I finally have a story worth presenting to you, my dear readers, as a sample of my craft. This is a bit darker (no, a LOT darker) than my novel, and shows the twisted routes down which a writer’s mind can wander. I recall hearing (I think it was in Rich Hall’s documentary looking at how the US Deep South has been portrayed in literature and cinema) that the novel “Deliverance” came about when the author got lost in Georgia and was rescued by some mountain men and helped back to civilisation. The author’s imagination ran wild with what could have happened, and that was how the story came about. I don’t know if it’s true (and too tired to attempt a search right now), but given the wild and scary narratives my brain conjures from innocuous situations (the curse of overthinking, although it does help with my creativity), I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.
This story comes from just that sort of wild imagination ride. I recently read Reid Mihalko’s “Say What’s Not Being Said: Reid’s Formula for Difficult Conversations”. It looks like great advice in general, but my imagination spiralled out of control and took the formula to the extremes. “Could this formula cope with [extreme thing here]?” was all I could think of. I was kind of helped along by a point in Reid’s article, “Are You Dating Your Species?” in which he writes, “Since relationships aren’t about survival anymore, and since you’ve got more access to people than you did back in ‘village times,’ I recommend that you try to scare people away from the start.” Advice that, once again, could be taken to drastic extremes! (He’s really talking about having an “abundance mentality”, and simply being willing to be specific about what you want in a relationship and a partner, but as I said, my imagination does scary very well indeed.)
So I asked myself, could I imagine the scene when this happens? Could I invent a story to tell it? In the following, Carla’s big revelation follows almost exactly Reid’s formula. Then I put myself into Rhys’s place to think about what he might say back that kept the formula good. Finally, I thought of how best to end it and with what twist – several variations with very different consequences for the characters fought it out in my head, but to see which one won, you have to read (or skip to the end of the page. Either is good.) I’d like to know what people think – or what they think happens next.
Here’s the story:
The Last Difficult Conversation
Carla woke with the sun on her face. She blinked and shuffled a hand to brush the blonde strings of hair from her face. She licked her pale lips tentatively, brushing away the dryness of the night. She blinked again, focussing on the bedside table that was not hers. Rhys lay behind her, she could feel him now. A large, dark-haired and black-eyed man whose tanned arms contrasted with his pasty belly and her own pale features. Four weeks ago, she had guessed that he worked on a building site. He laughed and told her he was a lecturer at the university. “Good job I just graduated, then!” she remarked. He won points for pretending to believe her, though the mirror clearly showed the early signs that spoke of a woman in her thirties at least.
And now, she was lying naked in his bed. When they met the night before, it was their sixth date and it was make or break, she told herself. If the spark didn’t happen, it was time to give up on him, as nice as he was to be around. She didn’t quite remember how she ended up at his place, or quite how they ended up in bed together. She did remember how good he had been and how he made her feel. She also remembered seeing a side to him that had been hidden on their previous dates, a feeling that this might be the one. There was only one way to know for sure.
Carla groaned as she cajoled her limbs to movement. She rubbed her eyes and made for the shower. She scrubbed away the dirt of the city night and the sweat of the dirty love, and remembered Rhys’s fleshy arms that had held her down, and the tender fucking as she wrapped her heels around his sturdy legs and rippling arse. She had never thought she could find a fat man sexy, but the muscles beneath the flab, developed from habitually moving his mass around, made her respond to his understated power. It had been like making love to the tides of the sea. She caught herself blushing at the memories again, her hand paying far too much attention to one small area between her legs. Yes, this was why she had to tell him.
She towelled herself dry and went back to the bedroom. Rhys was standing by the bed, his stark eyebrows raised and a cheeky smile on his face. Carla’s lipstick was still apparent on his face and neck. She glanced down at his cock. It hardly seemed possible that something that felt so big last night could look so small now.
“Not now, darling – I need to do what you just did.”
