In hindsight, “This is a bad idea!” wasn’t forceful enough.
Plot twist: there was no plot twist all along!
As she lost consciousness, she remembered where she’d seen him.
It was in the middle of DJ Rama’s set that the three ciders, two wines, and that half of Becca’s joint finally hit Kayla. She began to sway slowly, not at all in time to the beat, stretching her long arms into the air. She stroked the air above her, as if trying to touch the music throbbing over the crowd.
“Kay, you ‘right?” a voice called out, seeming to Kayla to be miles behind her. But she only had to turn slightly her left to see Andrew, standing next to her in the crush of the moshpit.
“Andy!” she slurred, wrapping her arms around his upper half and slumping her whole weight against him. Andrew put his hand on her waist to help prop her upright. “I love you, Andy,” she mumbled, suddenly tearful, into his plaid shirt.
“Um,” Andrew said, smiling despite himself. “Me too, babe.” He freed one of his arms to tenderly pet Kayla’s head. They stayed in this position for another two songs, swaying awkwardly to the bass.
“Y’know what I love?! I love how fucking close we are,” Kayla suddenly yelled out, oblivious to the fact that the current song playing was a quiet, mournful one. A short girl standing in the front of them, dressed in a vintage mini-dress and Hunter gumboots, shot Kayla a dirty look over her shoulder.
“There’s, like, no sexual tension between us. We can just be ourselves around each other,” she said. “Like, you can call me babe and I can spend three whole songs hugging you in my denim cutoffs, and we’re good. Like… affectionate. We never have to be worried about it being weird between us.”
“Yeah,” Andrew replied, involuntarily glancing down at her aforementioned tiny shorts and shifting his weight. “How about we get out of the mosh and like, chat away from all these people? I think Bec and the others are having a smoke near the back – ”
But the DJ started playing the opening hook of his most popular hit, and all around Kayla and Andrew the moshpit roared its approval. “NO!” she screamed over the rumbling, releasing her friend to wave her arms in the air again. “After this song! I fuckin’ love this song!”
She sang along to the chorus without abandon: “Don’t go, don’t go-oh-oh, don’t you know, I love you so-oh-oh-ohhh…”
“Fuck yes! Everything’s okay in life as long as this music is playing,” she cried out. She stared at Andrew, who smiled in agreement as he enthusiastically pumped his fist in the air to the beat.
“Like, why can’t life always be like this – just partying with the people you love?” Kayla continued. “Why does shit always have to be so complicated and stressful? Why can’t we, as like, a civilisation, go fuck it – all throw our hands in the air like we just don’t care? Don’t you think life would be so much better if that’s what everybody did?” Andrew couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “What, dickhead?! You don’t think I’m like, a secret shaman or some shit?”
“Maybe,” he replied, “But I also think you’re really, really drunk.”
Kayla looked over at him with a glassy grin. “Yeah,” she mumbled, giggling. “I am pretty fuckin’ drunk.”
She then doubled over and sprayed a great deal of vomit onto the short girl’s gumboots.
The statue blinked its bronze eyes, then thrust the bayonet.
Inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge this week.
The first rain of the
season began to fall, so
she hitched up her hood
The wind blew it off
But her date didn’t notice,
Just scowled at the sky
It was still summer
Technically, but she had
Never felt so cold.
The white cat brought black tidings.
Dex broke up with me approximately one month before my twenty-first birthday. It was also two months away from all my final assessments at University. To call his timing bad is an incredible understatement.
Although I can still relive with depressing precision the exact moment when the first love of my life told me he was moving out forever, the following few days are now a tear-stained haze of images – calling in “sick” for lectures, waking up with stinging eyes that were so puffy I could hardly open them, forlornly separating his belongings from mine whilst he was out of the house. But the one memory that has stood out from those painful first days, all these years and several other heartbreaks later, was the morning when my Mum came to visit.
The first thing she said to me was, “When was the last time you ate?”
