What's the worst that could happen?
|Contest Entry: Write a Story, With a List.
This is my slightly unorthodox approach.
"You've got to be kidding," said Michelle, clutching a piece of paper. "This is a joke, right?"
A group of schoolchildren, each carrying clipboards for their class assignments, chose that moment to step out onto the narrow strip of road bordered at each end by speed bumps. The car came to a screeching halt as Ed slammed his hand down on the horn. The noise sent some of the children scurrying across; the remainder backpedalled, looking absolutely terrified.
His smug expression, coupled with that ridiculous note, brought a rush of color to her cheeks. "You're supposed to let them cross."
"Am I?" he asked, looking surprised.
"They had priority," she said, gesturing behind them. "Didn't you see the sign?"
Ed shrugged, unconcerned as he turned left into the multi-storey car-park.
Switching off the ignition, Ed loosened his seat-belt and reached for his jacket, noticing Michelle's sour expression for the first time.
"What the hell is this?" she demanded, trying to keep her anger in check.
He looked closely at the piece of paper screwed into a barely recognizable ball. "Isn't that the shopping list?"
"Yes," she said, her voice tremulous with emotion.
As Ed stepped out of the Mercedes, she reached into the glove compartment and retrieved her clutch bag. Fighting back the tears, she carefully applied her pink shimmer lipstick, steeling herself. Slamming the door as hard as her petite frame would allow, Michelle immediately had his undivided attention.
"Hey, watch the damn car," he said. "You asked me to write the bloody list."
"I know I did," she said. "Do you even remember its contents?"
Reaching into his jacket as his mobile phone signaled an incoming message. "I dunno, the usual stuff," he said with a shrug of the shoulder. "Bread, milk, eggs - I think I put sugar."
"Did I forget something?"
"Oh God," said Michelle. Leaning heavily against the car, she started crying.
Ed rushed forward, reaching for her hand. "Darling, what's the matter?"
Snatching her hand away she threw the note on the floor. "Read it!"
Nonplussed, he retrieved the list from beneath the Mercedes.
T-shirts x 2
He looked up. Michelle was facing the other way, her shoulders heaving.
"I don't underst-" Ed halted, mid-sentence. "Oh."
Turning on the spot and laughing, Michelle furiously wiped away the tears, smearing her carefully applied mascara.
"This is about the ring," he ventured, a little uncertainly.
"Oh, you think?"
"I thought I'd better write it down, in case-"
"Ah," she interrupted. "Well, the price of free range eggs and coffee could easily detract from something so trivial!"
Ed reached out to take her hand. "It's not that. You know what my memory's like."
Michelle snorted, her face suffused with color.
Choosing his words carefully, he said, "We discussed it - last week. Don't you remember?"
"Yeah." She nodded, biting her lip and trying to keep her voice steady. "Among other things - the weather forecast, your dad's new car or whether we should get an Alsatian puppy."
He rallied. "Exactly... I thought it was settled."
Through gritted teeth, she slowly spat out each syllable. "You haven't actually asked me."
"It's my own stupid fault," she broke in. "You're utterly clueless. I can't believe I ever considered it an endearing quality."
Ed remained silent, afraid of digging a deeper hole.
"You'll never change," said Michelle, almost rhetorically. "And I don't think I want you to, not anymore."
She reached into the car, grabbed her jacket and turned to go.
"Don't leave - please."
"Why stay?" she asked with a shrug. "Well?"
Ed didn't have an answer. He watched her walk away, his confusion nullifying the pain he should've felt.
What the hell had gone wrong? He was gonna buy her a ring - it's not as though he'd forgotten.
It was on his list.