter out of his back pocket and pulled a cigarette from behind his ear. But his draws were almost violent, lips bruising the white cylinder—a futile attempt to steady his nerves before opening the mailbox. Hollow reverberations echoed inside. The box suffered his anger, receiving a fist-sized dent in its side.

“Shit!”

He yanked a phone out of the other back pocket. A slow flush of resentment began to rise from the base of his neck at the lack of missed calls. No new emails had his entire face enflamed.

“God damn you, Kerry! It’s been two weeks since I sent that letter.” A final pull and the cigarette was expunged below his bare heel. “You got one week, girl. Then I’m comin’.”

An unwelcome gust of spring dropped his words off at the open window where Carla had been peeking out.

Who the hell is Carrie, she wondered.

LKT © 2015

(Other segments in the Kerrington series can be found here.)

“Nobody Told Me”

It was one of his favorite things—combing her hair before they went to bed at night. Ellen enjoyed it too. His gentle touch soothed her after a long day. Carlton would hold her upper arms and gently lean her back into a chair. Sitting behind her, on the edge of the bed, he would drape her long, grey streaked blonde tresses over his knees. If the strands were tangled, he might use a comb first, but he preferred stroking her with his fingers.

Carlton would start at the edges, bringing them up to his lips, kissing them. With one hand he would skim through her locks and the fingers of his other would caress her neck. Occasionally, he would lean in, his lips tickling where his fingers had been. Ellen’s neck would sometimes loll to the side at his persistent petting. Carlton would smile and lift her head back into place, chiding her softly for falling asleep. Ellen, of course, said nothing. Always, she remained silent throughout his ministrations.

Carlton didn’t mind. She was still here with him and it was all he could want. This nightly ritual of smoothing her hair was a comfort to him. He filled the silence with songs. Usually it was something by John Lennon. Still, he often wished for the days when he had been able to hear her beautiful contralto vocals.

Once in a while, he would hold both sides of a conversation they might have had. He yearned for her sassy comebacks to his dry wit, so he closed his eyes and spoke for both of them. They talked of their African safari and their trip to the Alps. Carlton smiled and became a little overly enthusiastic when he brought up the possibility of a vacation to Hawaii and Mai Tais on the beach. His energetic fingers distressed her hair, pulling out a small chunk.

He cried out. She did not.

Carlton rose and came around to face his wife. He touched her cold cheeks, lifting her head with the gentlest of movements, apologizing over and over. Ellen, of course, didn’t respond. Her lips had long ago been sewn shut. Her glass eyes had no life in them.

With years of tender practice, Carlton cradled his bloodless wife and carried her to their bed. He lay down beside his beloved Ellen, placing her delicate hand in one of his while still caressing a strand of her hair in the other.

LKT © 2015

Signs of Arrows

“Do you have any idea where we’re are going?”

“I’m just following the signs.” Darrin pointed to the arrow on the wall. “I figure whoever painted ‘em has a final destination in mind.”

Stephen’s hand life-gripped the rail on the rickety steps. “This building doesn’t exactly seem safe, D.”

Tapping the arrow on the door, Darrin stopped. “Steph, quit being a buzzkill. Think of it as an adventure.”

“There’s probably an axe-murderer with a freezer full of meddlesome people’s toes on the other side of that door, you know.” Still, Stephen blindly followed Darrin into the darkness.

“I do know. And now, so do you.”

Stephen’s eyes were a bit tardy in bending to the dim light. He only had time to spot the freezer in the corner before the axe hit his neck.

“And it’s heads, not toes.”

LKT © 2015

Written for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers weekly prompt. Click the link below to read other participant’s entries.

FFfAW image 12.15.15

(Image prompt courtesy of pixabay)

Sepulchre

Frozen fingers squeezed her shoulder. An eidolon’s grasp. The wooden legs of her chair scraped the tile below as her body shuddered in its shadow.

“Apologies, my love. Did I frighten you?” Leaning across Ginny’s shoulder, Richard took her left hand in his, the ice on his lips scraping raw the knuckle on her ring finger. “You left something on the chest of drawers this morning.” Encasing her with his arms, he slid the brilliant shard onto her finger.

“It looks beautiful there—where it belongs.” Cool lips brushed her hair and he was gone.

Gin remained at her desk for some time, sliding the ring on and off. It wasn’t forgetfulness that had left it on her dresser. She had wanted to know if her hand would feel lighter without the weight.

Fifteen years ago, they had been looking at the bay when he had come up behind her like he had now. Back then, it seemed romantic when he cocooned her inside his arms and gave her the ring. It had felt secure. She hadn’t known then that his gift would become her tomb.

LKT © 2015

Broken

Halston Brockwood sent a silent prayer of thanks to Magda at the distinct aroma of Chicken Cordon Bleu emanating from the kitchen. He checked the hall table for mail, but only found a small, torn piece of heavy paper. He blinked at that. Magda was usually quite fastidious and he hoped the chicken wasn’t too salty.

Hearing only silence, he knew his wife had let the staff off early again. Halston was a good businessman and he hated paying people for hours spent not working. Still, Kerrington had convinced him about how hard the staff worked and they should be paid for what was finished, not for a certain amount of hours. After her impassioned speech, she kissed him and Halston hadn’t put up much of a fight.

Thinking of Kerrington, he bypassed the dining room and checked the window at the end of the hall. He could see most of her gardens from here, but of his wife, there was no sign. He smiled, considering the possibility she was in their room. Halston took the stairs two at a time.
The bed was a mess of Kerrington’s clothing, but not in the way Halston had been anticipating. A Chanel suit was still on a hanger, but crumpled near the pillows. Several other dresses were strewn about and the foot of the bed was littered with shoes. He checked the closet and saw a gap in the least used portion of her wardrobe. Her t-shirts were missing.

With unforgiving breaths coming faster and faster, he almost tripped over the upended drawer of her jewelry cabinet. Trepidation made his hand shake as he picked it up to put it back in place. The rings that had been set inside were on the carpet underneath and the fabric had been pried from the bottom of the drawer. Swallowing hard, Halston sat amongst the heap on the bed. The lids of his eyes clamped shut, trying to force the pressure building inside back to tolerable levels. It didn’t work. Kerrington may as well have shoved the spikes of her Manolos into his temples herself.

They had spoken of this only once. So many years ago, he had forgotten it was even a possibility. Halston Brockwood felt the weight of his false security crack against the cabinet holding the gifts of gold and platinum he had bestowed upon her as his fist broke the glass door.

LKT © 2015

(Other segments in the Kerrington short story series can be found here).