Stood Up

I folded the red and white checkered napkin over and over, the repetitive action calming.

“May I get you anything else?”

Flustered, I dropped it. I stared at the basket of bread sticks in front of me, the dried grease congealed after two hours of sitting untouched.

Where was he?

“Ma’am?” The waiter’s irritation shined through his plastic smile. “May I get you the check?’

“What time do you close?”

“In an hour.”

“I’ll have a house salad then, ranch dressing on the side.”

“Of course.” He left, annoyance radiating from his body.

I sighed, as frustrated as my waiter. I opened my purse, pulling out a postcard with the state capitol on the front. I flipped it over, reading the familiar scrawl for the thousandth time.

“I’m not dead. Meet me tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. Tell no one.”

No postmark.

My heart raced again.

John wasn’t dead.

The delicious smell of oven baked pizza wafted through the air, bringing back memories of high school.

Our first date at this same table, tucked into a dark back corner.

His laughter as I pretended to give a blow job to a breadstick.

His tongue licking pizza sauce off my fingers.

His hand, pulling me into the narrow alleyway behind Guido’s, my back against the brick wall as his body covered mine.

“Here’s your salad.” A plate thumped onto the table.

I jumped, nearly knocking over my chair, and shoved the postcard back into my purse. “Thank you.”

“Enjoy your… salad.” He flounced away, no longer hiding his contempt.

I stabbed my food and shuffled it around the plate, pretending to eat; “what if” scenarios flew through my mind.

What if by “tonight”, he’d meant 5 PM, not sometime after 6? Three hours and still no sign of him.

What if this was a trick? I hadn’t seen John in over five years, our communication by email or phone only. Why not email me instead of a cryptic postcard?

What if he was really dead?

I shuddered. He damn well better be alive. I would not mourn him twice in a week.

My cell phone danced on the table. I peeked at the caller ID and guilt washed over me as Danny’s name appeared.

I slid my finger across the screen to answer. “Hi honey.” My voice wavered and I cleared my throat. “What’s up?”

“Me. I’m naked and waiting for you. Where the hell are you?”

I bit my lip. “You didn’t get my text?”

“No, I fucking didn’t get any damn text. What fucking emergency could have possibly happened to make you late after I just spent two weeks working in Hong Kong?”

I cringed as the lie rolled off my tongue. “I texted you hours ago. Amanda’s dad is in the hospital and she needs moral support. I won’t be back until late.” Or in an hour if John failed to show.

“Fuck. Is he dying?”

“The details are sketchy and the doctors aren’t talking. It’s why Amanda is a basket case.”

“Hell.”

“Yeah. I’m so sorry.” My gut twisted and I silently cursed John for putting me in this position.

“I’ll try to wait up for you. If I’m asleep, you know how to wake me up.”

“Thanks for understanding. I’ll make it up to you.”

“I’m counting on it, babe. See you later.”

“Bye.” I disconnected the call, shoved my salad away, and smacked my forehead onto the table.

I’d ditched hot sex with my boyfriend for being stood up by a dead ex-boyfriend’s cryptic postcard.

What the hell?

I raised my head and reached into my purse again, ignoring the postcard and selecting two twenties to toss onto the table. I stood and hurried out the door.

A wall of humidity hit me as I strode from the brightly lit entrance into the path of a broken streetlight. I sped up, passing our alleyway, blinking away the bombarding memories.

I removed my keys and a warm hand covered my mouth as an arm lifted my torso – my body pulled tight into another’s. Panicked, I struggled, trying to kick my attacker or gouge their eyes.

My keys clattered to the sidewalk as we disappeared into the alley.

***Now continued in “The Alley”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

A Red Dress Club writing prompt

The Red Dress Club: “One week after attending the funeral of a close friend, you receive a postcard in the mail with the words, ‘I’m not dead. Meet me tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. Tell no one.’ “

Have FUN with this! Word limit is 700.

Constructive criticism? Yes please!

