Writing Jewels is hosting another flash fiction contest. I promise, this won't become a regular thing on this blog, it's just a coincidence that two of these came up so close together. This one had a 650 word limit, and it had to begin with the words "Once Upon A Time..."
“Once upon a time, in a land far, far away-“
“UGH!” I grunted at my mother. I probably rolled my eyes, too. I wasn’t really paying attention.
“What could you possibly be complaining about, Angeline?” She was a patient woman, but even patient women can’t handle a fifteen-year-old girl in a bad mood.
“Can’t these stupid stories ever start with anything else? I mean, honestly, isn’t there any other way to say it?”
“What would you prefer? ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy-“
I cut her off with another grunt of disapproval. Grunting had become my favorite form of communication. Ever since my dad left eight months ago, I had run through them all: crying, shouting and even screaming. I spent three whole weeks without making a single sound, just to see if it made a difference.
My mother had kept up her constant show: smiling a little too hard, speaking a little too quickly and laughing a little too loudly, and a little too often. It didn’t seem that anything I did pulled her away from her performance, so I stopped trying. I went with what was easiest, and that turned out to be a lot of grunting and skipping school in favor of playing World of Warcraft in my room.
“Well, Angeline, if you don’t have a better suggestion, then this is what we are reading.”
“I’ve had plenty of suggestions.”
“I meant productive suggestions.”
Our therapist, Dr. Mark (I’m still not sure if that his first name or his last name. It probably doesn’t matter; he’s a wanker either way.) asked us to do something together each week. There was one catch: the ‘one thing’ we did together couldn’t involve electronics of any kind. No TV, no cell phones, no laptop, no iPod. He said we needed to “connect on a more real level.”
Whatever that means. Like I said, he’s a wanker.
My mother decided that we needed to read together. Out loud, and from old fashioned storybooks. Like I’m a freaking kindergartener or something. I wanted to go shopping- at least that way I could get something good out of this punishment/therapy session, but she thought the credit card machines and sliding glass doors would break the “no electronics” rule. I said that was stupid since we needed lights to read, and the air conditioning was on.
That was when she decided we were going to read outside on the front lawn, in the middle of every Saturday afternoon. This was two weeks ago: about the time I decided talking was too dangerous and grunting was a better idea.
My mother sighed and closed the book she had started reading from. She looked tired. She looked old, if I was being honest. Maybe getting divorced just before her fortieth birthday was harder than I thought.
“Angeline.” She started, but then took a deep breath, like she didn’t know what she wanted to say.
“What?” I snapped.
A pained look crossed her face. I felt bad. My dad had hurt her so much already- hurt both of us- that I didn’t need to make it worse.
“What?” I asked in a softer tone.
“Angeline, I just don’t want to lose… us.”
“Us? What are you talking about?”
“I don’t want to lose what you and I had… before.” She didn’t want to say it, but I knew she meant- ‘before the divorce.’ She never said the word. “You and I used to be so close. I felt like you really trusted me, and I felt like we were handling this whole teenager thing pretty well.”
I squirmed. I knew what she meant. Before, I had been happy. Because I was happy, I didn’t need a lot of anything. But after… I needed more. I know my dad is the one who betrayed my mom. But I felt like he had betrayed me, too.