Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roses are Red—and Yellow—and White

This is my #Fridayflash story for the week of June 15. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome, as always.

Eduardo had been gone for four days this time, a business trip or so he had told Eve when he packed. He walked through the door and smiled thinking it was good to be home. His smile disappeared when he heard her heavy footsteps on the stairs. In her hand, Eve was waving a document. Her red face was screwed up into a snarl. Her pink scalp was showing through her thin, blond hair which was almost standing up from the blood rushing to her brain.

He took a step backward and felt the door behind him. He should have opened it and run back to his car.

“What the hell is this?” Eve wailed. “Flowers?” She was close enough now that he could see it was a Visa bill in her hand. “What the hell is wrong with you? You think I don’t know what you do when you go away on business? How could I not know? You send your whore roses and charge them to my Visa, you asshole! Were they roses?”

Eve had him by about eight inches and almost 50 pounds. He was obviously afraid of her but he could never leave. She owned the house and paid the bills. He had quit his job weeks ago but had failed to mention that to her. Being 12 years younger than Eve, Eduardo felt like a child.

“I’ll bet they were red, too, weren’t they?” she bellowed. It seemed like her face couldn’t get any redder and yet it did. The veins in her neck were bulging with anger.

“White, actually,” he said quietly.

Eve was trembling now. Eduardo was making himself smaller and smaller against the door. She had never struck him and he hoped he would be able to say that again tomorrow but he had never seen her like this.

“She’s just a friend, you know? I don’t love her like I love you. You know that, honey. I could never love anyone like I love you.” He hoped his voice sounded sincere and sorry enough to calm her down—at least a little bit.

“A friend? This one’s a friend? And what about the one last month, is she just a friend, too?”

“No, no, last week I was visiting my cousins in Miami. Really. You know I haven’t seen them in over a month.”

“And who did you send the roses to last month? Your cousin? And what color were they, huh? Go ahead and lie to me one more time, Eduardo, go ahead.”

“Last month?” He hesitated. “Yes, they were for my cousin. She’s getting divorced and she was depressed so I sent her roses to cheer her up.”

“What color?” Eve screamed. She didn’t believe they were for his cousin. He had so many ‘cousins’ that she hadn’t met that she didn’t know if he actually had any family at all.

“Yellow. They were yellow. It wouldn’t have been right for me to send her red. Red is the color for love.”

“You bastard! You send roses to your girlfriends and charge them to my credit card and then make up stories and expect me to believe you. Why did I ever marry you?”

Eve turned and stomped back up the stairs. He heard the bedroom door slam and then the lock engaged. The next sound he heard was crying. Tough as she was, she cried. He had been a bad boy. He had hurt her feelings—again. He smoked cigarettes and drank wine until he fell asleep on the couch.

The next morning he heard Eve make her coffee and pack her lunch. He kept his eyes closed and pretended he was asleep. His head hurt from the wine and he didn’t want another confrontation. He would have all day to recover. Well, until 1 o’clock when he was meeting Noreen in the park for a picnic. He would just go by the grocery store and buy a bunch of pre-packaged flowers and pay cash. He hadn’t sent her roses yet.

At work, Eve attended the early morning staff meeting. She wore her usual scowl. Nobody at the office had ever seen her smile. She was always mad at something or somebody. When she got back to her desk the little red light on her phone was blinking. She had a voicemail message waiting. She picked up the phone and heard the receptionist’s voice. “Hello Eve. This is Donna in the reception area. Please come up here when you get this message. Thanks.”

What on earth could Donna want? Eve walked toward the elevator. As the elevator slowly moved from the first floor to the second, she watched people walking in the corridors through the glass. The sudden stop startled her back to reality. The door slid open and she stepped out heading deliberately toward the reception desk. On the desk she saw the vase holding a dozen red roses with ferns and baby’s breath. They were beautiful!

“What’s the special occasion?” Donna asked.

Eve’s cheeks were pink. She was blushing. “No special occasion,” she said.

The flowers were heavier than she expected so she used both hands to hold the vase and carry them back to her desk. It was lunch time. She took out her pink insulated lunch bag and ate her sandwich. By the time she was done with her apple it was 1 o’clock. She picked up the phone and called the house. It rang four times before the answering machine came on. “Eduardo and Eve are not home right now. Please leave a message and we’ll return your call. Have a nice day.” She waited for the beep.

“Eduardo? Sweetie? Are you there? I called to tell you that they’re beautiful. I can’t wait to get home.”


Rebecca said...

Oh that is so sad. I'm left just willing her to kick him out!

Susan Cross said...

Especially after she gets the Visa bill with her roses on it! Thanks for dropping by Rebecca.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Hmm...I wonder if the roses were enough to take her mind off 'the other woman' though. Well written confrontation between the couple, Susan.

Susan Cross said...

Other WOMEN, not woman, Alan. As long as Eduardo used some of her money to send her flowers, she thought he was an utter romantic. Who can explain the dynamics of any couple? If you read my other stories you'll see that many of my flash fiction focuses on relationships. I find each one intriguing in its own way. All fictional, too--yeah, right!

Linda said...

The bum. Good showing of couple dynamics. Peace...

John Wiswell said...

Hey Susan. I miss folks like you from Editors Unleashed. Hope it comes back soon.

You asked for constructive criticism. Mine is classic "show don't tell," which is annoying to hear, but relevant. The opening section is fine for a first draft; you get all your thoughts out this way, I do too. But returning to it, look at material like "Eve had him by about eight inches and almost 50 pounds. He was obviously afraid of her but he could never leave. She owned the house and paid the bills. He had quit his job weeks ago but had failed to mention that to her. Being 12 years younger than Eve, Eduardo felt like a child." You can show us that she's eight inches taller and much heavier by a description as she advances on him, or express that size difference in her doing something to him. In the middle of this argument, I don't want to pause to hear that she pays the bills outside of their dialogue exchange. If it doesn't fit in it, express it so it's obvious - it's already implied since he has to use her credit card for roses. Some information is necessary, but this kind of exposition is slowing things down rather than supporting them. Look at the second half of the story and you don't backfill with exposition almost at all; it's moving briskly and we're seeing how they are. I think that dynamic can work in the first half, because angry provider/submissive dependent is an archetype in life.

Deanna Schrayer said...

Well written story Susan, and while it's a sad one it left me laughing. Poor Eve - I hope she comes to her senses soon.

Susan Cross said...

John, I miss EU terribly. It's hard to hold a conversation on Twitter. Thanks for your constructive criticism. You are right on the money. I was picturing it in my mind and then fell into the trap and told you about it instead of staying in the "show" mode. I did reread it but missed it the 2nd time, too. I appreciate your comments.

I know it's sad but I thought it was kind of funny, too. Funny--pathetic, not funny-haha. Here's this woman paying for flowers for all these other women but when they're for her she forgive him all his sins--as long as she's the only one that gets the RED roses. People are strange but as my husband says everytime I post a story, "You can't make this stuff up!" I'm not saying it's based on real life but...

jdanetyler said...

This is heartbreaking. I've actually seen this a couple of times in my life with various people I've known. Some of them aren't even aware they're playing the role.

Still, salute to Eduardo for knowing how to make sure Eve keeps ON paying the bills and mortgage, eh? Clever little man.

Well done.

Susan Cross said...

It's amazing what some people will do for what they envision as love. Or at least companionship. My mother used to say, "for every old sock there's an old shoe."

Matt Merritt said...

Very nice. He is so weak and infantile, but he holds such power over her. This is a really sad one, and probably all too common a situation.