I really enjoy writing short stories and I need opinions outside of family on them. Most of them start as prompts I get from a writing app but I really enjoy fleshing them out and trying to make something out of them. I want to try to get them published someday but for now they’re just sitting in a folder in my Google drive. I can has helpful criticisms, please?
The first time we met, he ordered crab. I hate sea food, I think it tastes disgusting. I’m a vegan so I thought he would order a dish that didn’t require it’s meant to be boiled alive but apparently not everyone understands how crab is cooked. This little slight didn’t ruin the night though. Nor did it prevent us from going back to my place and starting our relationship off on a positive note.
Now we’re meeting again in the same restaurant. First time in three years since our divorce. It was a bit of a set up by our friends. Neither one of us has dated since we split and I guess they thought we still had chemistry or some bullshit. This is what we get for sharing friends after the divorce.
Arnold the Ex sits across the table from me and I just know he’s silently fuming. I’m fuming too but we’re determined to enjoy a free dinner reservation and the accompanying food.
I arrived early and picked the seat with the best view. I was refreshing my lipstick for what I thought would be a hot date when he appeared across from me. He didn’t recognize me at first, just narrowed his eyes until it clicked, “Susan? Holy Hell! What are you doing here?”
It would’ve been a funny moment if we were in a movie. I probably would’ve laughed and cheered for the couple to get back together. End of the movie, they would be happily married again. The sequel would involve shenanigans and them having a baby. It would be funny.
We can’t have babies. Neither one of us actually. When I was young and stupid I ruined my body with drugs and he just can’t. Shooting blanks every time. It was one of the reasons we divorced. Like a baby could hold us together. We can’t even hold ourselves together much less raise a child and expect it to be the glue that binds us. I’m bitter about this.
The day we divorced Arnold sent me flowers. He used to send me flowers when he found out I was having a bad day. I couldn’t stop crying when I saw the little vase of flowers sitting on my desk, a neatly written apology tucked between the stems.
I’m glad we never had child. It would’ve ripped out what was left my heart having to go through custody battles.
The waiter arrives and he doesn’t order crab. He orders some noodle dish with an impossible name and some water. I follow suit. It’s a vegan dish so I can eat it too.
I don’t know if he’s being thoughtful or likes vegan cooking now.
The silence following the departure of the waiter is nearly intolerable. We shift uncomfortably and look everywhere but at each other.
“So Sue,” He starts, staring intensely at his silverware. “You look great.”
“Thank you.” I don’t know what else to say. He looks amazing.
“I got that promotion at work finally. The guy in front of me ended up moving.” He’s a graphic designer at a company that gets hired to do animated commercials. He always wanted to be lead designer. He has really great ideas. I used to watch him draw and even though I have no talent it would make my hand ache for a pencil so I could try to make beautiful things too.
“That’s really great. Congratulations. You really deserve it. ” I try to smile. He really did deserve it and I am really am happy for him but I just come off as rehearsed. The worst part is I did rehearse that line. Over and over, just waiting for him to burst through the door full of excitement.
“How’s work for you?” Our gazes briefly flutter over each other.
“It’s going well. No promotion but I did get a raise. I got to travel for awhile.” I write articles for a travel magazine. It’s mostly about the best bed and breakfasts you can find in America. I actually got to travel to a few this year.
“Awesome. It’s about time you get to visit some of them.”
The silence isn’t so uncomfortable now. Our food arrives and it’s delicious. There is no conversation as we eat but that’s a habit for us. We don’t like talking when our mouths are full of food. Other might find the silence awkward but for us, meal time used to be moment to enjoy each other’s company without all the noise, to just look at someone you love and know that no words are needed.
Our plates are removed. Desert is refused. We decide to leave.
The restaurant is along the marina. The smell of salt and water hangs heavy in the air and clings to us. I love the ocean. It’s why I never moved away. Arnold and I don’t split ways. I point to the beach and he nods. I take off my heels and he his shoes. Like a little boy he even rolls his pant legs up to his knees.
“You still got that seashell wall hanging?” He asks picking up a small clam shell.
“Like I would get rid of it.”
It’s coming. That damn question is coming. He was always the one to ask it. Not this time.
“Where did we go wrong?” I blurt out.
Arnold looks at me as if dazed. He drops the sea shell and shoves his hands in his pocket looking like a petulant child.
“Come on, Arnold!”
Dammit, just answer me. We are not on trial so answer me!
Hot tears threaten to fall down my face. The tide water laps at our feet, pulling sand out from under us.
“I don’t know. I got tired, I guess.”
He stares at the sky above my head.
“Tired of me?”
I can’t look him in the eyes.
“No! Tired of us. I think. I don’t know, Sue. ”
He turns to leave me behind.
“You always lock me out and I hate it.”
He doesn’t face me as he speaks.
“This isn’t the time to have this conversation.”
He puts his shoes back on. He’s leaving me again. Well I can leave too. I put my heels on. I want the final word this time.
“It’s never the time, is it?”
Our footprints are all that’s left.