Fiction Drama Romance

Your grandma used to say, “Most people are like most days, ordinary and average. But, once in a while, there are exceptions that alter your world and you’re never quite the same after.”

As you close your mailbox, then stoop to pick up the mail you dropped after seeing the manila envelope, you’re reminded once again of your grandma’s wisdom. Picking up your scattered mail, you notice that again, most of your mail can be recycled without even opening them. But, today has an exception and it’s not a bill, though you instantly wish it was. 

You stare at the small manila envelope with photos-do not bend stamped diagonally twice in red ink. Normally, you would be intrigued by such a piece of mail. But, the name at the top left corner makes your stomach drop. Immediately, you feel sweat drip from your armpits and snake down your sides. Nausea blooms up with such force it impedes your balance as you stagger/walk into your house. 

You place your palms down on the kitchen counter, partially to steady your breathing and control your emotions and partially to berate yourself for being so stupid and weak. You close your eyes tight and feel your fingers flexing outward across the cool granite counter. After several deep and shaky breaths, you open your eyes. You wait a few seconds as bright pink and blue spots dissipate from your vision. 

After taking a deep breath and noisily exhaling, you look again at the envelope. There is no return address, just a name. Eddie Henderson. The brother and roommate of your one slip, one drunken mistake, one affair.  

Releasing another long, quivering breath, you open the envelope. Three photos slide out, along with a small piece of notebook paper. You see the top photo only, but it’s more than enough. Instead of looking at the other two photos, you look at the paper. 

Call me $oon! ;)

Eddie Henderson

Of course, a phone number is beneath his name. 

You look at your watch and realize Chloe will be home within the hour. A quick mental calculation helps you realize you’d rather spend the evening in hell with at least some concrete information instead of thinking of worst-case scenarios. You tell yourself that having some hard numbers will be helpful in choosing your next move. Undoubtedly, you’ll need to start thinking of financial options and how to withdrawal money discreetly. Obviously, real plans can’t be made without real numbers. 

In the back of your mind, though, you are more concerned with setting off Chloe’s radar. Like any wife, she knows her husband well. She will know something is wrong one way or another. If you know what the bastard wants, you can at least come up with the standard stress at work excuse for your odd demeanor. Not knowing any details will put you more on edge and will heighten Chloe’s sense that something much worse than job stress is bothering you.

Fighting down another wave of nausea, you make the call and quickly cycle through the introduction and refuse any social chit chat. 

“Enough. Let’s just do this.”

“Do what?”

A deep sigh escapes your lips. You only met Eddie Henderson the morning after, but you can visualize him now. A tan, fit man in his mid-twenties with long dark hair done up in a man bun. Over a week’s worth of facial hair. You remember his striking ice blue eyes that stood out almost as if they glittered. On his sister, Kaylee, with her ebony hair and pale skin, those eyes were mysterious, awe-inspiring, and sexy as hell. On her brother, they were disturbing and made your skin crawl for a reason you couldn’t quite understand. You picture this punk twenty-something kid, cocky, feeling in control, sitting back in an easy chair, trying to toy with you.

“Let’s not waste time dancing. Cut the bullshit and tell me what you want.”

You can almost see his cocky half-smile as if he’s across the counter from you.

“Okay. You want to jump in the pool, let’s do it. I want ten thousand.”

Your mouth drops open and for a moment, coherent thought pauses. You hear a muffled thumping sound several times over the phone. 

“You there, buddy? I thought you wanted to get into this.”

Eddie’s smugness wakes you up and you remember you’re alone in the house and able to cut free just a bit. 

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” you scream. “There is no way I can get you that kind of money.”

You hear chuckling coming through the phone. “You’d be surprised what you can do when you put your mind to it. Weren’t you ever told that when you were a kid? You can do anything if you put in the effort. Come on, son, I believe in you! But, you’ve got to believe in yourself, too!” 

He sounds like a soccer coach or a guidance counselor. In other words, he’s mocking you. 

“Pissing me off is not going to get you ten K, Eddie. It’s going to get my foot up your ass.”

You hear loud laughter that lasts over five seconds. “You got guts, my man, I’ll give you that. No brains or self-control, but plenty of guts. You need to prioritize yourself a bit. Just put that energy into getting me ten thousand and you do it by five o’clock Friday.”

Still stunned, you can’t help but blurt out the obvious. “That’s tomorrow night.”

“Yes, yes it is. There are many ways to get this done. There’s PayPal and other online apps, there’s transferring from one account to another, one bank to another, and there’s the oldie but a goodie, cash. Take your pick, son.” 

You have more than had it with this kid calling you ‘son’ and ‘buddy’. He’s about twenty-five years younger than you. Bowing your head and closing your eyes for a moment help you realize that this Marvel-movie-watching-piece-of-shit can call you whatever he wants. He wouldn’t even know your name if you hadn’t cheated on your wife with his sister. 

You take a deep breath and say, “How to transfer the money isn’t the problem. I don’t have that kind of money to just send out like that. We have two kids in college. We have a mortgage. We have-”

A loud burst of music cuts you off. You hold the phone away from your ear for another ten seconds. When the music cuts off, you can hear Eddie yelling just as loudly as the music. 

“Quit your whining, son! If you had this kind of concern for your family and finances two weeks ago, you wouldn’t be in this mess, would you? You have a nice house, a career, a RAV4, and a Camry. You can spare ten grand.”

You shake your head for a few seconds and then are stunned to realize you’re crying. 

