Day 208 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Let “New Rules” by Dua Lipa inspire you.
Shannon: My phone lit up, and I’ll admit I still felt a jolt of excitement, thinking it might be him. I wanted to answer as soon as I saw his name flash across the screen, but I stopped myself. It’s your choice I reminded myself. Why should I jump every time he decided he missed me? The phone stopped ringing, and I determined it was for the best.
I saw the message icon appear and again I decided it could wait. I got up to get my mind off of the interruption, but the phone was ringing before I could leave the room. I checked the screen and found his name again. What if he needs me? I jumped to the worst-case scenario and almost picked up.
NO my mind restrained me and I flipped the phone over. That wasn’t our relationship anymore. If I wanted him to stop, and if I wanted to stop loving him, then I had to stop being there for him. I had to disappear from his world, no matter how hard that would be.
Erin: “We can still be friends,” my ex suggested. I took it as his way of lightening the blow.
“Yeah. No thanks,” I nearly chuckled.
“Wait why not,” he tried to make me sound like the delusional one.
“I have no interest in you keeping me on the line and slowing my healing process,” I got up to start that growth immediately.
“I’m not going to string you along, I still love you. We could still be great friends,” if I wasn’t there for the beginning I would think I had just dumped him.
“Nope sorry. I’m a love all of me or none of my type of person,” I began to walk away. “Lose my contact information,” I shouted back without looking. I could feel he had taken a few steps in my direction. I wasn’t going to break until he was out of sight though. Once I closed the door behind me I dropped the strong act and started weeping.
How is your character going to get over their last partner?
I leaned back into the graphite faux-leather sofa and breathed a long, low sigh of relief as the finality of our situation washed over me. No matter what happened now, he couldn’t be involved or create problems, and I would be forever grateful to everyone involved in his incarceration. The still, serene air inside the house smelled lightly of lavender mixed with lemon juice, giving the whole place a clean and freshly-minted feel. Hanging plants swayed gently above the air vent and a small cluster of cactuses were chilling out on the windowsill as a painted vase of roses relaxed on the dining room table.
Though the nostalgia was still there, painted over in every corner and hanging like silk spider webs from the light fixtures, it didn’t have any effect on me anymore. His time had passed and I needed to get over him whether I actually wanted to or not. When I caught the tinted windows out of the corner of my eye I recalled the many times the glass had been shattered and replaced before anyone else could notice. Flashes of the rage in his eyes shot through my mind, followed by the shame and horror I’d seen in my own eyes during those times. Fortunately, the emotion-saturated moments didn’t have any lasting effect on me and the memories just rolled off, leaving my mind clear again.
Sitting up, I breathed in again and stepped with bare feet onto the faux-fur rug and stood serenely in the streaming night city lights. I headed into the kitchen and spotted the note my friend had shoved in my pocket at the sentencing; a hand written list of rules she adhered to following her own nasty breakup with an idiot who owned more cars than cares. Our situations were completely different, but she understood what I was going through better than any of psychiatrists I was sent to. Everyone claimed to be able to solve the whole problem and make me instantly better, but none of their theories panned out.
As I touched the frayed edge of the page, letting the words blur and blend together behind the sudden tears, I felt the irrational urge to hear his silky caramel voice. Blinking the water feverishly from my eyes, I stared at the wavy lines and read aloud to myself, “Rule number one: do not pick up the phone if you’re feeling sad, don’t contact him and don’t answer if it’s him.” It had been pretty easy since he hadn’t attempted to contact me as of yet, and I wasn’t in the mood to chat with a psychopath. “Rule number two: don’t let him, or anyone he knew, in the door and don’t go visit him,” I muttered, aching in the silence and wishing someone, anyone, was with me to make me feel less empty. With the third item on the list, a shiver ran down my spine as it had almost every day I’d been at his side, “Rule number three: don’t be friends with him or have any kind of relationship with him.” Though it didn’t exactly apply to me, since he wasn’t permitted friends with people on the outside, I figured it was a safe bet to simply stay as far away from his colleagues as I could as well.
