I recently shared a small piece of writing- here -that I did in my creative writing course this summer. Here is the full, finished short story (although it’s definitely more of a flash-fiction piece).
A Celebration at Holly Lake
Skipping rocks dive underwater, upsetting thick layers of fleshy moss as they sink past. He fondles a stone between his fingers and some of the cruor brushes onto the slick gray surface. Except for the ripples left in the wake of the stones, the lake does not move. Nothing breathes. Not even the wind.
He turns the blemished rock over in his palm and squeezes it, enclosing it in his fist. Skin stretches white over his knuckles. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones—’ the singsong reverberates through the aspens, leaves shivering. He coughs a laugh, digging a nail into the crusted red on his sleeve. Chips of dirt flake off with the blood. He is tempted to remove the jacket—faded tweed and threadbare edges—to fill the pockets with rocks and sink it into the depths.
Sticks and stones. Broken bones.
His fist tightens. The muscles in his jaw contract. He grinds his teeth.
Beside him the woman lays sprawled, lovely, over a sheer piece of table linen. The fingers of her right hand brush the stem of a rose-colored glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, cracked along the rim in a way that adds character, he thinks, next to which lies an assortment of cheeses. Perhaps on a nicer day the spread would appear colorful, smelling of age and a hint of higher class. Today it is gray and odorless.
The woman’s eyelids, thin and veiny and nearly translucent, shield her irises and dilated pupils. He can almost remember their color. Was it blue, delicate like forget-me-nots, or the tint of the gray-green lake?
With a flick of his wrist he tosses the rock into the shallows, listening for the plunk. He imagines it settling into the suctioning mud of the lakebed, camouflaged. He steels his eyes toward the woman. Her lips, a hushed almost-pink, like they struggle to remember color, curl upward. Looking down at his sleeve of stained tweed, he sighs and meets her smile.
The love line from his palm is reflected on the flesh of her throat, surrounded by an elegant band of ruby and adorned with a smattering of purples, blues, and blacks. He could not afford diamonds. This, he thought, was much nicer.
He settles on the damp earth beside her, toying with the tablecloth between his right thumb and forefinger. He reaches toward the soft layers of auburn hanging delicately from her shoulders and draping over a set of scattered china plates and cutlery, chipped and abandoned by the cheeses. She leaves the loose items otherwise undisturbed.
“This was a good idea,” he says, running the tip of his thumb over the shell of her exposed ear. “I’m glad we came here.”
There is no response and he shifts to the side, lying on his back and staring at the expanse of gray above them. Huffing impatiently, his hand searches blindly for chilled skin and frail fingers, and he grips them tightly. Something hard presses into the tight crevice between his third and fourth fingers, and he feels the half-moon indent that it leaves behind. He drags his thumb over the back of her red-scabbed knuckles until he reaches the stone there—ten carats with lackluster shine. It reminds him of a face, a lawyer dapper in a maroon suit and black silk pocket square. A face like a stone.
He tugs the ring from her finger, perhaps a little too roughly, her knuckles cracking with the pressure, but she does not open her eyes. Instead she lays there, like she has always laid there: unwilling, unresponsive. He opens his mouth to speak and closes it with a snap, but not before biting into the soft flesh of his tongue. Blood fills his mouth and he winces as he shifts to his feet, ring in hand, and sidles to the water’s edge.
Sticks and stones.
Mansions and diamonds.
Things that do not belong to him.
He throws the ring. Tic-tic-tic-plume. The water ripples, submerging the small stone like all of the other rocks that rest in the lakebed.
He brushes his hands on his pants and sits beside her again. Grinning, he takes a piece of cheese from the platter. Bringing it to his lips, he sniffs: aged cheddar. He leans back, satisfied, and takes a bite.
“Happy anniversary, my love.”