Contest #76 shortlist ⭐️

34 comments

Contemporary Fiction Friendship

The girl at Starbucks spelled my name wrong on the coffee cup she handed me. It's a normal name - Beth. But she's spelt Bett. Who’s named Bett anymore? I can't even think of a current Bett in mainstream pop culture. It's a small thing, but the sore on my tongue starts to tingle. I burn it with my half caramel, half vanilla latte, decaf espresso. The girl must notice my expression, twisted up in confusion and simultaneously let-down. Poor Starbucks girl. She's maybe 19, cute, clearly hungover. Probably just wants to hang out with her cat or smoke a joint. However, I’ve trapped her. Now she must feign interest in my mild irritation.

"It's alright?" Prompting, not asking. Her mouth is set tight like she’s trying to keep last night’s vodka down, but her eyes are dead as if she’s crashing after an Adderall. Oh, to be 19 and checked out of the world. I feel a pang of nostalgia shoot through me, but it might just be the caffeine.

I feel myself nodding, swallowing the minor incorrectness with another searing gulp.

My tongue throbs.

When I was a kid, my sister was too young to say Beth, so she said Bess. My social studies teacher called my Betsy. And now I’m Bett. I think of all the people I could’ve been. Maybe Bess would’ve been sassy and flirty, with curly hair and a thin waist. Maybe Betsy would’ve played chess and volunteered at the local animal shelter. Bett would’ve been a singer, and a damn good one, with perfectly done nails and perfume that made you dizzy with interest.

But Beth doesn’t do much, too lost in her other identities to form a solid personality. Looking frantically for the right name on a keychain tree.

*

My boss is an idiot. I stare the flakes of mascara seemingly permanent under her eyes and try to listen to instructions she's told me more than once.

She's older and forgets everything people tell her. You send the same email twice, usually in the same day after she’s asked a question that is in the email. She keeps field workers on the phone for too long while inputting information into her computer -- at a dauntingly snail-like speed.

Beth, can you please input this into our system?

I read over the invoice. It's for a claim I've taken care of, a claim she's asked me to look over at least six times in the last two weeks.

I feel the sore swelling, but I snack on Cheez-It's to ignore the sensation. Instead, the salt makes it sting and balloon.

*

My friend, May, is a bitch.

She's always been selfish, but I never realized she was mean.

She tells stories about me. Tells them to friends and to strangers. It's been going on for a year at this point. Whenever we're together, out of nowhere, she'll bring something up from my past when I've been foolishly drunk, or just stupid.

Remember that time you entered that dance competition and fell over on-stage?

Remember when you peed behind a dumpster because you were so wasted on gin?

Remember that time my phone died, and you couldn't find me so you left me at the concert venue?

She tells these stories while making direct eye contact, as if daring me to say something back.

But I can't.

She parties too hard and throws up, but everybody does. I don't hang onto embarrassing stories. It's not me.

But May is a bitch.

There's a difference in being direct and being mean and she doesn't understand where that line rests.

I realize, staring at her copper eyes, that I hate her.

I hate my best friend. I wish I was shallow and hated her for something else. Like how flowy she is. Collarbones so pronounced you could serve soup out of them. Dresses with froofy sleeves. I’ve always admired her complimenting colors. How her eyeshadow

is perfect, every time. I wish I could hate her for that stuff. I wish I was bad at being friends with girls. I wish I secretly hated them for their success and wanted to tear them down, all the things you’re not supposed to do as a woman, but we do it because we’re human and think evil things just like men. All the binary language I’m mentally using makes me rub my tongue against my teeth, a

burst of fresh pain washing over me in a shrill shock like when you jump in a lake. I chastise myself. It’s not men and women. It’s people. People are shit. And that’s not copper in her eyes, it’s dirt.

Regardless, I don’t hate her for cheap, surface things. I hate her because it’s been ten years and she’s always been mean. I had just never put a label on it until now.

It's a freeing thought, the first time I've felt free since I asked the stylist to give me bangs a month ago - Merinda, if you're out there, you should've told me no. You bit your lip and I thought you were being contemplative, but you were holding back a laugh. I can see that now.

May's talking now, about something else, something to do with her, because that's how people talk, and I start laughing.

I can't help it.

I laugh, sharp barks in her face and she quiets.

Her girlfriend quiets. Our friends quiet.

I laugh and laugh until my sides hurt and my eyes dot with tears.

May's face is flushed because she doesn't get it, but I've interrupted her.

And when the attention is not on May, she shuts down. You can watch the light leave her eyes like a mechanical doll running out of battery.

A little whirring noise and then no movement. Instead of doing that weird, robot-like step and step, the toy falls to its side, suddenly useless.

For the first time all night, it feels like there's air in the room.

And I'm taking all of it in gasps.

I realize I am obligated to say something. I must.

My tongue pulses and burns, threatens to block my airway with how big it feels in my mouth. I realize, only in that moment, that it’s not physical. My tongue is swollen with the corrections I’ve never given. It’s going to burst, releasing a horror movie of pus and rectifications. I could send an article to the local paper entitled Emendations of Beth and let my tongue run under the faucet water until it went from red to clear.

The laughter dies down and I hiccup, all eyes on me.

But I’m Beth, so instead I say, "Just something on my phone."

January 08, 2021 21:51

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34 comments

Ashley Thornton
22:48 Jan 20, 2021

This was amazing. I loved how realistic this was. It really takes you somewhere. Keep doing pieces like this.

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R E
18:38 Jan 22, 2021

Thank you! This made my day!