“You’re right. I have those things. And I put myself in this mess. But, I had help. Your sister came on to me. I didn’t approach her. I didn’t even see her until she sat next to me.”

You can hear his annoying chuckle again. “We all have our jobs to do, buddy. Kaylee has hers and I have mine. But, neither of us would be working if you hadn’t taken the next step. We bait the hook, but it’s up to the fish to take it or leave it.”

“So, what, she’s a hooker and you’re her pimp?”

“Sticks and stones, son. You can call us whatever you want. Just remember, there are names for men like you, as well. But, I think my favorite is a classic that never dies.”

You wait through a few seconds of dead air. “Yeah?”

“Just making sure I still have your attention. You’re a cliche. I already said some of the material things you have. But, that’s not everything, is it? Your wife is beautiful and still loves you, right?”

Your shoulders slump and you answer with closed eyes. “Yes.”

“She still treats you with respect? Still trusts you?”

More hot tears stream down your face as you bow your head and answer, “Yes.”

“And you still love her, right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be this upset.”

You take a deep, shaky breath and repeat, “Yes.”

“But, that wasn’t enough for you. You’re fifty-two with no real complaints about anything. But, you stop at a bar and walk, no run, willingly into our trap. It never occurred to you to wonder why a young, twenty-six-year-old hottie named Kaylee comes on to you out of the blue, did it? I’m betting that didn’t even happen when you were twenty-six, did it? You’re nearly twice that age now and twice as dumb. That’s why you’re a cliche.

“Your kids in college and your mortgage didn’t seem that important then, did they? Does that about sum it up, son?”

It takes a few seconds for you to realize that you’re nodding and he can’t see that. 

“Yes, it does.”

“Well, son, I do have good news and I’m sure you can use some of that right about now. I don’t have to see you to know that you’re crying. You feel like dirt. You feel worthless. Well, you’re not. You still have all those things we were just talking about. I’m not taking any of that away from you. Aren’t all those things you have, plus the love and trust of a good woman, worth ten thousand dollars?”

 You’re crying harder now. In fact, your tears are dropping onto the granite countertop. Patronizing asshole or not, he’s speaking the truth. It galvanizes you, in fact. You stand up straight, as clarity comes to you for the first time since you got the mail. You grip your phone tightly. 

“Yes. They’re worth that. And more.”

You hear his laughter, but this time he’s not laughing mockingly or cruelly. He’s laughing in joy and victory. 

“Well see? That wasn’t so hard, now was it, son? Okay, here’s how I want the money. I want-”

“No. I’m not paying you a damn cent. Ten thousand dollars won’t buy a thing except a lifetime of guilt and regret. My wife is beautiful. And she does respect and trust me.”

“She won’t if you don’t pay me!”

“Probably not. But, if I paid you, it would be worse. I wouldn’t respect myself. And my wife would know something was wrong. She knows me too well. She’d be stressed trying to figure what’s wrong and why I’ve changed. And she deserves better than that. I’m not doing that to her because of assholes like you and your sister.”

You hang up and turn off your phone. You look at your watch and see that Chloe should be home within the next twenty minutes. You take a deep breath and rip up the photos and note from Eddie and throw them away. You spend the next ten minutes cleaning up the kitchen. 

Shortly after finishing, you hear the garage door open. You pour red wine into two glasses, sit at the kitchen table, and wait. A few seconds later, Chloe stumbles into the kitchen and flings her large, black purse onto the counter. Its momentum takes it to the counter’s edge, where it just barely stays put. 

You feel your eyes widen, just as Chloe’s eyes do the same. She wasn’t expecting you to be waiting for her like you are and you’re not expecting her to look like she’s spent the last hour crying. For a few seconds, you just stare at each other. 

You both open and close your mouths several times as if you both want to speak, but neither of you can find the words. Finally, you step tentatively towards each other and nearly fall into a hug as you’ve never shared before. Both of you sob and grip each other tighter than you can remember.

After several minutes, you start to calm down enough to speak to your wife. Through gasping and shuddering breaths, you look at each other. You see fear and pain in her wide, brown eyes. Her cheeks are red, splotchy, and slick with tears. You know you must look exactly the same. 

You brush back her brown hair with both hands and look into her eyes. “Chloe, I don’t know how to-”

She shakes her head and puts her hand to your mouth, stopping you from continuing. 

“No! Please. Let me go first.”

You nod, realizing you owe her that much and more. However she needs to get through this, whatever she needs from you, you will do it. Before she can speak, her purse slides from the counter, hits a tall barstool and flops to the floor. You approach the floor to pick up the mess when you see the envelope. Same size, same color, same red stamp saying photos-do not bend

You hear Chloe gasp and call your name. “Wait! I can explain!” 

You pick it up and see the name Kaylee Henderson at the top left corner of the envelope.  

Most people are like most days, ordinary and average. But, once in a while, there are exceptions that alter your world and you’re never quite the same after.

June 21, 2020 22:01

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


16:59 Jul 02, 2020

Woahh! This story was so captivating! Please continue it, you can't leave it on a cliffhanger like that! I loved everything about it, you described the atmosphere and the characters' moods perfectly! Hope you write more!


Steve Uppendahl
03:38 Jul 03, 2020

Thanks so much for your kind words! I will do my best to write more.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Grace Uppendahl
21:05 Jun 28, 2020

WOW! What a twist at the end! I loved it.


Steve Uppendahl
22:23 Jun 28, 2020

Thanks, G. I appreciate it. I liked your story, as well. Keep it up!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.