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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72 Responses to Stood Up

  1. Frelle says:

    wow! what an emotional ride! I am always right there with you when you write fiction like this. A new storyline! MORE!!!!!!

  2. Tonya says:

    Don’t leave me hanging… what happened next?!?!

    Great job of building up the story and LOVE the cliffhanger.

  3. PLEASE, please, please tell me they did it in the alley way!
    The pace of this was awesome. You really kept me wrapped up.
    I don’t have any concrit only to say she’s a very generous tipper! 2 twenties for a side salad is super generous am hoping she had some wine with her sexy breadsticks! LOVED IT!

    • Don’t forget the breadsticks.

      I think she wanted to ensure the waiter had no cause to harass her.

      You have no idea how badly she wanted a drink, but when in that situation, she wanted to have a clear head.

      Probably a good thing too..

  4. tsonoda148 says:

    Wow, I’m so ready to read more. Nicely written, good description. Can’t wait for part 2!

  5. Frume Sarah says:

    I really hated the boyfriend. He is a complete jerk. Which is makes it perfectly believable that she would stand him up for an ex. Even a dead one.

    A good read.

    One grammatical correction: gouge their eyes should read “gouge his eyes.”

  6. Nadya says:

    oh man! good ending, great writing and story. Love the execution of this prompt.

  7. Kelly says:

    This was perfectly paced! The emotional excitement of anticipation, worry, guilt, danger….all rolled into one side salad! 🙂 Can’t wait for part 2!

  8. Ash says:

    Sitting at the table with her, excellent use of description in such a short story.

    Only crit – the boyfriend on the phone could probably lose one or two of the curse words. I’m no priss. I love a well-placed “fuck,” (alleyway anyone?) but it was a little jarring compared to how well the rest of your words flowed.

    • Erica M says:

      I agree with Ash, and fuck is one of my favorite words. But the boyfriend’s rant took me out of the story for a bit.

      Good story. Tell us more!

    • I considered losing a few of the curse words. I didn’t consciously put them there, they just spilled out as she talked with Danny.

      I had to cut 80 words, and I couldn’t bring myself to delete a single curse.

      I could just see Danny so clearly. Weeks out of the country, horny as hell, waiting for his normally punctual girlfriend, discovering she’s ditching him after the anticipation built, finally realizing he’s being a jerk when she’s concerned for a friend (albeit the wrong one).

      Also, I think he’s just one of those people who curses. A lot. No children yet to learn censoring.

      The words were meant to jar, to sort of “knock sense” into her at what she was doing.

      I hope it didn’t jar you out of the story too much.

      Love your alleyway comment.

  9. Dawn says:

    Great read,
    gripping and you definitely carried me to the end,
    but,, THEN WHAT??

  10. Joy says:

    I love how well you described the scene in the restaurant — I could smell the pizza and see the hours-old breadsticks. And I was totally thrown by the curve ball at the end. So curious to find out who it is and what happens in the alley.

  11. Kir says:

    oh I loved the end!!! this was great, the scene was wonderful, could see/smell/hear everything (even her annoying boyfriend)

    can’t wait to see where you take us with this……

  12. Jessica says:

    Stopping by for the first time from the weekly Red Writing Hood meme.

    I loved your story! I agree with the others that it was descriptive enough to make everything seem real. The scenery, the phone call, & even the climax at the end. Loved how it ended. I’m a sucker for the ‘cliffhanger’ endings. It completely left me wanting to read further into the story. Great job!

  13. Sara says:

    I loved the dialogue in this story. It crackled with feeling and moved with such an easy feel. I felt like I was there.

    I’m hoping that it was John at the end.

    Your descriptions were also very good from the tired waiter to the old bread sticks. I loved this story!!!!

    The only place I stopped for a second was when she smacked her forehead on the table. OUCH. It seems a bit harsh and painful. Perhaps she could have smacked her hand on her forehead and put her down on the table? Then again, this is just me…I hate pain. Also, this is minor suggestion..I think this story is a winner!!

