Occasionally I take part in a prompt at Alissa Leonard’s blog, Finish That Thought. You are given the first sentence and have up to 500 words to craft a story. This week I came up with a tale of obsession. See what you think and if you are minded to have a blast, pop over on Tuesday for next week’s prompt. Warning. I’m the judge!
Flames curled round the letter’s edge, its message vanishing in the fire. To Betty the ashes seemed to push up, as if the paper was fighting the fire, wrestling with it, determined its message would not be lost. But fire trumped paper and when, at last the flames retreated, their work done, Betty bent close to the defeated ash and obliterated the residue in one indifferent breath.
Betty rocked on her heels, imagining the sequence of events she had just put in train. Doris waiting on the RSVP. Doris pressing Clive to check with the postman. Doris pressing Clive to check with the delivery office. Doris pressing Clive once too many and him shouting at her. Betty knew the words he would use by heart. Doris begging Clive to ask Betty if she had received the invitation and Clive refusing. Doris’s tears. Clive’s fists.
Betty gave it two weeks before Doris called her, wanting a chat, wanting to bare all about her mistake, her guilt, her regret. Doris wanting guidance, suggesting Clive was looking at someone else.
Betty would be that ‘someone else’. Betty would call Clive, say she’d heard about Doris having second thoughts. Clive, sceptical, given the circumstances but given Doris’s withdrawal easy to convince.
She would have them both precisely where she wanted them and then…
Betty looked at the grey ashy-smear. The silhouette of a bride and groom that had been embossed on the top of the invitation had been transferred, ghost like, onto the stone surface. Betty reached out a foot and twisted her heel on the slab. The image remained. The harder she tried to remove it, the deeper the image seemed to go. And with each turn the generic bride became more clearly Doris and the ubiquitous groom morphed into Clive.
When Betty stopped the picture had become a part of the hard surface, seared into the stone as if it had been branded.
The phone rang. ‘Yes?’
‘It’s Estelle. Doris’s mother?’
‘I’m ringing wedding guests…’
‘I’ve not been invited.’
‘Oh silly, of course you have. Maybe the invitation has been held up. The thing is, the lovebirds were so excited they shot off to the registry office and are already man and wife. Isn’t that romantic?’
‘But… I don’t understand.’
‘I know, it was all a bit sudden. They were committed to the full Church thingy but then the Church burnt down – apparently a bible caught light in a ray of sunlight through the south window – a freak they said and they decided it was an omen. You’ve been so good, Betty, so understanding after that unpleasantness last year. I knew you’d want to be the first to congratulate them.’