So there you have it!
Here are the things I learned while writing/rereading this short story:
Short stories are difficult.
First off, I’m really, really used to having between 80,000 and 100,000 words to tell my story. Having to cut that number down to 5000 (this story clocked in just shy of that) is not easy. You have a lot less time to develop character and story.
I’m not a big fan of first-person.
I don’t necessarily feel like I didn’t do well here, and I honestly don’t believe the story would be as good if told from a third-person point of view, but I’m generally not a big fan of the introspective nature of first-person. For my books, I’ll stick with third-person.
Hopefully that wasn’t too painful! I’d also love to hear critiques, if anyone stuck with me long enough to give them! Put them in the comments where other people can publicly see them. I’m not afraid!
* * *
He wasn’t expecting the conversation to go the way it did. The way our relationship had progressed, I’m sure he’d expected we’d make amends, that I’d change my ways and do something to make this work. It didn’t happen that way, though. We met at the bar, the bar from the first night I had approached him, and over a couple of beers I explained myself.
I told him I couldn’t be with him anymore. I told him this was neither the time nor place for me to be in a relationship. I had things to work out, I said, and he nodded. I wanted to be friends, I said, and he nodded again. Despite the drama, the hell I put him through by being unreachable and disconnected, Link reached across the table and grabbed my hand.
“Don’t worry,” he said with a smirk. I couldn’t tell if it was sad or relieved. He was taking the break up better than I was. I stayed stubbornly silent. “We’ll keep in touch.”
I smiled and nodded. An awkward silence fell–the awkward silence that follows the end of any relationship, and at long last Link stood up. He had to rid the tension. I knew him well enough by now to know that meant he needed to get away, to do something to distract his already busy mind. Hell, I did, too, but as he bid me goodbye, kissed me on the forehead for the last time, and walked back to the Pride, to his friends in that world, I stayed. I didn’t have that kind of connection. I didn’t have someone to turn to.
As I watched him walk off into the night, I suddenly felt very, very alone.
Demetrius’s voice would have caught me off guard had I had any sense left. Instead I glanced over my shoulder. She seemed to have materialized out of nowhere. She had a habit of doing that. Shoving hands deep into her pockets, shrugging her shoulders, she watched me. I looked away again.
“So, apparently Kenneth didn’t think you could handle it?”
Jesus, did Demetrius spy on every conversation? Or had she been the one who talked to Kenneth. I suspected the latter.
“No, he agreed,” I murmured. Demetrius slowly moved around and sat across from me, in the seat Link had occupied only a few minutes before. I swished the nearly-full beer around in the bottle. Demetrius watched me quietly.
“Then why did you break it off?”
“You were watching?”
She passed me a sheepish smile. “Don’t act surprised,” she said almost apologetically. I chuckled. “So if Kenneth thought you could handle it, why did you break it off?”
At first I said nothing. I took a sip from my beer, but it tasted bitter and ugly on my tongue. “Because I don’t think I can.”
What she lacked in courtesy Demetrius made up for in brevity. “Oh.” the silence dragged on for a while. I didn’t have the heart to speak. The reality of the situation was too much. I was usually very good at keeping myself emotionally distant, but this had taken me completely off guard. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t lie to Link. I couldn’t be that person. I didn’t want to be that person.
After a moment, Demetrius got to her feet. “C’mon,” she said, extending a hand. I raised a brow and watched her. “Let’s get out of here.”
“To where?” We had nowhere. Demetrius and I had never spent any time together out of the office except on assignment and on the rare occasion when Demetrius randomly showed up at my house for whatever reason in the middle of the night. As close as Demetrius and I had ever been as partners, I don’t think either of us considered the other one a friend.
“My place.” I was surprised. No one knew where Demetrius lived. Not even Kenneth. “I think a rousing game of Yatzee is in order.”
She said that right as I was taking a drink of my beer, and I laughed so suddenly I nearly sprayed it all over her. Recovering, wiping my mouth with a cloth napkin, I said, “You’re joking!”
With an air of absolutely seriousness, Demetrius watched me back. “Shut your mouth. I love Yatzee.” I still couldn’t tell if she was kidding or not.
But it didn’t matter. Demetrius offered me more than a hand this time. She offered me a friend and a distraction: a way out of a bad situation. She offered me someone else to talk to, someone with whom I could share all aspects of my life, and not just the ones outsiders were allowed to know.
So with a shrug, I put my slender hand in hers and got to my feet. Demetrius held my arm in the crook of her elbow, like a glamorously gender-neutral chauffeur, and together we strode out of the bar and into the night.