Perfect

Submitted into Contest #209 in response to: Set your entire story in a car.... view prompt

49 comments

Contemporary Drama

I successfully flag down a taxi, which is no mean feat in this day of Uber this and Uber that. I hadn’t planned on catching a taxi. In fact, I hadn’t caught a taxi in years and I’m a little unsure of the correct taxi protocol. So, I suppose the first thing is to tell the driver where I want to go. I open my mouth to do so, when the other passenger door is wrenched open and a froth of tulle and lace tumbles in breathlessly.

“Follow that limo!” an urgent voice from amid the silky concoction demands.

“Um, miss, this is my taxi,” I tell her as I try to make out her face beneath the layers of fabric that scrunch about her.

Slender arms beat at the fabric, punching down the layers and ruffles to expose the most exquisite china doll face, made up with dewy perfection to enhance the great luminous orbs of her eyes and rosebud pout. All of this she turns on me with lethal force.

“Please!” She switches the full force of her regard to the hapless taxi driver. “Please, just follow that white limo.”

I look at her, really look this time and it registers in my brain that the yards of tulle and lace and ruffles is a wedding dress. I am sitting in the back seat of a taxi with a bride. Not my bride, never that! And within the space of the most minuscule portion of a second, I realise that I will not sleep tonight if I don’t learn the whole story.

“Follow the limo,” I tell the taxi driver, who looks beyond puzzled at the turn of events, but he carefully pulls out into the traffic.

“Listen lady, my name is not Ross, and yours had better not be Rachel!” The bride looks at me with confusion. She is obviously too young to remember the sit com about six friends that began with a bride running from her own wedding.

“I’m Madison. Madison James.” From somewhere within the mountain of froth, she extends her hand with its perfectly manicured nails for me to shake.

“Daniel Carlton,” I reply, taking her dainty hand in my own. “I can’t help but pry, considering you have hijacked my taxi. But why are we following that car?”

“Please hurry. He’s getting away.”

‘He’ could have been a number of people. In fact, without doubt ‘he’ represents nearly fifty percent of the population, myself included, but considering her attire, I was going to go out on a limb. “I am assuming the ‘he’ to whom you are referring is the groom? I presume he is not waiting for you at that church.”

“Oh no, he was at the church. I made sure of that. I wasn’t getting out of the car until Josie, that’s my bridesmaid, the chief bridesmaid, which I suppose is the Matron of Honour, but she’s not married, so the Maid of Honour then. Well, I wasn’t getting out until Josie checked and she saw him there. She said he was waiting, so I get out of the car and was in the middle of posing for the photos outside the church, when I saw him at the limo. And suddenly I just knew that Vince and I, we weren’t going to be getting married, not now and maybe not ever.”

“Once again, I will assume that Vince is the groom?”

“Of course. And when the limo drove away, and I saw this taxi and well, I ran and here I am.” She shrugs, the fabric slipping a little down one well-formed shoulder.

“I see.” I don’t really, but it is something to say while my brain processes her story. She speaks in a rush, in a manner that’s more air than sound, as if she were afraid of her own voice.

“When we catch up with the limo, do you know what you will do next?” I ask, curious to see if she had formulated any kind of plan.

She bit a well-manicured nail absently, her brow crinkling with the weight of her thoughts.

“Well, I suppose I should go straight back to the church so we can get married.” She raises her eyes to mine, lost and bewildered. “Everyone is there, Mum and Dad, and Nana Jean, and Mary, and Savannah with all her children, and just about everyone I’ve ever known.”

“You would still marry this Vince, even though he’s obviously not overly… um… well…” How to put it gently? “Obviously not willing?”

Madison turns the force of those luminous eyes upon me, and I feel like I’ve kicked a puppy. “You don’t understand. He does want to marry me. This is not his fault. It’s just cold feet. Nerves, you know. We all get nervous!”

