Friday, July 31, 2009

#FridayFlash - "Till Death Do Us Part"

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When Amy thought about her honeymoon, the dreams spoke of quiet evenings by a fire, a bottle of wine, maybe a little Celine on the stereo. A bowl filled with grapes and strawberries and kiwi slices sat on the coffee table. Flames danced on candle tips. Curtains swelled with the salty sea air as an evening breeze rolled off the ocean. Never did she envision sitting on the couch with her new husband, the two of them staring at the black, menacing eye of a gun.

Across the room, sitting on the edge of a chaise longue, the gunman tilted his head to the side. His eyes were slits, his mouth a hard line. Through the open window, Amy heard the gentle hush of waves breaking across the beach.

“Imagine my surprise,” the man finally said, “when I heard that Stuart McClain went off the wire. No warning, no explanation, and certainly no authorization. And now the company he once swore allegiance to wants the situation resolved. Or neutralized.”

Amy looked at her husband. “Stu?”

Stuart said nothing. Instead, he raised a finger, a sign that she needed to be quiet. His brown eyes stared ahead, his brow pinched.

The hard lines across Stuart’s forehead surprised Amy. Until now, she’d never seen him so… angry. When they first met, his eyes had swept her away—so gentle, so full of compassion. They spent the evening talking, and in the morning he gazed at her with amazement. She asked why he was looking at her that way, and he smiled. “It’s been a long time since I’ve met anyone that I could honestly trust.”

Four months after that night, he proposed.

The gunman looked toward Amy and then back to Stuart. His lips curled into a half-smile. “She doesn’t know.” After a moment, he added, “Man, when you decide to check out, you really check out. Leave it all behind, act as if none of it ever happened, was that the plan? If so, I have to say how disappointed I am. Nobody leaves the reservation on their own free will. You know that.”

Stuart said, “How’d you find me?”

The man scoffed. “You’re joking, right?”

Stuart grabbed Amy’s hand. She felt a light squeeze.

“She doesn’t have to see this,” Stuart said. “We can leave her out it.”

The man shook his head. “You should have thought about that.” His eyebrows lifted. “Before.”

Stuart took a long breath, and Amy stared at him, confused. Her heart raced, her mind grasping at what she was hearing. Who was this man? Even more, why was Stuart now talking to this man like they knew each other from some other life? In the almost nine months that they’d been together, Stuart never mentioned nor met with anyone like this. Definitely no one carrying a gun with a fat cylinder attached its barrel. And what of the other things, the stuff about the company and how nobody leaves the reservation? Those words hung in the air like some Germanic language, hard and incomprehensible.

Stuart leaned back against the sofa. His arm reached behind Amy. “I don’t see why we can’t strike some—”

The stranger’s gun coughed. Stuart’s body jumped. He leaned into Amy. Those brown eyes now registered pain. And fear. He pulled away, his arm coming up. The man’s gun coughed again and Stuart’s body jerked a second time. Warm blood splattered Amy’s arm. Behind her, something scraped the wall. It thunked against the floor. Stuart’s mouth opened to say something. Nothing came out.

Amy reached for his face. The words choked out of her. “Stu? Stu, baby, stay with me. Stu?” His eyes fluttered and then closed. His body collapsed against hers. “Oh God, no…”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she turned to face the gunman.

“He must have loved you.” The man shook his head, eyes cast down. “What a shame.”

After a moment, he glanced up and shrugged. “For what it’s worth, I do feel for you.” He turned the gun toward her. “Some marriages just aren’t meant to last.”

Today's story was the result of a prompt in The Writer's Book of Matches: "A woman on her honeymoon is shocked to hear a secret from her husband's past."


  1. dude, how cruel! what are ya fighting with the little woman...

    nicely done

  2. Awesome pacing, buddy. I guess, like Amy, we'll never know, will we?

  3. The title says it all, doesn't it? As Greta pointed out, none of us will ever know. Great story!

  4. Wow, this is a really good one, Stephen. A cruel story done very well. Oh, Paige already said that.

  5. You took that writing prompt and smashed it with your boot heel into the ground, man. It's a classic technique, but I love the clueless woman. Through here eyes, we can be clueless too, and what is senseless to her is also senseless to us. That makes the story work very well. Your writing is very clean, which I appreciate.

    So what clunked against the back wall?

    --Jeff Posey

  6. Oh, that was never going to end well. And cruel to do it on her honeymoon.

    Nicely paced, and inexorable. The irrational (possibly romantic) part of me wanted Stu to work something out - even after the first shot. And then came the second.

    It couldn't really have gone any other way, but there I was, hoping.

    Well done.

  7. Gun coughing - I'm going to have to steal that bit sometime :) Nice work!

  8. After posting this story, I left town on vacation and wasn't in a safe location to respond to all of the posting. A week later, and now I can finally thank all of you who read the story and posted a response. Now, I've got some reading to catch up with on everyone else.