Dead

Strands of Christmas lights twinkling overhead lit Guido’s Pizzeria.  I sat at our table in the back corner twirling my engagement ring around my finger.

I unfolded the postcard clutched in my hand and read it again. “I’m not dead. Meet me tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. Tell no one. ” My heart tightened like it had a month ago when Ryan went missing.

When he didn’t return home to our shared apartment from his hunting trip in the woods on time,  I wasn’t overly concerned. Ryan was no unseasoned rookie out hunting in the woods in the winter for the first time. He made weekend trips every season in heavy snow and freezing temperatures with no problems. He always packed a thermal blanket and MREs, just in case he got turned around.

After he was two days late, I notified the forest service. They sent out a search and rescue team. I thought he’d be found, injured in a snow cave he built, waiting for help.   They located his abandoned car near one of his favorite hunting grounds.  There were no tracks and the forest was dense. They brought in search dogs but never picked up his scent.

After a  week, they called off the search.  Even an experienced outdoorsman couldn’t survive that long in subzero overnight temperatures. There was no hope of recovering his body until after the spring thaw if scavengers didn’t consume it first.

Still, I kept waiting for him to walk through the apartment door and yell, “Surprise!”

He had a penchant for practical jokes.  When we first started dating he made me dinner and put that stuff that stains your teeth black in the chocolate cake.  He laughed and laughed. I had no idea until I went to the bathroom to freshen up. I stormed out of the apartment, through with him. Then he showed up at my work with a dozen roses and puppy dog eyes. I melted.

His proposal three months ago was classic Ryan. He waited until I was asleep, put whip cream with the ring buried inside on my hand, and tickled my nose until I smeared whip cream all over my face and scratched myself with the ring. By thenI was used to it and head over heels.

We were to be married in the spring. Right after the thaw when the flowers would be poking through the dirt, fighting their way toward the sun.

Instead, I sat at Guido’s, alone on my birthday, a week after his memorial service,  folding and refolding the postcard and jumping each time the bells over the front door tinkled.

I heard the waiters singing “Happy Birthday to You”.  One carried a piece of chocolate cake with a trick candle flickering in the icing.  They approached my table. The waiter with the cake was dressed like an Italian gondola driver and had a thick fake black moustache stuck under his nose. It took me a minute to register it was Ryan.

I began to cry as they finished the song.  The real waiters applauded, smiling that they were in on the plan, while Ryan sat across from me.

I reached across the table, yanked that ridiculous mustache off his face and kissed him like he was soldier returning from war.  I started fluttering around, making sure he was okay while I barraged him with questions.

“Ryan! Oh my God! I can’t believe it! You’re alive! Are you okay? Have you seen a doctor? How did you survive in the woods for so long? Are you in some kind of trouble?”

Ryan smiled.

“No. No trouble at all” he said. “I was never lost. I planned this whole thing so you could have the best birthday surprise ever!”

I sat back in my chair and stared at him. The candle sent little spurts of fire into the air.

“Happy Birthday, Baby! Isn’t this the best birthday ever?”

I gathered my purse. Rising silently I headed for the door.

“Meredeth, wait! Aren’t you happy? I’m alive!”

I stopped, my back still facing him, and twisted the engagement ring off. It clinked on the tile floor as it bounced.

“No. You’re dead.”

Construcive criticism is very much wanted and appreciated. Help me grow as a writer.

There were two prompts this week for the Red Writing Hood meme. I chose:  “One week after attending the funeral of a close friend, you receive a postcard in the mail with the words, ‘I’m not dead. Meet me tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. Tell no one.’ “


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About Jessica Anne

35 Responses to “Dead”

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  1. Frume Sarah
    Twitter: frumesarah
    says:

    Wow, I SO did not see that coming. I was thinking that he was backing out of the wedding or going into Witness Protection. But nothing like this. What a total jerk.

    Well-done!