I suddenly realised I hadn’t eaten anything for seventy-two hours – I recall attempting to swallow some bare slices of bread, but can’t imagine any cereal substance actually made it into my stomach – I simply hadn’t had the appetite. Despite this being highly unusual behaviour on my behalf, I shook my head. I didn’t want anything. I didn’t feel like anything.
Mum, with her twenty-odd years of matured maternal intuition, ignored me. “Come on, I’ll make you breakfast.”
I followed her half-heartedly into the kitchen, where she whipped up a small plate of fried eggs on buttered toast. Sunny side up, without irony.
And, of course, as I took the first few bites of my first proper meal in three days, a tiny fraction of me started to feel better. I didn’t recognise it at the time, but the small sliver of comfort derived from me eating those eggs and toast were my first steps towards healing myself – towards getting over Dex and moving on with my life.
. . .
Mr Blue and I broke up approximately one month before my twenty-sixth birthday. Five years had passed, but suddenly I was back to being that distraught twenty-one year-old who can’t see her future.
Except, this time around, everything else about my life was a hell of a lot different. My higher education was over. I had moved out of home and into the city. I was completely supporting myself by working in a soulless office – buying all my groceries, paying all my bills. I now had a whole new circle of friends. I also had the hindsight of what it is to be lonely, knowing you were once loved.
I am now a grown woman, which means I can’t just pike out of a day at work whenever I’m feeling broken. I have to suck it up and somehow get through those eight hours, pretending I still have my shit together. I have to act like an adult.
Now I have to make my own fried eggs on toast.
Inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge of the halycon days of July 2012.
I was finding it increasingly difficult to make conversation, and we were only a half-hour into the date. Rod hadn’t responded to any of my prompts about work, family, favourite books and movies, current affairs, or the weather. And he was lukewarm when I tried to fill in the growing chasms of silence with information about myself.
Plus, he insisted we skip entrees and kept eating all the complimentary breadsticks.
“I have to admit, I’ve never been on a blind date before,” I finally blurted out.
“Really?” Rod said in a murmur, his eyes on his fifth breadstick in his grip.
“Yep,” I replied, relieved that if I sounded like an idiot, at least he wouldn’t notice. “Actually, Monica has been harassing me for weeks until I agreed to tonight. She said you were perfect for me.” I peeked over the table hopefully, waiting for this douchebag’s perfection to finally break through and enrich me with true love.
“I think I’ve been on thousands,” Rod smirked. “Never done any online dating though. That’s just for losers.”
“Really?” I said, amused at the irony of him saying that. “I’ve never tried online dating either, but I think it’s brave to put yourself out there; in, like, an ad for yourself.” I paused, struck by an idea, then asked: “Like, if you were to write an online ad for yourself, how would it go?”
Finally, I had grabbed his attention. Rod leant back in his chair, hemming as he thought, a stub of breadstick hanging from his mouth like a cigar. Eventually he leant forward across the table, depositing the stub of breadstick back into the basket.
“It would say: Rakishly good-looking entrepreneur seeks young companion with robust sense of humour and original hair colour,” His eyes flicked upwards with a critical glint to my bright red locks. “Must be honest, humble, giving, well-read, and able to construct a sentence without involving a swear word. Looks not overly important, but absolutely must love time travel.” He grinned at me, apparently pleased with his answer, and reached for yet another breadstick.
“I’m sorry, what was that last one?” I said, trying my best to make my tone conversational. “Must love…?”
“Time travel,” Rod stated with a mouthful of breadstick, totally serious. “Absolutely.”
“You mean, like, have more than just a passing interest in the scientific theory of time travel? Or just like, have an ongoing obsession with, like, time travel fiction?”
“Overuse of the word ‘like’ would also be on my list, I think,” Rod mused, not paying attention to my confusion.
“Well, I’m afraid I’ve never read any books about time travel,” I said, mentally calculating how long until it was polite to leave. “I’m more of an Austen and Bronte girl myself.”
“I don’t mean time travel fiction,” Rod replied, lowering his gnawed breadstick. There was an edge of impatience to his voice, as if he was speaking to a small child. “I mean, actual, factual, real-life time travel.”
