FlashFic: Cara Mia

“You owe me this, cara mia.”

There was a time when he changed her name, Cara, into that tenderness to show his love. Now it only came out when he wanted to hurt her. Such a small phrase to use for something so big this time. She glanced up. The words may be gentle, but his eyes were steel.

“I’m your wife,” she said quietly. Her head was bowed as she stared at her hands. Her knuckles whitened, fingers laced so tightly in her lap. “You can’t ask me to do that.”

“It’s not your place to tell me what I can do. Clearly, I can.” Rage rolled through Albert’s words in waves.

There was silence. Cara knew this was her cue to capitulate. Her stomach roiled at the thought. How many times did she give in during these silences, trying to avoid further confrontation? How many times did it end in her humiliated tears, made worse by Albert’s chortling over them? But this? This went too far. It was bad enough for him to hurt her. He all but told her to truss up her best friend for his sick pleasures.

“I’m sorry, Albert.” Her eyes flew wide as his fingers snaked around her neck from behind. From deep within, she dragged the words through her tight throat. “I can’t do that to her. You have me. Let that be enough, please? I beg you to leave Shelly out of this.”

Cara fell off the chair when he pushed her away. She covered her splayed legs with her skirt and swallowed the bruised lump in her throat. She wanted not to cry, but her desires played little role in her life. When she dared to glance up, Albert sneered over her. Even her defiance left her craving a shower so hot and loud, it drowned out her sobbing.

She heard the door slam behind him. Freed for the moment, she curled up on the floor and shook. In a moment, she would scrub off the filth left behind.

“What’s with you today?” Shelly laughed, prodding Cara with her tennis racket. Cara flashed a look at her friend, meeting her gaze for only a second. She swallowed hard against the guilt. Why guilt? She said no, didn’t she? Yet it was there and the conflict distracted her.

She shook her head, waving Shelly’s concern away. “It’s nothing. Just a bit off today.”

Shelly glanced at the makeup on Cara’s throat. “It’s something, Cara.” Her voice was quiet though her words seemed to echo. “How long are you going to make excuses for him?”

Bouquet by John Morgan

Photo by John Morgan

Cara stilled her hand before it could tug at her makeup-stained collar. “We’re fine,” she said, her voice far steadier than she felt. “In fact, we’re having a romantic dinner at home tonight.” Cara smiled faintly. Always the flowers, always the romantic dinners. Playing along just made her want her showers more.

When Albert brought her the bouquet, she smiled brightly and sniffed it, bubbled her thanks and acted surprised. The timer for dinner showed about a half hour. “That sundress is pretty, cara mia, but I want you in something a little slinkier. Go change while the roast finishes.”

This was a new twist on the old honeymoon period theme. Like a good girl, she smiled at him and popped upstairs. Something pretty, something quick. A wraparound dress, this nice emerald one. Albert liked green against her fair skin. As she dressed, she wondered at the dim note of alarm, a red flag in her mind she couldn’t decipher. She fluffed her hair, freshened her lipstick and braced herself before returning to the kitchen.

“There’s my girl,” Albert beamed at her. He pushed a button on the remote and Nat King Cole crooned “Unforgettable.” Albert put down the remote and held out his hand. “Dance with me, my unforgettable wife.” Taken aback, Cara slid her hand into his and let him swing her into his arms. The dance was slow and sweet, punctuated by Albert’s light kisses on her forehead and throat. Had the last nine years not happened, she’d be swooning. She missed swooning.

Albert pulled her up to him at the end of the song, kissing her lips so tenderly. She kissed him back and made the appropriate sighing sounds. The timer for the roast went off. An excuse to pull away, which she took. “Mustn’t let your dinner burn!” Her voice was playful and she kissed him again lightly. He released her with a laugh.

Dinner was simple but delicious. “This is remarkable. A new marinade?”

Cara nodded. “A red wine vinaigrette. I thought it would go nicely with the summery salad.” She smiled at him when he poured her more wine. Dutifully, she drank.

As they ate, Albert casually refilled her glass even when it didn’t need it. Her dutiful drinks added up. He laughed and patted her shoulder. “Just relax, no need to clear the table right now.” He poured her yet another glass and left the dining room.

She heard the door slam behind him. Her husband was gone. Her moment of freedom was a moment of clarity. “Cara mia,” he called her tonight. She ached in the silent room. No, truly, she ached. The wineglass went out of focus and dropped. Her last thought was how odd Albert didn’t watch his poison make her writhe.

