This week, I’m sharing Part Two in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. (To recap, the object is to post a 1,000 word story beginning. Each week, another writer will build on the story culminating in a four-part tale written by four different authors.) I’m building on a story beginning by Sheri Williams.
Sisters (Part Two)
My finger pinched in the metal opening mechanism, but I shook out my hand and jerked open the umbrella. I muttered a curse and bit down on my injured finger to diffuse the pain. I headed east, the clicking of my heels muffled by the rainwater. Realizing I was nearing a run, I forced my legs to slow down. Breathing in the fresh smell of summer rain, I replayed our lunch meeting.
It had gone well. She’d bought it all – hook, line, and sinker. Just like I knew she would. There had been only one flub, but I doubted she’d caught it. How could she? It would have meant she’d actually paid attention to me at some point over the course of our lives. And since that never happened . . .
Still, it was a stupid mistake. Cake samples? I hated cake. Always had. Would Soleil remember the birthday pies and ice cream cakes that had substituted for traditional birthday fare? Probably not. But if she did . . . I couldn’t worry about that. After all, I could be serving cake to please my guests.
Lightning flashed followed by a crack of thunder that nearly caused me to trip on the uneven sidewalk. I steadied myself and continued, no longer able to contain the grin I’d bit back at the café table. I savored the look on my sister’s face as I delivered the one-two punch. First, “Her name is Maggie.”
Soleil’s eyes had widened and her left eye twitched, causing her to resemble a strung-out owl. How pathetic it only took her a half-second to readily accept the sudden knowledge that she’d been oblivious to her sister’s same-sex attraction. Her owl-eyed shock had more to do with the fact that any human – no matter the gender – could love her sister.
A sheet of rain gusted beneath my umbrella, and it nearly turned inside out. I gripped the handle with both hands, using the canopy to shield me from the stinging rain.
My mind drifted back to the café again, and the second blow I’d delivered: “She works for the company.”
Soleil had worked hard to suppress her reaction, but the stuttering and stammering gave her away. To her credit, in the end she’d held her tongue, due undoubtedly to the thought of her trust fund dollars disappearing like water through a sieve.
I rounded the street corner, and glancing behind me to be certain Soleil hadn’t followed me from the café, stepped into the alley. The three-story brick buildings on either side cast long shadows over the narrow cobblestone road. A chitter drew my attention to the ground where a squirrel sat on its haunches beneath the shelter of a dumpster lid. Thunder cracked again, this time far into the distance.
Being careful so as not to slip on the wet surface or catch my heels between the stones, I quickened my pace until I reached the black Lexus sedan parked beneath a rusty fire escape. I opened the back door, closed my umbrella, and tossed it onto the floor in the back seat. In a few quick motions, I slammed the door shut, opened the front door, and slid into the passenger seat.
I’d barely closed the door behind me when Hardon’s warm hands clasped my cheeks and his lips pressed against mine in a hard, demanding kiss. As I was wont to do, I tried to jerk my hands from his face.
He refused to relent.
My racing heart sent a message to my addled brain, and I allowed myself a minute’s reprieve. A few moments to forget about the renewed ache in my chest that followed every encounter with my sister. Seconds to pretend that my fate – our fate – didn’t hang in the balance. My entire future riding on my lunch date performance.
Hardon’s kisses allowed me to pretend that love really was blind, that someone could love me for me despite my appearance. I could imagine that Soleil’s shock at my declaration wasn’t an aberration. That I was tolerable, even lovable.
My face cooled as Hardon’s hands and lips drifted away, and my eyes opened. His sable eyes, so full of affection, caused my breath to hitch. I wanted to believe he loved me, but-
“How’d it go?” His hand dropped to my lap and squeezed my fingers.
I nodded and bit my lower lip. “Good. I think.”
“She bought it?”
“Yeah. She did.” I realized with relief that the first part of the plan was set into motion. The hardest part came next, the waiting.
“How long do you think it will be?” Hardon’s brow creased with concern.
“Until she signs?” I shrugged a shoulder. “A week? Two?”
She wouldn’t share the news with her uppity friends until the weekend. Another day or two for asking around about Maggie, then the conversations with Mom and her advisors. The papers were drawn up and ready.
“You should see her latest tattoo.”
“You mean the ink on her face wasn’t enough?” Hardon clicked his seat belt into place and glanced in the rearview mirror.
I buckled my seat belt, too, suddenly noticing all the rain that had splashed the dashboard and the door interior as I had entered the car.
“Apparently not. This one’s a doozy. A cartoon giraffe.”
Hardon quirked an eyebrow. “Huh.” He pulled the vehicle out, and the Lexus rolled toward the stop sign. He glanced at me, a sad smile on his lips. “Ironic, isn’t it? She’s purposely disfigured her skin with the cuts, the ink . . .”
I averted my gaze, pretending to study the cars and buses cruising through the intersection. I blinked, forcing back the tears and focused on the rhythmic hum of the windshield wipers.
“Hey. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-“
I shook my head. “It’s okay.”
It wasn’t though, and it never would be. A million kisses from Hardon couldn’t convince me that he or anyone else could simply overlook my disfigurement. Love, the kind Soleil had claimed to have with Dawson, would never be mine. But the company would. All I needed now was her signature.