My butt was beginning to feel numb from the cool marble steps. I hugged my thin navy sweater tight to my ribcage and stared towards the parking lot. Waiting. Expecting.
“He’s thirty-five minutes late,” complained my mom. She paced on the step above me. I could feel the irritation radiating off of her.
“I’m sure he’ll be here any minute, Janet. Mark wouldn’t miss this.” My grandmother tried to soothe her by placing a hand on her shoulder, but Mom shook it off.
“He didn’t return my call yesterday, and I texted him twice already this morning. Doesn’t he know how important this day is to her?”
Like always, they talked as if I wasn’t there. They didn’t bother to include me, which was fine with me right now. I was too nervous to think about trying to get any words out correctly. I could have texted him myself, but Mark had been distant and busy the past week. Last Friday he had promised he would be here, wouldn’t miss it for the world, he said. So I gave him some space. He would be here, right?
My breath quickened as a black Honda approached, but it passed the courthouse. Not Mark. I let out my breath with a puff. I slowly stood up, stiff and compressed from sitting too long.
“Oh, honey, let me help you,” MeMaw scurried over and steadied me with her hand. I straightened up and twisted my chin to the side to pop my neck. It cracked loudly. She grimaced.
“I really don’t think that’s good for your neck, dear. It’s still healing.” I shrugged. Mom halted her pacing on the step above us.
“We should go in. If he’s not here by now, he’s not coming. Did he say anything to you?”
Maybe he was sick.
“Shit,” I said. Their eyes got big. I tried again:
“Shit.” This time I smiled. I couldn’t get the word out right. My mom narrowed her eyes.
“This isn’t the time to be funny, Alicia,” she snapped. I could tell she was angry. Her body was rigid and her hands clenched and unclenched rapidly. Maybe I could try one more time…
“SHIT!” I said it loudly and with force, trying to put the ck on the end. A lady walking up the steps glanced at me in surprise. She smiled. That was my undoing. A laugh bubbled up out of my belly, came from deep within where it had been trapped for months. It erupted out of my mouth, loud and clear, and it spilled out in waves.
I couldn’t stop. I fell back onto the step and laughed hysterically until I was crying. I howled and rocked back and forth. They both stared at me like I had gone mad. For the first time in months, they were speechless. They had been doing the talking for me for so long that they were shocked to hear this much noise from me.
Oh, my brain. My stupid, damaged brain that couldn’t control my tongue anymore. I choked down another laugh and wiped the tears off my face. I stood up, but this time no one offered to help me.
I turned and looked up at the courthouse. It loomed over me with its massive columns, full of judgements and serious people I didn’t know. And him. He would be there, too. I saw them exchange worried looks. Without a word, I hobbled up the steps.
The pain that shot through my leg sobered me. My face flushed and my eyes began to burn. How ironic. I can’t believe the only person who really understands me isn’t even here for this, I thought bitterly as my family trailed silently behind me. I opened the heavy wooden door and entered the room where, for the first time, I would see the man who had, perhaps forever, altered the course of my life.
I sat in my room that night and tried to process it, but I just felt confused. The man who had drunkenly veered across the intersection and bulldozed my car decided to settle with us out of court. He apologized, but wouldn’t look at me. He came from money, so he paid up and got it over with. Brushed me off and moved on.
Two million dollars. I knew I should feel elated, but I didn’t. I looked down at the hands in my lap. My phone vibrated. It was Mark, finally.
I turned the phone over so I couldn’t see what his text said. Better yet, I threw a pillow over it. I pulled an old, unused spiral notebook covered in neon flowers out of my desk. I sat down. Pen touched paper.
I BEGAN TO WRITE.
By Holly Fister
This was inspired today by a writing prompt from author J.C. Cauthon. I just discovered writing prompts on WordPress Reader, and I decided to have a go at it! It definitely helped me get the creative juices flowing and fulfilled my urge to create today. Thomas said it left him hanging, but I said that was the point. It’s just a scene.
Do you want to take the challenge? If so, write your own version of “in front of the courthouse” and post the link in the comments on Cauthon’s page, link above.
Also, if you’re familiar with my blog you’ll notice that this is a new category in my menu: Creative Writing. I’ll be putting all of my randomly creative posts here. 🙂