Latest Flash

Studio Apartment

Down here in the Gutter, we all know no one is who they say they are. It works the same way for stories, too.

Four walls, a ceiling, and the dream of a better life means something different to everyone...

Studio Apartment by JB Christopher
  
She waited and waited for her fiancé to return until her wrists hurt from supporting the weight of her head, and her knees felt warm from moving against the sheets. She spent much of her time watching their cat Bobo move about the room. He flicked his tail side to side when he walked close to her. He leapt on the bed, and she tilted her head from one side, then the other, hoping the cat didn’t find anything of interest. He hadn’t been declawed and she was stretched out buck-naked.

Nothing interested the cat. She had bought a red ball. It squeaked and shrieked when squeezed. Followed by a fuzzy brown rabbit, which was often mistaken for a rat. It was an arrogant cat. Nothing pleased him or was good enough for him.

She laughed to herself when the cat found the bed boring, and went to the window to watch the world outside.

They didn’t have much money but then, they didn’t need much money. They didn’t have kids, a car, a mortgage, credit cards. They ate their meals on the floor cross-legged, and he would smoke cigarettes afterwards.

“One day. One day,” he would reply when pressed about furniture, a car, a vacation, kids. His voice was smug and calm. But somewhere in her, a belief persisted, a dim light of hope that comes with love that this man, her fiancé, would make good on his promises.

Each day he returned from working at a laundry mat off Bundy, his voice sweet with whiskey, his eyes too glassed for any good, and she knew with each day that his promises slipped further and further away, like ships moving toward the horizon. He still talked about auditions, call backs, and his big break.

Her talent was no match for his charm and his blue eyes. With talk about Hollywood, Emmys and Oscars, it was enough to make you think he won one once. She studied at Julliard to be a pianist, and now she used those prized hands in the mailroom for a production company, shuffling other people’s dreams.

“We’re so close. He’s so close. He’s got two call backs this week alone,” she once told her friends over coffee. They nodded, politely.

After almost three years, she was doing gigs for temp agencies. Anything to pay the bills, she told her mom. She sat in her studio apartment on Pico, staring at the ceiling, then the walls, all painted oyster white, cracked like well-worn leather. But when he said, “But look at this view. People would kill for this view,” she smiled back at him. He was right. Once she looked beyond the power lines and the alley, outside the window, it was a glorious view.  

Three days ago, she bought a black teddy from Fredericks off of Hollywood and a few g-string panties. All on sale. She wanted to surprise him. Yesterday, she promised her fiancé tomorrow would be special, and chided him not to be late because "you wouldn’t want to do that." 

He smiled, kissed her good night, said “I can feel it. I’m close.” He told her I love you the way a child apologizes. He said he had auditions lined up for next week.  

Today. She called in sick at work and watched him dress and rush out for the bus. She fell back in and out of sleep, dreaming of white walled buildings jammed against each other at odd angles. Red clay tile roofs checkered with twig bird nests. Bronze-skinned women, their white shirts rolled up past thick forearms, picked flowers from long gardens.  She dreamt of quiet.

She awoke in late afternoon, pulled from her sleep suddenly aware that he still had not called. But he always called. She went to the kitchen, poured herself a glass of wine and sat against the wall, thinking.  He was running late. Probably missed the bus. It happens sometimes, she realized. She slipped out of her clothes and returned to the bed, unsure of what to do next. Should she dress for tonight, or put her pajamas back on? It was still a couple of hours until he was due home.

At six, she slipped into a g-string, pulled the teddy on. She wore red lipstick, black pumps, and felt like a whore. Standing in the bathroom mirror, she laughed, then getting into it, flexed her lips into a pout.

Three drinks later, it was nine. She padded through the house barefoot, the pumps kicked under the bed, full of courage. At midnight, she passed out and awoke the next day with a dry tongue in an empty bed.

* * *

When he still hadn’t returned a month later, she looked across the studio floor with heavy eyes at the leather black bag. She called around. No one seemed to know where he was. When she bused down to the laundry mat where he worked they said that someone by that name never worked there; her staid despair turned into indignation. Her fiancé was too much a coward to look her in the face and tell her as much.

On the ride home, alone with her uneasy thoughts, her vexed reflection trapped in the bus window.

She crated up his belongings. There wasn’t much. Jeans, T-shirts, a few sweaters, a set of pressed chino pants. She didn’t know what to do with the black leather bag. She peered inside one more time, at the list of nine-digit numbers scribbled on a notepad from the Four Seasons Sacramento, a copy of Gray’s Anatomy stamped with the words Folsom County Prison, a chewed Ticonderoga number two pencil, the set of car keys attached to a circular keychain from the National Zoo. She zipped it closed and snapped it shut, without shedding a tear, as if the bag belonged to a stranger.

JB Christopher can’t sit still for long but when he does, he writes short stories on violence, lust, deceit, and perdition. His short fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Powder Burn Flash, Darkest Before the Dawn and SNM Horror Magazine. His debut novel, The Last Fall, is set for release later this year (Rainstorm Press). Visit JB Christopher online at http://www.jb-christopher.com or Twitter at https://twitter.com/jbchristopher1 (@jbchristopher1)