Described as “dark” by some readers. If you are all about unicorns and rainbows, this very short story is not for you.
Mr. Right’s Wrong
She had been pushed into it, really. If she was not mistaken, coerced was the legal term she was looking for. Yes, that was it. She remembered a Law & Order episode where the savvy DA was able to prosecute based on coercion. She was pleased with herself for thinking of the word so quickly, given the circumstances. She was always looking for ways to increase her vocabulary. She had spent many hours reading and watching “informative” TV, as she liked to call it. Now, she had plenty of time on her hands; nothing but time.
Yes, that’s right, she told herself, not my fault at all.
She had been quite happy living her quiet, non-invasive life. Noninvasive, now that’s a nice word. Quite content had she been employed as a wordsmith or a writer of crossword puzzles. In reality, Romeo, her tuxedo long-haired cat, had been the only one to share in her accomplishments. Crossword puzzles, acrostics, and the daily jumble in the paper – she had devoured them all, ever hungry for more knowledge. How she wished she had a crossword puzzle now to occupy her time.
Oooooh, the New York Times Sunday puzzle! That would take her hours! She almost salivated at the thought of it.
But, in truth, she had succumbed (another nice word, rarely used today) to peer pressure. She would never find anyone sitting at home night after night, her working friend Nicole had scolded. Didn’t she want somebody to take her out once in a while?
Well, yes, that would be quite nice.
Didn’t she want somebody to send her flowers and buy her chocolates for Valentine’s Day?
Wasn’t she just horny “as all get out”? She still blushed at the mere memory of that question.
“Damn girl! Even Cinderella had to get all dressed up, leave the house in a pimped out pumpkin, and crash a damn party to find her Mr. Right!” said wise and many-dated Nicole.
And she had to admit there was crude logic in what Nicole had to say. True, Cinderella was a fictional character, but still. If a fairy tale has someone leaving the house, then reality would dictate going over and beyond, wouldn’t it? Lately, she felt just like Cinderella, enslaved by fate to be at the mercy of a cruel benefactor. Before she could finish digesting this bit of wisdom, her neighbor, Mrs. Berringdon, said almost the same thing in a very colorful way.
“When my Henry was alive”, the old bag said, stopping briefly to cross herself, “he was quite the fisherman. He could catch anything he put a mind to. Salt water, fresh water, pier fishing, surf fishing, deep sea fishing….why there wasn’t a fish Henry couldn’t catch”.
At the time she wondered why she had to take this particular trip down memory lane with Mrs. Berringdon; other than the proximity of their two front stoops and poor timing. She had gone out to call in Romeo for the evening and seen Mrs. Berringdon smoking a cigarette on the stoop next door. She had cringed when she realized it was too late to duck back into the house as Mrs. Berringdon opened with her usual, “What? A Friday night and no date again?”
She couldn’t imagine what fishing had to do with someone whose only association to worms was to be called a bookworm as a child. She only hoped Mrs. Berringdon would get to her point soon because Jeopardy was coming on in ten minutes and she wanted to microwave some popcorn. As Romeo, sauntered by her unshaven legs, Mrs. Berringdon continued, “He would be the first one to tell you that with all of his luck, not one time did a fish just jump onto his plate. No ma’am! He had to throw a little bait in the water, wait for one to bite and then slowly reel them in. A pretty thing like you needs to throw some bait in the water, honey. Mr. Right’s not gonna just jump in your lap!”
She had mumbled something like, “You’re probably right, Mrs. Berringdon. But, I need to feed Romeo, so if you’ll excuse me…” and quickly ducked back into the safety of her house. But Mrs. Berringdon’s weird analogy served to season the stew already cooking in her brain and she couldn’t concentrate on Jeopardy that night. In fact, she missed over ten questions! And wouldn’t you know, she pondered, I finally get a date and Mrs. Berringdon’s nowhere to be found. No smoking that night. No spying through her not-quite-sheer curtains to see who was calling. Figures! Now, she’ll never know that a handsome man, a prince out of a young girl’s storybook, came to call on me. How pretty I looked in my new sundress chosen just for him.
She had met him at the library – her favorite fishing hole. She smiled a little at her own wit. She should have been a writer. She always had a way with words – a real wordsmith they called her. Oh, how she wished she had some paper right now. She could start a journal! A journal someone would find one day, like Anne Frank’s, long after she was gone. She’d be famous! At least she could be doing something besides waiting on him to come back around.
He was everything she would have required in a man; had someone actually taken the time to ask. He was all- American good-looking; naturally and evidently unaware of it. He was intelligent and had kind eyes. His smile brightened his whole face, making his eyes crinkle as if blinded by his own shine. He was of average height and build, but had a great walk – easy and sure of himself and his path. They had begun talking about a book they both happened to be looking for that day; which is why they found themselves in the same aisle. They talked about the author and his other works, authors in the same genre, authors who strayed from their genre and so on. Finally, after getting some very stern looks from a few of the more serious patrons, they moved their conversation outside. It was a beautiful day (oh, how she missed the sun!).
As the light chased the shadows from dancing tree leaves across his face, she found herself thinking, Oh, please don’t stop talking to me. Don’t stop being interested in me. Stay with me. Let you be my forever man. Let you be Mr. Right for me. How hungry for attention she must have seemed to him. How pathetic! How easy to seduce and trick! As she picked at a filthy fingernail, she had to admit to herself, once again, that perhaps she had brought this all upon herself. She had no one to blame after all. But she couldn’t dwell too long on that. Dwelling didn’t do here, she had found. It was best to move on and think of other things.
So eager to keep him, save him, savor him, (savior for her) she had thrown out all decorum and etiquette training and said yes to a date that very night! She had only a few hours to prepare. She had splurged on a sundress NOT ON SALE because she had believed he was worth every penny. She had gone on and on to the salesgirl about their chance encounter and how he must not be able to let her out of his sight demanding a date that very night. Sure, she had embellished a bit, she thought as she swatted at a cockroach skittering across her foot, but it felt good to brag for once. She wondered if the salesgirl would recall that conversation. It really wouldn’t matter now anyway.
That had been eight days ago….no nine….no, no…Eight days ago now. The dress was so dirty and torn in some places; it hardly seemed the same beautiful dress that she had worn that first night. The shoes were long gone. She thought she had probably lost the shoes while struggling with him on the basement stairs. She wished she had them now, though, because sometimes her feet became very, very cold.
She couldn’t remember now the last time she had seen him. It had been the last time he had brought her food. However, she was pretty sure a couple of days had passed. She was also sure that he was quite done with her. She was smart enough to realize that his long absence meant that he was putting off killing her, maybe hoping she would die of starvation. But she knew, after much reading and many a documentary that starvation could take over a month. Of course, she didn’t have any water left either, so that would speed things up.
But she would rather he return and kill her quickly. Yes, she quite thought so. If he came back….no, no when he came back, she would let him know that she realized that they were not well suited for each other and perhaps it would be better if they just ended things here.
Oh my glory! She almost laughed at the irony. How many times had she been on the receiving end of that speech? Well, she could thank him for that, she thought as she smoothed out the filthy wrinkles of her stained and stiff dress skirt. But she did wish he would hurry, because night must be falling. At night, the rats came scavenging and the cockroaches became braver. She could hear them closing in around her, whispering with their padded and exoskeleton feet. She hoped he came soon, while she remained sane enough to beg for death.