Category Archives: Prompt Fiction

That’s just my little sister.

“That’s just my little sister.”

Jeremy barely looked up when he said it. That’s probably why didn’t notice Scott’s eyes follow Jen across the living room until she disappeared down the hall.

A moment later, she was back. Her gaze locked on Scott’s for a moment before she looked at her brother. “Jere, Mom said she’ll be home late so you should just order a pizza for dinner.”

“Order it, then,” he replied, still not turning away from his video game.

“She said you should order it.”

“Well, if you want to eat tonight, you’ll just do it yourself, Jen.” Rolling her eyes, she turned and left again. “She’s has to be the most immature sixteen year old I ever met in my life,” Jeremy complained.

Scott raised an eyebrow. “Sixteen? Jen’s sixteen already? No kidding.”

“I know, it’s hard to tell.”

Scott almost said not really, but decided against it. The fact was, Jen looked even older than sixteen. Her features had matured since Scott had moved out of town two year ago, her figure had blossomed. No longer was she his just his friend’s kid sister. Now she was a beautiful young woman that made Scott shift in his seat.

As Jeremy remained focused on the television screen, Scott’s attention kept shifting back to the hallway toward Jen’s room. He was waiting for her to emerge again, even if it was just to nag her brother. All he wanted was one more look at her. A quick one.

As casually as he knew how, Jeremy said, “I can’t imagine having a little sister. It just seems like more of a headache than it’s worth. I mean, with their mood swings, their pettiness… Boyfriends.”

Then, for the first time— practically since Scott had arrived over an hour ago— Jeremy paused his game. “Jenny doesn’t have boyfriend. Didn’t you hear what I said? She’s a fucking kid.”

“Sixteen isn’t exactly a kid,” Scott said lightly. Certainly not too young for an eighteen year old. After all, sixteen was practically seventeen. And he was just eighteen.

“Trust me. You don’t know her. They don’t come too much more immature than my sister. As you can see, she can’t even order her own fucking dinner. She’d get taken advantage of. I’m not going to let that happen.”

Jeremy was looking Scott right in the eye as he said it. Swallowing hard, Scott nodded and got to his feet. “I have to use the bathroom,” he lied.

The truth was, he had a feeling that Jeremy could see straight through to his thinly veiled intentions. He made his way down the hall toward the bathroom, but stopped in front of Jen’s door when he heard her voice.

Sh-h,” she whispered. “My brother is right in the living room.”

Scott took a step closer to the door, stopping just where it stood slightly ajar. He heard another voice. A guy’s voice. He almost laughed. After Jeremy stated so adamantly that he didn’t let his sister date, here she was sneaking boys into her room.

He wondered who Jen’s mystery boyfriend was. A boy her age, he was sure, and felt a pang of shame at the jealousy he rising in his throat. He’d risked getting his ass kicked by Jeremy as he’d waited for her to walk past just to steal a glance in her direction, meanwhile some little boy was getting illicit invitations to her bedroom.

“You can’t, he’ll see you.”

“Just climb out of the window,” replied the boy. “C’mon, we’ll come right back.”

There was a short pause. Was she considering it? Scott wondered. Without waiting to find out, he dropped two short knocks on the door before pushing it open. Jen was at her window, practically hanging out of it, a tall figure on the other side.

Excuse me!” she cried, spinning toward Scott.

“Oh, sorry, I thought this was the bath—”

His voice got caught in his throat when he realized who it was on the other side of Jen’s window. “What the hell…?”

“Scott?” said Greg. 

Jen frowned. “You two know each other?”

With a nod, Greg replied, “Yeah. Scott’s my little brother.”

He went out for milk. That was eleven years ago.

“He went out for milk. That was eleven years ago.”

Joey’s widened. “You’re kidding. He just… never came back?”

Lauren shrugged. “We haven’t seen him since.”

“Wow. I mean, you hear stories like that, but… Wow. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that actually happened to you.”

She shrugged again. “Like I said, it was eleven years ago. I barely even remember the guy.”

