Sunday, November 10, 2013

In the Flash of an Eye

I've written a short story. My creative writing class is making me do all sorts of things I don't want to do, and I love/hate it. Anyway, I decided I might as well post it for the perusal of the two people who read my blog. (It's probably actually more like one person, so to that person I say "thank you").
The title is.... still working. Let's go with "In the Flash of An Eye" for now.

Hilary had never seen such green eyes. Looking into them, it was impossible to stay angry, they were like a calming ocean and the way that they flashed blue when he got angry was really pretty hypnotizing. They also turned pale when he was hiding something – Ryan didn’t know that, but Hilary did. She had seen it lots of times.
            Hilary looked down from his gaze to his clunky brogues, shoes she hated more than anything else he owned. They were pretentious, coffee-shop shoes, the kinds of shoes that matched the hipster clothes he had started wearing when he took that job at the recording studio. She sort of missed the dirty Vans he had worn when they first met, the shoes he wore when she figured out how his eyes paled in a lie.
On her birthday, the year they first met, his shoes had got especially dirty. The off-white fabric was always a little more on the grey side but now they were smudged with dark brown and stained with grass-green to match the marks on his casual, well-worn Levi’s. Hilary had tried not to worry about the mud that was getting on the bleached floor of her corner kitchen as they stumbled inside her studio apartment together. They had tried to go watch a meteor shower in celebration of her birthday; instead they got really cold and really filthy from lying in the grass up the canyon.
            “I still can’t really believe that you didn’t get me a present. Like, it’s my birthday.”
            Ryan had leaned in closer to her, until her eyes couldn’t look anywhere other than into his. Those dark green eyes. God, were they something to write sonnets about, something to sing about from the rooftops of skyscrapers, something to worship. Of course she would forgive him, he didn’t even have to ask, not with those eyes. Not with the way she loved him, already much more than he understood.
            “I swear I did get you a present! I just left it at my apartment. Can I bring it by tomorrow?” Ryan had drawn her in even closer with his eyes. He was used to being forgiven. That stare could make a girl do things, and as she had looked into his eyes, Hilary felt that it had probably served him well.
But she had also felt a change, as his eyes turned ever so subtly lighter. If she hadn’t studied those eyes for hours she probably wouldn’t have noticed. But she had been trying for weeks to figure out a tell, anything to help her feel on an equal playing field with her perfect boyfriend and his dark green eyes.
            Back in the living room they now shared, in a better, more expensive town, Hilary looked around at things she liked in their apartment; the couch was brown distressed leather, the stereo was playing Howie Day, the room was sort of warm as the early morning sun started to creep through their lacquered shutters, and Ryan’s eyes were very green and very close to hers.
She forgot herself and looked from his shoes back into his eyes and started to melt in their sea-green pool. He moved an inch closer to her and lowered his head so their eyes met in a perfect diagonal line. He probably took another step closer but Hilary’s skin was already electric from his hand on her waist. She closed off her mind to the surrounding sounds and colors.
            “Of course I didn’t kiss her,” Ryan said quietly, barely audibly.
That’s when his eyes paled.
Hilary suddenly drew away from him and started to count in her head how many times she had seen those eyes change. Every year when he forgot her birthday, five times including that first. When he had said that her favorite green dress made her look thin. The first time she asked if he loved her. When he had said that he wanted to marry her. When he had told her parents that he wanted to set a date for a wedding soon, and was just waiting for Hilary to feel ready. Each time he had said he hadn’t been out with Rachel after he came home in the morning with puffy red eyes. They had been paling more frequently and more regularly, recently.
She must have pushed his hand from her waist more forcefully than she’d meant to because when she let herself forget those pale eyes and look back at him, Ryan stared down at her with a face full of concern, eyes back to dark green. She couldn’t let him touch her, couldn’t let him kiss her, but also, couldn’t seem to get mad at him.
“Sorry, morning breath!” she said with a thousand watt smile and a quick peck on his cheek. “I better go before I miss my flight, I’ll be back Thursday by 10:30.”
“You’re so funny when you get self-conscious.”
“I love you, Ryan.” Hilary said with one last forced hug as she turned for the door.
“I love you too. Have a safe flight.”
Hilary was in the shuttle to the airport when she started to cry, realizing his eyes had changed again

