Unique Short Stories

Unique Short stories that comprises of romance. fictional characters, coming of age women and mysteries that would keep you intrigued and curious.

CONTENTS

STRANGE TUXEDO

RIGHT AGE

MOVIE DESTINY

COLOR ALONE

MR AMAZING

STRANGE TUXEDO (FICTION, COMING OF AGE, COMEDY)

I met the love of my life at someone else’s prom. He wasn’t my date. My date was a lovely young woman whose name I can’t remember. What I do remember is that her dress was blue, the way Southern debutantes in movies always wear blue dresses. At least from the movies, I’ve seen. It was blue but not puffy, and I was grateful for that. I’m resistant to puffy. Puffy and poofy. I can’t tolerate either. We attended her senior prom together because her boyfriend had just broken up with her the week before, and she was heartbroken. The big night was a week away, and the non-puffy blue dress had already been purchased. What did young women in the early 2000s do when they were lacking a prom date? They went with a homosexual.

Unfortunately for her, all the good gays at her high school had already been taken, and so her best friend (whose name I also don’t remember) reached out to a friend at my high school and asked if any of the gay men there would be interested in going to a senior prom in another town an hour away. Word was put out. Offers were considered. Somehow while sitting in the cafeteria eating a parfait, I was made aware of the opportunity, and I grabbed at it like a carnival ring. Far be it for me to turn down the chance to get dressed up and act foolishly in front of strangers my own age I would never see again for the rest of my life.

At school, I was known as the Quiet Gay Kid. We had other gay kids, but they were all loud. I admired them. I coveted their volume, but I could not create my own. I had friends, but only a handful. A spoonful. A spoonful of camaraderie. We went to movies and dinners, and none of us had curfews because our parents knew we weren’t cool enough to ever get in trouble. I came out when I was sixteen after meeting a boy at school who was also out. We dated for a week, kissed twice, and then he decided that he liked older men who resembled Ryan Phillippe. I did not blame him. I was not older, and I did not in any way resemble Ryan Phillippe. The tragic part about coming out solely for the purpose of dating someone is that once you’re no longer dating them, you can’t go back from whence you came. I was now out and single and still sitting in the cafeteria listening to my spoonful of associates talk about their crushes while picking at my parfait with a plastic utensil when I got word of a distant prom. A place where I could potentially be something else if only for an evening. A Cinderella-in-the-making. I would wow the crowd, turn a few of the quarterbacks into bisexuals, and then disappear into the night.

My mother dropped me off at my date’s house after complaining for three days about the drive. I promised her I would catch a ride home with somebody, but I had no idea who that would be since I wouldn’t know any of the people I would be spending the night charming with my new personality. The limousine was already there when we pulled up, and I instructed my mother to drive another block over and let me out so I could walk the rest of the way. I had no intention of being seen in our dented old family car. My night of fantasy could not begin with an arrival courtesy of a busted Nissan.

RIGHT AGE (FICTION, FANTASY, CONTEMPORARY)

She’ll come down when she’s ready. My mother used to say when you reach the hovering age; it’s important to take your time. Don’t feel as though you need to keep yourself on the ground if your body wants to do something else. I hit the hovering age at thirteen. The first time I slammed the door in my father’s face, I looked down, and I was three inches off the ground. Always felt useless to me. Not to be able to fly--just hover. So I stopped right away. I didn’t have any interest in being an impractical person. My first boyfriend told me it was a superpower. Some superpower. Outside a haunted house, what good is it? I unslammed my bedroom door that day, and my father looked right at me--floating there. I suppose you think you’re special now, huh? I didn’t think that. I didn’t think that at all.

My mother reached the hovering age later than me, but that was a time of suppression. She was promised off to a man she didn’t love, and two minutes before she was set to walk down the aisle, up she went. Only two inches, but it was enough to convince her fiance that she was possessed by a demon, and he took off for parts unknown. A month later, she met my father, and he seemed like someone who could handle two inches off the ground if it was presented to him, but it never was again. You hover until you stop. Sometimes it’s in your control, and sometimes you wish you could go back up again, but you can’t.

