The votes are in! Last week’s winner was Scourge inspired by Kristi West! Congratulations, Kristi! You’re moving on to the finals!
Today’s story idea comes from the Fabulous Holly Becker. During the last challenge, she came up with the ideas for The Hostage and Playing Debussy (which wasn’t only a finalist in the first challenge, but has gone on to become a MUCH longer story and an entry into another short story contest). Here’s Holly’s idea…
1. Drew- indecisive
2. Family Christmas Dinner
3. Has planned to propose, but now isn’t so sure.
“I can’t believe it’s snowing,” Lydia said from the passenger seat.
How can she not believe it’s snowing? Drew thought. It’s December for goodness sake. It’s actually supposed to snow in December.
He looked at her. She was gorgeous. The perfectly cute button nose, rosy cheeks, straight teeth, the subtle curl to her hair. Just beautiful.
But not a lot going on in that head of hers.
Just a pretty girl.
Who was kind of mean. And demanding. And controlling.
And so, so skinny. She was a cheerleader. And not one on the bottom of the pyramid…if you know what I mean.
But she was a little too obsessed with her figure. She studied her butt in every mirror. And that could get a bit annoying.
“I know,” Drew said. “Snow is perfect for Christmas.”
“Perfect? Really, Drew. My hair is going to get all staticky.” She looked at him sideways. “And you know why they call it staticky, right? Because it’s icky.”
“Your hair is always beautiful.”
“Yeah. I know.”
Lydia pulled out her smartphone and opened her Facebook.
“I’m kind of nervous to meet your parents,” Drew said. “Do you think they’ll like me?”
“Oh my word!” Lydia’s shriek nearly made Drew veer off the road. “I can’t believe it!”
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Stacie Newler just got engaged.”
“No it isn’t. It’s just not fair! I mean, she and her boyfriend have only been dating 8 months. We’ve been dating way longer than that!”
“It’s only been 9 months.”
“9 months in Hollywood is like…it’s like…forever!”
Drew cleared his throat. “Well, Sugar Plum, we don’t live in Hollywood.”
Lydia screamed again.
“What is it this time?” he asked.
“You totally drove right by my parents’ house!”
By the time Drew and Lydia walked up to the house, she was a complete mess. She pouted and slumped.
Drew felt the box in his coat pocket, just to make sure it was still there. It was a small, velvet box. Inside was a silver ring with a large, sparkly diamond on it.
I just need to get a minute alone with her dad to ask his blessing, he thought. I hope he’s not a shot-gun guy.
“Mom, Dad. I’m home,” Lydia yelled. She dropped her bag on the floor. “Come meet my boyfriend.”
“We’re in the living room,” a woman’s voice resonated through the house.
“Come on,” Lydia said, pulling Drew by the hand. “You have to meet my parents. They are so amazing!”
Suddenly, a man was embracing both of them.
“Oh, my baby! I’m so glad you’re here,” the man said.
Who is this guy? Drew wondered. And why is he crying?
“Daddy,” Lydia said, nuzzling her face into her father’s chest, drawing Drew even closer. “This is my boyfriend. His name’s Drew. Isn’t he handsome?”
“Oh, the boyfriend.” Lydia’s dad broke the hug and put his fists out. “You’d better be nice to her or I’ll have to give you a knuckle sandwich. Just kidding. I’m a pacifist.”
“Okay.” Drew shook the man’s hand. “I’m actually a Marine.”
“Well, my name is Edwin. And I think what you do is…uh…great-ish.”
“Thanks, I guess.” Drew looked at Lydia. She wasn’t paying attention. “Listen, Edwin, if I could talk with you for a moment. Later. Not right now.”
“Sure. You’d better be asking to marry her. She just loves you so much. She calls me all the time talking about you.” Edwin gave Drew a tiny, passive shove on the shoulder. He hugged Drew again. “So, does this mean I can call you ‘son’?”
“Well, sure. I guess. I don’t know. Isn’t it a little soon for that?”
“I’m just joshin’ ya’, Drew. Or am I?” He laughed again. “It’s hard to read me, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I’m really not sure.”
“It’s all the pot I smoked in the 70’s.”
“Great. That’s fantastic.”
What the heck am I getting myself into? Drew thought. Remain calm. Remain calm.
“Doris! Come meet Drew,” Edwin yelled. “My wife is really excited about meeting you.”
“I’m in the middle of something, Edwin,” the woman who Drew assumed was Doris yelled. “Just get him something to eat, will ya!”
“Alright, darling,” Edwin called back. “So, Drew. You a meat eater? We’re vegans here.”
“Well, I’ll eat meat. But I can do without.”
“Right. You’ll be amazed how I can make a piece of tofu taste like bacon. It’s like magic. You’ll never want to eat another’s flesh again.”
“Lydia, you coming?” Drew asked.
“Huh?” She looked up from her phone. “Well, don’t you want to talk to Daddy? You know, get to know him. Ask him questions?”
“The girl knows what she wants.” Edwin looked at Drew. “I can just tell. You two are soul mates.”
Edwin grabbed Drew’s head and planted a kiss on his forehead.
“Love you, Son,” he said.
Edwin started crying.
That night, Drew let his head push heavily into the pillow. The couch wasn’t too uncomfortable. But it was just lumpy enough to keep him awake.
He held the engagement ring between his finger and thumb. Two month’s salary spent on such a small token. Giving this ring to Lydia would change everything.
