“How could this evening have taken such an ugly turn,” Madeline thought to herself. She loved Christmas, and even though she was not terribly religious and thought it kind of cheesy, caroling with her old church youth group struck her as a giant hoot.
It was much colder than usual for mid-December, and a snowstorm that had been predicted for later that night began hours before expected. Houses were decorated, lights twinkled everywhere, it was blustery and freezing and snowing furiously hard — to her mind, a picture-perfect backdrop. The cold and the fact that she didn’t sing very often made her light-headed and giddy.
Other than the fact that the hot chocolate was essentially lukewarm brown water, and that, as usual, a couple of the kids had poured a flask full of vodka into their cocoa and were using an inordinate amount of effort to not fall down, she was having a wildly good time. Singing. Christmas! A boyfriend!! They had been going together for nearly three months.
“Don’t fuck with me.” There was an edge in his voice she had not heard before.
“Of course I was talking to him. I’ve known him since I was, like, six years old.” The party. Deja vu. All over again.
“What were you saying to him?” Tim asked.
“What was I saying?”
“What was I saying? I don’t remember! I’ve been talking to everyone!” Madeline’s voice was taut with frustration.
And despite what she knew to be true, she was overtaken with the sense that she had done something very, very wrong. She must have. This was her boyfriend – her crazy-curly-haired, insanely-blue-eyed boyfriend –and he was clearly angry.
“Tim, I’m sorry. I can’t even remember what we were talking about. It wasn’t important.”
“Well, you sure looked fucking happy.”
All of the other kids had trickled back into the church, leaving the two of them alone in the driving snow.
“Shit, I don’t have boots on,” she said. “Can we go in?”
“You don’t give a shit about me.”
He reached one hand into an inside coat pocket, and pulled something out she strained to see. The moon — or maybe it was one of the streetlights that flooded the church parking lot and lit up the whirling snowflakes — glinted off the object in Tim’s right hand. It was a razor blade, a very old, very rusty razor blade.
Before she could react, before she had time to consider being afraid, Tim had spun on his heels and was loping through the shin-deep snow, the long fringe of his buckskin jacket flying everywhere. A final flash of metal and moon. His arm fully outstretched. The silhouette of his back quickly vanishing against the mad snowflakes and the black winter sky. She ran after him, ten or twelve steps perhaps, before her feet were thoroughly soaked and freezing, and there was no sign of him at all.
She gripped the edges of the stainless steel sink in her kitchen, not sure whether she would vomit. But when her mother asked her how the evening had been, she said, “Fine. Fun.”
That was as much of an answer as her parents would expect from their fourteen-year-old daughter, and they beamed widely at her as she brushed past them, not noticing that she clutched her stomach with white-knuckled fingers as she climbed the stairs to her bed.
As I work on getting my third completed novel Out There, I have been playing around with several new ideas, and it’s possible that one has taken hold! I have long been intrigued by writing a full-length work that takes place within a time frame that is less than 24 hours (think Mrs. Dalloway, Ulysses, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, etc.). I have recently become intrigued by the possibility of telling the entire story in separate pieces of flash fiction — each of which would be entirely free standing, but all of which together would tell the tale. The piece above is the latest flash.
hope you get a kick out of the photos…