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With This Ring: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Wheelie: Fiction by KM Rockwood
Contents Undisclosed: Fiction by Rebecca Holtzman
Here's Looking at You: Fiction by Victoria Weisfeld
Girl of My Dreams: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Jet Fuel: Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Princess of the Silent Kingdom: Fiction by Fred Zackel
Relationship Status: Fiction by Greta T. Bates
A Dish Best Served Cold: Fiction by Shari Held
The Face in the Tree: Fiction by Joan Leotta
Shower Scene: Fiction by Ben Newell
The Dreary Detective: Fiction by E.E. Williams
Deadly Meating: Flash Fiction by Jacob Graysol
Full, From the Grave: Flash Fiction by Craig Kirchner
Leave Me Alone: Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
Free Key Day: Flash Fiction by William Kitcher
The Night the Monster Came: Flash Fiction by Tim Tobin
Some Things That I Learned in the Army: Poem by Richelle Slota
Double Negatives: Poem by RC Potter
Bird of Night: Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Last Night: poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Poem for an Ex: Poem by John Grey
His Gallery: Poem by John Grey
Beachwood Canyon: Poem by Damon Hubbs
Stick Horses: Poem by Damon Hubbs
she blew me a kiss: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
so much in common: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
After I Turned 40: Poem by Richard LeDue
The Alarm Clock: Poem by Richard LeDue
Sentimental Love Poems Shown to No One: Poem by Richard LeDue
The Children: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
The Deadly Shoes: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
The Sands of Inanna: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
Angelic: Poem by John Short
Robophobe: Poem by John Short
Worry Beads: Poem by John Short
not even Baudelaire: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Dream Doctor: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Neon Poem: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Another Chapter in Life:Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
The Same Old Story: Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
to bury a curious girl: Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Strange Gardens
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Hillary Lyon: With This Ring

102_ym_withthisring_sophia.jpg
Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose © 2024

With This Ring

 

 

Hillary Lyon

 

 

“The nerve of some people,” Mimi said, shaking her head in disgust.

“What?” Brenda said, not bothering to look up. She was busy refilling the half-dozen salt shakers on the counter before her. “Who?”

Mimi leaned in close and stage-whispered, “Your ex—he just walked in!”

Now Brenda raised her eyes. “Leonard?”

“Yeah, with some chicky-baby on his arm. They’re sitting at table six.”

Brenda’s shoulders drooped. Of all the diners in this city, why did he show up here? Because he knows I work here, Brenda thought bitterly. This is where we met.

“You wanna trade sections tonight?” Mimi offered, though there were no other customers in the diner.

“Nah,” Brenda said with a bravado she didn’t feel. “I can handle this.” She unwrapped a piece of gum and shoved it in her mouth.

After a few minutes she approached table six, clutching her order pad. He certainly has a type, she noted: Pretty brunettes who wear too much make-up. She included herself in that assessment.

Leonard and his companion were sitting on the same side of the booth, holding hands as they read the menu. How adorable! Brenda thought with resentment. Not like we ever did that.

“Welcome to Bubble’s Diner. So...” Brenda said flatly. “What’ll it be?”

Leonard and his girlfriend looked up at the same time. The young woman smiled innocently. She has no idea who I am, Brenda realized. What sick game is he playing?

“Well, hey,” Leonard began, “look who still works here!” He chuckled at Brenda's obvious discomfort. He turned to his date. “Honey, this is Brenda. The Brenda.”

“Oh,” the young woman said, breaking her hand free of Leonard’s, and sliding it under the table. “Nice to meet you.”

“Bren,” Leonard said, using a contraction of her name that Brenda hated. “This is Cheryl. My fiancee.”

“No kidding,” Brenda said, moving her gum from one side of her mouth to the other. “Congrats, I guess.” Leonard stared at Brenda with a wolf grin plastered across his face. A grin Brenda once found to be sexy, in a bad boy kind of way. Now it made her nauseous.

“What’ll you have to drink? Are you ready to order?” Brenda nodded behind her. “Kitchen closes in fifteen minutes.”

“Uh,” Cheryl interjected, “I’d just like an ice tea and the chicken salad.” Brenda scratched the order on her pad. When she looked up, Cheryl had her well-manicured hands folded on the table. She was wearing a very sparkly engagement ring. Brenda’s engagement ring.

Pretending not to notice, Brenda cracked her gum and looked to Leonard. “And you?”

“A cup of black coffee and a chili cheese dog. And no onions. I hate onions—remember?”

“You got it,” Brenda said, ignoring his pointed remark. There were lots of things about Leonard she remembered. Lots more she wanted to forget.

* * *

Back in the kitchen, Mimi asked, “She’s wearing what?” She was mortified.

“You heard me,” Brenda grumbled. She eyed the cans, boxes, and bottles stored under the sink. Cleaners, soaps, sponges, rat poison. Should she sprinkle rat poison on Leonard’s chili dog?

Brenda went on, “I said, she’s wearing the engagement ring he gave me. The ring we picked out, our first Christmas together. The same ring I wore for eight years!” Brenda slammed her order pad down on the kitchen prep counter.

She turned her attention to Bert, the diner’s cook and aspiring artist. He had a creative flair, and expressed it not only through his culinary creations, but also by designing the diner’s menu and advertising fliers. Many of those fliers featured his flattering sketches of Brenda.

“No onions on the dog!” Brenda said through clenched teeth. “The bastard hates onions!”

Bert nodded, grinning, and pulled a knife from the block.

“Eight years?” Mimi shook her head. “I had no idea you were engaged that long.”

