Exercising the craft—September 9, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: The One-Minute Writer Flash Fiction Friday, in which writers receive a prompt and must complete it within 1000 words.  The first four words comprise the prompt, and story I wrote follows it.  The title of today’s prompt: “The Longer I Stared”



The longer I stared, the more I had a hard time believing that I saw Cindy on the TV screen.  I normally watched these types of shows as my guilty pleasure.  With a master’s degree from a Top 10 university, you would think I spent my free time watching “Meet the Press” and debating the issues that pressed on the minds and hearts of the most learned.

No.  I spent my Friday nights watching “Four Weddings: Unveiled” on TLC.

My physician husband had gone to L.A. for the weekend for a conference, and the kids had gone to bed after eating their favorite dinner of mac and cheese and watching half a movie.  They fought to watch the whole thing, but by the time Sully and Boo reached the main factory in Monstropolis so Sully could try to get her home I wanted to offer the kids toothpicks to keep their eyes open.  Instead I convinced them to go bed, and after the obligatory complaining they fell asleep.

Did my desire to watch my favorite “Bride Night” have something to do with letting them skip flossing?  Maybe.  But had I known I would see Cindy, I might have tried to read the Wall Street Journal or something and actually catch up on world issues.

When the show started, I saw Cindy and actually started laughing.  Going on a reality show seemed so like her.  She had loved making a spectacle of herself in high school, and obviously nothing had changed in that department.  Out of the four brides on the show who would attend each other’s weddings and then vote on the best one, Cindy’s wedding came with the highest price tag, the most expensive gown, and the fanciest venue.

I had thought about her off and on since school, and I used to wonder whether she had calmed down and actually—well, become a human being.  Looks like some creatures of habit don’t venture too far from home, in a personality sense anyway.  Cindy introduced herself at the start of the show as per the standard format, and I couldn’t help grinning.  I mean, the women on these shows always look so—well, you know—but when I saw her fiancé, I could feel my grin slide right off my face.

She was engaged to Michael.

I didn’t think seeing him after so many years would evoke a gut check, but it did.  He looked older, of course, and just as hot.  It was almost like he had spent the years after high school fulfilling the potential hotness we’d all drooled over way back then.  I mean, now he was hot.

Cindy and I, believe it or not, actually spent the second half of sophomore year as BFFs.  At least, that’s what we used to scrawl in each other’s notebooks and on little notes we would drop in each other’s lockers.  We went everywhere together, talked about everything with each other, and gushed over boys in our own exclusive boy-gushing sessions.  Including gushing over Michael.

I couldn’t help indulging in some of that now.  The show presented Cindy’s wedding first, and I tried to listen to all the details the peppy host shared—how the other brides complained that the chicken entrée didn’t taste like much other than plain chicken or how they babbled over her custom-made gown while at the same time expressing shock at the price—but I couldn’t take my eyes off Michael.  Michael in his tux, Michael on the dance floor (and, yes, that boy could still move,) and Michael practically jamming his tongue down Cindy’s throat at the end when she stated with confidence that they had had the best wedding and would definitely win the dream vacation.

Her self-assurance didn’t surprise me at all.  The summer after our sophomore year, we didn’t really hang out.  She said she got a job and had to save up for college.  And then when our junior year started, she kind of sidelined me for the ultra-cool girls.  I didn’t know why that first day.  But then I saw her attach herself to Michael’s arm, closer than salsa that had dripped down the side of a counter.

Things hadn’t changed much.  She plastered herself to Michael’s arm at the end of their segment.  With everything they had done to make sure they won, it didn’t surprise me when they did.  The other brides had let their initial reactions to her wedding gown carry their vote in her favor, and despite the complaint about the boring chicken their collective reaction to the wedding itself also gave Cindy the highest points.  When Michael stepped out of the limo toward the end and handed Cindy the envelope with the destination of their dream honeymoon, she looked smug.

I almost wanted to change the channel, but then the announcer said that when the show came back after the final commercial break viewers would get an update on the winning couple.

I actually began pacing.  I don’t know what I thought would happen, but it brought me back to that summer after my sophomore year.  I spent most of those first couple of weeks waiting for Cindy to call, and then when she finally called with her lame lie I spent the next couple of weeks trying to rationalize that she was my BFF and wouldn’t drop me.  So I spent the rest of that summer waiting for her to finish up her job.  And then I spent junior waiting for her to be my friend again.  And my senior year waiting to find another best friend.

Of course, TV is nice that way.  You don’t have to wait too long.  Reality shows eventually come back.  Unlike fake best friends.

When the update started, though, the fluffy wedding music and pictures of the honeymoon location had disappeared.  In its place the show people had placed a simple screen stating that the married couple had split up shortly after the wedding.  They didn’t use the vacation package, letting the second-place couple use it instead.

My hands flew to my mouth in shock.  What had happened?  Why had they split up?  And where were they now?

I kept thinking about Cindy long after I turned off the TV that night.  I thought about Michael too.  And I just couldn’t get away from the fact that now Cindy would probably spend some time waiting as well.  Waiting for answers and for a broken heart to heal.

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