I paused there to straighten the tilt of a tiny flowering cactus that was listing toward the sun, and decided to make some tea and turn on some music for ambience. This place had been my home for so long, yet in its newly reborn form, even the cool wall colours felt alien and lonely. Part of me felt like this had been his plan all along; that, even if he were caught, I would never feel at home here again.
Abandoning the list altogether, I bustled around the spacious kitchen filling the kettle with water, searching for a cup and choosing from the wide range of teas to try. In a strange impulse-buy, I’d managed to purchase enough types of tea to last several lifetimes, even though I didn’t particularly enjoy the beverage, and felt obliged to drink now that I was alone. As the water began to boil cheerfully, I turned to the state-of-the-art sound system we had installed last year, and shuffled through several playlists before settling on his favorite, ancient piano music that wafted through the halls like the smell of baked goods. It washed over the silent surfaces and bounced gracefully off the table, making the enormous rooms feel less cold.
I poured a cup of strong chai and sipped it minutely on the way back to the living room with the music following me as I went. Out the window, the night world rushed with the beams of headlights chasing taillights, and the distant screams of brakes and cats. There was an entire brilliantly-lit world out there that lived every sunset and died with the morning light. Setting my mug down, steam wafting from the top, I took the extra steps to lean against the floor-length window and watch a trail of cherry red lights turn green.
The lights in the apartment suddenly shut off and the music caught and died away, and I stifled a scream though no one could hear me anyway. Behind me, the landline rang shrilly through the quiet and darkened apartment, echoing hollowly. Tiptoeing across the carpet again, I stood nervously at the receiver, too terrified to pick it up. It rang out and the voice message cut off just as a guttural breath drew in on the other end.
Shivering violently, I took a couple involuntary steps backward with my arms wrapped tightly around me; that was him breathing on the phone, I just knew it. When it rang again, I fell onto the couch and wrapped the throw around my trembling shoulders as though it would keep me safe from him. It rang out and, this time, he growled, “Pick up the phone,” and hung up. The fact that he could somehow have the lights go out in the house while he was in prison was the reason I staggered to stand by the phone, blanket draped over my shoulder for support.
When it rang, I immediately picked it up, gasping soundlessly into the receiver like a fish out of water. His silky voice was like a river of chocolate as he growled further instructions, “I have a couple guys outside your door; they turned off your power and are the only ones capable of restoring it. Let them in.” Silence followed his commands, but I was frozen to the spot with the phone still cemented to my hand. As I finally regained the use of my muscles, I shook my head, replaced the phone and stumbled toward the door.
Knocking echoed in the apartment as the men pounded on the steel-reinforced door and I stopped with my fingers on the door handle, rethinking my choices. When I leaned away, gruff swearing reached my ears through the solid door and the lights in the kitchen flickered ominously. I took that as a sign the guys outside wanted in, and unlocked the door with a simple flick of the wrist, adjusting the blanket to cover more of me. As they stepped through the door and headed for the kitchen, I squeaked and tripped over my shawl on the way to the living room.
Struggling against the fabric, I heard laughter and fought so hard part of the throw began to tear as I became untangled.
When I heard the sickly-sweet voice behind me and the lights turned on, I knew our breakup was over and he was home again.
The four girls were laughing over some joke, when the phone rang. Susan reaches for the phone, but Evie gets it first. “Hello?” Once she heard the person, she slammed the phone back down, cutting the connection.
“Who was it?”
“You know who,” she says. All the girls groan, shaking their heads.
“…Maybe he needed something,” Susan states.
“Suzie, no,” Whitney states, “You remember the rules.”
“Yeah, I know, but-”
“Rule number one?” Dallas asks.
“…Don’t answer when he calls.”
“Two?” Evie asks.
“Don’t let him in if he comes over…”
“Don’t try to be his friend. He’s only out to use me.”
“Good. And we are here for you, Suzie, remember that.”
“He’s a sleazy jerk. You know he’s only out for one thing,” Whitney states.
“And he ain’t gettin’ it, not from these four,” Evie adds. They toast their glasses of soda, ignoring the phone ringing. Susan stares at the phone then smiles.
‘One, don’t answer the phone.’