This is my entry for the October ’12 Fiction in Five short story contest. The challenge: pick one prompt and use 6 required words (leaves, parade, tablecloth, yellow, crunching, potatoes); write a 700-1000 word story in 5 days.
by Camas Rain
“Are you listening?”
Jonicia gazed out the window as she washed the breakfast dishes. A parade of Dandelion puffs floated through the air like ticker tape confetti giving her hope. The sight of hundreds of seeds drifting toward a new beginning warmed her as she thought of each yellow blossom opening and reaching for the sun. After tomorrow things would change. Finally, she could hope for a better tomorrow. A future free of the dark shadows of her past.
“Are you listening?” Alan repeated.
She didn’t shift her gaze. “Hmm?”
Alan grumbled. “I said, ‘more weeds to deal with next spring.’”
Jonicia shrugged. “Maybe.”
Alan brushed past her and opened the kitchen door. “I’ll be back later.”
As the door clicked shut, Jonicia let out a deep breath. She hadn’t realized how tense she’d been, and she wondered if Alan could sense it. She was terrified he would find out her plan. She dried her hands and let her long, dark ponytail fall down her slender back. Just as she let her shoulders relax, the phone rang. She jumped.
With a tight voice she answered. “Hello?”
A gruff, unfamiliar voice came through the line. “Is this Jonicia?”
“Is this a good time to talk?”
Jonicia glanced outside to make sure Alan was really gone. After a pause, she answered. “Yes.”
“We need to go over the plan one more time.”
Sitting down, Jonicia noticed the vinyl on the vintage chairs made a crunching sound. She winced as the memory of what she’d seen flooded over her again. Nervously tapping her chewed fingernail on the ragged tablecloth, she choked out, “Okay.”
“Tomorrow, after he leaves, wait for one hour. Go about your usual routine, just in case.”
“In case of what? I thought you had everything worked out.”
“It’s just a precaution. You don’t need to worry.”
The man’s vague reassurance did nothing to calm her nerves. She had never seen him in person. After what she’d been through, she was no longer sure she could trust anyone.
She hesitated. “Okay, go on.”
“Your phone will ring only once. That will be your cue.”
As Jonicia listened, she felt a familiar knot twisting her gut. She knew Alan was trouble from the beginning, but she had always loved bad boys. The first year was mild. A bar fight here, a petty theft there. No one was getting hurt, she told herself. Plus, he was kind to her in a way she wasn’t used to. It didn’t take long, though, before Alan started depending on her for help.
The first time it happened, she was taken by surprise. He’d asked her to run to the Quick Mart with him to buy some beer.
“Wait in the car,” he instructed.
A few minutes after he’d gone in, he ran out with a paper bag and a gun.
He screamed, “Drive!”
She slammed the accelerator down, tears streaming down her face. After they’d returned home, he consoled her.
Jonicia was in love with him, and she loved the thrill. But as time went by, Alan began to withdraw. He no longer asked for help, but he stayed flush with money.
Alan’s routine was predictable. Each morning, he awoke early to run. Upon his return, he expected to have a plate of eggs and fried potatoes waiting for him. After breakfast, he showered, dressed in an expensive suit, and left. He usually came home for dinner in the late evening; occasionally, however, he disappeared for several days.
Lately, Alan’s absences were more frequent, and Jonicia was increasingly lonely. She missed the excitement of being his getaway driver. She missed their bond. In the back of her mind, Jonicia knew he’d moved on from petty theft, but she was hesitant to broach the subject.
One morning, she finally found the courage to ask him about it.
Timidly she asked, “Alan, can I talk to you about something?”
Alan put his fork down and wiped his mouth.
She continued, “I miss you. I miss us. I want to be a part of whatever you are doing.”
Alan cleared his throat and looked at her. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Please, Alan. Take me along just once. You know I’m up for it.”
He rested both arms on the table. Looking down, he took a deep breath and exhaled. “Okay. You can come today. But whatever happens, it’s between us.”
Thrilled, Jonicia threw her arms around him. “I promise!”
In her heart, she knew what they did was wrong, but there was something about the thrill of the chase that she couldn’t resist.
“Just like old times,” she thought, remembering the rush of the getaway.
She was confused when Alan took the wheel, but her excitement kept her from questioning him. It wasn’t until he turned down an alleyway that she became nervous. As the car rolled to a stop, Jonicia looked at him, worried for the first time.
“Alan,” she started, stopping herself when she saw a dark look wash over his face.
“Stay here,” he snapped, grabbing a duffel from behind the seat.
Her stomach churned as she watched him walk toward a man standing by a dumpster. She couldn’t hear them, but the other man looked like he was pleading. Somewhere a phone was ringing, distracting her. She rolled down the window so she could hear better. In one swift movement, Alan grabbed a bat from the bag and smashed the man’s knees.
“Are you listening?”
Jonicia snapped back to the phone. “I’m listening. I know what to do. See you tomorrow.”
Hanging up the phone, Jonicia’s mind drifted to hopeful Dandelion puffs floating toward new life.
She started at Alan’s reflection in the window.
“You’ll see who tomorrow?”