Round 1

Christopher Bloodworth Uncategorized

Honeybee Sweets ‘n Treats

Written by Van Foster – A Romantic Novelist to the nth degree. Obvs.

For Gabe: you gave me brothels when I wanted murder.

 

Chapter 1

 

“What are you gonna do?”

Carie stared at Megan for a long time before answering. Things always seem to go Megan’s way. Petite and busty, more times than not, solutions to situations that would’ve given Carie trouble for weeks seemed to skate right off Megan’s back.

“Not sure,” Carie said in a small voice.

“Not sure?” Megan asked, continuing to remove the lids from the ice cream containers behind the glass of the display case. “Empower yourself. Do what I would do.”

Shake my tits and stick my ass out? Carie wanted to ask, but instead shook her head.

What she finally said was, “I can’t. It doesn’t work like that for me.”

“Doesn’t work like that for you? What does that even mean? It works like that for everyone.”

Carie sighed. It was always like this with Megan. Megan believed the world worked under one set of rules that applied to everyone.

Not wanting to argue, Carie wrote down the flavors of ice cream they were running low on from the front case before heading to the walk-in freezer. Pulling on the cool, heavy handle, she took a deep breath and held it before walking in and allowing the door to close behind her. She shut her eyes, clenched them shut really, and let out her held breath in the freezing cold of the walk-in. She stood there for several moments before taking in a fresh breath of the frigid air. Already she could feel her shoulders beginning to relax and her head beginning to clear.

The walk-in was just about the only place Carie seemed to be able to catch her breath, seemed to be able to slow everything in the world down to a pace that was manageable. A thought struck her and she giggled.

“Only place I can freeze time is this walk-in,” she mumbled under her breath.

Pushing her thoughts away, she hit the light switch and consulted her list.

Double Dutch Chocolate, Cookie Dough, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Sweet Cream were the containers she needed to pull.

Carie sighed. People’s tastes were so predictable. Without fail, these four flavors were the ones she had to pull from the walk-in, with the occasional random other flavor that ran out or, which tended to be more likely, ran past its shelf life.

Tucking the list back into her pocket, Carie rolled the cart that always stayed in the corner of the walk-in for tasks such as this over to the shelf where all the different flavors of ice cream sat. Rows of white gallon containers stood at attention on the shelves with labels stuck to their sides, displaying which flavors they were.

Strawberry.

Orange sherbet.

Old-fashioned vanilla.

On and on the flavors went, but customers tended to stick with the same old basics.

This thought brought her boyfriend to the forefront of her mind.

Rob. She’d been dating him for six years now and still was unsure what the long-term plans were. She tried to nail them down before, but Rob, ever the slippery one, had wriggled out every time.

She wondered if he was ever going to propose, but deep down she had a feeling that he wouldn’t. She had a feeling that he would never propose to her and that she was just being strung along until he found something new or until she grew enough of a spine to leave him.

“That’s never gonna happen…” She mumbled as she reached out for the first flavor on her list.

Her hands slid on the wet container and she frowned. Normally the containers were covered in tiny crystals of frost that melted when they came in contact with your hand. Carie wiped the moisture on her apron and touched another container, already seeing the water droplets that beaded on the surface of the plastic.

“Oh no,” she whispered, not understanding exactly what had gone wrong with the mechanical workings of the walk-in, but knowing it was something that Chuck would not be pleased about.

Chuck, the owner of the ice cream shop, did not like surprises, did not like deviation, did not like problems.

The walk-in freezer had been part of the shop ever since she started working there. She had a feeling it had been there since the seventies, but wasn’t entirely sure.

Glancing up at the thermometer mounted to the wall presented Carie with further evidence that something had gone terribly wrong. The needle of the older thermometer, no longer sat directly in the middle of the green section, the section that meant everything was okay, that meant everything was fine in the walk-in. Instead, the needle had bypassed the yellow section completely, the warning section, and was approaching the end of the red section.

On her first day, Chuck had explained that if the needle ever hit red, everything in the walk-in would have to be replaced.

