Love, Hurt, Release: A Short Story From Nowhere

I'm still practicing:


Love, Hurt, Release.

Laura's usual spot was occupied today. The booth directly by the door allowing her to slip out just as quickly and quietly as she crept in was currently filled with a couple and their teething toddler, but the waitress had a better option available for her. "Right this way, Ms. Banks," Bethanny offered. "I think you'll like this spot just as much." Bethanny always waited her table. She was perky, flashing warm grins as she took orders from customers about a tenth as joyful as she was. With a polite smile, she followed her cheery waitress across the old diner -- without admiring the sweeping walls lined with portraits, records and autographed napkins of ritzy clientele per usual -- to a roomy, corner booth. The early afternoon sun bathed the toffee brown leather seats, warming the spot where she sat. She removed her scarf and coat and tossed them on the other side of the marble table. 

"Ooh, I love your jacket!" Bethanny squealed. Laura didn't, but it was the only one she managed to grab while scurrying out of the apartment last weekend. "Thanks. Me too," she lied behind shaded eyes. "Can I have my usual? And a water with two lemons for right now?" 

Bethanny whisked away to put in an order of shrimp Caesar salad with avocados and a side of curly fries. Laura was desperate for some comfort food. More comfort than food. She propped her elbows up on the table and cradled her face with her hands. Sigh. A tear started to form in the corner of her eye, but she quickly pulled a napkin from the dispenser to dab at the droplet threatening to fall. She winced in pain. Still sore. The waitress plopped the icy cup of water on the table top. Laura jumped in surprise, scrambling to readjust her sunglasses and hide the damp napkin from view. "Um… here's your water," she began, noticing the black smears on the crumpled napkin. "Are you o--" 

"Thanks, Bethanny." Laura cut her off, flashing a strained smile. "May I have a straw?" The waitress knew something was up. She wasn't typically this withdrawn, but she nodded obediently, pulled a straw from her apron, set it down and hesitantly backed away to tend to another table. 

Laura knew Bethanny meant well, but now wasn't the time for show and tell. Enough crap was on her mind. Where am I going to go next?  Who can I tell? Should I tell? Is any of this even worth the worry? The throbbing under her right eye answered her last question. Her pain was real and the worry was valid. She wasn't scared, though. It was anger that hovered over her head like a storm cloud waiting to burst. Today was Thursday and she could still feel the white hot anger from Saturday night stinging her face, burning at her. "That bitch..." she mumbled under her breath. 


---

"Can I get a T?" 

Pat Sajak's voice trickled in from the other room. 

"You've got three T's for $1500!"

Laura listened absentmindedly as she sat in front of her vanity, plucking hairpins one by one from her wrapped tresses. 

"Vanna, please reveal the letters from the Prize Puzzle." 

Vanna White sashayed across the floor and touched each screen of the puzzle with gentle, manicured hands. Her draping tinsel gown seemed to help her glide from one side of the screen to the other. 

A laugh escaped Laura's lips as she shook her hair and watched it fall neatly to her shoulders. "Vanna don't have nothin' on me," she told her reflection. Tonight, she had every intent on wowing her coworkers at the company party, but she needed to wow Stephen first. He'd been real crabby towards her lately, and she hoped tonight would change all that. His anticipated reaction played in the back of her mind like a silent film as she delicately applied her makeup.

He'd walk in to me sitting on the edge of the bed closest to the lamp, the pale orange cast setting my face aglow. 

Pressed powder dusted her skin.

He'd walk slowly to where I sat, eyes fixed on mine. 

Liquid midnight outlining unblinking, almond eyes.

He'd grab my hand and kiss it gently, then pull me to stand so that no more than an inch separated us. 

Deep purple across curled lips. 

Disregarding my lipstick, he'd steal a kiss, pulling my body close to his. I feel his heat. 

Blush. 

With a coy smile, she shook the scene away and walked over to her outfit laid out on the bed. One foot at a time, she stepped into her dress and wiggled it up around her hips. She pulled up the side zipper and looked herself up and down in the mirror approvingly. Flawless. The winter white cocktail dress hugged all the curves that Stephen loved. It'd be better to wait for him to get home before slipping on the shoes. Where was he, anyway? That morning, he'd promised to be home by 7:30. It was already half past eight and the party started at nine. Of course they hadn't planned on arriving right on the dot, but finding a good parking spot would take some time. She called his phone for a third time. Nothing, again. 

Twenty minutes later, she heard a set of keys jingling outside the front door.

