Broken and Empty — Inspired by Kristi West

Make sure you check out the other stories from this week! The Removed — Inspired by Megan Sayer and Runaway — Inspired by Mandy Rose.

This story was inspired by Kristi West. It is her 3rd and (sadly) last contribution to this challenge. Her other contributions inspired Good-bye, George and Being Found and have been very popular. I would steal story ideas from Kristi all day long…she’s got some really great ones!

Here’s her idea…

“Yolanda is a 40 year old, newly single mom. Lives in Suburbia. Conflict: learning to use a lawn mower for the first time.”

Yolanda stood in the middle of her front yard. The grass was so tall. It was up to the middle of her shin. In front of her was the lawn mower. She was silently cursing the manufacturer for making it so difficult to start. The most she could figure, she had to hold a bar attached to the handle, pull the string and then it would start. It failed every time she tried.

It was the first time she’d ever mowed. She knew it was time to cut the grass when neighbors started writing notes, asking her to take care of her yard.

If James dropped dead, I bet every single one of these jerks would come mow for me, she thought. But not if the idiot leaves me. Of course not. 

It wasn’t just that her husband left. It was that she’d been unfaithful.

I had to go and have the dumb luck of getting caught with the governor. I should have gone for a gas station attendant. Nobody would have cared.

And so she stood in the tall grass and tried, over and over, to start the lawn mower. Cussing and fuming. Her next door neighbor, Leenia, drove by. She didn’t look at Yolanda, didn’t wave.

“I know you saw me,” Yolanda yelled after her. “That’s right. Just drive away. I don’t need your ugly face coming over here and telling me how to conduct my business. You don’t think I’ve got enough of that going on anyway?”

Yolanda raised her hand and flipped Leenia off. But by then, Leenia was long gone. So the only one who saw Yolanda’s middle finger was the ten year old from three houses down.

“That’s not a good thing to do, Miss Yolanda,” The kid said.

Yolanda pulled her hand down. Smiled. “Well, hi, there. How’s school going this year.”

“It’s dumb.” The kid crossed her arms across herself. “I’m telling my mom that you taught me to flip people off.”

“I did not.”

“I’ll tell her that I’ve never seen anybody do it before. And then you’ll get in even more trouble.”

“How old are you? You’re some kind of evil child.”

“I’m old enough to know that you don’t need anymore people mad at you.”

Yolanda sighed. The kid had her there. “How much do you want?”

“$25. Wait. Add another $5 on there for calling me evil.”

“I’ll go get my purse.”

“I can run credit cards on my smart phone.”

“What ten year old has a smart phone.” Yolanda found just enough money in her purse and returned to the little black-mailing child. “I hope you know that this isn’t how the world works.”

“Really,” the kid said, cocking her head. “I was under the impression that it is. I just made $30 doing nothing. How does that not work?”

Yolanda wanted to kick the kid as she walked away. But she didn’t have much more cash in her purse.

She, instead, went back to the lawnmower. She wanted to have the yard looking nice. James was dropping their son off for her first visitation. She got the house. James got Mark. It didn’t seem quite right.

She tugged the ‘pull’ one more time. It didn’t come out as far as she’d planned. Something inside the mower snapped. Yolanda fell straight back. On her backside. The severed rope still in her hand.

It didn’t fly as far as she’d wanted it to. Instead it landed on her leg. She kicked at the mower, knowing that it would win. But she didn’t care. She was angry. At the stupid mower for being so hard to start. At the grass for growing. At her neighbors for hating her so much that they wouldn’t even stop to help her. For the tag of adultery that they all saw on her like it was branded across her forehead.

She was angry with James for leaving her. For not letting her explain. She hated him because he’d been so far gone for years. He wouldn’t touch her after Mark was born.

The governor, her boss, had been so understanding. So kind. So…convincing. And she hated herself for being so convinced.

She grabbed huge clumps of grass and dirt and pulled. Over and over again. On either side of her hips, big divots formed where she tore the earth. Fake nails were broken off. Skin was scratched by rocks. She was screaming and crying and kicking and stomping.

And then James pulled in the driveway.

“Marky, you stay in the car for a minute,” he said, getting out of the driver’s seat. “Yolanda?”

She threw a mass of dirt and grass at him, hitting his chest. “I need some time alone!” she screamed.

“Don’t you scream at me. You’re the one who chose this.”

“I did not! I never did.”

“Who had the affair?”

“Who stopped loving me? Who stopped talking and kissing and hugging and eating with me? Who? You.”

“Don’t you put the blame of this on me.”

“You told me that I was disgusting.”

“I never said that.”

“Not with your mouth. With your actions.”

“It doesn’t make sleeping with  your boss okay.”

Yolanda stood. Dropped the grass that was in her hands. Used a dirty hand to straighten her hair.

“It was wrong, what I did. James, I am sorry. But you aren’t about to forgive me. Because I gave you the perfect ‘out’. So, you get Mark and I get these awful neighbors in a house neither of us ever wanted.”

“Were you trying to mow the lawn?”

“Are you changing the topic?”

“I am.” He walked around the mower. “Did you put  gas in it?”

“I didn’t know I had to.”

“Well, that might be the problem. That and the broken cord.”

“How would I have known that?”

That night, after Mark’s visit was over, Yolanda sat on her couch. She turned on some mindless television show. Snuggled into her robe.

James and I never put anything into our marriage. We just kept trying to force it to work. But we were just too empty.

She tried to think of a way to fill her own soul back up.

Nothing came to mind.

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