This was not good at all…

Carie left the cart where it was and exited the walk-in, shoulders slumped at what she would have to do next.

“What?” Megan asked. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s in the red,” Carie said in a small voice.

“The red? What are you talking about?”

“The thermometer. It’s in the red.”

“That thermometer doesn’t even work.” Megan rolled her eyes. “It was in the yellow yesterday.”

“It was—” Carie couldn’t finish her sentence. This whole thing could’ve been avoided. This all could have been solved yesterday, on Carie’s day off, but instead, now she would have to deal with it when it was catastrophic.

“What?” Megan asked, shaking her head at Carie as though Carie were the problem here. “What’s the issue?”

“When that thermometer hits red, we have to replace all the ice cream in the walk-in,” Carie explained.

“Oh. Okay, so call Chuck. Let him figure it out,” Megan suggested. Carie stared at her for a long moment, unsure whether she was truly this stupid or if she was doing this on purpose.

Carie opened her mouth to tell Megan to call Chuck herself, to tell him why she’d seen fit to ignore the needle on the thermometer being in the yellow the day before. She wondered what he would say when he heard this whole situation was avoidable.

None of those words were what actually came out though.

Carie sighed. “I’ll call him now.”

Megan nodded and smiled. “Like I said. Empower yourself. You’re doing better already.”



Chapter 2

 

In the back room, Carie stared at the black letters on the white paper that was taped above the phone. The letters, written in thick marker, looked as though they’d been slashed across the paper in rage. The letters read, “For emergencies only! Chuck” and followed with Chuck’s phone number in red.

Carie lifted the receiver and dialed the phone number. It seemed to her as though the silence between each ring grew longer and longer as more rings accumulated. She thought she was going to get away with leaving a message, really believed that the phone call was gonna flip over to voicemail, but then she heard the low baritone of Chuck’s voice on the other end of the phone.

“What’s wrong?” Chuck barked.

No “Hello, Carie. How is your day going?”

No “Hi, Carie. What can I do for you today?”

Nothing like that, just “What’s wrong?”

“Who is this? Megan? Carie?” Chuck barked when Carie still hadn’t answered.

“Carie.” Her voice barely came out louder than a whisper.

“Carie, this number is for emergencies only. Why are you calling?”

“I think the walk-in is broken.”

There was silence a long moment of silence on the other end of the phone before Chuck spoke again.

“How did this happen, Carie?” Chuck asked, but this time he wasn’t barking. This time his voice was low and dangerous.

“I don’t know. I went in to pull new stock and when I started pulling it, the containers were wet.”

“Fuck.”

Carie didn’t respond to this, and didn’t know how to respond to this. She’d never heard Chuck curse.

“What’s the thermometer look like?” Chuck asked after several moments of silence.

This is the question she’d been dreading. More than anything else, this was the moment she knew had been coming, yet somehow hoped would never arrive.

“Red,” Carie whispered.

“What.” It wasn’t a question; it was a threat.

“The needle’s in the red,” Carie said. She felt the beginnings of tears stinging her eyes and hated herself for crying over something she had no control over.

“What,” Chuck repeated.

Carie cleared her throat and spoke louder. “The thermometer is in the red.”

“Since when?” Chuck hissed.

“I don’t know. I wasn’t here yest—”

Chuck cut her off. “Dump all the ice cream in the walk-in. In the meantime, I’ll call someone to take a look at it. Is Megan there today?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I want you to dump all the ice cream. Have her keep working up front. We’ll sell as much of the stock that we already have in the display case as we can.”

“Okay.”

“I can’t believe you let this happen,” Chuck said. “And weren’t you just asking me if you could be a manager?”

Carie’s eyes slowly slipped shut and she leaned against the wall, not wanting to see or say anything. All she wanted to do was disappear. Forever.

Makes sense, she thought. Something always goes wrong.

“Okay,” she said.

“I’ll let you know when I get ahold of the repair guy,” Chuck said. She could hear the disgust dripping through his voice.

