No Regrets?

02-22 Rio Grande

We lived by the mantra, ‘no regrets.’

At seventeen, we stripped and plunged into the murky river, moving our friendship into “more” territory.  We had no apologies, even after cranky old Mr. Sitkowski waved his shotgun barrel at us.

“You kids git on outta thar!” He bellowed.

We’d giggled at his rage as we walked to shore.  (Even with a season of good rain, the river couldn’t overcome nine years of drought and barely came to our waists.)  Wearing a shroud of youthful exuberance, neither of us had the good sense (or decency) to cover ourselves as we emerged and stumbled up the muddy bank.

“Good lawd!”  Mr. Sitkowski whipped his head to the side to avoid seeing our nakedness.  “Ya’ll ought not be showin’ that stuff.  Git dressed!”

We’d snickered again at his Southern-accented indignation.  One time, he’d told us his parents emigrated from Poland and rode a breeze to Ohatchee, Alabama and some years later, settled near the Verde River in Arizona.  (Turns out he was much friendlier when not trespassing on his land at midnight.)

We grabbed our clothes off the willow branch while Mr. Sitkowski, with his back to us, leaned on his shotgun like a cane and ranted about the trouble with today’s youth.  We shared a conspiratory smile and a nod before we slipped into the brush.  You grabbed my hand and led the way as we ran wearing nothing but our skivvies!  I didn’t even feel the thistles dig into my bare feet as we wound through the weeds.

My dreamer’s mind saw this as the perfect story to tell our grandchildren- when they were of age, of course.

Reality toyed with the fairy tales rooted in my head.  We graduated and went to separate colleges.  The daily phone calls dwindled to weekly, and then petered into infrequent letters resembling the impersonal updates sent with Christmas cards.  After a full year passed without any communication from you, I came to terms with my future.

Until you found me again.

After nine years, you’d called and I eagerly answered.  You suggested we meet and I didn’t decline.  I couldn’t.  Once clean-shaven, you’d grown a stubbly beard.   Your lean frame bulked up and I fought to not stare at the tight muscles pulsing beneath your black t-shirt.  But you had the same eyes- the ones that could melt a “yes” out of me no matter what you wanted.

You’d wanted to go back to my place.  I should’ve resented the suggestion, because I knew what “catching up” meant.  Still, my heart couldn’t muster a “no.”  I convinced myself that my teenaged notions of us spending our lives together would come true.  In a way, I’d been right; like a fortune cookie prediction, or some kind of eerie premonition.

***          ***          ***

I steal a sideways glance at you, handcuffed beside me wearing a matching orange jumpsuit.  Oddly, orange is flattering on you.  I decide the light stubble on your jawline is incredibly sexy.  If it weren’t for the packed courtroom, handcuffs and ankle shackles, I’d kiss you right here.

That fleeting thought unnerves me because you are at the core of everything I don’t want to remember.  I’ve had over a year alone to build up hatred for you, but love prevails.  Stupid, obedient, errant love.  The kind of foolish feelings I’d had for you since before Mr. Sitkowski busted us skinny dipping in the river.

“We’d like to call Audrey White to the stand.”

My name cuts through the endless loop of self-recrimination.  A temporary reprieve, I know.  The bailiff escorts me to the stand.  I place my hand on the Bible and swear to tell the truth.  A smirk crosses my lips at the thought of anything I have to say being oath-worthy.

I sit and brace for what’s coming.

“Ms. White, do you know the co-defendant, Cooper Bradshaw?”

“We were in bed together when the police arrested us, so I’d say I do.”  My attorney winces at the sarcasm.  Stifled giggles ripple through the courtroom.

“Order!”  The judge slams her gavel twice.

Killjoy.

The prosecutor clears his throat.  “When did you begin your affair with Mr. Bradshaw?”

“1999.  We were seventeen.”

“When did you resume the affair?”

“Three years ago, Cooper called and we met for coffee.”

“Is that when you began planning his wife’s murder?”

“Objection!”  My lawyer shouts.

“Sustained.”

“I never planned to kill his wife.  I mean, I didn’t even know he was married.”  I catch a glimpse of my lawyer shaking his head so I stop.

“So you accidentally shot your lover’s wife in her own home?”

It sounds worse when he says it.  “Yes.  I mean, no.”  I sigh in frustration.  “Cooper was in the shower and I heard a noise downstairs.  I told him there was someone in the house, but he didn’t hear me over the running water.  I panicked and grabbed the revolver from the nightstand drawer.”

