She watched him fling his head back, throat tensed with laughter at her latest joke, and wondered how long this could possibly last. He was attractive and charming, and they’d been hitting it off well all night, which was unfortunate. She had only wanted a bit of human contact, a friendly voice and a nice meal and maybe a quick fling to ease the pit of solitude that had become her life. She didn’t need another attachment, someone else to lose. After a while, it got hard to see people as anything other than corpses waiting to happen.
He smiled at her over their half-eaten plates of pasta, the candles from the table flickering in his pupils. She smiled back and hated herself for it, not wanting to encourage the bonding but unable to help herself. He’d seemed so safe online, his profile screaming rudderless man-child, not someone she would be truly interested in knowing better. After talking to him, though, she’d discovered he wasn’t so much rudderless as pulled in myriad directions by his various interests and talents and refused to compromise any of them for an unfulfilled life in an office.
She could get behind that, though she herself hadn’t been in an office since her last one burned down three years before. It was safer for everyone if she just worked freelance, at home.
The date ended at the doorstep of her townhouse. He kissed her, and she let him, but he didn’t ask to come in so she let him go. She walked inside, dropping her purse and keys on the table by the door and kicking her shoes into a corner. Compulsively, she checked the phone in the kitchen for messages, knowing full well that its inbox would be empty. Not many people were left to call her, but she still checked just in case. No messages. Nothing new.
She grabbed a bottle of fish flakes from the pantry and went to feed Meriwether his evening meal. Humming quietly to herself, she unscrewed the cap and grabbed a pinch of flakes. As she reached to the bowl, she stopped, sighed, and replaced the flakes in the bottle. Her new fish was floating upside down, the color drained from his luxurious fins.
Stupid, she snarled silently. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Good thing I didn’t get a cat. She grabbed his net and fished him out, then flushed him down the toilet. With a heavy sigh, she dropped the net to the floor and sat on the edge of the tub, sinking her head into her hands. No more pets, not of any kind from here on out. And no more dating. Maybe she could get away with houseplants.
I’m Typhoid Mary, she thought, not for the first time. Everywhere I go, death follows.
Her therapist had called it confirmation bias. She thought she was the cause of the misfortunes and losses that surrounded her, he’d patiently explained, so she was only seeing the evidence that supported that belief. She wasn’t paying attention to the good things in life, and she was assuming responsibility for only the bad.
The next day he was hit by a car while crossing the street to get to his office and pronounced dead on the scene. He hadn’t been much of a therapist anyway.
Storytime Sunday is a weekly installment of short fiction or personal anecdotes. Some will be complete stories, others will be snippets of projects that have gone to the Graveyard of Tales Not Going Anywhere, and a few will be previews of upcoming publications. Many are simply writing exercises to keep me sane while working on novels. Feel free to send me prompts in the comments or on Facebook!