She started to open her mouth to say something else, but the call disconnected as Chuck hung up on her. Carie stood there for a few moments, dreading the work ahead of her as well as having to deal with Megan. Megan would whine about having to work the front by herself. Megan, whose fault this whole thing was, would complain until Carie’s ears bled.

Unbelievable.

Pushing herself off the wall, Carie headed up to the front to get the dreaded Megan talk over with.

“Was he mad?” Megan asked without looking up from her phone. Her thumbs flew across the screen as she texted, or Snapchatted, or whatevered.

“He was. He didn’t understand…” Carie paused for a moment, considering what she would say next. He didn’t understand why you’re such a fucking bitch all the time and why you can’t figure out how to do your goddamn job. She didn’t say that though. “He didn’t understand why you didn’t say anything about the thermometer.”

Megan’s fingers quit their tapping onslaught and she looked up from her screen at Carie with narrowed eyes. “Did you tell him this was my fault?”

For some reason, Carie felt nervous. Carie felt like she was the one in trouble. “No, I—“

Megan cut her off. “Because if you did, I will throw you under the bus.”

“For what?” Carie asked, genuinely confused as to what she could be thrown under the bus for doing. Megan cleared that up with her next statement.

“For anything I decide to. I get that you’ve worked here for a long time and I’m sorry that your life isn’t going the way you want it to. I’m sure everyone wishes that at some point, not that I would really know, because I love my life, but I’m sure you have dark moments occasionally, right?”

Carie just stared at her, unable to put together sentence. Was Megan really saying all this to her? Was this really happening?

Megan, taking Carie’s silence to mean she should continue, did just that. “I know things aren’t going so well with you and Rob, and I think it might be affecting your job performance. Maybe… Just maybe, you should ask him to marry you.”

If Carie was shocked previously, she was floored now. The bell above the front door of the ice cream shop rang as a customer entered. Megan either didn’t hear, or didn’t care, continuing on.

“Six years is a long time, Carie. A really long time. If Rob isn’t ready to commit, maybe you should just let him go.”

The customer, an older woman, raised her eyebrows at the statement and Carie could see on her face that she was intrigued and wanted to continue eavesdropping.

Not today.

“Watch the front of the shop, Megan. Chuck wants me to empty out the walk-in. A repair guy should be here sometime today. When he gets here, send him back.”

Carie hated herself as she listened to the words fall out of her mouth, cottoncandy sweet without the slightest hint of anger when all she wanted to do was scream into Megan’s stupid, perfect face. Without another moment’s hesitation, Carie turned and walked to the back. She could feel the tears stinging her eyes again and headed directly into the walk-in. Closing the door behind her, she took several deep breaths and screamed into the frigid silence.



Chapter 3

 

The repairman showed up several hours later, looking disappointed when Megan left after bringing him back. Carie, sticky from melting ice cream and sweaty from lugging the heavy containers to the dumpster in the back alley, breathed hard. He looked Carie up and down with a frown.

“What?” Carie asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

The repairman shrugged. “Nothing. Chuck said I should check out the walk-in.”

“Do it then.” Carie waved in the direction of the walk-in. “I’m sure you know what a walk-in looks like.”

The repairman rolled his eyes, but said nothing as he headed to the freezer.

Grabbing several towels, Carie began wiping the sweat, as well as the melted ice cream, away from her face and arms. Her stomach growled and she’d just finished toweling off when Megan popped her head into the back room.

“I’m heading to lunch,” Megan said. “The front of the store is all yours.”

Carie sighed. “Fine. Please be back on time. I’m hungry, too.”

“Do you want me to get you something while I’m out?” Megan asked, surprising Carie in a good way for once.

“Where are you going?” Carie asked.

“Taco Bell.”

“Oh. Sure. Three hard tacos?”

“Three?” Megan shook her head. “I can barely eat one. No problem though.”

Before Carie could respond, Megan’s head disappeared. With another sigh, Carie headed up to the front of the shop where she found herself staring at ten angry customers.