She always wanted to go back up--just to see the world from a slightly higher vantage point. Mom was five foot three, which I knew she didn’t feel was very respectable. In her mind, she was taller. Deep in the recesses of her psyche, she was tall and blonde and looked like the women at the picture show who were rescued by cowboys and sought after by fine gentlemen in period dramas based on books I was supposed to read in school.

When we closed the coffin on her, she was two and a half inches up off the lining, and I thought--

She gained half an inch. That was all. My confession to you is this--I didn’t want a daughter because I knew. I knew that sons don’t hover and daughters do, and when I met Oh Henry, I told him that anything goes so long as we never have a daughter. And dammit, didn’t we have a daughter. I knew this wasn’t a skipping generation kinda skill, but Oh, Henry was a man who had his feet on the ground. I thought that meant maybe the hovering would stay at a minimum, if not non-existent. Quite the opposite, in fact. She was younger than me and went higher. My little Jessy Bell. Two years old and seven inches high. Oh, Henry asked if he should tug on her little polka square dress to bring her back down, but I said what my mother said—She’ll come down when she’s ready. But my little girl never seemed to want to come down.

Instead, she’d float all around the house. She’d float in the tub while I was giving her a bath. She’d float up past her high chair while I was feeding her fried peaches. She’d levitate at the playground sending all the other kids screaming into the nearby woods. Parts unknown. Just like jumpy grooms and people who don’t understand that a little space between your shoes and the ground isn’t the scariest thing in the world. Life can offer you way bigger scares than that.

Jessy Bell would hover just up past the swing set and will herself back and forth while I tried to convince her that sitting in a swing can be lovely all by itself. Even at two years old, she wouldn’t be brought down. I’d hand her apple slices cut in the shapes of Sesame Street characters, and as she was chomping on Grover, I gave her my word that she could stay up as long as she wanted, no matter what that meant. Would the news show up and do a feature on her? Would the local paper print lie about her being radioactive? Would a network exec promise her a sitcom that would be poorly written, and would her mother be played by the woman who played the wacky detective on Clue Me In?

I put her on the seesaw with me, and she saw me get choked up because I could have prevented all this. I could have taken myself down to the burgundy bedroom carpet when I was thirteen and onto the kitchen linoleum and the green green grass outside on the lawn. I could have tap-danced my way to the nearest city and worked as a waitress at a steak restaurant where the special was never salmon and rented an apartment in a building with thin walls and noisy neighbors and never married and never had a daughter and never watched her work her way up to faster and higher than I ever could.

She hit the hovering age and just kept going. Past the age, I started and stopped and then further on beyond her grandmother’s beginning and end. She had sixteen daughters of her own, and each one of them began hovering earlier and earlier. The youngest one was born hovering, causing the doctor to have to find a ladder to pull her down from the ceiling. By then, I was long gone. Not dead, but living with Oh Henry in a houseboat on Lake Lionel. Every day, I would wake up and try my best to glide across the water. Some days a splash, some a swim. Nobody ever told me that once you choose a gravitational pull, it’s hard to pull back on the science. It doesn’t stop me from trying, though. Oh, Henry scrambles his toast and toasts his eggs every day, hoping he’ll hear the sound of a woman he loves walking on water. He doesn’t know what that sounds like just yet, but one day, he will. One day I’ll remember the thing about me I tried my hardest to forget.

MOVIE DESTINY (CONTEMPORARY, FICTION, SAD)

It was the third time he noticed her, sitting in a back row of the theater, staying until the end of the last credit. He thought he was the only person who did that. She was not attractive, but she was pleasant-looking, with mouse-brown hair and what looked like a decent figure. She always dressed in long skirts, with oversized cardigans covering up her top half. It was hard to see her face, lit only by the flickering movie screen. The last credit rolled, and the screen blanked. The house lights came up, showing a magical illusion for what it was… tatty, old, sticky with spilled sodas, the screen curtains fraying, their threads waving lazily as the curtains lowered. It was the last showing of the day.