“How did you know he kept a gun there?”

“I watch movies.  Everyone keeps a gun in the nightstand.  Or under the mattress.”

A few chuckles slip out, but a stern look from Judge Thomas quells them.

“What happened next?”

“The bedroom door opened and I pulled the trigger.”  I look down and rub my thumb over a black smudge on the orange fabric stretched across my left thigh.  “I later found out it was Chandra Bradshaw, his wife.  It was an accident.”

The prosecutor looks at the paper in his hand.  “Is it also an accident that Cooper called his wife at 2:11?”  He turns to the jury box.  “Fourteen minutes before Chandra came home.”

A new lie?  Cooper’s expression reveals nothing.

We’re facing life in prison.  Doubt settles in my stomach.  I see it in the jurors’ faces, too.

The realization dawns that our entire relationship wasn’t fate, rather one accident after another.

We’d always defined ourselves by the ‘no regrets’ mantra, but somehow, in the shock of betrayal, my regrets have become too numerous to count.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

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This 999-word story was written for a contest held by Write On Edge (thanks, Atreyee, at Brewmeacuppa, for the heads up on this one!)  This is a voted contest for a chance at publication.  Details are below… if you want to join in, there’s still time – click the badge above to view their site 🙂

  • 1000 word limit, all genres of creative writing are welcome.
  • linky is open until Friday, February 21, at 11:55pm Pacific
  • Use the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote “It takes two to make an accident.” as an opening/closing line or draw inspiration from it, your choice.
  • Community voting opens 2/22 and closes 2/28 at 11:55pm Pacific.
  • Community and editorial choice winners will be announced on Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books on Monday, March 3, 2014.
  • All entries must be original work, only published on your personal blog/website, and by entering you give Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books permission to reprint your entry in Precipice, Volume III‘s print and digital formats, as well as permission to edit for grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors.
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50 thoughts on “No Regrets?

  1. Kathy Combs (@KathyCombs16) February 21, 2014 / 8:26 AM

    WOW, that is one amazing story!! As usual you kept me riveted and my jaw dropped a few times especially at the end. You are one brilliant story teller. Good luck in the contest! I hope you win! ♥

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 8:37 AM

      You are so nice, Kathy! Thanks for reading and sharing your reaction to it. I’m relieved that you found it interesting and found some surprises – I really didn’t know how this one was going to go. (When I started it, I imagined they’d gotten married and they were in a divorce proceeding… and then murder happened 🙂 )

  2. nrhatch February 21, 2014 / 9:36 AM

    Wonderful . . . from No Regrets to Regrets too numerous to count.

    My favorite line:

    “But you had the same eyes- the ones that could melt a “yes” out of me no matter what you wanted.”

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 10:57 PM

      Yep, when she looked back, she could see the regrets clearly! Thanks so much for reading, Nancy 🙂

  3. Debbie February 21, 2014 / 9:39 AM

    Janna, I’m so impressed that you always manage to tell such an interesting story in so few words! You haven’t disappointed me this time, either. This one screams to be fleshed out further — perhaps another short story??

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 11:00 PM

      I think this one could be expanded, too, Debbie. I’m terrible about getting back to old stories to do that because my brain has already shifted to the next new idea. I really appreciate you reading this and for writing such a nice comment 🙂

  4. Sandra February 21, 2014 / 9:47 AM

    Fantastic storytelling, Janna! I’m amazed at the pacing, flow, and ease of your story. You always manage to pack so much in without all the words. This is so sad, but I love it. I think it ranks up there as one of my Janna favorites! 🙂 Two thumbs way up!

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 11:03 PM

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Sandra! Your enthusiastic response made me smile, and I like that it’s one of your favorites 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. Michael February 21, 2014 / 10:15 AM

    I hadn’t known about this contest before; awesome! And I loved your story. Especially your explanation in the comments, “And then murder happened.” Isn’t that always the way? 😀

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 11:04 PM

      Hey, as long as life doesn’t imitate art, all is good, Michael 🙂 Glad you were able to submit a story…haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I will!

  6. Jennifer Dillon February 21, 2014 / 11:21 AM

    I loved how manipulative and central Cooper Bradshaw is even though he never utters a word. The fact that we only see him through her view, lends an even heavier weight to that manipulation and a scary commentary on rose colored glasses. The switch wasn’t jarring at all, which is can be, and I think these words really made that transition flawless: “a matching orange jumpsuit. Oddly, orange is flattering on you. I decide the light stubble on your jawline is incredibly sexy.”

