The Iron Writer Challenge #195
2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #1
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.
Lying Eyes – Eagles – anything from this song.
Silk striped pajamas
An entitled victim
Every Form of Refuge
Bad things have always happened to me. Always.
I’m not entirely sure what I did to the world in order to deserve such terrible treatment from it, but here I am – the victim of one terrible thing after the other. Over and over in a vicious cycle that has ended here.
I used to try to look at the positives, try to come up with some lesson I was meant to learn. But there isn’t one. Even if there was, I suppose it’s too late now.
The view from my window is about as bleak as the one inside my room. The seasons have changed and winter is officially here. Snow drifts are stacked high, the wind is blowing cold and furious. I’ve been wanting to go outside for days but today I feel lucky to be practically bedridden.
I pull the warm blanket up closer to my chin as though the view of snow has been enough to send shivers throughout my body. But it’s not the snow. It’s the cancer. And they aren’t shivers, not really.
“Mary. Are you ready?!” My mother shouts up to me, wondering if I’m ready for her to come help me move from the wheelchair to the bed. I don’t bother answering, she’ll come up when she wants to.
Later, after she’s lifted me out of the chair she begins to help me change my clothes. Out of one pair of pajamas into another. I insist on wearing a particular set of silky, stripped pajamas tonight. They’re my favorite and I want to look and feel my best.
My mother doesn’t understand, of course, but she doesn’t question it, knowing it’s easier to let me have my way than to justify an argument.
Before she leaves she kisses my face, both cheeks and then my forehead, the same way she’s always kissed me since I was a little girl. She’s sweet my mother. I know it breaks her heart to see me this way. I want to ease her pain, I want to tell her my plan but I can’t find the words. So instead I smile, a thin disguise meant to protect us both.
I’ve been thinking about this night for a long time. I’ve been planning and preparing for it for ages, because the sooner I can leave this place the sooner she can start to move on. I’m confident and ready, I’m sure of my choice, but that doesn’t necessarily make things easier.
Eventually, I reach into the nightstand and pull out the razor I’ve hidden. I hold it tight as I scribble a letter on my notepad, words of love meant to comfort my mother in the morning.
I know this will be hard for her at first. I know it will be hard for everyone. But soon they’ll recover and begin to comfort themselves with cliché’s. “She’s in a better place,” they’ll say, as if they have any idea.
The cancer will be gone, but so will I. The pain will be gone, but so will I. I guess every form of refuge has its price.
The Winter of Her Discontent
Misty pulled over to the curb and looked in the rear-view mirror. He was coming. Adjusting her blouse to reveal more cleavage, Misty touched up her lipstick and primped her hair. Rolling down the window, she smiled warmly, “Good evening, Officer. What can I do for you?” And there it was; the trap snapped clean and painless. After a few short minutes of subliminal intercourse the blushing officer let her go with a warning. Starting her engine, she sighed in relief and pulled away.
She hadn’t been home long before Jimmy, the neighborhood single, was at the door. Misty had hoped he wouldn’t show up this evening, but he was useful to have around.
It was late when Misty finally pulled away from Jimmy’s warmth in her bed. Leaving him with a smile, she slipped into her striped silk pajamas, walked to the window, and looked out at the stars. She had everything she needed, but she just couldn’t escape the feeling of being her own victim. She felt trapped playing a role that isolated her from what she desired most; true love. Jimmy didn’t love her; he was in love with some ideal. Misty gazed into the frigid winter night sky.
She was painfully lonely.
The next day, Misty looked up an old high school friend, Jack. Surely he would be obliged to accept her, for old-time’s sake. She picked up the phone. “Hey, Jack. I’ll be in town tonight and thought we might go out and reminisce.” He accepted.
Jack opened his door. “Wow, you’re as stunning as always.” Misty couldn’t help but slip back into her role as a flattering tease. She smiled to show her teeth, raised her eyebrows to intimate the dilation of her pupils, tilted her head toward Jack to imply a desire for closeness, and she was in.
