This round of the blog chain has gone all creative-writing-assignment.
The topic, chosen by Jessica Verday:
I’ve chosen to put all of you writers to the test and am throwing down the challenge to…WRITE! I want a short story. (Mine is 250 words. Feel free to write one hundred, three hundred, five hundred…whatever! words)
Mary Lindsey was before me and I’ll be the last link this round.
Now the last time I wrote a short story, was the last time I actually had a creative writing assignment. Read: high school. Short stories are not my medium, but here goes:
Shape of a Heart
Brice patted the lump in his jacket pocket as his eyes darted to the entry once more. Any minute now. A drizzle of cold perspiration crept down his right side. Maybe he should have rented a tux, but then Desiree would guess for sure and Brice would never live that down.
He threw back the rest of his gimlet and then sucked on an ice cube as he waved at the waiter for another drink. The waiter whisked the empty glass away just in time.
Desiree stood posed in the entryway, the slender straight-away of her long legs drawing his eyes to the gentle slope of her hips. She slid soundlessly across the room, her dark curls barely daring to bounce. At the table next to Brice’s, a man made a hollow sound and bent to rub his shin, revealing familiar daggers in the eyes of the woman who’d done the kicking. If Desiree hadn’t told Brice herself that he should propose, he would never have believed she’d say ‘yes’ to someone like him. But she did tell you, he reminded himself, so what are you so nervous about?
Brice leapt to his feet to pull back her chair as she wafted towards his table. “You look beautiful as always.” He kissed her cheek and adjusted the chair as she settled into place.
Her lips permitted a slight curve. “That hardly gives a woman cause to make special effort.”
He cringed as he slid into his own seat. “Now, honey, you know that’s not what I meant…”
“Especially when her boyfriend shows up in the same brown designer knock-off suit as every Friday night for the last six months.”
“I thought you liked this suit.” His collar had shrunk at least an inch. He wiped his hands on his pants.
Her large diamond pendant flashed candlelight in her cleavage as she leaned over to look through her lashes at him. “I said I liked you out of that suit.”
He smiled as he shifted in his seat. “Well, this is a nice restaurant. They require pants. So we’ll just have to wait until after dinner.”
“So let’s order.”
He exhaled as her eyes disappeared behind the menu. All he had to do now was keep her in a good mood until dessert.
Brice hardly touched his chicken piccata. Actually, he didn’t care for chicken; he’d just gotten used to ordering whatever was inexpensive. Desiree raised one dark eyebrow like the blade of a scythe as she wriggled her seafood fork deep in her lobster tail. She’d be ready for dessert soon. Slipping his hand into the lumpy pocket, he felt the soft heart-shaped velvet box roll into his palm. He perched his fist on his knee and his fingers clamped until his knuckles hurt. His tongue felt too big for his mouth and he took a gulping sip of his wine.
Desiree’s eyes settled on his loaded plate. “If there’s something wrong with your food you should send it back.”
“No, it’s fine.” Brice stabbed a large hunk of meat and packed it into his mouth. “It’s delicious.” He struggled to speak normally with his lips stretched tight over his full mouth. “Perfect,” he meant to say, but the meat lodging in his windpipe snuffed the sound. Not now! He forced a smile as he twisted his fingers into an “OK.” No way was he coughing that thing out in front of Desiree… especially not with her engagement ring in his lap. He kept the ring out of sight as he shot to his feet and Desiree’s eyebrows rose almost as quickly. Fighting the burning tightness in his throat, he held one finger aloft and nodded towards the restrooms before walking away.
He could feel Desiree’s eyes searing the back of his head as he entered the men’s room. Deserted. His chest and belly spasmed as he gave in to the urge to cough. Silence. Setting the velvet heart on the counter, he caught his own wide eyes in the mirror as his shoulders shook in silent convulsions. His face was red as his tie. Balling his hands into fists, he plunged them into his belly, pushing up as hard as he could, but the chicken wouldn’t dislodge. He felt dizzy. His face blazed purple. He fingered the cell phone in his pocket, but how could he call when he couldn’t talk? His eyes darted to the door, still stubbornly closed. Didn’t anyone ever use the bathroom in this place?
He knew he should return to the dining room where someone could help him, but Desiree would never let him forget something like that. He had to find a way to get it out himself. His lungs were filling with sands and pin-pricks swarmed over his legs like fire ants. He couldn’t make it back to the dining room if he tried. The edges of his vision faded to black as his gaze tunneled on the heart-shaped box clamshelled open with the 4-carat ring inside.
Desiree had said three carats minimum. The same day she suggested he switch majors from music to business. His vision narrowed to a pinpoint on the flash of the diamond, the clearest diamond the jeweler had available. But even under the jewelry store lighting, the stone hadn’t sparkled like this and that’s how Brice knew he was dying. He grabbed at it like a toddler at a soap bubble. Each facet reflected images from the last few months: his guitar in a box for Goodwill, the look in Boomerang’s eyes when Brice left him at his brother’s.
Brice wondered how long it would be until they found him, dead on the marble floor with the ring in his fist. He pictured Desiree’s face smooth like powdered sugar when she saw him. “Such a shame,” she’d say as she reached for his hand. “This wasn’t what I wanted at all. The cut is all wrong.”
Enough! What am I thinking?
Pushing against the cold porcelain of the sink, he hoisted himself from his slump. He staggered towards the hazy charcoal lines that he knew must be the bathroom stalls, dropping the ring box at the base of the commode. The toilet seat seemed glued in place as he ripped it up and then belly flopped, driving the edge of the toilet seat into his diaphragm. He heard a slap and a plink as the ball of chicken bounced against the wall and landed in the toilet. Sucking in the sweet coolness of air, he leaned against the cold metal wall of the stall, panting. He pulled a few sheets of toilet paper from the roll and mopped his forehead. “That was close.” His voice scratched.
The wheeze of his cell phone echoed through the bathroom. Brice wiped his watering eyes with the heel of his hand and read the Caller ID: Dave.
“So are you and your hottie girlfriend engaged yet, bro?”
“Nope.” Brice cleared his throat. “And I don’t think we’re going to be.”
“What happened? Chicken out again?”
Brice’s eyes darted from the box, its jaws open like a carnivorous plant, to the ball of meat in the toilet. “Yeah. I guess you could say that.” He grinned. “I chickened out.”
Brice chuckled quietly as he hung up. Then laughter shot out of him with more force than that stupid piece of chicken. Chicken out… it was ridiculous. He pounded his fist against the wall of the stall as his whoops bounced off the walls. When he finally managed to stop laughing, he smoothed his jacket and straightened his tie. Desiree would be ready to pitch a fit he’d kept her waiting so long. Reaching for the ring, he snapped the box closed and tucked it back into his pocket. He couldn’t wait to see what kind of fit she’d pitch when she found out he was leaving her.
Maybe he’d show her the ring first.