Thursday February 18th, 2016

The exercise:

A Tale In Three Parts continues today, as our Past Present Future prompt brings us to the: Present.

Had a grey and rainy morning here, but things did improve after lunch. The sun even peeked through a couple times, which was nice.

Heading up to Penticton tomorrow morning for a midwife appointment and to run a couple errands. Bringing Max with us, which should be fun as we're meeting with a midwife who we worked with last time around. Not sure when the last time she saw Max was, but I know it's been a while.


Grace sat down at the table across from her husband, the plate of butter-saturated toast and glass of orange juice awaiting her arrival like prisoners at a firing squad. They were not long for this world, and they knew it.

"Morning Sweets," Howard said without taking his eyes off the newspaper in his hands. "Sleep okay?"

"Yeah, not bad." Grace sipped her drink as she studied Howard. He looked rough after staying up late last night - long after she herself had gone to sleep - and seemed like he could use a mug or two of coffee. In fact, his appearance reminded her of the first time they had met, when she'd invited him over to her apartment for a pick-me-up.

Now he only had water in his glass though. Their coffee pot had broken two weeks ago and had not yet been replaced, despite repeated reminders and urgings from Grace. Howard kept insisting that he could just have his morning caffeine injection at work and there was no need to buy a new pot, especially with money so tight.

Money, in Grace's opinion, was not that tight. Likely his new secretary was taking care of his coffee needs in the office. Lucy or Lucky or whatever the hell that bimbo's name was.

"Need me to pick up anything from the store on the way home?" Howard asked. He folded the paper up, more or less neatly, and placed it on the table as he stood up.

Yeah, Grace thought, a goddamned coffee pot.

"No, I think we're good. We're just ordering pizza tonight, right?"

"Yeah, right. It is Friday after all. All right. See you when I get home." Howard paused on his way out of the kitchen to giver her a peck on the top of her head. "Have a good day."

"Thanks," Grace murmured. "You too."

Grace sat without moving for a long time. It certainly was Friday. That meant pizza and a movie. It was a ritual they rarely missed. So why should that change tonight, just because it was their seventh wedding anniversary?

It wasn't like Howard even realized it anyway.


Greg said...

The bit that will terrify you is when Max recognizes the midwife ;-)
Ah, I had a feeling that Grace and Howard weren't going to turn out to be entirely happy in the Present, but it seems as though all might not be lost; Grace doesn't quite seem to have given up though she's clearly reaching her limit. I find myself feeling sorry for her and empathising more strongly with her this time than with Howard. I am curious as to what lies in their future though, there seem to be many paths to take!

The door closed behind the customer, a lady with holes in the knees of her stockings and a thoughtful look on her face. Madame Sosotris wiped her nose on the back of her hand: the cold that had lasted since she'd returned to the Unreal City was barely anything she attended to anymore, though occasionally she regretted that she couldn't smell the Paydemor lilies. She crossed the bare floorboards, walking between the twin couches that faced each other at the end of the room where the fireplace was, and set a deck of tarot cards on the mantlepiece. She had many decks, choosing the most appropriate for whichever visitor she had at the time. It was a relief to set them down and feel the weight of prophecy fall away from her, have the future hide itself from her eyes and let her see what was here and now again. She turned to leave the room and then changed her mind and sat on the couch.
It accepted her weight as gently as a new lover and moulded around her, the ancient foam cushions squeaking slightly as they settled. A smell of old dog lifted up like the scent of grass after rain, and somewhere in the back room she heard claws rattling on floorboards. She allowed a faint smile to touch her lips, and languished in her memories of the past for a moment.
The knocker fell against the plate three times, sharp sounds that broke her reverie apart and made her sit upright. The couch protested, groaning and the springs spoinging beneath the cushions, sagging to try and keep her in place. The door swung open, the visitor not waiting to be bidden entry, and a short man in a clearly expensive suit stepped inside. His walking stick tapped on the floor, and she noticed that he was leaning heavily on it. The soft golden nimbus around his head, only visible to those who knew the inner secrets of the Unreal City, proclaimed him to be a Throne.
"Don't get up," he said, his voice barely a hiss. She looked at his hands: gnarled, hairy, older than the rest of him by centuries, and now decorated with a thin line of blood. She tensed. "I need a final favour," said the Throne, and she strained her ears to hear him. If he geased her now and she didn't understand what was said the City could maintain her imprisonment indefinitely. "A man will come," said the Throne, "the unlucky Phoenician. You will read his future and he will signify as the Drowned Man. Your task, your only task is to see that he returns alive to the Unreal City three times."
"Binding," whispered Madame Sosotris.
"Binding," said the Throne. A drop of blood fell to the floor, as red as the setting sun.

Marc said...

Greg - hah, yes, that would have been quite something. Particularly because apparently she hadn't seen him since he was an infant.

Yeah, I was clear from the start that there would be trouble in the middle. I don't think I fully settled on how the ending would go until I started writing it.

So many fantastic details in this scene. The description of the couch stands out, certainly, but you find so many little ways to bring things to life. Lovely work. And, of course, an intriguing development to send us off into the future...