Tarnishings [Free Short Fiction]

I’m gearing up to start work on the next (and probably final) installment of my Deviant Behaviors series, Eager Observer, by writing some short fiction dealing with the characters involved.

Today’s short fiction piece introduces another new character, the love interest of one readers of the series already know.

This post comes from my effort to write a Story a Day every (week)day in May. I’m not posting all of them, only those I think will be great for my readers. They will all be tagged [Free Short Fiction] for easier browsing.

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The first prompt for today’s story comes from Story A Day:

She waited a week before revealing the secret.

The second comes from YeahWrite:

“No more. I’m done.”

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” Anaïs Nin

Tarnishings

“No more. I’m done.”

It had been a week – a little less than 166 hours – since Ariel saw it, and the secret had been steeping in the sour bottom of her gut since.

Telling Vangie felt like jumping off a cliff.

She could already see the look on her face, the way her gently lined forehead would crease with worry and her mouth would drop open only a fraction of an inch before she closed it into an expression of consolation.

Before she started apologizing on behalf of the cruelty of their miserable existence.

Ariel laughed and the man in front of her in the coffee line glanced back with a look bordering on disgust. His eyes scanned her face, then dropped down her body before coming back up to her mouth. She sneered and he looked away.

Vangie would have said something to him in her cool, unemotional voice, and he wouldn’t have known whether to be offended or not.

But this thing would shatter that unaffected façade and leave Vangie grasping for straws. She would insist they try again. She would beg Ariel not to lose hope or think of it as a personal failure, though they both knew she had and did. She would kiss Ariel softly on the cheek then wrap her in arms that were surprisingly a lot stronger than they looked.

Vangie would blame their donor, because she couldn’t see a part of Ariel that might be broken or malformed. No matter how honest she was, Vangie always understood her dark thoughts and dropped light kisses on her scars.

Ariel stepped forward to the cashier, smiled and placed her order, then went to wait at the back of the bunch of undercaffeinated customers. The restaurant was crowded and understaffed, which was the main reason Ariel picked it – she knew she wouldn’t run into anyone she knew.

After tonight, things would be different between them, but Vangie would rail against the change. She would order her something rich and unpronounceable, and pair it with the perfect wine. Then she would pat Ariel’s hair, her cheeks, her shoulder, her thigh; she would let her hands dance across every unsexualized inch of her until Ariel was done crying.

Vangie would whisper everything she loved about her into Ariel’s ear. She would never look at her in blame or hurt. The change wouldn’t be on her part.

The change would be in Ariel, and it would start very small. It would start in the way she noticed every moment of her absence. It would nuzzle up under her ear and whisper about late night meetings, smiles not meant for her, and unexplained expenses. It would lay Vangie bare and find her wanting.

A barista called out her order. She shook out of her thoughts, retrieved her cup, and walked to the bar to stir in one – no, two – sweeteners that would leave a bad taste on the back of her tongue like the rancid leavings of the morning sickness she knew she would never feel again.

Her phone chirped in her pocket. Vangie. No matter how many miles separated them, she could always tell when she was on Ariel’s mind. Ariel swiped to ignore the call and slipped her phone back into her coat pocket. Another couple of hours would make it a full week, and Vangie would be home to take the news in person.

Leaving is always worse when you’re close enough to hear her heart breaking and know, deep down, that you are the villain.


Start on the Deviant Behaviors series today with Maladaptation.
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4 comments on “Tarnishings [Free Short Fiction]

  1. The details you provided on the dynamics between Vangie and Ariel felt so genuine. I sensed that they’d been together a while. That last sentence confused me a little; it felt like a change in POV. I thought the secret was the pregnancy, but I left the story thinking maybe Ariel was ending things when Vangie returned.

    • I’m glad that the depth of their relationship came across in such a short piece. They haven’t been married very long when the story takes place, but they have had a relationship of sorts since they were children. I guess my language wasn’t totally clear, though, because the secret was a miscarriage, and that’s why Ariel was going to leave Vangie. She couldn’t take the grief of another loss. Thanks so much for coming over to comment!

  2. Good job using subtle details to build the relationship – one thing I struggle with when I’m writing same-sex relationships in third person is pronoun confusion: you end up using more names than you’d normally use, don’t you? I agree that you could have been clearer on what *exactly* the issue with Vangie’s pregnancy was, because there are a lot of things that *can* go wrong in a pregnancy that would trigger the same feelings of shame that you wrote in here. I see from your comment that I guessed right, but it really did feel like a guess. (I got a more of it than Nate did, but I think I’ve probably spent more time thinking about pregnancy than he has 🙂 )

    One quick suggestion – when your foreword is almost as long as the story itself, throwing it in a separate post with a link like “curious what went into this story? read more here” can help readers focus on what’s important to you.

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