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Fiction, Writing & Writers

Two Twenties and a Ten

Below is the challenge from yesterday, using the word “jejune” and the phrase, “You can’t have everything.  Where would you put it?”

If you’re out there, let me know your thoughts — share them and give me your own ideas for using words, phrases, etc.  What do you like about the story?  What don’t you like?

Begin your own challenge and happy writing!

Two Twenties and a Ten by Brigitte Surette

© 2012 Brigitte Surette

Simone stepped out into the cold, February morning holding a steaming cup of coffee in her ringless hand.  She made her way over to the car carefully, the heels of her black, shiny boots crunching in the snow that hadn’t been cleared off the walkway leading to the front door.

Getting in, she mashed the on button, waiting for the car to warm and shivering as air blasted out from the vents.  The windshield sparkled with ice as the sun shone down; the tiny particles dissolved quickly as the car warmed.  Low voices from the radio distracted her; two faceless personalities teasing each other.  A woman’s voice droning on cheerfully about what routes to avoid while a male voice interrupted her with sexual innuendoes.  Laughter.  Then a pre-recorded advertisement about a chain restaurant serving up The Best Darn Steak in Town! 

She plugged her smartphone in, chose a favorite tune and looked in the lighted mirror at herself.  Tired eyes stared back but her makeup and hair were perfect.  She’d slicked her blonde hair back with a black headband.  Pearl necklace and earrings.  A black sheath dress that hung on her now too-thin frame and a recently-purchased, ridiculously expensive faux-fur coat was what she had chosen to wear to her lawyer’s office.  She pulled out of the circular driveway and headed downtown, knowing she’d be ten minutes early.  She was always early.  He was always late.

She’d made sure she was dressed for the part, despite the fact they wouldn’t see each other.  They couldn’t.  Couldn’t stand to be in one another’s presence.  She would go in one room; he in the other to dissolve their partnership.  She’d not seen him in over six months and his features were beginning to fade a bit.  She’d burnt all of the pictures of their lives together in a grill she’d put together herself three months ago.  The patio’s eave had nearly caught fire — a few blackened, wispy pieces twirling upwards, lighting and sparking on its edge.  She splashed a full glass of wine on the faint embers and dragged the grill, its contents flaming wildly out into the yard.  Bewildered and afraid, she’d thought, What if I’d burnt the damn house down, what then?  

She’d been very careful after that, checking and rechecking anything that could cause a fire — a plugged in coffee-maker, the iron, a light — no, she wasn’t taking any chances.  They’d sold the house, the profit to be divided equally.  She had five days and she’d have to be out.  Everything was packed, ready to go and she’d move into a two-bedroom condo far from the neighborhood they’d lived in for nearly a decade.

She’d clung to most of the possessions ferociously, even though they meant very little to her and she’d have to rent a place to store them.  He’d taken all the exercise equipment, electronic equipment, his clothes, a few pieces of furniture.  She’d changed the locks, but he managed to get in while she wasn’t there.  He’d called her at work, apologizing, on her birthday.

“I wish I couldn’t have gotten you something nice for your birthday,” he’d said in a low, jejune voice.  “But I wanted those things and you weren’t being nice about it.”

“So you took them and you call me on my birthday to tell me.  You’re an idiot,” Simone had screamed at him.  The scolding mother, the shrew, the role she’d assumed since they met.

He’d left like a scolded child as well.  Living somewhere with someone.  She had to have someone serve papers to file for divorce.  It’d taken two weeks for whomever did that sort of thing to find him at his new home.  He’d wanted a mediator.  Hell no.

Two weeks ago, Simone heard at the salon they’d both used for years he was getting married in the spring.  The brown-haired chubby girl that had shampooed her that day mentioned it casually, her dimpled, pale arms jiggling as she scrubbed Simone’s head.

Simone acted as if she knew.  But the girl knew she didn’t and seemed to enjoy that fact, pitying her, blinking her wide cow-like eyes as she wrapped a towel around Simone’s wet hair.  Insipid little bitch.

Simone pulled into the parking lot and walked in, the lawyer greeting her in a reserved, soothing voice.

“Simone, can I get you something to drink.  Coffee?”

He touched her shoulder while motioning to his secretary.

“Yes,” Simone said.  She’d left her coffee in the car.

“Cream, two sugars — raw, if you have it, please,” Simone called out to the young, smartly-dressed woman as she walked down the hallway to retrieve it.  The secretary turned and smiled, in what she must have thought was a consoling way, and winked at Simone.

The lawyer led them into a large conference room and shut the door.  There was just the two of them.  A few minutes later, a knock on the door.

Simone braced herself, tensing, alert.  Is there something wrong?  Has he decided he wants to haggle over something?  Is that him on the other side?  

