COMPLICATED {6}

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Elise knew he would be there, but she was still unprepared when he walked in the door. She’d spent the last two weeks painstakingly arranging every detail for the bachelor/bachelorette party at the secluded cottage; It was her way of focusing on something other than her missing lover.

“Oh, so you’re on that bullshit tonight, huh?” Josalyn said, watching attentively as Elise finished the large cup she’d just poured. Elise gasped and winced as the liquor burned its way past her throat and stomach.
“Long week,” she said flatly.

It killed her to keep the secret from her best friends, especially when she needed their advice at the moment.
“What’s the point of having a bachelor/bachelorette party if they’re already married?” Amara said, swigging from her own cup.
“His family is very traditional. I don’t even know if they know about the house yet,” Elise said. She poured another serving of Hennessy into her cup.
“I see what kind of night this is gonna be,” Josalyn said, still awed by her friend’s consumption.
“She’s just trying to keep pace with Liam.”

Elise found her eyes, scanning the room for him. His animation with her sister made him easy to spot, booming over the speakers and conversations. The rage that had been boiling inside her pooled into another heat that sat between her thighs at the sight of him. His beauty and charm gave him access to any woman he chose. On anyone else, the busily-patterned button-up would be played and his exposed chest from its lack of buttoning would be corny, but Liam was regal. Elise watched him like a hawk, examining his every move, anticipating her attack. She knew he’d seen her and was waiting for his opportunity to strike. He made his way to the trio to deliver his traditional greetings. He seized Amara in his arms and squeezed her as tight as he could.

“Are you drunk?” Amara asked.
“Quite,” he said, hugging Josalyn before turning his attention to Elise.
“What’s up?” he said, taking her in.
“What’s up?” she repeated before he swept her into his arms. She’d kept her hands glued to her side as he pulled her into his chest. Her icy demeanor held briefly, until it was thawed by the gentle press of his lips onto her neck. Suddenly, she was ablaze beneath her skin. “I hope you didn’t drive,” Elise said.
“Well, this is a slumber party, right?” he said, winking at Elise before he walked away.

Elise managed to drag her sister off of her husband’s lap, just long enough to pull her into the master bedroom. “I literally can’t hold this in any longer,” she said, shutting the door behind her.
“What, what happened?”
“My secret one-thing? It’s Liam,” Elise said. The words felt like she was releasing a breath she’d been holding in.
“Shut the fuck up!”
“Yeah, but I fucked up. I asked him out and now I know he’s weird about it.”
“Go talk to him! Not me!”
“I can’t! What am I supposed to say? Hi, I know I asked you out and it’s cool if you don’t like me that way, but I’d still like to hit that?
“Yes! Say exactly that!”
“Em! Be serious!”
“What do you want?”
“5 minutes in the linen closet?”
“Make it 10,” her sister said before shoving her back out the room.

In her mind, she’d known she still wanted him. She’d plotted the whole night, from the decorations and the music, to the black dress she wore that accentuated her body. With her sister’s approval, Elise was ready to make her move.
“El, do you wanna play this drinking game?”
“Yeah, let me grab a cup,” she said, making her way into the kitchen. As she reached for the red solo cups on top of the fridge, she could feel the hair on her neck raise sharply before the hands snaked around her.

“Shit,” he whispered into her ear as he draped himself over her. “This dress is driving me crazy. I need to take it off,” he said, his hands lazily ambled across her body. Just as she settled into his warmth, he was gone, several feet from where he had once been as one of the guest wandered into the kitchen. They exchanged heated looks, before Liam went back into the living room. She’d managed to let out an annoyed sigh as Amara entered.

“Five bucks he’s passed out on the floor before midnight,” Amara chuckled, refilling her cup.
“I’m not gonna take that bet. He’s blasted.”
“He’ll be ok. He just broke up with someone and he’s a little raw.”

Elise found it impossible to mask her fury as she turned and stormed out onto the porch. She’d been saving her special friend as an after-party treat, but her anger rose in her throat like bile. Her breath was jagged as she inhaled and exhaled the thick smoke, almost immediately calming her raging brain. She replayed the last two months over and over in her head, looking for any sign in her murky memories. She’d known Liam her whole life and found it hard to believe that he’d lie to her and cheat on someone. She’d always held him to a slightly higher standard but it dawned on her that Liam was a man, just like that rest: capable of anything. The weed began to work its magic, slightly relaxing Elise, as she heard the door creak open.

“There you are,” Liam said, before he dropped onto the steps next to her. He reached out to take the cigar from her hands, when she pulled it out of his reach.
“Oh, you being stingy tonight?”
“I don’t like to share,” she said in a grim tone.
“What’s wrong?”
“You’ve been with someone this whole time?”

Liam sighed and rubbed his face. He’d come to the party to avoid his thoughts of Kim and her “happy” marriage.
“It wasn’t anything serious. And it’s over.”
“Obviously it was more serious than you thought,” Elise scoffed. Up close, Liam was a sweaty, drunk mess, which eliminated a lot of his charm.
“It was. Or I thought so. But it’s over and I’m over her.”
“So you couldn’t tell me you were with someone else? Or did you just want to have your cake and eat it too?”
“That’s the dumbest idiom ever…”
“Only because you don’t understand it,” Elise said, ashing the blunt and standing to leave. Liam leapt up and blocked her path to the house.
“Come on, don’t be mad. I’m sorry,” he said, running his hands over her chilled skin.
“No, fuck you. I’ve been, I don’t know, holding out hope that one day you would see me since I was a kid. I’d given up until…. I don’t know what you and ole girl had going on, but obviously you’re upset about it. You came here, hoping I’d be ok with you ignoring me for weeks now so you could get your sad little rocks off but it’s not happening.”
“Ok, I’m upset! Damn, I thought friends were supposed to be there for one another.”
“You don’t know what a friend is, Liam. Everything is always about YOU. You think the world is supposed to just stop for you and it doesn’t. I have feelings too. You don’t even have the decency to turn me down properly!”

