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He's drunk in the backseat. 

"Anna. Anna. Anna," he moans, as if my name is a broken record his throat can't stop scratching; his voice is nettles and thorns, every natural prick and annoyance. My knuckles go white on the wheel.

Ryan's riding shotgun and he won't look at me. "If you need me to drive him home, I can do it," he offers sheepishly. I don't answer, just press my foot to the gas and let the engine's rusty roar engulf John's voice.

I peek in the rearview mirror. John's laying across the seat like a dead trout, and I can tell Ryan hasn't even bothered to buckle his seat belt. There's a photo album in John's arms that he clings to with all ten fingers, as if it's a bible and he's lying on his deathbed. 

I flick my gaze to the old country road ahead, a blurry blue smear of early morning. 

"Anna. Anna, I wanna keep her pictures." There's a glint of something in my peripherals, and then a pop, a cool hiss.

"Put the booze down. I don't need you throwing up in my goddamn car tonight."

"You're so mean to me now," John whines. Intoxication makes his speech sloppy; it trips over itself and melts into syllables that seem too lackadaisical to be considered words. "You're so mean."

He's pathetic, but some aberrant kick of sympathy softens my tone when I reply. "I'm not trying to be, John. It's just frustrating. Look what you did to yourself."

There's a moment free of conversation, and all that can be heard is the hum of the road unwinding beneath the car. Ryan's looking out the window. In the half-darkness, I can just make out the slope of his neck illuminated by the dashboard light. 

When John answers, it surprises me. "I'm sorry," he tells me. "For everything. I really, really am."

Tears sting at my eyes. I take one hand off of the wheel to swipe at them, and I can feel my makeup shift and smudge over my cheeks. Ryan notices, and I pretend it doesn't bother me.

"Listen--" he begins, but I cut him off.

"It's fine." I gesture to the window. "Your apartment is near here, isn't it?"

Ryan nods. "Right around the corner."

I turn sharply. The windows in Ryan's building are dark. I pull to the corner of the driveway and jerk to a stop. "Night, Ryan."

"Night, Anna." For a second it looks like he might say something else to me, but he stops himself. To John, he quietly adds, "I'm sorry about the breakup, dude. Feel better."

I find myself unable to pull away long after the crash of the passenger door fades and Ryan's silhouette vanishes through his front door. John's become oddly quiet in the back. I turn and find him lying on his side, staring at the carpet as if he's searching for something imperative there among the crumbs and dust. "John. Are you alright?"

He shrugs. "I guess. I feel kinda sick. Holy shit."

"You're not going to puke, are you?"

"Nah, I think...I think I'm good. I wanna come in the front."

I sigh, and then take off my seat belt. I intend to assist John walking, but nearly end up carrying his dead weight. He sways on every step until I finally maneuver him into the seat. When I return, I make no move to put the car back into drive.

"John?"

"Mmm?"

I wonder if anything I say will stick, if his sluggish mind will pick up on what I'm about to say. "Do you ever miss me?"

He laughs childishly. "I see you all the time."

"I know," I snap, suddenly annoyed. "Do you ever miss..." I stop myself. "Never mind. I'm sorry about Maria."

I turn the key; the engine screeches awake. The rest of the ride is an unclear stream marred with exhaustion. The sun's about to rise, streaking the sky with pale stripes of blue and orange. When I turn to talk to John, I find he's asleep. He's still slumped against the window when we reach his house.

"John." 

I shake him awake and together we stumble all the way up the path and inside. I flick light switches as we go. We finally reach the living room couch, and he tumbles gratefully into the cushions.

"Alright. Well, I'm sorry for how tonight went."

"It's okay." His voice is muffled.

"If you need me, you can call."

"Wait. Anna. Please don't leave."

I linger in the doorway, bite my lip. I consider the notion for a moment, but he's already drifting to sleep again. I decide to slip away before he notices my absence.

"I love you," I whisper, and he doesn't hear.

Back in the car, I rub my forehead in defeat. That's when I see it, the book John abandoned on the passenger seat, the photo album. I don't know why, but I grab it, pull it into my lap. It's full of pictures of John and Maria, as I had expected. They're mostly from last year, from dates and holidays and better times.

I sit outside his house alone, flipping through the pages.

As the morning slowly paints streaks of gold across the world, I imagine my face in every photograph. 

Even after I know I should leave, I still can't close the book.
FLASH FICTION

This kinda hurt to write. I think everybody knows that feel to some extent yknow?
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:iconasterlia:
Asterlia Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2016  Student General Artist
I love this. Your writing is very expressive, and your characters actually seem real. :)
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2016  Student Writer
:heart: Thank you very much!!
Reply
:iconasterlia:
Asterlia Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2016  Student General Artist
You're very welcome :)
Reply
:iconmusicismylife78:
musicismylife78 Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Soooo I'm sorry for stalking you but your work is so well-written it makes me cry.
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Student Writer
NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE honestly I love feedback!! :giggle:

Thank you so much, it makes me happy that it means something to you!
Reply
:iconkay-march:
Kay-March Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2015
the end is for me, no doubt the best part. Great piece of disencounters and so truthful.
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Student Writer
thank you so much!
Reply
:iconkay-march:
Kay-March Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2015
You're most welcome.
Reply
:icondailylitrecognition:
DailyLitRecognition Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2015

Your wonderful literary work has been chosen to be featured by DLR (Daily Literature Recognition) in a news article that can be found here. Be sure to check out the other artists featured and show your support by ing the News Article.


Keep writing and keep creating.

Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Student Writer
:heart:
Reply
:iconemsoileau:
emsoileau Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
I wanted so bad for there to be one surprise picture of the narrator tucked away in the back of it. 

I'm so glad to see you back.
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Student Writer
AHHH THAT WOULD'VE BEEN A GREAT TWIST

Honestly, deep down I think John still loved Anna, too. Maybe someday they'll figure it all out. I hope so.

Thank you!
Reply
:iconemsoileau:
emsoileau Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
it'd have been the kind of twist i personally like a lot. i think i'm too fond of that kind of thing...
Reply
:iconcomatose-comet:
comatose-comet Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
You described this situation so perfectly. Incredible work :heart:
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Student Writer
:blushes: Thank you so much!!
Reply
:icontangled-tales:
Tangled-Tales Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Poignant, but beautifully written! I love it! :heart:

keep up the great work!
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Student Writer
Thank you so, so much! :heart:
Reply
:iconsrynan:
Srynan Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
You captured the feeling wonderfully... it hurt to read as well, just so you know. But it helps to know others do feel this way and it helps to see that someone is able to find words to describe it!
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2015  Student Writer
Awww it's an awful way to feel. But I'm glad it's made you feel better. Sometimes it helps to know you're not alone,

Thank you! :hug:
Reply
:iconsrynan:
Srynan Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Yeah it sure does Huggle! thanks a lot!
Reply
:iconlyssap:
Lyssap Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2015  Student General Artist
i know this feeling all too well and you captured it beautifully. Good job!
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2015  Student Writer
Thank you!! :heart:
Reply
:iconlyssap:
Lyssap Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2015  Student General Artist
no problem :heart:
Reply
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