His indecision tore at him. Should he get up and leave first? Wait until she left? Try to leave at the same time, so he could strike up a conversation? The thought of conversing with her left his tongue curled up tightly to the roof of his mouth. He didn’t know her — she was a stranger. Who knew what kind of person she was? It could be she would laugh at him, point at him, and ridicule him for the amusement of the cleaning crew. OK, he would leave first, not risk the humiliation of failure. The house lights clarified that her seat was empty. When had she left? Why had he not realized? He was too busy worrying about paying attention to the real world; that was always his problem.

Resigned but secretly relieved, he got up, carrying his tweed jacket folded over one arm. The pathway to the lobby seemed like a grand exit as if to carry that movie magic one more minute. Then the lobby door opened, and all was noise and chaos. Usually, that was how it seemed. But being the last show, all the other patrons had left, and it was only the cleaning crew left. They glanced at him incuriously and returned to their work. The aroma of slightly burned popcorn drifted sourly in the air, overlaid with floor cleaning solution. He was careful to walk on the floor that hadn’t been mopped yet, not wanting to add to the cleaning crew’s work. He pushed open the main lobby door and walked out into the dark, humid night. He wouldn’t need his jacket. As he walked across the parking lot toward his car, he relived bits of the movie in his head. He particularly liked the poignant scene when… “Why do you stay until the end? Are you following me?” The woman seemed to come from nowhere, slipping out from the darkness, until she stood in front of him, confronting him. It was the woman he had seen twice before tonight, of course.

Thousands of words cascaded through his brain, desperately struggling to catch hold of a few and make some sense of them. He opened his mouth to talk, but only his throat clicked. He swallowed and tried again. “I’m not following you.” He ducked his head to avoid having to make eye contact with her. This close, he smelled a fragrance, something cloying and heavy, reminding him of an elderly aunt from his childhood. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, unable to stop fidgeting. He cast a sideways glance at her. She was standing stolidly, arms folded, feet spread as if they were planted in the earth. Her frumpy gear was matched by an unpleasant scowl on her face. Desperate, he went on the offensive. “Why do you stay until the end?” She was taken aback. Maybe no one had ever asked her that before. Her scowl slowly dissolved into a wistful smile. It changed her whole appearance and made her appear welcoming and warm. “My father left us when I was young to find work in the movies. He never made it as an actor, so he worked off-screen, doing any job he could. He worked on a lot of movies over the years. I like to read the credits and see his name scroll down the screen. It’s as close as I’ll ever be to him.”

He was taken aback. Her blunt honesty astonished him — sharing such intimate details with a total stranger. He didn’t know what to say to her. At a loss, he stood, mute, hands hanging by his sides like lumps of meat. “What, does it sound strange to you?” Her voice sounded defensive. “It happens to mean a lot to me. It’s like, for a second, my dad is there with me, and I’m seeing what he’s done.” Now her tone was wistful. “I found out he died a long time ago. These are the only moments I’ll ever have with him.” Now that she had shared those details with him, he knew what was coming next. His insides squirmed, worms in the intestines writhing in a tangled ball. He knew that wasn’t real, but that was exactly what it felt like. “Why do you stay until the end?” Her question dropped with a thud into the silence between them. His ears were ringing. He glanced at his car, but it was too far away for him to run for it. Cornered, he capitulated. “I, um, I like the illusion of magic.” “That’s it? That’s your only reason?” She would not let him off easily, not after the way she had spilled her heart and soul to him.