“Come,” the lawyer said not looking up.  His half-moon glasses were perched on his nose as he looked down at the paperwork, checking, rechecking, tapping his fingers rapidly, then stopping.  Tapping them again.  She wanted to scream.

The secretary walked in with a tray holding a stainless-steel coffee pot.  A white porcelain creamer, two delicate cups on saucers.  Two tiny spoons.  A rectangular holder, filled with raw sugar packets.   She set them on the table, without looking at anyone and shut the door quietly behind her.

They went over what the “two parties” had agreed upon, the lawyer reminding her once again, she could get more.

“Simone,” he said, “You may not think so now, but you’ll most likely regret this.  It’s only been six months.  You only have half of everything.  You can get more of his retirement–the money he’s yet to make.  You could get alimony, but it will take awhile.  I urge you to rethink this.”

Simone said no.  They had no children and she’d had enough.  She left with a thick stack a papers and a big bill.  She drove to the courtroom where she had her name legally changed back to who she was before all this.  She’d always hated his last name.  It had reminded her of a slick bird.  Dirty.  Sleazy.

She had intended to go into work, but instead called in to say she wouldn’t be there.  Her boss was becoming more and more impatient with her forgetfulness, her lackluster attitude, her indifference.

On the way home, she bought herself two bottles of very expensive wine, one white, one red and a pack of cigarettes.  She’d quit two years ago and knew that she’d have to quit all over again, but that seemed very unimportant.

By the time she arrived home, the sky was darkening.  Entering the large home, she turned on the overhead lights, tossed her keys onto a box, dropped her purse on the floor and went into the designer kitchen to open a bottle of wine.  Scrambling through a box, she found a corkscrew and awkwardly tried to open the bottle.

Where is the one that looks like a rabbit?  She never had learned to open a bottle with a corkscrew, always chipping off too much of the cork.  Pieces of it would float around inside the bottle and he would tell her in a condescending way, Simone, it’s not rocket science, for Christ’s sake.  Any moron can use a corkscrew.

Panicking, she fumbled through another box, then finally found it.  Smiling, she covered the neck with the silver head and pulled.  Pop!  She placed it on the counter and let it breathe.  Who’s the moron now, you asshole.

Taking off her clothes in the kitchen, she walked naked to her bedroom and pulled underwear, leggings and a flannel shirt out of a suitcase, put them on and turned on the small flatscreen she’d not yet packed.

A comedian was on stage, pacing back and forth with that agitated nervousness most of them have while talking to a rapt audience.  He waited for the laughter to die down and said, deadpan, “You can’t have everything.  Where would you put it?”

Simone laughed out loud.  She looked around the bedroom, then walked into the other rooms, looking at all the boxes — they were everywhere.  Pieces of a life that wasn’t anymore, wrapped carefully and placed just so inside, waiting to be taken somewhere else.  I’ll call tomorrow and arrange to have most of this donated, she thought to herself.

She hurried over toward the front door and found her wallet inside her purse.  Opening it, she found two twenties and a ten.  She took that and the pack of cigarettes with her to the kitchen.

Pouring herself a glass of wine, she stuffed the money into the way back of a drawer that once held linens for special occasions.  The new owners would find that eventually and they’d feel so lucky.  Simone smiled, wondering what they’d do with it.

Walking outside to the big, bricked patio in the backyard, she sat down on an old favorite wicker chaise she’d purchased at an antique store before she was married and looked inside the box next to it.  She’d meant to give this back to him.  Inside were insignificant reminders of him; an old watch, a blue sock, a science-fiction paperback, a cashmere/wool scarf, a ticket stub to a Broadway play and a picture of her he used to carry in his wallet.

She got up, dragging the cheap grill out into the yard and lighted a cigarette.  A big, fat full moon shone and all the lush landscaping and trees stood out — like black relief — against the bright night.  She dumped the contents of the box into the grill, saving the picture and clicked the lighter against the edge.  It burned brightly.

“What a nice night for a fire,” she said, her face wet with tears.

About Brigitte



5 thoughts on “Two Twenties and a Ten

  1. Very well told Brigitte, and displays your range, a departure from the humor I’ve come to expect. Simone’s character is well developed, I can almost see her. We also get into her mind and understand her longings and her fears. I particularly liked how she tucked that money away for the new owners to find – such a great insight into her inner self – she seems a really nice person. The phrase was very well woven in. Not at all jejune – this piece : )

    Posted by brindabanjee73 | January 31, 2012, 12:29 am
  2. Thanks, Brinda. Thought I’d try a new tone in my writing and glad you liked it!

    Posted by Brigitte | January 31, 2012, 2:23 pm
  3. Steven Wright. I say that all the time.

    This is good Brigitte. It rang true, I’ve had those fires before!

    Told you I would read it!!

    Posted by Maggie O'C | May 25, 2012, 12:07 am

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