Hello everyone and a warm welcome to PART 7) of the entries for my weekly: “Fiction in A Flash Challenge” Week #12.
Today I’m featuring the contribution by Mae Clair.
Last week I set the following Challenge:
Hello everyone and welcome to my new “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week I’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing. Maximum word count: 750 words.
Here is the image prompt.
Clay Rocket downed a double shot of Scotch. Stupid name, Rocket.
He remembered when he’d been Clay Clodfelter, but Clodfelter had no star power. His managers had stripped him of his Pennsylvania Dutch surname, packaging music with his looks and a shiny stage name when he was only twenty-three. He thought he’d landed in Utopia, long days of plowing fields in Adamsville behind him.
His parents had fretted over his contract, but Mary couldn’t have been more excited. She’d baked him a cake, a simple confection of airy white layers with peppermint icing. They’d toasted with champagne and talked about their future long into the night. He’d wanted to make it permanent, proposing marriage despite the lack of a ring, but she’d insisted he establish himself.
His gut twisted.
He guzzled another shot, the alcohol burning his throat, pumping his courage. Even after thirty-four years, he knew her number. Couldn’t forget the familiar seven digits etched in his memory, though they hadn’t spoken since his screw-up at The Plaza.
He picked up the phone, fingers like ice. Huffing out a breath, he paced to the wall of windows overlooking New York City’s skyline. The sleek lines of his penthouse gleamed in the night-blackened glass, overlayed by strings of lights from towering hotels and bridges ablaze with traffic. Before he could lose his nerve, he punched out Mary’s number.
“Hello?” The voice on the line was young, childish.
“Uh…” His tongue felt thick. “Is Mary there?”
“Grandma.” The boy gave no warning, just left Clay hanging while he shouted into the background.
A shuffle of footsteps.
“Hello.” Her voice.
He struggled to swallow the char in his throat. “Mary?”
“Who is this?”
“I…it’s…” He lost the power of speech, forced his cumbersome tongue to move. “It’s Clay.”
“You mean Clay Rocket.”
He sank into a chair. “How are you?”
He wondered what she looked like now. If her hair was still glossy and dark, her figure trim, eyes like shaded pools at twilight.
“Why are you calling me?” Her voice was cool, not frost or ice, but frigid enough to take him down a peg. “Now, after all this time.”
He swallowed, wished he had another Scotch. “Do you know what day it is?”
“I have no clue.”
Was she lying? “It’s the anniversary of the day we met. All those years ago. You were carrying a basket of peaches from the general store. I tripped and sent them tumbling.”
He expected her to laugh at the memory. Him fumbling and apologetic, her forgiving and accommodating. Such innocence before the world grew jaded.
“I’d forgotten.” No change in her tone.
He inhaled through his nose. Knew he was getting nowhere. “That girl at the Plaza…she meant nothing.”
“And you don’t see how that made it worse?” A long pause. “Your first major concert. First success, and you abandoned me.”
His gut tightened. He’d been such an ass. “I’m sorry.”
A burst of static came over the line. He imagined her shifting, pacing as she digested his decades-too-late apology.
“I could never hold a candle to the girls who tempted your fidelity.” Her voice was thready. “You proved that as soon as you had success. It’s why I left.”
He considered the empty glass in his hand, the crystal as barren as his heart. He needed something to fill it. Ease the sting, if even only temporarily. “Are you married?”
“Happily.” Warmth now. “I have three children and seven grandchildren. My husband and I are nearing our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary.”
All the things she couldn’t have with him.
He glanced to the framed photographs on the wall. Image after image of his successes on the stage, hand thrust in the air, microphone high, fans clamoring to embrace their idol.
“I’m happy for you.” He didn’t know what else to say. When she didn’t answer he cleared his throat, apologized for disrupting her evening, then made noise about needing to call his manager. Mary bade him well before leaving him listening to a dial tone.
He’d always thought happiness came with fame, but he’d left any chance behind with his one-night stand at The Plaza hotel all those years ago. Strange, how it had taken him decades to realize what he’d lost.
Clay slumped onto the couch. He poured himself another Scotch and toasted his success.
Tomorrow, when he wasn’t drunk, maybe he’d mean it.
Mae Clair can be reached here …
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