More Than Words – Flash Fiction

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“I…” he stumbled over the next word he wanted to say. He couldn’t make the sound; felt like he wanted to choke on it.

Jenny looked at him expectantly, waiting for what he was going to say but she glanced back down at her menu when she realised he definitely wasn’t going to say it.

He didn’t know what was wrong with him. He had said it before – probably a million times over in the 4 years they’d been together. What was so different now?

Jenny lead the conversation throughout the course of their meal, where he could respond normally, but when a natural silence came, as usually happens, he would try again to say it, always stumbling over that one word. It was a time when he felt the need to say it, would usually say it at such moments. But now it was like the word physically repulsed him; made him gag almost.

*******

After a few days of this and wanting to say the word at least what felt like a thousand times, and not just because he couldn’t, he decided to confide in someone.

“Mom, I’m having trouble expressing a word and I don’t know why.”

“What word?” she asked, looking puzzled at such a notion,

He shuffled awkwardly and made an attempt to say it, but, as before, the word just could not be formed and spoken a loud. He growled in frustration.

“How do you feel about me, mom? and Dad?”

“Well I love you both very much, of course”

“That’s it!” he exclaimed, “That’s the word. I physically cannot say it”

“What, love?”

“Yup. Can’t say that. It’s like my mouth can’t form it. I, I want to say it, but I just can’t” His voice softened, “I haven’t been able to for days. Jenny probably thinks I’m going off her.”

“Are you sure you feel it? This could be some sort of psychological thing y’know”

“Definitely. And y’know what, I’m not overly bothered about why I can’t say it; I just need to be able to say it to Jenny. I don’t want her thinking that I’ve stopped.”

“Well, some say that actions speak louder than words. You’ll just have to show her.”

*******

He felt a bit dumbfounded. What did he usually do to show how he felt? He thought but nothing came to mind. He couldn’t think of anything he did for jenny as a show of affection – they kissed and hugged, sure, but he did nothing else. Whenever he felt love, he’d say so. He could not think of a single thing he did as a show of affection and appreciation for Jenny.

He asked himself, “What is romantic?” and when he couldn’t come up with a decent answer himself, he turned to books, and movies, and began observing other couples when he was out and about.

One day, when they were out walking the dog, he saw a couple walking hand in hand so instantly grabbed Jenny’s.

“What are you doing?” she asked, sounding unimpressed.

“Just wanted to hold your hand,” he responded, before getting a little bit defensive, “Is that a problem?”

“No,” She chuckled, “Just not something you usually do, that’s all”

She smiled and started swinging their arms as they walked along.

he noticed as they walked that she seemed brighter – an inner voice screamed at him to tell her;

“You look beautiful today Sweet,” he stated

She looked at him bemused, but didn’t say anything, just smiled.

*******

He tried a couple of different romantic gestures and they seemed to satiate Jenny when she was full of expectance, waiting for him to declare his love, but he felt like a fraud; it wasn’t natural for him. Jenny wasn’t even the kind of girl for grand gifts and public displays.

When he brought her a large bouquet of deep red roses, her face lit up, glowed even, but then took a serious look quite quickly, asking what he had done wrong, questioning his fidelity to her.

“You idiot!” he thought to himself afterwards, “Roses aren’t even her favourite”

He tried a couple of other things but each time felt like he wasn’t being genuine with her – like it was all show and no meaning.

******

A few weeks later he was at the supermarket, wracking his brains for new ideas. He was absolutely frustrated with himself. “ Who knew that words and actions were so inseparable” he thought.

He picked up the few things that they needed and when walking past the medicine aisle decided to get some tissues and throat lozenges for Jenny who was coming down with a cold.

“Thanks honey,” she murmured when he got home, “You’re so romantic”

“You think?”

“Yeah. That was a really thoughtful thing to do for me”

He smiled widely, proudly realising that romance wasn’t all big, fancy dates and grand gestures.

“I love you” he said.

*******

And whilst he was glad to be able to say it to the woman that mattered most, he never actually used it as often as he used to, enjoying the discovery of little things that filled his and Jenny’s heart with love.

After all, sometimes, actions do speak louder than words.

 

[866 words]

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Desperate Times

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He looked at her. His hair was still a mess and in the bright morning sunlight he looked more handsome and more human than she had ever seen him.

“I guess I’m asking you to trust me.” he said

Every fibre of her being knew that trusting him would be a really big mistake but she felt that this was her only option – she was desperate.

Taking a deep breath, she folded her arms and said, “OK.”

Walking across his office from her spot in the doorway, they shook hands to seal the deal.

*******

She questioned what she had just done as she walked through the streets back towards her home.

