Stories move, define, and help us grow. Through stories we connect with and share new ideas. This is why Cole loves stories in all forms.
Edit: Corrected a little formatting and changed a couple of lines so the story flowed a little better.
Lily made the long walk from the bedroom, dreading the conversation she was about to have. She and Jack had been together for two years now and had a comfortable, loving relationship. Things had changed though. They had moved in together less than a week ago. Or, worse, she had moved in with him. This was his place. She was in his territory. She was little more than a guest in his house. They were still learning each other's ways, and she hadn't gotten used to the idea of sharing space with someone again. Sometimes he left the seat up. She left her bras on the bathroom floor. They argued a little over where to put some of her things, or where to hide some of his ghastly decorations. All in all though, everything was going very well. She was waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was football night, a playoff game, no less. She knew about those from her five years married to Derek. It was an important game, and she didn't want to mess this night up. She was afraid she was about to.
"Jack?" Lily called softly as she walked down the hall toward the kitchen. As she turned the corner, Jack backed out of the refrigerator. His arms followed carrying three large platters; a deli platter with meat and cheese, a vegetable platter stacked on it, and a fruit platter on top of that. He kicked the door shut with his left foot as he turned around to set the massive stack on the island. She couldn't help but smile at the sight of his bulk looking awkward with such a large burden. Jack was no small man and his daily trips to the gym kept him not only lean, but very muscular. Standing six foot two, and weighing in at two hundred twenty pounds of pure muscle, seeing him struggle physically was a rare treat. Not that the platters weighed much, it couldn't have been much more than twenty to twenty five pounds, they were just a little difficult to balance. "Jack?" Lily repeated when he was done setting them down.
"Yes, my dear." He turned, smiling, to face her.
"I‒" the nervousness was bitter, stinging her throat. She cleared it before trying again. "I need to talk to you about tonight."
Jack clearly noticed the expression on Lily's face and his own turned to one of concern. "What's wrong?" He asked as he crossed the kitchen to be close to her. "Are you okay?"
"Yes." She said, feeling a little more confident after seeing his look of concern. "I'm fine. I just have a small issue."
"What's up?" He asked, gently taking her hand.
"I was going to spend the evening with Angela," she started, looking down at the floor. Avoiding looking him in the eyes. So I could watch the game, and more importantly, be out of the way, she thought. Out loud she said, "but Angela was called in to work tonight, so I can't go to her place." She looked at Jack. The concern on his face had turned to confusion, but his expression said he was still listening. Waiting for her to continue. "Can‒" she was afraid to ask. She was afraid he might be ‒ might be like Derek after all. "Can I be here?" She quickly added, "I'll stay in the bedroom, you won't even know I'm here." She waited for anger. She waited for the raised voice that would surely follow. She waited for his hands to angrily tighten, or a slap to the face.
She glanced up. The horrified look on his face was both worse, and not as bad as what she expected. She was glad he wasn't mad enough to hit her, but she was mortified at the certainty he didn't want her there. She had hoped he would at least be okay with that.
"Lily," he said, his voice gentle. "Are you sure I can't just kill the bastard?" His voice turned a little hard at the end.
Stunned, confused, she looked up. "What?"
"My love." Jack said, his voice steady, confident. "I didn't realize you weren't planning on being here. I had hoped we'd be able to sit together and enjoy this rowdy gathering together. I was looking forward to it, in fact." He paused a moment. Clearly gathering his thoughts."A few of the guys are bringing their wives or girlfriends, and the whole point is to have fun. This game is important to me, because it's a chance to share something with the people I love. Knowing you thought I wouldn't want you around because of what you've been through infuriates me." His voice carried a touch of rage as he said "infuriates me." He took a deep breath. "Frankly, I want to kill him." Jack gently squeezed, then kissed her hand. "Stay. Please. In here, with us." He gestured to the large living room. "With me." He finished gently.
Lily couldn't believe what she was hearing. Time seemed to slow as her face felt hot and a strange warmth was rushing through her whole body. His words, it seemed, were slowly making their way through her mind. Her body. To her soul it seemed. It took a long moment to sink in. She slowly realized her face was wet. Tears. She was crying. The realization came full force that Jack wanted her there. He actually wanted her to share in this sacred ritual. The emotion was too much and she pulled Jack close, sobbing into his chest. His strong arms wrapped around her, comforting, loving, protecting.
