Submitted into Contest #76 in response to: Write a story told exclusively through dialogue.... view prompt


Romance Fiction Contemporary

“Did you like it?” Paul asks. 

“I did, but It's not as good as our usual place,” Mary says.

Paul lowers his eyes to the candle on the table, “I agree.” 

The waiter places the check on a tray with two fortune cookies, “please take your time,” he says and leaves. 

Mary catches eyes with Paul, “my favorite part.” 

“Does that mean you’re paying?” 

“Not the check, silly. You know.” 

“Our Fate…”

“Our fortunes.” 

“The coincidental generic poetry on small white pieces of paper…” Paul says.

“Choose one…”

Paul reaches for the cookie closest to him.

“Wait,” Mary says.  

“You always do this,” Paul leans back into his chair, his hand retreats.

“Yes, you know this. Nothing has changed.” 

“But it has.”

“No. It really hasn’t.” 

“Which one do you want me to take?” 

“The one you choose.”

“I was about to make my choice but you stopped me.” 

“I want you to be sure.” 

“Oh, really. I feel like I should be telling you that.” 


“I’ve made my choice,” he says, “I’ve been living with mine for eighteen years.” 

“If that’s the cookie you want then take it.” 

Paul leans forward and takes the cookie in his fingers and crunches the shell before grabbing the one closer to Mary instead.

“You’re an ass.”

The candle is dancing in a puddle of wax. 

“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that,” Paul says. “I’ll ask for another one.”

“You've ruined it.” 

“Its fate,” he says, “right? You’ll get what you deserve.” 

“This was probably a mistake.” 

“What? Getting Chinese at a restaurant with so-so reviews? Getting married? Or fucking someone else?” 

A man comes to the table and pours water slowly into Mary’s glass. The ice cubes clink. Paul declines more water with a gesture of his hand. 

“I want something else,” he says. 

“Let me get your server,” the man says. 

“Can’t you just tell him I want another vodka soda? 

“Make it two,” Mary says. 

“Yes, of course,” he goes away. 

Paul unwraps his cookie and holds it in his hand, “they’re so often disappointing…” 

"How so?"

"They're usually generic and dull. Are our lives--so boring?"

"Do you think our lives have been boring?"

"Those two weeks in Belize was something else."

"It was," Mary smiles in the candle light. "I really miss those days."

"Well, they're gone."

"Thanks for pointing that out."

The waiter comes to the table with two more vodka sodas. 

“Not done I take it,” he says. “Is there anything else I can get you before I update the check?” 

“Yes,” Mary says, Paul’s eyes are looking at the broken cookie. 

“Will you please bring us two more drinks in five or ten minutes?” Mary says. 

“Of course,” the waiter begins to leave when Paul says, “wait. Can you bring another cookie?” 

“You better make that two as well,” Mary says. 

“Absolutely,” says the waiter and leaves. 

Paul drains half his drink and rests his cookie on a napkin. He looks at Mary who matches his gaze before lowering his eyes to the broken one still on the tray.

“What do you think it means?” Paul says. 

“Depends on what it says… 

“I’m sorry, I shouldn't have crushed it like that."

“Its fine.” 

“Open it.” 

“Open yours first.” 

Paul leans back in his chair, he looks tired, he looks older, and she wonders where the years have gone.  

“Your ritual,” She says. 

He brings the cookie close to his lips and says something into the crevasse of the vanilla shell. He breaks it in the middle and eats one side while palming the other half with the fortune. He chews methodically as if he were opening his mind to some signal that would direct him toward a future he couldn't conceive. He pulls the small strip from the other half and reads it silently to himself. 

“What did you ask of the cookie?”

“You know I can’t tell you. It's between me and the cookie.”

“Okay, well what did it say?” 

Paul finishes chewing, his eyes scrolling across the tiny print, he looks up and swallows. 

“It says, ‘love is like paint… it makes things beautiful when you spread it, but it will dry up if you don’t use it.’” 

“That’s a good one.” 

“Yeah, but I think it was meant for you.” 

“But it wasn’t. I didn’t open it. You did. You made the choice.”

“You stopped me, remember? You interrupted my initial choice. That broken one was the one I wanted.” 

“If that had been the case you would have taken it despite what I said. You were never meant to have any other fortune than the one that was delivered to you.” 

Mary takes the broken cookie and opens it. What's left of the shell crumbles onto the table from the wrapper. She holds out the thin piece of paper and reads it out loud.

“The person closest to you is more important than you realize….”

“I wonder who that is,” Paul says. 

“Do you have to say that? Do you really want to fight right here?”

The waiter returns with two fresh drinks and an updated check. Paul and Mary simultaneously finish their drinks. The waiter places the updated check along with two packages of fortune cookies. They observe them as he leaves and notice an anomaly. One of the packages has two cookies inside. 

“Who gets doubles?” Paul asks. 

They both suddenly reach to take it but it's closer to Paul and he grabs it greedily. 

“You’re an ass,” Mary says. She takes the other one, cracks it open and pulls out the fortune.

“What does it say?” Paul says. 

Mary reads it to herself, then says, “Place special emphasis on an old friendship,” she says.

“There he is again…”

God damnit, Paul…” Mary slams her fist on the table and the candle nearly goes out. “How are we ever to get past this when you won’t let it go?” She says. 

Paul takes a large gulp of his drink, “I don’t want the stupid cookie.”

She looks at the package, “there is only one fortune,” she says. 


“There is clearly no fortune in one of them.”

“Like a still born,” Paul says and Mary laughs quietly. 

“Let’s split it,” she says. 

“I don’t want cookies anymore.” 

“The fortune. Let’s share the fortune.” 

“Isn’t that breaking the rules?”

“I don’t think so. Let's see what happens.” 

Mary carefully unwraps the two vanilla cookies and puts the stillborn aside. She holds up the cookie and says, “pull...” 

When they pull the cookie apart the fortune stays lodged in the end Mary has. She unfolds it and reads it silently to herself.

“What does it say?” 

She looks at Paul then back at the fortune. 

“Let me guess…” Paul says, “may your wildest dreams come true...” 

“It says, ‘there is just one life for each of us: our own.” 

Paul comes forward and leans his elbows on the table, “that's’ really what it says?”

Mary very carefully slides the fortune over to Paul.  

“What do you think it means?” he says after reading it. 

“I don’t know. I suppose it's up to us don’t you think?” 

“I don’t think it means anything.” 

“If that’s what you believe...” 

“What do you think it means?” Paul says again.

“I don’t know. Maybe that we need to figure out how we make sense… two pieces, you know? Trying to make a whole. It won’t be perfect.” 

The candle flickers and Mary’s eyes are wet and she closes them and the light on her face reflects back to Paul like she was a satellite orbiting him. 

“Or maybe it means we aren't meant to be whole at all," Mary says. "Maybe my life is my own and yours is your own". 

“Is that what you want?” 

“I don’t know what I want.”

“You never know what you want. Did you know that sometimes I don’t even know what to say to you anymore.” 

“Maybe you don’t have to say anything. Maybe we should just stop everything. Maybe its all run its course.”

“Is that what you think?” 

“Sometimes. But other times I think we are married and this shit just happens sometimes.”

“Do you love me?” 

“I don’t know... Do you love me?” 

“I think so. It's not the same as it was.” 

“Nothing is.” 

“So what now?” 

“Lets just go home. I want to go to bed early tonight.” 

“Home,” Paul says. “What is home?” 

“Home is where we live...” 

January 16, 2021 01:38

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