Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Breathing The Same Air

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

Breathing The Same Air
Word Count: 600

Aaron had gone years without smoking, but now—elbow-deep in divorce proceedings—a cigarette provided one of the few moments of joy he had most days. The nicotine rush pushed back against an oncoming headache, which he’d preemptively named Marlene, after his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Who was going to end up with his BMW 6, dammit.

No, he told himself, don’t think about that. He took a long drag off his cigarette. He’d gotten over losing his wife. He’d get over the car. Somehow.

“Aaron?” asked Marlene. “I thought you quit.”

“I did,” said Aaron. Christ, how long had she been standing there? He hadn’t even heard the door.

Marlene already had a cigarette in her mouth and was fumbling in her purse for her lighter. For twenty years she’d been a smoker and in all that time she’d never been able to keep track of her lighter.

“Here,” said Aaron, pulling a disposable Bic from his pocket.

“I’ve got it,” said Marlene, still rummaging.

“You clearly don’t.”

“But I will, Aaron…” She closed her eyes and sighed. “You know, we both came out here to unwind. Can this be the one place where don’t hate each other?”

“Fine by me,” said Aaron, still holding out the lighter. “Truce?”

“Fine,” said Marlene, snatching the lighter.

“Keep it,” said Aaron when she tried to return it. “I’ve been meaning to quit anyway.”

“I bet you have.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing,” said Marlene. “We’re under a truce, remember.”

“Why’d you say it like that?” asked Aaron.

“Like what?’

“You know what I mean.”

“I’m just making small talk,” said Marlene. “If you don’t like the way I make small talk, you say something.”

“How’s your mother?” asked Aaron.

“She’s good. She’s ready to have me out of the house,” said Marlene. “She misses you.”

Aaron chuckled. “I swear she always liked me more than you.”

“Fuck you,” said Marlene. “I’m her goddamned daughter.”

“I misspoke,” said Aaron. “What I meant was that she always liked me more than you liked me.”

Marlene’s eyes were cold, but she shrugged. “True enough,” she said. “No offense.”

“None taken,” said Aaron.

“She asks me what happened with us.”

“What do you tell her?”

“I tell her we don’t love each other anymore,” said Marlene. “That’s true, right?”

“More or less,” said Aaron.

“She thinks we could have made it work, maybe. If we’d tried harder or something.”

“Do you believe that?” asked Aaron.

“I don’t know,” said Marlene. “I don’t think about it very much. What about you? Do you believe it?”

Aaron paused. “No,” he said finally. “No, I don’t think we could have fixed it.”

“Why?”

“Why couldn’t we have fixed it?”

“Why do you believe that?”

“Because I have to,” he said. “As much as I hate you sometimes, part of me still loves you. So I tell myself that it’s hopeless because that’s what I need in order to let you go.”

Marlene’s eyes narrowed. “That’s twisted.”

“You asked,” said Aaron.

“There’ll be other women, you know.”

“Maybe,” said Aaron. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It ought to,” said Marlene.

“That’s the future,” said Aaron. “Right now I have to survive the present. That means letting go of something I love because it’s the only way to move on with my life.” Aaron stubbed out his cigarette. “See you inside,” he said. “Thanks for the truce.”

“You really want the car, don’t you? We’re off the record, you can tell me.”

Aaron nodded.

“Take it.”

“Really?” asked Aaron. “You’d let it go?”

Marlene smiled. “There’ll be other cars.”

Edited by Carolyn "I've Had This Conversation A Lot" Abram

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