Contest #165 shortlist ⭐️


Fiction Crime Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The last contents of the wine bottle slipped down my scorching throat as the doorbell rang. I looked down at my legs hanging limply over the arm of the sofa. In this hazy moment, it puzzled me how these flesh stumps could carry my body weight–not that I was particularly heavy. Thin? Hell no. But obese? Far from it.

Ronald would have disagreed.

The doorbell rang again, this time followed by a knock.

Time to put these weird things to work. I swung them to the ground. When my feet connected to the carpet, it tickled the bare skin, causing a raucous laugh to leave my mouth. I set down the wine bottle on the coffee table–if it managed to land on the coaster, only God Himself knows–and stood. As I stumbled towards the front door, the bell rang once more. My initial giddiness morphed into irritation.

Couldn’t they just give me a fucking second?

My hand wrapped around the doorknob and twisted–what? Why wasn’t it opening? I twisted again, frowning when the knob jammed mid-turn. After two more frustrated attempts that caused tears to well in my eyes, a timid voice from the other side of the door said, “Try turning it the other way.”

I did. It swung open.

I stumbled back to avoid being hit by the large piece of wood. On my porch stood a young man dressed in a black button-up and khakis. In his hand hung a bulging plastic bag containing my food, the smell of which was shockingly overpowered by the delivery boy’s cologne. I closed my eyes and inhaled, allowing the aroma to invade my nostrils.

It was the same cologne Ron used. That same smell clung to our pillowcases and sheets. That same smell clung to the oversized A&M shirt that currently felt like it was swallowing me whole. A smell that once excited me now caused the tears to spill over.

Through my blurred vision, I saw the delivery boy raise an eyebrow at me. He opened his mouth, and I awaited a simple question: “Are you okay?” But, just as quickly as he’d opened it, his lips clamped shut.

“Here’s your food, ma’am.” He jutted the bag towards me. I couldn’t help but notice the grease spots welling on the thin plastic. I reached out, latched on the familiar bag of takeout, and slammed the door shut. Fuck him, I thought. He doesn’t deserve a tip. Can’t he see I’m going through something? He deserved something awful to happen to him, I told myself, just for wearing that goddamn cologne.

I settled back on the sofa and spread out the contents of my meal before me. One plate containing fried rice, sesame chicken, and lo mein. The single meal looked so . . . empty. Where was Ron’s meal? His spring rolls? The litter of fortune cookie wrappers? His cold beer that gathered a ring of water by the time we had both finished eating? There were two cookies resting at the bottom of the bag, and I stared at them, unblinking. 

I felt too much. My chest was going to burst open, unable to contain all of this misery, all of this anger and annoyance and pain.

Let it go, I thought.

I did. I shoveled the food in my mouth as the tears rapidly slid down my cheeks. In between mouthfuls, screams clawed their way up my throat and escaped from between my lips. I felt bits of rice fall down the front of my shirt, making contact with my bare skin. But, I didn’t care. No one was around to criticize my appearance, to point out my flaws, to strike me when I made a simple mistake, to hold me when I cried.

In this room, it was just me and my tears and moist Chinese food.

I leaned back the moment only crumbs remained and pressed the heels of my palms into my swollen eyes. They pulsed beneath my hands. They burned. They were exhausted from releasing . . . well, everything, thanks to the collection of wine Ron and I never got to share. But what other night would I get to partake in it?

I groggily looked down at the remainder of my takeout. The wine bottle stood behind the foam container, looming above it like a god. The mere allusion to any sort of heavenly presence watching me sent a chill through my limbs. I didn’t want to face this reality any longer. I’d pick all this shit up tomorrow. I deserved a good night’s sleep.

I hauled myself back to my feet–still such weird things, I noted, now feeling slightly less intoxicated–and passed by the kitchen. The blood stains I would have to clean in the morning, too. As I reached the stairs, I tried to avoid stepping in the trail of blood coating the lacquered steps. Even if it was dried, I didn’t want any souvenirs of my actions. The most minute memories from today that remained, the better. Blood stairs were a problem for future me.

Sorry, Future Me.

How funny, I thought. There won’t be any time for cleaning tomorrow. No time for cleaning ever again.

The door to our bedroom was still cracked open, just as I’d left it. A large part of me did not want to enter that room. It told me to sleep on the couch. Or the garage. Or the basement. Or Sandy’s empty bedroom that hadn’t been touched since she’d left for college. However, a larger part of me knew this would be my last chance to sleep beside him.

Ron remained in the same spot I had placed him earlier: on the right side of the bed, his side. His blood had stained the white sheets a burgundy, bordering on brown. The stench seeping from him caused bile to rise in my throat, which I quickly swallowed back down.

Stop acting like you weren't aware of what you were doing. Stop acting like you're innocent. Get in the bed.

I did. I stared at Ron’s lifeless body as I peeled the covers away from the mattress. Somehow, the blood had not seeped to my side, and a sigh of relief involuntarily left me. Keeping my eyes trained on the gash on my boyfriend’s forehead, my head lowered onto the pillow beneath me. Here, the stench wrapped its callous hands around my throat. I shut my eyes, ready to dare it to choke me. Let me meet my maker. But, this death wish was quickly counteracted by one sentence: I did this.

I made this bed.

I had to lie in it.

This is all my fault, and Ron would have agreed.

September 26, 2022 22:29

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Amanda Lieser
00:46 Oct 23, 2022

Hi Kaila! Congratulations on the shortlist! I devoured this piece and I thought the ending was perfectly well written. I also really enjoyed the twist on this piece. I was seriously curious about the previous chapter of this story-why and how did the MC get to this place? Nice job!


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Philip Ebuluofor
17:53 Oct 12, 2022

One submission, one mention. Congrats and welcome to the show.


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Story Time
17:50 Oct 11, 2022

This really grabs you and never lets go. I flew right through it. Well done.


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Jennifer Goulden
17:21 Oct 09, 2022

I loved this. Couldn't stop reading.


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Tommy Goround
23:08 Oct 07, 2022

hey congratulations. The story is potent. We shouldn't drink together.


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