Word Count 500
By Sam McManus
“Give it another chance,” she said, as she sat on the picnic table in her peasant blouse and plaid skirt. She was a picture of the modern woman, secure in her demeanor, waiting for the world to catch up.
“This was the third time,” he replied, from his accustomed place on the patch of grass at her feet. With his manicured goatee and skinny pants it was easy to see why she associated with him, picture of the modern woman that she was.
But she frowned at his response. Life was no fun without adventure, without the possibility of breaking out of their cocoons and having a chance to fly. That was his problem: he was way too hung up on possible consequences instead of on experiences.
“And if Stephen King had given up the third time he was rejected…” she began, but he put up a hand to stop her. A soft hand with no scars.
“…then we would have a lot less fluff in the world,” he added, but without a touch of malice. It was the game they played, the two of them, on their Saturday mornings in their backyard, the picnic table as their touchstone. But it was getting a little old. Three years will sometimes do that.
“But we would miss so much too,” she said. It wasn’t part of their set routine, and he cocked his head as if he were a robot hearing the words for the first time.
She shifted on the table, her butt a little numb as it got every time they acted out this part of the play that was their life. There was a silence as he digested what she had let slip from her lips, like a schoolgirl who had opened her legs for the first jock who paid attention. He sat on the grass, cross-legged, his lips pursed as if in prayer.
“I wouldn’t miss the you you’ve become, though,” he finally replied. It wasn’t said in a cruel tone, but the threat was apparent anyway. If she was going to deviate from the script, then so could he. And he had a lot more practice.
“I’d rather be this me, and give change a chance, than be whatever version of you this is, the one that can’t move past tradition, past the past,” she said. She couldn’t look at him as she said it, the tears tracing trails down her ivory face. It wasn’t fair, she thought, that he always put her in a position she had to claw out of to survive.
It was supposed to be their safe space, the backyard, the only place in their world that should have been free of judgment, of latent condescension, but even that had been ruined.
“But…” he started, then stopped. “But,” he continued, “I just can’t call to cancel the cable. They always make me feel horrible, and I have to hang up.”
She couldn’t even look at him anymore. He was dead to her.