With Your Permission

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write about an author famous for their fairy tale retellings.... view prompt

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American Drama Fiction

“Most likely he’ll ask you a lot of questions.” Darlene says.

“That’s okay.”

“He’ll size you up, he’s testing the waters, you know.”

“Understood. You sent him my movies, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t know if he watched them. He’s a busy guy.”

“I can imagine, writers’ minds are on going.”

“You should be able to relate, you wrote most of your plays.”

“Seems many years ago.”

“Soon you’ll be saying that about directing movies.”

“Maybe. Ready?”

Jean and Darlene finish their drinks and set their empty glasses on the kitchen table. They walk to the front door. She walks in front of him, he watches her narrow hips move from side to side as well her perfectly cut natural dark hair. He rushes ahead of her and opens the front door for her. 

“How do I look?” Darlene asked. 

“Shouldn’t I be asking that?”

“C’mon, you always look good Jean.”

“Flirtin’ so soon,” he grins. 

“Oh, stop it. When I flirt you’ll know it.” She walks by him, out the front door and into the bright afternoon sunlight. 

He shuts the door and with the gentle breeze caressing their brown faces they walk to her car. 

“How far is he?” he asked. 

“About twenty minutes.”

“Please come inside. Would either of you like something to drink?” Laura asks. 

At first Jean and Darlene say ‘no’ but then Jean changes his mind.

“I’ll have a glass of water.”

“Sure.” Laura walks into the large kitchen, heels click on the hardwood floor. 

“Sit anywhere, get comfortable.” she shouts from the kitchen. 

Jean and Darlene sit on the long velvet cobalt colored couch together. 

“Nice place.” Darlene’s eyes wander. 

He nods, agreeing. 

She then fixes her eyes on him. “Look, I know you don’t like small talk, but let’s not rush into what we’re here to ask for, we’ll just- “

“Okay, this is for you.” Laura hands Jean his glass of water. “You sure you don’t want a drink Darlene?”

“I’m sure, thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll tell Mr. Blackwell you’re here.”

She leaves the room and goes up the stairwell carefully in her heels.

“I saw that.”

Jean looks at Darlene, “What?”

“I saw you checking her out. Don’t let me tell Leslie.”

“What, she’s attractive, what can I say?”

“I know, but pull back…” she grins. 

“Is she his wife?”

“Who?”

“Mr. Blackwell.”

“No. He’s not married right now. He’s been divorce twice. Accused of cheating and physical abuse. She’s his assistant of sorts, a friend. I thought you read about him on the net.”

“No, I said I read him, meaning his novels.” 

“Oh. Read all of them?”

“No, I didn’t have time to do that. Only the first three.”

“I love his first novel. Ah, so good.”

“Do that again. I love when my books make women exhale pleasurably.” A thundering confident voice filled the neat and spacious front room. They both watch Mr. Blackwell walk past them to the fireplace and grabs a pack of matches. “Left them here last night.”

“Long night,” Darlene asks. 

“All nights are. For writers anyway.” 

“Is that when you prefer to write?” Darlene asked. 

“Where’s your drink?”

“Oh, I didn’t want one.”

“Did Laura offer you one?”

“She did.”

“I prefer to write…’ he lights his cigar ‘...at 9pm. Since the beginning of Spring I’ve been consistent with that. Nine pm comes, bam! I’m in my room, door shut, typing after getting past the blank page of trepidation.” He blows out a puff of smoke, leans on the fireplace. 

“I get more nervous about the middle of the book than the beginning. I’m hoping the middle holds up, it can become a drag if the structure isn’t right.” 

“They hold up.” Darlene says smiling.

“You read them all?”

“No, I mean the ones I read.” 

“Which ones, rather, did you like them, the ones you read.”

“I’ve always read fairy tales since I was little, so  when I read the way you retold them, really, I mean, it’s impressive.” 

“Thank you.”

“I think the first book is my favorite.”

“Debuts can be difficult.”

“How so?”

Mr. Blackwell looks at Jean, “Does he talk?”

“His mouth is dry,” Darlene answers.

“Drink up young man.  ‘Cause nobody sits around my place and doesn’t say a word, understand?” 

Jean looks up at Mr. Blackwell with a slight smile on his face. 

“He gets it Mr. Blackwell.”

Mr. Blackwell sits his long, lean fit brown body into the chair, keeping his legs apart, cigar between his fingers. He keeps his eyes on Juan, observing him. 

“How long have you lived in a place like this?” Darlene asked. 

“You like it?”

“I do.”

“You said over the phone that you’re a producer?”

“Right.”

“So you can afford a nice spot as well.” 

“I live comfortably.”

Juan puts his nearly finished glass of water on the coffee table in front of them. 

“I know your work young man,” Mr. Blackwell says to Juan and puffs out more smoke. 

“You know my name?”

“Of course he does,” Darlene looks at Juan. 

“Just making sure.”

“You say something Juan?” Mr. Blackwell asked.

Juan looks at Mr. Blackwell and smiles, “Should we get on with why we’re here?”

“Oh, I thought we were just talking.”

“I can do without small talk.”

Darlene sits back, crosses her legs, a bit embarrassed. 

“Laura!”

No response. 

“Laura!”

