I had such fun last week doing MidWeek Flash, I decided to do another one. This time, a little less weird. Hope you like it.
Again, the rules are listed on the site. If you like to write, you should give it a shot. This week’s picture prompt is below. And thanks to Miranda Kate for this opportunity to stretch my writing muscles. I’ve missed the flash circuit.
by Stacy Bennett
The clack of her heels echoed off the tattered walls as she tried not to notice the peeling wallpaper. Cobwebs danced in the fouled breeze that floated through broken windows. She had grown used to the smell these past months, but her teeth clenched against the cloying chemical taste that lodged like bile in her throat.
The house had survived the skirmishes, its walls intact though a dusty abandonment pervaded its once immaculate rooms – a betrayal that still brought a pang of guilt. They had been months into the war before her brothers could persuade her to leave. When the skies turned black, their entreaties intensified accompanied by threats of bodily removal should she continue to argue. They hadn’t understood why she clung to the house, as stubborn as the English ivy climbing the red brick wall.
But this had been her home. Their home.
She turned slowly seeing the room with eyes both new and old. Their floral loveseat (the cat’s favorite napping spot) had stood there against the south wall beneath an abstract watercolor of pink and blue. A side table stacked with sheaves of paper and text books occupied the corner next to it in her mind’s eye and a recliner draped with the ratty throw her grandmother had knit next to that. She turned a slow circle reminding herself of every detail, each splotch of color, the clawed feet of the coffee table, the black sheen of the vid screen. And when she’d painted the past with loving care over the dismal emptiness, her thoughts turned to him.
Always back to him.
She prayed that he hadn’t come while she was away, but her friends assured her there had been no furloughs yet though the worst was reportedly over.
The skies had begun to clear. Jernovich’s filtration plants had finally caught up with the damage wreaked by the insurgents’ cloud bombs, but the sunlight was too late to resurrect the foliage. Outside twiggy stalks of dead ivy sloughed off the bricks and the brackish remains of a lawn crossed the dirt between the house and the rubbled excuse for a sidewalk.
She turned her eyes to the hall where slices of brightness cut the gloom. She remembered his tweedy broad shoulders passing through those portals of light and disappearing into a terrifyingly uncertain future.
His papers had come on a Sunday, she remembered that. The War hadn’t touched them yet. But, an unfeeling computer in some cold government basement spat out his number one day and destroyed their lives. She no longer cared who was in charge. “Us” or “them” held no meaning for her anymore. None of them had hearts anyway.
Her father scolded her for her bitterness but she felt entitled. Still, it changed nothing.
She took a breath and let the memories come. He had kissed her in this very room, standing in this exact spot. She closed her eyes and lifted her chin, pretending to kiss him once again. She grasped for the memory of his lips on hers, the wine on his breath, the 5 o’clock shadow of his cheek. Those things were elusive and difficult to recover, but the awkward silence born of fear was still as real as the yellowed letter crumpled in her hand. They hadn’t said a word to each other as the stern officers waited. Just that one kiss containing all the volumes of their love story and he was gone, casting further chapters into doubt.
A syncopated step alerted her to the old landlord’s arrival. He would wait below if he needed to tell her something, so she lingered in her memory with her eyes closed. She was so tired of waiting. If only the shards of light would return what they stole that day.
Strangely, the limping step grew louder until she felt the uncomfortable tingling of someone in the room, heard a sharp intake of breath. When she opened her eyes, her heart stopped.
Though his shoulders were stooped and his once straight limbs were twisted, there was no mistaking the face of her husband. She almost didn’t believe he was really there. Then he swept her into his arms and kissed her with a passion she’d nearly forgotten the taste of. Her bitterness fled as their story picked up where it had left off – with them together against the world.