Getting up the courage to submit your creative work freaking sucks. In this mini-series of blog posts, I share some of the rejected creative works I’ve created. Check out the sister piece, Notes from the rejection pile: fear of rejection VS inertia of creation to get the full picture.
Horror, suspense. Entered in a paid short story
“I don’t know what you’re worried about. I mean…someone has been in to clean, haven’t they?”
Rubbing the bridge of his nose, John slipped on his sunglasses, head pounding from one too many over lunch. He’d been trying to avoid this conversation. What a welcome after three weeks of pure bliss. Sun, sea, sand; no calls, no emails, nothing. Now this.
“Yes, love. The officer recommended someone.” He had even ordered new floorboards. Bloody expensive. Still, he thought, it would have cost more in lawyers to get her out. Stubborn bitch.
“Great! We’ll take a quick peek, pick up a few bits, and make sure everything is ready for the estate agent tomorrow. We’ll be home in no time.”
Letting out a slow, shaky breath, he bit his tongue. Have a bit more tact. I was married to the woman.
“You did tell the estate agent tomorrow, didn’t you?”
It hadn’t really sunken in. They still hadn’t unpacked. Hell, the boot of their modest Vauxhall was filled with unopened wedding presents.
Why now, Ellie? What were you thinking?
“The estate agent.” Abbie repeated. “You know we need to be back at the clinic first thing Monday. We can’t afford to miss this. You haven’t changed your mind…have you?”
“Course not love. Just thinking. We’ll be back with time to spare.”
They’d been having this discussion almost as long as they had been dating. John, on a temporary break with Ellie after yet another screaming match; Abbie, celebrating the big 3-0, absolutely desperate for a kid.
Eyes on the road ahead, he decided to address the elephant in the room. “IVF isn’t cheap. If the first two –”
“Don’t say it.”
“– rounds don’t work” he continued.
“For the love of god, don’t say it!”
“As soon as the house sells, we can afford to go private.” He laid his hand against hers. “We’ll have a baby. One way or another.”
“Bloody hell…” Abbie gawped as they came to a stop.
“Money goes a lot further up here.” Key in hand, he made the way towards the old deck. Never did get around to replacing it. “Might as well wait in the car. I won’t need long.”
“Maybe you won’t. I want to have a nosy. See how the other half lives. Lived.” Pushing past, she made a beeline for the old oak staircase.
The place wasn’t in the best of shape, but it had its charm and room to spare. Enough room for a pool and a jacuzzi, Ellie had said when they first saw the place.
Who want a pool in Scotland? It’s bloody cold year-round.
Before things had begun to sour, everything had seemed so light. Who would have thought in just six years they would go from happy and healthy, to this.
As Abbie trampled upstairs, John slowly made his way around, fingertips trailing across dusty surfaces. Bloody cleaner. Thought we’d paid her to do one last sweep before the viewings.
He came to a stop by the stairs. The urge to go up, to see where it happened pulled at his stomach, tight and slick. He wondered if they had replaced many floorboards, or if the shaggy rugs Ellie loved had soaked up the worst of it.
“I’ll be in the car. Don’t be long; check-in closes soon.”
“Did you find anything?”
Wordlessly, he shook his head.
“You didn’t even look upstairs.” Silence stretched uncomfortably between them. “That cleaner of yours…”
“Ellie’s.” He cut her off, eyeing the local pub as they passed. “I only really met her twice.”
“You must have made an impression. She left something for you.”
He glanced at the backseat; an envelope and plain, wrapped parcel, no bigger than a shoe box lay there.
“Looks like a wedding present. Would you mind grabbing it? My back is killing me.” Abbie groaned as they pulled in. He watched as she got out the car, waddling towards reception. The way she’d been acting recently, it wouldn’t surprise him if that appointment wasn’t needed after all.
Why would she get us something?
Opening the card with one hand, he let the box fall onto the bed with a rattle and bounce before switching on the TV. Might as well catch the second half of the…
‘Congratulations, It’s a boy!’ adorned the card in large, blue letters. Whipping the card open, another fell out, then another. Two blue, one pink.
Is this a joke?
Scanning one card, then another, he found nothing. He opened the third.
If you’re reading this, you actually did it. You got that ditzy bitch to marry you. I hope she wakes the fuck up before you screw her over like you did me.
A little birdie tells me you’re still trying for a bundle of joy. I pray you don’t succeed.
Consider this my gift to you. Get your shit together. I won’t be there to fix things next time.
“Ellie? What the fuck were you on about? I didn’t…so what if I like a drink every now and then?”
The sound of tearing filled the room. All three cards fluttered into the bin piece by piece. His gaze turned to the box.
Forcing the parcel into the tiny bin, the paper ripped, one corner tearing silently beneath the roar of the TV. What had she done? It wasn’t heavy.
“Can you grab me a towel love?” Abbie called.
His hand hovered, itching to pull back the lid. What…
He sat back heavily on the carpet, one hand pressed to his mouth. He could taste bile on his tongue.
“For god’s sake. I’ll get the towel myself, shall I?”
He couldn’t tear his eyes away. Even as Ellie bustled past him, TV blaring, phone buzzing. He couldn’t move. Couldn’t blink. Couldn’t breathe. The box lay on its side; three tiny, skeletal fingers poking out.
Any comments, critiques, or feedback are (as always) greatly appreciated, and will be reciprocated where possible.