This story was inspired by two writing prompts from Twitter’s #storystarters. One was written by @CliffordFryman, the other by me.

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19 thoughts on “FlashFic: Cara Mia

  1. flyingscribbler May 11, 2012 at 11:45 am Reply

    This story seemed to be going in one direction but surprised at the end. By killing off the protagonist I’d been rooting for, you have given the story more depth and left me thinking that much more about it. Your characters had credibility and proper depth of emotion too.

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 13, 2012 at 8:17 am Reply

      Thanks so much! Getting feedback such as yours is affirming. It helps me learn with every piece I write. At the moment, I’m embarking on a major revision of one of my novels. So daunting, but your comment gives me courage. I really appreciate it.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  2. johannaharness May 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm Reply

    Wow. So well done, Jess. You drop hints and leave us guessing right until the end. And what a powerful ending. Chilling.

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 13, 2012 at 8:23 am Reply

      Thanks, Johanna. Cara and Albert were so clear in my mind, it felt as though no other ending could take place. I appreciate your glowing comment. You teach me so much!

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  3. Natalie Bowers May 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm Reply

    Ooh … nice bit of misdirection there. I was hoping for her freedom, and I suppose she got it in a way. Nicely done!

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 13, 2012 at 8:25 am Reply

      Thank you, Natalie. Yes, I suppose Cara got the only sort of freedom she was going to get in that situation. You know what they say: If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting. She sure got it. I appreciate your comment.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  4. Jason May 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm Reply

    I like the way the horror in your story builds and then is brought home by the last paragraph and, especially, the very last sentence. Well written and scary!

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 13, 2012 at 8:29 am Reply

      The first time I read your comment, I was taken aback by the tagging of it as “horror.” The more I thought about it, the more it seems to fit, though. I need to broaden my view of what horror is, I think. In my mind, it’s strange, scary creatures wreaking havoc on the local humans or some such. Thanks for giving me so much to ponder, Jason. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

      • Jason May 13, 2012 at 11:44 am

        I am going through the same thing. Never thought of my writing as containing some horror elements but readers have been suggesting this. So possibly in the sense of an internal psychological horror, which is maybe the scariest kind. Your stories IMO wonderfully express this kind of pathos.

        Like

  5. Steve Green May 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm Reply

    Poor Cara, at least her suffering is over now, I rather expected it to be him dying on the floor at the end of the story, good twist in the tail.

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 13, 2012 at 8:31 am Reply

      Cara has the only form of freedom she was likely to get. Albert may have deserved that poisoned wine, though. I’m glad the twist worked for you, Steve. Thanks for letting me know.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  6. Icy Sedgwick May 13, 2012 at 6:03 am Reply

    I wasn’t sure if she was going to poison him (I probably would have done) but that was a real switch for him to poison her!

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 13, 2012 at 8:36 am Reply

      You’re a much stronger personality than Cara is after years of this treatment. Albert told me what he was going to do the moment Cara made clear she wasn’t going to follow his wishes. I was afraid I was broadcasting it. Sometimes, the limitations of a flash work for the writer, though. No room to broadcast in so few words. Thanks so much, Icy. Really appreciate it.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  7. Tom Gillespie May 13, 2012 at 6:31 am Reply

    Great flash.. I was completely suckered into thinking she was going to do the deed.. and the last line chills to the bone.. Fab!

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 13, 2012 at 8:40 am Reply

      Thanks so much, Tom. I wrestled with myself over the last line for ages. It’s a relief to know it works. I was surprised how many thought Cara was about to poison Albert. Rereading it with fresh eyes makes it more clear to me why that’s the case. Yay for completely suckering the reader! I appreciate your comment.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  8. ElizabethM May 13, 2012 at 11:21 am Reply

    Painful to read but I mean that in a good way. I felt tense, not knowing how it was going to end up. Well-written and sad, but again, I mean that in a good way!

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 13, 2012 at 8:39 pm Reply

      Tension and a sense of edgy pain are what I wanted in this piece. Thank you, Elizabeth. So glad it worked for you in that manner. I appreciate your reading and letting me know how you liked it.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  9. adampb May 14, 2012 at 8:42 am Reply

    Wonderful development of their relationship; you’ve captured the pathos and tension so very well.
    Adam B @revhappiness

    Like

    • JC Rosen May 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm Reply

      Thanks very much, Adam. It’s not an easy balance. I appreciate your letting me know it worked for you. Is it bad I enjoy writing this type of flash so much?

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

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