Vulnerable

Mara’s jaw dropped. “You’re seriously breaking up with Ally because you think she’s a vampire?”

“I mean not really,” Dillon answered. “It’s just an idea that got stuck in my head, but it’s ruining the whole relationship.”

Arms folded and eyes narrow, Mara asked, “What about her is so vampiric?”

“Well, she hates garlic.”

A shrug. “So do I. Lots of people don’t like garlic.”

“But my family’s Italian. All my favorite foods have garlic. Oh!” he added, growing animated, “She wouldn’t go into my family’s church at Christmas either.”

“Do you even go to that church anymore?”

“But think about it,” he insisted, “holy water… crucifixes…”

“And have you tried talking to her about her own beliefs?”

“Fine,” Dillon grunted, “but what sort of woman doesn’t carry a mirror in her purse?”

“A confident woman with relationships built on trust.”

“Huh?”

Mara rolled her eyes. “My point is that you have a habit of sabotaging relationships once they get to a point where you might actually have to be vulnerable.”

Dillon winced. “Harsh… but maybe you’re right. I… should probably give her a call.”

Mara smiled encouragingly, revealing sharp fangs, then lunged forward and bit Dillon in the neck.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Zipper

“Why can’t I stay at home?” Zinny asked dejectedly.

Hannah answered my rote, “You’re still too little to stay at home by yourself.” Moving automatically, she grabbed a stocking cap from the hook by the door and shoved the hat down over her daughter’s mess of curly hair.

“Why can’t daddy watch me?” Zinny asked next.

“Because dad’s not home right now,” Hannah said, grabbing the bright purple coat from its hook and draping it over Zinny’s shoulders.

“But I want him to be home.”

Hannah restrained a sigh, saying simply, “I know, darling.”

Zinny looked up with large eyes that her mother refused to meet and asked, “Where is daddy?”

Hannah knelt to help her daughter with her zipper. “He had to go far away for work, remember?”

“He’s always far away at work,” she groaned.

“Yes.” Hannah yanked the zipper, and it didn’t move. She yanked again.

“I just want him to be home again.”

“Yes Zinny,” Hannah said through gritted teeth, “I know.” She tugged the zipper pull with short sharp movements.

“But why is he not home?”

“Because he’s NOT” Hannah shouted. They were on the same level, face to face, eyes filling up with tears.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Hold

The alley was wide, but few people used it. It may have been because the tall stone buildings on either side kept out the sun most of the day except for around 12 o’clock. That’s where they stood, surrounded by murky shadows while strangers passed by on either end of the manmade ravine.

“Are you sure?” he asked. He bowed his head to look at her, but she wouldn’t meet his eyes. “Are you sure?”

She nodded slowly.

A breath of wind wound its way down the alley and swept up a few of her golden hairs, coaxing them to flutter before her face and land on her moist lips. His dark, gentle hand brushed those strands aside, tucking them behind her ear and letting his palm rest for just a moment on her warm cheek. She might have been blushing, but the half-light around them made her almost expressionless face appear more serene than he had ever seen it.

He felt her jaw tighten.

“Come on. We should be going.”

Her heels clicked on the cement footpath as she walked. But he lingered ever so briefly, saying goodbye to the air where her perfume and his hand still hung.

Photo by Daniel Gregoire on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox
from A Breath of Fiction’s archives
originally published October 16, 2010

Clinging

“I can’t do this anymore.”

We were used to shouting at each other. Angry clashes and passionate reconciliation had always been our pattern, but then a simple, calm statement ended everything. I couldn’t even summon a response, just stared blankly, searching her face for some sort of explanation.

She shook her head. “Things were supposed to be different here.” I could hear a deep, searing pain in her voice. “You said they would be different.”

“I thought they were.”

She didn’t respond for a long time, just stood in the doorway. Finally she said, “My sister’s downstairs. She’ll give me a ride. The apartment is yours now.” A pause. “Goodbye.”

She must have shut the door, but I did not, could not watch her go. At some point, night fell.

At some point, I smashed a lamp and toppled a bookshelf. At some point, I ran out of liquor. “This is your fault,” I said at last.

A thin voice replied, “No.”

“We left everything to get away from you. You weren’t supposed to be here.”

“You . . .” the voice creaked, “brought me.”

“Leave me alone,” I pleaded.

“I . . . can’t.” And I sat in the darkness, clinging fiercely to my anger.

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Reasons

“Can we talk?”

Leah turned to see Marci on the next stool. “I’d rather not,” she answered flatly and turned away.

“This is uncomfortable for me too,” Marci said, “but we have to talk about this.”

“About how you broke his heart?”

It was what Marci had expected, but it still made her cheeks burn with shame. “Well,” she offered, “if I hadn’t, you never would have gotten together.”

However, Leah’s next reply was entirely unexpected. “We’re not together,” she said, draining the amber liquid from her glass.

“I thought . . .”

Leah turned back, tears glistening in her eyes. “I don’t think he was ever really that interested. Anyway, he’s engaged now or something.”

“Oh,” Marci answered. A pause. “Me too.”

Leah let out a heavy, pained sigh. “Congratulations, I guess.”

The women sat silently in the noisy bar until Marci decided to make one last effort. “You know there’s a reason I left him, right?  There are . . . a lot of reasons.”

“Yeah,” Leah said, “He’s toxic. I get it.”

“If you get it, then why do you still hate me?”

Leah shook her head. “Like you said, if you hadn’t left him, he never would have gotten to hurt me.”

Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox