After five long-list nominations, I finally made the short-list with my December submission in the Furious Fiction contest.
These were the criteria:
This is what the jury wrote about my story:
The ‘he said’, ‘she said’ format works very well in this reunion of former lovers – setting the scene (and a little foreshadowing) with the awkward American meets Euro style of greeting at the very beginning. While we had a lot of stories of people meeting up again after some time, this one stands out for its efficiency – no lengthy backstories or side tangents. Just a real-time back-and-forth that works in part because it too is awkward and stilted – one perhaps still hoping for a flicker of requiting. In short, it feels real. Also a cute way to incorporate the concept of an ‘elephant in the room’ without never actually saying those words!
Out of ten challenges, six of my stories were nominated; this is the one that made it to the short-list:
He greets her with a European kiss; she goes for an American hug. She’s surprised by his lips on her cheek; he didn’t expect her arms around him. For a moment they freeze.
Then she breaks the ice: “How long has it been?”
“Seven years,” he replies. He resists the urge to add: “Two months and eighteen days.”
They were lovers once. Now she is back for a three-day conference.
“Thank you for offering me a place to stay after all that time.”
He waves away her gratitude, as if he would not have wanted it any other way.
“Do you still like your eggs sunny side up?” he asks.
He used to make her breakfast, even before they were a couple. She was a foreign student at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He had a spare room to let.
She smiles: “You remembered.”
Once graduated, she returned to the US. The long distance killed their relationship.
He smiles back: “Some things never change.”
She doesn’t answer with words, but her eyes tell him that nothing is the same anymore.
He looks away from her: “Is that your luggage?”
“I upgraded to a dog,” he tells her as he picks up her suitcase. They used to have a mouse called Elephant as a pet when they lived together. “I hope you’re not allergic. It’s shedding season. There’s hair everywhere, even in the bathroom.”
“I have a dog myself. Do you want to see a picture?”
She grabs her phone and swipes through a series of pictures of her Golden Retriever.
“He’s cute,” he says, happy to know that his own Labrador won’t be a problem. “Let me show you mine.”
They are both aware that she would have responded with a naughty pun — eighteen years ago — but now she doesn’t take the bait: “There's no need to. I've already seen him on your Insta. His name is Twister, isn't it?”
They leave the train station in silence, pondering how they’ll deal with the giant mouse in the room for three full days.