20 word story challenge
As she started crying after her MTP, he stood outside with a smile, updating his social status “Feeling Relieved”
Prompt: Your character is in the middle of a messy divorce. His/her divorce lawyer has advised him/her not to move out of the house because doing so could negatively affect his/her divorce settlement. His/her spouse likewise refuses to move out, so the two are still living together. When your character starts a new romantic relationship, this complicated arrangement becomes even more complicated…
Hate is strong word to be used for anyone. But that is what I felt for my ex-wife. And no matter what I did, she refused to let go of me. So much so that even divorce did not make me free from her. The duration of being married to her was enough to make me hate womankind in the entirety. Yes, others may say not everyone will be like Helen and I agree to that. But it is also said that a burnt child dreads fire. And that is what happened to me.
But what do I do now? We are divorced but she still refuses to leave my home, claiming she contributed in building this home and therefore has equal rights to live here. I even bribed her with alimony, the amount which covered my entire salary but still she refuses. Every day she wakes up and gives me a smile which creeps the hell out of me. I just wish this phase gets over and I come out of this. And that is when I thought of something.
I convinced a colleague of mine to act as my girlfriend and start coming home. It took a bit of convincing her that I did not intend to do anything with her, to make her agree to my plan. I had to make Helen JEALOUS.
So she started coming every day in the evening with me. I made it a point to not introduce her to my wife but also ensured that she saw us going to our bedroom every day. Sometimes she used to come out of my bedroom dressed in negligee (she wanted to improvise if that would help) and parade in front of Helen just to rub in the point. But somehow, every time, Helen just used to give this smile – this crazy smile that used to drive me up the walls. Even my colleague sometimes confessed to getting creeped up with her smile. But I told her to ignore. This time, I was hell bent of breaking Helen, come what may.
One morning, I woke up to a weird burning smell coming from the bathroom. Thinking I might have left my cigarette burning last night, I ran to the bathroom. But I found a weird bright pink colored tank top burning in the tub. It was something I had never seen before so I could not understand where it came from. But our tub was right next to a window which was open. So I assumed it must have been dropped by the tenants living above us. Although it was a very improbable case, that was better than the other alternative of having to ask Helen. I did not even want to see her, forget talking about her.
So after dousing the fire, I went ahead to get ready for work. The day was a hectic one and I did not have time to even have lunch, so when the day was over, I was surprised to see my colleague not at her desk. We were supposed to pretend to go on a date and go back home late together. She would have informed me if she was going to bail out. I asked around and found that she had not come to work at all. Although it was a bit surprising, I thought maybe she was not well and pushed it out of my mind.
A while later, the alarm in our office went off and we were all asked to assemble in the common area. I went there and found police waiting for us. The police were talking about a murder that happened earlier today. A woman was found murdered and chopped to pieces in her apartment. No murder weapon was found and if it was not for her own home, she would never have been identified. They were showing a photograph of her and the less gruesome part of the crime scene.
My blood ran cold when I saw the photo. It was of my colleague, wearing her bright pink pajamas and right next to her leg was a note – “If not mine, then no one else!”.
Prompt – On a foreign holiday, your character meets an extremely attractive man or woman. They don’t speak the same language, but they somehow find a way to understand each other, and your character feels a powerful connection that s/he has never felt with anyone before. Impulsively, your character marries this person after they’ve only known each other a very short time. Your character’s new husband/wife moves to your character’s country and begins to take language classes there. The better the spouse is able to communicate, the more your character realizes that s/he isn’t the person your character had believed…
John could not believe it… nor could he bear it any longer. Anya was nothing he thought she would be. Nothing between them were similar. The fights, which were not so much before, started going on too frequently now. He regretted the impulse for marrying her.
Initially he thought it was because they could not understand each others’ languages. They had met in Israel when John had gone there for an assignment. Anya did not speak English but John could manage a bit of Arabic. They communicated broken initially, but they fell in love. The love was so strong that they married and she came back with him. After coming here, she started learning English. It was almost 2 years into their marriage now. Anya could communicate properly in English, but that just resulted in more intense fights every day.
