Jane

 

1

            I know I overreacted but he forgets about me too often. This time was once too many. “If you can’t remember my birthday, just don’t bother planning to see me again. Ever.” Jake looked up at me, with his head lowered like a disgraced puppy. “Forget it,” I said, slamming the door. I’d fallen for that look before. I huffed out of his workshop to the Oriole Cafe.

            I ordered a drink and sat, alone, at a table for two, facing the bar. I thought he’d treat me lavishly tonight, with dinner and gifts to start. Fat chance of that now. I finished my drink and ordered another.

            A man at the bar grabbed my attention. His muscular arms and chest filled his navy blue tee shirt, spectacularly. Huntsville was a small town and I’d never seen him before. A sudden fever flushed my face. I undid the top button of my blouse.

            I worked my usual tricks; flipping my hair, crossing my legs. When he glanced my way, I put on my best smile, “Are you from around here?”

            “No. I’m here on business.”

            He didn’t dress professionally, but I let that pass. He spoke with gracious confidence. His eyes spoke too, with warm curiosity.

            I rattled the ice in my empty glass. “Buy me a drink.” I had business in mind as well.

2

            His name was Jack. “What’s good here? He asked.

            “The crab legs, if you’ve got the patience.”

            He laughed. “I’ve got the time, and patience to spare, if you’d care to join me.”

             And so we ate crab legs.

            Jack cracked a shell with calculated, precise pressure. The sound drew my attention to his hands, and I tracked one hand to his lips. He smiled at my attention. Juice dripped down his lip.

            I did some breaking of my own. Then, dipping the sweet meat into butter, tracing my lips with the wetted crab, and then sucking it, hard, I devoured the poor creature, all the while keeping my eyes on my new friend. By the time we were done, our table resembled a boneyard.

            “Can I drop you anywhere?” He asked.

            “I’d love to have you walk me home. It’s only a few blocks.”

            I relished the way he gently guided me, with a touch at the small of my back. Certainly, he had been in this circumstance before.

            At the door, I glanced across the street toward Jake’s shop.

            “Looking for someone?”

            “Oh…no. It’s nothing.”

            I don’t think I ever noticed my door before. It stood before me, a dark, daunting thing; more a barrier than an entry. But of course, I held the key. The key to what, I wondered. I turned to look at him, expectantly, but he said nothing.

            “Come up for a drink, I said.”

3         

            He took the bottle from my hand and cradled me in his arms. His lips staggered me; they felt so un-Jake-like. I took his hand and led him to the bedroom.

            He could have turned out to be cruel. Instead, he handled me gently. He found my sweet spots, not like Jake who knew them from experience, but by trial and error. He gratified me until I shrieked, “Please, stop.”

            He backed off and I caught my wind.            

            “Please, more.” I begged. He took me to the brink in countless waves of unbearable agitation. His restraint frustrated me. I thought I would drown in his torment.

            Then I saw the desire in his eyes. “Now, I said. “ Do me now.”

            I merged into his unrelenting rhythm. I curled to his physical bidding. God this felt good.

            I forgot, when I awoke, what I had done until with eyes closed, I accidentally touched him. “What’s this?” I asked myself. It’s not Jake. I fumbled with the covers. I opened my eyes. Oh God.

            I slipped quietly to the window. The world was deep into night but a light burned inside Jake’s workshop across the street.

            I looked at Jack sleeping in my bed. I cried, franticly wishing he were gone.

            I’ll go to Jake, I thought. I wanted Jake to hold me, forgive me, if only in my imagination, for he must never find out.

            But Jake’s lights were off. He stormed to my door.

4

            How had Jake spent this night, while I grenaded our relationship? I reeled at my stupidity.

            Why did he put up with me all these years? He was sorry. Couldn’t that have been enough for me? He would have finished his project and then gone looking for me, expecting to find me at the Oriole. He would have called my cell when he didn’t find me. But I had turned it off. We had been through this type of argument before. I knew how he would behave. He thought he knew me too.

            Apparently, he returned to his workshop, I’m guessing, because he was unable to sleep, worrying about our fight. He would have worked; fired his forge, heating his work-piece to a bright red, removing it with tongs, and setting it to the anvil. Oh, I knew the process well, having watched him work many times. My friends thought it strange that I liked to watch him; pounding his hot metal, curving it and shaping it to his will. I liked his sweat and the power of his determination. Tonight, he worked long into night. And now he came for me.

5

            I struggled into my jeans. “Get up. My boyfriend’s coming.” I tossed Jack’s pants to him and buttoned my blouse over bare breasts. Why didn’t he hurry? Didn’t he understand the urgency? At last, he slipped into his shoes. He reached out to me. I flinched.

            “I won’t cause any trouble,” he said.

            I turned away, unable to face him. “It’s too late. He’ll be at the door any moment. Promise me you’ll just go.”