That was a lie. Her memory of him was painfully sharp. She could still picture every detail of his face; the small wrinkles beside his eyes, prominent especially when he smiled. The long scar across his chin. The way his bottom lip fell slightly to the right when he smiled.

She remembered the sound of his laughter, usually ending in a coughing fit after years of smoking. She could remember the way he smelled, like tobacco and natural musk. She could remember the way he felt when he pulled her head against his belly to drop quick kisses on the crown of her head.

No matter how hare she tried, she couldn’t forget him.

As if Joey could sense her silent anguish, he took her hand in his and squeezed. “That guy’s an asshole. Anyone who doesn’t want to be in your life is an asshole.”

Lauren smiled. “That’s sweet.”

She leaned over and pressed her lips to his. They were soft and comforting, and when his arms went around her, she almost felt as if she didn’t need a father.

When they parted, she said, “Tell me about your father.”

He lowered his eyes. Almost modestly, he said, “He’s alright.”

Nudging him, she said, “You can tell me. I’ll try not to get too jealous.”

He smirked. “Me and my dad are best friends. I can’t remember him ever not being around when I needed him. He’s a real stand-up guy. The epitome of a good parent.” He looked at her. “Hey, why don’t you meet him? We can go to my house, right now.”

Her mouth fell agape. “Meet your dad?”

“My whole family,” he said, the corners of his lips curling up into a smile. “Why not? It’ll happen eventually, right?”

“Are you sure that’s what you want?” she asked. “I mean, it’s a big step. Meeting the family.”

Still smiling, he stood up and offered her his hand. “C’mon, Lauren. Let’s go introduce you to my family.”

Taking his hand, she returned his smile and let him lead her to his car. Her heart hammered against her chest as the ride brought them closer to his house. She cared about him, more than she’d ever cared about a boy. Maybe she even loved him. And now she knew that maybe he loved her, too.

Not every man is going to leave you, her mother always said. Not every man is your father. But in her heart, the fear of abandonment lived and reeked havoc. It left her cold and withdrawn, afraid to commit. Afraid to feel.

Except Joey somehow found his way through the wall she’d built. He found his way through it and, as they drew closer to his house, he tore it down. Resentful brick by resentful brick.

“Don’t be nervous,” he said, when they pulled into his driveway. “They’re going to love you. Like I do.”

Lauren could feel her heart fill with warmth. She took a deep breath and followed him through the front door. “Have a seat,” he said, motioning toward the couch. “I’ll go get everyone.”

Unable to stop grinning, she nodded and set down on the couch. When he disappeared, she peered around curiously at her surroundings. The small living room looked like something from a sitcom. A sitcom about a perfect, happy family. If she weren’t floating with elation, she’d certainly feel the pang of bitterness that lingered in her gut.

Family photos lined the walls and decorated the tables. One in particular caught her attention. It was propped atop the fireplace and Lauren stood to get a closer look at it. It was of Joey and his family; his mother, his younger sister, his baby brother.

And his father. 

She recognized the wrinkles beside his eyes. The scar on his chin. His crooked smile. And then his voice, from just behind her. 

“It’s just dinner. As friends.”

“It’s just dinner. As friends.”

She couldn’t see how it could be just dinner on Valentine’s Day. And certainly not as friends when he was in love with her. He never tried to hide it, never once denied his feelings. Though she made it clear that she didn’t share them, it was still wrong, right? Going to dinner with him on Valentine’s Day? It was like leading him on, wasn’t it?

Except she didn’t want to spend the holiday in her house, alone. She told herself it wasn’t, anyway. Over and over. It could just be a normal day if she let it. Except for all the hearts and the flowers and the happy couples that would surround her, reminding her of what shambles her own relationship was in.

When she’d asked Adam if he wanted to do something for Valentine’s Day, he’d frowned. “I mean, we can,” he said, brows furrowed. “Except, I don’t know… We said we were gonna take it slow this time around, remember? It’s only been two weeks. Things are still shaky and all…”

Right, of course. She’d completely agreed with him. Outwardly, at least. Inside, her heart had tightened under her chest cavity. A thick lump had formed in her throat. Tears had burned behind her eyes.