    BTW If you come to visit my story, please go here: http://www.shadesofcrimson.com/2011/04/14/guest-post-the-call/ Due to construction at my site, I am guest posting at a friend’s site today.

    • I’ve thought about that line because several others mentioned it.

      I think perhaps “smacked” was too strong of a verb. I still see her “knocking sense”into herself, but perhaps not quite as hard as the image I painted.

  14. Carrie says:

    I enjoyed this. The pacing was pretty well done, especially the part where her current boyfriend was yelling at her. He sounds like a controlling type…perhaps this episode will awaken the realization that a supposedly dead ex boyfriend is better than a jerk.

    The ending was fantastic. I love how you leave it open to the imagination.

  15. tulpen says:

    Love it!

    And my filthy mind wants the attacker to be the mysterious John and for something naughty to happen in that alley.

    Alleys are dirty hot.

  16. Leighann says:

    OMG! you have got to continue with this!
    This was fantastic!
    I so so so love it!

  17. There you go again, making me love more of your characters, your stories, your words.

    Yes please. Please give me more. And give it to me good, in an alley. Not MY ALLEY…come on now!

    Love you Kelly!

    • Aww.. thanks Mads (fyi, WordPress knows you aren’t spam anymore!).

      People are really liking the alleyway… All because of a random memory she shared with me.

      I’m always torn about continuing stories. Yet, I want to write a book. So we’ll see.

  18. jenny says:

    trying to think of something constructive to say, but can’t–just loved it want to read more. NOW. (Please?) 😉

  19. Trish says:

    Definitely the start of something really interesting. I’m hooked!

  20. mommylebron says:

    Oh man, I was flipping over my laptop looking for more! This was great, very face paced and suspenseful. Ending with a cliffhanger is the perfect way to bring back the readers!
    Stopping by from TRDC!

    http://allbtwnthelines.wordpress.com

  21. Ok. More. Now.

    This is good. The waiting. The lying. The frustration.

    Love the ending. Unexpected.
    Into the alley. Hmmm

  22. Nichole says:

    LOVE this.

    The only “fuck” I’d remove is the one between Hong and Kong.

    My only other thought is when she slams her head into the table…would she really do that? It distracted me a bit.

    I loved how tense and on edge she was. I could just feel it.

    Nicely done.

    • You’re right. I could probably lose that “fuck”.

      Regarding the head smack – I initially had lines explaining she hadn’t meant to do it quite so hard, but I had to cut it for word count.

      I totally believe she would do so, the frustration of the situation after hours on edge and guilt of lying to boyfriend.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  23. Tina says:

    Great cliffhanger! The boyfriend seemed superfluous to the story. You probably could have cut him out completely and not lost any of the momentum. Your description of the waiter was perfection–I hope that your character didn’t tip him!

    • I really did need the boyfriend. He was key to showing the life she had, the plans, and what she gave up to try to meet John at the last minute. It shows the level she had to stoop to so she could be there. The lie. The guilt. I feel it packs more punch then saying “I felt guilty because my boyfriend just got into town and we had a reunion sex planned, instead I was lying to him” or something along those lines.

      I appreciate your opinion though. I love to see how different people view the same passage.

      Yes, the waiter was tipped, and over-tipped at that. It was guilt related, and wanting to flee without any trouble.

  24. angela says:

    Loved the cliffhanger ending! Will we ever find out if it’s John?

    I think your dialogue works well in this piece. With the waiter it builds the tension she’s feeling, and with her boyfriend it shows how John isn’t exactly in her life anymore (well, you know, before the possibly fake death!)

    I love the detail about the state capitol on the front of the postcard. Those little details all add up to paint such a vivid picture.

    I’m not sure about the head smack on the table. It seems physically awkward to me, and I’m pretty short. Maybe she could push the plate across the table onto the floor? It would show frustration without being so painful.

