I wrote this in preparation for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest coming up where I’ll be given a genre, setting, and item to include in a story of 1000 words maximum. My hubby and I registered, then realized the first round is while we’re on vacation. Oy.
We thought some practice might help.
I grabbed a random prompt from their examples and completed this in 48 hours.
(See prompt details at the end.) Enjoy.
Jennifer tapped her press-on fingernails against the thick, engraved glass award on the table in front of her. She should have splurged on a real manicure. It wasn’t like she couldn’t afford it. Plus it was an important night—for more than the awards. Tonight she was putting her foot down. Tonight she was claiming what was hers.
That was if the intolerable ceremony would ever end. As a middle-aged woman with shoulder-length brittle hair droned on at the podium, Jennifer poked through her purse for a stick of gum, anything for a distraction. She shoved aside a tampon she’d been expecting to need all week and dug deeper. No gum. Sighing, she pulled out her phone. How many more awards could there be? How long had she been glued to her chair?
The time flashed on her phone’s lock screen, answering her. 9:43.
She uncrossed and crossed her stockinged legs, eying the empty chair beside her with displeasure. Where the hell was Matthew? He’d disappeared somewhere between the Building of the Year Award and the lemon torte, about ten minutes after Amanda excused herself to use the restroom. He’d missed Jennifer’s reception speech and the nugget of gratitude she’d laced into it for him.
“And the endless hours of support from the only man who can tolerate my insanity,” she’d said, crestfallen as she scoured the crowd, hoping to find Matthew observing from the outskirts.
He wasn’t. They were both still gone. Jennifer shoved the award away and sat back, arms crossed. What good was the damn thing if she couldn’t keep Matthew by her side?
Amanda’s cinched waist and delicate thighs caught Jennifer’s eye as she squeezed through the congested room of aged men with large bellies. No wonder Matthew’s eyes lingered on her whenever she was present. She was an art form in human flesh.
Three dress sizes larger, Jennifer couldn’t compete in that department. But she was a goddamn accomplished architect with her own office of 13 employees. She’d climbed Mt. Washington. She’d mastered Boeuf Bourguignon in only three tries. She could bring a man to his knees in a matter of minutes. What did Amanda have other than a slender figure?
Amanda slipped into her seat and placed a French-manicured hand over her flat belly. Leaning closer with a cordial smile, she whispered, “I’m so sorry I missed your award, Jennifer. I wasn’t feeling well.”
I bet you weren’t. Jennifer delivered a smile in return. “Don’t worry about it.” I’m about to show you what it’s like to not feel well.
“May I see it?” Amanda asked, extending her delicate hand, palm up.
Jennifer obliged, dropping the heavy award into Amanda’s hand and reveling in the woman’s struggle to hold onto it. She recovered and held it up for inspection.
“Excellence In Design? That was for the Nelsonville Commons project, right?” Amanda raised her pencil thin eyebrows in impressed shock. “Matthew must be so proud of you.”
Jennifer grinned. “Yes, he is.”
A round of applause broke out, drawing their attention to the podium where the same woman delivered her closing comments. Thank God the night was almost over. There was only one more thing to do.
Jennifer snatched the award back in preparation of the battle she was about to fight. You don’t get to have this. And you don’t get Matthew either.
The room erupted into chatter, hand shakes, and congratulations. Jennifer pushed through the suit- and gown-clad crowd in search of Matthew. She needed to find him. She needed to take him by the hand and lead him home. She needed to remind him why she deserved him.
She searched the foyer and the hall and the front room and the cocktail bar. No Matthew.
Resigned to waiting on him, she headed back into the main banquet hall. With a curse under her breath, she located Amanda, holding her own in a conversation with four of the five lead architects of her firm. Amanda had grown practiced at mingling above her stature. But this wasn’t her place. It was time she learned her lesson.
Smiling affably, Jennifer stepped into the circle beside Amanda. Matthew would come here eventually. She knew that much. All she had to do was wait.
“Congratulations, Jennifer,” Robert said in his deep, gravelly voice. “You deserved that award. Your work has improved by leaps and bounds this year.”
“Thank you. I had an amazing mentor.” Despite herself, Jennifer’s face warmed.
Robert’s gaze shifted over Jennifer’s shoulder. “Speak of the devil!”
The two women turned, opening the circle for Matthew to join.
Yes, speak of the devil.
“Congratulations to you, Matthew.” Richard slapped his hand into Matthew’s, giving a firm shake. “You’ve made the company proud. We knew you would.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Matthew said.
A proud smile spread on his face, creating all the laugh lines Jennifer loved to trace with her fingertip. He hooked a finger into the knot of his tie and loosened it, sending her into a reverie of provocative moments.
“I’m privileged to work with some amazing people.” Matthew gifted Jennifer a proud smile.
His attention struck her right in the chest, leaving her breathless and lightweight. Yes, he loved her, and was not afraid to show it. Now was the time to take her stand.
“Let’s get you home, baby,” he said, turning his back on Jennifer and slipping his arm around Amanda’s waist, pressing his lips to her temple. “I pulled the car around. It’s waiting out front.”
Amanda breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, honey. Hopefully, we’ll make it home before another wave of nausea hits.”
“Oh, right!” Robert bellowed. He squeezed Matthew’s shoulder, adding, “Congratulations. You’re going to make a great dad.”
“Yes, he is.” Amanda cooed up at him, pressed close with a hand on his chest.
“Thank you,” Matthew said. “Have a good night, everyone.” He waved over his shoulder, glancing around the circle, averting Jennifer’s dumbstruck expression, and ushering his wife to the door.
The prompt was:
genre – drama
setting – awards banquet
item to include – press-on fingernails
Your comments and suggestions, as always, are greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading!