Prompt: Write a short story, of 750 words or fewer, that begins with the following line of dialogue: “Heads, we get married; tails, we break up.”
Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in the competition (either by entering, reading or voting).
Out of more than 800 entries, readers helped us pick “Stray Lust” by Elijah Wess as the winner. For winning, Wess’ story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.
by Elijah Wess
“Heads, we get married; tails, we break up,” Ben told her. A look of uncertainty crossed Gale’s face as she searched his eyes for an answer.
The song faded in the distance as the last of the vocalists skipped home, ending the continuous ballad that had started after the final bell rang: “Ben and Gale, sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g!”
It wasn’t the first time they had been teased at school for walking together, but now he seemed upset. The sight of the coin brought tightness to her chest.
A cool wind blew through the treetops behind the school. They both turned and watched the tall trees at the edge of the woods sway and bow as if waving them entry, the massive plumes of leaves rolling like thick, green smoke.
“Follow me Gale.” His voice carried something she had never heard from him, something that commanded her to give chase as he disappeared like a ghost into the wall of darkness.
Her green eyes quickly adjusted to the dim light of the familiar path. She followed the foot trail, worn smooth by generations of child and critter traveling under the dark umbrella of ancient wood. She ran the winding passage, between enormous trunks that seemed to stretch into the sky, soon hearing the gentle flow of water ahead.
As she crested the high bank beside the stream, she paused to survey the scene below. Ben stood near the tree bridge, his back to her. Walls of forest surrounded him with steep, sloping hills of old growth. The runoff of recent rain escaped the wooded heights and formed a calm pool below the bridge before it narrowed and carried on.
She watched Ben cross to the middle of the bridge and sit down. He called to her. “Sit with me Gale.”
She closed the distance between them, cutting from the path and sliding down the loose soil of the bank. Sittin’ in a tree, she thought. His legs dangled over the edge of the felled tree and thin beams of sunlight broke through the canopy, creating a golden mosaic on the surface of the black water.
Gale stepped onto the tree remembering the first time she had crossed it, weak in the knees, looking down into the dark pool below fearing she would slip backwards into that terrible water. She now walked with the confidence of a thousand crossings, and admired the gleaming safety of gold and black that would cushion any fall. It was the coin in his hand she feared.
Ben watched as she approached, moving nimbly across the bridge, while the sheen of her jet-black hair caught the light like the water below. She looks just like the cats, he thought, and for a moment she transformed into a thin black stray and the coin, a can of tuna.
She sat down beside him, extending her legs to hang beside his own. Her filthy hand-me-down sneakers threatened to slip off of her small feet and into the black. He looked into her unwashed, freckled face. She was a stray.
He had decided months ago that she would be the one. Out of the entire sixth-grade class, she was the obvious choice. She had no friends. He had made himself hers, and she clung to him. The walk home from school was their time together, and she never missed it.
Ben’s heart rushed in his chest. It was finally happening. His desire for this moment had been obsessive, and he knew that she would give it to him. She’s perfect, he thought. He held the coin out between them. “Now close your eyes. It’s bad luck to watch.” He whispered.
As her lids shut, he threw the coin high and reached deep into his pocket. The coin spun, falling to the pool below, and Ben’s adrenaline was at climax.
He thrust the small knife into the soft of her neck as the water surface broke, a ripple of dark water and a spray of warm red. He watched her eyes explode open in shock and pushed her over to join the cats. Splash. Ben released a shaky moan of breath, feeling as though he was breathing for the first time. His body buzzed in ecstasy and he felt strong enough to fly. Watching Gale’s weakening body thrash in the water, he bit his lower lip and wept tears of euphoria on the bridge.