“Who’s next?” She asked, shoulders already drooping at what she could tell would be a long solo shift until Megan returned.

The customers assembled all grumbled as one.



Chapter 4

 

Megan returned two and a half hours later, looking more like she’d been out having sex than eating lunch.

“Where were you?” Carie asked.

“Lunch. I told you.” Megan rolled her eyes.

“You were gone for two and a half hours. Our lunch break is only supposed to be one hour.”

Megan shrugged. “Sorry.”

Carie sighed. She felt like she’d been sighing all day. “Did you leave my tacos in the car?”

“Oh,” Megan said, and Carie knew, right away, that she wouldn’t be eating tacos for lunch that day.

“You forgot?”

“Yeah, I guess I did.”

“You were gone for two and a half hours. How could you have forgotten my tacos? You had plenty of time to get them.”

Megan shrugged again. “Sorry.”

There was no appearance of guilt on Megan’s face though. There was never any appearance of guilt on Megan’s face. The woman had apologized to Carie half a million times, but never did she actually seem to be sorry for any of the horrible things she did.

Megan brushed past her and headed to the back room where she tossed her purse into her locker. Carie saw the flash of several white foil wrappers in the purse. There were little spades and clubs stamped onto the foil. Megan slammed the locker shut and spun around to face Carie.

She opened her mouth to speak, but paused in what Carie could only assume was shock at the anger and rage she could feel pouring from her own face.

Carie didn’t give her the chance to catch her breath and start speaking first. “This is unacceptable. This whole situation is unacceptable. You show up late. You leave early. You take two and a half hour lunches. You leave for lunch when you know there’s a line of customers you’ve been ignoring because you’re too busy snapchatting who-the-fuck-knows-what to all those little boys you have wrapped around your finger.”

Carie jumped when the door to the walk-in slammed behind her, her anger fully blossoming from being startled.

Carie felt her face blaze with rage, and for the first time in her life, she actually felt empowered. Empowered to go in on Megan.  “And another thing. You go on and on about empowerment, about how everyone should do what you do. That’s such a load of shit. I can’t believe anyone would ever buy your bullshit, yet you keep selling it. It’s truly unfathomable that you have any self-respect based on the way I’ve seen you conduct yourself.”

For a moment, Megan looked like she was about to cry. Her lips drew tight across her face and her eyes creased, but then the corners of her mouth began to turn up and she let out a tiny tinkle of a laugh.

Megan flicked her chin at something behind Carie and spoke with true merriment. “I think he has something to say to you.”

Carie, face burning with rage and humiliation that this girl was laughing, LAUGHING, at her, spun around, speaking as she did so.

“And if you think your chauvinist ass is—”

The words died as she stared into the blank face of her boss. Chuck only had to say two words.

“You’re fired.”



Chapter 5

 

Carie drove around the city for a long time with Chuck’s words still ringing in her ears.

Fired. She’d never been fired before, never been laid off before, never even quit on bad terms, yet here it was. The big F.

F-I-R-E-D.

For those keeping score in her head, yep, fired.

Eventually, she made her way to the other side of the city, where her apartment was, where Rob was.

When she walked in, he barely glanced up from the television, his fingers twiddling at the controls of whatever game system he’d most recently bought. Action figures were glued to the sides of the television, defying gravity as they battled on either side of the screen.

The television was hers, but after six years anything that was hers had ceased to be hers and become ours, or more often than not his as he took it in and changed it like a giant amoeba, devouring everything around him.

Carie allowed her purse to slip down off her shoulder and hit the floor. Rob glanced at her for a second time, but then just as quickly went back doing what he’d originally been doing.

“Dammit, Carie. You just made me die.” Rob tossed the controller onto the coffee table in front of him. It skidded across the surface and fell off the other side. “And now look what you made me do.”

Carie didn’t say anything, just standing there and looking at him, craving his touch, craving his care, craving his attention.

“You fall into an ice cream tub or something?” He asked as he got up to retrieve the controller, not to give her a hug.

