The response to the Short Story Contest wasn’t mind-boggling, but I’m happy that six great authors submitted their stories to the contest. Quality is more important than quantity anyways! =D
In the next two weeks, I will post their stories here, so you have time to read them. Then there will be a voting for the best story, so check back and vote for your favourite story! The winner will get an Amazon giftcard!
To the authors: Thanks for your participation and good luck!
EDIT: VOTE NOW!
Here’s the first submission:
The French Quarter by Jeremie Guy
The fake sound of an airplane taking off awakened him from his daydream. He yawned and rubbed his eyes, realizing that he’d grown sleepy since he’d sat down.
“Don’t go to sleep, bud, I need someone to keep me company,” said Hugh. William wrinkled his face and just wanted to nod off, but Hugh tapped his shoulder. “You need to just forget about Evanka. She’s no good for you.”
Hugh stopped talking and William wondered if his best friend realized that talking about her was still a touchy subject. He knew that he was taking the trip down to the French Quarter in New Orleans because he needed some time away from his wife Evanka. He wasn’t sure if he would ever go back. After he discovered that she was having multiple, drunken affairs he had to leave to resist the temptation of assaulting her. Just because I cheated doesn’t mean I don’t love you, William remembered her saying. We’ve been married for ten years and you better not be getting ready to throw that away. Thinking of another man inside his wife made him shudder and a chill crept up his spine. Tears burned his eyes and he blinked to keep them inside.
“Come on, Bill. Don’t go getting all soft on me, buddy. We’ll have a blast down here and you’ll forget all about that Canadian whore in no time. We’re going to where Mardi Gras happens! Being there will wipe your slate clean.” Hugh whistled and smirked with the side of his mouth, like he always did when he expected to have a good time.
A female voice rasped over the intercom and informed the two friends that their flight would be leaving soon. William looked out the large glass window of the airport and could see the plane that he would be boarding. It looked a lot smaller than he expected. He checked his ticket to see what zone he would be sitting in and when his zone was called he lined up with Hugh.
When they made it to the front of the line the lady checking the tickets and ID informed them that the airplane was too small to accommodate their luggage, and they would have to check the bags. Hugh started to get mad and raise his voice, but the attendant settled him down and said the bag check would be free because it was the size of the plane and not Hugh’s fault. When he learned this he rubbed the graying stubble growing from his chin and smiled.
The lady gave them both a number and a set of pink tags that they wrapped around their luggage for when they landed. They boarded the tiny plane.
“You take the window seat,” said Hugh, appearing queasy.
William smiled for the first time since they’d left for the trip. “You scared to look out?”
Hugh always acted like a tough guy with everyone but William. “I’ve told you a million times I hate flying. It never helps to see the action so I’d rather sit by the isle and close my eyes and think of unicorns and poppycock.”
William allowed himself to chuckle. “Alright.” William made his way into the seat and watched Hugh sit down next to him. “But on the way back, I’m breaking you of this fear and you’re going to stare out the window even if it makes you cry.”
“Well at least if I cry my eyes will be blurry.”
William smiled and slowly shook his head as he watched Hugh pull his jacket up over his head. William watched as the plane left Thurgood Marshall Airport and Baltimore grew tiny. Looking down on the city and watching the cars trudge through traffic made him think his problems with his wife were insignificant. He hadn’t talked with her since the day before and he missed her. Even though he was only thirty, the thought of being without her made him feel like he was in his sixties.
When they arrived in New Orleans it was dark, and a shuttle was waiting to take them to the French Quarter. A slender black fellow was the driver, and he took their bags and put them in the back of the shuttle. He had a southern accent that wasn’t too jagged on the ears, but it made William chuckle because it was his first time hearing one in real life.
The two friends split the tip for the driver when they arrived at the hotel. A tall black woman was the concierge and her accent was a bit thicker than the drivers.
“You must be Mr. Thompson and Mr. Clinton?” said the concierge. Hugh and William looked at each other with a smile, wondering how she knew who they were.” She smiled and showed a set of white but crooked teeth. “You’re my last check in.”
She was wearing a blazer jacket with a green blouse. She pulled her blazer together as William read her nametag, which said Tammy. She went through the normal procedure and Hugh and William checked in.
The hotel wasn’t fancy, but it was still a bit stylish. The elevators were painted gold and the doors were almost reflective enough to be mirrors. As they walked down the hallway toward their room William noticed every painting on the wall was some sort of pineapple. Some looked like earlier or premature versions of the fruit, while others looked like what William loved to eat.