            He shrugged.

            A thump on the door. Why didn’t Jake use his key? Oh God. He already knows. Leave it to Jake to be outwardly polite. I thought my heart would burst through my rib cage. My feet were concrete weights. I trudged down the steps at a funeral pace.

            “Let me in,” Jake demanded. I gasped at his voice. I turned to my woe begotten lover. He appeared unfazed, his jacket swung carelessly over his shoulder. I opened the door a crack. Jake pushed it wide. I smelled the residue of hot metal on his clothes.

            He glared from me to Jack. Fury smoldered in his eyes.

             “Excuse me,” Jack said, “I’m leaving.”

            Jake held his chin high and moved deliberately into his path. I held my breath. Jack stood his ground. A faceoff. I whimpered. This confrontation was my fault. I couldn’t bear a fight. I rushed at Jake, grasping him desperately, pushing him. Jack stepped outside and walked away.

6

            Jake had the look of a frantic animal. He grabbed me roughly and dragged me up the stairs.

            I wanted to tell him it was my fault. “What are you going to do?” I cried. My voice cracked and stuttered.

            “We’re going to my place. Get your things.” His voice resonated with the cold force of an avalanche. He waited, arms crossed.

            I wasn’t at all sure I should go with him but I was afraid to refuse. In the bedroom, engulfed in the odor of my sin, I hustled to gather some things and then shuttered the door. I called, shakily, “I’m ready.”

            He lurched at me, shoulders squared. A vein throbbed in his neck.

            I closed my eyes, thinking that I deserved physical punishment, would welcome it in exchange for relief from this guilt. Nothing happened. I opened my eyes again.

            He looked at me, puzzled. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

            We walked side by side without touching, me scurrying to keep up. He stared vacantly ahead, his mouth downturned.

            I bathed in his tub, scrubbing myself raw. When I slipped into bed, he turned away.

            Jake had come for me. He brought me home to his bed. I took refuge in the thought.

            My eyes moistened. I ventured a hand to his hair and stroked it. “I’m so sorry.”   

            “Not now,” he said. My fate, I realized, lay in the hands of time, and in the recourse of Jake’s capacity for forgiveness.

Instructor Response

Russ,

You’ve nailed this without a hitch.  Pacing is perfect.  The character learns something in trying to exact her revenge.  Character is likeable and very human in what she does.  Great work, and great prose.  The voice is right.  And the story logic and credible are spot on.  I’ve made a few comments but nothing critical.  Nothing needs to be changed!

Jane

1

       I know I overreacted but he forgets about me too often. This time was once too many. “If you can’t remember my birthday, just don’t bother planning to see me again. Ever.” Jake looked up at me, with his head lowered like a disgraced puppy. “Forget it,” I said, slamming the door. I’d fallen for that look before. I huffed out of his workshop to the Oriole Cafe.

       I ordered a drink and sat, alone, at a table for two, facing the bar. I thought he’d treat me lavishly tonight, with dinner and gifts to start. Fat chance of that now. I finished my drink and ordered another.

       A man at the bar grabbed my attention. His muscular arms and chest filled his navy blue tee shirt, spectacularly. Huntsville was a small town and I’d never seen him before. A sudden fever flushed my face. I undid the top button of my blouse.

       I worked my usual tricks; flipping my hair, crossing my legs. When he glanced my way, I put on my best smile, “Are you from around here?”

       “No. I’m here on business.”

       He didn’t dress professionally, but I let that pass. He spoke with gracious confidence. His eyes spoke too, with warm curiosity.

       I rattled the ice in my empty glass. “Buy me a drink.” I had business in mind as well.

(I think 1st person was a very wise choice.  Reader needs to be in Jane’s perspective and POV.  She is the story action.)

2

       His name was Jack. “What’s good here? He asked.

       “The crab legs, if you’ve got the patience.”

       He laughed. “I’ve got the time, and patience to spare, if you’d care to join me.”

        And so we ate crab legs.

       Jack cracked a shell with calculated, precise pressure. The sound drew my attention to his hands, and I tracked one hand to his lips. He smiled at my attention. Juice dripped down his lip.

       I did some breaking of my own. Then, dipping the sweet meat into butter, tracing my lips with the wetted crab, and then sucking it, hard, I devoured the poor creature, all the while keeping my eyes on my new friend. By the time we were done, our table resembled a boneyard.

       “Can I drop you anywhere?” He asked.

       “I’d love to have you walk me home. It’s only a few blocks.”

       I relished the way he gently guided me, with a touch at the small of my back. Certainly, he had been in this circumstance before.

       At the door, I glanced across the street toward Jake’s shop.

       “Looking for someone?”

       “Oh…no. It’s nothing.”

       I don’t think I ever noticed my door before. It stood before me, a dark, daunting thing; more a barrier than an entry. But of course, I held the key. The key to what, I wondered. I turned to look at him, expectantly, but he said nothing.  (Great!)

