Cellular Apologies

Day 16 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

A stranger asks to borrow your cell phone. You agree. She turns away and talks on it for a moment, then faces you once more. “I’m sorry,” she says, eyes red. “I’m so sorry.” Then, she runs away.

Why do I get this feeling that I’m being followed?  I know it sounds ridiculous, but the feeling is strong.  I turn around and see that nothing seems amiss.  I start walking again, but as I pick up speed, I hear my steps being matched.  When I slow down, the same thing.  I stop and turn around again.  This time I am met face to face with a girl in her mid twenties, about my age.  She is frowning.  Spooked, I turn back around and continue on my way.   I try to ignore her, but I still feel her presence behind me.

I duck into a coffee shop hoping to lose her, but she follows me in.  I am flustered and confused, so I decide to approach her.  “Excuse me, but can I help you with something?” I inquire.  Her face turns red as she asks if she can borrow my phone.  “It’s important,” she says, a bit angrily.  I pause, not able to grasp what is going on.  I should say no, but I am feeling that she is in distress so I just hand over my cell phone without any questions asked.

I take a few steps away from her so she can have some privacy and she turns away.  After what seems to be about a minute, she turns back to me with red eyes, hands me my phone, says, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” and runs out of the shop.

What the hell was that all about?  I am left standing there stunned until I realize that she never broke the connection with whoever it was she was speaking with.  I put the phone up to my ear and say, “Hello?”  “Hi, who is this?” replies a male voice.  A familiar male voice.  “umm, Dad?” I answer.  “Michelle?  What are doing?”  What am I doing?  I should be asking him that.

What I don’t understand is why a strange woman would follow me, ask to use my phone and then call my dad.  I’m guessing it isn’t a coincidence.  “Dad, why did that girl call you?  How does she know me?  I’m really confused and I would like it if you would shed some light here.  I have to admit to being a little freaked out right about now.” I say.  “Calm down Michelle, she’s just a friend.”

“Calm down?  Dad, she was visibly upset.  You need to come clean right now.  Who is she and why was she crying?  Please, don’t lie to me, I’m begging you.” I feel on the verge of tears as well, out of sheer frustration.

I hear him sigh on the other end.  I have left the coffee shop and am walking down 5th Avenue.    I’m feeling the need to move.  “Honey, that’s Cleo.  Oh God.  Please…okay, I was seeing her,” he explains, “but I ended it with her last week.  I’m so embarrassed to say this, but it seems she is stalking me.  She keeps calling me and showing up at the office.  I don’t know how she got you involved.  Please.  Can we keep this between us?  Pumpkin?”

My dad is a creep.  I mean, I love him.  But he is a pathetic excuse for a husband.  My poor mother has accepted the fact that dad cheats. “He can’t help it,” she says, “he loves me, it’s just that he needs more than what I can give him.  I’ve just learned to look the other way.”  I don’t know how she can live like that.  Because of him, I’ve grown leery of men.  I’m not sure how I can trust them.  His infidelity has been going on since I was a teenager.  Probably even longer than that but I was too young to figure it out.

“You know what dad?  What you do with your life is your business, but please don’t bring me into it.  I don’t need your lovers knowing who I am.  Why was she following me?  How does she even know who I am?  She’s half your age, dad.  She’s young enough to be your daughter.  It’s a little freaky.  And if she’s stalking you?  It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Look, I have to go, I’m just about home.  We’ll talk about this later.”  I hit the off button and put my phone back in my pocketbook.

I live in a walk-up on the lower east side.  I’ve never been so relieved to be home, the last hour has been a bit harrowing.  I walk up the three floors to my apartment, stop to search for my keys and open the door.  I’m about to fall onto my couch from exhaustion when I think I hear and see something.  It’s getting dark out so the apartment is full of shadows being thrown from the street lights.  I flip the switch for the lamp.  I drop my bag and take a step back.  “Cleo?  How did you get in here?”  She’s holding a knife.

I turn and run as fast as I can for the door.  Unfortunately, she is moving faster than me and grabs me by the hair.  All I keep thinking is that my life is going to end if I don’t fight for it.  I throw myself around and grab at her arms.  She’s strong, but so am I.  We both struggle for what seems like an eternity.  Suddenly, I hear my dad’s voice, “Cleo, drop the knife or I’ll shoot.”

Surprisingly, she does as he says.  I run and hide behind him.  I am suddenly transported to when I was a small child and we were visiting Santa in the mall.  Except this isn’t Santa, this is a deranged ex-lover.  The ex-lover of my dad’s, who is married to my mom.  Although I am extremely angry at him, I am relieved he is here.  I hear the sirens outside getting closer.  In a few minutes this will all be over.  “By the way,” he says, “I never told her about you.”

Sinking Ship

Day 15 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

You realize the boat is sinking, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing happened last night. 

