[Note: Enjoy this work of short fiction that riffs on the idea of Do-Overs. Renata is a new character in my soon-to-be-released thriller, NOT SO GONE. This post is a departure from my usual non-fiction blog posts that look at tech trends and artificial intelligence.]
Renata caresses her warm cup of coffee in both hands. Despite being inside her own kitchen, she can see her breath.“We should try again,” she says.
Only two legs in worn jeans protrude from under the kitchen sink. Rick slides out from under and stares directly into Renata’s dark brown eyes, “Try again? To fix the sink or the marriage?”
She laughs. “Maybe both. But you fix the sink and the heater first and then we’ll talk about the marriage. I’m so cold I can’t even feel my toes.”
Rick smiles, “I’d be happy to warm you up.”
“The sink and the heat first and then we’ll talk.”
Rick shimmies back under the sink. “I probably should have worked on the heater first. It’s freakin’ cold under here.”
“You always did have bad timing.”
“This damn old house . . . We should have sold it after you kicked me out. It’s a money pit.”
“And live where? With Aunt Thelma?”
“You don’t have an Aunt Thelma.”
“Right and that’s why I had to stay here.”
Rick wriggles out from under the sink again and wipes his hands on his pants. “Try the faucet now.”
Renata pushes the faucet handle up, then left and right. “Seems OK.”
Rick stands up. He’s almost a head taller than Renata, but their eyes lock. Rick looks down at her cup of coffee, “That sure smells good. Can I have a cup?”
“I suppose, but then I have to get to work.” She lifts a cup out of the cupboard and grabs the pot from the coffee maker.
“Another bomb threat?”
“No. This time it’s a kidnapping, the son of one of my co-workers.”
“So it’s personal?”
“It’s always personal. Now get your ass down to the basement and check out the oil burner.” She slaps him on the butt.
“Hmm, I like that. Do it again.”
“Maybe later, maybe never. It depends.”
“Depends on what?”
“Depends on my day. Depends on whether I have heat when I get back home. Depends on whether I can ever trust you again.”
“One slip and I’m sentenced for life. You are and always were the love of my life. Ever hear of second chances?”
The alarm clock chimes. Renata thrashes under the sheets and her eyes slowly open. Her eyes feel swollen, the lids stuck together. She rolls over and silences the clock. Rick’s picture stares back at her. What a fucking dream, she thinks.
She stares at her pale face in the mirror and runs her fingers through her mussed hair. I’ve got to get dressed. Funeral’s today. A newspaper clipping hangs from a corner of the mirror. A familiar face is in the picture next to another picture of a crumpled Jeep. The Headline reads:
“Connecticut Man Dies In Icy Crash”
Renata’s eyes well up with warm tears. She wraps her arms tightly around herself. If only I had given him that second chance. If only.
Sometimes there are no second chances.
– END –