Conversation With My Spouse – Submit Your Second Short Story Today

The second deadline for the Twelve Short Stories Challenge is upon us. Congratulations to everyone who made it. I will accept and approve posts for CONVERSATION WITH MY SPOUSE (Word count: 1200 words) from 8 March 2017, 8:00 (Johannesburg time), until 9 March, 8:00 (Johannesburg time).

Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world.

If you missed the previous deadline please keep writing. We are creating a platform where you will be able to post the stories for the deadlines you missed, but don’t use this as an excuse. This is about getting things done.

New request:

  1. Please include the title, genre and word count on the first line.
  2. Please follow the posting procedure below.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Read today’s post.
  2. Post your story as a status update on the Facebook group, 12 Short Stories In 12 Months, on 8 March 2017. (If Facebook blocks the group, because we are all posting on the same day and it thinks we are a bunch of spambots, please be patient. It’ll take a day or so to get it back up. Once it is, I’ll post Plan B. Thank you for all the suggestions of alternatives, but I would like to keep it as simple as possible.)
  3. Read and comment on at least four other stories. Please spread the love. Look for stories that haven’t been read, instead of everyone reading and commenting on the same stories. If you want tips on how to comment, read this post: The Complete Guide To Evaluating Your Short Story.
  4. This is an exercise in discipline. The comments are a bonus. There is no prize because I want you focus on writing for yourself and to try and take more risks.
  5. Be kind when you comment. Start with a positive comment, suggest an improvement, and end with something positive. We are here to learn.
  6. Our next prompt is at the end of this post.

A few more points:

  • I will try to read as many posts as possible, but I do have a day job that I would like to keep.
  • NO hate speak. None. If you see something nasty that I should be made aware of, please send me a message.
  • Be careful of profanity. Less is always more in writing and we don’t want Facebook to think we are up to no good and block us.
  • I need to approve every post. Please be patient with me. I am teaching during the day and I will approve them as quickly as I can. They will all go up.

My story is below and the next prompt below that.

Title: Disillusion Of A Marriage by Mia Botha Word count: 1200 Genre: Women’s Fiction

I clasp the metallic armrest of the boardroom chair. A hard and uncomfortable chair in a hard and uncomfortable room. I am sitting on my side of the large, glass table. You are sitting on yours. It could have been dinner, but it wasn’t. Not even close.

The suits shuffle their papers and shift their positions, preparing for battle. Throats are cleared, water glasses filled. It is time. You lie back in your chair, steeple your fingers. I can’t look. I don’t want to see you. I dig through my handbag instead: keys, lipstick, gum, purse, coins, receipts. Nothing offers relief. My thoughts are disjointed, past and present create a confusing tableau, memories of the way we used to be. I want it to stop, but the memories are relentless.

I used to keep a list of the things I wanted to say you in my head. Jimmy did this today, Alex said this for the first time. Snippets of our day I wanted to share with you.

I still have this list in my head, it is similar, but instead it is a list of the things I wish I said. Your suit pushes his chair back and we begin. I must pay attention now.

“Mr and Mrs Davies, thank you for being here. We have come to the end of the negotiation and mediation process.” Your suit starts off the proceedings. It reminds me of the day we stepped into the reception hall and Allan introduced us. Me, a white, puffy bride; you, so handsome in your tux.

“Miss Jacobs,” my suit interrupts your suit. “My client wishes to be addressed by her maiden name. Miss Jacobs.” I look at you, your face remains unchanged. Unmoved. I want this to be over. I see the register we signed, your sturdy dependable signature. Mine, light and airy, the first time I signed my new name. Mrs Davies.

I go back to my list and think of the things I wish I had said.

I wish I said: I am not okay. I need your help. Instead I said: You never do anything.
I wish I said: I miss you. Instead I said: You are never here.
I wish I said: Can we talk about it? Instead I said: Whatever.

Your suit is still talking. You lean forward and your hand rests on the table. I used to slip my hand under yours. It was safe, warm and familiar, now my hand clings to the hard armrest.

I wish I said: Hold me tight. Instead I said: Leave me alone.

Your suits says, “Both parties agree that the beach house will remain in the trust and that both parties will keep to the allotted scheduling. This is for the benefit of the children.”

The beach house. We bought it for us. We were so happy there. We will still be there, but not together. Your suit babbles and my mind wanders.

I wish I said: You are a good father. Instead I said: Stop exciting them before bedtime.

“Miss Jacobs, do you agree?” I am startled, I haven’t paid any attention. I look at my suit. He nods and mouths, “This is what we discussed.” I nod at your suit. He continues, “joint custody of…” Joint custody? We were joined in matrimony. We were joined at the hip. When did that change?

I wish I said: Can we just sit together for five minutes? Instead I said: I still have so much to do, and packed lunchboxes.
I wish I said: Thanks for the advice. Instead I said: Why do you always criticise me?

I follow the grey zigzag on the grey wallpaper. “Stating irreconcilable differences as the primary…” Your suit keeps talking. I close my eyes and wallow in my shame as he says, “…adultery.”

I wish I said: I am lonely. I miss you. Instead I said: Stay away from me.
I wish I said: I am sad. I wish I said: I am overwhelmed. Instead, I didn’t say a word. I didn’t want him. I didn’t love him. I missed you.
I wish I said: Save me. I wish I said: I am sorry. I wish I said it before it was too late.

