A Table For Two

Submitted into Contest #234 in response to: Write a story about someone whose time is running out.... view prompt

15 comments

Romance Drama Urban Fantasy

A fake floral arrangement and low-burning stubby candle at the table’s center awaited their only patrons of the night. The Bradleys took their seats across from one another, placed the table napkins on their laps, and exchanged warm smiles.

“Not bad, eh?” Charlie asked his wife.

“Not bad at all,” Mary agreed, “and what do we have here?”

She picked up the wine bottle by its neck and spun it around, holding it at arm’s length by the candle’s waning flame for further inspection.

“Cabernet sauvignon, from Chile,” she read, “Ooh la la!”

“Vintage?” Charlie asked, leaning forward.

“2032. And look, it has this golden award sticker too.”

“That decides it. We’ll take the bottle.” Charlie clapped in excitement.

Mary twisted off the bottle’s top, letting its cap fall on the floor below. She poured heavily for both of them, before proposing a toast.

When the words wouldn’t come, she said,

“To us.”

“To us.” Charlie took a big gulp and the warm red flowed down his throat into his empty stomach.

“So,” he said, hand-combing back his bushy hair, “how was your day?”

Mary laughed, “You idiot. You know, actually it was spectacular. You know why?”

“Why?”

“I’ve been looking forward to this date for months. And now that it’s here, it doesn’t feel real.”

“I know what you mean. More wine?”

“You certainly know how to treat a lady.” Charlie filled her cup back to the brim.

“But we don’t have to rush too badly, do we?” she asked.

“No, I guess not sweety. Our reservation is good for another hour and 13 minutes.”

Mary laughed again, “Our reservation? You’re on today.”

“Only the best for you.”

In the distance a piercing siren rang through the building, interrupting their exchanges of flattery.

“I hate that wretched sound,” Mary said.

“Me too. Hmm, just an hour left then,” Charlie conceded. “Let’s make it last.”

They clinked their glasses together, smiling and locking eyes before sipping away again. Mary looked down at her black heels, admiring their elegance, when something occurred to her.

“You know, I never thought I’d end up with you, Charlie Bradley.”

“Is that right?”

“Yep. I mean I knew you were one of a thousand suitors, but if I were a betting lady...”

“What were my odds? 100 to 1?”

“I was thinking 10,000 at least.” She saluted her husband with her glass.

“Well I’ve always considered myself a lucky man.”

Charlie’s cheeks were already hurting from smiling so much. His trusty dimples did their trick though, and Mary blushed, even after all their years together.

“When will the waiter arrive?” Mary said, “I could eat something. Are you hungry dear?”

“You know, maybe I’ll just fill up on wine. Restaurants these days sure have been understaffed lately. Let me see what I can do… Garçon!”

He clapped his hands twice next to his ear, and looked around the room, befuddled. Mary giggled and shook her head.

“Just the wine for now then. Thanks for this, Charlie.”

“Thank you for wearing that dress. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it.”

“Oh you like this one? I hadn’t noticed.” Mary swung the fabric back and forth playfully under the table.

The Bradleys fell into comfortable conversation, reminiscing on shared stories, people, and places from over their 22 years together. Mary finished most of Charlie’s sentences, but he didn’t mind letting her steal the show tonight.

“Remember that weird family down the street, where I used to get my nails done when we lived downtown?”

“Stinky Pete and his merry crew?”

“You’re awful,” Mary slapped Charlie’s hand before interlacing her fingers back with his, “the Huffersons.”

“The Jeffersons?”

“Shh! I had a point to make.”

“Which was…?” Charlie asked.

“You made me forget it!” They clinked glasses and Mary served this round. Less than half the bottle remained.

“We’re drinking too fast! You’ll never be able to drive at this rate.”

“Don’t worry honey, I’ll just call my driver after.”

“Oh that’s right, you always know what to do, that’s why I married you. That, and the money.”

Mary rolled her eyes and smiled; her front teeth lightly coated in red.

They shared their first moment of uncomfortable silence since the date began. Charlie swished around the wine in his glass while Mary rubbed her thumb along his hand.

Another siren wailed throughout the city, longer this time.

“30 minute warning already?” Charlie sighed, setting his glass on the table. “Time sure passes quickly with you.”

“Back at ya,” Mary said, “too quickly.” She leaned across the table and they shared a kiss. Charlie’s fluffy beard was so itchy. She had always hated it, but not as much tonight.

“The least you could’ve done was shave that thing off before bringing me here.” She drew a circle in the air around his mouth. “Nice tie though.”

“Why thank you, my wife gave it to me.”

“Well she sounds lovely.”

“She is. More than she knows.”

Mary’s wine went down the wrong way. She coughed for long enough for Charlie to stand up, walk around the table, and rub her back. Her eyes were watery when she finally took a deep breath.

“Are you alright? Thought I nearly lost you there.”

“Sorry,” she said, taking another sip of the Chilean wine, “I’m allergic to cheesy lines.”

“Well you’re in for a rough night then, I’m afraid.”

“I think we’re both in for a rough night, dear.”

They laughed, before falling silent once again.