For the third time that day, Carie felt tears sting her eyes. This time she allowed them to fall freely down her face as she headed to their bedroom. She laid on the bed for a long time, and Rob eventually came in. He sat on the corner and looked at her, more like someone examining something they didn’t understand than a boyfriend of six years looking at the person he loved, or claimed to love at least.

“Do you love me?” Carie asked, not caring about keeping up the charade of self-respect any longer. “Do you?”

“Yeah. Of course. Why wouldn’t I?” Rob asked back in response. He never gave her what she needed. He never delivered.

“Say it.” Carie blinked away tears, attempting to make eye contact with him. He refused to look at her though.

“C’mon, Carie.” He rubbed at the back of his neck, still not looking at her. “You know I love you.”

“Do you?”

Rob turned and glared at her. She knew what was coming next. They both knew the steps to this dance, this tango of need and want.

“Why are you always this needy?” The look of disgust on Rob’s face was plain. “You never seem to be able to give a man space. Space is often times better than suffocating need.”

Fresh tears blossomed in the corners of Carie’s eyes. “If you need space, and I need you, where do we go?”

“What you mean?”

“You know what I’m asking you. What do we do next if I’m not getting what I need? Here. With you.”

Rob stood and walked from the room in one fluid motion, not even bothering to glance back at her. He slammed the door behind him and the final few steps of this tango were complete.

Carie buried her face in the pillow and screamed. Screamed about never getting what she needed, never getting that promotion, never getting the respect she deserved, never getting Rob’s full attention. She screamed for her own life, which never seemed to be going up in comparison to others. It only ever seemed to be going at a steady decline or, more often than not, straight off the edge of a cliff.

When she felt as though she were fully cried out and that the well had nothing more to give, she sat up, her face clutched in her hands as the back of her head began to pound. Standing, she headed to the bathroom. She didn’t bother with the light, enjoying the cool darkness and quiet solitude she always felt in the bathroom. She pulled open the mirrored door of the medicine cabinet and reached for the naproxen, knowing exactly where it was. After swallowing back three, dry, she sat down on the toilet, head right back in her hands. It seemed to belong there.

Carie nodded to herself, making up her mind. She would go back out to the living room, turn off the television, and make Rob understand what she needed from him. She would make him fully get what she needed. And if he didn’t like it?

He could leave. For good. Forever.

Feeling a sense of calm fill her body, Carie stood. She swayed a little as the blood rushed to her head and the rug underneath her feet shifted as she did so. Behind her, she heard the soft thunk of the trashcan tipping over and sighed.

It was just one more piece of shit added to the pile that was her life. One more paper cut added to the hundreds of thousands that already covered soul.

She’d asked Rob—it had to be thousands of times now, right?—to keep the bottom of the trashcan off the edge of the rug that went around the bottom of the toilet for the very issue she now faced. If you put it partially on the edge of the rug, and someone, usually her, stood up from the toilet too fast, the rug would shift and the trashcan would tip over, spilling its contents behind the toilet. Behind the toilet was probably her least favorite place in the world. It always squicked her out to clean back there, or even to retrieve something that had fallen back there. God forbid she ever dropped her phone and it clattered to a stop behind the toilet. She would probably just burn the phone in that case.

Picking up bathroom trash—the dental floss, the ear-cleaned Q-tips, the tampons, and the wadded up sheets of toilet paper Rob used to blow his nose into—from behind the toilet was probably her worst nightmare, but Rob never seemed to understand.

Carie shuffled over to the light switch and flicked it on, keeping her eyes squeezed shut from the sudden bright light. When she thought she could manage it with her headache, she opened her eyes and turned around.

It was as she feared. The trash had fallen towards the back of the toilet, spreading its contents into Carie’s own personal hell zone of disgust. Sighing, and shaking her head, but not too much, she got down on her hands and knees and started picking up the pieces of garbage that had scattered everywhere. After removing one particularly large Kleenex, she froze and everything else seemed to stop at once. The Kleenex she just removed had revealed a shiny piece of trash. Something she’d never seen in her house before. It sat atop a wad of dental floss and one of her own used tampons like a little shrine of fuck you.

