Archive | June 2013

Faithless Heart

This story was written for the Creative Buzz Hop hosted by Tamara Woods and Michelle Liew.  If you want to participate, go to either of their sites and link up.  This is my first time participating, but I think it’s a fantastic idea!  Technically, we’re supposed to tag people, but I’m not sure who to tag.  If you want to be part of things, you can leave me a comment and I’ll tag you in the future.

This weeks’ theme is infidelity.

All she had was a name.

Ava had seen him in the coffee shop as she stopped to peer in the window on her way past. She was never sure later just what made her do it. She pushed open the heavy glass door and stepped into the coffee-scented warmth.

It was dim and crowded, and Ava wriggled her way to a corner where she wouldn’t be pressed on all sides by people dressed in black with their painted nails and their painted skin and their painted bags. They weren’t her sort of people; they were nothing like her, at least on the outside. She was pretty sure that if she talked to any of them she would find they weren’t like her on the inside, either.

Ava should have been at home, the way she had been every night for as long as she could remember. She should have been watching the news or eating an organic-whole-grain-no-sugar-added snack or reading the Amish romance that she sneaked off her grandmother’s book shelf last week. She should have been wearing pink bunny slippers and cuddling under her handmade blanket with her cat tucked up on her lap.

Instead, she was infusing herself with caffeine and tugging idly at her blouse to make sure nothing was showing like those women who baptized themselves with scent and glitter. Ava knew better than to invite whispers and stares; she was good at blending in when she wasn’t at trendy coffee shops after ten at night.

She watched him play for a while. He was singing a song about being free and knowing your truth. She liked the tune, even if she wanted to argue back. Wiry guitarists in ripped jeans and black nail polish could only make guesses, while women like Ava knew all about being set free by the truth, even if there was never anything to be set free from.

Ava waited for him to finish his set. When he looked out on the now-thinning crowd, their eyes met for a moment, and Ava felt her carefully arranged stones start to slide of the stack. It wouldn’t hurt anyone, she reasoned, to play the part while she was here. She let her lips form a smile meant only for him, and he flashed an answering grin in her direction. He made a promise with his eyes, and Ava accepted it.

He asked, and she answered, and they escaped into the night where they leaned against the bricks behind the shop and he kissed and kissed her until she thought she might float away into the stars. She wanted more—more of everything she wasn’t allowed to want any other time except when she was sneaking out of the house to listen to soulful young musicians pouring their almost-passions into the microphone.

When she begged, he said there wasn’t anything else to give her and that she was expecting too much from him, even though he was the one who said he wanted to open the cage and let her fly. In her confusion, Ava asked about freedom and truth and the songs he sang, but he only laughed and said there was so much she didn’t understand. No one’s really free, he told her, but some people have learned how to be not-free in a different way—they’ve learned to say the same things only with prettier words, and it makes them feel better. That was all he did with his songs.

He kissed her again, and she invested everything she had in that moment. She gave her mouth over to his lips and tongue and teeth; she pressed into him, willing him to take whatever she offered. He pulled back, saying it was time to go. Instead of Cinderella, the Prince was the one hurrying down the stairs at midnight. He disappeared, swallowed up by the dark streets and the nighttime sounds.

Ava ran, hoping to catch him and make him mend the gaping chasm he’d left where all her Saturdays of safety and comfort used to reside. She chased after him, needing at least to know who he was. She lost track of time, so great was her need.

When she stepped out of an alley to cross the main road, she stopped to let a bus pass by. Looking up, she saw him in the window, his palm pressed against the glass. He had written his name on his hand, and she read it as he passed her. In thick, black lines he’d written “Jace.” She said it aloud so she would remember, and then she laughed because it was so stupid and cliched and maybe a little bit ironic. She tracked the bus with her eyes until it was out of sight then sank down on the pavement in exhaustion, where she buried her head in her hands and cried.

In the morning, Ava dressed for church. She rode in silence, a Sunday morning penitence for her Saturday night sin. Yes, she was the sinful woman, the one who had strayed for the price of a single night of freedom. He had been right, she thought, that no one could ever really be free. She remembered a story she’d heard once, about how some researchers had put children in a fenced playground and they used the whole space, but when the fence was gone, they stayed in the middle. She’d tried to play without a fence and had almost run into the road; now she was ready to lock the gate again. That’s what good girls do when they’re twenty-six and have spent all their lives doing everything right, only to shatter it all for just a glimpse of some other life.

When church was over, she stood up and walked solemnly out of the sanctuary to the big room where they served coffee and, if everyone was lucky, donut holes. She glanced around the room, and her gaze rested on someone who didn’t belong there. Her adulterous heart beat faster, and she imagined running away with him to wherever it was that she wouldn’t have to wear calf-length skirts and crew-neck sweaters and listen to women her mother’s age chastise her with, “What’s gotten into you lately, Ava?”

Ava turned away; she needed to guard her heart. She ran for the door, a few steps from safety, but he caught up to her and called for her. She stood still. He crossed in front of her, and she cast her eyes downward, not daring to look at him.

“I was wrong,” he said. “About no one being free.”

He took her hand and tugged gently, leading her outside. She looked back at the building, a tower of strength built to the Lord, and she thought she understood. She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, he was watching her expectantly.

“I’m ready,” she whispered.

©June 21, 2013 ABMitchell

Dad

Father’s Day is this Sunday.  Whether you have a dad, are a dad, or fill a fatherly role in someone’s life, I hope your day is meaningful.

This story is a little sadder than my usual.  This isn’t an easy day for me, and I imagine it’s not for many others as well.  No worries, I’ll be back with something lighter next time.