She then appears. 

“Orange juice please, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure.”  She leaves for the kitchen. 

Mr. Blackwell looks at Juan, “How long have you been a director?”

“Almost, what…’ he looks at Darlene. 

“Don’t you know?”

‘...ten years.”

“Darlene sent me the links to your movies.” He takes the cigar out of his mouth, leans forward  and puts the cigar in the ashtray on the coffee table. “I watched one of your movies and after ten minutes I stopped it.”

“What was- “

“Let me finish. Then I began to watch a second one. After fifteen minutes I stopped it…’

Juan and Darlene look at each other, nervous. 

“And went on and watched a third one, after I saw enough, I cut it off.”

“Okay, so what didn’t you like?”

Laura walks in and he takes the glass of orange juice from her, “Thanks.”

Laura sits on the arm of the chair Mr. Blackwell is sitting in. 

“I never said I didn’t like them. It’s just that with a busy life I have, I only watched up to a certain point because I saw what a great director you are.”

Juan and Darlene look at each other, both feeling relief. 

“So, I appreciate you wanting to make a movie about my life but what makes you think that I want my story to be told?” 

Juan and Darlene look confused. 

Darlene looks at Mr. Blackwell, “I’m sorry Mr. Blackwell but what gave you the impression that we wanted to make a movie about your life? I thought it was clear that we admire your books.”

“Exactly, the books are my life.” 

“But they’re fairy tales.” Juan reiterated. 

“Used as a backdrop.” Mr. Blackwell drinks his orange juice. “Come with me.”

All three of them stand in the narrow hallway with frame pictures of Mr. Blackwell’s siblings lined up on the white wall. 

“See this lady?” Mr. Blackwell points. 

They both nod. 

“That’s my grandmother. She used to work in a senior citizens home. She was a maintenance lady. When someone died, sadly too often, she’d clean their rooms and if there were any items left over that a family member didn’t claim then it would be thrown out. There is a box full of vhs tapes and books. No one claimed them so my grandmother asked if she could have the books. She took them home with her and began to go through the box and notice four books tied together. They had no titles on it’s covers and no authors name. She began to read them. Before she died she gave me the four books, told me I’d be interested in them. One night I began to read them and I was a bit taken back, there were some very relatable situations. I said okay, that’s just a coincidence. I kept reading, and then it became apparent the stories consist of events that actually happened in my life when I was a young boy. It was a bit frightening and strange. None of the books had been published. I must admit the writing was really good and I couldn’t let it go to waste, people had to read it even though it was my life, which I clearly didn’t write. I was able to get them published, with my name on it. These became the fairy tale books that you and millions have read and fell in love with.”

“But you didn’t write them.” Juan says. 

“Right.”

“Why would you do that?”

“What?”

“Put your name on it, you could have left it as anonymous.”

“Who wouldn’t want their name on a great piece of literature. In this case a series.”

“But you’ve been lying this whole time, making people believe you wrote them.”

Silence. 

Mr. Blackwell looks past them and his voice lowers, “It’s like I was meant to collide with those books. They found their way to me.”

“That’s right.” Laura agrees standing at the far end of the hallway and walks towards them carrying four tied books in her hands. She stands next to Mr. Blackwell.

Juan suddenly explodes with laughter. “Sorry that’s just ridiculous.” 

“Juan.” Darlene tries to stop him. 

“No, seriously, come on, the author is clearly someone who knew you.”

“One would think so.” Mr. Blackwell says and unties the four books. 

“These are the books that my grandmother gave me. Juan I want you to read to me the date on the copyright page.”

Juan turns to the copyright page and notices the date. He stares at it. 

“What’s it say Juan?” Darlene asked.

Juan swallows and says ‘19...1932?”

“Check the others.” Darlene says. 

Juan confirms that the other three books were written in the 30’s. 

“I don’t know what to say, it’s odd.” Darlene says. 

“Yes, and the answer is no by the way,” says Mr. Blackwell.

“No about what?” Juan asks. 

“You don’t have my permission to adapt the books.” 

Juan and Darlene see a malicious grin come across his face. 

Laura puts the books down on the floor and stands with her head tilted to one side. 

“That’s okay, guess...we’ll get going,” Darlene says awkwardly.

“Thank you for your time.”  Juan confirms and takes Darlene by her hand. 

They try to walk past them but Mr. Blackwell blocks their way. 

“No one can know about this.”

“About what?” Juan asks. 

“No one can know that I’m not the writer of those bestsellers.” 

“Of course not, we won’t tell. No worries.”

“Sorry, we don’t give you permission to leave.” 

“What did you say?” Juan looks him in the eyes. 

Darlene watches Laura. Laura’s hand slowly reaches behind her back.

“Get out my way!” Juan pushes Mr. Blackwell. Mr. Blackwell stumbles back and Juan walks away still holding Darlene’s hand. As he nears the front door he hears a loud bang! Darlene’s hand slips slowly out of his hand, he turns and sees her limp body fall to the floor. He stops, stunned, blood spills out of her chest. 

“Darlene!” 

By the time he looks at his adversaries there’s another loud bang and all he sees is a quick white flash and his breath leaves him and then as if a black veil falls over his eyes, it is over.

April 09, 2021 02:22

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