Charlie broke the silence this time.

“What do you think happened to the Huffersons, anyway?”

“Dead, like the rest of ‘em.” Mary said in her best Texan accent, spitting on the ground.

“They don’t make ‘em like you anymore, do they darlin’?” Charlie replied, tipping his imaginary cowboy hat and winking.

The impromptu wild west antics went on for several minutes until Mary noticed Charlie’s glass was nearly empty.

“Well that just won’t do,” she said, and filled his and her glasses as high as they would go, emptying the bottle.

The siren returned, so loud their ears rang long after it had gone.

“Already…? Can you ask the band to play Final Countdown?” Mary asked her husband.

“Oh I doubt they know that one. They’re a polka troupe.”

Despite her best efforts, Mary couldn’t suppress her laughter. She should have been past tired of her husband’s corny jokes, but nothing could ruin tonight. Either that, or the wine was starting to get to her.

“So, this is it, huh?” Charlie asked. “I always knew we’d go out in a blaze of glory! Cheers, to us!”

Once Mary noticed Charlie was intent on polishing off his final glass, she embraced the challenge.

“I’m glad we did this,” she said, her speech slightly slurred, “it beats going out there.”

“That’s for sure,” Charlie agreed, “I’d say we just have a minute or two now.”

“Well thank you for the greatest wine date a girl could ask for.”

“And thank you, for not standing me up.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Charlie kissed Mary’s hand. He stood up and guided her toward him. Mary stood and swung out her arm, knocking over the empty glasses and bottle to the ground. She giggled as they shattered into a thousand pieces.

“Had to go out with a bang, didn’t you?”

Mary smacked Charlie’s stomach. “You’re so… so…”

“Come here.”

The Bradleys walked arm in arm to the other side of their studio apartment. They looked out from their 17th story view; from the same window they had looked out of for the last nine years.

At night, it was hard to see that anything had changed below.

Charlie pushed his forehead against the glass, peered down, and the mirage vanished.

Their building was encircled by military vehicles a few hundred meters away. Directly below the building, the streets were bare, with most people having already evacuated months ago.

Five months ago, to be exact, the news announced the results of the sixty-fifth Overpopulation Demolition Lottery. The Bradley’s building won the lottery. Or lost, depending on your perspective.

Four months and twenty-nine days ago, the Bradleys decided to stay home, despite their building being selected.

Mary hugged her husband with all her strength as a loudspeaker in the distance counted down from ten.

Charlie said, “I love you,” to his wife, who returned the sentiment.

They kissed for the last time, and would never have to hear that wretched siren again.

January 20, 2024 06:30

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15 comments

23:19 Feb 04, 2024

This is a captivating tale draws readers. The Andrew ability to weave a compelling narrative is truly good, leaving the reader eager to uncover more about the characters' lives and the circumstances. The story blends moments of humor, romance, and reflection. Overall, this story is a small glimpse of Andrew's potential; it always leaves you wanting to read more. It was a very entertaining and charming read. Thank you, Andrew.

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Andrew K Langley
13:03 Feb 19, 2024

Thanks Alejandro!

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Stella Aurelius
14:57 Jan 29, 2024

Oh wow ! What a story. I knew something was wrong, but my mind went the terminal illness route. I did not expect that. (It reminds me a little of the ending of a French film I love.). Great job (and welcome to the site !).

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Andrew K Langley
11:36 Jan 30, 2024

Thanks Stella!

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Karen Hope
00:18 Jan 29, 2024

Well done! The reader knows something isn't right from the beginning but is drawn into this "date." We see this couple struggling to find normalcy as something looms. Love the detail of the vintage of the wine being 2032. A fabulous way to show us we're in the future and a very different world.

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Andrew K Langley
10:45 Jan 29, 2024

Thanks Karen!

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Viga Boland
15:46 Jan 28, 2024

Wow…that was a surprise! Bravo. Loved it. Excellent combination of dialogue and description i.e. just enough of each to keep story flowing and reader interested. You’re my kind of short story writer i.e. one who can capture so much plot, setting and characterization into a minimum of words. Look forward to seeing more of you. Adding you to my followings.

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Andrew K Langley
10:46 Jan 29, 2024

Thanks for your kind words, Viga.

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Kate Winchester
20:59 Jan 27, 2024

Interesting concept! I enjoyed your story! My only question would be what happens to those who aren’t in the building when it’s demolished. Are they hunted down?

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Andrew K Langley
10:59 Jan 29, 2024

Thanks Kate, good question! That wasn't my thought necessarily, but I'll leave it open for interpretation.

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Kate Winchester
12:42 Jan 29, 2024

You’re welcome! I think leaving it open works since it wasn’t the point of your story. I was trying save them with a loophole lol

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Wendy M
20:05 Jan 27, 2024

Great story, kept me engaged throughout. And, an interesting take on the prompt

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Andrew K Langley
10:59 Jan 29, 2024

Thanks Wendy!

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17:09 Jan 27, 2024

That was a very good story! Wondering what the siren was kept me interested throughout the entire thing.

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Andrew K Langley
10:59 Jan 29, 2024

Thanks Christina!

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