Note: Please don’t read more into this story than I intended.  I had several requests to write more about the people from my previous stories in this “world,” and I hadn’t done one about Chad, so I thought I’d start with him.  Don’t worry, he’ll have less drama in a future installment, I promise.  Also, don’t assume you know what’s underneath his troubled relationship with his dad.  I intentionally left that ambiguous, because I wanted it to be relatable.  I’m not even sure I know that just yet; Chad hasn’t confided in me.

Isaac Blesses Jacob, deatail. Govert Flinck, 1638.

Chad woke to the sound of the shower. He stretched lazily and blinked a few times to clear the sleep-induced blur from his eyes. He ran a hand over his face and sat up, remembering what day it was. He winced, thinking that as an adult, he really shouldn’t still let it get to him. He threw back the covers and slipped out of the bed, then began pulling the blankets back into place and smoothing them down. He flopped down on his back, his legs hanging off the edge of the bed, and threw one arm over his eyes.

The shower stopped and the door opened. Steam and the scent of soap wafted out, and Chad breathed in. He let himself smile a little as he propped himself up on his elbows. From where he was situated on the bed, he had a clear view into the bathroom. Al stepped out onto the bathmat to dry off. The familiar curve of his spine and the lines and planes of his body were comforting. He looked over and caught Chad’s eye.

“See something you like?”

“Always,” Chad replied, but only half-heartedly. Understanding flickered between them.

Al rubbed at his hair to dry it. From under the towel he asked, “Are you going to call him?” He finished and pulled the towel around his hips.

“I’m not sure.” Chad closed his eyes. He could hear Al rummaging around in one of the drawers, probably looking for his razor. Chad reopened his eyes just in time to see Al starting to shave. “It’s just…” Chad wasn’t entirely sure what it “just” was. It had been easier when he hadn’t had to think about what it would mean. “He hasn’t really been–you know.”

“You remember what my dad said his father was like. I still think he’s not too crazy about it, but at least he keeps his mouth shut during family dinners.”

“It’s not exactly the same thing.”

Al wiped his face on the hand towel and leaned back so he could meet Chad’s gaze. “I know.”

“After what happened, he wouldn’t even come to the wedding.” Not that Chad had been surprised, really.

Chad turned over so that he was lying prone with his face in the pillow. There wasn’t much to say. It was just a phone call, but it seemed like significantly more at the moment. Chad heard Al walk out of the bathroom and turned his head to peer at him. Al yanked off the towel around his waist, folding it and threading it over the rack on the back of the closet door. He pulled out his clothes.

“It’s really up to you. Not much going on today, other than dinner at my parents’ house at five.”

“Mm-hm.”

“We can just have a quiet day, if you want.”

“Mm-hm.”

“Or I could wait until you fall asleep and paint your toenails red and draw a fake mustache on your lip with a Sharpie.”

Chad pushed himself up a bit. “You’re a jerk.”

“Just making sure you were listening.”

Chad threw the pillow at him, but he missed. Al just laughed and went back to getting dressed.

Neither of them said anything for a few moments. Eventually, Al said, “Okay if I tell Paula we’ll take the kids overnight next weekend? Kyle’s out of town and she wanted to go to that women’s thing at her church.”

“Oh, God. I hope it’s every bit as fun as the men’s version I went to last week.” Chad sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

“I’m sure it will be even better. Why’d you go, anyway?” Al paused in buttoning his shirt, his head to one side.

“Because Kyle told me it was going to be awesome, and then he bailed. I was stuck with a bunch of middle-aged men going on about how hot their wives are.”

“I didn’t know Kyle had promised to go. He was with Dad and me at the new house.” Al resumed his buttoning.

“Yeah, well, that’s Kyle.” Chad shrugged.

“Sure is. I’ll give him hell for you next time I see him.”

“Nah. It wasn’t all bad. Remember that guy Bill I mentioned? He asked if I wanted to catch the game with him in a couple of weeks. I guess his company gets free tickets every year, and his wife hates baseball.”

Al rolled his eyes. “Better you than me. Anyway, what do you want me to tell Paula?”

“You can tell her we’ll do it.” Chad chuckled. “You know they only like coming here because we feed them ice cream and let them stay up late.”

“And put on DVDs of the Muppet Show. Don’t forget that.”

“I’m surprised that hasn’t gotten us a lifetime ban. You know how Paula is about ‘adult humor.’” Chad threw in air quotes for emphasis.

“There are worse things we could let them watch,” Al said, shrugging.

“Oh, like half the crap you enjoy? Good thing Paula doesn’t know about those.”

Al reached out to swat at Chad, who rolled out of his reach just in time.

“You want me to make breakfast?” Al offered.

“Maybe. I’m not really hungry.”

The bed dipped a little as Al sat down. “Hey.”

“What?”

“You know you don’t have to do this.”

“Call, you mean?”

“Yeah.”

“I know. But maybe if I do…”

Al shook his head. “Don’t do this just because you think you have to or because you think something will change.” He reached out and put his hand on Chad’s arm. “I’m not going to think less of you if you don’t. Do what you need to, but do it for yourself.”

“Okay.”

“I want to go get some coffee. You want to shower first? Should I wait for you before I eat?”

“Nah. I’m just going to take some time.” He knew Al would understand what he wasn’t saying.

“Sure.” Al leaned in for a brief kiss, then rose from the bed. “I’ll see you down there in a bit.”

Once Al had closed the door behind him, Chad glanced at the clock. It was a few minutes after eight, which meant it was plenty late enough. He reached for his phone. His hand was shaking slightly as he pulled up the number from his contacts. The phone rang twice before he heard a familiar voice on the other end.

“Hi, Dad?” He cleared his throat. “It’s Chad.”

©June 14, 2013 ABMitchell