by J.C. Montgomery
“It looks like real crystal.”
“Would you expect anything less?”
Setting the glass down on the table between them, he looks directly at her, crooking the corner of his mouth in that familiar way, the one that tells her another long night lay ahead.
“You know, in the right light, I barely notice how dark those circles are beneath your eyes.”
“If you didn’t keep me up at all hours playing these games, there wouldn’t be any.”
She reaches out and pulls the glass closer, swirling it gently, feeling the weight of the liquid shift in her hand.
“Is this the last of it?”
“It was all I could salvage. I’m not sure what you hoped to gain. This changes nothing.”
He grabs her wrist firmly, just above the bandage, causing several drops to escape and land on her thumb. They both watch as the viscous fluid makes it way slowly down the back of her hand and soak into the gauze. She lets go of the glass, but his grip tightens.
Eyes lock as each waits to see whose weakness shows first.
“Tell me. Tell me why.”
“The truth . . . the truth is . . .”
“The truth is a sword dangling dangerously over our lives and you’d rather not be underneath when it falls. No one controls their own destiny. You should know better.”
He releases her and sits back in his chair.
“Drink up. The night is young, and fate is waiting.”
[J.C. Montgomery patiently waits for her muse to return. Until then, she spends her days in a latte-induced stupor reciting Vonnegut’s rules for short stories, trying to commit them to memory so she can break them as well as O’Connor did.]