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Drama Sad Contemporary

The message on Marten’s phone marked the point of no return. 

“Sure. Come by around 1.”

A single obstacle with an indeterminate expiration date was the only hindrance to Marten’s success. He was well aware most people dreamed of fancy things or fame. For him, a dream with two parts was in reach, and he planned to embrace both. After that? Well, he doubted he would care. He couldn’t see over this hill, but after twenty-four years of life, the top was in sight. The thrill of it brought beads of sweat to his brow. 

Marten emerged from his bedroom with his jaw clenched and eyes forward. The expected, croaking inquiry came upon his arrival to the den.

“Going out?”

He turned to face his mother on the sofa; television rattling, bloated bag of half-eaten potato chips riding shotgun to her seat. Another fistful of crispy goodness entered her mouth before a puff of smoldering cigarette followed. A cough almost expelled the stick between her lips and interrupted Marten’s gradual reply.

“Yeah, going over to Lucia’s.”

“Tell her hi for me. Oh, and pick up another carton on the way home. No later than six, alright?”

Marten nodded, knowing he would never remember to fulfil those requests. Today was his agenda—his outcome to control. Much in opposition to the crease between his eyes, he gracefully shut the garage door.

The cool but cracking material of the driver’s seat of his beloved stick shift was a welcome comfort. The key turned, the engine roared to life.

“Good baby. Let’s do this.”

Marten angled his wistful smile over his shoulder as he prepared to back down the driveway. In just shy of an hour, the plan would officially be in motion.


***


Lucia grunted under the weight of the final overstuffed box she helped Marten maneuver into his trunk. The metal cover clicked closed despite the sizable dent in the bumper. He turned to face her, noticing how she left a gap too large for him to touch her.

Now that he was here, still close enough to hear her breathing even over the calls of the Canadian geese on the pond, he questioned his plan. Chickening out was not an option. She had been firm with him before, but circumstances had changed. He stared at the irresolution behind those glittering blue vessels.

Marten said, “Thanks for letting me store this stuff. Saved some money to drop the storage unit.”

“Sure.”

He sucked in a breath, hoping his reaction to her nonchalance wasn’t audible. It had to work—this plan he so carefully orchestrated. How else could he repeat that one drunken night with her? Take her in his arms and hold her until they both passed out? Taste the spiced rum on her lips? What else did he have to lose?

“My mom hasn’t been so good.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry.” 

The wavering quality of Lucia’s tone revealed that her heart was still in there. Even if she said otherwise, he knew she couldn’t just walk away from a friend in need of help. Such was against her entire character; everything he had learned about her since that first class he took beside her.

Marten acknowledged his part in their recent divide. He couldn't bring himself to regret it. If she would only accept her own fault and release to him that special brand of compassion, all could be forgiven on both sides.

Instead, silence gripped the pair in Lucia’s driveway. Both sets of eyes avoided the other until Marten said, “She’s dying. Cancer, just like grandpa.”

Without looking, he could sense her shoulders tightening. The guilt of using his mother’s recent diagnosis to his advantage was replaced with hope for Lucia’s reply.

She looked him square in the face though he kept staring at the placid water beyond the driveway.

“I’m real sorry about that, too.” 

Her tone was all wrong. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go at all. Marten’s eyed raked her, concealing unvoiced questions until she elaborated.

“But this guy isn’t just another bad choice boyfriend. I love him, Mart. I already told you I can’t just drink with you and shrug it off if we end up making out anymore.”

“I thought you were my friend.”

“I want to be, but that’s not what you want or you wouldn’t have kissed me the other night after the first time I told you this.” 

Marten turned his pinched expression away. “That’s cold, Lucia. Mom’s unlikely to last the month…”

“And I said I was sorry. There’s nothing I or anyone can do.”

Marten turned back to her with venom in his eyes. How could she abandon him now? Where was the comfort she had given so freely before—boyfriend or not? Everything else was falling into place for his future, just as he always hoped. It was even Lucia who made him believe it was possible to move away from his controlling mother so he could finally get his degree. Lucia talked him through issues, suggested ways to lower his bills, even helped him pay for his burned-out clutch, which she did accidentally push over the edge while he tried to teach her to drive a manual—the very car beside them now.

Death was poised to grant Marten his life-long wish of freedom, but a vital piece would still be missing. Why couldn't he have it all? Everything else would be perfect if Lucia would just cooperate. His mom would no longer get between even their plans.

No more explaining where he was going.

No more return time.

No more barking orders that he should skip class because the long drive wasn’t worth the gas money—the money only he was bringing in.

No more failing out because he heeded his mother’s words.

But now? No more Lucia.

Marten realized his fist was tight. Though he would never lay it on the woman in front of him, the thought of making a new dent in his bumper was appealing. Instead of driving home with a bloody fist, he flung his car door open. If Lucia’s eyes followed him after he sped away, he no longer cared.


***


Lucia almost choked on her recount of the driveway incident she was sure her roommate witnessed from the upstairs window. Nina sat beside her on the sofa, a somber air filling the mint green living room.

Hugging a pillow, Lucia composed herself before she said, “I had to do it, Nina. I didn’t want to—God if you could have seen how it destroyed him. Poor Marten thinks I don't care.”

Nina patted her hand. “You did right by him. He’ll be okay.”

“Did I? I feel wretched. His mom’s dying and I sent him away with his stuff, probably never to see him again.”

“But you know what would have happened otherwise.”

Lucia gave the slightest nod. It was always the same with Marten, and much of his reactions were her fault. Sending him mixed signals had been a game until she matured enough to know how it feels to be on the receiving end. In her own way, she had loved him, though never on a truly romantic level. He was easy to talk to and always gave her an honest answer.

And now, he was gone. Free in his heart, and soon to be free to finally live his life. Though she wondered where this new path would take him, she knew it was no longer her business.

She also knew his mother’s death would be his only way out. How deplorable it was of Lucia to have previously wondered what would happen if his mother passed away, just like his grandfather had a year ago from a similar affliction. For two years Lucia had implored Marten to break from that unwavering will, move closer to school, but his heart was too pure—too loyal. She had known a piece of it and had to fling it back at him with force.

If she hadn’t acted so cold—as if his mother’s death hardly blipped on her concern radar—he would have chased her forever. The past had already proven it. He stood by, watching her make one bad romantic decision after another. It had been okay when she was with men she dated on a casual level. But now? She didn’t trust herself with the distraction of Marten’s familiarity either.

Lucia said, “You’re right, of course. He’ll never speak to me again. I suppose the plan was a success.”

A single tear spilled over the edge of one eye. Lucia faced away to keep it secret.

Marten, I do hope you can live your life now. Maybe, one day, you can forgive my selfishness as I have already forgiven you. Good luck, my friend.



November 01, 2020 21:04

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2 comments

Natalie Dafoe
22:41 Nov 12, 2020

Beautiful story! I love how the relationships unfolded naturally, you can understand the dynamic between the two, as well as relating to both characters. While I felt bad for Marten and his situation, his attempted manipulation of Lucia made me relate to her more. Overall though, this story if artfully written and very enjoyable to read. Happy writing!

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Lydi B
20:23 Nov 13, 2020

Thanks for your kind words! I'm glad you were able to relate to both characters despite it being an emotion-heavy piece. This was based on a true story, so it flowed easier.

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