It was a whitish foil wrapper with little black hearts and clubs embossed on its surface.

“No,” Carie said, shaking her head in disbelief, not wanting to reach out as she was for the foil middle finger that had been hiding in her trashcan.

The foil wrapper was cool to the touch which somehow made it worse. Carie wasn’t sure how it made it worse, but it did. It made it seem as though the wrapper had been in the trashcan for a long time, hiding there, waiting for her specifically to find it. As if finding the foil wrapper wasn’t bad enough, when she’d picked it up she saw what lay just beneath. Nestled between two wads of toilet paper was the vaguely yellow skin of a drying, discarded condom.

“No,” Carie said again. She began to reach for the condom, but stopped as something deep within her, some sense of absolute disgust, forced her hand back away from it.

Carie hadn’t had sex since…

“It’s been just about a whole month,” she whispered. “How have I not had sex for a whole month and not even realized it till now?”

Sitting back, she closed her eyes and thought over the past few years. How long had Rob been cheating on her? Was it just one woman? Or was it multiple? And who had it been? Anyone she knew?

As the questions continued shooting across her mind, she stood and looked at herself in the mirror. This downward slope she was on… How long had it been happening for?

She knew she’d been falling, but she didn’t realize she’d been racing to rock bottom. She thought of it more as a gentle floating down, but now realized she was moving at terminal velocity and had been for quite some time. The bags under her eyes and the wrinkles—oh, God yes those were brand-new wrinkles all across her forehead and shooting out from the corners of her eyes like asterisks, singling her out as having a life unlived or a life lived poorly—made her want to close her eyes and turn away from the mirror, but she kept looking, refusing to break eye contact, refusing to tear her eyes away from the sad existence that was her life.

Carie dropped the foil wrapper as though she’d been bit. She’d seen that type of foil wrapper before. Earlier that day. For the first time in her life.

The nerve of it.

Megan had taken at two and a half hour lunch during the busiest time on Carie’s worst day to fuck her boyfriend.

“Rob,” Carie screamed. She’d meant for it to come out as a whisper, but sound erupted from her mouth, filling the bathroom and giving birth to a new level of migraine that she’d never known existed. She held his name until she was out of breath, sucking in the fresh air and screaming it once more.

She felt, more than heard, the rumble of his footsteps rapidly approaching.

Good for her. She was getting the attention she’d so long requested and been denied. She would finally get the attention she deserved, even if it wasn’t the type she wanted.

“Rob,” she screamed a third time. Rob appeared in the doorway to the bathroom, looking both startled and angry as Carie continued to hold the scream that was his name. It was now her battle cry.

“What?” Rob tried to yell over her scream. “What’s wrong?”

The tail end of Rob’s name died in her mouth and Carie took a moment to collect herself. She filled her lungs with a fresh breath of air and then breathed out all the stress, all the hurt, all the anger.

Rob stared at her as though he thought she’d gone crazy and she supposed that, based on her behavior, maybe she had. Or maybe she’d always been crazy to stick around for as long as she did, hoping that Rob would propose. At this point, even wanting Rob to propose seemed as insane a goal as aspiring to contract cancer.

Calmly, Carie stared into Rob’s eyes. “Hi.”

Rob, confusion now replacing the look of startled bewilderment mixed with anger, frowned.

Carie continued. “When I say hi, what do you say in return?”

Rob’s mouth fell open. “Are you okay?”

He looked less like he was inquiring about her health than he was asking if she was going to continue to be a problem.

She. Was.

“One more time,” Carie said. “When I say hi, what do you say in return?”

“I don’t know.” Rob threw his hands up in either frustration or confusion. It didn’t matter to Carie which it was.

“You say goodbye.”

“Good—what?”

