Vanilla (Finish The Story #64 Entry)
This is an entry to the long running #finishthestory contest held over on @bananafish. This week, I have included a bit of a twist. Our dear protagonist is about to face a splitting time line, you might find yourself in a the offical dark world of fear, or on an alternate seemingly nice sunny stroll, two starkly different endings both travelling the same literal path, which way will you chose to follow?
Opening by @gaby-crb
I am woken up by the smell of coffee, wafting through the apartment. I stretch under the warm sheets and force myself to get up. I get dressed for work before following my nose into the kitchen.
My girlfriend is standing on her tiptoes. The bottom of her nightdress softly inching up her bare legs as she reaches into the cupboard for a mug. I reach past her and grab the one she had been struggling to grasp. She huffs and a sloppy grin spreads across my face. I’m not a tall person on average, but it has been entertaining having someone smaller around.
I take out a mug for myself and fill it to the brim with the pungent black liquid. I inhale deeply, savouring the warmth. A pang of guilt fills me as I take my first sip, I had promised my doctor I would cut down.
“I made you some lunch, it’s in the fridge, and I have a surprise for dinner.”
“Thank you.” I open the fridge and pull out the brightly coloured plastic box, my heart sinks slightly knowing its most likely a salad. Another recommendation from my Doctor. “What’s the surprise?” I ask knowing full well I won’t get a straight answer.
She laughs at me and hides behind her mug. “What time will you be home?”
I shrug. “Probably after seven, those roadworks are still there.” I finish my coffee and put the empty mug in the sink. I kiss my girlfriend goodbye and head out to work, regretting leaving her looking so seductive.
My drive to work is boring. I pass the workers as they are setting up their equipment and make a mental note of the time delay.
I get into work and say a few greetings to people I barely know. 5 years at the company and I hardly know anyone beyond my own department. After 2 meetings,1 completed report and many, many cups of coffee, I finally get to zone out on my lunch.
I take the lid off of my lunchbox, I was right to assume it was a salad. Everything has been neatly prepared, even the tomatoes are cut into little flowers. I can’t help but smile at the love and attention she’s given it. I text her.
Lunch is amazing love.
A smaller pot contains a mix of fruit along with a note reminding me to go for a walk. My Doctor suggested to do more exercise during the day, which is difficult when I’m chained to a desk for 8 hours. But I have thirty minutes left and a walk in the fresh spring air feels like a good idea.
I wrap up and set an alarm on my phone to warn me when I need to turn around. The street is quiet with only the occasional car hurtling past. I fall into a steady rhythm and concentrate on my breathing.
That’s when I see the blue lights flashing in the distance.
Attention Reader! We interrupt your regular reading to warn you, the time line is splintering! For my entry, please proceed to read Timeline A below. Alternatively, for something a little sweeter, skip to Timeline B below. Two endings, set in different realities, featuring the same characters, please chose one now!
My Ending (Or Timeline A)
Salad turns to rock in my stomach. A single thought rips away at my rationality.
They've come for me.
My mind jumbles, I have my phone, my keys, but my bag is still by my desk.
Could I run? Could I walk back to the building, as casual as every day, and right when I should turn into the side entrance, run for my car?
The Enforcement Van is stopping in front of the office, blue lights rhythmically washing the facade. The road works made me late this morning, for once I ended up parked round the back. I might get a head start.
My pulse turns my head into a panic filled washing machine, throbbing and pulsating.
I have to run. They might have come for me first, I might be able to make it to Beth before they do. If there’s even a chance...
...the thought dominoes, what if they haven't come for me first...
I turn back towards the office, fumbling with my phone, pulling it out of my pocket upside down.
It's a message I've sent enough times for it to auto suggest it, but this time, more than ever, I want to type every letter.
I love you
My phone buzzes back in my hand, eagerly, I expect a reply, the words I need to hear right now.
My stomach crushes tomato flavored bile up my throat, contorting in anxiety.
I try and take hold of my mind. Beth always says I give my fear power every time I let it speak.
I breath in. I can make it to the car. I just have to look calm, casual. I force a smile, struggling for a moment to remember how relaxed is supposed to look.
No one at work knows me that well, I reassure myself, no one.
