(Angharad’s Back received an honourable mention in Esoterica’s Short Story Contest.)
By Ashley T.K.
Penelope sat across from Tyler who was picking at the breakfast she’d made from scratch for their two-year anniversary, which isn’t a very good place to start a story. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re starting here and I have no reservations about that; however, if I found the pages upon which a short story about me was printed and it began while I was in a relationship, then I would probably assume the worst. That is to say, things aren’t going well for Penelope, and they’re not going to get better any time soon.
“What’s wrong, love?” She tilted her head and cooed.
“Nothing…” Tyler sighed, hanging his head. His eyes fell under the shaggy hair that swept so low it dipped in the syrup covering pancakes so fluffy you could sleep on them.
Penelope put down her fork. “You’re thinking about Angharad, aren’t you?”
Tyler’s head shot up, scowling as he said, “Am I not allowed to miss her?”
“You miss her every second of every day,” Penelope scoffed, “you need a therapist.”
“You just don’t get it. Angharad would understand.”
Penelope rolled her eyes. “I know. Angharad would understand the fact that you haven’t moved on in the five years she’s been dead. Just like Angharad would understand why you don’t do the dishes, leave your hair on the shower wall, and refuse to go to therapy.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m trying to say that you need a therapist,” Penelope said.
“You’re ruining our anniversary!”
“You’re ruining the breakfast I made. Do you know what it takes to make pancakes from scratch?”
“You always make pancakes from scratch,” Tyler crossed his arms remembering all the birthdays, and anniversaries, and Christmases, and New Years’, and New Year’s Eves, and St. Patrick’s days, and Rosh Hashanahs that he’d known Penelope. Neither of them were Jewish.
“Yes, and it always takes a lot of work. Same with the eggs, and the toast, and the platter of jams, and spreads for the toast, and the sausages, and bacon, and fruit trays, and waffles; yet you always get in a sour mood because you’ve never allowed yourself to process the death of your ex-girlfriend. I think it’s time that you went to therapy.”
“And what if I don’t?”
“Tyler, I’m trying to help you.”
“You can’t help me,” Tyler flipped his hair to the side, “unless you can bring Angharad back.”
“If I did, you’d leave me for her,” Penelope intended to mutter but actually hollered.
“What? That’s ridiculous.” Tyler furrowed his brow, flipping his arms into the air.
Penelope’s cheeks flushed with red, an oven turning on in her chest. It was too late to back down now, though. “Come on. Admit it. If Angharad came walking through that door right now, you’d get on one knee and propose.”
“With what ring?” Tyler stood up. “You’re just upsetting me now. I wouldn’t leave you for Angharad, I don’t even know why you would even say that. Besides, it’s not like she is going to come through that door, so I don’t even know why we’re even discussing this even.”
Lo and behold! The door opened, and there stood… a great and mighty ogre! Nah, I’m just kidding. You know who was standing there. Unless you’re a three-year-old. Or if a friend handed this story to you and covered up the title, saying that ‘you’ll never believe what happens in this story’ which is so painfully obvious that it’s about to happen you now think something else entirely must happen or else they have no respect for your reading comprehension skills. I’m afraid it’s the latter, but please keep reading before you duke it out with that slack-jawed yokel. I put a lot of work into this story.
Yes, Angharad was back. She didn’t need a key because the door wasn’t locked. Regardless, she had one despite the fact that after two years together Penny still hadn’t gotten one.
“Tyler,” She signed.
“I love you,” Tyler signed back.
Penelope looked on in horror at who she could assume by the twinkle in Tyler’s eye was Angharad. She didn’t want to admit it, but the girl was gorgeous. She looked exactly like your dream girl. Yes, you. She was exactly your type, undeniable in every way. Unless of course you’re into men, in which case she looked like your dream boy. You might think that’s odd, but I think it’s feminist. Nevermind my penis, I can be a feminist too. I promise.
Tyler ran to Angharad, clutching her in his arms, picking her up, and twirling the body that fit perfectly in his hands. He ran his hands through her hair. It was a forest. There, the trees sing the most beautiful songs, the leaves tell the most hilarious jokes, and the wind teaches you things. I could wander for hours, enticed to rest in the grass of her arms. She is warm and comforting, and when we’re together I never want to leave. Among her astonishing features are her soft skin and waterfall lips replenishing my thirst for life. My favorite thing about her, though, has to be her eyes. Often appearing pitch black, when the light catches them just right they sparkle like diamonds, revealing galaxies of detail. Regardless, they always shine with kindness and look to everyone with wonder.