How could he explain? Enter the theater on hushed carpeting, sitting in a plush seat, screening the previews, followed by the movie. The magic started, and he wasn’t a stammering loser. He was a muscular blond laughing carelessly, a dark, curly-haired man with a mustache charming a woman at a beachside table. He always had the right word, smoked expensive cigarettes, fought the bad guys, and always stood up for what was right, for the little guy… and the women. They fell for him every time, closed their eyes, and lifted their mouths to him. It was magic, and in the end, he was desperate for the magic to cling for a little longer. He read every line of the credits, not wanting them to end. Only when the house lights went on could he force himself to leave. Sad, empty, missing some essential part of himself. Back to being a beige man in a gray world, dull and dreary and empty.

“Well, you see, in magic, the illusion must be handled skillfully, such that the observer thinks it really is magic. You don’t want them to see the hands switching the cards. Magic is a combination of good dexterity for sleight-of-hand, and the heart of a showman, to create the successful distraction.” She looked at him, lips pursed as if she had bitten an unripe persimmon. “That is interesting, but it doesn’t explain why you stay through the credits. By that time, the magic is done.” He shook his head, buried under the weight of his unspoken words. “I, um, I, I, I….” He took a deep breath.“Idon’twantthemagictostop.” A cold sweat broke out on his brow, and his hands trembled.

She thought about what he’d blurted out. A smile slow as the dawn broke over her face. “You’re like me. You want to be close to something you can’t have, but you can pretend for a while.” His eyes widened. No one had ever said so succinctly what he felt. He felt as if she had given him a key and unlocked his own thoughts for him. She smiled, a brief ray of sunshine. “See you at the movies.” With that, she turned and walked away, leaving him cradling this newfound knowledge like a delicate infant.

COLOR ALONE(FICTION)

I want to paint you.” She was surprised, sure enough. But she was also curious. Her face concealed nothing, and that was what fascinated me. As she walked through the gallery, each piece evoked something unique from inside her, and she did not bother to mask it. Anyone could read the critique in her face if they took the time. It is an artist’s dream – to clearly see the emotions we inspire with our work. Many had passed by my work since the showing began, pausing for a moment, offering a quick word of praise. I didn’t approach them. But, when she came to my painting, she lingered. At first, she kept a sort of distance, taking in the portrait from an optimum perspective. Then, she moved closer. Closer, still.

Narrowing her eyes, following the strokes of the brush that formed her arms and legs and the arch of the neck. But, instead of smiling, like the others, she was disturbed. There was distinct anxiety resting in her eyes. And that anxiety shattered me faster than any editorial the local paper had ever dished out. Editorials can be shredded with triumphant pleasure. But in the slight furrow of her brow and the downward tug of her lips, this woman single-handedly brought my heartbeat to a most uncomfortable rhythm. It was this distinct discomfort that pulled me from my place of observation and motivated me to speak. “Something wrong?” I asked. I startled her, but she smiled and returned her attention to the portrait. “I was just looking at this dancer,” she replied. “Yes, but you seemed… upset?” I ventured. “What is it about the dancer?”

She darted her eyes at me for a moment, but only long enough to decide to continue our conversation. “It’s just, I feel sorry for her,” she explained. “Sorry?” I wasn’t sure what to think, really. “Why?” “Because I think she is lonely.” That threw me off guard. I was accustomed to the usual praise. “Beautiful.” “Profound!” “Truly, one of a kind.” It grew tiresome in a way, but it was comfortably expected. The local venues were always thrilled with my offerings, but over time, my enthusiasm was reduced to contempt. When my secretary had first booked this showing for my latest piece, I almost threw my coffee at her I was exhausted with the weekend shows at The Courtyard. True, they had conjured a good deal of business as of late, but I felt no satisfaction at the end of the day. All I could hope for were a few simple remarks, no real conversation. No true appreciation.

