Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Spin the Wheel of Conflict

I've been trying to come up with content for the online component of a my local writer's group when I happened upon Chuck Wendig's blog. This, in and of itself, is not abnormal. I frequently direct my fellow author friends to his website for writing advice, as well as his spectacular use of profanity. It's rather impressive. But I happened upon the blog, looking for a topic to post about in the facebook group, when I saw this weekly challenge. So I challenged them to partake, and of course, had to participate myself.

So, without further ado, my attempt at the flash fiction prompt:

I know something is wrong before I roll over to discover the bed empty. It could be nothing, I tell myself. Could be. But there’s this feeling deep inside, this knowledge that began as a tiny grain of sand and, through time and ignorance coating layer after layer, has grown. It’s easy to ignore a grain of sand. Harder to discount the boulder.


I push the feeling down and stretch sore muscles, fleeting memories still weighed down with sleep, flashing over my skin. A touch here. A kiss there. So much passion and pleasure.

The comforter lay crumpled at the foot of the bed. When I stretched, the sheet had retreated down to pool around my waist but the warmth of the room makes both unneeded. Still, with the temporary absence of body, I pull both the sheet and comforter to my chin. The room is dark and heavy with night. Sleep. I should go back to sleep and when I wake, they will be there. Just as they have been every morning for the past few months.

The nagging feeling will not submit. I curl onto my side, peering into the dark. Slowly, the outline of the door to the bath emerges from the gloom. Empty. I place a hand on the vacant space beside me on the bed. Its warmth is long gone. I don’t need to check the other side to discover the same.

I hate that I feel the creep of suspicion instead of lazy content. My imagination has served jealousy instead of love. Fear instead of acceptance.

I asked for this. I arranged this. I made it happen.


Me. Me. Me.

It was there in the stolen touches that went unnoticed in a bonfire of lust. Covert glances across a room. Simple generosity of out-of-the-way gestures. Invisible lines forbidden to cross.

After all this time, how could those lines still not be crossed?

Some random light glints off the ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. It shimmers under the tilt of my hand, a pulsing reminder of permanence and commitment. But did it still mean the same? Before I dared to want more? For me?

For him?

I fling back the covers and rise to my feet. With the icy unwelcome of jealousy coursing through me, I reach for a robe. Cinching it closed, I inhale the intoxicating scent of him—earth and spice and the rawness of male. He smells so different from my husband, who prefers expensive colognes and musk-scented soap. I can still taste him on lips, still feel his hands on my body.

Disgust at my insecurity almost sends me back to bed. Almost.

My feet skim the carpeted stairs. Fingers rest lightly on the banister. Each breath is held—not for silence, but for despair. So afraid to make a sound, so afraid of what I’ll find.

At last in the foyer, I pause. Light spills across the wood floor, falling through the arch of the family room. Quiet sounds follow, that of a television turned low. On hushed steps, I slip to the entrance, resting a shoulder against the jamb in relief. My mouth opens to announce myself, but I don’t, just wanting a moment of voyeuristic peace.

Shame creeps in the wake of relief and disgust. How could I have questioned them? Jealousy can make you see things that aren’t there, I know that, but that it could shake something I thought so impervious makes me humble. I am playing with fire, and where there is fire, someone is going to get burned.

They are sitting on the sofa, their backs to me. One dark head, one fair, illuminated by the table lamp beside them and the television in front. Adam leans forward, reaching for something on the coffee table. Seth raises both arms, stretching taunt muscles and uttering a soft groan that goes straight to my middle. A smile curves my lips as I imagine myself walking around the sofa and giving them something other than an old movie to occupy the early hours.

Then Adam leans back into the sofa. And Seth’s arms drop, stretching one across the back of the sofa behind my husband.

The boulder returns and brings a few friends.

His hand lifts almost subconsciously, not quite cradling the back of Adam’s head, hovering just over his blonde hair. A hesitation, though neither acknowledge the suspended moment that Adam pretends he doesn’t notice.

Suddenly the fingers clench into a fist, supple muscles of his bare arm going rigid. Seth forces his fingers wide, returning them to the neutral back of the sofa instead of my husband’s hair. He tilts his head to the side, says something to Adam who laughs quietly.

There is not enough air in the world to breathe. Back against the wall, the damning sight hidden from view, I struggle to stay upright.

I shouldn’t feel like this, shouldn’t begrudge them a connection that doesn’t involve me. Adam and I are married, yes, but I asked for this. I did this. I made this possible.

I never imagined…

Leaning around the corner, I see I’m not the only one having an epiphany. Inches apart, they’re facing each other, television long forgotten. The light has played a harsh trick, shrouding their expressions but I can read enough tension in the shoulders, the harsh rise and fall of their chests. Maybe it’s the shadows messing with me, but I think Adam leans forward, a fraction of an inch.

They move at the same time, turning to look over the sofa. At me.

I lower the hand that had clamped over my mouth when I gasped. Movements in sync again, they push to their feet, the sofa a physical barrier to the space ripped wide between us. I don’t know what to say, if anything. And when my husband breaks the stillness to push past me and leave Seth, I can only think:

My fault. I did this.