Hi, readers. Below is a short story I wrote with the given prompt: include a notebook and a mysterious 20,000 dollar check. I thought I’d share it here. Let me know what you think and if you’d enjoy reading more of my fictional tales. Skarface is an ever evolving platform for me to share my writing with the world. I hope you enjoy.
Individuals chatted below clip-art posters of Santa Claus, Rudolph, and baby Jesus. Tonight, the church hosted the town’s weary and their desperate bids to recant their pasts and rebirth as sober, functional members of society.
A circle of chairs fanned from the room’s center. The patrons of tonight’s event orbited like satellites. Settling in would come as dictated by the elegant older woman overseeing the event. Her comforting presence in this room was on everyone’s register.
Shirley, as designated by the regal cursive upon her name tag, busied herself with refreshments on the one table in the room. Her handwriting indicated today’s selection: lemonade, iced tea, water. She placed cups near the large basins and went about adjusting the layout of the chairs.
I made sure to sit nearest Shirley’s long, olive-green coat and watched as she moved in long strides to sit beside me.
The rest of the group still standing and mingling followed Shirley’s lead without need for her to say so. Amidst the shuffling, Shirley smiled at me and introduced herself.
“Hello, dear. My name is Shirley.”
Obviously. I smiled at her. “Charlotte, nice to meet you.” Her smile touched me with intense warmth. She patted my shoulder with maternal reassurance.
“It’s nice to meet you. You’re taking a courageous step.”
I did not expect the kindness exuding from her to shock me. Thus the best I could muster with haste was a smile, a nod. Shirley turned from me to address the room, clearing her throat. I turned too; looked to the faces of the exhausted, the energized, the posers and the sincere. A motley crew awaited their ringleader with an eagerness.
“Once again I welcome you all. I am proud of you and hope you are proud of you, too.” She eyed me and a few others before continuing. “We have some new faces tonight. I extend a special welcome and hope this group of peers will serve you.”
More eyes fell upon me and the other fresh meat. I could feel lingering gazes from some of the members and ignored them. I was numb to admiration after years of being ruled by it. I laughed at the realization: a single, sharp grunt of a laugh. The development of indifference was recent.
“So, like usual, those who wish to share may do so. All I ask is that we respect each other’s testimonials and do not interrupt.” Hands, both swift and hesitant, rose after Shirley’s introduction. She first chose an older man whom she addressed like an old friend. Gareth, she called him, began repenting in long and winding detail.
My mind left to revisit the catalyst for my being here in this church. Like a ripple in time, my consciousness found itself in another scene from days before.
My body sat in the aluminum chair but within me I stood at the entrance of the estate I shared with my husband. I looked at the door–ajar with music blaring. I stared at it, numb, expectant.
With retrospection, I realized I was used to coming upon my home in this state. Encountering the open door thus had a minimal effect on me. Yet I’d be remiss to not acknowledge a different sort of feeling I had when eyeing the door. Something different stirred within: a queer desire for an alternative ending.
I pushed the door open and crossed the threshold. My shoes slipped from my feet one by one in slow, intentional movements. Club music reverberated from some room beyond the foyer as I removed them, permeating deep into the confines of my skull.
The sequence of events that followed returned to me as if it had been but a dream. Subconscious hands pulled me to the room hosting the music. Opening that door revealed to me a scene I could barely fathom then. The ability still evaded me now.
A naked girl lay on my living room’s fine white and wooly carpet. A pile of black vomit lay next to her. She looked lifeless. I turned away with fear and disgust, scanning the rest of the room.
A tray of white dust lay haphazard on the nice marble coffee table Jack and I purchased on a trip to Morocco. The sight of it phased me little compared to the girl.
I shut the door without feeling the cold iron of the knob. I pressed up the marble staircase without registering the cold stone on the bare pads of my feet. All energies within me instead focused on what awaited me in the master bedroom. I had some expectation about what I would find there and knew I would not be disappointed.
Opening one of the two doors leading into our master, I was met with a familiar stench of bile.
Jack lay naked and face up. His belly bulged from his abdomen; swollen with liquor and fine cuisine. I crossed the room to look at him. His hands were blue, his breathing ragged.
I remember muttering hateful, contemptuous words at him. Rage born from a disintegrated promise of a dream life burned especially hot. A decade of holding the dam finally bested me. My beauty, still in tact, was the shell of all I sacrificed to this ugly rich man. How naive I had been and how easy it was to fall for the life he’d promised.
Still I cursed the young Charlotte for failing to read the terms and conditions before agreeing to marriage with a monster.
Hard-bodied, on a yacht with all the drugs, alcohol, paradise any human being could want. Naive of me to think that was heaven.
As I stood over this slumbering mass of materialism, I wondered when the magic of my life faded into reality. The change in perspective culminated slowly before evolving into a total paradigm shift. The flood gates, in constant deterioration, finally roared open. The pursuant gush of emotion overtook me in its entirety. ‘Action’, it demanded.
Jack snored in heaves as I crossed the distance to my nightstand. Ripping it open, my eyes made an easy target of the pill bottle filled with a potpourri of depressants. My vices for dealing with the sad life I lived shot a painful sensation of self-hatred through me. The rage I felt was as much for him as it was for myself.
With shaking hands, I opened the pill bottle and poured its contents into my palm. I counted the pills: 36. My other hand let slip the bottle from my grip to land with a muted thud on our bedroom carpet.
I returned to Jack, drugs in hand. His mouth hung agape and was pried further open with my available fingers. His breathing became alarmed and he unconsciously attempted to shake me. He was too far into his blackout to come to. I held fast to his lower jaw, unrelenting.
The pills fell from my hand into him. I spit at his uvula to induce his swallowing mechanism. The drugs began their travel from mouth to esophagus in jagged snaps of throat muscle. Jack coughed and writhed but didn’t resurface.
I was like a woman feeding medicine to a reluctant animal. In essence, that’s exactly what I was doing.
I rose once the pills disappeared.
“Have a nice sleep, Jack.”
I left the room and cased the rest of the estate. Other bodies were scattered in states of reduced consciousness. No individual made any registry of my being there nor of my collection of a checkbook or Jack’s black Moleskine notebook. No individual noticed my exit through the garage, nor the coaxing of Jack’s black Bentley from its cradle.
Here I sat one sleepless week later: in a church surrounded by sad alcoholics and tacky decor.
Others spoke. I phased in and out of the week’s events, remaining mum. Eventually the group chat ceased and Shirley offered some last words. I eyed her in her quiet strength.
“I hope to see you all again next time. Together, we can beat the monster that is addiction. Thank you.”
People left in hurried strides, eager to return to real life. I stayed behind before approaching the ringleader myself. She finished with another patron then turned to me.
“Thanks for coming Charlotte. I–“ I cut her off.
“Shirley. I know. I know everything. I was his wife. I’m sorry.”
I placed the black notebook in her hand.
“Take this and get justice. For yourself…” I hesitated but managed to finish the sentence, “and your daughter… and… all the girls…”
Shirley was silent. I turned and took my leave.
Shirley would open the book to find a check made in her name from Jack’s estate. She would find a list of phone numbers belonging to her daughter and other, living, victims. She would find a lawyer’s contact information.
She would find a date, time, location, for Jack’s death.
I got into Jack’s Bentley and drove off. Once Shirley cashed that twenty-thousand dollar check, the ball would roll. Jack would die a second death in the press.
I watched for the red and blue lights to appear in my rearview window. Driving on, I laughed in glee. Liberation, however short, was oh, so, sweet.