I had little expectation for this showing. My most recent work was a portrait of a ballet dancer. A studio had commissioned it but agreed to let me display it at the show before delivery. It was simple in concept but stood out amid the offerings of that particular show. Amid the bulky sculptures and spattering of interpretive study, my dancer’s clean lines were in stark contrast. Dark strokes outlined her body against a white canvas, highlighting her single color. A pale violet tutu. “Please, what makes you say that?” I pressed her. This time, she turned to face me, surely intending to end our discussion or perhaps threaten to call security. I had to save myself quickly. “Forgive me, it’s just, I am Stephen Erik,” I said. Her eyes widened, right on cue. “You mean, you’re the—” “Yes, I’m the one responsible for this… sad little dancer,” I replied through somewhat gritted teeth. Sad. Sad was not the word I had imagined when bringing this piece to life. There was a soft laugh mingled with her smile, and I thought I saw a faint blush on her cheeks. “It’s wonderful to meet you, Mister Erik. I always hope to see something of yours here at the gallery, and I’ve never been disappointed.”

At this, I felt I was able to breathe again. “And, you are?” I prodded. “Grace.” “Well, now, Grace, please, indulge me? Why do you say the dancer is lonely?” For a moment, she hesitated, and I almost regretted revealing my identity as the artist. I’ve discovered that nice people are often afraid to offend the creator of the work. Perhaps they think we mix our own blood into the paint, or clay, or watercolors. I have never had such an attachment, although others surely have. More than spared feelings, I always craved true reaction. And, happily, for me, Grace could not taper her true impressions. “She holds herself tightly. Like no one else has ever held her before,” she told me. I looked again at the portrait. Yes, her arms were crossed over her chest, and her feet tightly planted in the fifth position. I had sketched her hands myself, and yet, I had not quite noticed how tightly her fingers grasped. Or, perhaps I had done this.

Perhaps I had subconsciously slipped my own hands into those of the dancer. “That’s quite an observation,” I replied. “Is that all?” “No,” she admitted. “The color. Purple. It’s such a lovely color.” I chuckled a little. “As opposed to, shall we say, yellow?” Her eyes darted back to me, wholly unamused. “Yellow can be lonely, too.” “Oh, really? How so? Tell me this philosophy of yellow,” I implored. “Yellow is a friendly color. It has lots of friends. Lots of people flock to yellow because it smiles so much. And then, when yellow cries, they don’t know what to do. Because yellow is the one who smiles, so they just wait. Maybe they hand yellow some tissues or something. But it’s not what yellow really needs. So yellow is lonely, too,” she replied. “Even surrounded by people who love them.” I was silent for a long while. I didn’t really know what to say. So much thought, so much perception into a color that rarely graced the edge of my palette. “And… purple?” She took a breath. “I think purple holds all of its feelings inside itself until it is alone. And then, it cries. But nobody sees.” At that moment, I knew. I wanted to paint this woman.

MR. AMAZING (COMEDY, FICTION, ROMANCE)

“So, what did you think?” he asked tentatively, hoping that she’d liked the movie as much as he had. “Kind of bleh, don’t you think?” “Oh yeah, kind of bleh.” He drummed with his fingers on the armrest, waiting for the lights to come back on. The silence lingered. “Uh, so, do you want to go for some drinks?” he ventured. “Mm, I really do have to get up early tomorrow, you know.” “Oh, right.”

“Maybe some other time?” “Yeah, oh yeah, definitely some other time.” The lights still hadn’t come on yet, rendering the theater dark as night. She moved in her seat. He moved too, uneasily. “So, how about those Rams, huh? Taking the Super Bowl. I wouldn’t have thought, given their situation in the off-season. A new quarterba-” “Listen, Mike.” she interrupted. “You’re really nice, and I’ve had a fun time out tonight. And I know I just said that we should grab drinks sometime.”

