Fiction Friday: Because of a Yellow Card

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20120723-182600.jpgIn retrospect, I should have handled things differently.

David came home from his Toledo run last night, his face bleached white with jealousy. “What’s this?” he demanded.

“What’s what?”

He waved a yellow envelope. “‘I’m looking forward to seeing you Friday’?”

I looked up from the dishwater. “Who’s that from?”

“Eric.” The word was a thunderclap.

I snatched it out of his hand, soapy water and all. “You read my mail?”

Mistake #1: looking guilty.

Pasty white turned dull red. “It’s on the outside of the damn envelope, Bec! Not very subtle!”

That idiot. “Oh, come on, David!” I turned my back, tucking the card into my sweater pocket. “I married you, not Eric.”

Mistake #2: drawing attention to my husband’s favorite singer, a country star twice named Sexiest Man Alive…and the guy I almost married when I was chasing country stardom myself.

It got ugly in a hurry. “At least now I know why you were so all-fire determined for me to work tomorrow!” David yelled, adding a few choice words for emphasis as he stormed out of the house, leaving me in tears.

Mistake #3: keeping my secret instead of throwing the blasted card at him.

*

The alarm goes off early this morning, and I rest a hand on David’s back, which is a little too rigid. “David,” I whisper, but he breathes deep and even.

I try to conjure that night ten years ago, at the end of the worst week ever, when my tour bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. David pulled off on the shoulder behind us, a knight on an 18-wheel charger, managing to quote Dickens without sounding pretentious. It was love at first sight, but to this day I’m not sure he believes it.

At the moment, it strains my credulity, too.

By the time I get out of the shower, I can hear the truck skipping through gears on its way out for the day’s run.

Jerk.

For a moment I debate calling the whole thing off. But the path of least resistance lies ahead. Sighing, I go downstairs to set the future in motion.

Eric and I meet at noon, as we planned. Nothing’s changed; his smile still takes my breath away. He kisses my cheek. “Ready?”

It takes all afternoon. When my energy flags, Eric rubs my back gently, but I shake him off. “Why’d you have to send that card, anyway? Why didn’t you just bring it with you?”

He smiles and strokes my hair. “You know my memory. So he’s suspicious?” Eric shakes his head. “Marriage. I’m glad I never got caught.”

“Smooth,” I say drily. “Real smooth, Eric.”

“Hey, I made you smile.”

At 5:30, everyone is in position. My phone trills a warning.

The door opens, and a beam of light falls across the darkened room, connecting David to me. The band starts playing, and Eric and I break into “It Had To Be You.” David takes in the balloons, the wishing well of cards, and understanding dawns. His sheepish smile banishes my lingering anxiety.

“Happy birthday, babe,” I say.

*

Concrits welcome, as always. I tried to use more action and dialogue this time. Any suggestions for what is or isn’t clear, what seems contrived or awkward?

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21 thoughts on “Fiction Friday: Because of a Yellow Card

  1. i enjoyed the pace of this a lot. i really felt the jealousy early on and enjoyed the scene in the kitchen. i think my only real question is… this party takes place at their home, right? i had to read it back to make sure. because at first i was going to ask where they were (i think “Eric and I meet at noon…” led me to think they were not at the house)

    • That’s a good question–so now I’ve got the dialogue/action thing working, I need to clarify my setting. Always something. 🙂 I was envisioning the party taking place elsewhere, but I left it ambiguous, in part b/c the word count was so tough to hit anyway!

  2. You never fail to deliver stellar work. I enjoy everything you write and this is no exception. Apart from the setting ambiguity as mentioned previously, I enjoyed the flow and voice in this piece, and of course the premise, the language, as always, the perfect package!

  3. Wonderful, Kathleen! You’ve done it again. Great use of sound (truck skipping through the gears and deep even breathing, use of music…). I love the way that you don’t only use the visual. You spin the web of deceit and infidelity and end up with an image of friendship and true love… Thank-you for a great read 🙂

  4. You ask for concrit, but I gotta tell you I think it all worked perfectly, even to the end. I knew it was something different, that she wasn’t having an affair, but the surprise birthday party was a nice spin I didn’t expect. I think you had a perfect balance of everything, including background. I want to know more about these characters.

  5. I really like the pace of it – the fight and jealousy, the quick sketch of the backstory, and the happy ending all flowed really nicely without seeming at all forced. Great birthday present for hubby, though I’m sure he coudl have done without the paranoia !

  6. As others have mentioned, I think you nailed the pacing and delivery of this scene well. Any quicker or slower I think it would have felt contrived. As is, it is excellent. I could see fleshing this out a bit more into a “longer” short story and it working well.

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