John was at loss. He could not understand what was going wrong. Initially he had thought opposites attracted. But this was not at all working. These opposites were repelling each other more than likes would. Many a times he considered a divorce. Now she has obtained citizenship by marriage, she can have a separate life. He was even ready to support her till she could stand on her feet in whatever it is that she wanted to do.
Today he decided he would breach the topic with her and talk about ending it. Just the previous day they had a huge argument over really nothing at all. He waited till Anya came home.
“Anya, I think we should end our relationship. Our fights are getting more and more intense and frequent. We cannot live our lives fighting like cats and dogs. Married life is not supposed to be like this. Maybe we are not fit to be together. Maybe there is someone else for us.”
Anya sat still for some time. She did not speak, neither did she give any reaction. Then she excused herself saying she need to freshen up before they continue the talk. John sat there waiting for her to come back. He was sure this was the only right thing to do.
Anya came back and said, “OK, if that is what you think, then so be it. I cannot disagree to it. Yes, we are fighting a lot now than before and if you are not happy in this relationship, then there is no point being together. But let me ask you something. Are you sure you will be able to find someone for yourself?”
“Yes, I will manage. If not, I do not mind being alone. In fact I think that would be better for me. I have given all my love to you. I do not want you to be replaced.”
“OK, but I do not want to be alone for the rest of my life. And since this is a new country for me, I do not know the ways of life here. So, if divorce is what you want, I shall give it to you on one condition. You should help me find someone. You know me well for this long. And since you think I would be better without you, then you must also have some idea as to who I would be better with. You can use that to help me find someone. Once we figure that out, I will sign whichever papers you want me to sign.”
Although John did not like the condition, he felt it to be proper for her. After all she did not have anyone in this side of the world and he did not want her to be left alone. He felt it to be a reasonable idea and agreed to it. Right from the next day, he started his search. He was searching for someone who is his opposite so he would be right for Anya. He set her up with many a dates but Anya did not agree to even going out with any of them. After speaking to them once, she would reject. “There is no vibe to this guy”, she used to say.
Then finally he introduced Alan to her. Alan was John’s colleague’s distant relative. And right on the day one, Anya and Alan seemed to hit off. After their lunch date, they started having a lot of phone chats, sometimes even late at night. John was feeling a bit uncomfortable, but he put it up to his nerves and did not do anything about it.
Soon, in a few weeks, Anya came up to John and said she was ready to sign the divorce papers. He could bring it up any day and she would let him have his peace. John could not react to that news. He said OK to her and left the house. He could hear her going back on phone with Alan. He went to the nearby bar and had a stiff drink. He could not understand why he was feeling terribly depressed about the whole idea. Anya was happy. She had found someone. He had found someone for her. He should be feeling bad now. After all, wasn’t he the one who suggested it? But he was feeling terrible. He could not bring himself up to getting divorced from her.
In these days, they had found a friendship between themselves. Their arguments were still there, but it did not bother him as much as it did earlier. Now, he realized he loved her far too much to let her go. No matter how much they fought, he did not want her to go away. But now she had Alan, and it was his fault. What was he going to do now? He had lost her. She was happy now and he did not have any right to destroy that happiness.
He decided to bring up the divorce papers for her happiness. In a few days, he brought the divorce papers to her. He thought Alan would be with her when she was signing, but was surprised to find only Anya waiting for him. She gave her a sad smile and sat down to sign the papers. After signing, she looked up to him with sadness in her eyes. “So John, this is what you had been wanting for a long time. And it is finally happening. I hope you be happy ahead of this.”
“Anya, before I leave, there is something I have to tell you. Over the past few days, I have fallen in love with you all over again. Even the arguments does not bother me now, as it did earlier. Since the time you asked to get the divorce papers, it is killing me that we are getting separated. But it was my idea that all this happened. Now you have Alan and I do not have any right to say all these things to you. I just want you to know that I am here for you as a friend for the rest of my life. And I shall always love you.”
This time too, Anya did not say anything for sometime and just sat looking at him. Then she took the divorce papers and tore them up with tears flowing down her face.
