The Key

Prompt was "You use a key to go into the apartment of an ex-boyfriend. He comes in and you hide in the closet. Describe what happens."

What I wrote:

Photo courtesy hisks,

She stood outside his apartment fingering the key he’d given her. If he’d really meant the break-up to be permanent, wouldn’t he have asked for it back? She slipped the key in the lock like she’d done a hundred times before, but this time she felt guilty.

“I’m just going to gather the rest of my stuff and get out of here,” she muttered. The lie rang in her own ears. She knew full well that she had taken all of her belongings three weeks ago while he had stood watching her. She had packed slowly, hoping he would rethink his decision, but he didn’t say a word. And when she had finished he still didn’t say anything, just opened the door and shut it behind her.

She wandered around the apartment, now fingering his things. His books, his golf clubs, his guitar. She opened his refrigerator. Diet Coke? That was new. Dirty dishes in the sink. That wasn’t new. She made her way to the bedroom and stopped just inside the door. Memories brought tears to her eyes. She distracted herself by moving into the bathroom. She opened the medicine cabinet door, feeling a bit comforted by the mangled toothpaste tube, the familiar blue toothbrush and his bottle of after-shave, but a pink plastic case of birth-control pills on the second shelf made her heart skip a beat. She backed away from them, away from the bathroom and back into the bedroom, her mind reeling.

It had only been three weeks.

She opened the door to his walk-in closet. The one they had shared. The space had once been cluttered with their stuff, piled on the floor, intermingled, like it all belonged tangled together…belonged to just one person, or two people who had become one.

The space was completely organized now. So orderly, with his clothes hung neatly on the right side of the closet and separated by colors. Shoes on their racks, sporting equipment in a bin, ties hung on a special carousel.

And on the left…dresses, blouses, purses, high-heels…all organized neatly. She fought the urge to rip them from their hangers. She fought the urge to scream. She didn’t fight the urge to run, but just as she turned to flee she heard the front door open.

She ducked inside the closet and pulled the door shut. She could hear them talking, laughing, sharing the events of the day. She could hear dishwater running. They were doing the dishes together. Something she’d never known him to do. The doorbell rang and soon she could smell food…Chinese food. He hated Chinese food. Her stomach growled.

By the time dinner was over, her legs were aching from standing in one spot so long. straining to hear what was going on in the other room.

He put on some music. It cut through her like a knife. She could imagine him pulling this woman into his arms, nuzzling her neck, moving her seductively around the room. She could hear their footsteps moving in time with the music. Moving closer as he danced her into the bedroom.

Shadows moved past the crack in the closet door. Past her to the bed. She could hear clothing dropping to the floor. Could hear the sounds of passion building. Could feel the shattering of her heart into a million pieces.

She backed into the furthest corner of the closet, knowing that any noise she made would not be heard in this moment. She slid to the floor, closed her eyes and covered her ears.

She waited, past the soft low murmurs that follow passion, past the routine bathroom preparations for sleep and past the goodnight kisses. Until she could hear the steady deep breathing of satisfied lovers.

Then she slipped silently from the closet, being careful not to look in their direction, through the apartment where she deposited the key on the dining room table before slipping out the front door into the darkest night she’d ever known.

(Copyright © 2009 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Lock Your Car Doors!

Today’s Prompt: He was stopped at a red light when an old woman opened his passenger door and got in.

It was the mother of all traffic jams. Harold had been glad when five o’clock finally rolled around that Friday afternoon. He needed the weekend. Actually he needed more than a weekend. He needed about 2 months on a deserted beach with nothing but a hut, plenty of food and gallons of sweet tea.

He was enjoying the vision of his restful beach when the passenger door of his car opened and a total stranger got in.

She was an old woman, primly dressed. She sported a tiny pillbox hat with pink flowers and netting that covered her forehead. Her small white-gloved hands clutched a matching patent leather handbag.

“Excuse me, young man,” she said, “I know it’s perfectly rude of me to get into your car, but I am in trouble and I need your help.”

Harold didn’t know what to say.

“My name is Mrs. Tildy Manchester,” she said. “and I’m being followed by two men who mean to do me harm. I would very much appreciate it if you could drive me to 31 W. Charles Street. I will be safe there.”

Harold shook his head as if doing so would help him think more clearly.

Traffic began moving and horns began honking angrily behind him. Harold glanced in his rear view mirror and saw two men running down the sidewalk toward them.

“Stop!” They shouted, pointing at his car.

Instinctively Harold stepped on the gas pedal.

“Maam, if you’re in trouble, we should call the police.”

“Yes, of course, but first we must be sure we have lost those two thugs. Turn right here,” she said.

Harold obediently made a right hand turn.

Now he was beginning to feel quite gallant. He would rescue the fair damsel in distress…well, the fair grandmotherly damsel in distress, then he would ride away like a knight on his white steed off into the sunset…a beautiful beach sunset.

“Look out!” cried Mrs. Manchester.

It was too late; Harold had run into the back of a New York taxicab. The irate cabbie jumped from his car with fury in his eyes.

To Harold’s surprise, the old woman was out of the car and face to face with the cabbie before he could even get past the taxi’s smashed bumper.

When Harold approached them, he saw the old woman slip a handful of bills into the cabbie’s hand. He grinned and returned to the driver’s seat of his cab.

Harold flipped open his cell phone to call the police and report the accident, but before he could dial, he looked up and saw the same two thugs jumping out of a sedan four cars behind them. Mrs. Manchester grabbed him by the arm, pushed him into the open door of the taxi and crawled in behind him.

The taxi driver made a sharp left-hand turn and hit the gas so hard that it threw Harold against the door. His head banged into the window, leaving a nasty bump Blood trickled down his temple. Tildy Manchester attended to his injury, wiping the blood away with a dainty, lace-edged handkerchief while the cabbie continued through the maze of traffic and city streets at breakneck speed.

They finally came to a halt at 31 W. Charles Street. It was a pawnshop with big dice spinning above the door. Mrs. Manchester leaned across Harold’s lap and opened the door.

“Time for us to get out, young man,” she said, giving Harold a little shove.

They exited the taxi, which sped off, leaving them standing on the sidewalk, dazed and confused. Well, Harold was dazed and confused. The old woman seemed just fine.

“You wait right here,” she said and disappeared into the pawnshop.

Harold was still trying to clear his head when a black sedan screeched to a halt in front of him. The two men who had been chasing the Mrs. Manchester jumped from the car and tackled Harold. They slapped handcuffs on him, and then asked where the she was.

Harold nodded his throbbing head toward the pawnshop.

One of the men went into the pawnshop while the other read Harold his Miranda rights.

Harold tried to explain what had happened, but his words fell on deaf ears.

The other man stepped out of the pawnshop, shaking his head. “She’s not in there…must have slipped out the back door. Probably had another driver waiting for her in the alley.” he said.

“Well, at least we got this one,” said the other. He gave Harold a shove toward the sedan and said, “You’re going away for a long time, son.”

“Yeah, you’re getting an all expenses paid vacation in the slammer,” the other man laughed as he opened the back door of the sedan and put Harold inside.

Harold found out at the trial that Mrs. Tildy Manchester was better known as Mean Mama Manchester, jewel thief, bank robber and ringmaster of a notorious gang from the Bronx. She continues to elude the police.

Harold faced trial, but was cleared of all charges.

The day he was found not guilty, he drove straight to the airport (with his car doors locked) and bought a plane ticket to Tahiti. He hasn’t been seen since.

(Copyright © 2009 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)