    I did end up feeling bad for Audrey, mostly because it didn’t seem that she was ever going to be able to exact a revenge of her own, although I was curious at her flippancy on the stand, I was curious who she was performing for.

    I’ll echo the other comments here, that you are such a fantastic story teller and I look forward to reading your words each time.

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 11:15 PM

      Jennifer, thank you for reading and for sharing such an in-depth comment! Cooper is pretty smooth – I’m impressed you noticed that he never spoke. Audrey saw what she wanted to when it came to Cooper. I think her attitude on the stand was a combination of distracting herself from the weight of what was at stake, and also to play it cool in front of Cooper, that is, until the latest deception came to light. Had the story continued, I could see her fending for herself, even if it meant throwing him under the bus.

      Again, thanks so much for reading, Jennifer 🙂

  7. suzicate February 21, 2014 / 11:56 AM

    Wow! You are a fantastic storyteller!

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 11:16 PM

      Thanks so much for the compliment, Suzicate!

  8. atrm61 February 21, 2014 / 3:29 PM

    Oh Janna,this is simply fabulous!What a smooth transition from their youth to the “aftermath”! Loved the fun dialogues and such fantastic lines-woo!”when they were of age, of course.”,ha!ha!Sassy! And,”Reality toyed with the fairy tales rooted in my head.”Beautiful!My fav line?Too many but this stood out like a shining star,” Stupid, obedient, errant love..”

    Considering that you had so little time left,you have done an incredible job -I was right-telling a story is a cakewalk for you-am glad you decided to join in-won’t be surprised if you are one of the names on that list:-)All the best my friend!

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 11:20 PM

      Your comment made me laugh, Atreyee – I like your enthusiasm 🙂 I wouldn’t say that writing a story is a cakewalk – it took a few hours, and then a few more reads in the morning before I posted it before I got it where I wanted it (and under the word count!) As for the voting, I’ll just wait and see what happens. I won’t hold my breath!

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to name things you did enjoy about the story!

      • atrm61 February 22, 2014 / 1:48 PM

        Ha!ha!Janna,I meant compared to twits like me 😉 Yes,there are some good entries-I am halfway through-started reading from the last one and then chose a few of my favs -now tomorrow I will read the rest and vote :-)I submitted mine last nite-went to bed at 4.30 a.m ha!ha!

        Was reading FF entries today-still about 20 to finish and am sure more will join the queue by tomorrow,lol!

        • jannatwrites February 23, 2014 / 7:34 PM

          You’re definitely not a twit, Atreyee! I have been away from the computer, but I’m reading the last two tonight so I can vote. Yours is next!

          I don’t know how you keep up with reading all the entries. You’re so good about reading and commenting!

        • atrm61 February 24, 2014 / 6:19 AM

          Ha!ha!Glad to know that ,you are a great friend Janna 🙂 I have been moping for the last two days-i get into these blue funks and just loiter on the net,doing nothing-still have a few to read-so you see,am not that diligent either 😛 No,not always-sometimes I see the comments coming in or see the reading piling up but I feel very tired and just dawdle-need to get my thyroid and sugar tested-either the first has gone berserk again or the second one has finally got me -yikes!

        • jannatwrites February 24, 2014 / 10:42 AM

          Sometimes our minds just have to get away from things so we can come back with a fresh outlook. My husband has thyroid issues and it can really sap your energy – you really should get it checked out, Atreyee 🙂 (This coming from a person that goes to the doctor every three years or so….)

        • atrm61 February 24, 2014 / 12:00 PM

          True:-)I got mine checked some 6 months back-it was almost back to normal but my feeling tired all the time nowadays is a bit suspicious-I only hope it is not diabetes-am terrified of that!And yes,I hate going to the Doc too 😛

        • jannatwrites February 25, 2014 / 12:14 AM

          Yeah, there’s something going on there, Atreyee. Diabetes scares me, too… it runs in my family. I’m hoping I escape it, as I’m more active than them, however, I do have their sweet tooth! (Crossing fingers that exercise counterbalances the pounds of chocolate I eat!)