“How much of a fool you have been, John? There is nothing more that I want from my life than to be with you for the rest of my life. Even when all this was happening, I could not bear the thought of being away from you. But I thought that is what you wanted and that is why I agreed for it. There is nothing going on between me and Alan. Alan is gay. He had told that to me the first time we spoke. His family does not know of it and he requested that it be kept a secret till he is ready to come out. In Alan, I found a friend to talk. And I thought if I have a friend, I can go through my life without troubling you much in future. And had you not told me all this now, we would have lived our lives with a regret that could very well have been avoided. John, I love you and I want to grow old with you, even if we fight every day.”
By this time both of them were crying. They hugged and kissed and just forgot about the divorce papers. They had overcome the wrong impulse to go separate ways. It was time to celebrate love now.
Prompt – This year, your character resolves to save money. So, he is intrigued when he sees an online ad offering a free bedroom in a shared apartment. The apartment’s owner explains that s/he is lonely and just wants company. It sounds quite strange, but it could save your character a fortune in rent…
John was happy. His wish was getting fulfilled. He was packing from his dorm room and relocating to Saint Street. It was high time he did that. The room rent was getting too much on his pocket and he wanted some cheap accommodation. It felt like his cry was being answered when someone put a flyer under his door saying someone in Saint Street was renting out rooms at very cheap rates. “I just want company. I am not doing it for money”, the flyer had said, although the said rates were not that low to validate those words. It did strike to him as odd but then who was he to look a gift horse in the mouth.
When he reached Saint Street, it felt slightly isolated to him. The streets were almost empty. There were some people here and there, but that was all. However, it was perfect for him since most of his work used to be from home. So that would mean no disturbance while working. The atmosphere suited him perfectly.
It took him a while to locate the house he was renting. It was almost at the end of the neighborhood. But the house had a homely feel to it. It was small and looked cozy enough. The garden was small enough to let it be unattended for long but nice enough to give a lovely feel to the house. The door was opened by a very old man. But he was smartly dressed in suit, although he looked very close to 90. The man had a warm smile and John felt immediately comfortable.
The times that went by since then were the most pleasurable for John. Mr. Smith was a very warm guy with tremendous worldly knowledge. He had a huge library in his house filled with books of all categories. He used to cook out-of-the-world dishes which John had never tasted before. Although he was used to waking up very early, he used to let John take his time sleeping. Unlike the typical older guys, Mr. Smith never used to crib or give useless advices. Mr. Smith said he had learnt all these dishes from all his travel abroad. John got along with him wonderfully.
Mr. Smith was a widower and was used to living alone for a long time. That was the reason why he was looking for a House Guest. Many people had come before John but somehow they did not last. John always used to wonder why. Mr. Smith was a perfectly wonderful person to live with. But he was thankful he got this opportunity.
One day, John was working in his room and Mr. Smith was in the kitchen working on yet another culinary experiment. A knock came on the door. Thinking that Mr. Smith would be busy and might not hear the knock, John went to open the door. A tired and weary looking salesman was standing by the door. He looked completely exhausted.
“Please Sir, I am a bit lost. I was supposed to reach the city through this route and it seems I might have taken some wrong turn. I have tried every single door to ask for directions, but it seems none of these houses are occupied. I desperately require a glass of water and also the direction to get to the city.”
John felt bad for him. By this time, Mr. Smith had also come to the door and was standing next to John, looking at the salesman. “I am very sorry, Mister, I have no idea how to get to the city. Even I am new to this place and since I work from home, I do not travel much. But maybe Mr. Smith here can help you with it, can you Mr. Smith?”
When John looked at Mr. Smith, he was surprised to see that Mr. Smith was looking at him in a weird way. He was not at all speaking. Curiously, he turned to apologize to the salesman when he found the salesman too, looking at him like he has gone mad.
“Man, who are talking to? There is no one standing next to you…”
Courtesy Teja Main Hoon…Mark Idhar Hai! for giving the brilliant idea to write this one
Prompt – This year, your character resolves to get organized. While she is sorting through papers in her house, she discovers an expensive insurance policy that her husband has taken out on her life. Why has he done that? And why didn’t he tell her about it? And why does he have a second cell phone hidden in the back of his desk drawer?
Why is it so difficult to be organized? Rebecca wondered for the umpteenth time. It had to be done now. That was her New Year Resolution. So she decided to attack the attic first. She knew it would take hours so she had kept the entire day for the cleaning. John had gone to work and she did not have anything to do till it was time for him to be back. Dinner was normally together unless he has to work late, in which case he would call beforehand and tell her. Her cell was nearby and she started to get busy with her work.