“I see.” And I did. If this child was more than twenty, I’d be surprised. Oh, to have the hopeful naïveté of youth. “How long have you and this Vince been together?”

“Two years.”

“And based on two years of knowing him, you are sure that this is the man for you. No other man can possibly be better suited?”

“Of course, we’re soul mates!”

Soul mates? What utter drivel. But I don’t say that out loud. I’m not that insensitive, no matter what Alison says. So instead I ask, “Tell me about Vince. What is he like?”

“He’s a Business Major and wants to run his own company one day.”

“What kind of company?”

“I don’t know, but he says it will make a lot of money.” I sigh inwardly. So many of the young grads we employ have the same vague mindset of get rich quick, but lack the passion, patience, perseverance and persistence needed to make it. I call it the Four P’s for Success.

“What makes you certain that he’s your soulmate?”

“We’ve been together for two years. He’s the one.”

“I was with my ex-wife for fourteen years before she walked out on me. Time together doesn’t equal a good relationship.”

If I sound bitter, then that was because I am bitter. I had just left the attorney’s office, lighter by fifty percent of all my assets and savings. Alison had wanted sixty, but I beat her down to fifty on the condition that she sign immediately and never speak to me again. Was I angry? Yes. Was I disappointed? No. I always knew what Alison was, and she had proved true to the end. Hard, driven and self righteous. That was my ex wife. What had I ever seen in her? It must have been something more at some point. But after years of wrangling and backstabbing on both sides, I was hard pressed to remember a time when I looked at her with any kind of hope or love.

“Do you like the same things? Have any shared interests?” I ask, because Alison had never liked a single thing that I liked, and I could see it now. It wasn’t very obvious during our marriage, though. I just thought we were lucky to be so independent, you know, not living in one-another’s pockets.

“We are both interested in history,” Madison says after a pause. “Um… I meant we both read about it. Vince likes to read about famous people, like biographies and things like that. I like reading novels, you know about people who lived in different times. Historical fiction.” She blushes, a charming wave of colour floods over her cheeks.

I wonder if her reading was full of Mr Darcy and Heathcliff, or more like that Netflix series about Dukes and Duchesses and heaving bosoms. I’ll bet it was the latter, not that there was anything wrong with that, but it wasn’t really historically accurate then, was it?

“Do you do anything else together?”

“Rock climbing.”

“So, you enjoy the outdoors?”

“Well, it was indoors, and we only did the one time.” She flashes her left hand in my direction. “When I got to the top, he proposed and everyone cheered.”

“Now that’s hardly a romantic place to pop the question. I guess that it’s something you both enjoy?”

“Oh, he loves climbing, I just… well, after I said ‘yes’ I kind of overbalanced and fell. Kris, who was holding the rope, was too busy cheering for us and I crashed into the mat and dislocated my shoulder. I have never climbed since.”

“So apart from reading different books and a singular, disastrous indoor rock climbing event, what else do you do as a couple?”

“We walk and talk a lot.”

“Do you agree with each other’s opinions?” I can’t remember a time when Alison and I had agreed on anything, oh I lie. Sometimes we agreed to disagree and today she had agreed to sign.

“Well, mostly I listen. He’s so very knowledgeable about a great many things. You know he reads a lot about everything and well…” her voice trails off.

“Do you get along with his family?” Alison hated my mother. And her mother was a lying bitch who filled Alison’s head with nonsense that she believed.

“Well, none of them could make the wedding. They’re in Italy and we were going to go there for our honeymoon but…”

“But?” I prompt.

“But it’s too expensive. We’ve booked a little chalet down south for four days instead.” She won’t meet my eyes and I can barely hear her as she adds, “I really wanted to see Italy.”

“So let me get this straight. You’re settling for a man that you have very little in common with, and when he runs out on you, you want him back. Seems to me that you’re well rid of him.”

“You wouldn’t understand. I love him.”

