The following story was written in response to a prompt on Chuck Wending’s blog: tell a story about a lie. Or, at least, a story with a lie in it. I love flash fiction because I can write one opening line and just let the rest of the story unfold from there. I don’t have to make an outline or draw character sketches or agonize. I just put fingers to keys and go. This has been a fun, cleansing exercise after receiving a rejection yesterday, and I recommend it for anyone else feeling “stuck” or discouraged.
A Terrible Lie
We often played the game of “who loves you more.” I would say I loved Taylor the most, and he would say he loved me the most. It was the kind of shmoopy crap that made people roll their eyes and tell us to get a room.
In the end, I think I win.
“How do you think he’ll react?” Dana asks, reaching for my hand and squeezing it in a show of solidarity. I can’t look at her. I want to be alone, but I have a long, lonely road ahead of me, and I’m not exactly eager to start the journey.
“When he comes back and realizes. He’s not stupid. He’ll know.” Sometimes I swear it’s like she can’t prevent herself from saying whatever she’s thinking, no matter how hurtful or pointless.
I shrug, my shoulders so tense the motion is barely noticeable. I know I should be angry at her for bringing up a topic I don’t want to discuss, one that hurts me to my very core, but I’m too numb. “I don’t know. He’ll probably be angry. He might not even want to see me though. Six years is a long time–he might forget all about me.”
“Nah.” Dana’s eyes watch the sky, though the rocket with its trail of smoke is long gone. “If true love exists, you guys have it. He’ll think about you every day…”
“Just shut up already, will you?” The tears I’ve been suppressing for days are finally starting to bubble to the surface. I tell her to shut up too loudly, and other people in the park turn to look at us, their brows furrowed.
“Let’s get out of here,” Dana says, her voice soft. Her lips are pursed in that way she has when she’s really upset, but trying not to show it. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
I nod, shrug again, and start toward the car. We step around picnicking families, and I can’t help but watch their children and wonder what my own child will be like. Will he play frisbee like that kid, or prefer reading, like that one? Will he have Taylor’s brown hair or my blonde? Will he have Taylor’s distinctive cleft nose, his dimpled cheeks, his gray-blue eyes? Will he be a she?
Will Taylor know the moment he sees our child that it was his, has been his all along?
As we climb into the car, Dana sliding behind the wheel and me kicking aside the Dr. Pepper cans to make room for my feet on the passenger side floor, Dana closes her door and then turns to me. “Look, I know you don’t want to talk about this but I just want to say one last thing…”
“Dana…” I shake my head, trying to discourage her.
“Billy, will you just listen?” She puts the key in the ignition. “I don’t agree with what you did. It was Taylor’s right to decide what was best for himself, and give up on his dream to be with you if that’s what he wanted. He loved you, really loved you, and I think you were kind of a fool to give up on that.”
“I didn’t give up on it…”
“Just let me finish. I think you were a fool, but I also think you did it for the right reasons. You love him. I get that. And I think he loves you, and that six years on a space mission isn’t going to change that, especially when he realizes that baby is his. So you need to buck up, live with your lie, and know that in six years, you’ll be together again. No more of this mopey shit.”
I looked up at her for the first time all day and really saw her, Dana, my friend. The only one willing to help me through all of this, and support me no matter how foolish she thought my decision. The late-afternoon sunlight made the golden starbursts around her pupils sparkle like amber jewels. I’d never noticed that her eyes were both green and gold before. Somehow, her gaze in that moment seemed mystical. Powerful, even. If I would just trust her, everything would turn out the way it should.
“Okay,” I said, and for the first time in weeks, I smiled.