A lot of memories hid inside the boxes in the attic. Her school photos, photos before their wedding, some random small gifts which John had given her before getting married, their movie stubs, bus tickets etc. which she used to stock lovingly – everything was there in the attic. And then she came across that box. It felt to be an unknown one. It was really small, like it held just some papers, and it actually did hold only some papers. Only those papers were shocking to the point of being heavier than the world. It were Insurance papers in her name for $20 Million, taken by John some months back. Next to that box, on a different shelf, was a disposable cell phone. It was switched off. When she tried to turn it on, it showed no battery life. So she took it to her room to charge and then check it.
By the time the phone took for charging, a million scenarios ran through Rebecca’s head. John was planning to kill her. She was sure that is what was happening. He had an affair and wanted her out-of-the-way. He knew she would never allow a divorce to happen so he could marry someone else. She had always made it clear that she will never sign divorce papers, because they had a divorce clause which did not leave her with anything. Since she was not working, she was completely dependent on John and that made her a liability. That is why the Insurance was taken – she was sure of it. But when the phone switched on, there was nothing in it. No phone calls, no messages, nothing. She decided to keep a watch on John and the activity on the phone for some days just to be sure.
When John came back, she casually mentioned that she cleaned up the attic earlier that day. She searched for any expression on his face but none came. However, after they had gone to bed, when he thought she was asleep, he had gone to the attic to check. That confirmed her suspicions. There was something going on. She was shattered.
For some days, there was no activity on the phone. She used to check it regularly. She had almost lost hope to find something when suddenly one day a message came while she was holding the phone. It read “The plan is in place. She will not see the light of day tomorrow”. She was shocked. This was definitely for her. John hired someone to kill her. And it was happening tonight. John had said earlier that day that he was on a tour and will not be back till the next day. He had the perfect alibi. She was sitting duck. Rebecca panicked, so much that she went blank. Nothing came to her mind on what to do. She could not involve the police as there was no proof. Neither could she involve any friends or relatives as no one would believe her. She was known to have a vivid imagination since childhood. She tried calling the number from which the text had come, but it was switched off. She was a goner now.
Rebecca did the only thing she could think of doing. She decided to wait in the shadows outside and wait for the killer, and then call the police. That sounded better to her. So, when the night came, she hid in the hedges and waited. The wait was a long one. After a lot of time, when she was about to put everything to her vivid imagination, suddenly she saw some movement near the gate of her house. Someone was coming in. She could not see who it was, but they were carrying a package. Very easily they opened the front door and went inside. She was just contemplating calling the police when some more people started coming. Very soon she noticed John coming back home. He had lied about the tour and had come back to ensure she is dead. That could be the only reason. She felt dejected. And just as she was dialing to call the police, the phone rang in her hand. It was John calling. She could not pick up. What would she say? She thought it better to go inside and face her husband. Let what was coming come her way.
Steeling herself, she went inside. It was still dark inside. She searched for the switch and turned on the light. As soon as the light was on, a loud noise scared the life off her. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!” She looked around to see the house decorated and all her family and friends standing with a big smile on their face. John was next to her,giving her a kiss and a hug. Rebecca could not understand anything. John smiled at her. “The message was sent by me. I realized you found the phone. It was a dead phone I found in the “Lost and Found” unclaimed for more than a year. So I took it thinking someone would use it here, and forgot to tell you. And when you said you were cleaning the attic, you had a strange look on your face. It took me some time to figure out that you might have noticed the phone and must have spin up a tale in your head. So I thought why not play with it and give you a birthday surprise. I am sure in all this mess, you must have forgotten it was your birthday today.” Rebecca felt so loved at that time. She cursed her wild imagination for doubting her husband, and went on to enjoy the party.
It was a nice party. Everyone had fun till wee hours. After they left, Rebecca and John went to their room to sleep for some time. Just as they were about to sleep, Rebecca turned to John and asked, “So what about the Insurance papers I found in my name? Was that also a part of the joke? Although I am not able to figure out how they come up in all this.” John paled. “What Insurance papers? I do not know any such thing…” So saying, he turned and slept.
And so, the suspicious story came back to life again!