She looked up into his eyes and grinned. “Really? Wank in the shower? I could help with that…”
“I hope it was me you were thinking of,” he retorted. He slapped her bottom as he went past. She yelped and put her hands on her hips, turning to glare at his back. But she didn’t retaliate. Instead, after a full second of waiting, she called after him, “You’re the first man I’ve let get away with that!” A few seconds later, she heard the shower, as if he hadn’t even heard her. Shrugging, she gathered her clothes from his floor and got dressed. The little black dress that seemed so classy last night was now crumpled and felt nothing but slutty. She smirked and muttered to herself proudly, “Well, I guess I am.” She brushed it down as best she could, and shrugged. She wished she still smoked but that was another life and, well, there was really only space for one flashback today. Instead, she sat on the edge of the bed and fidgeted.
When Rhys returned, he was holding a towel around his waist. Despite herself, Carla laughed.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it already!”
“Aw, now you’ve spoiled the surprise!” He folded the towel neatly onto the bed and went to his wardrobe. She watched him get dressed, tucking her knees to her chest and swivelling to sit squarely on the bed.
He wore a simple white polo shirt and faded blue jeans, black socks and, she noticed as he put them on, purple underpants. A far cry from the professional gent who had bought her dinner last night, and whose shirt, tie and trousers still lay on the floor.
“Do you have to be anywhere?” he asked her.
She shook her head. He smiled, “I take it you’d like to stay a while longer, then?”
“I do have some work to finish up, but I’ll be glad of the company.”
She nodded again.
When she didn’t move, he raised an eyebrow.
She swallowed and glanced at her feet.
“Rhys,” She paused and took a deep breath. “Rhys, there’s something I’ve not been saying to you.” She waited as he sat beside her on the bed, turning to her with his brow furrowed and head tilted to one side. She breathed again. “I haven’t said it, because I’m afraid of might happen. I’m afraid you’ll lose all respect for me, that you’ll want me to leave and never see you again, that you’ll never forgive me and I’ll have no chance of rebuilding your trust in me, and that you’ll be scared or angry with me.
“What I would like to have happen by my telling you is this: I want you to know that I would never lie to you and that you trust me more, and that I won’t keep any secrets with you as long as you want me around. I want you to know that when I lie or hide something from you, I’ll try to come clean as quickly as I can, and I want you to believe me when I say it and believe that I’m not a bad person.”
Rhys put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her chin around so that he could meet her eyes with his. She gazed back, seeing them open and soft. She blinked, gathering herself to reveal the truth.
“And what I’m not telling you is that seven years ago, I killed a man, and that I will never do it again, but it happened and, well, I really like you so…” She didn’t finish the sentence, but leapt to the conclusion. “Thank you for listening. What, if anything, would you like to share?”
His arm didn’t leave her shoulder, but his hand dropped form her chin and he gazed out of the window for a few moments.
“Were you arrested?”
“No. I got away with it, at least, so far.”
“And did he deserve it?”
“No. Or anyway, I don’t know. Not for anything he did to me, if that’s what you mean.”
His grip loosened on her shoulder.
“So, I guess I need to know. Why?”
She shrugged. “To watch him die. Because I could. For fun, I suppose. But it wasn’t.”
“Killing him, or watching him die?”
“Neither. I thought it would be. I was loving it right up until – well, right up until I did it, and then I, well, I had to make sure. And then he was dead. And I was sick.”
His hand fell away from her shoulder. “You mean you threw up?” he asked.
“Yes. But, I mean, what sort of person would do that? So the other kind of sick, too.”
He brushed her hair away from her face.
“I believe you,” he said. He took her hands in his. She looked up at his face and saw only compassion.
“I believe you when you say you’ll never do it again. You may have been sick before, but you’re not any more.” He kissed her forehead.
“Thank you,” she whispered. She hung her head again, and tears started to form in her eyes. “Thank you, I knew I could trust you.”
He reached over her shoulder, pulled her in close. Her eyes opened wide with alarm as he curled his elbow under her chin and applied pressure to her throat.
He whispered in her ear, “You may not be sick any more. I, on the other hand, definitely still am.”