Melt

Prompt by: Nathan Pralle

Take any one genre of popular fiction literature — Action-adventure, Crime, Detective, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Science fiction, Western, Inspirational, etc. — and write a short story in that genre, but make all aspects of the story grossly stereotypical for that genre to the point of over-the-top.

***

She pushes me out the door with my half-full suitcase and a turquoise carrier bag dangling from her wrists, her lips pursed into something resembling a grimace as she tries to shove the last of my clothes in through the broken zipper. It’s not really the fact that she is throwing me out in front of all the happy-family neighbors that sends the stinging sensation down my throat — it’s the way she almost out of boredom decides this has to end. I focus my gaze on her purple stilettos, the ones we bought for her and Kim’s wedding, a series of spasms travelling down my sides as though she were ripping my skin off cell by cell.

“Em, please,” I stammer, my nails digging into the sides of my sweater. “You don’t have to,” I say, my hands flailing in the air before me as though it would somehow erase the fog that she has left me in. I have no shoes on so the cold gravel hits me like a million tiny needles as I sway off the stone steps, momentarily losing balance.

She looks up, dumping the bag on the gravel before me. She doesn’t say a word as my face contorts into a fake smile, the tears like boiling metal on my skin as they crawl down my cheeks.

“Emily,” I whisper, holding the fingers of my left hand to my mouth. Her scent is still fresh on my skin so I begin to feel dizzy, pacing the cold earth in a small semicircle. “I’m better than him,” I stutter, taking a step towards her.

“You’re better than him?” she says, finally verbalizing her imminent disgust.

“Yes.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I mean—“ I shake my head, my fingertips pawing at my lower lip as I look for words. “I mean I’m better for you than,” I take in a deep breath, holding his name at my tongue, “than Kim is.”

She watches my face as I move closer, my suitcase still hanging from her left wrist as she says my name, her voice frail. I shut my ears from the next two words floating out of her mouth, focusing on the pain spreading from the tips of my toes. Of course she can’t. Of course she fucking can’t. I bite down on my tongue as I watch her, my hands shaking.

“I love—“

“No.”

She closes her eyes, dropping my suitcase on the last few steps, making it tip over and snap open. Various items of clothing color the frozen ground, spilling out slowly like honey. “You don’t,” she says slowly, her lips turning blue in the cold December air.

This is just like her. I’ve seen it before; I’ve actually laughed at it through the early hours of the morning with my tongue sticky and numb from alcohol, unaware that one day that would be me standing at her doorstep with no pants on.

“Em,” I repeat, hugging myself to stay warm. “Please.”

“You really don’t realize what you’re asking me, do you?” she says, her eyes aflame. “I can’t just go and,” she pauses, her mouth slightly open as she stares at me. “He loves me,” she whispers, her tongue caught between her teeth as she clenches them closed.

“Where did you say he was?”

“In New York on a—“

“Business trip,” I finish her sentence, biting at my lip as my eyes seek hers.

“You know I hate being the other woman.”

“You’re not the other woman,” she says, her gaze jumping from one direction to another, avoiding mine.

“Right.” I close my eyes, rolling my head back to watch the cloud-filled sky. I am the only woman.

“Emily,” I murmur into the air, my toes growing numb. “You did promise me you’d leave him.”

“Fuck.”

“He doesn’t love you,” I say, taking my final step toward her, closing the gap. “Not like I do.” I let my hands shake as they grip hers. “Let me back in.” I glance at the door, my eyes beginning to sting from the tears I’m holding back.

“No.”

“Em, I’m freezing.” I wrap my arms around her waist, carefully holding her close.

“Stop calling me that,” she snaps, trying to push me away.

I interlock my half-frozen fingers at the small of her back, pressing my lips to her neck. “I started calling you that before he did,” I mutter against her skin. She melts against me before pushing me away completely, her fingers stronger than mine as they loosen my grip on her waist. I bite back the tears as I let her go, my lower lip bleeding slightly as I pick the clothes up from the ground. It soothes my soul a little to know that, after a week or so when Kim returns, she’ll remember why she fucked me in the hotel restroom before going upstairs to spend the night with him in their honeymoon suite.

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