The flight was longer than Hilary remembered. She hadn’t taken it for a few years –three years. It had been three years since she’d been to see Brynn. So when she climbed out of another airport shuttle on another side of the country she walked quickly, but anxiously to the orange painted door of Brynn’s little house. She hadn’t seen Brynn in three years, had never met Harrison, and had been totally mute on how bad things had gotten with Ryan.
The polished brass doorknob was looming ominously, a symbol reminding her she’d have to tell Brynn that Ryan had postponed the wedding again. And she’d have to tell her about Rachel. She thought about leaving, about finding another shuttle and telling Brynn she’d have to come visit another time. Just then, the portentous knob turned and her best friend was enveloping Hilary and dragging her inside the house.
“You look so GOOD!” Brynn squealed, relaxing her hold on Hilary’s shoulders slightly, just enough to appreciate her designer jeans clinging to her svelte frame. “I wish I had enough time to go to the gym these days, but you know how they say that being a mother is a full-time job? Turns out that’s actually true. I’m lucky if I can get mascara on in the morning.”
Hilary smiled widely with the sincere smile she hadn’t felt on her face in years. The nervousness started to roll off as she walked more deeply into Brynn’s strange and yet welcoming home. If she had chosen ‘Brynn’ out of a catalog, her house would have looked like this. Art deco lamps and couches decorated a craftsman living room that was clean but not tidy, as though an actual family lived here. Brynn’s heaving white couch had stains from chocolate and markers and little two-year-old fingers that had explored the coarse fabric.
“Wow. I wish my house could look more like this.” Hilary expressed sadly, remembering Ryan with his pale eyes sitting on their pristine leather couch.
“Oh whatever, Miss New York, I’m sure your house is beautiful. I’m always so jealous of your style. We do what we can, but Harrison’s walking now so we can’t have nice things anymore.”
“Harrison’s walking? I can’t believe I missed all of baby Harrison. It’s good to see you Bee, it’s been too long.”
“I missed you too, you butt, how have you not been here in so long? Now, get in my kitchen and we’ll get you something to eat. Skinny-mini, you look starved.”
That was the best part of Brynn. You could go years without seeing her, then as soon as you did it was like you’d only been apart since breakfast. She was the same Brynn that Hilary had known in college and high school and growing-up, short and happy and eager to do everything for others.
“So,” Brynn said, “I’ve got some brownies that you have to eat, I don’t want to hear about your diet anymore. It’s bad enough that Ben’s mother won’t let me feed my own child sugar, I never get to make anything fun to eat. So please, eat a brownie it will change your life.”
“Where is Ben? I haven’t seen him in ages!” Hilary changed the subject and picked at the brownie without taking a bite. Ryan’s business partner had just proposed to a girl the size of a coatrack and Hilary did not want to show up at that wedding looking like her pre-pubescent self.
“He took the little prince to the grocery store so I could get a break.” Brynn pushed the brownie back towards Hilary and balanced one for herself on the bulge of baby number two.
“You got so lucky with Ben, he’s such a great guy. I wish that Ryan would go grocery shopping sometime.”
“Do you actually want Ryan in charge of food, though? Love him to death but he’s an overgrown teenager – he’d probably bring back spray cheese and Doritos,” Brynn said with total seriousness, distractedly wiping little finger smears from a refrigerator covered with Harrison’s doodles and pictures of a happy family. Hilary’s fridge was filled with lettuce and kale, but was missing doodles, decoration, family pictures, permanence.
“Yeah, but you and Ben just have such a good deal. He loves you so much.”
“Hey this will be you and Ryan soon! Do you have a date set yet? I’m not showing up to your wedding like a little round whale, so you better give me at least three months.”
“He’s just been so busy with work we figured we’d give it at least six months or so, so you have plenty of time to prepare to be my cute little matron of honor.”
“Is that why you aren’t wearing your ring anymore?” Hilary stopped playing with her brownie. Brynn stopped tidying the kitchen to look at Hilary directly in the eyes. Brynn never pried, she would never force you to tell her anything. That’s what made her a great match for Hilary, the anti-sharer. She would let you tell her when you were ready. Hilary was almost there but not quite, and then three digital notes started trilling from her bag.
Ryan” the phone read.
“Sorry Bee, but I’ve got to get this, it’s Ryan!” Hilary put on her most bubbly voice as she carried her phone from the room and evaded Brynn’s curiosity.
“Hey Hils, I have to talk to you. Remember when I said I didn’t kiss Rachel?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“That’s not true. We were late at work so I made sure she got home. Then, I don’t know,  I could just tell that she was expecting me to kiss her. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so I did. Baby I’m so sorry.”
“Is that all?”
“Yes, I promise that’s all that happened.”
“Don’t even worry, that’s not a big deal.”
“Are you sure that’s okay?”
“Yes of course, I know she doesn’t matter to you. I’ve got to go, I’m grocery shopping with Brynn right now. I love you though.”
“I love you too.” He waited too long again, Hilary thought. It was like saying he loved her was an after thought.
Hilary dropped the gold glittery phone on the floor and walked back into Brynn’s kitchen where she finally broke completely down, for the first time. An hour later, Brynn was stroking her back while Hilary sobbed into her hands with $30 mascara running down her cheeks.
“Why do I forgive him every time?” Hilary asked, not wanting an answer.
“Because you love him Hilly, and that’s what love is.”
“And I don’t question that he loves me, but I just don’t think he cares about me or my feelings.”
“I never said that he loves you, Hil.”
“You know what the problem is?” Hilary ignored Brynn, “Ryan didn’t meet me until after I started wanting to be pretty. If he had known me when I was chubby and awkward and dressed badly he never would have asked me out. That’s the problem. I’ve been so busy with work and trying to plan a wedding and keep up with everything else I haven’t been putting any thought into how I look. I would go after Rachel too, she takes really good care of her body.”
Brynn shot Hilary a look that was sadder than any she’d ever received from her.