I am sorry, I want you to know that. But I put it on the list of the things I wish I said. I am sorry about Allan, he was your friend. I am sorry you lost us both. Now, we’ll all be alone together.

I blink and find myself in the same boardroom. A pile of papers now laid before me. It is a thick pile, the sum of a marriage. Our life. A cold, hard summary of our lost love, our heartache, my betrayal. You are still on your side of the table and I am on mine.

I wish I said: Sit next to me. Instead I said: It’s nothing, I’m fine.
I wish I said: How are you? Instead I said: You never talk to me.

My suit points to the first paragraph and mumbles something I can’t hear. I pretend to read the document. I peruse the first paragraph. Lawyerly gibberish.

I wish I said: I can’t wait to see you tonight. Instead I said: Are you going to be late again?
I wish I said: You still make me smile. Instead I said: Can you be serious for once?

I glance at you. You are reading it, this document, line by line. I peruse the line of your jaw instead. I watch your brow furrow as you double check the facts.

I wish I said: You make my knees weak. Instead I said: Stop doing that, the kids are awake.

“Please initial the bottom right of every page.” Your suit is still talking. My suit hands me his pen, a blood red Mont Blanc. The pen rests in my hand. Heavy. Final. I begin on the first page. My initials: AMD.

I wish I said: Forgive me. Instead I said: You deserved it.

I sign on the second page, then the third. “And here,” my suit points to a clause that requires special attention. I make my mark. I page and sign and sign and page.

I wish I said: I just want you. Instead I said: But you would have done it too.

I sign my way through, closer and closer towards the end. Of a marriage. A life.

The last page calls for witnesses. My suit signs on his line and gives the pen back to me. The black nib hovers just above my line. I put pen to paper and sign my name in full: Angela Maria Davies. My legal name still, but not for long. The paperwork will be submitted soon. I will reclaim what is left of myself. I put the pen cap back on the pen, listen for the soft click and lay it next to the document. It is done. I gather my bag and leave without looking at you or the suits.

I wish I said: I love you. I wish you said it too, but I’ll put it on the list of the things I wished we said.

The End

Here is our next prompt in the series:

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This article has 17 comments

  1. annalie

    A conversation in the head. Clever that it was one sided, yet included the whole picture of their marriage. Interesting angle. Thank you.

  2. annalie

    ps – It would have made a great List entry too 😉

  3. catherine ercilla

    Achingly sad! I really enjoyed it. It was almost as much a poem as a short story – but in a good way! – with the repeated refrain of ‘I wish I said’ etc. The only possible feedback I could offer is that we so often see something described as ‘blood red’ in a desolate scenario – I was yearning for a more original image! 🙂 But that’s a very small thing. It was lovely – simple, easy to read (again, in a positive way), and grabbed at the emotions without being sentimental.

  4. Athina Antoniou

    This is a really interesting story, and even though it is told by only one person, you still see the whole story. I really enjoyed reading it.

  5. Christelle

    Beautifully heart breaking

  6. Chrisna

    Oh Mia, this is such a sad piece, but I suspect very realistic. Great style. I don’t know how you do it. It is gripping from start to finish. You get so much information across with so few words, even in the first sentence. I look forward to more. Interesting that you brought “the list” into this one as well, was that by coincidence? 🙂

  7. Olga Everaert

    Mia, you are a hard woman :).. unrelenting, like in #1 I hope for an unexpected happy ending, but no, you hold the line.. reading, I forget it is a story, it is all too real, excellent.

  8. Sarah

    Very cleverly shown! I loved the concept. and even though it is happening in her head, it lays out the entire story in a few lines. It is deep and sad. I could feel the remorse she had, her pain, her anger too! An excellent story. The best part is the narrative style, learnt a lesson here Mia 🙂

  9. Mia Botha

    Thanks Annalie, I feel so sorry for her. Humans can be so stubborn sometimes. Thank you for reading my story.

  10. Mia Botha

    Thanks Catherine, yes I agree. That description is neither radiant, nor illuminating. I am using last minute changes as an excuse. Hehe. Janet Fitch always says, ‘What is unique about your sentences?” and this is a perfect example of a description that needs more work. Thank you for reading my story and for your comment.

  11. Mia Botha

    Thank you Athina, it was fun and challenging to write.

  12. Mia Botha

    Thank you, Christelle. I wanted to hug her and shake her at the same time.

  13. Mia Botha

    I thought so too.

  14. Mia Botha

    Thanks Chrisna, the list snuck in there. I only noticed it when I was doing my third rewrite. I”ll be explaining more about the ‘how to’ in the upcoming posts, but in the meantime do a search on Writers Write for ‘show, don’t tell’ read those posts and start wrapping your head around that. I’ll be doing more posts about that specific to short stories. Thank you for reading my story.

  15. Mia Botha

    Thank you Olga, I was determined to write a happy story this month, but the story wouldn’t listen. I am glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate your comment.

  16. Mia Botha

    Great Sarah, I am glad it helped. Yes, it is all about the showing. We try to explain to much when we write and worry that our audience won’t get it, but readers are pretty smart. Never forget that. Good luck.

  17. kim

    I was hoping in the end of it all, she would of said what’s on her mine before signing because to me its seems that she didn’t really want it to end …. I tHINK


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