“Fortune Cookie” a short story by Felt.Buzz

This story was first published on my Steemit blog (you can find it here)

“It’s here somewhere,” Graham said, pulling her along by the hand.

“Can’t we just eat in this place?” Marie said, pointing at the nearest restaurant, The Golden Dragon. She looked at her phone. “It’s got good reviews! The crispy pancakes are to die for, apparently.”

“I don’t want to eat at the fucking Golden Dragon, I want to eat at the Rising Sun!” He stopped, turned towards her and looked into her eyes. “Sorry,” he said, looking like he actually meant it for once. “I didn’t mean to swear at you. It’s just it’s significant, isn’t it? It means something. At least it does to me.” A smile. “I want things to be right, just for once. Just for tonight, at least.”

Marie smiled, weakly. She was getting a little tired of Graham’s little mood snaps, as she called them. But Dr Jenkins said it was part of his condition. She had to be more accommodating, he said. She thought she had been pretty bloody accommodating, already, thank you very much!

“I know,” she said. “But perhaps it’s closed down.”

“It hasn’t,” he said, looking around him again. “I passed it a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure I did, I remember…” he stopped. “Anyway…” he said, looking away, over his shoulder. Was he blushing?

“You were in town a couple of weeks ago?” Marie asked. “I don’t remember you mentioning it.”

“Er… no. It was probably longer ago, than that. You’re probably right. I mean,” he laughed, it sounded hollow, false to Marie’s ears. “What kind of restaurant doesn’t have a website these days?” Marie was about to reply, when he grabbed her hand. “There!” he said. “I recognised that sign! I think it’s over there.”

And she was being pulled again. She sighed, although it was one of her internal, silent sighs, that Marie had perfected, recently. Don’t show frustration with him. You must be patient. Easier said than done, Doctor.

Anne said Marie had “the patience of a Saint. If it had been me, I’d have booted him out after that dalience with that woman!” And perhaps she should have done. But after thirty years of marriage, it wasn’t that easy, was it? To throw everything away. To start again. They had married so young. Marie hadn’t been with anyone else. Graham had been her one, her only.

And the affair with the other woman (a fellow lawyer at the firm he’d been working at for seventeen years) had been a result of his illness.

Right?

His depression caused a lack of judgment. He wasn’t thinking straight. Doctor Jenkins seemed to think so, anyway. Although Marie wasn’t sure if things fitted together quite that conveniently. In her mind (and she had replayed the events of the last year in her head over and over and over – particularly at night when sleep escaped her) the depression had come after the affair had ended. After he had confessed.

After Marie had threatened to leave him.

But Dr Jenkins said that was just when the depression had gone through “a different phase”. Anne said that was “just bollocks”.

Or had so at the time.

Graham had taken time off work. And the lawyer he slept with – Jenny Somethingorother – had left the firm now. He was getting better. Dr Jenkins said he’d be ready to return to work soon. And Marie had thought so too. Over the last couple of months, or so, Graham had perked up. Found his mojo. He’d started reading again, showing an interest in current events. He’d even started going out.

Marie thought she had the “old Graham” back. And then a couple of days ago, the return of his mood snaps. He didn’t want to go out. Marie had phoned Dr Jenkins and brought his appointment forward.

Then, this evening, when she returned from work Graham had been waiting for her. Smartly dressed, clean shaven. Even wearing that aftershave she bought him for Christmas, last year.

“Let’s go back to the Rising Sun!” he said. It took Marie a few seconds to place it. It was there, thirty years ago that Graham had proposed to her. It had been unplanned. Silly really. At the end of the meal they had been given a fortune cookie each. Marie had broken her’s open and read it and burst out laughing. It wasn’t the usual fortune cookie message, enigmatic and badly spelled. This one just said “You’ll be happily married for thirty years”.

Graham had asked what she was laughing at, and she passed over the bit of paper, and he looked at it and asked, “Well, why not?”

“Why not what?” she countered.

“Why don’t we get married?”

Not the most romantic proposal, but it was the only one Marie had ever had and she cherished it. She said yes, and he had saved for a ring and then asked her properly two months later. They married the following spring.

Graham explained, in the back of the taxi, on the way to Chinatown, that the fortune cookie had correctly predicted the number of years they were happily married. They needed to go back and to get another cookie, he explained. Marie worried that this was another “phase” of his illness. He had never been superstitious before, and she was worried that he had got this strange idea in his head that a generic message in a stale-tasting confectionery could fix everything.

The restaurant looked as it had thirty years ago. The staff had changed, of course, the man who showed them to their table – the same one as they had sat in thirty years before – probably hadn’t even been born when they had last set foot in there. But the decoration, the smell, and the paint work looked the same.

Graham insisted they have the same meal as they had thirty years ago – although how he could remember, Marie had no idea – so she let him order.

At the end of the meal the fortune cookies were delivered and Marie opened hers, whilst Graham looked on expectantly.