He knew where this was going. “But, honestly, I don’t feel like we’re clicking, you know?” He felt a pit in his stomach and tried to swallow discreetly to not draw attention to his discomfort. “Oh, yeah, totally. I agree. Totally. Yeah.” There was that silence again. He cleared his throat. They sat in deep silence for a short while, him considering her words in his mind, wondering how she didn’t realize how good of a guy he was. “I know what type she usually dates. I’ve seen her ex,” he thought to himself, “and let’s just say there’s a good reason he’s an ex.” “Why is it still so dark in here?” she wondered loudly, laughing halfheartedly. He tried to snap back to his cheery carefree self. “Maybe it’s got one of those post-movie scenes? Like in the Marvel movies.” He wondered quickly if he should try and strike up a conversation about Doctor Strange. “Oh, I haven’t seen those yet.” On second thought.

He got to his feet in the darkness, looking around for his jacket. He took out his phone and used it to light his way. “Let me try and talk to the guy at the door; maybe he can turn on the lights.” He tripped slightly over her legs, awkwardly excusing himself as he shuffled down the stairs and walked to the exit door. Until then, he hadn’t realized that they were all alone in the theater. The exit was locked. He walked over to the entry door instead. Just as he approached it, it opened slightly, and one of those ushers in their small vests peered his head inside. “Sorry, we seem to be having a minor technical issue. Please remain seated and in this room until further notice.” “What?” was all he got out before the door slammed. He tried rattling the door, but it didn’t budge. “Hey!” he shouted out. Nothing happened. He returned up the stairs, back to Brittny. “What did he say?” “Eh, something about a technical issue and that we should be out soon.” “Oh.” “Yeah.”

The awkwardness of the silence dug into his stomach. And now he was stuck here until further notice. She was acting like this date had been a trainwreck. But it hadn’t been. They had had ice cream, some nice dinner, and seen the top box-office hit. And, he had paid for it all too. And left a nice tip for the waitress even. Actually, she had just kind of used him. She had abused his kindness and good heart for a free trip to the movies and some food. He was a good guy. “Listen, I have to say something.” he started. Her silence egged him on. “I honestly thought this date was going well. I was so nice to you. I listened to you talk about those classes you’re taking at uni. I listened to that story about your neighbor’s dog. I oohed over the pictures of your sister’s baby. I didn’t even interrupt when you were complaining about your therapist. I paid for everything, and I didn’t ask or mention it. I just did it. And you didn’t even thank me for it! I gave you the perfect date, I was the perfect gentleman, and now you’re just leaving me here. And, I-”

“Hold up now, you jerk.” she spat back at him out of the dark. “I don’t owe you anything. I’ve been charming and appreciative. I’m not obligated to go out on another date with you. I’m not obligated to like you. I’m not obligated to go home with you because you paid for dinner. I have every right to deny you if I don’t think it’s working out. And frankly, with the way you’re behaving, you’re not the good guy you think you are. You’re just an entitled loser, and there’s an excellent reason why you’re perpetually single. You treat women terribly and expect them to worship you for it. Get a grip. Oh, and you’re boring.” “I’m not boring!” He was shouting now. “I’ll have you know that I graduated with honors and top grades! I’m in Mensa! I know a lot of stuff that you could only hope to one day understand. Quantum physics, ever heard of it? Didn’t think so. I’ve got thousands of dollars invested in Bitcoin! I’ll be a millionaire one day, and you’ll still be sitting around at Starbucks or that boba tea place, living month to month on your measly paycheck.”

The lights came on. She was crying silently in her seat. He was taken aback. He’d never meant for her to cry. He reached out his hand and caressed her arm. She moved closer to him, and the tears subsided slightly. “Marie, why are you crying? I thought you told me to play a good guy?” “Pete, you absolute moron. That’s not the type of guy I meant when I said you should be a good guy! I meant an actual good guy. You were supposed to sweep me off my feet!” “Oh. Oh no. Honey, I’m sorry..” She got up from her seat, took her purse, and stormed down the stairs. He sighed deeply, took out his phone, and texted James. “Abort.” Within a few short seconds, he heard the entry door open, followed quickly by a hard slam.

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