Ok, my ego has been fed enough. Writersweekly.com run a 24 hour competition each quarter, limited to 500 entrants and to a word count of about 900 words. The results of January’s contest came out this week and I didn’t win. This was the prompt….
He walked among the market stalls, pretending to ignore the whispering and giggling women. His relaxed demeanor, handsome features, and ready smile meant no female in the town missed his weekly sermons and the church’s coffers were overflowing of late.
Feeling a touch on his sleeve, he turned and his smile disappeared. Looking first left and right, he angrily spat, “I told you to never speak to me again!”
She blinked, her long lashes brushing her cheeks, and said, “But, I need to talk to you.” Leaning closer,she paused, and lowered her voice. “You see, I’m…”
Previously I had believed I had to start my story with the above, but have realised that it must simply touch upon the topic. Anyway, this is what I came up with (and Janie, hope you don’t mind me kind of borrowing your name) …
Kate sat at a table outside the town’s only cafe, drinking coffee that tasted like burnt vole and watching Reverend Hanly as he walked among the market stalls. I’d forgotten how handsome he was, she thought. She noticed the effect he was having on the women that he passed, and that he was pretending to ignore it.
“Look at them,” said a voice. Kate turned and saw a woman in her late thirties sitting at the table next to hers, her auburn pony-tail swaying from side to side as she shook her head in disgust. “Whispering and giggling, like Austen heroines when a potential husband visits on his horse. They’re setting feminism back about two hundred years.”
“In fairness, you don’t see many ministers who look like him,” said Kate.
“And doesn’t he just know it,” said the woman. “He thinks he’s God’s gift to women. Which, of course, given his occupation, he technically is. Either way, they’ve become his flock, in that they follow him around like sheep. They’re at his sermons every week, and I’ve heard that the church’s coffers are full, whatever that means.”
“Perhaps you heard that the church is full of coughers,” said Kate. “It always was when I used to go. Anyway, what do the men think?”
“I don’t think they do,” said the woman. “They drink beer and play pool at Jeb’s, and it seems to occupy all of their mental faculties to manage both tasks.”
“You’re not from here, I’m guessing,” said Kate.
“Good deduction,” said the woman. “You should join us, we could do with someone like you on the force.”
“You’re a cop?”
“Yep. I’m Jeanie Jones, by the way,” said the woman, offering her hand. “That’s Deputy Jones to you.”
“Kate Hanly,” smiled Kate. “That’s Mrs Hanly to you.”
Jeanie’s eyes narrowed. “He’s never mentioned a wife,” she said.
“I suppose I should be hurt by that, but I’m not,” said Kate. “It was all a long time ago, when we were just teenagers. The old story – Boy meets Girl, Girl marries Boy, Boy meets God, Girl can’t really compete with that.”
“That’s sad,” said Jeanie.
“Plus Girl meets Martha from the church choir,” said Kate, “in bed with Boy. Girl shouts a lot of stuff about coveting thy neighbour’s ass, Boy shouts back, break-up is less than cordial.”
Jeanie looked her up and down. “He cheated on you?” she said. “Either he’s mental, or Martha was some looker.”
Kate blushed. “How’s he behaving here?” she asked.
Jeanie made a face as sour as their coffee. “Hasn’t changed much, by the sound of it,” she said. “He tried it on with me once, I think he found me a challenge because he knows I think he’s full of it. Anyway, I told him I couldn’t break my golden rule.”
“Never date those you protect and serve?”
“Never let vicars into your knickers.”
Kate laughed, then stood. “I’d better go face him,” she said.
“Why now?” asked Jeanie, “after all this time?”
Kate sighed. “Girl needs favour from Boy,” she said. “Wish me luck.”
She crossed the square towards him. Several women glared openly at her as she reached out and touched his sleeve. Wow, if looks could kill, she thought.
He turned with a ready smile, which instantly disappeared. Looking first left and right, he angrily spat “I told you never to speak to me again!”
She blinked, astonished at the sheer venom in his voice. Looks really can kill, she realised. It was his looks that had killed the sweet soul she had fallen in love with, and replaced him with this human balloon of vanity.
“I need to talk to you,” she said. She leaned closer and lowered her voice. “You see, I’m in love. We want to get married, and I need a divorce.”
She had hoped he might be happy for her. She had prayed he would consent. She had feared he would be uncooperative. She had never imagined the look of sneering contempt.
“Marry?” he said. “Who on God’s earth would marry you?”
She slapped him across the face, to her own shock as much as to his. “I’m sorry,” she began, “I didn’t –.”
He slapped her back.
The crack seemed to ring across the town square. Her cheek stung, but she would not raise a hand to it. Into the deep silence that followed she said, more loudly, “I want a divorce.”
He looked around at now stony faces. For a fraction of a second his beauty seemed to flicker, like an old news-reel. Quietly, he said “whatever.”
He walked away, pretending to ignore the whispers starting from the women. There was no giggling, not now.
Kate walked back to the café and sat down, the mark on her cheek blazing as fiercely as her heart. Jeanie took her hand, and softly said “way to go, girl.”
Gradually the bustle returned to the market, but there was a change in the atmosphere, as if a spell had been broken.
“Do you know,” said Jeanie, “maybe it’s you who’ve been God’s gift to the women here.”
Kate noticed that a couple of them were crying.
“Maybe so,” she said. “The coughers are overflowing.”