Sunday, January 6, 2013

Short Story: The Room

Since I started this blog last summer, I've been amazed at seeing the page views come from all over the world. I hope you enjoyed your stay! Meanwhile, I'm in between books, with the sequel to Autumn Leaves, Winter Storm, coming out in February. I'm thrilled that Autumn Leaves made it into Eternal Press's Top Sellers category, and, as I'm typing this, it's still #1 of the Top Selling Lesbian e-books at (which, of course, could change by the time you read this post).
As a little Thank You, here's a short story I wrote for on of Hedgebrook's Weekend Writing Prompt a while ago. The prompt: The famous words of Hemingway “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”

The Room

She had forgotten the time, Jenna realized when she heard the key in the door. Maybe she wanted Colleen to catch her one of these days, hoping it could start a conversation. It was late, as usual. Colleen had been spending some time out with friends again. It wasn’t that she didn’t care.
The silence between them had gotten too heavy.
Jenna longed to break it, but she didn’t know how. There was too much pain she didn’t know how to express, afraid she wouldn’t be able to contain it. She let it eat away at her soul, little by little, every day. Every night she crept into the small room, imagining what could have been. When Colleen came home close to midnight, Jenna would be in bed, assuring her that everything was all right. Sometimes, she’d simply pretend to sleep.
She was tired.
Jenna listened to the sounds indicating Colleen’s presence, the coat being put on the rack, the purse landing on the small bench in the hallway. Then, there was the sound of heels clicking on the hardwood floor.
The truth was hard to run from.
“You’re still up,” Colleen said softly, as if that was the only surprise. As if it was perfectly normal for Jenna to sit in this room with a butterfly-shaped night light as the only source, staring at nothing. To Jenna, the facts were obvious. She remained silent.
It wasn’t like they hadn’t talked before. In fact, a lot of talking had been necessary for them to get where they were now. They had made a decision before, to make an effort, once, twice. If it didn’t work out, that would be it. “It” had come too quickly.
Colleen sat next to her, leaning against Jenna after she’d kicked off her shoes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come home this late.”
“It’s okay.”
Jenna did understand. Colleen didn’t go out to party. She was meeting with her best friend of almost three decades, because she needed to word her own pain and fears. What Jenna couldn’t say, she couldn’t stand to hold in any longer.
“No, it’s not,” Colleen protested with surprising anger. She didn’t elaborate though. “Trish would like to come by and look at some of the stuff--if you don’t mind.”
“I hope you told her we don’t want any money.”
“Of course.” Colleen squeezed her hand gently. “It’s been a long day. Don’t you want to come to bed?”
All of a sudden, Jenna felt like she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs, to breathe, to get out the words or the tears that were choking her. Forget about what we said, don’t rush things, and just try one more time. You could. Please--
“Jenna.” Colleen leaned into her, wrapping her arms around her tightly. “I can’t look at this room anymore. I’m sure it’s even worse for you. We tried.”
Jenna couldn’t be angry with her. Colleen had never pretended. If she was sad, it was mostly for Jenna.
“We didn’t try everything.”
The resulting silence told her everything she needed to know. They had many things in common, and in the years of their relationship had found a balance for where they differed. It was hard to compromise on this subject.
“Even if I--” Colleen began. “There’s no guarantee.”
She was younger. The chances were in her favor. “I know.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know.” That wasn’t even a blatant lie. Even if Colleen had said yes, I’ll give it a try, it wouldn’t have been the same.
“You can tell Trish to come by tomorrow afternoon,” Jenna said, her voice breaking on the last word.
“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”
Only they wouldn’t sell them.
Only it wasn’t just a damn story. It was what had been defining their lives for the past couple of years. Stunning that Hemingway had summed up what meant this much hope and heartbreak in six words.
Jenna didn’t see a way out, for her, for them, the realization breaking her composure. Colleen held on tighter as she cried, and after an eternal moment, got up to pull her up from the floor.
Trish was lucky, Jenna thought as she turned at the door. The shoes, the wardrobe, the crib. They’d stick to the plan, and somehow, Jenna and Colleen would move on.
The room would always be with them.


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