A Piece of Flash Fiction

Published in Issue 1 of Livina Press, 2022

            “Oh my God, Josh is in rehab,” Charlotte gasped histrionically with a wave, spilling a few drops of her French 75 onto her laptop below.

            Marcie glanced over her shoulder from the kitchen where she stood emptying a bag of half-burned popcorn into a big plastic bowl. I can hear her laptop fan from here, Marcie thought. That thing is on its last leg.

            “Well, it’s about time,” Marcie said.

            “You remember that time he took apart the shed in our backyard and used the wood to build that horrible bridge? He dug that little riverbed or whatever he called it all around the back of the house and filled it with hose water,” Charlotte scoffed.

            “I guess he needed a bridge then,” Marcie laughed.

            “He didn’t even lay gravel or rocks in the creek or moat or whatever. The whole thing was just a giant channel of mud and the bridge collapsed right into it. Luckily, I wasn’t the one walking on that damn thing.”

            Marcie offered up a meager chuckle under her breath and brought the bowl of popcorn and a small dish of baby carrots with hummus over to the coffee table. Charlotte set down her cocktail glass for the first time to snatch up a handful of popcorn.

            “What about Alfonse?” Charlotte asked with an eager grin.

            Marcie shrugged.

            “What about him?”

            Charlotte scoffed and a small fleck of popcorn escaped her lips.

            “Don’t you wanna see what he’s up to? It’s no fun stalking people online if we only do my exes.” Charlotte said with a small, bark-like laugh.

            Marcie blinked. She hadn’t thought about Alfonse in a long time.

            “I mean, I guess,” she said finally.

            Charlotte took a sudden gulp of her drink, finishing it off, and began typing.

            “What was his last name again? Singer?”

            “Springer,” Marcie corrected.

            A few moments later and Alfonse’s deep-set eyes and pallid face were staring back at them. Marcie let her eyes follow the hawk-like line of his nose up to the golden point of his widow’s peak. She waited a beat, expecting to feel nostalgic, perhaps. Or maybe bitter. She grabbed a baby carrot and dipped it in hummus. The crunch was loud. Nothing.

            “Look at this,” Charlotte whispered, though the two sat alone in Marcie’s apartment with the windows shuttered and locked. “It says he’s in a relationship with some girl from the office. I didn’t know they let employees date each other at his company! I guess tech-heads have to date other tech-heads, huh? It’s better to have office drama than to sentence them all to die alone.”

            Charlotte laughed boisterously, dropping a hummus-covered baby carrot onto the drab, beige carpet. Marcie looked down at the lone carrot. Hummus doesn’t stain. Does it? When Marcie didn’t join in the laughter, Charlotte gave her a small elbow to the side.

            “Hey, what’s the matter with you?”

            “Nothing,” Marcie said.

            Is something the matter with me? Should I care? Marcie nibbled her lower lip thoughtfully.

            “Most people have some kinda reaction to their exes, you know? You need another drink, that’s your problem.”

            “I don’t want to get a headache tomorrow; I have a meeting with our PR manager.”

            Charlotte gave a hearty sigh, complete with exaggerated eyeroll.

            “So responsible,” she teased. “Listen, let’s check this new girlfriend of his.”

            Marcie retrieved a paper towel from the kitchen counter. She was just beginning to pick the carrot up off of the floor when Charlotte spoke again.

            “Whoa. Her timeline is full of posts about old anime. She’s obsessed. Public photos of her in some get-up at a comic-con? Cringe.”

            Charlotte looked towards the left-hand side of the couch, clearly expecting Marcie to be there, wanting to gauge her reaction. When Charlotte found the rest of the couch empty, she looked around slowly until she found Marcie kneeling to her right with a wad of paper towel.

            “Oh my God, don’t scare me like that,” she huffed.

            “Sorry,” Marcie mumbled on her way to the trash can.

            Charlotte chomped down on another carrot. Please don’t drop this one.

            “You won’t believe this! Remember Judy?”

            Marcie had just stepped on the foot of the touchless trashcan when Charlotte spoke. As soon as Marcie processed the words, her muscles stiffened. She stared at the contents of the trashcan without really seeing them.

            “Judy?” she parroted; her voice softer than she’d expected.

            “Yeah, Judy Haggard! You used to be attached at the hip. If you two hadn’t gotten into that tiff, I probably never would’ve made the position of best friend,” Charlotte snickered playfully.

            Judy. Marcie stood before the open trashcan, unbothered by the heavy, malodorous fumes of week-old chicken leftovers and bitter coffee grounds. She didn’t see any of it. Instead, she pictured herself and Judy sitting on the old green wagon beside the railroad crossing where they would drink cheap wine and count the cars of passing trains.

            “Wow, she moved to Toronto for a publishing job. Guess she’s moved up in the world. What a bitch.”

            Some part of Marceline wanted desperately to tell Charlotte to shut up, to stop talking, to stop everything. Her stomach twisted itself into a stubborn knot. Marcie focused instead on the passing trains. Who counted more? Her throat ached. How many?

            “Hello, Marcie? Miss Marceline? You there?” Charlotte called to her.

            Marcie tossed the carrot-filled paper towel into the bin, her hand shaking slightly. She mumbled some vague words of acknowledgement.

            It was you, wasn’t it? Marceline turned and walked back to the couch. By then, Charlotte had already moved on to someone else entirely. You counted thirty-four. A hole seemed to be growing steadily in Marcie’s gut. Somewhere deep down, a hungry hollow started. You did. Marceline heard Charlotte laugh with abandon. Marcie gave a weak smile and sat down, happy to have Charlotte move on to another name.

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