Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Flash Fiction by Art Carey

A Wedding Gift to Remember

        Wind gusted off the ocean, sandpapering the weathered sides of the beach house and rattling the wood shutters.  Outside, a chair blew over with a bang.  November's storms had arrived.  Summer on the cape was delightful, but fall weather was iffy.

         Ellie took a sip of non-alcoholic wine, grimaced, and turned on a lamp by the couch.  Her parents had been wonderful about the pregnancy.  They were always just a telephone call and a hug away.

         The chick-lit novel she'd been reading didn't hold her attention.  Ellie shoved the book aside but not before removing the envelope serving as a bookmark.  She took out the embossed invitation inside and read it again:  Sen. and Mrs. John L. Fley and Mr. and Mrs. Mark F. Jones request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their children Shanon Ann Fley and Richard Malcolm Jones…
         She didn't bother to read about the wedding ceremony or the reception at the country club.  They were over and done, like her brief affair with the groom.
         Richard had breezed into his sales manager's job at the auto dealership with a smile, a ready
laugh, and the confidence that comes of graduating from Dartmouth and going to work at a business owned by his father.  He cast his eyes about the office and stopped with Ellie, slim and blonde.  Soon they were inseparable, attending summer stock productions, dining at seafood restaurants, and enjoying art house movies.
“This is wonderful,” he said one moonlit evening, “but I want more time with you alone.”  He gazed into her eyes as they walked barefoot on the beach, savoring the salty air. Waves lapped softly at the shoreline, and tendrils of foam collapsed and vanished into the sand.

“My parents have a beach house,” she said, mischievously. “We could be alone there.”

He paused. “Really?”

Ellie sighed and looked about the room, cluttered with seashells, polished glass and other treasures from beachcombing. It had been a weekend to remember.

And then Richard met Shannon. She was everything Ellie wasn’t: the graduate of a prestigious women’s college, a lawyer, and the daughter of a U.S. senator.

Richard dumped her. Ellie was shocked by his betrayal and his reaction to the news she was pregnant.

“Whose baby is it?” he demanded.

“Why yours of course,” she said, taken aback. “We can get a paternity test if…

“Forget it.” He licked his lips. “I can get some money if you…”

“No,” she said. “No!”

He turned away. “Then it would be better if we didn’t see each other any more.”

That got easier the next day when she was fired.

The wedding invitation came as a surprise. She hadn’t gone, of course. But she decided to send a wedding gift. What could she give Richard and his bride that would stand out among the other gifts? Ellie took another sip of tart wine, grimacing again. Boy, could she use a glass of real chardonnay. After thinking about an appropriate wedding present, she settled finally on glassware. But not just any glassware.

The newlyweds would be back from their honeymoon in the Bahamas now, ready to open presents. Hers would be a surprise. She could imagine Richard’s bride saying, “Well, here’s a weird gift from one of your old girlfriends. She sent an ordinary water glass. Why, there are even fingerprints on it.”

Ellie smiled. They’d have a laugh at her and then  notice the two pieces of paper under the glass. They’d read them. And then the laughing would stop.

The glass had come from a luncheon meeting at the auto agency on her last day of work. When everyone had left the room, Ellie had picked up a water glass where Richard had been sitting. The first piece of paper was a lab report detailing what the glass revealed — his DNA. The second was a note:

Hi, Dick. You can look forward to being a dad as soon as the baby is born and I find out its DNA and match it with yours. Better  get ready to break out your checkbook!

Love (not), Ellie.
Arthur Carey is a former newspaper reporter and journalism instructor who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a member of the California Writers Club. His fiction has appeared in print and Internet publications, including Pedestal, Funny Times, Eclectic Flash, Writers’ Journal, and Still Crazy. He is the author of “The Gender War,” a humor novel available on Amazon.


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