Monday, 12 July 2010
Friday Flash Fiction #35 'CAPTIVE AUDIENCE'
Good old FFF! And good old Cormac Brown (sorry, not being ageist here!) for setting us this challenge. Thanks to an opening sentence suggested by Flannery Alden for this week's story I thought I'd go back a little in time. So, pull up a chair, grab a coffee (or whatever you'd prefer to imbibe) and I hope you enjoy........
"I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position.” Laura’s stare accompanying this outburst left me in no uncertainty that I’d hit a nerve.
“Ok, no worries,” I responded, backtracking to a point in the conversation where I felt on safer ground. “Perhaps we can just sit it out….” The withering look I received by way of an answer was ample evidence that I was damned whatever I said. I wondered if silence was the better option.
I looked at my watch. We’d been waiting almost half an hour already and there was no obvious sign that our dilemma would be resolved any time soon. Clearly one of us needed to leave but that wasn’t an option right at this precise moment.
Laura’s grievance with my presence had been obvious the moment I’d stepped into the elevator just over thirty minutes earlier. Prior to that our worlds had last collided some years previously. I use the word ‘collided’ advisedly. Three years of tempestuous marital non-bliss had finally been reined in after a horrendous high-profile court case.
Her abject jealousy of my being in the presence of any other women might be seen as grounds for divorce but she’d expected me to be the one to take the responsibility. No deal. After all, I never balked at her late night socialite festivities or the gaggle of youthful suitors who buzzed round her like bees around a sugar bowl.
After the first six months of being trotted out on her arm like her latest acquisition I’d grown tired of the fawning sycophants. We’d arrive at some fancy party, I’d do the honourable thing and melt into the shadows so as not to take the limelight from her and then make for the nearest illicit cocktail I could find.
It became a reciprocal arrangement. In the latter days of prohibition it was an enviable proposition. I’d hang around the ‘bar’ at the latest speakeasy, trying not to get too smashed until she was ready to use me as her ‘get out’ clause, when the mood took her. She’d click her fingers, metaphorically or in reality, and off we’d go in a maelstrom of hype and flashlight bulbs. I suppose that’s the penalty of marrying a Hollywood starlet. But that was long ago, now.
Anyway. Here we are trapped in an elevator, stuck between floors. My opening gambit at quashing the obvious awkward situation was kicked into touch fairly abruptly. It’s a delicate position alright. The terms of the divorce settlement were quite specific. The words ‘skating’ and ‘thin ice’ come to mind.
She’d been the last person I’d expected to bump into when I’d called in to the bank this morning. Seeing Laura took my breath away. Gone was the beauty that had at first held me spellbound. The introduction of Technicolor, a while back, had not been kind to her career – she was far more suited to the subtle shades of monochrome which were now considered old hat.
Her faded glory was replaced with a hardness both to her voice and her manner and the steely initial gaze that had swept me up and down. But there was just a hint of wistfulness for times gone by in her eyes, beyond the veil on her hat that masked her former identity.
“Perhaps we could just pretend to ignore each other,” I said, finally breaking the awkward silence. She sniffed and pulled the fur wrap closer around her creating a more physical barrier for her to hide behind and nodded briefly before she looked away.
It’s not every day you find yourself trapped with the person who has the power to bring you to your knees financially. In the terms of agreement we were never to come within ten feet of each other or the alimony payments would cease.
So, now we stand silently; trapped in a small, claustrophobic box awaiting rescue. Staring at my feet, I’ve measured the floor and there is considerably less than the proscribed distance between us, however much she tries to press her back against the wall.
“I won’t tell if you won’t,” I venture, smiling ruefully to myself. It’s a sad state of affairs. I can see her point about the delicacy of her position as my eyes wander to the ornate moulding of my family’s crest etched into the panelling of the elevator walls alongside the trade mark of our company.
After all, she’d really only married me for my money.