“You’re right, that is something that I don’t understand.” Alison would agree with that statement. I settle back in the seat watching as the taxi driver weaves and turns through the streets, easily following the stretched limousine.

“I just didn’t want two years to be wrong.” Her voice is small and her hands twist the white fabric, crunching it beyond repair between her fingers.

“Better to find out you’re wrong after two years than after fourteen.”

“I need to talk with Vince. I need to find out if I am wrong.”

“Call him.”

“I don’t have my phone. I didn’t think I would need it just to walk down the aisle.”

“Here, use mine.” I fish my phone from my pocket and hand it to her. She dials.

“Hey Vince, it’s me… where are you?” Silly question. He’s in the limo. “I’m sorry…” What on earth is she apologising to the asshole for? “No, I just suddenly realised that I can’t go through with it… I know… yeah… I should have talked to you, but all of a sudden I was unable to breathe… can you let my parents know that I’m OK and tell the guests that I’m sorry.”

She stills, listening. I can hear the tirade coming through the speakers.

“I’m not sure, I don’t know. I am sorry. I should never have let it get this far.”

She disconnects the call and hands me back my phone, not meeting my eyes.

“So Vince is not in the limo?” She shakes her head. “You lied.”

“I never said he was in the limo,” she protests, still unable to look my way.

“Then why on earth are we following the limo?”

She shrugs one shoulder. “I just didn’t know where to go, as long as it was away.”

I lean over to the front seat, where the driver is listening intently to the conversation. I am sure it’s been just the best soap opera he has ever had in the back of his taxi. “Back to the church.” I tell him.

I study the lovely little runaway, feeling incredibly old and tired.

“Honesty, Madison. It is the one thing that you need to practice, and you should start with yourself. Be honest, what is it that you want? Don’t let anyone else, me included, tell you what to do or what to think. But if you’re not honest with yourself, you will hurt everyone around you.”

“I know, but have you ever started something, and then suddenly it gets bigger and crazier and, well, you just can’t seem to stop it, and you’re not even sure if you should?”

“Yes, I have. And let me tell you that fourteen years later is not a good time to stop it. If you’re not sure, tell him now.”

“I don’t think he will ever speak to me again.”

“Maybe not.”

“My parents will disown me.”

“Not if they love you.”

“I’m such a screw up. I just wanted to be perfect for one day, you know, a perfect bride, and I couldn’t even get that right.”

“No one is perfect, Madison,” I tell her and those words echo around my head. No one is perfect. Not me, not Alison. We’re all just doing our best from moment to moment.

We sit in silence, each lost in our respective thoughts, until the taxi pulls into the space in front of the church. The steps along the front of the church are overflowing with curious wedding guests dressed in their wedding finery like brightly plumed birds.

“I’m sorry for hijacking your taxi,” Madison says, unable to meet my eye as she slips out in a rustle of silk. I don’t envy her. She has an awful lot of explaining to do.

I give the taxi driver my address and I leave the drama behind. Fresh starts and all that, you know. Maybe an extended stay in Italy would do the trick.

July 29, 2023 07:19

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49 comments

Amanda Lieser
13:45 Aug 23, 2023

Hey Michelle, Oh what a charming story. I love that it was a surprise friendship because those are simply the best. I loved the way these characters found value in one another and their life journeys. Your use of the protagonist’s thought process within the convo was very smart. It felt incredibly real to us as readers since conversation is rarely as neat as it seems in Hollywood. Nice work!!

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Michelle Oliver
15:22 Aug 23, 2023

Thanks for reading and I’m happy that you enjoyed it. I appreciate your feedback.

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Belladona Vulpa
15:52 Aug 10, 2023

I love everything about this story, it has everything, a bit of action, conflict, a decision, interesting dialogue (very important, it kept my interest for the whole thing), internal reflection, a bit of seriousness and a bit of humor too, and successful twist at the end. Well done! Bonus points for the comparison of the relationship of the divorcee and the bride to be, it's like conversation of older/wiser with younger/naive. Different looks on life because of the different experiences (or lack of experience). I enjoyed reading it, thank...

