Flash Fiction Fridays: Undecided
The End of the Line
By Mary Langer Thompson
When the bus arrived in San Diego at 10:00 p.m., Matt and Melissa were exhausted from the five-hour ride. Matt tried to give a tip to the bus driver for his skillful driving through the fog, but the driver said, “Keep it, son. I have a feeling you might need it.”
Melissa peered inside the station. No place to sit. Matt said, “Let me check my phone outside here. I didn’t check it on the bus. I didn’t want anyone to look over my shoulder and guess what we’re doing.”
“But I’m so tired,” Melissa said. “I couldn’t sleep on that bus. Too nervous.”
“Let me check where we are so we can call Jack and Susan and give them directions to pick us up. Check again and see if there’s an empty seat. I saw a couple come out.”
Melissa started to walk into the station. Then she turned back to Matt. “First call your folks and tell them we’re okay and got to church camp safely. I’ll call mine later.”
“I hate lying,” Matt said.
“They won’t like the truth,” Melissa said. “Besides, we’re eighteen.”
Inside, Melissa found a bench, sat down, and plopped her denim backpack next to her. She patted it, then leaned over and put her head on top of it. Soon she was fast asleep.
Matt’s voice woke her. “Melissa, Jack and Sue aren’t home. There’s a Motel 6 across the street. I saved up for this weekend, so why don’t we just go check in there so you can get some real sleep?”
“Okay,” Melissa said. “Did you get your parents?”
“Yes. Did you call yours?”
“I fell asleep. Let me do it now.”
On the walk to the motel, Melissa and Matt met a couple with a little boy walking the opposite way. The man asked Matt for directions to the zoo. Matt offered to look up the directions on his phone, but the man said he wasn’t going until morning, so not to worry.
Walking on, Melissa said, “What a sweet family. That kid was well behaved. And cute.
Notice how soft and smooth his skin was.”
“Yeah, maybe someday. . . .”
“Maybe, but no more than one or two for me.”
“Really? I’m an only, so I wouldn’t mind three or four.”
“I hope they’re all as well-mannered as that little kid,” Melissa said.
At the desk, Matt asked for two rooms.
“We have one left,” said the woman. “It’s a three-day weekend. You’re lucky we have any.” She added, “It has two queen-sized beds.”
“We’ll take it,” Melissa said quickly. Then she looked at Matt. “I’m pooped, and that egg sandwich on the bus…well, I don’t feel so hot.”
Once in the room, Matt watched Melissa toss her backpack on the floor.
“Yikes, put that on your bed,” he warned.
“Bedbugs.” You’re less likely to pick up bedbugs if you don’t put your stuff on the floor. I read it.”
Melissa crawled into her bed.
“I wonder where Jack and Sue are?” Matt said. When he looked at Melissa, she was sound asleep.
The next morning, Melissa was awakened by a call from Sue.
“We’re in the Motel 6 across the street from the bus station,” said Melissa. “You were there at 10:30? You just missed us. Why didn’t you call? Okay. It’s right across the street.”
“They forgot their cell phone at home,” Melissa told the newly awakened Matt. “Do you mind if I shower first? They’ll be here in about an hour, Sue said, and then we can go over the list of names at breakfast and choose one. Sue and Jack’s guy is no longer in business, so we’ll have to go by any name that sounds good.”
Melissa put up her hand before the waitress poured the coffee. “I still don’t feel that great after last night,” she announced.
“Order anything on the menu,” said Jack. “After missing you guys last night and the money you’re going to have to pay, because it isn’t cheap, this is our treat.”
“I hope you’re not scared about the procedure,” said Sue. “It doesn’t hurt, and you’ll look great afterwards.”
“Yeah, Sue’s face looked a little pale afterwards,” said Jack. “But isn’t she beautiful
“You have great color,” said Melissa to Sue, “and we’re lucky you’re here with us for support.”
“We both feel the decision was the best for us,” said Jack. “Sue kept her job; there were no problems. We’re happy, and we’d both do it again.”
“Yeah, but you guys are married and don’t live with parents you had to lie to,” said Matt.
“Parents are usually cooler than you think,” said Jack. “At least we’re going to be cool parents when we finally decide to have kids. Right, honey?” He looked at Sue.
A couple came up and stood by their table.
“Hi, you two,” the woman said, looking from Jack to Sue.
The list of names sat by Melissa’s plate.
Before Jack or Sue could make introductions, the woman, pointing to the paper, asked, “Are you taking them to one of these guys?”
“Yes,” Sue said. “As soon as they pick a name they’re comfortable with.”
The woman put her finger on one of the names.“This one is mine, and he has a great reputation. I’d do it all again. You’ll be so happy when it’s over.”
The man interjected, “Yeah, well I’m not ecstatic. I think it was a stupid decision. We almost split up, and now I have to live with what she’s done every day.”
Matt and Melissa looked at the woman again, and then at each other. Matt, quickly lifted his backpack, got up, and grabbed Melissa by the hand.
“Oh, come on, you’ll be fine…” Jack said.
Before he could finish, Matt and Melissa were gone, leaving the list of tattoo artists sitting on the table.
Mary Langer Thompson's articles, short stories, and poems have been in numerous anthologies and journals. She has an essay in Women on Poetry (McFarland). She lives in Apple Valley, California, with her husband, Dave, and is a proud member of the High Desert branch of the California Writer's Club. To learn more about Mary, visit her website.