There was the Christmas party. Nick had got a little too forward, called me vanilla when I knocked him back. Jenny plied me with shots after that, put her arm around me pushing that there must be a special someone in my life for a girl like me to reject a man like Nick. As drunk as I was, I didn't say anything.
It isn't enough, the panic batters against my ribs, refusing to be caged. It doesn't matter how they've found out. They have, and they've come for me.
The side entrance looms, Enforcers mill around the front carpark. I'll have to wait until the last moment to turn.
My hand slips into my pocket, reluctantly relinquishing my phone, feeling for the shape of my car key in the bunch.
Ten more steps, and then I run.
Before I get chance, the carpark explodes into action, a riot team bursts out of the building, gripping a screaming woman between them.
I stop, staring transfixed.
It's Jenny. Sobbing, pleading, unable to find her footing as she dragged across the concrete.
They'd called her vanilla as well.
I never even suspected she was one of us.
Timeline B (An Alternate Ending For Fun)
The siren call of music carries, accompanying the turquoise blue washing the buildings.
It's a sound so deeply ingrained, it brings back an avalanche of memories. Beads strung on a thread of flavor, tingling along my taste buds.
I can almost taste it, the soft, rich flavour; thick, creamy, a vague hint of cocoa butter, deep blooming vanilla speckling each scoop.
My phone buzzes in my pocket, announcing the point to turn back. I normally make it further, but, as my Doctor pointed out, it's all better than being sat at my desk.
I wish she was right.
The ice cream van, it's illuminated blue slushy cup belaying the sincere quality of its farm ice cream, is parking at the end of the path.
If I was sat inside right now, I could ignore it, but judging by the long queue forming, I'm going to have to walk right past it. And not get one.
Each step back towards the office drags. I try to focus.
Beth. She's the reason I'm doing this. Ice cream pales before her, silhouetted in her night dress, stretched up, trying to reach the top shelf, the lace trim of her night dress teasing higher as her fingertips fall short of her favourite mug.
I pause for a moment, look out over the fields beyond the street, a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. I could put it on the lower shelf when I did the washing up.
The ice cream melody has made it back to the start, looping endless charm. The sound alone makes my mouth water.
I can't give in, I push on, picking up the pace, filling myself with the resolve to walk past it.
Beth. This is for her.
I tell myself over and over. Each step reinforcing the thought.
I can make out the pictures on the side of the van. The rows of flavours, the occasional ribbon marking a new addition, and there, in the corner, as if there could be any doubt, the hand painted dairy cow.
The farm doesn't sell many places, I haven't had it in a while. It's making it worse.
I pull my gaze down to the ground, refusing to even acknowledge the ice cream van.
I can't give in now. I've got so far. At this rate I'll be able to dance all night at the wedding. If I can just stick to it.
The sweet smell of ice cream carries on the summer breeze. The coffee was bad enough, I can't get one of those big signature waffle cones as well.
The Doctor made it clear, I have no choice, the diet, exercise, if I really want to grow old with Beth, I have more to worry about than who has what dress.
"Rose! Are you coming? You need to try this new flavour! It's so good I'm getting a second cone!!"
It cuts a little, Sophie knows I'm on a diet.
"Come on, it's new low calorie vanilla and… Ian's paying!"
I smile. I should've known, it is always better to get out for a walk.
Only the first ending would have counted for the contest (if I hadn't missed the deadline) but after I wrote the first one at the weekend, I thought of @gaby-crb, who is off on holiday this week and I am sure she isn't the only one. I know she sometimes appreciates my less serious ideas, but I often write a few and only enter one, so this time I thought i'd share something on the other end of the happy/dark spectrum for our happy ending fans ;) I have bottled it at posting anything at all for the last few rounds, so just gunna hit the button before I do that again.
This is an entry to @bananafish's #finishthestory contest which is out every week! We have the wondrous @f3nix playing host, and the endlessly talented @gaby-crb providing this tantalizing opening! Check out the latest round for all the details on how to join in and to see all the spectacular entries we have had in!
This Artist has such an amazing collection of vintage underwear shots, and then loads of stock ready pictures of underwear artistically shot on a manikin. Not exactly how I pictured Beth, but with that pose, close enough!