There was an extended awkward pause as Rod stared me, now seemingly absorbed in making me understand. In the end, I could only splutter:
“But – time travel doesn’t exist.”
Rod rolled his eyes. “And here I’d assumed you were an educated girl. Of course time travel exists – what kind of an entrepreneur do you think I am?”
“Are you telling me,” I said, alarm bells suddenly screeching in my head, “that you invented time travel?”
“Oh no!” Rod guffawed. “D’you think I’d have to go on blind dates or scrounge around for investors if I was the inventor of time travel?” I breathed a too-soon sigh of relief. “Oh no, I’m just a time travel conductor.”
“A conductor,” I parroted back at him. The alarm bells were getting louder.
“Yeah, you know. Like how a train conductor drives trains. I conduct time travel journeys.”
“Right.” The alarm bells were now joined by flashing red lights and policemen telling me to evacuate the building.
But now I couldn’t get Rod to shut up, and I couldn’t escape his gaze to sent an emergency text to Monica. “Yeah, for those who can afford it, which is not many at all in this country. I’m not one of those by-the-book government drones running time trips for NASA or ASIO. I’m a private operator. Independent and very proud, thank you.”
“So you have a time travel… machine?” I asked.
“Sort of. There’s a whole set up, with a platform and shields and the teleportation matter remote… well, it’s incredibly complicated technology that’s probably too difficult to explain to a layman,” Rod held up his wine glass at me, before taking a swig. “But I can take up to five people with me at a time. No pun intended!”
I forced out what I hoped sounded like several seconds of genuine laughter. “So you can just… travel through all of time and space?”
“Not space, just time,” he corrected me. “I can move back and forth throughout time, but the landing zone is always the same. We’re hoping the next OS upgrade can expand that though.”
“So you couldn’t go back to the 1930s and like, kill Hitler or something,” I said. “Unless you caught a steam boat from Australia to Germany.”
Rod rolled his eyes and sighed. “I’ve had to give so many refunds to customers who wanted to do that. Why is killing Hitler the thing everybody wants to do when they find out about time travel?”
I couldn’t believe I had to seriously answer this. “Because Hitler was a mass-murdering psychopath who caused a World War.”
“You can’t alter the timeline! That’s the number one rule of time travel!” Rod half-shouted at me, causing nearby tables to stop chatting and stare. He looked about at the shocked faces surrounding him, and leant back in his seat with his wine glass, regaining his composure. I had the sudden overwhelming need for wine as well, and downed my glass.
“It’s okay,” he said quietly. “You’ll understand one day.”
“Oh, will I now?” I replied, my voice soaking in sav blanc and sarcasm. “Are you going to take me on a ‘journey’ on our next date?”
“No, not until our fourth date,” he said with the eerily serious tone of a true believer. “I offer to take you during the date before, you think going ‘home’ with me after the third date is too much of a cliché.”
“We make as far as four dates?” I laughed meanly, but Rod merely stared at me with a faraway look in his eye.
“Oh pumpkin,” he smiled. “We make it much longer than that. You even become my assistant after we get married.”
For some reason, the baby name “pumpkin” is the final straw – I can’t play along anymore. I stand up, clutching my handbag, and throw two twentys on the table.
“That’s for dinner. I am totally and completely outta here,” I announce. “Never contact me again.”
“See you in fifteen days at that tapas place on William,” Rod nonchalantly called over his shoulder as I stormed out of the restaurant.
I was still fuming as I walked back to my car. I was never going to speak to Monica again! How could she possibly believe that that madman was “perfect for me”?
Seriously. Time travel – real? And he of all people was one of the special few selected to control it? Ha!
Next thing he’d be telling me aliens don’t exist, and aren’t stealing my newspaper every morning in a cunning attempt to up brush on international current affairs before infiltrating Earth as the next candidate for President of Russia!
What a moron, right?
Moral of my story: don’t drink and Facebook.