Inside their room, William smiled at the two beds, relishing in the fact that he would have his own bed for a change. He also found happiness in how straight the sheets and comforters were. He thought back to his wife and felt a twang of depression. She didn’t see the need in making beds. William wouldn’t have minded if she never made their bed, but when he would make it she wouldn’t respect him enough to preserve the integrity of the sheets throughout the day. No matter how long he was gone, if he left the house the sheets would always be ruffled and wrinkled. Now that he had discovered her affairs, he wondered if that was the reason. He’d always thought she was just inconsiderate, and now he hoped that’s all that was going on with the bed situation.
“We’ve got to hit a bar or something, I’m starving,” said Hugh, tossing his duffle bag on the floor and going into the bathroom.
“I’m down. I haven’t eaten for at least a day.”
William sat on the bed and waited until he heard the toilet flush before he stood. The two exited the hotel room after making sure they both had their room key in case something crazy happened and they got separated.
Hugh had been to New Orleans before and he reminded William as they walked down the dark streets. A steady rain was bombarding the roofs and water streamed off the tops of the buildings and down gutters. It reminded William of a different time period, but he found it pleasant that the streets didn’t stink. The puddles were an annoyance at first, but since they didn’t walk very far before they came to a restaurant bar named Déjà vu, William wasn’t upset. The restaurant bar was on the corner of Conti Street.
The smell of tobacco was thick in the air inside the bar and it was the first thing William noticed. The two friends stood at the front door for a few minutes before they realized that no one was going to seat them. Hugh went over to grab a table and William found a waitress and asked her for a menu. She said she’d be right with them.
Tobacco was never a favorite smell of William’s, and the thickness of it in the room started burning his sinuses. He looked around and smiled, despite the smell. The place had character. Country music was playing out a jukebox but wasn’t loud enough to drown out any conversation. Though there weren’t more than seven other people in the bar, their loud laughter and dialogue made it seem like there were more.
The waitress came over with two menus and a smile. She had thin lips but a chubby face. William hadn’t noticed her pink hair before, but as she looked down at him and asked what he wanted to order it almost glowed.
“What’ll you boys be having to drink?” the waitress asked, leaning over.
William asked for water but Hugh was perusing the menu as if the drink selection was more important than it was. He lowered his eyes and looked up at the waitress, smirking out the side of his mouth.
“You wouldn’t happen to be able to make me a mixed drink of some sort would you?” he asked.
She looked flustered at first, but her face brightened as if she just remembered something. “Yeah, definitely, like alcohol? I can mix something up for you,” she finished, answering her own question.
“What’s your name, doll,” said Hugh, smiling wide enough to show his large front teeth.
The waitress almost did a curtsey as she said her name, pushing out her right breast and holding up the nametag that was attached to it.
“You can call me Pixie,” she said, almost bouncing back to a normal standing position.
A hat covered her head and her hair was only shoulder length, but somehow the pink strands managed to move on their own. She was smiling now, and her perky outlook almost begged William to check her out. She had squat body, but William couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to hook up with her. The bubbly attitude she presented made him feel good. He noticed her nametag had her first initial and her last name printed. P.Stick.
“Is your real name Pixie?” William asked, curious about parents that would name their daughter Pixie Stick.
The question yielded a giggle from Pixie. “Nope. Real name’s Penelope. Pleasure meeting you.” She did another courtesy and William decided he would tip her well.
When she walked away to grab their drinks, Hugh looked at William, smirking out the side of his mouth. “She’s cute.”
William chuckled and thought of his wife, figuring he was in no mood to make a random hookup with a waitress just yet.
“Yeah she is. Odd name though, huh?”
Hugh nodded and turned his attention to the menu. William had already decided what he wanted, but he couldn’t shake Pixie’s nametag from his thoughts. His wife called pregnancy tests pee sticks. Every doctor William had ever seen told him that he was sterile, but when Evanka missed her period for a few weeks he remembered his heart beating its way up into his throat and staying there. He’d never been more excited. Go get me a few pee sticks from the Target, he remembered his wife saying, pronouncing Target as tarjay for some reason. When they found out she wasn’t pregnant, the news was devastating. Now he wondered if that was why she cheated. She’d always wanted kids.
While they waited William decided to go to the bathroom and wash his hands. Inside the lavatory was disgusting, but he thought it gave the place even more character. The urinal was filled with ice for some reason and graffiti decorated the maroon walls. Since there were people smoking outside, the bathroom smelled good to William but gave off a dangerous vibe. He washed his hands as fast as he could, feeling like waiting around would get him stabbed or raped.