She kept telling herself that it was for the greater good, that everything will be ok now. No amount of reasoning seemed to settle her anxiety though.

It felt like a heavy stone had lodged itself at the base of her sternum; her heart beating faster in a miserable attempt to get it moved.

“It will be OK” she kept repeating to herself. After all, some say that the bad times have often got to get worse before they can get better.

But she didn’t know just when they would get better – part of the deal was that he could use her anytime, anywhere, and for any reason.

*******

When a few weeks had passed and he still hadn’t reappeared her nerves were in absolute pieces. She found herself relying on smelling salts every few hours or so just to revive herself and her senses.

In an attempt to distract, she called upon one of her sisters to come and take a walk with her.

“So what’s going on with you?” her sister asked as they strolled through the park.

“Oh, nothing; let’s not talk about my boring life, I want to know about you.” came her reply, hopefully not sounding too secretive.

Her sister went on about the little ones, and her hopes for another. They talked about childhood memories and their mother and father. The little outing proved to be a great source of distraction. That was until he appeared, as if from nowhere, in front of them.

“It’s time” he smiled at her, offering his hand as if he were a gentleman

“You know this man?” her sister queried

She stood between them like someone who had just been caught cheating at a card game; not wanting to admit the truth, but unable to think of a plausible explanation.

“I’m sorry but I have to go” she turned from her sister to follow him but her sister grabbed her arm, turning her back around.

“You can’t go with that man” she declared
“I have to. It’s the only way to make things better”

Her sister sighed, lowering her voice “He’s strange. I get a bad feeling about him – like my blood turns cold just laying eyes on him”

“I have to go, we have a deal”

“But who is he?!” her sister demanded, holding tighter to her arm

“Lucifer.”

And with that, she tore her arm from her sister’s hand and went with him – off to fulfil their deal so she could finally get what she needed for her dying son.

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A Writer’s World

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The stark white and brightness of the café melted away the more she wrote. Leaving behind the real world, she entered her own of peace and solitude; her pen dutifully scribbling down the realms and worlds of her imagination, desperately trying to keep up.

Her soul had taken a leap, and even though the pages were white, streaked with black marks it was swimming amongst vivd backdrops and creations. Worlds of colour and imagination engulfed her – a high contrast to the realities that surround her physical being.

Whilst everybody around her was carrying on with their mundane routines, an hour for a boring sandwich and a scroll through Facebook, she was amongst heroes and villains, surreal creatures and topsy turvy paradises. Her senses, her mind, her heart were alive!

She travelled through time and space; to far off countries and amongst the stars; all from an uncomfortable plastic seat in a kind of ok café.

She orchestrated melodies; directed her company of characters; bringing life or destroying it.

The only thing to distract her, to bring her worlds to a grinding halt, was a young man who clumsily sat down at the table next to her. She felt aggrieved – hated being disturbed but instantly tried to get back into the flow. She took a deep breath, ready to dive back in, when she glanced over and noticed that this man was pulling a book from his oversized bag.

She watched as he became engulfed in this work of literature. In her mind’s eye a stream of golden light glowed up from the pages he was reading; a new world radiating from leaves of a tree long gone, absorbing him, attaching itself to his soul.

She couldn’t stay silently mad at this person who had disturbed her. She felt an affinity with him, a shared interest in words, in getting lost, of forgetting the real world.

She smiled at him when he glanced up and then went back to the world of her notebook, content in the knowledge that there were people in the world similar to her; that she was never truly alone.

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A Natural End

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I sat opposite her, an uncomfortable silence hung in the air between us; like we were strangers unsure of what to talk about. I didn’t feel the need or urge to tell her anything. Everything we’d usually talk about just didn’t seem of importance – we didn’t want to talk anymore.

We fiddled with our phones, looked at our watches – not taking in the time at all – and looked around at the other people. We used to come to this bar all of the time, but now we didn’t recognise anybody. They were all strangers now, just like she was to me.

Several years and I didn’t feel anything for her anymore. All of the memories felt dull and repetitive. I didn’t want to be with her now, and I could tell she felt the same way. There’s no point holding onto a relationship that doesn’t bring you joy right? No point clinging to somebody who makes things feel like a chore rather than a pleasure. This relationship only survived out of a sense of duty to each other I guess; to somebody who has been in my life for so long.

It’s not like we hate each other; no argument, no bad feelings. We’ve just… run our course.

It happens to everyone. You just grow apart, develop different interests, evolve as a person. No matter how big of a part they play in your life, you can’t always be the same, or change in the same way. That’s just the way it is I thought.

I needed to end the silence that hung between us.

