After a year of these collaborative stories, (and much more if you count those we wrote originally for Richard Wood’s Word Count Podcast), Eden Baylee and I are still very good friends. There have been interesting exchanges between us reflecting our different approaches to the form and its purpose and, for my part, I’ve learned plenty about my own approach to the genre and writing in general. Essentially, though, the idea is to entertain and perhaps provoke readers. We hope you like this one. And, if you’re new to the blog, the background to our collaboration is spelled out here.
Prompt: The plane was two hours late.
Parts 1 and 3: Eden
Parts 2 and 4: Bill
ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES
I grabbed my jacket off the couch and ran outside. Dan was behind me, moving at his usual pace—irritatingly slow.
“I don’t want to be late!” I yelled. I stood at the passenger side of the cherry-red BMW. “Can you please unlock the car?”
“Hold your horses! I have to set the alarm first.”
My eyes rolled back in my head as I waited for him to exit the house. I should’ve never asked him to come!
When Dan finally came out, he pointed the key fob in the car’s direction. The piercing beep startled me. I pulled open the door and stepped inside his mid-life crisis purchase. Six months later, and the interior still reeked of “new”car smell; I hated it.
What seemed like an eternity later, he opened the driver’s side door. I was already buckled in and on my cell phone. “Kate’s flight is still showing on time.” I tried not to sound too obvious that I wanted him to start the car and go.
“Good,” he said, slowly strapping himself in. “Hey, this car still smells so fresh, doesn’t it?”
I counted to three in my head and took a deep breath.
There was a time when I suppose I must have found his laid-back approach to everything charming or attractive or cool or something. I mean, he’s forever in a stress-free world or at least one where any stresses are hidden or dismissed or … Oh, I don’t know.
Kate had been away in Europe for three months. Three bloody months! You’d think he’d maybe… well… show a bit of enthusiasm or something… But as we sat there, his fingers tapping on the steering wheel, the anxiety I’d been feeling ever since I woke up making my pulse hammer in my ears, I just lost it.
“This is ridiculous” I said. “Dan, start the car, for Christ’s sake!”
He turned to look at me, that irritating smile in place as usual.
“We’ve got plenty of time, honey. Relax.”
Huh! Relax! His usual mantra.
But he did back out onto the road and we were at last on our way.
Infuriatingly, he was right, of course. The roads, even around the airport, turned out to be relatively clear and we were at the gate ahead of schedule. But not Kate’s schedule. The notice board told us her flight had been delayed.
The plane was two hours late, or at least that’s what the most recent update showed. I paced back and forth beside Arrivals. Dan approached me and casually asked, “So? Any more news?”
“No.” I looked around and saw empty seats where people had packed the waiting area only minutes ago. “Everyone’s headed for the bar, I guess.”
Dan looked down at his watch. “We can go too if you like.”
I shook my head. “You mind if we don’t? Let’s stay here where it’s quiet.” I needed a clear head to tell him what had been bothering me. We sat facing a wall, as far away from foot traffic as possible.
“Look, Dan, I’m sorry I was so impatient earlier.”
“Don’t worry about it. You miss Kate, I understand.”
I sighed. “And you don’t?”
After a moment’s hesitation, his expression turned somber. “Honestly?”
“Yes, of course.”
He took my hand in his. “I wish Kate had decided to stay in Rome.”
A lump formed in my throat. “What are you saying?”
“You brought Kate into our relationship. I wanted to give it a try … for you, but I’m not cut out to be in a throuple. I’m just not.”
It came as no surprise really. I knew the answer before I asked the question. That little hesitation before throuple was the same as ever. Poor Dan. At first, when Kate and I told him about us, he’d grinned and made predictable guy remarks. “Throuple? Sounds like a circus act.” Stuff like that. But in the end, he knew it was a sort of ultimatum. He could either join us or … well…
I think it was the only time I saw him close to losing his cool. For all his chilled, flash car persona, he was pretty fragile. I loved him, but had room for more. Not Dan, though. He needed me. Exclusively. At first, he hid behind something he started calling monoamory. I tried throwing my own guy remark back at him. “Sounds like a science course nobody wants to take” I said. He didn’t laugh.
Suddenly, the ding-dong warning sounded as the arrival board lit up. I felt the adrenaline surge. Kate was here.
“Come on,” I said and hurried to the gate to scour the incoming passengers for her lovely red hair. When I saw it, I turned to point her out to Dan.
He wasn’t there.
All comments welcome.