The food arrived a few minutes after he returned and the two friends ate. Hugh had a small amount of alcohol, and as usual he talked a lot more than he should of.
“My pal here needs a date. His wife cheated on him with everyone in Baltimore City. Can you believe that, all of Charm City!” Hugh shook his head and made a sexual noise by clapping the backs of his hands together.
William felt warm as his friend talked and he tried to wave the waitress away before things became too embarrassing. “Don’t mind him, Pixie, he’s just a bit drunk.”
Pixie looked disappointed, but she left. The two friends finished their food.
“We should hit Bourbon Street!” said Hugh, almost screaming as he finished his French toast and eggs. “Eating breakfast at dinnertime always makes me feel alive.”
William chuckled at his friend and made a bad joke about the French Quarter and French toast before agreeing.
The two friends asked Pixie to split the checks and when she came back with them Hugh asked for directions for a few places of entertainment. Pixie complied and said she hoped she’d see them again. When leaving the tip, Hugh slapped down a few bills and a quarter.
“Look man, I’m leaving a quarter in the French Quarter.” He stood there with his mouth open until he heard a laugh that William failed to suppress. “Don’t act like your jokes are better than mine, because they aren’t.”
William shrugged and they exited the bar. As they headed toward Bourbon Street music drifted in the air. Pixie had told them to follow the music to find Bourbon Street and that’s what they did. When they were close enough to see the neon lights and herds of people, they could hear laughter and chatter as well.
The rain still provided soggy background chorus, but it had lightened up and wasn’t much of a bother to anyone. Women in miniskirts and low cut tops paraded around with bottles and casually dressed men or other scantily clad women. The entire street appeared to be one big party.
“Welcome to Bourbon Street, buddy,” said Hugh, holding open his arms and nodding his head.
William couldn’t help but smile as they started walking through the street. There were men and women on balconies above the street yelling at the people below to show a little skin for a bead-necklace reward. Not many people complied, but multicolored beads still littered the street and William almost slipped a few times.
Despite the party going on around him, William saw a woman that looked like Evanka. She was a bit skinnier, but she wore the same leather coat and black leather boots that his wife did. She even had the same knit hat as Evanka, which happened to be her favorite shade of purple.
“Let’s go in this bar, man,” said William, stopping in front of a bar that had a neon yellow Funky544 Bar hanging over the front door.
Hugh shrugged his shoulders and the two entered.
Music was the first thing to assault William’s senses and he wondered how anyone was able to hear inside the bar. There was a female MC on a stage at the front of the bar, and she sounded unable to speak in a regular voice. She yelled into the microphone every few seconds, piggybacking off the song that was currently playing through the speakers.
A smile widened across Hugh’s face and at first William didn’t know why. He followed Hugh’s gaze and saw a girl carrying a tray of shots. William figured Hugh was smiling because the shot girl was on her knees in front of a guy’s crotch. The guy was smiling similar to Hugh, but he had a shot placed on the front of his jeans. Licking around the rim of the glass, the shot girl toyed with the guy before downing the shot and snatching five dollars from him. It was obvious he was drunk.
As William looked around he noticed that almost every shot girl was doing something sexual or sensual with the male patrons to get them to purchase shots. One came around to William and put the shot deep in her throat, leaning back and inviting him to move close and take the shot from her mouth.
Hugh pushed him close and William figured he might as well. He bent down, opened wide, and wrapped his lips around the long shot glass. The shot girl pushed forward and emptied the alcohol into his mouth, grazing his lips with her own as she did.
The contact made William jump and his heart fluttered. He didn’t know the girl would kiss him at the end, nor did he want the attention. Hugh gave a firm slap to William’s back, but the kiss made William’s gut churn. He was technically still married, and even though his wife was acting like she didn’t care, he didn’t feel right cheating on her. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
A bit distraught over what the shot girl had done to him, William found a table with a stool in front of it. He sat down and Hugh joined him. Though he stood beside his friend, Hugh still danced to the music, moving his hips in a circle and swaying his arms in opposite directions.
“Hey, want to take a shot?” asked a soft voice in William’s ear.
He turned and saw a girl holding a tray. Instead of a low cut top and a miniskirt, this shot girl had on a T-shirt and cuffed jeans. She had thin lips but an inviting smile. She leaned forward and asked her question again.
“No. Thanks but no. I already had one and I don’t want to get like my friend here.”
William pointed at Hugh, who was hip thrusting the air in the direction of everyone that walked past.
