Quite Short Story: Corners

She found herself at the same corner again. Again, for the third time in a week. Perhaps it was fate…or, more likely, her own design; her own desire to go back.

Things were different then; then, when she felt anxious to move on. Or had she been anxious not to move on? Had she looked for reasons to remain unchanged, even while feeling desperate to change?

Then, she’d looked at the men her own age and simply couldn’t see the point. To her, they were young and beautiful and boring. She looked elsewhere. They weren’t her professors, after all. To them, she was young and beautiful and bored. She took their tuition. Methodically.

She wondered where they were now. They might be pushing up daisies. One even tried to marry her, woebegone his grand romantic gestures couldn’t melt her cynicism.

She climbed the ladder instead. All in for twenty years. And now, there was nowhere to go. Nowhere but back to this corner.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” the voice said. “Do you need directions?”

She turned to find an earnest young face, stylishly bearded in the way they did that now, looking back at her. “I suppose I do,” she said, and smiled. Funny, she thought, he doesn’t look boring at all.

Quite Short Story: Mr. W.

He seemed to Jane, through her covert glance across the train aisle, like a seasoned Willoughby, posing in a sharp blue suit and tan shoes, trench slung over his shoulder. She shifted her gaze higher, only to find wolfish eyes already locked upon her, lingering like a question mark. The blush immediately swept her skin and she turned away.

He was clearly no Mr. Darcy. Perhaps a Wickham? A Willoughwick? A Wickhamby? Everything about him was W, and she knew she should curb her curiosity. Though he’d given his seat to someone, she reckoned it was just for show. He looked better standing, and knew it.

He moved immediately in front of her; close enough she had to cross her ankles under the seat so their legs wouldn’t touch. She sighed emphatically, and he eased out of her personal space. Still, she wondered if he could somehow hear her thoughts; wondered how many virtual locks he’d collected in his comings and goings. He glanced down at her, slyly, exposing a dimpled half-smile as he left. Decidedly Wickhamby.

Quite Short Story: Noise

He twitched, pressure building, panic starting to surge. “It’s all right,” his mother whispered, gripping his arm firmly. “Just two more stops. It’s all right.”

He took deep breaths as he’d been taught. His eyes briefly met those of the woman across the aisle. They were green. Bright green like in a comic book. Unnatural.

He dropped his gaze to the floor, fixating on her feet. He couldn’t understand why she was wearing those things on her feet. They were like gloves, but for toes. No shoes. Just these feet gloves. It wasn’t right. He couldn’t bear it. “I need to get off now,” he whispered.

His mother nodded and quickly gathered their belongings, joining him at the door. As soon as the chime rang out, he bolted up the escalator to the street, rounded the edge of the station and leaned against the wall, eyes tightly shut.

“It’s…all right, Derek,” his mother said, panting. “Come, let’s go.”

He nodded, rubbing his face, and then his stomach, feeling nauseated again. His body still craved the poison they’d been giving him. He’d been pretending; shoving the pills into the pocket above his teeth so he could spit them out later. He couldn’t tell his mother. She believed the doctor. But he knew what the doctor was. Like that woman with the kryptonite eyes. One of them.

*****

The dry summer wind swept grit into their skin as they walked past alley garages, spraypainted with noise. His mother unlatched the gate to their tiny backyard garden, sighing at the weeds. He knew how exhausted she was, dealing with him. Too exhausted to weed.

The neighbours were blasting music. He wondered if they needed to block the noise as well; to keep it from getting in. He looked back at the weeds erupting from every crack in the patio, every possible point of entry. It reminded him of a film he saw in school about a Margaret Atwood poem, the lines rippling through his brain: “everything / is getting in… everything / is getting in… everything / is getting in…”

Quite Short Story: His Mermaid

Steve shifted his toes as the wave took the sand beneath them. He knew he couldn’t do this much longer. He knew what the neighbours must think. But who were they to judge? Where were they that morning?

He remembered where he’d been, of course. Lingering under the summer duvet like a lazy bastard. She’d tried to get him to go with her; to join her daily ritual. But he’d groaned in response, throwing a t-shirt over his face to block out the dawn. She’d sighed and teased him about being a lazy bastard, and slipped out of the room. He’d mumbled a promise to make coffee, and promptly fell back asleep.

The pounding woke him. Like when his dad used to slam his fist on the wall to stop the noise. He rolled out of bed and went to the door, calling for Lexi along the way.

His neighbour Jill stood on the front porch, her face crumpling as her eyes met his, clothes dripping water in a circle around her. “I’m so sorry, Steve,” she whispered. “It’s…it’s Lexi. Sam is with her.”

“What?” he asked, confused.

“It’s Lexi…she’s…”

“Lexi!” Steve bellowed, pushing past Jill and scrambling down the steep path to the lake. He rubbed his eyes, trying to erase the scene before him.

Sam knelt beside Lexi, holding her hand. Steve let go of his breath, thinking she must be all right…it was okay…she was all right. He staggered across the beach to them, deafened by his own heartbeat.

“She must’ve slipped and hit her head on the dock,” Sam said, wiping away tears. “Do you know how long she was down here? How long she might’ve been in the water? Oh, Christ, Steve! I am so sorry!”

*****

Steve blew smoke into the damp November air, his feet now fully numb at the edge of the lake. When he stared long enough, he could see her skin sparking in the water, her smile merging with the waves. His mermaid.