Marry Lydia…have a hot wife. Never be lonely. Have beautiful children. A father in law that loves me.
Marry Lydia…have an insecure wife who is abnormally obsessed with her looks. Never have a moment to myself. Get calls and texts all day from her, begging me to stroke her ego. Do I want to let her bare my children? Have a father in law that creeps me out.
Don’t marry Lydia…find someone else. Someone healthy. Someone I can trust. Be much more picky about who I pick.
Don’t marry Lydia…face the possibility that I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. Die alone.
Drew battled back and forth with pros and cons and cons and pros. There didn’t seem to be a perfect option.
Edwin walked down the steps. In just his tighty-whities. And black socks pulled all the way up to his knees.
Drew closed his fist around the ring and sat up quickly.
“Don’t mind me, Drew. Just needed a midnight snack.” Edwin walked into the kitchen, scratching his behind. “This would be a good time for that talk.”
Drew stood up and followed Edwin.
“Yes. Um, sir, I was hoping to talk to you about your daughter.”
“I know.” Edwin opened a take out carton. “Lo Mein?”
“Yes.” Drew sat at the kitchen table. “Um, I was thinking about asking if I could marry your daughter.”
“Thinking about it? So you aren’t sure?” Edwin shoved food into his mouth. “It’s a big decision, isn’t it?”
“It really is.”
“When I asked Lydia’s mom to marry me…well…let’s see…” Edwin looked into a corner of the kitchen. “What was I saying?”
“You were going to tell me about when you asked Doris to marry you.”
“Oh, I was?”
Edwin laughed. Lo Mein fell from his mouth. “You know, Son, I really don’t remember my proposal. To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember our wedding. That’s what drugs do to you, Son. Just say no.”
“Thanks, Edwin, I’ll keep that in mind.” Drew straightened in his seat. “The thing is…”
“The thing is that I might be a washed up hippie with a lot of flashbacks. But I do know this, if you don’t know if you should marry someone, well, then you shouldn’t even ask in the first place.”
“But what if it’s just cold feet?”
“If there’s a doubt, you should wait. You’ll save a lot of feelings that way.” Edwin smiled. “Don’t be the first guy I have to smack in 35 years. Alright. I’d hate to break my non-violence streak.”
“Because if you get engaged to my little girl and then break her heart, I’ll slap you right across the face.” Edwin set his jaw and puffed out his chest. “Although a slap probably isn’t too much of a treat to a guy like you.”
“You just have to know that I can’t stand to see my baby heartbroken. It changes me inside to see her sad. And I’ll do anything to protect her.” He rubbed his stubbly face. “You’ll understand when you become a father.”
“I’m sure I will, sir.”
“Well, I’m going to bed now.” Edwin put the carton back in the refrigerator. “Seriously, Drew, an engagement at Christmas is never a good idea. If you watched more television, you’d know that.”
Drew sat in the kitchen, looking at the ring.
“Good morning, Drew,” Doris said. Her face was inches from his. “What are you doing on the kitchen floor?”
“Oh. I must have fallen asleep in here,” Drew said. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s Christmas.” She stood and leaned over the stove, lighting her cigarette on the burner. “Edwin said you had a good talk last night.”
“Sure, yeah.” Drew sat up, put the ring on his pinky finger.
“So, you got a nice present for Lydia?”
“Well, I’m kind of afraid that I forgot to pack it.”
“Why don’t you give her that big rock you got on your little finger there?”
“Oh, that? Well, that’s something else.”
“Don’t sweat it, Drew. Edwin told me everything.” She smiled. “Did he tell you about the day he proposed to me?”
“No ma’am. He couldn’t remember.”
“Oh, bologna. He remembers alright.” She took a drag on the cigarette. “He was so terrified. Couldn’t barely get the words out. He was sweating and shaking. It was very charming.”
“Why was he so nervous?”
“Because he knew that I wasn’t sure about him. I had lots of doubts. Let me tell you, that man loved looking at himself in the mirror. And was he ever needy? Always wanting to know when I’d be home or what I was doing. I thought he was going to make me crazy. All his crying. Oh goodness.”
“But you said ‘yes’? Even though you weren’t sure?”
“Let me tell you something. There’s something about seeing someone in a different way. When I saw how scared he was, it made me know that he really loved me. That he truly wanted to be with me for the rest of his life. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been sweating through his poncho.”
“He wore a poncho?”
“It was the 70’s, Drew. Don’t try to understand. Just keep up.” She put out her cigarette in the sink. “Anyway, I said ‘no’ that day.”
“Wait, I thought this was a proposal story.”
“Oh, and it is. I said ‘no, not now’.” She washed her hands. “He was the right guy. It just wasn’t the right time. We both had a lot of growing up to do.”
Lydia walked into the kitchen. Her hair was a frizzy mess, pulled back into a floppy bun. She wore baggy, stained pajamas and fluffy slippers. She had no make up on. A crease ran across her cheek from the pillow. Her eyes were puffy and had crusty bits of sleep in the corners.
She has never looked more beautiful, Drew thought.
“Mommy, can you make some coffee, please?” Lydia asked.
“Sure thing, honey,” Doris answered.
“Merry Christmas, Drew.” When Lydia looked at him, Drew got a knot in his stomach.
He held the ring, pushing the diamond into the palm of his hand.
Not today, he said to himself. But another day. After we both do a little growing up.