Liam’s face changed instantly, an unfamiliar emotion Elise had never seen. He took his hands off of her and stood back. “Is that what this is about?”
Elise bit her lip and shook her head. She’d be damned if she dropped tears in front of him.
“Bro, you’re tripping. No, I know what it is. You’re jealous.”
“Jealous?! Of what?”
“Jealous that I actually wanted something with her. Terrified that you were another side piece just waiting for a ride around the block and a pat on the head.”

Elise felt as though the air had been ripped from her lungs. If her reaction time hadn’t been impaired, she might have tried to peel the flesh from his bones. She shut her eyes for a moment, trying to turn off the brewing storm.
“Goodbye Liam.”

COMPLICATED {2}

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Elise stood in the triple mirrors and willed the dress down over her stomach. “Everything ok in there?” the clerk asked for the 3rd time. Elise growled and gave up, recognizing the dress wasn’t as “flowy” as she described.
“It doesn’t fit,” she said, yanking the flimsy material back over her head. As she redressed, she felt a short moment of embarrassment and shame. If she’d stuck with the keto diet, it may have worked. She yanked the curtains open and stepped back out into the showroom. The clerk, petite and brunette, made a face before taking back the dress. “This is the largest size we have,” she turned to announce to the rest of the wedding party. Emerald, Elise’s older sister and the bride, stood and smiled slightly.
“We’ll look somewhere else,” she said before leading the bridal party out of the store.
Continue reading

The Trouble With Diamonds: Eleven

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It took Dorian a split second to react to Noelle standing at his front door. His arm whipped to his waistband and seized the gun, swinging it to her face. She grabbed the muzzle and forced his arm down, sending the gun flying. Dorian grabbed the thief by her lapels and dragged her into the apartment. She used her forearms to break his grip and block his strikes as he came at her full force. She was the reason he was out of a job & under investigation. She had seduced him, made his drop his guard for one minute, and outfoxed him, something he could proudly say didn’t happen often. Dorian hated to admit it to himself, but he had a point to prove.  Continue reading

Kentucky Straight

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He shuffled down the street, age gripped his back and legs heavily. Passing him on the street, the smell of whiskey wafted off of him. He sat in front of the corner store, his hand extended limply. Every few hours, he would have enough money to buy a new bottle to stave off sobriety. He would nod off and be asleep on the sidewalk, but the owner would kick him lightly to wake him up. At some point, he had urinated on himself and it was beginning to dry, a new layer of grime on his pants.

He made his way to his unkempt home and sat in the worn chair and opened his last bottle. The firewater cascaded down his throat, giving him a familiar feeling of euphoria. He opened his eyes and looked around the cluttered room. It was no longer warm and inviting. His wife hasn’t making biscuits for breakfast. His daughter wasn’t laughing at him while he made faces at her. The dusty suede box on his mantle gave him no comfort. Shaking the hand of President JFK didn’t change the outcome of his life. The Army made several promises that didn’t come to fruition. He didn’t get the chance to go back to school and the only part of the world he had seen was a Godforsaken jungle. He came home to no parade, no work and no loving family. Even his memories had begun to fade into blurs of Kentucky straight.

He panhandled to survive and live in the bottom of a bottle. He had no more hopes, no dreams, only the desperate need to remain incapacitated. He was sick but it made him better. He didn’t have to think of his troubles or shortcomings, only his drink made him feel whole again. He sat in a pool of self-pity as he turned up the bottle and rubbed the stubble on his face. He made his way back out onto the street, in front of another liquor stores, looking for his next fix.

People passed him, day in and day out. They walked around him, farther away from the smell of decay that clung to him. They pretended they did not hear him, turned their heads so they didn’t see him, ignoring his grumbled pleas for change. He was invisible. Once in a while, change would be dropped into his hands and after a while, he would enough for a new bottle. When hunger overcame his need, he dug through trash cans and bags, searching for something half eaten, something someone had wasted just to tide him over. Sometimes, he collected bottles and cans for change, to feed him, to feed his addiction.

At night, he stumbled home, back to his chair, the only thing he owned from before. In the cold, he would burn paper in the metal trash can he had dragged from the park for warmth. But in winter, this barely helped. In the bitter snow, the only thing that kept him warm was the whiskey he poured down his throat. He would drape himself in layers upon layers of lost or left behind clothing. Summer was almost unbearable, to him and those around him. He had grown used to the smell of sweat clinging to his dirty skin, but people would almost run to escape the stench of the Garbage Man.

He couldn’t keep anything in life: family, work, money. He searched for whiskey to escape and soon it consumed him. His home was even gone, reduced to the pit of squalor he often sat in. The only thing he had was the hunger, the leprosy and the dereliction, things that he even the bottle couldn’t fix. But he would always try.