The excerpt below is from Queen of the Skies. Abe Fletcher (one of the main characters)'s girlfriend, Dior, has just broken up with him. Now, he is trying to deal with the ramifications.
Abe was glad he had taken a taxi to the restaurant. He was in no state of mind to be operating a roadster right now. In fact, he had barely been able to type in the street corner address to the taxi app on his mobile phone. Every instinct within compelled him to hurl the phone down onto the sidewalk and scream his rage mindlessly until it started to abate. But instead, he held it in, merely squeezing his other hand into a fist and occasionally releasing his fingers.
He was silent in the cab, merely nodding now and then at the male driver’s pleasant but unwelcome conversation.
"-- the Tigers, I think they have a real shot this season!" the cabbie continued. He was a thin and bald middle-aged man with a red and white beard.
"Uh-huh," Abe replied.
"They didn’t do so well last year, but that’s `cause Hennessy was the coach," the cabbie added. "This year, they’ve got Addison and he’s great!"
Abe knew there was only one thing that could keep him from losing his mind and small talk was not it.
The steam-powered vehicle was slow, following the local posted speeds to precision as the driver exited downtown New Liverpool and wound towards the suburbs. Abe normally enjoyed the change of scenery, from the constant noise, concrete, electric signs, and rising buildings to the greener lawns, sprawling trees and relaxed neighborhoods of one- and two-story houses. But this late afternoon, none of that phased him at all. His heart was gripped in ice and his thoughts were in orbit of Dior. Or rather, they orbited the absence of her.
Abe managed to thank the driver with some degree of pleasantness as he got out of the taxi. He briskly walked inside the large single-story home he had lived in all his life. His footfalls felt leaden and forced. Only his desire to purge his emotions kept him going.
In the living room, Dad was leaning back in his favorite chair, a black leather recliner. It was elegant and plush, easily accommodating his ample shape. In front of him, the wall-mounted television was playing a rerun of the crime drama Barnabas Jones. However, the older man with receding brown-gray hair and matching handlebar mustache was riveted to the newspaper in his large, strong hands. That is, until he heard Abe stomp into the room. He immediately dropped the paper into his lap as his legs forced the recliner to a sitting position. He peered at Abe with newly alert eyes.
"You’re back very early from your outing with Dior," Dad said. "Is everything alright?"
"No...but I don’t want to talk about it right now, Dad."
Dad nodded slowly. Then, with some effort, he stood up. "You go change clothes. I’ll set up the punching bag in the garage."
Abe let a thin smile cross his lips. "Thanks, Dad."
He remembered changing into a t-shirt and shorts before grabbing his gloves and heading to the garage. But in the blur of thoughts which rushed through his head, Abe didn’t know when he started attacking the punching bag, nor how long he’d been at it. With no attempt at precision or a specific routine, he continually slammed his fists into it. Sweat poured down his face, back, and legs. His breathing matched his turbulent mood: rough and jagged.
Becoming more coherent now, he opted for a one-two combination. And another one. Then three jabs in a row followed by a one-two-three combo. His fists were growing numb, and his arms ached, but he continued on.
Abe viewed the punching bag as the embodiment of whatever circumstances had conspired to rob him of his relationship with his cherished first love. And his own ineffectiveness at talking her out of leaving him. His own ineffectiveness, period.
I was just fooling myself, thinking we ever had a chance together, he thought. C’mon, it was only a matter of time before this happened! She’s in a different world. We had some good times together. I’d like to believe she loved me...
Then came the unwelcome memory of their first passionate kiss. It shattered his workout momentum. Grabbing the punching bag on both sides, he stopped its sway and drooped his head against it.
He recalled the tender and caring look in Dior’s eyes as they’d sat on the couch in his home, talking for hours at a time. The engaging conversations they’d had with Dad. And traveling with Dior to meet her parents in New Amsterdam.
Abe relived some of the intimacies he and Dior had shared over the last year.
"She did love me!" he shouted with eyes closed. "I know she did!"
Abe felt tears flow down his face as he continued to hold onto the punching bag. The room felt like it was slowly spinning.
"Why?" he asked no one in particular, his voice soft with grief. "Why do the women I love always leave me? First, Mum...now Dior."
"Your mum didn’t leave," Dad answered somberly from behind him. "She was taken from us by the illness."
Abe sighed. "You’re right. I’m sorry, Dad."
"As for Dior, I can’t answer that," Dad continued. "I thought she was a nice girl. You two had a good relationship."
“Yeah,” Abe added. “I thought so, too.”
“Want to talk about it now, son?”
Abe turned around, now spent from his exertions. Dad handed him a large cup of water that Abe gratefully accepted, gulping it down.
“Thanks,” Abe said a moment later, handing the empty cup back.
“No, I’m good now,” Abe replied. His responses were divided by deep intakes of air. “As for talking about Dior, I don’t know where to start. She met me and was super-pleasant. Then she said our ‘journey’ has ended, thanked me for my part in her ‘personal growth,’ and that she has some new path to follow. But she didn’t elaborate.”
Now Dad sighed.
“Utter nonsense,” he said, looking frustrated. “She has a reason. It could be that she didn’t want to hurt you with it.”
“Too late for that,” Abe interjected.
Dad nodded. He put his arm around Abe and looked at him sympathetically. “I’m sorry this happened,” he said. “I know you love her a lot.”
Abe was grateful for his rock-like support over the years. “Thanks, Dad.”
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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