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Michelle Oliver
23:24 Aug 10, 2023

Thanks for reading it. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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Karin Eriksson
21:44 Aug 09, 2023

Great story - enjoyed reading. Found myself nodding as I went along & read the dialogue.

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Michelle Oliver
10:33 Aug 10, 2023

Thanks for reading.

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Shahzad Ahmad
10:28 Aug 08, 2023

Michelle you have woven a classic tale around a bride whose matrimonial aspirations come crashing down but in the process you have strung together lessons in human nature that enlighten the minds of the readers. Very creative and deserves at least a short list!

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Michelle Oliver
13:32 Aug 08, 2023

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m happy that you enjoyed the story.

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Brenda Ratliff
22:43 Aug 07, 2023

Michelle, this is an awesome story. I appreciate that it is unpredictable. My favorite moment was when I realized that the groom had not run out on the bride, but that it was the other way around. (I love surprises.) I am trying to work up the courage to submit to this week's contest. (I think it is a good way to practice my writing.) I can't wait to read your next one.

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Michelle Oliver
00:54 Aug 08, 2023

Thank you for reading it and leaving a comment . (This is a lovely community so please don’t feel afraid to post your story.)

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Arthur McNamee
14:29 Aug 06, 2023

This is a great story and I enjoyed the banter. It is so true to life and so honest in it's approach. Loved it!

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Michelle Oliver
14:32 Aug 06, 2023

Thank you for reading it. I’m happy hat you enjoyed it.

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Susan Catucci
21:16 Aug 05, 2023

A wise a wonderful run-away tale masterly told, Michelle. I'm not quite sure how you did it, but you ran a tutorial on 'how can you be sure' that should be a pamphlet available to all those newly betrothed. A cautionary tale, to my mind the best tale to read closely. Nice work, Michelle, well done. :)

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Michelle Oliver
23:55 Aug 05, 2023

Thanks Susan. A little light hearted seriousness this week.

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Nina H
13:36 Aug 05, 2023

This is such a great story, Michelle. The switch from Madison chasing to Madison running was brilliant! The end was “perfect”, too. Such a sense of freedom as they both plan to walk away and move on, wherever life may take them.

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Michelle Oliver
13:48 Aug 05, 2023

Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed it. I find endings hard so I’m glad this one worked. Moving on is only possible if you let the past stay in the past. Bringing it with you only weighs you down.

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Riana T
10:15 Aug 05, 2023

What a brilliant one! Kept me hooked till the end. Very well written, the flow - superb

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Michelle Oliver
11:14 Aug 05, 2023

Thank you.

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Myranda Marie
18:44 Aug 04, 2023

Loved the "Friends" reference. Great perspective on the evident generational differences and the meaning of marriage and love.

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Michelle Oliver
23:02 Aug 04, 2023

Thanks for reading.

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Michał Przywara
01:52 Aug 04, 2023

Lovely! Love and loss, youth and wisdom, and taxi theft - all in one. The deke out, where we assume Vince was the one that ran away, was well done. Even to a stranger, she couldn't admit she was the one that ran away because she needed the last two years to be right. Not until he called her bluff, anyway. And the narrator learns something too. That he's able to see his ex as a person, just struggling day to day, says much. By helping Madison, he helped himself unexpectedly too. Critique-wise, it reads very smoothly, pulls you right in. Th...

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Michelle Oliver
09:00 Aug 04, 2023

Thanks for reading. I appreciate the feedback. Glad it worked

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Russell Mickler
15:04 Aug 03, 2023

Hey there, Michelle - Grin - 9 likes, 17 comments already, and it hasn’t head out of the gate? You’re doing something right around here! A froth of tulle and lace was funny… your description, luminous orbs, also good. Repeating tulle and lace probably wasn’t necessary. I like the situation, the immediate call to action, with the Bridezilla popping into the taxi and your narrator just going with it, that’s cool. Telling the background story and surrounding it with sensation is good technique. The depth you bring into the bride character is ...

