I’ve been participating in some writer challenges lately. Last year I joined the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge and joined again this year. This is my first round submission. It’s highly competitive, but I have to say, I had a lot of fun writing it.

The Prompt:

Genre: Suspense

Location: A plastic surgery center

Object: A tire iron

Synopsis: Kathleen wants to catch her husband red-handed, but has she thought about what he wants? Read more…

Kathleen walked down the halls of her husband’s practice, leaning slightly against the wall. She held a tire iron almost absentmindedly in her right hand, with her purse tucked in discreetly under her left armpit, almost invisible under the folds of her dress.

Her hands were appropriately soiled, and she wore an inquisitive look on her face, slightly humbled and annoyed, as if there was an answer she didn’t remember and the question was too important to let go. If anyone saw her, the reason was simple and true: she got a flat tire on her way to meet her husband and fixed it herself, so as not to interrupt him.

But no one crossed her path. In fact, the entire center seemed eerily deserted for a Thursday night. While there was no shortage in demand for plastic surgeons in Miami, no one wanted to wait until nearly dinnertime for a liposuction. No, after-hours were for paperwork. You didn’t need a full staff for that.

She walked slowly toward Richard’s suite, listening intently. Her feet were in heels, after all, and it had been a long day. No need to make unnecessary noise that could potentially interrupt her husband in the middle of whatever he was doing.

She was sure it was important.

Kathleen reached for the doorknob, but it slipped out of her grasp. The door opened to reveal her husband, standing on the other side.

“Hello, sweetheart,” Richard Goldblatt said to his wife, smiling from ear to ear. Kathleen, taken aback, could only stand there half-frozen as he stepped forward and engulfed her in a hug, obstructing her view. As he kissed her on the cheek, Kathleen struggled to keep her temper hidden.

He hadn’t called her sweetheart in decades, she thought, finding her voice again.

“I had a flat on my way here,” she said, answering the question that hadn’t been asked, angling her body in a way that made it clear she wanted to go inside. “You might want to be careful.”

“So I see,” he replied. “Why don’t you give me that?” He asked, propping himself up so that both his sides touched the doorway in some way, extending a hand. She shook her head.

“I wouldn’t want you to get your hands dirty,” she replied. They stood there for a few moments, him blocking the entrance and her leaning into him, pressing her free hand into his midsection so that the message was crystal clear in her body language, but it still needed to be said.

“Richard, let me in,” she said softly, holding her right hand up at eye level and extending two oil stained fingers. “I need to wash my hands of this.”

“Yes, of course,” Richard replied, angling to the side. “Take your time.”

Kathleen walked past her husband into his office. His arm dangled in her way just enough that it minimized the remaining space, but Kathleen was lithe and small – two of the reasons Richard had married her- and she was able to step around him smoothly.

Kathleen had to blink twice to adjust her eyes to the space once inside, and was momentarily disoriented. It was smaller than she remembered, much more cluttered and dark, and her path to the bathroom was obstructed by a couch she didn’t know was there.

She kicked herself for not visiting more since the build out, for not getting a much more current idea of what her husband’s office looked like. There was no one else in the office, but the air was heavy and moist, and Richard’s office felt more lived in than his bedroom at home. She could swear there were traces of something feminine in the air. Not perfume, but maybe lotion or hairspray, something she knew Richard wouldn’t wear. She began to take a deep breath but he interrupted her, and Kathleen could not help but turn to look at him, the anger barely concealed in her expression.

“Bathroom’s on the right,” Richard said from behind her, a tone of amusement creeping into his voice.

“I didn’t forget,” she shot back, taking two quick steps into the half-bathroom, and stopped. The bathroom, what was originally a small room with toilet and sink, was now a full bathroom with shower installed where a small closet used to be. There was even a door that led back to the hall. She heard a click and ran, dropping the tire iron behind her, but it was too late. The door only opened with a key, and whomever was on the other side locked it from their end.

She jiggled the knob but it was no use. The door was firmly locked. And then, something occurred to her: she never heard a clang.

She turned around, and there was Richard, standing inside the bathroom with her, tire iron in hand. He was obstructing her exit now, and she swallowed hard, trying to keep from feeling trapped.

“Wash your hands, sweetheart,” he told her, his voice monotone. “It’s time for us to go.”

Kathleen gave a slow nod, her movements slow and filled with understanding. As she went through the routine of getting her hands clean, she stared at her reflection. It was the face of a stranger. A beautiful one, but a stranger none the less. An exaggerated version of the girl she used to be.

“It’s time for us to go,” Richard repeated. Richard, on the other hand, had not changed a bit, had not aged a day. She turned the water off and dried her fingers, pressing her handbag closer to her side. It didn’t matter, she thought. There was always a Plan B.

“I’ve been looking forward to this all week,” she said to the Richard in her reflection, her voice as strong and resonant as steel.

“So have we, sweetheart,” said Richard from behind her, unmoved. “So have we.”