Oh God.  What’s going on?  What is this?  A reenactment of the Titantic?  Is this really happening?  I stopped what I was doing and tried to concentrate on what the Captain was saying.

I didn’t want to go on this stupid cruise in the first place.  But, no, “we have to,” he says.  “It’s our 20th anniversary,” he says.  “What better way than to cruise it with friends,” he says.  Yes, you heard right.   Friends — our best friends — Jack and Abigail share our wedding anniversary.  To the day, to the year.  We didn’t know each other at the time of our weddings, we met through our kids.  Of course, what other way do you meet friends at our age than through your children?

Ever since we first realized we shared the same anniversary 12 years ago, we’ve celebrated every year with them.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  Abigail had to have emergency gall bladder surgery on our 16th anniversary, otherwise it’s something every single year.  Sometimes it’s a winery, a three-day weekend in Cape Cod, or just plain old dinner.

I love Abigail and Jack very much, but I would like to have my husband to myself once in a while.  This is a tradition that was started by Larry, my husband.  He loves to party, he loves to be surrounded by people.  Me, I need solace.  I’m shy and the constant going out is just a bit outside of my comfort zone.  With Larry, it’s always go, go, go.  It’s exhausting.

So here we are, on a sinking ship.  Who can say that in their lifetime?  What’s funny is I’m not as frightened about it as I should be.  Mainly because what happened last night was way worse than a sinking ship.

The four of us met in the dining room for dinner.  The one thing I am enjoying about this cruise is the non-stop eating.  I’m usually pretty good about watching what I eat, but it’s so nice to just throw it all out the window for a few days.  At my age (don’t tell anyone, but that would be 45) it’s hard to keep the weight off.  I know I’ll probably be up more than 5 pounds when I get home, but I don’t care.

I don’t usually drink that much, but I partook in a bit too many cocktails this time.  It was completely out of character for me.  I was feeling no pain and was in the mood to party.  I know, “shocking” as Larry would say.  The tables seemed to be turned last night.

After dinner, the four of us walked over to the discotheque.  Or as the kids call it today, the club.  We all drank some more, we danced, we laughed, we were having a great time.  Until Abigail called it quits.  So, it was just the 3 of us.  We partied, we drank, we danced some more.  And then the shock of the evening came — Larry was tired.  He tried to talk me into going back to the cabin, but Jack and I were having way too much fun to call it a night.

And then there were two.  I’ve known Jack for a long time.  He’s almost like a brother to me.  “Last Dance” by Donna Summer played.  It’s the song that always plays when it’s the end of a wedding or a New Year’s celebration.  Larry hates that song because it means that the party is over.  Usually, I am grateful for it…except tonight.  I let my hair down and was having a great time.  I realized that I really need this.  Jack and I got on the floor.  We danced.  He spun me around and he pulled me against him.  I could feel him against my back.  Something was happening and I didn’t know how to stop it.  Truth be told, I didn’t want to stop it.

We started to kiss, slowly at first.  Then it turned passionate.  Sex with my husband is great.  I’ve never had any complaints.  But this…feeling.  My god, I haven’t felt this in ages.  And it was with Jack.  I’ve never felt an attraction to him before.  It never entered my mind.

I was a puddle on the floor.  I needed to get out of here.  I tried to pull myself away from him but when I did, he just followed on my heels, pulling at me.  In my defense, I asked him to stop.  I begged him to stop.  “Jack, please, we can’t do this.  What about our spouses, our friends, our children?  Please let me go.”  But there was a part of me that didn’t want him to let go.  I was feeling more alive, attractive and sexy than I’ve felt in years.

I felt 18 again, the way we were going at it.  I don’t know how, but we found a quiet nook down the corridor.  He threw me against the wall, reached up under my skirt, moved my panties to the side and entered me.  Just like that.  It was over as quickly as it started.  It felt good.  At the time, I didn’t have any regrets.

Until today.  When I woke up and realized what I had done, I felt like my world would split in half.  If Larry ever found out, he would leave me.  My marriage, as I knew it, would be over.  I don’t want my marriage to end.  I love my husband, I love my family.  This would tear us apart.  I know I can’t live without Larry.  I’m not sure I could survive it.

I woke up with dark thoughts.  Larry kissed me good morning.  I was feeling a little ill from the effects of the alcohol last night.  He wanted to go to breakfast, but I told him I wasn’t feeling very well and that I just wanted to rest.  Besides, I couldn’t face either Jack or Abigail.  I don’t know how I could face them ever again.

After he left, I went into the bathroom and got the bottle of sleeping pills.  I couldn’t pull myself out of it.  This dread.  We live in a small town.  What if Jack opened his mouth to even one person?  Word gets around so quickly these days.  I couldn’t do that to my kids or to Larry.

I poured the entire bottle out onto the bedside table.  There was already a glass of water sitting there from last night.  I grabbed a handful of pills and was about to throw them into my mouth, when I heard the announcement.