The evening didn’t go quite as planned. They went out, had a nice time, but Jack never succumbed to Misty’s lead. She felt she had encountered a brick wall. Since it was starting to snow, they went back to Jack’s place. Misty assumed she would be invited up, but Jack stopped her at the door. Misty felt disoriented as Jack laid it out in plain English, “Listen, Misty, it was great to see you, but it stops here. Your smile is a thin disguise. You’re still the same old girl you used to be. I’d have thought by now you’d realize that people don’t like to be manipulated. You’re hiding behind your compulsion to control everything, but you’re really depriving yourself of the very thing you need; to be vulnerable and trust someone else. I guess every form of refuge has its price.”
Stunned that Jack could see right through her, it made Misty want him all the more.
She pleaded, “Can’t I stay here tonight? The roads … ”
Jack kissed her on the cheek. “You’d better go home, the snow’s starting to drift. Goodnight, Misty.”
Jack closed the door.
Misty turned slowly toward her car as the icy wind blew snow across the drive.
Her Lying Eyes Told the Truth
I just had to get away from it all so I escaped to my cabin in the mountains. It is peaceful here, away from everyone. Especially her. I cannot completely blame her though. Some of it is my fault. Hell, maybe all of it’s my fault. Why would I think that someone as young and as beautiful as she is could ever love an older man like me? As I sit in my recliner near the fireplace with a cigar in one hand and a lovely single malt Scotch in the other, I remembered when I first saw her. Did I fall in love with her or did I fall in lust? Sometimes the two are hard to separate. It is for me anyway.
It had been a long time since I have been intimate with a woman. The Lord called my wife home five years ago. We were married twenty-seven years when He called her away from me. I was mad at Him for this for a while but I have since made amends. I haven’t been intimate with anyone since she died. That changed a year ago. I first saw her sitting in the front row of chairs as I stood there, reading an excerpt from my latest novel. She was dressed very tastefully in a white dress. Her long legs crossed at the ankles. The dress, low-cut, revealed her ample bosom but tastefully. Her hair was as red as a summer sunset and cascaded down around her shoulders. Freckles dotted the bridge of her nose. It was her eyes though. It was her eyes that truly attracted me. They were as green as jade and as piercing as a sword. Remembering this reminds me of an old song by the Eagles. Her beautiful eyes had become lying eyes and they couldn’t hide the truth.
As I thought about those eyes, those beautiful, lying eyes, I looked out of the window of my cabin and noticed the snow drifts building. I noticed how the light from the cabin played with the shadows of the night, making the snow drifts seem as if they are silk, striped pajamas that the mountainside had decided to wear. Then I remember the first few weeks with her. How they seemed magical and the lovemaking exquisite.
Then she changed. She had a victim mentality of sorts. It seemed as if I owed her for everything done to her. She acted as if she was entitled to much more than she really was and I was the one who had to pay for it. I gave her money, I gave her jewelry, but more importantly, I gave her my heart. That is one thing I should have kept. I knew she was going out at nights to visit a younger man. Her lying eyes told me. I knew she didn’t mean it when she told me that she loved me. Her eyes gave that away too. Yesterday she packed her clothes and her jewelry and this was the only time her eyes didn’t lie to me.
I knew by her eyes that she meant it when she said good-bye.
Stone Me, Have Mercy
“Oh God. Change it, change it, change it. Quick.”
What’s the problem now? My dear husband landed in the hospital after breaking his leg, but you’d have thought evisceration by the way he carried on. His face contorted as though he’d smelled something foul, and he plugged up his ears with his fingers. Then I realized: The Eagles. Of course.