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Michelle Oliver
22:15 Aug 03, 2023

Thanks Russell. I appreciate your detailed response. It means a lot coming from someone who has such great writing chops. I will go back and look at the repeated section. My intention was to highlight the event rather than the person, running with the idea that events, like weddings, sometimes take over a person’s life, becoming more important than the people involved.

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Kevin Logue
15:56 Jul 31, 2023

I loved the parallels of this piece, the extremely recent divorcee versus the bride that wants a perfect day from a bad relationship. Really great idea, fantastically executed... As always! I noticed two minor typos if you want to fix them before approval. -, I ran and hear I am.” -“No one is perfect, Madison,” I tell her and I those words echo around my head. Another brilliant submission Michelle!

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Michelle Oliver
16:58 Jul 31, 2023

Thanks for the pick ups. No matter how many times I re-read, I still don’t see the silly mistakes, typos and autocorrect gone mad. So happy that you spotted them before approval not after.

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Kevin Logue
17:18 Jul 31, 2023

We all do it, I think we read what its meant to say regardless of errors ha! I used gavel in my lastest entry but accidentally wrote gravel, I couldn't see it until I posted ha

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Mary Bendickson
17:43 Jul 29, 2023

Great imaginative writing as always, Michelle! So many layers for both characters to sort out on a car ride.

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Michelle Oliver
23:05 Jul 29, 2023

Thank you.

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Delbert Griffith
11:59 Jul 29, 2023

Great tale, Michelle, and one that many of us can relate to. I remember a comment a friend made to me as I was going through a divorce after many years of marriage: it seems a shame since you both have so much time invested in each other. Yeah. That message stayed with me, more for its utter ridiculousness than anything else. You're now my favorite person on this site. Why? Because you scoff at the "soul mate." I have an aversion to the term. As Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) states, "Love is a dirty business." And it is, if you ...

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Michelle Oliver
14:53 Jul 29, 2023

Thanks so much for reading. Divorce is a bitter process, often it’s because of the time invested in the other person, but it doesn’t mean staying in the relationship is the better option. Thank you for always reading my stories and for responding so positively. I look forward to what you have to say each week.

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08:19 Jul 29, 2023

Lovely! If a little close to the bone. 6 years here and turned out I never knew them at all and I did exactly the same thing, going through with a marriage I wasn't sure about just because of the time put in and it seemeds to be what the person wanted. Like your mc , lesson learned the hard way. Great story!

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Michelle Oliver
08:43 Jul 29, 2023

Thanks for reading. I’m happy you could relate to the story, but also sorry to hear that you could relate to it. We seem to justify continuing on a bad road, just because of how far we’ve already traveled.

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08:52 Jul 29, 2023

I know. It's daft. I mean if you were on a ship and you knew it was sinking and you came to a port and had a chance to get off but didn't because you'd already come so far on it.....huh?!?

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Michelle Oliver
14:56 Jul 29, 2023

So true!

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Lee Mesford
12:15 Aug 11, 2023

"I need to talk to Vince..." "Call him." "I don't have my phone." ... "I never said he was in the limo." Unbelievable. I'm glad I made time to come back and finish reading this.

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KG Green
18:59 Aug 09, 2023

Great story Michelle. Very captivating!

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Michelle Oliver
10:39 Aug 10, 2023

Thank you for reading.

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Unknown User
21:40 Aug 08, 2023

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Michelle Oliver
22:35 Aug 08, 2023

Thanks for giving it a read. Appreciate the feedback as always.

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Angela Govender
15:15 Aug 07, 2023

This is a light-hearted and beautiful write. Well done, Michelle! The introduction was so captivating and I could never tell that the write would later on turn into a runaway tale. Yet, everything flowed so smoothly.

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