“Yeah, well, it was never the right time to get married. Always had something more important to do. Like we had all the time in the world.” Brenda’s eyes misted over. She remembered even with all his cheating, all his lies, all their fights, she’d loved him. And he’d done his damnedest to strangle that love.

“So how’d he get the ring back? You throw it at him?” Mimi asked. “After eight years, I think you’d earned the right to keep it.”

Brenda sighed. “I didn’t want it anymore. Every time I looked at—all I saw was a broken promise. A failure to launch, like they say.”

“You could’ve taken the stone out and had it reset,” Bert interjected. “Put the rock in something designed by somebody who cares about you.” His warm brown eyes met Brenda’s. She blushed. “And you could've sold the gold from the old setting to help pay for it,” he added.

“Anyway,” Mimi said, drawing attention back to herself, “so this Cheryl gal—she looks like she’s young enough to be his daughter, for God’s sake.” Mimi grabbed a plastic glass and filled it with ice. “I wonder what she does besides look like arm candy.” She filled the glass with strong dark tea from a pitcher.

“Who knows? Certainly doesn’t work for a living.” Brenda waved her hands. “Manicured nails, obviously soft hands. And a complexion smooth as a baby’s butt.” She poured a cup of coffee, then set both the cup and glass of ice tea on a tray.

On her way out the kitchen door, she turned to Mimi. “Guess I was just a place holder until something better came along.”

“Aw, honey, don’t look at it that way,” Mimi said, but Brenda was already out of earshot.

Dicing onions, Bert chewed his lower lip—something he did when he was deep in thought. When he was working on an idea.

* * *

“One chili dog, one chicken salad,” Bert said, dinging the bell. “And I’m done. This cocina is now closed.” He untied his apron, wadded it up, and threw it across the small kitchen into the dirty laundry hamper in the corner.

Mimi threw her arms up. “Hey! Two points,” she giggled. Mimi and Bert had gone to high school together, where she’d spent hours sitting in the bleachers watching him play basketball. He was the star of the team. She still had a crush on him after all these years. But it was obvious to anyone with eyes in their head that he carried a torch for someone else.

Without saying a word, Brenda grabbed the orders, plopped them on her tray and swept out of the kitchen.

“I’m gonna go have a talk with that Leonard,” Bert said, peering at table six through the open kitchen door. He clenched his fist. “What a jackass.” He watched Brenda drop off the plates, then head straight for the ladies’ room.

“You shouldn’t get involved,” Mimi warned. “Brenda’s a big girl, she can take care of herself. You ought to hang back here with me,” Mimi suggested hopefully. In a sing-song voice, she added, “Hey, I have a joint in my purse—some Maui Wowie a friend sent me.”  She giggled. “We can get lit!”

Bert looked at her over his shoulder. “Nah, I don’t do that shit anymore.” He strode out into the diner.  

“How’s the food? Everything to your liking?”

Leonard looked up at Bert with a mouth full of chili dog. He’d picked off the raw onions, set them in a messy little pile on the table. “Yeah, except for the goddamn oni—” He coughed and gagged and began to turn red.

“Didn’t your mama teach you not to talk with food in your mouth?” Leonard crossed his arms, not about to help the choking man before him. “And piling up your discarded onions on the table? Now that’s just trashy. Who do think is going to clean that up?”

“Oh no!” Cheryl cried, frantically fumbling in her purse for her cell phone. “I think he’s allergic to onions!”

“Allergic?” Bert laughed. “Nah, girlie, he’s choking.” He watched her drop her phone under the table, she was in such a panic. He kicked the phone and it went spinning across the diner’s floor. “I know my food’s good, but damn boy! Still shouldn’t shovel it in like a pig.”

“Do something!” Cheryl screeched.

“Sure, sure, just calm down,” Bert said, all the while watching as Leonard banged the table top with his fist, trying to cough, trying to breathe. Leonard’s face took on a pale blue tint.

“Gimme your ring,” Bert said nodding to Cheryl’s hand.

“What? Why?”

“So I can cut his throat open with that big ol’ diamond, get him some air.” Bert leaned over the struggling man to get into Cheryl’s face. “So I can do what needs to be done.”

She pulled off the engagement ring and slapped it in Bert’s large open palm. He shoved it in the pocket of his jeans. He then turned to walk away, towards the restrooms.

“Wait!” Cheryl almost screamed. “Aren’t you going to open his throat?” Leonard slumped down in the booth beside her, barely twitching. He was now a sickly shade of gray. He’d soon stop struggling. “You need to help him!”

“Nah, sister, you need to call 911,” Bert said, not bothering to turn around. He pushed into the ladies’ room, where Brenda stood before the mirror blotting her eyes, cleaning up her smeared make-up.

“Hey, pretty lady,” He said, digging for the engagement ring stashed in his jean’s pocket. “Have I got a surprise for you.”

Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years acted as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her stories have appeared lately in 365tomorrows, Black Petals, Sirens Call, Night to Dawn, 50 Word Stories, Legends of Night drabble series anthology, and Revelations drabble series anthology. She’s the Art Director for Black Petals and is also an illustrator for horror & pulp fiction magazines. 

https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

Sophia Wiseman-Rose is a Paramedic and an Episcopalian nun. Both careers have provided a great deal of exposure to the extremes in life and have provided great inspiration for her.  

 She is currently spending time with her four lovely grown children and making plans to move back to her home in the UK in the Autumn.  

 In addition, Sophia had a few poems in the last edition of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine

 

https://www.artstation.com/sophiaw-r6

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2024