Broken Rose

Short Fiction for Guests of the WordFeeder
Sunday, February 7, 2010

It was two hours, forty-two minutes after they had met at the mid-life crisis pickup bar down the street. He was the married father of two children. She, so it appeared to him, was a single woman, in town for a few days on business, looking for someone at the end of a long day. Or maybe she was a call girl. He didn’t really care as long as he could afford to pay her without his wife finding out. He wasn’t bad looking. She used to be beautiful, and would have been now were it not for something about her eyes that would have caused a more careful man to think twice about taking her to bed.

In the hotel room he’d paid for in cash – his wife at their home in the suburbs thinking, because he told her, that he was working late, hoping, but not really believing that he was telling the truth – Ed was sitting up in bed, propped up against two overly soft pillows, his hands curled too tightly over the sheet and blanket he’d pulled up to his waist, his eyes looking straight ahead at nothing. Rose, the name she had given him, was sitting naked on the edge of the bed, facing the open room, pressing with her hands on the top of her legs to extend her chest, her eyes closing for just a moment.

“You know, Ed,” she paused for a moment to turn to look at him. “You know, Ed,” you’re pathetic. ..Nod in the affirmative, Ed. Do it now.” And he did. “You’re a successful guy.” She rolled her shoulders back, turning her neck to the left, and then to the right to hear it crack ever so quietly. “Money in the bank, a beautiful family…” Turning to her side, she slipped one arm under the sheets, fumbling until she found her pants and bra. “..and you’ll risk it all, betray the woman and daughters who love you, all of it for a few minutes of bad sex with a stranger. …Good for you maybe,” she thought to herself out loud, “ bad for me, and I’m easy to please.”

“Here’s the deal. …Are you paying attention? …Answer me, Ed. Are you paying attention?”

“Yes,” he nodded as he said it, rolling his lips inward.

“Good. Here’s the deal. A few minutes after I leave, the alarm next to the bed is going off. When it does, you’re going get up, get up, turn off the alarm, but not wake up, get dressed and go to your office. You’re going to sit at your desk. Five minutes later, you’re going to wake up and call your wife. You’re going to tell her you love her, that you’re just finishing up and will be home as soon as you can, and you’re going to ask her to wait up for you so that the two of you can make love. …You’re actually going to say that to her, those words exactly. …Do you understand, Ed?”

“Yes. Exactly those words.”

“What words are those, Ed?”

“I’m going to ask her to wait up for me so that the two of us can make love.”

“ …From now on, your wife is going to be the only woman in your life. You adore her. Sexually, she drives you crazy, in a good way of course. You’re going to respect and take care of her. And Ed, this is very important, never again are you going to lie to her or be unfaithful to her. That last part is very, very important. No sex with anyone other than your wife. ..Tell me you understand, Ed, that you’ll always be faithful to your wife and, when you tell me, say her name.”

“I will. I’ll never.. I’ll always be faithful to Helen.”

Standing up, Rose began to get dressed, taking her time, talking slowly, facing Ed as she did. “When you wake up, you’re going to forget this ever happened, that we ever met, about the bar and this hotel room. As far you can remember, you left the office for a quick bite to eat at your favorite diner, too busy to remember that you were there, had your usual dinner, whatever that is, and went back to the office where you’ve been all evening. ..Okay so far, Ed.”

He nodded again, this time more eagerly.

“Good, Ed. …It’s sort of like a game, isn’t it?”

He smiled in agreement.

“Your such a douche,” she muttered under her breath.”

“Yes,” he said, surprising her, “a douche.”

Smirking, she closed her eyes and let the air out of her lungs, shaking her head slightly when she was done. “You’re not only going to forget meeting me, Ed, you’re going to forget ever having had sex with anyone, with anyone other than your wife since you married her.”

He shook his head left to right this time.

“’No,’ Ed? What do you mean?”

“No, I won’t remember anyone I’ve ever slept with, except Helen.”

“No blow jobs, no other making out?”

“Nothing. I won’t remember anything.”

“Good. I just wanted to be clear. ..And, Ed…”

“Yes?”

“Just in case… Wait, do you believe in God, Ed?”

“Yes. Yes, I do,” he responded somberly.

“Well, Ed, if you are ever unfaithful to Helen again,” she paused to sit down on the ottoman to the easy chair in their room to slip on her high heel shoes, “God will appear to you in the form of a woman, utter the phrase ‘Broken Rose,’ at which time you will go with her and follow her, God’s every instruction, cooperating in every respect… even while she cuts off your dick and stuffs it down your throat moments, just moments before ending your miserable life.” Her voice was calm. Her tone, clear and deliberate. …Ed, do you understand what will happen to you if you’re ever unfaithful to your wife, if you disrespect her in any way?” Hearing nothing, she turned to look at him while slipping her arms into her coat. “Ed, do you understand what will happen to you?”

Ed was red in the face, perspiring, his breathing labored. “Yes, I understand what will happen to me. God will cut off my…”

“Good, Ed. Good,” she interrupted. Picking up the small alarm clock beside the bed, she set it to go off in 20 minutes, plenty of time for her to get out of the hotel and into her car. Bending over to pick up his pants, she took out his wallet and removed all his cash, $185, except two twenties, stuffing the bills into her coat pocket.

Reaching into the vase of red roses she made him buy her in the lobby, she took one out and turned back to her victim. Raising it to her face, she savored its fragrance until some unspecified reality returned to her eyes. Snapping the stem in the fingers of her right hand, she stared at the breakpoint for a second, and then tossed the flower toward him, landing it perfectly on where his crotch could be found under the sheet and blanket. “A not so friendly reminder, Ed,” and then she whispered a simple toast, “For Helen, for my late mother, Rose, and hurtful men everywhere who don’t appreciate what they have.”

Later that evening, the she walked briskly into the studios of the talk radio station where her 10 PM to 2 AM show were a major draw, peeling off her coat on the fly and tossing it over one of the chairs in the engineer’s booth, minutes before show time. “Who are we starting with?”

“We have ‘Ann.’” None of the callers used their real names – but she would sometimes hear from them later as casual, no charge patients, to learn the details of their lives. “She’s nervous, and crying, but should play well.” Sitting down and putting on her headset just as the engineer pointed to her, the phone rings. It was an effect for the listeners, and the way her show always opened.

“Hello? This is Dr. Allison.”

“Hel… hello,” the female caller sobed.

“Hi. What name can I call you?”

Sniffing, the caller told her, “Call me ‘Ann.’ You can call me ‘Ann.’”

“Okay, Ann. It’s good to hear from you. What’s wrong?”

“I’ve just found out my husband has been sleeping around, with a woman at his office, and for Christ’s sake, one of my neighbors…” She’s devastated.

“How do you know.“

“Are you kidding,” the woman is almost shouting into the phone, choking on her tears. “He admits it, doesn’t even try to deny it. Says I’ve never satisfied him. Not even close!” She can hardly talk.”

“Ann…”

The woman answers with a barely audible, “Yes. It’s not my real name. …You’re a real psychologist, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Ann.” Dr. Alison’s voice was calm and reassuring.” I have a Ph.D. and years of clinical experience. ..But you know this isn’t a doctor-patient relationship. It can’t be, not while we’re on the air like this, but we can talk, if you like.”

“Please. I need to talk to someone. ..Please help me.”

“I will, Ann. I’ll do what I can.”

-wf

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