The next few days were tense at Brynn’s house. They played with Harrison and re-painted the baby’s room and stayed up late talking every night, just like Hilary had imagined this trip would be. But Brynn kept asking Hilary what she was going to do, kept pleading that she would stay here longer, kept begging that she would leave Ryan. And Hilary avoided all of Brynn’s questions by changing the subject or flashing a superficial smile as though the suggestion she leave her boyfriend was ludicrous. But, she also left her phone in the same spot on Brynn’s floor until it was time for her to go home.
“Don’t let it be so long next time. I love you.” Brynn whispered just before Hilary pulled the shuttle door shut behind her with one final flourish of her hand.

Two hours later, Hilary flipped her shiny, pin-straight blonde hair, the result of expensive, fragrant shampoos, over her left shoulder in a cascade as she lifted the Michael Kors bag from the ground of the airport and onto her toned, tanned shoulder. She was incredibly bored, waiting at the gate that would take her back to Ryan.
            “Delta Airlines would like to welcome all passengers…” called a woman with fuchsia lipstick and too-much 1973 blue eye-shadow from over the PA sound-system.
            “Thank you,” Hilary told the hippie in dirty espadrilles and rank dreadlocks as she passed back his newspaper she’d used to kill time while she tried to block out her thoughts, “I can’t believe I didn’t bring my phone charger, like, how dumb of me?”
            “Whatever man,” the dirty hippie said without looking up from his unread copy of Siddhartha. He’d turned one page the entire time Hilary had his newspaper.
The dirty hippie’s backpack ostentatiously advertised the places he’d been and the causes he likely pretended to support with a series of sloppily ironed-on patches equaled in filth only by the socially conscious shoes on his feet
            “…in all zones…”
            Hilary balanced her own weight on this season’s tortoiseshell Tory Burch Reva flats as she strutted away from the gate where the agent with cheap make-up and poorly highlighted hair had just invited her to board the plane.
She used to wear socially conscious shoes with leather soles that were perfectly shaped to her feet like his. Back before she met Ryan, Hilary carried metallic pleather purses and had bad highlights and wore cheap make-up.
…on flight B-132…”
Hilary walked past the food court with McDonald’s and their salty, deep-fried potatoes and rows of boxed chicken nuggets. Hilary hadn’t let herself eat food like that in years, since before Ryan had asked her out. She couldn’t help but think about the brownies she hadn’t eaten at Brynn’s because of a wedding for a friend of Ryan’s. A guy she didn’t even like. A girl she liked less, the stupid kind of dolled up girl that Hilary had allowed herself to transform into with Ryan. The smell of salt and fat propelled Hilary forward and away from the gate.
Her glitter-clad, fully charged iPhone vibrated in her designer leather bag where she’d neglected it since Monday. She had answered it once, that call from Ryan, but had carefully ignored it since. There was something unsettling about the phone and the symbols it carried like omens of betrayal. The phone vibrated again.
She reached for the phone and pulled it out of the store-smelling leather bag then dropped it in the closest silver can. The phone in its expensive case lit up one more time among Big Mac wrappers with a message from home that Hilary would never read.
…to board at this time.”
            The glass doors out of the airport opened to let Hilary pass through just as the doors on her flight back closed.

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