"Steve?"

Stephen walked through the doorway and headed straight for the bed. He let himself plop down face first onto the comforter, not paying Laura any mind. Here goes another one of his episodes, she thought to herself. 

"Um, hello to you too, babe. Aren't you going to freshen up before we go?"

"Go where?" he grumbled into the pillow. "Not in the mood for this."

"Not in the mood for what?" Her annoyance was audible. "Did you forget about the holiday party? We need to be out in half an hour. Come on."

Not even turning his head, he raised his hand to silence her. "What the" Albeit angry, she placed her hands on his back and shook him lightly. "Don't shush me, Steve."

He slowly turned his head to her, peering back at her with furrowed brows. 

"If something's wrong, tell me. Let me know what's bothering you. But don't direct your pissy attitude towards me and try to shut me up. I'm not that girl." 

"Laura, I honestly don't need your pulpit preaching right now. I had a rough day today and…"

"And it's gonna stay sucky if you don't stop being so mum about it and talk to me! Or hell, if you don't want to talk about it, fine. At least be a man of your word and go with me to the holiday party like you promised you would."

"I'm not going," he said flatly. 

"What's wrong with you? I get all dressed up for you everyday, especially today, and play housewife for you and baby you and love you and you don't even have it in you to show me a little attention. Make me feel special sometimes, you know? What am I even here for? What's gotten into you?" 

Laura grabbed his arm and tried to pull him up from the bed, "You can't keep a simple promise to be my date?" 

Stephen pulled his arm away from her, starting to roll back over in bed. She moved closer to stand right over him. 

"Damnit Stephen! Listen to me when I talk to you!" Out of frustration, she slapped the side of his arm with an open palm. The zing on his skin echoed in the room.  

"Listen, bitch!" Instinctively, Stephen shot up and threw his left arm forward at her, his fist swiftly connecting with her cheekbone. Laura reeled backwards, tripping over her own feet. Her mouth slammed against the edge of the nightstand on her way down.

She scooted her body across the floor until her back was against the wall and touched her mouth, eyes wide in disbelief. The taste of salt on her tongue was strong. Her eyes darted between the red smears on her hand and Stephen's slowly loosening fist. His facial expression morphed from rage to regret, then horror as he saw red dots spotting the front of her white dress. 

"I…" he started, his voice cracking with panic. He couldn't get another word out before she pounced from her corner spot towards him, swiping at his face with her fingers spread. She felt his skin filling the spaces under her nails. He recoiled, grabbing at his face, cursing under his breath. "Damnit, Laura! I'm sor--" Without hearing any of his muffled words, she zipped passed him into the living room and used her dry hand to grab her camel peacoat off the sofa, her Ugg boots and her purse. Hurriedly, she flung open the front door. "Laura, wait!" His voice was getting closer to her. "I'm so sorry, babe!" he said, grabbing her wrist. "I don't know what--" 

"Fuck you, Steve!" she screamed before launching a wad of spit towards his face. "Fuck this!" 

Ripping free from his grip, a barefoot Laura stormed down the hallway of the apartment complex to the stairwell, outerwear dangling in her hands, smeared purple lipstick on her face mixing with red. She'd clean up when she got to her sister's unoccupied guest house a few avenues over. As Stephen's echoing I-love-you's and pleas to come back slowly drowned out behind her, she couldn't tell which hurt more: her parted lip, the bruised eye socket welling with tears or the feeling of her heart dropping to the pit of her stomach.

---

Laura's mind drifted back once she heard Bethanny shuffling in her direction, carrying the aroma of grilled shrimp and Lawry's with her. This time, she didn't say a word as she placed Laura's plate down and noticed cloudy tears on the freshly wiped tabletop. She knew Laura was in a moment. The waitress was shocked to feel a hand on her wrist as she started to retreat from the table. "Join me?" Laura didn't look up as she asked. Nor did Bethanny answer as she pushed Laura's coat to the side and slid into the booth. The two women's hands joined as they sat in silence, arms bordering the untouched plates of food. Laura reached up and slowly took off her glasses. Bethanny took in the sight of the purple blotches underneath usually lively eyes. It hurt her. She rubbed her distant companion's forearm comfortingly with her freed hand. 

"I didn't know being forced out of love would hurt this bad," she began, "and I'm not sure how to start over." Bethanny could hear someone a few tables over trying to get her attention -- something about ketchup -- but they'd have to wait. Laura needed to release. Right now, she was all ears.  


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