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Briana Spring
18:22 Jan 22, 2021

I loved this. I've had friends exactly like May, and I've never been able to put what it was like into words. But you did so perfectly. Congrats on the shortlist!

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R E
18:38 Jan 22, 2021

Thank you so much! I'm shocked!

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Tom .
18:47 Jan 22, 2021

The accidental formatting works. It fits the narrative style. Bluff it out as intentional. This prompt has nailed it. Three places on the shortlist. Your style of writing is fresh and unforgiving and very pleasant to read. I also shortlisted and was curious to see what others had written. Congratulations 👏👏, this was a smart enjoyable read.

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R E
18:50 Jan 22, 2021

Wow, thank you so much! I really appreciate this!

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Aswini Hariharan
06:00 Jan 17, 2021

Very raw emotions well captured! Enjoyed reading this.

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R E
18:38 Jan 22, 2021

Thank you so much!

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K Lewis
15:21 Jan 16, 2021

This was really good. I loved the last line especially, and how the protagonist seems both justifiably annoyed and a bit spiteful. The use of the sore in her mouth works really well too. I think the formatting went a bit awry towards the end (sentences started dropping off into the next para) but otherwise, this was really good.

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R E
19:13 Jan 16, 2021

Crap, I noticed that when I copy/pasted the story into the submission box and went through manually fixing it. I guess a few got away from me! Thank you for the comment, I really appreciate it!

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Benji Bobo ©
20:17 Jan 22, 2021

This is such an amazing story, I know right? Starbucks sucks I can send you a whole paragraph of my complaints to Starbucks: I believe Tim Hortons is better than Starbucks because of the following reasons. First, How can Tim Hortons coffee even compare to Starbucks coffee? Tim Hortons is a fast food restaurant while Starbucks is a coffee shop. At first you might think that i just admitted that Starbucks is better, but no. How inconvenient is that, having to go to a coffee shop selling expensive coffee, then going to a fast food restaurant, ...

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Maraika!!! 😎
17:45 Jun 11, 2021

Yeah hands down Tim Hortons is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY better than Starbucks. I may be a little biased cause I'm canadian and when people think Canada they think maple sryup, beavers, hockey, and Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons is basically apart of my idenity, but it has such great food and drinks and of course, donuts.

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22:30 Oct 10, 2021

nah, starbucks is better. they've got pink drinks.

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Maraika!!! 😎
16:34 Oct 11, 2021

But it's like 20 bucks for a small cup of it. At least Tim Hortans is cheap.

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12:04 Jul 11, 2021

Again, a super write. I love your nonlinear stream of consciousness kind of writing. It helps you go and dive deep into places which hitherto one would not usually go or worse, notice. A very worthy win. A huge fan of your writing style.

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Jools .
07:32 Jul 02, 2021

Just done this one, I hope you like it :0) xx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60BAUW8FxfU

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R E
14:54 Jul 02, 2021

Ahh! Yay! THANK YOU :)

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Jools .
07:38 Jul 03, 2021

Thank you 😊

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Carolyn Mc Bride
11:46 Jun 22, 2021

Love the stream of consciousness style here!

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Shea West
02:09 Jun 13, 2021

If we were able to have a little insight into what everyone was thinking, I imagine it would look pretty similar across the board- Like Bett. I used this prompt awhile back too, but damn if my story wasn't heavy. I loved this story for it's lightness, but also for it's honesty of the internal processing. I'm so glad you won this week, I wouldn't have seen your other stories otherwise. Immediate follow. PS. I am certain Starbucks makes employees write the names wrong....it's gotta be part of their schtick!

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R E
12:45 Jun 14, 2021

Thank you! And that would be GREAT if Starbucks did that, haha, give them all a laugh.

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Kodi Gehrig
06:02 Jun 12, 2021

This was amazing. Beth is kinda like me she doesn't know her personality

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21:41 Jun 11, 2021

I loved reading this so much. My partner always says to me 'everything you're going through, others experience too' and I never believe that but I feel it with your writing. Very relatable. Poor Beth. I came here after reading your winning P.I story (congrats!) which I also loved - and I had to ask if you had any specific characters/ books that gave you inspiration for that character? She was (and I'm sure will continue to be) great inspiration for a story I am brewing and I want to dig deeper on that. Once again, congratulations. You hav...

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R E
12:46 Jun 14, 2021

Hi! To be honest, I moved into a new place and next door there's a crime/thriller/mystery bookstore, so I just started reading a lot of those, haha!

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Jamie Harvey
18:53 Jun 11, 2021

Wow. I so enjoyed reading this. Love the things she's thinking. She is so relatable. I can never find my name on those keychains either. And who doesn't have the bitchy friend that you just want to smack, but you resist? Love it!!

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R E
18:54 Jun 11, 2021

Thank you! I really appreciate this! :)

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Maraika!!! 😎
17:42 Jun 11, 2021

This was an a-MA-zing story!!! Your writing style is so nice to read, filled with cool simles and metophors, but not over used. It was something that I could read in a book and become obsorbed into it's world. I love Beth's problems with people giivng her the wrong name and how they could've been a diffrent person. I've never been to starbucks, but a hungover barista seems legit.

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R E
17:43 Jun 11, 2021

Thank you! This was so much fun to write!

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Maraika!!! 😎
17:47 Jun 11, 2021

:) P.S Congrates on your win with your latest story!

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R E
17:47 Jun 11, 2021

Thank you! I still can't believe it!

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Maraika!!! 😎
17:54 Jun 11, 2021

Well judging from this story, your writing style defently deserves the win

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