  2. Nadya Booyse says:

    This is the first piece I am reading that chooses this prompt to write about. Well done. Very well done.
    Nadya Booyse´s last post ..3 hearts and a forest

  3. WOW…what an ending! He’s a thoughtless jerk, and she did the right thing! :)
    Teresa Kander´s last post ..Midnight Madness

  4. dawn says:

    “When we first started dating he made me dinner and put that stuff that stains your teeth black in the chocolate cake. ”

    Ha ha ha – ohhh, I love a practical joke, but the black teeth thing is off the charts!! Loved that

    Whew, glad she bolts out of the restaurant, I was afraid she would be overcome with joy to see him and accept his outrageous ploy..
    The guy is pyscho

    Great job!!
    ~d
    dawn´s last post ..Cryptic Postcard

  5. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
    Twitter: kristinglas
    says:

    Not funny Ryan, bad joke. Yeah, dead.

  6. BalancingMama (Julie)
    Twitter: BalancingMama
    says:

    Ooh, what a nasty trick! I’m glad she left him. The story pulled me in – good job.
    BalancingMama (Julie)´s last post ..Fallen star

  7. Frelle
    Twitter: frelle
    says:

    well done… and yes, he is dead. not funny, mister funny man.
    Frelle´s last post ..If You Really Knew Me- You Would Know That

  8. Sara says:

    Like the others, I did not see THAT coming, but I did wonder what she would do about such a cruel joke. I hate to say this, but I almost relieved that she walked out. I would had a hard time with the teeth thing:~)

    Your descriptions were very good about the woods and the timing. I wonder if Ryan has pay for all the search and rescue activities?

    Well done. I enjoyed this story and it was a good use of the prompt:~)

    p.s.

    Due to construction at my site (posts disappear without warning), I have moved my story to a friend’s site. If you want to read my story, go here http://www.shadesofcrimson.com/2011/04/14/guest-post-the-call/. I would love your thoughts about the story.

  9. Crystal says:

    WOW!! I love the ending and what a jerk!!
    Crystal´s last post ..Lucky- Lucky Me

  10. Susan says:

    Hi Jess,
    You have a wonderful blog and website! I really loved your stories that you wrote in class. I’m sure you’re novel will be Absolutely Spectacular!
    Best Wishes,
    Susan

  11. Jessica
    Twitter: bubbiesmom
    says:

    Stopping by from the Red Writing Hood meme. I have to admit that you completely caught me off guard with this one. I did not see it ending the way that it did. And I also have to agree that she did the right thing. I’d kill my husband if he did anything like that to me. He might well just stay in the woods… or where ever it was he had been hiding. Not such a funny prank to think someone you love could be in harms way or worst…. Well written!! :)
    Jessica´s last post ..Red Writing Hood 4152011

  12. The Drama Mama
    Twitter: poopscoopinmama
    says:

    WOW!!! Jess! Oh man was I angry with Meredith. WOW!! Oh you wrote this fabulously. I love the descriptions flowing through the piece, the assurance I felt that he was indeed safe. The only thing missing was the sense of loneliness I would feel in waiting for him. I didn’t really get that here. I’m totally in love with this story. Great writing!
    The Drama Mama´s last post ..Weathered- The Resurrection

  13. Writerly Wanna Be says:

    You are great with character development. I love your last line.

  14. Kelly
    Twitter: kpugs
    says:

    Whoa! Did not see that coming AT ALL!! What a jerk!
    And glad she tossed the ring on the floor!
    Kelly´s last post ..Day Tripper – Lost and Found

  15. Mommylebron
    Twitter: mommylebron
    says:

    Oh I was so mad at the end I could’ve cried! I love all the details that make your story precise and real. Great job!
    Stopping by from trdc.
    Mommylebron´s last post ..Red Writing Hood- Sibling Rivalry

  16. Tina says:

    I think that the Forest Service would probably be looking to arrest the boyfriend for wasting their time and resources!

    I would have liked it if your character would have punched her fiance’ in the face before she threw the ring.

    Great job!
    Tina´s last post ..Meatsarella

  17. neve@edgeofcrazy
    Twitter: neveedgeofcrazy
    says:

    wow, great story. is it true? what a jerk.