A Very Short Story: Old Keepsakes

So apparently for this flash fiction contest i entered you cannot have posted the story online- which is stupid and insane, but hey. So that’s why my previous flash fic pieces are now “private.” In replacement i wrote this:

Old Keepsakes

She thought it was coincidence, but I knew better, whilst rolling her empty glass in my hands. Always a woman of science. Romantic notions were my domain. Watch her as she fills our cups at the bar. Not as thin as I remember. Unbidden a memory of her naked rises up to slap me across the years. Shake it off and smile as she approaches. She says, “I’m glad you no longer drink gin. I always thought that was kind of lame.” We laugh and clink.

“Lame? Or endearing?” I ask.

“A bit of both maybe.” She says. I hold onto half of that.

It was not so difficult to get her to ask me over. After all this time I still know how she thinks. The bus ride to hers is filled with the tension in-between us, where once we held hands. She shares her music with me, and plays a song from our past. For a moment it feels like a different time, perhaps for her as well- she asks “You sure you’re well? You look a bit ill.”

“Just a flu, but running into you is not to be wasted on that account”

It’s not the sort of way I’d talk to a stranger. We’re conspirators today, time travelers both yearning for our own lost worlds. I feel that we would not agree on past events- like a couple on either side of a court case, eye-witness testimonies too subjective and flawed for anyone but God.

Downstairs we drink coffee and she tells me about her fiancée. She teases me about sitting here, at this late hour. “Whatever is on your mind, it isn’t going to happen.” I laugh at her brazen words. Was one of the best things about her. I lie about my own fiancée, concocting a person the opposite of her. My fiancée is airy, ethereal, a tight-rope walker by profession. Flexible, I hint, and spontaneous too. I don’t know why I’m trying to make her jealous. A petty sort of impulse, a hanger-on in the court of old loves. Still, I think I see her squirm a bit. It gives me great satisfaction. I ask if she still has anything from before.

It gets me to her room.

Inside, amidst all the trinkets, and marks of a new relationship I spot the odd homage to who she was with me. The colors are the same, the forms different. I feel too comfortable here, and without preamble sit on her bed with my hands around my knees before I realise what I’ve done. She indulges me, and even sits by my side. Her head not on my shoulder is a tragedy. I scan the room, so close to what I came for. She turns to me, and one hand on my knee, like when she kissed me so long ago, says “What did you really come here for?” For a moment I think I’ve been revealed, but one look into her eyes tells me she’s thinking of something else- we’re no longer on the same page at all. I ask her “Do you still have that painting, the one…”

“…Yes.” She says. I thought she would.

“Can i see it?”

Inside a cupboard filled with lace and old items she withdraws the painting I made all those years ago. It is the view from her old dorm room window. She leaves to use the bathroom- she always took so long in there. When I was younger I remember wanting to immortalise her view. That place of comfort for me, where i could sit on her pillow, whilst she showered, and all was well in the world for one half hour. Such foresight I had, to think one day that view would change. Such a fool I was, to not realise the truth, that one day I would no longer even want to look outside that window.

Past in hand, I walk up to the door to her shower, and wonder if it is unlocked. I imagine her on the other side, and the way she once felt. So close now, I’m about to finally do it. With fire I think- that would suit me. I creep downstairs and leave.

At home, the painting burns, the last piece of me she had. As it burns I wonder what her future children might look like- how happy she would be on her wedding day. The flames blur, and shatter, melding with tears as the smoke fills my kitchen. A mad laugh escapes me, and then a distant satisfaction. One more thing off the list.

This is how I wish to end it. I was always such a fool for paintings and words- so I revel in what I accomplished tonight. She thought we had met by coincidence at the bar when I had searched for her for days. I made her jealous of a phantom, and it was enough to know she still cared about me, and asked if I was well. How subtle I was today, how damnably brilliant.

I examine my crumpled plane ticket. Still enough time to make it to my next chemo treatment. It might hurt less if I think about how there isn’t a part of me still trapped with someone else. I won’t burden others once I’m gone.

Let it all remain in the past- pristinely romantic.

I smooth out the ticket, and wonder if I’ll want to speak to her again before the end. I wonder if I’ll wish I tried to kiss her. No: let it all stay with me, and end with me. Memories fade, paintings less so.