“All good things come to an end,” she read. Graham snatched it from her and read it before throwing it aside.

“No, no,” he said. “Not that one.”

“True friends will never betray you.”

“No!” Graham shouted, whipping the paper from her hand. He stood up, abruptly, the chair crashed to the floor. “I’m going to the toilet, and then I’ll demand to see the manager!” he said.

Perhaps, he had organised something, Marie thought. Arranged for a romantic message to be delivered to her. But they had given her the wrong cookie. As she pondered this, her husband’s phone, vibrated gently on the table beside his half empty water glass. Without thinking Marie reached over and swiped the screen.

“I’m sorry, my love,” the text read. “Forgive me. We are meant to be together.”

Marie read and reread the message, and checked the number three times. It was from Anne. Their best friend.

Her best friend.

Marie stood up and picked up Graham’s chair, tucking it neatly under the table. She found the two crumpled pieces of paper Graham had thrown away. She carefully flattened them out so he could read their message, placed them next to his illuminated phone, and left.

True friends will never betray you. All good things come to an end.

 

 

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Outwitted (a long short story)

Today, I completed my story Outwitted (a 32 part fantasy story of around 32000 words in total). It is the tale of magic, family, betrayal, and murder

You can find all the parts to the story on steemit. Below is part one
Part one: https://steemit.com/fiction/@felt.buzz/outwitted-a-little-bit-of-fiction-for-365daysofwriting-challenge

In cold blue light of the moon the streets appeared to be made of ice. Barefoot, I followed the old man as he made his way slowly through the alleys and passages, trying to avoid the central lowered flagstones where faeces floated in puddles of urine.

The clunk of his clogs, and the tap-tap-tap of his stick echoed around the walls, creating a strangely hypnotic music. He stopped, suddenly. Leaning on his stick for support, he turned and peered into the eerie light behind him. I ducked back into a doorway, trying not to inhale the odd mixture of odours: cabbage, spices and cat piss.

At this time of the evening, it was hard to follow someone without being noticed: this close to the curfew there were few people on the streets. If he spotted me he would lead me away from her, not to her. And no doubt he would lead me into a place where I could be taken, questioned and killed.

I took a breath and peered round the corner. The old man had vanished. I had not heard the percussion of his walk, which meant he must be close.

She must be close.

I crept towards the spot I had last seen the man. Hidden, on the left, was a passageway with steps leading up to a door.

The door was ajar.

Aware this was likely to be a trap, but seeing no other option, I eased the knife from its scabbard, hidden under my cloak and skipped lightly up the steps.

Neither light nor sound trickled from the cracks in the door. Perhaps I should mark this place, somehow. Come back in daylight. But if I was right and she was here, it was unlikely she would remain until I returned with my friends.

The regimented sound of boots on stone echoed up the streets behind me. The City Guards were out, strictly enforcing the curfew with their steel. If I wanted to leave, I should have already done so. My mind made up, I inched towards the door and, taking a deep breath, pushed the door open.

The hinges were well oiled, and did not creak. That both relieved me and worried me in equal measure. Noisy hinges were useful for alerting those who listened for them to the presence of unwanted intruders. Either, she was not here, after all, or they did not care who entered.

Inside it was dark, and very cold. This dwelling would have been carved into the rocks of the city many centuries ago. I stood for a moment, listening, and letting my eyes adjust. I could hear something, I realised. Music. And laughter. Using the walls as a guide I slid along the passage until my hand touched the warmth of wood. Another door. I pressed my ear to the door. It was from within that the music and laughter came. I adjusted the grip on my knife and let my other hand wander over the door until it found the handle. I took a deep breath and turned it and pushed the door open.

The room was lit by lamps flickering oily flames up the walls, and by a fire that sat in the middle of the room, the smoke flowing up a metal tube that led up through the high ceiling above. She sat behind a table laden with food, and jugs of what I assumed was wine. Musicians playing flutes and instruments stringed with animal gut were sat on cushions and rugs beside her. There did not seem to be any guards, or visible weapons.

Perhaps this would be easier than I thought.

The musicians continued to play their music, despite my intrusion. If she was surprised to see me – barefoot, black cloak covering my thin body, knife held out towards her – she did not show it. Her smile widened and she gestured towards the table in front of her.

“You must be hungry,” she said, her voice loud enough to carry through the music. “Come, eat. We have much to talk about.”

I sensed a movement from behind me, and turning I found the old man’s toothless face in mine. With a flick of his staff, he sent my knife spinning from my hand, across the room. She caught it, without seeming to move.

All the while the musicians played on.

I have been outwitted, I realised, as I am led by the old man to her table.

“Eat,” she said, pushing a plate towards me, with my knife. “Drink,” she said, gesturing at a goblet already full of dark red wine. “And then, my dear brother, we will talk.”

Part two: https://steemit.com/fiction/@felt.buzz/outwitted-part-2-a-fictional-tale-for-365daysofwriting-challenge