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2016 valentine flash fiction contest | FIRST PLACE WINNER 

JUST ONE REGRET  
by Shannon Hollinger

Editor's comments:  The Valentine's Flash Fiction contest was intentionally whimsical.  Somewhere in their story, contestants had to use Parting is such sweet sorrow.  I absolutely LOVED how Shannon leads the reader down a dark corridor and then throws the door wide open in the last sentence.  Shannon's story perfectly balanced the fun, whimsy of the contest while dancing fluently around a dark topic. I was pleasantly surprised, and you will be too.  Shannon is now also eligible to receive the 2016 Edward Bulwer-Lytton Award, which will be awarded to one Black Ink Contests literary artist that best exemplify originality, creative writing skill and the emergence of a personal voice or vision.  Congratulations again, Shannon!


JUST ONE REGRET  
by Shannon Hollinger




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I probably shouldn’t have killed her. I know that now. But at the time, it felt like I had no other choice. I’d take it back if I could, but I can’t. Now I’m trapped here, in this place, probably for the rest of my life, with nothing to fill the hours of each day except the memory of what I’ve done.

It wasn't always bad. I mean, I did love her, in the beginning. It's nice to be needed. It gives you a sense of importance, of purpose. But when love morphs into something else, when you become someone's everything, well, that's a lot of pressure.

I can’t tell you exactly when my feelings for her changed. For most of the last eight years, we were happy. Or, at least, she was. I think there was always a little part of me that wanted more. More than a nice domesticated life. More than staying in every night, curled up on the couch. More than her.

But when the rosy glow of our love wore off for her, when she started snapping at me for habits that I’d always had, when it became clear that she was dissatisfied with our relationship as well, that’s when I knew I needed to end it.

Not that it’s her fault I killed her. Not entirely. The truth is, I'd been planning her death for some time.

But every time I’d form a plan, the memories of the early years would rise to the surface, the kisses and cuddles of young love, late mornings spent lounging in bed, evenings spent gorging ourselves on ice cream and other foods we shouldn’t have had. Part of me missed those times. But I knew they’d never be back.

That night, she settled on the couch after dinner like she always did. As usual, she expected me to join her. She eyed me expectantly, waiting for me to take my seat. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t take one more night of sitting with her on the couch watching reality TV. Why watch someone else live their life when you could be out living your own, instead?

I saw the hurt in her eyes as I went upstairs to be by myself. I had intended to take a nap, but I found myself staring out the window instead, watching the world go by. There was just so much going on out there, so much that I longed to be a part of, and she was the one stopping me from doing it all.

I couldn’t put it off any longer. The time had come. I had to do it.

I waited in the hallway by the top of the stairs, the wall growing harder against my back as the hours passed. The glow of the TV flashed against the wall like heat lightening on a summer night. Annoying voices filled the house as a trio of vapid sisters argued over something trivial. My muscles bunched into hard knots as I forced myself to stay alert, waiting.

Finally, the voices stopped. I heard her turn off the lamp beside the sofa. The soft whisper of her socks across the tiled floor came closer. The creaky step she kept meaning to get fixed groaned as she climbed the stairs. I waited until she was almost at the top, and then I rushed past her, knocking her off balance as I ran down the steps. There was a moment when she teetered on the edge of the riser, a moment when she could have recovered her footing, a moment where we both held our breath.

I hurried to clear the way as she tumbled down the staircase. She landed at my feet, neck bent oddly to the side, limbs akimbo. When there had been no sign of movement for several minutes, I poked her a few times. Nothing.

I can’t describe to you the relief I felt in the first few hours following her death. Every hair on my body stood on end, tingling with anticipation of the freedom I would soon have. All the things I wanted so badly to do fought for space inside my head as I tried to plan my first day of independence.

Morning came. The day seemed brighter, the air sweeter. I was ready for my new life to begin.

There was just one catch. I couldn’t get out the door. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the door knob to work. It hadn’t looked so difficult when she used to do it. On the contrary, it had looked quite simple. Soon it became clear that I was going to have to wait for someone to come and let me out.

That was fine. I’d already waited years; I could wait a little longer. I ate the loaf of bread she had left on the counter. When I ran out of water, I degraded myself and drank from the toilet. Still, no one came. When I took the first bite of her nose, it was only a nibble, but the days keep passing and now the flesh of her face is almost gone. The reality is, there is no one to miss her but me. No one is coming. I’m stuck in this prison, alone, with an overflowing litter-box.


                                                                                                             THE END


ABOUT SHANNON HOLLINGER

Shannon currently lives in New Hampshire with her husband where they are owned by two Terriers.

You can find more of Shannon's amazing work at: www.shannonhollinger.com

Visit Shannon's blog at: www.adventuresinthirtysomthing.com.


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