       “Come up for a drink, I said.”

 

3         

       He took the bottle from my hand and cradled me in his arms. His lips staggered me; they felt so un-Jake-like. I took his hand and led him to the bedroom.

       He could have turned out to be cruel. Instead, he handled me gently. He found my sweet spots, not like Jake who knew them from experience, but by trial and error. He gratified me until I shrieked, “Please, stop.”

       He backed off and I caught my wind.       

       “Please, more.” I begged. He took me to the brink in countless waves of unbearable agitation. His restraint frustrated me. I thought I would drown in his torment.

       Then I saw the desire in his eyes. “Now, I said. “ Do me now.”

       I merged into his unrelenting rhythm. I curled to his physical bidding. God this felt good.

       I forgot, when I awoke, what I had done until with eyes closed, I accidentally touched him. “What’s this?” I asked myself. It’s not Jake. I fumbled with the covers. I opened my eyes. Oh God.

       I slipped quietly to the window. The world was deep into night but a light burned inside Jake’s workshop across the street.

       I looked at Jack sleeping in my bed. I cried, franticly wishing he were gone.

       I’ll go to Jake, I thought. I wanted Jake to hold me, forgive me, if only in my imagination, for he must never find out.

       But Jake’s lights were off. He stormed to my door.

 

4

       How had Jake spent this night, while I grenaded our relationship? I reeled at my stupidity.

       Why did he put up with me all these years? He was sorry. Couldn’t that have been enough for me? He would have finished his project and then gone looking for me, expecting to find me at the Oriole. He would have called my cell when he didn’t find me. But I had turned it off. We had been through this type of argument before. I knew how he would behave. He thought he knew me too.

       Apparently, he returned to his workshop, I’m guessing, because he was unable to sleep, worrying about our fight. He would have worked; fired his forge, heating his work-piece to a bright red, removing it with tongs, and setting it to the anvil. Oh, I knew the process well, having watched him work many times. My friends thought it strange that I liked to watch him; pounding his hot metal, curving it and shaping it to his will. I liked his sweat and the power of his determination. Tonight, he worked long into night. And now he came for me.

 

5

       I struggled into my jeans. “Get up. My boyfriend’s coming.” I tossed Jack’s pants to him and buttoned my blouse over bare breasts. Why didn’t he hurry? Didn’t he understand the urgency? At last, he slipped into his shoes. He reached out to me. I flinched.

       “I won’t cause any trouble,” he said.

       I turned away, unable to face him. “It’s too late. He’ll be at the door any moment. Promise me you’ll just go.”

       He shrugged.

       A thump on the door. Why didn’t Jake use his key? Oh God. He already knows. Leave it to Jake to be outwardly polite. I thought my heart would burst through my rib cage. My feet were concrete weights. I trudged down the steps at a funeral pace.

       “Let me in,” Jake demanded. I gasped at his voice. I turned to my woe begotten lover. He appeared unfazed, his jacket swung carelessly over his shoulder. I opened the door a crack. Jake pushed it wide. I smelled the residue of hot metal on his clothes.

       He glared from me to Jack. Fury smoldered in his eyes.

        “Excuse me,” Jack said, “I’m leaving.”

       Jake held his chin high and moved deliberately into his path. I held my breath. Jack stood his ground. A faceoff. I whimpered. This confrontation was my fault. I couldn’t bear a fight. I rushed at Jake, grasping him desperately, pushing him. Jack stepped outside and walked away.

 

6

       Jake had the look of a frantic animal. He grabbed me roughly and dragged me up the stairs.

       I wanted to tell him it was my fault. “What are you going to do?” I cried. My voice cracked and stuttered.

       “We’re going to my place. Get your things.” His voice resonated with the cold force of an avalanche. He waited, arms crossed.

       I wasn’t at all sure I should go with him but I was afraid to refuse. In the bedroom, engulfed in the odor of my sin, I hustled to gather some things and then shuttered the door. I called, shakily, “I’m ready.”

       He lurched at me, shoulders squared. A vein throbbed in his neck.

       I closed my eyes, thinking that I deserved physical punishment, would welcome it in exchange for relief from this guilt. Nothing happened. I opened my eyes again.

       He looked at me, puzzled. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

       We walked side by side without touching, me scurrying to keep up. He stared vacantly ahead, his mouth downturned.

       I bathed in his tub, scrubbing myself raw. When I slipped into bed, he turned away.

       Jake had come for me. He brought me home to his bed. I took refuge in the thought.

       My eyes moistened. I ventured a hand to his hair and stroked it. “I’m so sorry.”   

       “Not now,” he said. My fate, I realized, lay in the hands of time, and in the recourse of Jake’s capacity for forgiveness.

 

Really well done.  Thanks for the submission.  And all the best,

Bill

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