    • See my note to Nichole about the head smack. Sometimes the word count bites me in the butt.

      Trust me, table head smacking is possible. I MIGHT have done it once upon a time, to know the logistics exist. I would not recommend it.

      This was a good example of how I like to use dialogue.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  25. Carina says:

    I love the character being stuck between these two men. I imagine if this story went on, it would run those lines.

    Maybe you should keep this going. 🙂

  26. CDG says:

    Oh, alleys and dead exes!

    This prompt has been so much fun, and you do not disappoint.

    I have to admit, I saw a version of your ending coming, but I’m hoping it’s not John… nothing like upping the stakes!

    • I think whether or not it’s John depends on if: it’s a short story, or something I could wrap up in a few parts, or a full length novel.

      It’s something I wouldn’t know until I wrote it either. My characters are funny like that.

  27. Ooooooooooooooh the alley!! I love stories that go into an alley. i wonder what’s there for her…hot steamy sex or some kind of kidnapping that leads to hot steamy sex? IDK but the naked boyfriend fresh from Hong Kong waiting for her added an element to the story that I think if you took it out, it wouldn’t work. it’;s like we needed the interaction with the boyfriend to grasp what she is giving up to see her dead ex.

    Will there be more? I hope so!

    • You got exactly why the boyfriend was in this story.

      I read this prompt many times, and it hit me: how incredibly vague and demanding the postcard is. It says tonight, but no date, yet the use of today implies little to no warning. It doesn’t give a time, only a place. There are many hours “tonight” can encompass, so what is a person to do?

      Did my character have a life? children? If she did, the postcard most likely disrupted them, because few of us can drop things so quickly.

      Then demanding to tell no one, forcing her to lie.

      Breaking down those parts of the prompt are what formed and drove this story.

      I hope if it is John in the alley, she slaps him, for being so vague. Details man!

      I tell you, the TRDC gals really like alley ways and sex…. Hmmm. 🙂

      There was certainly a lot in her past.

  28. Ironic Mom says:

    Umm, hello, can we have some more please?

    Fab dialogue. And I loved that first sentence. Set the tone right away.

  29. I liked this!

    I didn’t have a problem with the cursing at all. Altho I agree w/ Nichole about Hong fucking Kong maybe being overkill. But it’s not a huge deal.

    TEENY thing, but why is there congealed grease in breadsticks? Aren’t they dry? Altho, it’s been awhile since I’ve eaten at a place where they actually serve you food at your table.. 😉

    • In many places where I have partaken of breadsticks (and I am typically a fan of such) they often coat the outside with butter or oil. This butter will pool and make them soggy, then congeal if left long enough.

      I can’t imagine why you don’t eat out where they serve you your food at the table… Kids aren’t any work in restaurants. Nope. Not at all.

      Glad you liked this! It was a fun prompt to do.

  30. Jennie B says:

    More, please 🙂

  31. Mandyland says:

    Oh my GOD! This is fantastic! I loved it. And the cliffhanger…you’re not going to leave us hanging are you??

  32. Uh, there better be more to this in a “part two” or I will die! Seriously! Must. Know. What. Happened.

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  34. Ilana says:

    Alright— you cannot leave me hanging like that! You are going to continue, yes?

    I really like that you waited to reveal the prompt until the middle. It made me forget that’s what it was and when it came, it seemed totally natural. Your story was completely engrossing and I wanted more.

    One thing. Danny’s response about being in Hong Kong seemed a little heavy on the cursing. He seemed really angry which made me think you were going somewhere else with the story and then he seemed to turn back into a nice guy too quickly.

    Otherwise, I’m waiting for the next installment.

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  36. melissa says:

    ok…love this! more please!

  37. You’ve set your scene wonderfully. I am watching it in my mind. I think what I love most (besides the story you’ve got going here) is how effortlessly the writing flowed between what is going on in the moment and where Madison’s mind drifts to from moments of the past. :>

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