        • atrm61 February 25, 2014 / 12:27 AM

          Oh,oh,I hope and pray that you do not inherit it-have read that second born have more chances of acquiring it but no idea if it is correct or not?Glad to note that you are active and taking care not to fall into the sugar trap 😉

          My Dad devd it very ;late in life -at 72 but could keep it in chk throughout-he was very disciplined and was never overweight-had an active life.I am very fond of sweets too but can keep that in chk-my prob lies elsewhere-first the underactive thyroid which a,as you must be aware puts a pressure on all vital organs and then I have a sedentary life style-now that I do not work anymore,have really become a homebody-my younger bro was found to have a lil sugar a few months back when he had to undergo some surgery-so am worried taht maybe I ma next-thankfully I do not take too much stress-stress is a sure killer and a major cause of onset of diabetes

        • jannatwrites February 25, 2014 / 12:32 AM

          Wow, that is scary. I hope you avoid it as well, Atreyee! I hope it’s not true about the second born… it’s already unfair that my brother got the perfect vision, straight teeth and darker skin 🙂

        • atrm61 February 25, 2014 / 12:37 AM

          Lol!U crack me up Janna!You ,am sure will be healthy and fit-lemme see what I can do about myself 😉

  9. Eric Alagan February 21, 2014 / 5:26 PM

    Excellent plot line – expertly presented – and written with such flair.

    You’ve got talent 🙂

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 11:21 PM

      With your skill in weaving a story, I take your comment as a huge compliment, Eric – thanks so much for reading and for the encouraging words!

  10. Valerie February 21, 2014 / 6:11 PM

    Perfect, Janna! I love your opening sentence, and how those simple seven words had such irony at the end. I echo every single comment here!

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2014 / 11:23 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Valerie! If Audrey hadn’t been so blinded by him, she might have seen the regrets along the way.

  11. tinkerbelle96 February 22, 2014 / 6:33 AM

    Ah, I’m spellbound!!! This is amazing. I love how easily the story flows, how you narrated the story of a lifetime so eloquently, and its so gripping, so full of colourful contrasting emotions…. I really really loved this story.

    • jannatwrites February 23, 2014 / 7:31 PM

      Thanks for your kind comment, Tinkerbelle! I really appreciate you reading it!

  12. Renee TennisMcKinley (@2old2tap) February 22, 2014 / 4:23 PM

    Nice! She always followed his lead, didn’t she? From murky river to bedroom. She never questioned his motives, just accepted. Until the very end. Great writing(as always)!

    • jannatwrites February 23, 2014 / 7:35 PM

      She did trust a little too much, Renee! Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words 🙂

  13. diannegray February 23, 2014 / 2:53 PM

    This is a great story, Janna. I’m always left wondering ‘what happens next?’ when I read your stories – they’re spellbinding 😀

    • jannatwrites February 23, 2014 / 7:36 PM

      Thanks, Dianne. I’m glad you enjoyed the story (it was fun to write, as they usually are 🙂 )

  14. Imelda February 23, 2014 / 8:53 PM

    Another beautiful one from you. I sympathize with Audrey. She was used and betrayed. Could she be proven innocent?

    • jannatwrites February 24, 2014 / 10:36 AM

      Thanks so much for reading, Imelda (this was on the long-end for a story!) I don’t know what the outcome would be… but I would hope that Cooper gets what’s due him 🙂

  15. pattyabr February 24, 2014 / 3:46 PM

    When i heard “no regrets”, murder did not pop into my head. It’s amazing how a past love, rekindled into reality left the poor girl dumbfounded. In my mind reading the story I wanted her to say “how did I get here?” Nice job as always 🙂

    • jannatwrites February 25, 2014 / 12:20 AM

      I think that realization was dawning on her, Patty. I appreciate you taking time to read this longer story!

  16. DonettaS February 28, 2014 / 9:49 AM

    You have an amazing ability to draw a reader in. I could feel her shock and doubt when the prosecutor ask her about him calling his wife. Wonderful from beginning to end!

    • jannatwrites February 28, 2014 / 8:32 PM

      Thank you for reading and sharing your kind words, Donetta! I’m glad the story held your interest 🙂

  17. Sarah Ann March 3, 2014 / 11:31 AM

    This is so sad – for her. I enjoyed their teenage love and hate were she ended up – stupid, obedient errant love indeed.

    • jannatwrites March 3, 2014 / 9:29 PM

      It doesn’t look good for them at all. She might wise up, but it’s a little late. Glad you stopped by to read it, Sarah Ann!

  18. pattisj March 23, 2014 / 9:42 PM

    Another great story. You are truly a teller of tales. And you look good in an orange jumpsuit!

    • jannatwrites March 24, 2014 / 12:56 AM

      Thanks for reading, Patti! Oh, I don’t think orange would be my color, nor would a jumpsuit be flattering, so I won’t do anything where I’d have to find out for sure 🙂

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