This is my first prose post. I wrote this back in undergrad when I was obsessed with Ernest Hemingway. My favorite novel of his is “The Sun Also Rises,” and this short story is loosely based off of the main characters. The history of this short story is actually kind of interesting. I had major writer’s block and was totally fed up with hating anything I put to paper.
I decided that simulation might rejuvenate my creative juices. Why not try to follow writers who I really respect and enjoy? I started writing enthusiastically (and slightly angrily) one night and had the skeleton of my plot. A very small glimpse into the world of a character who is unable to find happiness, yet is teased with the possibility of it briefly. Many drafts later and we have probably the only short story I’ve ever written that I actually kind of like. Anywho, here’s part one.
Hearts of Lyon
“You know you could take it easy once in a while Ash,” the man said to his companion whom he was supporting on his shoulder.
It was particularly cold that night and the warm buzz from the scotch only reminded him of this fact. As he stepped into the cab taking specific diligence to ensure his companion was safe and comfortable, he allowed himself a sigh of relief.
“Where to, Monsieur?” The driver was a rare sort and his physical maturity was transparent in his vigor. He wore an aged red cap that carefully sheathed his grey hair. The cap came down the front of his face like a visor so you only saw half of his eyes when he looked at you.
“The Hotel Chevalier please, and take your time so we can enjoy the drive,” he said to the cabby. It was from then on that Nick Bennet could find himself at ease, and more importantly, to examine the state of his company.
Although she was a woman in her late twenties who was inebriated to a point of no return, she still maintained a childlike naiveté. She was half-asleep, or really she was in a peaceful trance the likes of which only true alcoholics could understand.
She was wearing his favorite leather jacket, a faded mahogany reflective of the season that inspired its purchase. It was loose on her but it wrapped around like a protective blanket. Inside she wore a white dress shirt, top-button open. This detail would be insignificant to anyone else but for him, the button tested the threshold of his lust.
He reached towards her hair, cultivated black silk. With a delicacy almost excessive, he began to run his hand through it. Nick was now in two places – holding his soulmate, and at his annual family outing to Manchester Beach. His mother has her characteristic beaming smile, his father is further away but present. The grains of sand form gentle currents in between his fingers. Watching the waves breathe in and out to an invisible rhythm, he feels invincible. Now next to Ashley, he was nervous, terrified even, but he did not want to be anywhere else.
And he had waited for this painfully since the summer of ‘99. They were just kids in the bodies of young adults back then. One of his friends had thrown another meaningless party as was common in the social circles he traversed. After wandering around in search of anything, he was greeted by his best friend, Eric Palmer.
“Nicky, there you are. Been looking all over for you.” Eric was a Calvin Klein cut-out: tall, dark, and handsome but he never let it go to his head. He was one of those likable types that got along with everybody. Nick had known him since childhood. Their fathers had been on the rowing team in college.
“You’re looking pale chap, you need some sunshine! Listen you remember that girl I told you about? The one I met at that National concert that wouldn’t leave me alone? Well come say hello to her.”
“Eric, are you running that mouth off again? You hounded me if I recall correctly. I’m sorry, don’t listen to a word he says. Hi, I’m Ashley, call me Ash. And you must be Nick. You know, Eric doesn’t shut up about you. At the beginning I was even sort of worried.” That was the first time he saw her smile and he stored it in the dressers of his mind like a secret photograph.
Ash was one of those bright-eyed girls on the covers of magazines. The type that caused traffic jams and left behind rubble and heartbreak in their wake. In actuality, she was only above average in terms of appearance but her confidence and the dexterity in which she carried herself elevated her. Nick was so caught off guard that he delayed in noticing the hand extended towards him.
“It’s a pleasure, Ash. And you’ll get used to it, don’t worry. Eric’s always been a talker.” Nick smiled, non-artificially for the first time in a while.
“No he’s alright. Thank you, for always taking care of him.” she grinned again as she shook his hand. He almost didn’t let go.
Everything followed after that. Lunches, dinners, parties, mindless excursions. The three were inseparable, even after Eric got married. Now it must be noted that while there was an initial attraction, what he felt for her now took years to propagate in the recesses of his heart.
And now she was only a breath away, delicate and vulnerable as he slid his hand to her neck. He traced her contours with religious devotion akin to Donatello taking the final measurements of his David. Then Nick’s finger bumped into a small golden locket that encased her neck.
“Why do you never take that thing off your neck?”
“It’s not a thing, Nick. Eric gave me this when we started seeing each other. As you know he was a waiter back then so he saved up for months just to get this for me! I tried a million times to get him to return it but you know how sentimental he gets. He keeps saying it’s just a placeholder until he can get me something bigger and shinier. But this is all I need.” Her voice faded as she grew nostalgic.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were so…cliché, Ash .”
“Oh, shut up. What’s taking him so damn long with the drinks?”
Nick inhaled deeply. Life is a sequence of choices, some with more heavy consequences than others. His parents weren’t backing him now so he had to tread carefully through the labyrinths of his emotions.
“Oh Ash…” he whispered to his sleeping audience as he reached for her cheek. It was a flush of crimson, but not due to the poison coursing through her veins. She always appeared to be blushing and it was one of those things about her that drove him mad.
Nick inhaled deeply. He wanted nothing more than to embrace her, to feel her warmth against his. He knew things weren’t so simple. Life is a sequence of choices, some with more heavy consequences than others. He had to remember to tread carefully through the labyrinth of his emotions. Still, he could not resist putting his hand on her exposed cheek.
It was a moment of pure unadulterated love, an experience that was so foreign in his life that it was excruciating for him to have to pull away. As he did so, suddenly she detained his wrist with an intimate grasp. All the blood that had rushed to his dick came back to his heart at twice the speed.
“Don’t stop Eric…” she said softly, in her half-conscious state.
Like the moment after a gunshot, his blood turned to ice. All the late night fantasies, all the savage delusions he had built towers out of, came crashing down upon him at that instant.
He let go of her hand and he did not even look in her direction for the rest of the ride. Fortunately, she had returned to slumber after that timely mumbling. He tried to focus his attention to the passing scenery but he felt incapable of seeing, hearing, thinking, anything.
“It’s a cold night, isn’t it?” Nick asked, almost to himself.
“Yes. Very. In France, it gets like this, this time of year.” The driver responded, eyeing the front mirror.
“May I ask if you are married?”
“Twelve years my friend.”
“Hah, how do you manage that? In my country, you would be laughed at.”
“We manage with difficulty. It is not easy, and French women are not easy. But if you live with someone a long time, it comes together like a ruban. Simple. ”
“That’s the problem with everyone today. We’re all too damned simple.” Nick’s face was half-covered in the darkness of the night.
“Well, you don’t have anything to regret, friend. You are a lucky man!” The driver replied, implying in the direction of the once-again unconscious woman.
“Yeah. I guess I am.”