“Besides, Valentine’s Day is just… it’s a conspiracy, really. Created by some, like, league of savvy business owners to get people to spend absurd amounts of money on candies and overpriced dinners, and pink teddy bears that you wouldn’t buy for any other reason…”

A part of her thought his explanation was just an excuse. An excuse lonely people used. Heartbroken people. And people who didn’t want to spend a romantic evening with their significant others. She embraced it.

So, why not? Why not go to dinner with Scott? It was just a fake holiday, anyway. It didn’t mean anything. And since they were just friends, it wasn’t cheating, either. It was just dinner. As friends.

He picked her up promptly at 7:30 that evening. She expected to be taken to her favorite restaurant, a cozy Italian place hidden away on a street unfrequented. But they drove right past that street, and past all of the restaurants on the main strip, until they reached a small café just at the edge of town. She frowned. “We’re having dinner at a diner?”

Getting out and opening her door for her, he said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

With a sigh, she nodded and reluctantly followed him inside. The place was tiny, though its size didn’t pose a problem because it was also completely empty, illuminated by dozens of candles on nearly every surface of the place. A single table in the middle of the room was dressed in a red table cloth. On top of it sat a single rose, two glasses, and a bottle of wine.

Scott watched as she peered around her surroundings in awe. She’d never seen anything so wonderful. Especially not for her. “Remember,” he said, “It’s just dinner. As friends.”

But she decided, right then and there, there by the end of the night, it would be much more.

If Karma finds me, I’m fucked.

If Karma finds me, I’m fucked.

I know this, and still, here I am. After the last time, I promised myself I wouldn’t come back. I promised myself, and I silently promised Thomas as well.

My best friend, my brother. The one person in the entire world that I can count on, the one person who would never hurt me. And yet, I can’t stay away from her.

Elizabeth.

What is it about her? What is it that keeps both me and Thomas and every other man thinking of her, even long after she’s gone? When we’re together, when I’m touching her, when I’m holding her, I try to memorize the way it all looks and feels and smells, just so I can relive it in my mind once I leave her.

Just last night, he said, “I can’t live without her. She’s the love of my life.”

I’m being selfish, I know. After all, she isn’t the love of my life. I have someone who I love, someone who I want to spend forever with. Her name is Anna and she’s smart and funny and wildly beautiful. I like the sound of her laughter and the way she sometimes runs the tips of her fingers from my chin, down past my throat, and up again until I fall asleep. Sometimes I start to miss her as soon as she walks away from me. Sometimes the anticipation of seeing her again is what carries me through a bad day.

But she’s missing something. Something that I can certainly live without, though as of late, I’ve been choosing not to. Elizabeth has that something.

As Anna’s face passes through my thoughts, Elizabeth’s back door opens. A smile unfolds on her lips, and the calm in her voice as she says, “hey,” betrays the spark of excitement in her eyes.

She steps aside and I pass by her, into her dark kitchen. “Be extra quiet,” she says. “My parents just went up to bed a little while ago. They might still be awake.”

My heart starts to beat a little faster. Hiding from her parents, Thomas, from Anna, from the whole entire world. It’s beginning to feel more tiring than exhilarating. Suddenly, I have an idea. “Let’s go out tonight.”

She recoils, perplexed. “Go out? Go out where? What if someone sees us?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. Who cares? We’ll risk it, just one night.”

For a moment, she contemplates. Then, she too, shrugs. “Alright,” she says, as if surprised by her own concession. “Fine. Let’s go out.”

I go back outside and wait in the car for her to join me. When she does, I announce that we’re going out to eat. Like on a real date. Like a real couple would do. I imagine this makes her happy, as she’s often tells me she wishes we could go out like a real couple.

I never bother telling her we aren’t a real couple. We never will be. She’s with Thomas and I’m with Anna. Anna, who— despite my recent indiscretions— is the only person I care to go on dates with.

Still.

