This week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds requires participants to go to a specified website, and choose from one of five automatically generated titles. The titles belong to military operations, but we didn’t have to write about a military operation, just choose one of the five titles and use it as the title of our story. Our word limit is 1,000, of which I’ve used 999. Enjoy.
She brought the glass to her lips and took a small sip of the champagne. Her grip on the flute’s delicate stem was too tight. She watched the tell-tale white of her knuckles vanish as she relaxed them.
Her other hand served as a hook for the antique evening bag she carried. Its black silk body, adorned with Swarovski crystals, swung gently from her wrist on a silver handle. She assessed its contents even as she smiled, engaged with the seven other people with whom she stood.
The bag held her cell phone, photo ID, nail file, twenty dollars cash, and stun gun. She had forgotten her lip gloss. The thought sparked amusement which further dispelled her tension. A giggle bubbled to the surface in spite of the situation, capturing his attention.
“Please share what has struck you as funny, Miranda,” Clayton said. The formality of his speech lived up to his name.
Another giggle sounded from her lips before Miranda said, “I was just thinking how small my bag is,” she held it up for display, “in comparison to the bags I usually carry, and yet it has everything I need in it for tonight — except my lip gloss. I forgot that.” She glanced specifically at the three women in the group. “My other bags are nearly the size of a small suitcase, and I swear I need everything in them on a daily basis. Am I the only one who’s like that?”
All three women agreed they were the same way, and compared the contents of their evening bags with their daytime bags. The men, with the exception of Clayton, appeared equally amused and bemused by this revelation. Clayton’s amusement and bemusement was overridden with disdain.
“That’s hardly worth a laugh, or conversation for that matter, all things considered,” Clayton said.
Miranda put a hand on his arm, and made an effort to soothe him. “I didn’t intend to be inappropriate. Please forgive me, Clayton.” A time-out was in order. “I need to use the ladies’ room, if you’ll excuse me, please.”
“I’ll go.” The statement, made in unison by the three other women, couldn’t have been better orchestrated. The four of them smiled conspiratorially as they started across the crowded ballroom.
In the luxurious ladies’ room, Miranda quickly checked to make sure the stalls were empty. She closed her eyes briefly, and took a deep breath. “I need your help,” she announced to her new comrades. “Clayton is-”
“He’s abusive, isn’t he?” Lorelei Holman asked the question, and it seemed she asked on behalf of the other two women, as they waited for an answer.
“I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid he’ll…k ill me.” Her whispered confession dropped and rippled.
“He wouldn’t Surely he wouldn’t.” Sunny Bridgefeld had raised both hands to her heart as she asked the question, and her face reflected the horror she felt.
Miranda sighed, and her shoulders slumped in defeat. “He already threatened me. That’s why we came in separate cars. I just couldn’t… But I…”
“You love him,” Lorelei filled in the blank.
“Ohhh,” the other two women sighed as one.
“What are you going to do?” Sunny asked.
“We,” Lorelei corrected. “What are we going to do?”
“We won’t let him kill you. We won’t let him hurt you ever again,” Brin Turcotte said in a stage whisper, her eyes wide and earnest, and her voice, remarkably, like that of Georgia Engel. Her dramatic pronouncement would have been laughable if the situation hadn’t been dire.
“We need to bring things to a head, right here in public,” Lorelei said. “That way there will be plenty of witnesses, and plenty of help. He won’t have a chance to kill you, or hurt you in any way.”
“That’s brilliant,” Brin complimented her friend.
“But how do we do it?” Sunny was drawn to the intrigue. “What would Jessica Fletcher do?”
“Who’s Jessica Fletcher?” Lorelei asked.
“Murder She Wrote,” Sunny said.
“Angela Lansbury,” Brin said.
Lorelei beamed. “I love her!”
“How do I do it?” Miranda emphasized the “I” with care. She looked up at her new best friends solemnly. “I have to be the one, don’t I?”
Lorelei looked apologetic as she nodded agreement. “Yes. You need to make him mad enough to try to attack you.”
“Oh, my,” Brin breathed.
The four women rejoined their partners, refreshed and relieved. Miranda claimed her glass from the round-top, high table around which they stood, and downed the rest of her champagne in one gulp. She set the glass down, picked up Clayton’s glass, and downed it as well, then glanced defiantly at him.
“Where is that waiter? I need more champagne.” Miranda tossed her hair and pouted.
Lorelei’s husband raised his arm to flag down a waiter, while Clayton said, “That’s inadvisable.”
“Inadvisable? You have no right to advise me of anything,” Miranda told him.
A waiter appeared, and Miranda took two glasses from the proffered tray, one in each hand. Without taking her eyes off Clinton, she drank one glass, and then the other, set the empty glassed on the table, and used the back of her right hand to wipe her mouth. “Cheers,” she said.
“You indecent bitch.” Clayton drew back a hand and slapped Miranda across the face.
Brin gasped loudly. Lorelei and Sunny jabbed her with their elbows from either side.
Their collective husbands made to subdue Clayton, but too late. He pulled a Beretta from his inside jacket pocket, put it to Miranda’s forehead, and pulled the trigger. Miranda collapsed to the floor, a pool of red forming around her head.
The ensuing retort was echoed by another. Clayton looked at Sunny in disbelief. She still had her gun trained on him. He fell beside Miranda, bright red staining his crisp, white shirt.
Clayton turned his head toward Miranda, and said, “Bang, bang, we’re dead,” as his eyes lost focus and–
“Cut,” the director yelled. “Let’s take it back to the champagne.”