Wednesday, February 15, 2017

WEP: February 2017

It's time once again for Write Edit Publish.  Denise Covey and Yolanda Renee make this wonderful event possible.

I decided to go for a little relationship drama this time. Enjoy!

The Paper

I stood over my great grandmother’s antique roll top desk, slack-jawed and stunned.  The paper shook in my trembling hand.  How long had it been hiding in the back of the drawer, waiting for me to discover it?

The sound of approaching footsteps couldn’t shake me from my stupor.

“Sweetie, have you seen my brown dress shoes?” James asked as he walked into the room.

I heard his words, but they scarcely registered.  I was too focused on this wrinkled, yellowed sheet of paper.  It had been lurking in the drawer for years, a constant part of my life without me realizing it.  Its presence remained unexplained, but I had every intention of getting an explanation now.

I held it up as I turned to face my husband.  “What’s this?”

His initial expression of confusion faded into something altogether different.  The color drained from his face.  He couldn’t deny his recognition.  Several tense moments passed before he broke the silence between us.  “It’s a paternity test.”

I stood, waiting for him to elaborate.  He didn’t.  “I know that!  I can read.  Why is it here in the first place?  Why does this even exist?”  My voice rose dramatically in pitch and volume.  Here I was, thinking we didn’t keep any big secrets from each other.  I’d obviously been wrong, and that realization left me standing on shaky ground.

His shoulders sagged.  He collapsed into his burgundy recliner and covered his face with his hands.  “My ex Marlene got pregnant, and she started telling people I was the father.  This was right before we got married.”

My mind was spinning.  I leaned against the wall and slid down it until I hit the floor.  I couldn’t even trust my own legs to hold me.  “This was while we were together, though.”  Not that I needed to ask.  The answer was obvious enough.

James held his hands up, as if that could bridge the gap between us.  “Rachael, listen to me, please.  She was lying.  You can see the results on that paper.  I’m not the father.  She was telling everyone that I was, but I knew I couldn’t be.  I hadn’t slept with her since before we got together, but I was afraid she’d try something.  You know how jealous she was of us.”

I took a deep breath, willing my racing heart to slow to a normal rhythm.  Marlene had indeed been particularly nasty when James and I first started dating.  Normally I would have done my best to avoid her, but her family lived across the street from James’ family.  That’s how they’d come to know each other in the first place.  If it had only been the occasional snide comments, I could have handled it, but the four slashed tires I’d ended up with crossed a line for me.  I had no proof it was her, but I had no doubts about it, either.  “Okay.  If that’s the case, why did you take the test, and why didn’t you tell me about any of this?”

James ran his hands through his black hair.  It looked like he was on the verge of tearing great chunks of it from his scalp.  “My dad suggested I take the test so I had the proof.  She couldn’t do anything if I had the test to back me up.  I held on to that paper in case I needed it.  I . . . I wanted to be honest with you, but I didn’t want to risk losing you.  That’s why she brought me into it in the first place.  She wanted to mess us up.  I was scared.”

Too much.  This was all too much.  Maybe he was telling the truth.  Maybe he wasn’t.  How was I supposed to know?  “I guess you expect me to believe you,” I said quietly.

James dropped out of the chair and crawled across the worn beige carpet to sit beside me.  He started to reach out, but seemed to think better of it and pulled back again.  “I swear.  I’m telling you the truth.  There were so many times I wanted to tell you, but the more time passed, the harder it got to say anything.  How was I supposed to bring it up?  What could I have possibly said to make everything okay?”

I shook my head.  I felt dizzy, and my stomach was churning.  “You hid it from me.  For almost ten years!  Why should I believe anything you say?”

His eyes were shining, and I knew he was on the verge of tears.  I’d never seen such fierce desperation in him before.  “Sweetheart, you know me.”

“I thought I did,” I said bitterly.  I couldn’t help questioning everything.  What else could he be hiding?

“This happened years ago.  We’ve been through so much since then.  It shouldn’t . . . it shouldn’t matter anymore.”

I sighed as the ache in my chest threatened to choke me.  I wanted that to be true.  I really did, but secrets are subversive.  When they come out, they can crack the most solid of foundations.  I looked at my husband, who looked as agonized as I felt, and for one awful moment, I wished I’d never opened that drawer.

Word Count: 875


  1. Neat flash. When secrets come out, they can crack the most solid of foundations - true!

    I hope they work this out. He sounds quite sincere, and his story sounds likely too. Thanks for the read, much enjoyed it.

  2. I can imagine her anguish, but I believe her husband was sincere and he spoke the truth. Great story!

  3. Trust is a funny thing. It's strong enough that you might put your whole life in someone else's hands, but fragile enough to be broken by a single lie.

    Sounds like tough days ahead fr your protagonists, but I hope they can work things out.

  4. Your story shows just how fragile trust is. Even after ten years, a report like that ruins a relationship. I finished reading it and there was a sadness in me. I felt like I had read the end of a good marriage.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

  5. You really captured the fragility of relationships, even 10 years in. Secrets are horrible things and very destructive.
    Excellent flash, as always!
    Thanks for being part of the WEP Challenges, always a pleasure to read your entries!
    Happy February!

  6. Trust can sure go the way of the DoDo once it is broken, even if well meaning. Sounds like he told the truth, but could be too little too late.

  7. Hi LG - it's strange how an unexpected turn of the dice - she learnt something she wasn't expecting and of course that makes her unsure, unsure of his motives ... and generally uncertain - I too hope they sort things out ... but it depends on the other secrets that slip into their sphere ... well done - cheers Hilary

  8. Oh wow! Well done with the emotion and tension. I could feel the anguish from both the characters. There's always a part of me that reads stories like this and wants everyone to kiss and make up, live "happily ever after"; sadly, that isn't the case for far too many people. And trust is a very delicate and solemn thing. I really like how you handled this. Very well done; very true to life.

    Thank you for sharing!

  9. Wow, that was great. At the beginning I certainly didn't expect this. Tons of emotion and a great visual impact.

  10. What a great story, well written, had me right there in the room with them. I hope they work it out.

  11. This is a great take on the theme, it's always awful finding something out that you'd rather not have known.

  12. I love the way you started with the ordinary question about shoes, then, wham, right into it! You've thrown up a lot of questions that makes it impossible for us to know whether he's lying or not. Sounds plausible enough, but is it? Great flash, LG, as always. So enjoyed reading it. And that gem of truth - exposed secrets can crack the most solid of foundations.

    Thanks for posting for WEP. Always wonderful to read your entries.

    Denise :-)

  13. Yes, secrets are toxic. I always tell people: don't keep secrets from the ones you love. Great story.

  14. Thats quite a secret to keep. Relationships can be so tricky. So much damage happens because of a secret.

  15. Great flash. Had a lot of angst and tension.

  16. Secrets in marriage can take your breath away and make you feel like you've been punched. Well written.

  17. What a powerful story. It all boils down to trust. She may never trust him again and who knows what that will do to their relationship. Ultimately, though, it's on him. He's either not telling the truth or he didn't trust her enough to tell her the truth when it happened. If he'd trusted her fully with his heart and confided in her, it would have strengthened their relationship. Excellent story.

  18. Good story. I understand his point of view better than hers, but I have a several female friends who would sound exactly like that, so I know you're spot on. Great writing.

  19. Those tempting drawers and their tempting secrets. They are not usually good or they wouldn't have been hiding.And those old 'ex's' can be a royal pain if they feel they are being 'replaced'. Good rule of thumb, walk away and don't look back.