Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.
Last week I started a new story, In Pieces, and we met Ryan Fremont - first as a young boy, then as a young man at his father's funeral. The story continues today, I hope you like it. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!
In Pieces #2 (1.2)
Ryan turned his gaze toward his stepmother. Cassie was Dad’s third wife. Widow now. Ryan’s mother, who’d died when Ryan was an infant, had been the first Mrs. Fremont. And Dad’s second wife, Liza, had disappeared years ago, vanished without a trace. Along with his stepbrother, Ben. He’d hoped they would show up today—whether to pay their respects or simply acknowledge his dad’s passing, he couldn’t say—but that hadn’t happened. Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised. He hadn’t heard a word from either of them in ten years. The last time his dad had been in contact was when he’d gotten the divorce papers signed, and even that was done through his lawyer, nothing direct.
Cassie’s head was bent, her eyes closed. Maybe she was praying. Ryan sighed. Prayers never seemed to do any good, so why bother? Hadn’t gotten him anywhere today. He’d prayed to be able to see Ben. See how well that had worked out.
Not to mention, he shouldn’t even be here today. Today should have been the first day of his new job, but obviously Death had a poor sense of timing, and an even worse sense of humor. He’d called and explained the situation and had been told not to worry, just come as soon as he could. This was not the first impression he’d wanted to make. But what could he do? Death asked no one’s permission. It took who and what it wanted, and those who were left behind had to manage the best they could.
Still he couldn’t help but wonder why his dad? Why now?
There were so many things he’d meant to say to him, so many things they could have done together, while there was still time, if they’d only made the effort. If they’d only known that time was winding down. No amount of regrets could change that, no matter how well meant. And no new job, not matter how providential, could make up for that.
A light touch on his arm startled him. Ryan looked up to find Cassie standing there, her eyes anxiously scanning his face. “Are you okay?”
He was touched by her concern—he should be the one comforting her. They’d never had what some might call a traditional stepmother-stepson relationship. People who didn’t know better would assume Cassie was his older sister, in light of the few years that separated their ages. When his dad had first introduced them, Ryan had been suspicious of the age gap between them. Especially coming so soon after Liza’s departure, when the wound was still fresh. But as he quickly discovered, Cassie was good for his dad—she made him laugh, and she drew him out into the world when he tried to hide behind his work—not to mention, she and Ryan had a lot of common interests, including music. She’d been his Rock of Gibraltar over the last ten years. Through good times and bad.
There had been more bad times than he cared to think about.
“I will be. What about you? Is there anything I can do? I mean, I won’t be here long, but if there is…” He gave up trying to say anything worthwhile at that point. Cassie was a strong woman. What did she need him for? He would miss her more than she’d miss him.
“I’m going to be great,” she assured him. “Your dad left me well-taken care of, don’t worry. There’s enough there for both of us, you know. More than enough for you to stay in St. Louis. The house is plenty big. And I promise not to cramp your style.” She winked.
He couldn’t help but laugh. Comedy and tragedy were so closely entwined, sometimes it was hard to tell where the one left off and the other began.
“You don’t have to leave,” she continued, when he made no immediate reply. “We can keep on going to The Pageant, and Pops, and any other damn place we want. We can watch our favorite bands and dance the night away.”
The offer was a tempting one, he had to admit. He liked Cassie, and he knew they could live together and get on well. There had never been a moment of romantic interest between them, and he knew neither of them wanted that. Not now, not ever. Living with her might even solve all of his problems…
But no, he knew he had to go. He needed to make a fresh start. He couldn’t hide behind his dad now, and he couldn’t stay mired in the past forever. Time to move on at long last. No, he had to do this for himself. Maybe, one day, under better circumstances, he would come back to stay. But for now this was the best thing for both of them.
Besides, how often did a person get a chance to work for an actual rock band? This could be the experience of a lifetime.
How could he explain his reasoning to her without sounding ungrateful? What kind of friend did that make him? Just saying it wasn’t her, it was him sounded so cliché it wasn’t funny.
“It’s okay, Ryan,” she said before he could even begin to formulate a response. “I understand. I know you miss him terribly, even after all these years.”
Ryan’s ears burned, as heat flooded his cheeks. She knew him all too well. What could he say? The truth was the truth, no matter how sad and tarnished.
“Maybe getting away from here will be just what you need. Make a new start. See something of the world. Well, at least the US, to start with. Go, have fun with that band. What’s their name again?”
“Yeah, them. Just don’t forget to text me now and then. Just don’t forget me.”
“I won’t,” he promised.
She kissed his cheek gently just as fat drops of rain began to fall.
Didn’t that just figure?
to be continued
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