Carie pointed down at the wrapper that lay at her feet. She thought she should be surprised that Rob hadn’t noticed it as soon as he entered the bathroom, but it wasn’t that surprising. Rob barely noticed anything unless it had something to do with himself.

His eyes flicked down and got wider for a few moments, but just as quickly relaxed and drooped down to a cool, half-lidded expression of nonchalance that Carie wanted to rip off his face.

“Oh,” Rob said.

“Oh,” Carie repeated.

Rob took a breath, started to say something, but stopped and shrugged. “What are you gonna do?”

He said this less in the way of asking Carie what her response to him fucking her coworker was going to be and more in the manner of ‘what did you expect to happen?’

Again, Carie felt as though she should have been surprised by this, but wasn’t.

“Shit happens?” Carie asked.

Rob nodded, a half smile making its way onto his face, trespassing on the seriousness of this moment. Carie returned the smile. Rob seemed to relax at this, not realizing it was a smile born of malice. Carie turned away from Rob and reached behind the toilet. Her fingers quickly brushed across the thing she was looking for. Swallowing back the vomit that threatened to fill her mouth, she picked what she’d been looking for up and turned around.

What she picked up was full and had a sort of weight to it that made her sad. She didn’t know why sadness would be an emotion she’d be feeling right now, but it was. Carie dangled the condom between them, shaking it slightly so it pendulumed back and forth, the weight of Rob’s cum in the tip driving its inertia.

Rob, smiling and nodding, shrugged. Carie smiled back, this time allowing the malice to fully show through. Rob’s own smile faltered for half a second as Carie whipped the condom through the air before Rob could even realize what was happening. She whipped it as hard as she could, imagining it was a tennis racket and Rob’s head was a tennis ball. She connected with the side of his face and the condom made a meaty twhack as it slapped against his cheek.

Rob was no longer smiling. His mouth had fallen open in shock. Carie whipped the condom at him a second time, even harder this time, and when it impacted the side of his face, it burst.

Unbelieving, Rob reached his hand up and touched the side of his face, pulling it away to stare at his own seed.

“You crazy bitch.” Rob took a shaky step back. “You’ll regret this.”

“Shit happens.” Carie shrugged. “And I’ve regretted this relationship for a long time, but never will I regret this moment.”

“This moment? This moment?!” Rob yelled. “Is that what you’re calling it? Are you going to scrapbook it? Maybe add a picture of me fucking Megan every other day? Always on her lunch break while you kept working in that stupid ice cream shop? Maybe title it ‘lunch break fun time’?”

She knew what he was doing. He wanted her to cry. He needed her to cry so he would feel victorious. Unfortunately, today was not his day.

“No,” Carie said, shaking her head as though she’d given his ridiculous question real thought. “If I were scrapbooking this, that’s not the picture I would choose.” She brought the thumbs and pointer fingers of both hands together to make a box. She made a clicking noise with her tongue, like the sound the kid would make if he was pretending to take a picture. “This is the picture I would choose. You with your own cum on your face and I would title it ‘the money shot’.”

“The money shot… Real classy.”

“Careful,” Carie warned. “You might break all those pearls you’re clutching.”

Rob opened his mouth to retort, but as usual Carie had him outmatched. He may have been the holder of attention, but she had always been the controller of wit.

“I was going to propose,” Rob said with an offended sniff that was so delicate Carie almost started laughing at him.

“Oh? And where’s that ring?” Carie asked. “Where’s that amazing ring you were going to propose to me with?”

“I guess you’ll never see it,” Rob said in response.

“You’re right.” Carie sat down on the toilet and placed her chin in her hand, staring up with a look of boredom. Boredom that this whole situation was still going on and he hadn’t just left. “I never will see it. Bye.”

Rob looked as though he wanted to say something more, but decided against it. He turned away from Carie and left the bathroom. Placing her face in her hands, Carie waited, listening to the man she’d lived with for six years as he slammed doors and shoved things into bags, preparing for his exodus. Not just from the house, but also from her life.

Eventually the front door slammed and Carie was alone.

The feeling was normal, natural, the usual.

