Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SICK (05/09/19)
- TITLE: Fire at the Core
By Jack Taylor
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In reality, a different fire burned at their core.
It wasnâ€™t that Benjamin wasnâ€™t committed to doing his part. He just got distracted. And Selma-Rae noticed.
Some nights he seemed like a strutting peacock, dancing more to prove himself to the other women who ogled him right back. He looked forward too eagerly for new partners and almost seemed to manipulate the dances toward the most stunning women on the floor. He engaged so freely in extended conversations with others at the refreshment tables during breaks â€“ too slow to return to his waiting and watching girl.
Selma-Rae wasnâ€™t really a feasting tigress â€“ guarding Benjamin like he was her own hunk of meat. They had an agreement â€“ a friendship â€“ a passionate connection that had gone on for three years. Dinner and dance was their joy, their mutual bond, their routine and tradition. It broke up the everydayness of work in the legal office, singing in the choir and stopping by to visit her daddy in the care home.
The gnawing in her belly was only weeks old and she took a few extra Tums to deal with it. Something wasnâ€™t right and a single face began to fill the edges of her senses.
Benjamin K. had never gone to the same dance floor twice in a row for any of their three years â€“ until the last month. Celebrating the day of their third year â€˜friendshipâ€™ had sparked expectations. Three dozen flowers delivered to her at work; a mysterious call with only the sound of their favorite song; a card with two red outlined hearts in place of a signature; the invitation to the best club in town for dinner. The dancing had been wild and free. Expectations were left on the dance floor.
The following week Benjamin took her to the same table at the same club - without all the extras. He lingered a little too long chatting up the waitress â€“ apparently someone he had known from school days. He took his time eating and seemed rote in his dance moves. His smile seemed plastic â€“ except when he looked toward the waitress. She had seen him flash his pearly whites at her in the mirror.
The third week at the same table with the same waitress was too much â€“ especially when another friend stopped by and Benjamin introduced Selma-Rae as â€œSuzy-Maeâ€. Oh, he recovered and was charming the rest of the night but all he could talk about was school days and what a great group he hung with.
Selma-Rae was numb from her facial micro-inspections in her magnifying mirror. She secretly took extra dance lessons, visited a make-over artist and spent freely in her favorite fashion store. She cajoled Benjamin into taking her out to a movie, for fast food and for ice-cream. He was wowed but kept his mind elsewhere â€“ â€œworkâ€ he said.
Two weeks later, Selma-Rae had arrived early for another evening and had let herself in with the key he had given her. In three years, she had never scrolled through Benjamin Kâ€™s phone. Heâ€™d left it on the counter as he used the washroom. It rang. She casually glanced at the screen. Suzy-Mae.
Neither of them had anything to hide, so listening to the purr-ing voice leaving a message was instinctive. â€œSorry I missed you. Looking forward to seeing you again. Ni â€“ night.â€ A little too purr-y.
The volcanic surge bursting out from every pore in her being sickened her. When Benjamin K. opened the washroom door in a hurry and moved toward the phone, Selma-Rae snatched it and threw it across the room. It shattered against the wall.
Benjamin K. stood, transfixed, mouth open â€“ staring at his choir-singing angel red-tinged with the fury of scorn and humiliation.
â€œYou sneaky snake, you vicious viper, you sick thing. Iâ€™m leaving. Donâ€™t you dare ask me to dance again.â€
Benjamin K. knelt by his phone, gathering up the pieces. â€œWhat happened?â€
â€œI heard the message from your secret lover â€“ Suzy-Mae.â€
Benjamin chuckled. â€œSuzy-Mae? Thatâ€™s my cousin. She works at the jewelry store where Iâ€™ve been looking at engagement rings. Ask your pastor â€“ even he knows what's happening.â€
â€œBefore you ask - we need to talk.â€
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