Prompt: Write a short story, of 700 words or fewer, based on this prompt: When a man takes lunch to his wife’s office, he’s told that she hasn’t worked there in weeks.
Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #77 (either by entering, reading or voting).
Out of more than 450 entries, readers helped us pick “Unforgiven” by Kevin Kissig as the winner. For winning, Kissig’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.
by Kevin Kissig
I glare scornfully at the empty bottle of Tanqueray overturned on the kitchen counter and pray for sleep I know won’t soon come. I knew I should have bought two bottles. It’s been ten years since my husband left me…ten years since he found out I had been lying to him. You would think a decade would be long enough for wounds to begin healing, but some people just don’t deserve to heal.
To this day I don’t know why I lied… he loved me…he would have understood. It’s just that we were fighting so hard to get by, and I couldn’t stand the thought of telling him I had lost my job. Besides, it was no one’s fault and I was sure something better was right around the corner. Unfortunately, days stretched into months, and like a fool, I woke up every morning to take the train downtown to look for work. Somehow he never found out there was no destination at the end of my daily commute.
The day he finally discovered my lie was so beautiful. Autumn was right around the corner, and I sat on a bench enjoying a morning cup of coffee and listening to the hum of the traffic. I had always loved sitting there during breaks and watching the city pulse with life. An elderly man in a crooked fedora sat a few benches down from me feeding pigeons from a fat bag of stale popcorn, and I couldn’t help but smile as I watched him. It was a perfectly picturesque morning.
As I finished the last of my coffee and steeled myself to set out in search of a new future I almost choked as my husband stepped out of a taxi and bounded up the steps to the building where he believed I still worked. No, no, no, it was all wrong. He must have been coming to surprise me with an invitation to lunch. He was going to feel like a fool walking purposefully towards my office only to find a stranger sitting at my desk. My head spun as I considered my former boss explaining that I hadn’t worked there in months. It was a disaster, but I was frozen…I couldn’t move, couldn’t call out to him…all I could do was watch in horror as he disappeared into the front doors amidst the teeming throng of New Yorkers.
I was too late to stop him from entering, but should I wait for him to emerge from the building or postpone my fate until later tonight…or tomorrow…or next week, if possible. How would I explain it to him? He’d been working every weekend thinking the overtime was helping us get ahead. How could I face him knowing I hadn’t contributed anything in months and had lied about it the entire time.
I couldn’t postpone the inevitable, the wait would be as unbearable as what he would say to me. I began to push my way through the crowd in order to intercept him as soon as he exited the building. I had to get to him as soon as possible. I had to tell him how much I loved him, that’s why I couldn’t tell him. I had to beg for his forgiveness. I had to begin proving I was still worthy of his trust. Lost in my dread, I didn’t hear the gasps surrounding me or the roar overhead.
My disregard only lasted a moment when the day was annihilated by a thunderous blast from far above. I didn’t see the first plane hit, but I felt it. I felt it in my bones. I felt it in my heart as it burst, and I fell to my knees as the world rain down around us. Unknown hands grabbed and tugged at those of us too overwhelmed to move. Before I realized what was happening I was dragged several blocks away as the skyward plumes destroyed the idyllic morning.
The gin provides no protection against the memories and the tears stream steadily down my cheeks as I envision the second plane hitting the south tower…why hadn’t I just told him the truth?