She’d been alone for the last six years and hadn’t even realized it until that moment.

Carie let out a shuddering breath, but did not cry. She had no more tears for her sad life.



Chapter 6

 

The next morning, Carie awoke to the sound of birds softly chirping and several bands of sunlight gently falling across her bed. She took a deep breath and let it out. In the span of twelve hours, everything had changed for her. Her life was completely different now. She wasn’t exactly sure how different it was, but she knew as soon as she got out of bed—hell, even sleeping in this late in the day was a luxury she couldn’t remember the last time she’d partaken in—all the little things that were different would begin to make themselves known as well as the giant, looming realities she would have to face.

The main one, unemployment, was the first one she would need to take care of. She didn’t know what to do about that one yet. She’d worked for Chuck’s Cones for what seemed like a decade. Stretching, Carie did the math, and realized that it had been more than a decade.

How could you lose an entire decade like that? How could time race past so fast that you didn’t even realize it had moved until it was too late?

Sitting up, Carie sniffed and smiled. There was no smell of burnt toast. Finally, there is no char smell in the morning.

Rob had always preferred his toast to be ‘well done’ which had always weirded Carie out. His version of well-done toast required the toast to have a shell of char encasing it. Once the toast popped from the toaster he would pull it out and grind butter into it, black dust flying off his stupid bread and covering the counter. Nine times out of ten, you guessed it, she was the one who had to clean it up, otherwise it ended up coating everything it touched.

Padding to the bathroom, Carie prepared for the day. She didn’t really know what that would entail, her day, but whatever it was she wanted to be ready. When she was clean, she headed to the kitchen. She paused for a moment in the living room, relishing the image of the television minus the action figures doing battle up and down either side of it. There were still hot glue marks on the plastic, but the toys were gone.

“Good,” Carie said as she walked into the kitchen. She fried some eggs and made toast—lightly browned, thank you very much—before sitting down and scrolling through all the missed notifications she’d received overnight.

There was a text from Megan telling her that she was a bitch for kicking Rob out. That was cute.

There was also a text from Rob telling her that she was a bitch for kicking him out. That was also cute. Carie had to wonder if they were sitting side by side as they both sent her the same approximate text.

“Sitting together in a dumpster,” Carie mumbled under her breath and promptly snorted at the image of them both texting furiously from within a dumpster.

She also had a text from Chuck, informing her that she should, under no circumstance, use him as a reference for any future employer as he would go out of his way to destroy all chances she had to be employed. Also, he was so disappointed in her.

“Also, he can go fuck himself,” Carie said.

She checked her email and stumbled around a few of the social media apps she used as she ate breakfast. When she was finished, she had to face the decision of whether to immediately start hunting for a job right then and there, or to clean up the house and remove all traces of Rob from her life. She chose the latter, reasoning that a fresh start would do wonders for her mindset when she finally approached the job hunt.

It wasn’t until late afternoon that she finished collecting all the toxic traces of her ex-boyfriend into three boxes. She put them outside the door of the house and texted both Rob and Megan the same thing.

All of your shit is sitting in boxes outside of my house. If they’re still there in two hours, I’ll have Goodwill swing by and pick them up.

Unsurprisingly, both Rob and Megan texted her back around the same time with approximately the same message. Carie was apparently a bitch for putting Rob’s stuff into boxes outside, but either Rob or Megan would be by sometime within the next two hours to pick the boxes up.

With the Rob situation completely taken care of—Carie wasn’t fooling herself. She knew it wouldn’t completely be taken care of for several years at least—she got to work looking for a job. It was a weird situation to be in. She’d always assumed she would eventually, what… Inherit Chuck’s Cones?

Inherit wasn’t the correct word, but she’d definitely believed she would eventually run the place at some point in her life.

And that left her with another question: was her goal in life to own her own ice cream shop or was it something else entirely?

The answer to that question would shape her entire job hunt so she had to arrive at an answer to it before continuing forward.

Round 2 >>>

Comments

comments