By the time they pull you out of the car, the party is already half over. Harry from accounting has mown through the good cheese and the VP is opening the evening’s lesser quality wines. Your cubicle neighbor has checked her watch twice, noting the unlikelihood of your tardiness. Your nemesis jokes you had to pick the right bow tie to make your entrance. Luella stares into her empty glass thinking she misunderstood.
She’s the one they call later, a cheerful ring tone ripping through deep layers of red wine sleep. Hers is the only number on the recent calls list, save the Chinese place on 3rd. She hangs up, heart slamming, limbs electric with pins and needles. The two of you are still only a possibility. She doesn’t know whether to cry.
You refuse visitors. You wouldn’t be able to tell them anyway. You were thinking about brie and champagne, a glinting ding on the beige car too close, driver slumped over the wheel. Metal shrieked and twisted, steam hissing white streams through billows of black tire smoke, a unique sound you can’t un-hear. You obsess over that final minute, dreaming alternate endings.
Luella attributes your solitude to stoicism instead of the necklace of surgical chain culminating in a garish, glistening trache and humiliating yellow tube snaking from the bed. You don’t call anyone.
Still, she buys roses. She pauses at your closed door. For another few seconds, she remains innocent of circumstances beyond anybody’s control.
“Circumstances” by Camille Griep won The Lascaux Review’s second annual (2013) flash fiction contest. See the results at www.lascauxflash.com.