At first I couldn’t place which simpy douche commercial jingle this was. “The Long Run?” “Peaceful Easy Feelin’?” No. “Lyin’ Eyes.” I could tell by the way my own lids started to droop, even before the part where the cheating tramp ever left—
“Please? Please, please change—”
“All right, already!” I couldn’t believe the level of drama conjured up by simple elevator music. I clicked over to the next station. Wait a minute…
Eagles again! I stifled a laugh. He writhed in bed, the neat gray stripes of his silk pajamas twisting and distorting. I imagined them getting tighter and tighter, cutting into his flesh like barbed wire. But I clicked the dial again, before he started on his haughty rant about how “Hotel California” would still be playing long after they released him.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough to avoid sparking his usual diatribe about the general inferiority of the band and how Glenn Frey had always been a scourge on rock music history.
A nurse ducked her head in as his voice rose in volume and pitch. She shot me a look of pure pity and darted down the hall.
It was going to be a long stay.
The pale blue walls of this tiny private room seemed to close in, as though I were being pushed beneath the sea. His cranky whine sounded like a foghorn heralding ships that had no desire to come into harbor. I couldn’t even open the window to alleviate the closeness; snow had drifted up against the glass and froze there, so I had to stand on tiptoes just to see outside. I shivered at the view and the slight draft.
He had the blankets pushed all the way down. Wasn’t he chilly? Maybe I should pull them up. Like…all the way up. And yank the edges down under the mattress.
God, he was still going on. His drug-addled head dangled off the pillow. I grabbed the pillow on the chair by the window. Got to make him more comfortable.
The commercial break ended in a familiar, faux Native American riff. Oh no. Not “Witchy Woman.” His voice escalated into a wail. “Sweetieeee…!”
I twisted the pillow in my fists. “Just a second honey. I’ll fix it.”
“You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes.
And your smile is a thin disguise”
I know that I’m only tormenting myself and yet, I can’t stop playing the Eagle’s classic song over and over again. The words are torturing me. They evoke memories of Jessica’s smile. That smile that radiated from her entire face. That smile that captured my heart and mind forever.
It was over six months ago that our plane landed in Orly airport. Our marriage had been under strain for several months. Our application to become adoptive parents was refused. We had decided to take a three-week vacation in France. My best friend Billy lived in Val d’Isère and had invited us to stay. The plan was to relax, enjoy some skiing and to work on our problems.
The first few days were fantastic. Hearty breakfasts, followed by fun on the slopes, jumping through snow drifts and high spirited apres ski parties. Jessica was in her element. It was her first ski holiday and she loved it. Her beautiful smile returned and I began to believe that we were back on track with our lives.
It was near the end of the first week that I started to become suspicious. Billy and Jessica had started to find excuses to avoid the morning skiing, preferring instead to meet me for lunch and ski in the afternoon. I dismissed the idea, thinking there was no way my best friend and my wife could ever hurt me like that.
How wrong I was. The following Monday morning a snowboarder lost control and collided with me as I traversed a very steep run. Luckily, I escaped with bruising down my left side and a nasty black eye. I decided to return to the chalet and soak my aches in a hot bath.
As I climbed the stairs I could hear giggles and laughter from behind the bedroom door. Even though I knew what was happening, I was not prepared for the sight of my wife and my best friend sharing my bed. Both women scrambled to cover their nakedness, but it was the look in Jessica’s eyes that really shook me. All of the deceit, all of the lies, all of the treachery shone through her dark pupils. I never spoke a word to either of them. I stormed past the bed, grabbed my bag, stuffed my clothes and toiletries into it, before walking out of the room and out of their lives.
I found a B&B on the far side of the town, changed into my striped silk pyjamas and climbed into bed. The following morning I booked an early flight home, leaving my dreams behind. Streaks of mascara traced the course of the tears down my face as I boarded the plane.
To this day I would give anything to have Jessica back. I’d sacrifice my money, my career, even my title. I used to love being Lady Sandra Byron. I used to love life. But nothing can replace my love with the lying eyes, thinly disguised with her smile.