It’s just one night. It’s exciting. Terrifying. And I’m sure Elizabeth will thank me thoroughly afterward. Satisfied with this, I decide that maybe this will even be our last hoorah.

I drive forty-five minutes out of town, where I’m pretty sure no one we know will recognize us. The tiny café is tucked away in the middle of nowhere. The only reason I know it exists of because it serves Anna’s favorite cheesecake. More than once, she’s convinced me to drive here just for a slice.

As I escort Elizabeth inside, she immediately heads to the bathroom while I find a booth. But just as I’m about to sit down at one of the lone back tables, a familiar mop of dark hair catches my attention.

For a moment, I simply stare at the girl across the café. She’s sharing a table, and a slice of cheesecake, with a guy I don’t recognize and at first, I’m sure it’s innocent. It has to be.

But then he smiles. And he takes Anna’s hand. And he leans over and kisses her square on the mouth. I can hear her laughter— the laughter that I love— carry across the small restaurant.

It’s Karma, I realize. She’s found me.

She slipped some in his tea.

She slipped some in his tea.

He drank two cups a day. An Earl Grey in the morning as he read his paper, then chamomile in the evening, after settling in for the night. He was a man of routine, so she knew this was the perfect plan. A sure fire way.

She watched from the sink as he took the first sip. She almost expected him to blanche. Cough. Cringe. Something. But he did nothing but swallow down the dark liquid as usual before setting the cup back down on the coaster.

The first thing she would get rid of once he was gone— after his body, of course— were those damn coasters. Every single one of the cork stacks, scattered around the house: The kitchen table, the living room coffee table, every side table, desk, and flat surface where one may think to set a cup in the house had a stack of fucking coasters on it.  Oh, and God forbid you didn’t use one of them. Even for one second, God forbid.

“Nancy?”

“Yes?” she replied quickly. She was jumpier than usual this morning. The sensation of her nerves was prominent in the pit of her stomach. They always were, every moment he was around. She was always on guard, always waiting. Like sitting across the room from ticking time bomb whose clock was due to expire at any time. But this morning… this morning she could barely keep her hands from shaking.

He turned in his seat to look at her. “Are you feeling alright?” he asked. “You look pale.”

“I feel fine,” she lied.

The morning sickness was beginning to kick in. It was getting harder and harder to hide from him. This, on top of her anxiety, was nearly debilitating. Just a little while longer, she told herself. Just a few more cups of tea.

After another moment of scrutiny, he turned back to his paper. “Is my breakfast almost ready? I have to leave for work soon.”

“Almost,” she replied, quickly turning back to the stove. She gasped to see his scrambled eggs were beginning to brown. He hated that. She quickly pulled the pan off the fire, nearly burning herself as she shook the eggs onto his plate. Glancing back to make sure he wouldn’t notice, she picked a few of the darker pieces out of the bunch before setting his toast on the plate beside his turkey bacon. “Here,” she said, setting it in front of him.

“My juice?” he snapped. “Jesus, Nancy, where the hell is my juice? Tea, juice, food. That’s how it goes. You know this.” 

“I know, I’m sorry. Your juice is coming—”

“It shouldn’t be coming,” he shot back, his voice rising. “It should be in front of me. I should be drinking it right now. Weren’t you a waitress in that shit-hole café I found you in eight years ago? I have to tell you that I expect my juice before my meal?”

She didn’t reply. She knew it was best not to reply. It was best to just let him say what he needed to say, no matter how insulting, degrading, or down right cruel he got. Because as long as he was speaking, he wasn’t grabbing. Or shoving.

 Or hitting, or choking.

 “You can be a real simpleton sometimes,” he mumbled, taking another sip of his tea. Just a few more cups, she told herself, pulling the orange juice from the refrigerator.

 “Tea, juice, food,” he recited. “Maybe I should send you back to that café, jog your memory. Hurry up, already! Before my eggs get cold! I swear to God, if these eggs get cold…”

She poured the juice into his cup and turned to give it to him before deciding against it. Glancing back to make sure his eyes were still on his paper, she slipped some in his orange juice as well.

*Prompt submitted by Emma