The shot girl smirked and sat down at the table next to William and continued to ask patrons if they wanted shots as they walked past.
Though the minutes slipped away and the music hurt his ears more, he couldn’t stop thinking of the classy shot girl. She reminded him of a time when things were still innocent in his life and girls didn’t always seem to turn out so scandalous. Even though she was college-age or younger, she gave him an odd sense of hope.
After an hour or so William told Hugh it was time to go. He had sobered up a bit and reframed from dancing. His eyes were red and he looked tired, so William wasn’t surprised when he didn’t fight the decision to leave.
As they were exiting, William found the classy shot girl and motioned for her to come close enough for him to say something in her ear. She complied.
“I just wanted to let you know that I think the way you carry yourself is extremely classy. It’s refreshing to see a woman that doesn’t need to advertise her body to make money and I really hope you stay the same. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
The classy shot girl smiled bigger than anyone William had seen smile in a long time. William left his Facebook name with her as he left, but didn’t know why.
When the two friends arrived back at their hotel, Hugh plopped on his bed and closed his eyes. William checked his phone and realized he had seven missed calls and three voicemails. All were from Evanka. She only cried on two of the voicemails, but they all said the same thing. Even the five texts she had sent repeated the message. I’m sorry. Please don’t leave for good. Come back soon.
Fighting back tears of his own, William wanted to break his phone in half. Hugh had started snoring but something still stopped William from crying. It took a lot of his strength to keep his phone intact, but he set it on the floor and sprawled out on his bed. He didn’t close his eyes and he stared at the ceiling. He couldn’t get her words or voice out his brain. A black feeling of pain weighed down on his chest and he wished he could close his eyes and sleep until he felt nothing. Just go numb.
Thinking of his wife prevented him from sleeping and after a few hours he gave up. He reached down to his phone and texted his wife. I’m coming home.
When he did make it home he felt like a new man. He didn’t know if New Orleans was what had allowed him to forgive her, or if seeing all the happy people frolic through the streets gave him a new mind. Either way he knew he had to forgive Evanka if he ever wanted to move on.
At first his nerves prevented him from opening his door, but he eventually built up the strength to stretch out a shaky finger and turn the key.
It felt weird not saying his normal, Honey, I’m home, but he felt as though the nickname was inappropriate at the time. He dropped his luggage off in the foyer and walked up his stairs. The squeak of the old wood sent the warm feeling of being home again through his body, but he didn’t let it change his mind.
He walked into his room and saw his wife Evanka sitting on the bed. The sheets were ruffled and wrinkled and he couldn’t help but wonder. Upon seeing him, she stood up instantly and ran over, throwing her arms around his neck and squeezing him close until he could barely breathe. Cologne that wasn’t his exuded from her body.
“I’m so glad you came back, baby. I can’t bear the thought of living in this big old house without you.”
William gulped but felt happy. “Well now you won’t have to,” he said with a smirk.
“Of course. How was the trip.”
“It was nice. Allowed me to clear my head and think. I have a few suitcases in the basement if you want, but you can’t take the luggage I had down in New Orleans.
Evanka blinked and pulled back a bit. “What do you mean?” She forced a smile, brushing her long black hair behind her ears. “Why are you telling me about the luggage in the basement?”
William sighed and fought back tears. He’d run through this moment in his head over and over again, but it hadn’t gotten any easier.
“You can’t bear living in the house without me, but I can’t bear the thought of living here with you.”
A tear seeped out and he turned away. He saw a thong on the carpet next to his bathroom. More tears rushed toward his cheek and his chest felt like it would sink into his shoes. He turned back to Evanka and her thick bottom lip quivered. She opened her mouth as if she was about to speak, but William held up a finger.
“You know where to find the suitcases.”
She didn’t speak, but William heard her squeak down the steps as she headed for the basement. His chest felt even heavier now and it became harder to breath. He felt like oil was coating his body and choking him.
Evanka wasn’t quiet about packing her things and William refused to look her in the eye despite her constant attempts to get his attention. She kept asking where she would go but William didn’t respond. He wanted to tell her to go to one of the houses of the men she’d had an affair with, but he kept quiet.
When she left she slammed the door, then all went quiet. William could hear the house settling, and the silence bugged him so he decided to get online to take the edge of. He moseyed onto Facebook and saw that he had a friend request. It was the classy waitress girl from New Orleans. Seeing her again made him smile and he leaned back in his chair. Even though she was too young and he knew nothing would become of the friendship, he felt lighter and filled with hope.