“I know we’ve known each other since school; been through a lot together… but do you think it’s time to admit that our friendship is over now?”

 

[292 words]

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Buttons

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It was when a button popped off, straining under the pressure of holding his blue shirt closed, that he realised something needed to be done. That shirt was the largest one he could find in the shop when he’d brought it, only a few months ago.

The thought of going to a specialist clothes shop, always called something ridiculous like ‘Big & Mighty’, to buy even larger sizes scared him into action. He needed to lose the weight, and fast.

He decided to be smart about it, to go to a doctor first and get the right advice. Crash diets just never worked.

At the doctors though, rather than taking his vitals and discussing the best exercises and healthy meal options, or telling him off for being so glutinous, the doctor simply asked about his life and how things were.

Unsure of what this had to do with anything, he thought for a second before attempting to answer.

He hadn’t really thought about himself lately, figured he was kinda stuck on automatic mode so to speak, going through the motions of daily life without really reflecting on it.

“Well”, he spoke hesitantly, “erm, I’ve just been working really. My mom died last year and I haven’t really wanted to do anything else. Just getting on with it.”

“And how do you feel about your mother’s death?” the doctor asked

He stopped to consider this question before bursting into tears. At first they simply streaked down his cheeks but the more he spoke the more they flowed, harder and harder, his face turning the colour of sweet red cherries.

Through heaving sobs he explained how much he missed her, how he was an only child who never knew his father and with no other family to speak of.

He spent the best part of an hour crying his heart out, talking about his feelings of loneliness, emptiness and uncertainty for his future. He shook with emotion.

Eventually he began to settle and calm down, and as the tears started to ease and subside, the doctor asked him to stand in front of the mirror. A little repulsed at the idea of looking at his fat, puffy, tear-stained face, he slowly got up and stepped over to the other side of the room where a full length mirror hung on the wall. He lifted his gaze unwillingly.

However, rather than the red plum of a face he was expecting, he was surprised to see a much slimmer man staring back.

“All of your “fat” was in fact emotional baggage you’ve been harbouring since your mother passed. You’ve been bottling it all up and with no other release, it simply has to go somewhere. Your fat was the physical manifestation of what you were feeling inside.”

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All Lies

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“Silly girl, do you think I actually loved you?”

She looked at him, her eyes questioning, her lips drying, her heart exploding,

“You certainly made it seem that way” came her meek response.

“You were just a part of the cover story,” he admitted, “but you can go away now”

His words were cold, aloof, uncaring. She was stunned into silence. Everything she thought she knew had been a lie.

She had questions but didn’t want to hear the answers; not right now. All she could do was do as she was told and go away. She got up from her seat outside of the café and started walking away, not wanting to spend another minute with him; not knowing where to go either.

She felt so hurt and alone. How could anybody do such a thing? Not only to lie about absolutely everything but to maintain that lie for so long. All of this time and it was lies; she didn’t know who she was anymore.

That man pretended to be her father. Her childhood, everything she had known, in a single moment, had ceased to exist.

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Growing Up

All children must eventually grow up.

Some mature faster than others but it happens to them all. You just cannot stop it. As time moves forward, speeding through the present, making every second history, children get older. They become disinterested in their passions, swapping and changing them on a whim. Developing, learning, growing. Not so innocent anymore; maybe a little jaded.

They leave behind their toys, and fascination of everything, but first of all he’ll forget about me, the imaginary friend.

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It started of slowly – one day he simply didn’t talk to me as much as he usually did. A little time passed and then there would be the odd days when he wouldn’t talk to me at all. These days became more common. I was still in his mind but he was unwilling to talk, to play; he was bored of me. He ignored me.

I’ll never forget the day that his auntie asked him if he still had an imaginary friend, her voice filled with an evil laughter. My eyes immediately looked over at him, waiting hopefully for him to recognise my existence again. He simply blushed and looked down at his feet whilst the grown-ups carried on their conversation. I could do nothing but walk out of the room, storming passed him, but still going unnoticed.

All of the time I had spent with that boy, playing with him, talking to him, being there for him when he felt all alone and that’s how he treats me. Too good for me now, too mature; doesn’t matter that I’m the one whose all alone now.

I can’t stay mad at him though. When he’s at school, I’ve noticed that a few of the other kids have imaginary friends that they are ignoring as well. It’s just the way it is, nothing personal.

The day will come when they will forget us completely. They won’t be able to recall our names, or the silly things we used to do together.

I’ve spoken to one of the other imaginary friends and he feels the exact same way, scared of what will happen next. Does another child choose us to be their friend? Do we just spend eternity doing nothing? Or, do we simply cease to exist?

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