Jack kissed the top of her head as he said, muffled in her hair, "It's okay, honey." Followed by, "I love you." He said more, and she wouldn't remember all the words, but the point was clear. He was there for her, loved her, and he wanted her to have no doubts about it.
Through sobs and shaky breaths, she asked, "even though I'm sobbing like a lunatic?"
Jack laughed, his muscular body gently shaking. Humor touched his voice as he said, "yes. Even though you're 'sobbing like a lunatic.'"
They stood, holding each other until she finished crying. It felt like an eternity to Lily, but a welcomed one. "You make me feel so good. So happy." She said, looking him in the eyes.
"Even though I make you cry like a lunatic?" He asked, jokingly. The look on his face seemed a little more serious. Concerned he had hurt her, she thought.
"It's because you make me so happy that I cry like a lunatic."
They held each other gently, kissing and forgetting the world. They lost all sense of time until the doorbell rang, signaling company. Signaling their first night of football as a couple. The other shoe hadn't dropped. Just the opposite. Lily felt now more than ever that this could work. That Jack really was a good man. Her man. Someone who would treat her right, and she was finally starting to understand what that meant.
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Here's a Note From the Author:
Thank you for making it this far.
I'm calling this "flash fiction." I've been told flash fiction needs to be about 500 words or less. Honestly, I think I usually break the rules for writing, but it seems to work, so screw it. Hopefully you enjoyed it anyway. All feedback is appreciated.
A Facebook post in a group I follow asked for men to try and write some romance. I wasn't in the right mood for that at all, but then I read some of the other comments men left. I was appalled to see the responses. I'm not sure any of the ones I saw were serious attempts. Most I know weren't. Some flat out said nothing more than that they cannot possibly manage such a feat because they are too manly. Well, screw that noise. I had to try and show real men wear pink. (That's my way of saying men who fear emotion, or color, because it makes them look like less of a man, are being stupid.) Be a real man and show you're not afraid to have other men look at you and think, "sissy." Because real men don't fear other men thinking little of them. Enough of my rant.
When I started this it was supposed to be romance, as I said above. As I got into the basic idea and how I wanted it to end, I realized I wanted more. I wanted the main character to display another important trait, close to some people in my own life. Abuse. Lily suffers from the aftermath of a horribly abusive relationship. One in which she wasn't able to express much of herself without being ridiculed or otherwise further abused. If she displeased her husband, he was what I like to call, "the lowliest scum not worthy of being called a 'man.'" When one is subject to such an extreme version of abuse, it can't help but hurt one's view of the world, and of oneself. The remnants of such abuse can last for years, and transcend relationships. It can be very hard, even after numerous counts and years of being treated properly, to move past that kind of pain. It can even be hard to see that you even suffer from it. A person acclimates to that environment and starts to see it as normal. That's one of the biggest reasons people stay in an abusive relationship. They can't even see the abuse for what it is.
Last but certainly not least; If you're there, being abused, the first step is to see it. The second is to reach out for help. That really starts with finding people who can and are willing to help. It's hard, but it is possible. Even if that help is only in the form of words on a webpage. If it helps to see what's going on, or helps give you the resolve to act, that's a start. Some things start small, but small actions grow the more we feed them. If you need help and you found this article, that's a start. Find more. Find associations in your area. Find hotlines. They're out there. It seems like a daunting task, because it is when you feel stuck. But I promise you, if you don't let the cycle of abuse suck you back in, you can find a way. Even if that way starts with shooting some stranger who wrote an article *wink wink* a message so that stranger can find a hotline in your area. (In case that wasn't clear, I mean me.) Shoot me a message and I'll look for a hotline in your area. No joke. I'm not on here as much as I'd like to be, but hey, I've got a Facebook page. I've got Google Plus. Click the link and send a message there. I may not be able to do much, but small actions change worlds.
Thanks for reading!
© 2017 Cole Ikerd
Cole Ikerd (author) on October 13, 2017:
Thank you, Chris. I appreciate the feedback. I'm glad you could recognize the signs of abuse reading through it. I've had some surprising responses from people who just don't get it. It's something I think we all need to be better aware of.
Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on October 13, 2017:
Cole, this is a fine story. Flash fiction word count is pretty subjective. I've seen it fewer than a hundred words and as many as 3000. Mostly I see 1000 as the standard. That's what I shoot for in most of my stories.
I really like this story. You've shown the human side of both Lily and Jack very well. The scars of abuse can clearly be seen in her thinking and responses. Jack's manly way of handling the situation is admirable. Well done. Keep up the great writing.