Sorry. You caught me thinking about my girlfriend. Anyway, that’s how Tyler feels about Angharad, whom I’ve spent so much time describing that Penelope, the protagonist of this story, has wandered off. No matter, she’s rather predictable. I’m sure she’s at Ground Pound coffee.
Yes, I was right! She made her way through the biting cold of the November air to her favorite coffee shop. I’m lucky she walked underneath the overcast sky, it gives me time to do something nice for her. I don’t really have time to describe the cafe, though. Please forgive me, and feel free to use your own imagination to fill in the blanks.
A barista approached Penelope, who sat alone at a table for two. “The author sent this over.” She handed Penny a large, hot coffee. Upon it, the word Sorry was scrawled.
“Thanks,” Penelope murmured, taking the cup before the barista went back to her station. She took a sip and grimaced at the vanilla. Okay, how about caramel? She took another sip, smiling a bit. Yeah, that’s it, who doesn’t like caramel? And, white chocolate! She took another sip and – I don’t believe this – she licked her lips. Hell yeah, I’ve done it again! Maybe now this story won’t end in a suicide.
I suppose it’s about time I actually took the time to describe Penelope. The teaser is over – Hell, we’ve gotten through all of act one. The thing about describing women in prose is that there are rules. Men have their own rules. Women have their own rules. The people who don’t believe in gender (myself included) have their own niche rules. The problem is, and I’m sure you can tell, I’m trying very hard to exist outside of those rules. I’m sure more than three of the people reading this (but less than eleven) are confused about my idea of what those “rules” are, so I might as well give you examples.
First, for the men: Penelope had HUGE tits! I mean, they were ginormous! But they weren’t that great. And that ass! WOAH! But it wasn’t that great. She had long legs too, real long legs. She was still shorter than a man, though. She was thinner than a man too, any man, really. She had red lips which pouted because she had just lost her man. Her green eyes glistened with the memory of losing her man. But, she was a woman! As a man, we all know women can get sex wherever they want. I’m a different kind of guy, though. She was sensitive. Maybe she didn’t even know she wanted sex, but she did in her heart of hearts. All of that sexual frustration was wrapped up in her sadness, those emotions that all women seem to have, you know, because I’ve actually met women and they sure do get emotional when something like this happens. But, really, who could blame the guy? I mean, Angharad had even huger tits which weren’t that great and an even better ass which wasn’t that great and even longer legs while being somehow even shorter and thinner. I’m sure she knew she was being unreasonable.
Alright. I’ve made myself sick enough. Now, for the women: Penelope’s blonde hair draped over the sides of her heart-shaped face, some of it falling in front of her green eyes. She didn’t notice, though. All she seemed to witness were the clouds outside, thick with the brumous threat of rain. Somehow, the light of the sun shined through, though. Nothing could block it out except for the moon on those rare occasions that the whole world could stop and stand together in awe. She brought her sleek fingers past her dimpled chin, stroking between her upturned nose and thin upper lip. A mustache grew there. She usually shaved it once every other week, but just hadn’t found the time lately. It never bothered her. She would cut it off to make her mother happy, but violence can become habit and habit can die into depression. She spilled a little bit of coffee on the table, wiping it up with the sleeve of a brown cardigan draped over her blue shirt. Tyler had given it to her, but she didn’t think of it as her own. She rarely wore it and her desire to wear it was even more scarce. It didn’t really matter. The cardigan was there and it was cardigan weather.
See? I know what I’m doing. I can write well every few paragraphs or so.
Penny caught her faint reflection in the window, admiring the description I had come up with for her. She may not have put a lot of work into her appearance that morning, but she could tell I’d put a little extra thought into it. A tiny smile possessed her lips as she took in the sight of herself. She thought about the barista and she thought about me. It wasn’t easy being a fictional character, but you might agree that it’s not easy being “real” either. I hope she was grateful for her story and the coffee, but it feels wrong for me to tell you how she felt.
“Thank you,” she whispered as the barista passed back by.
Penelope stood up, finishing the last drop of coffee and walking towards the exit. Without thinking, she tossed the cup into the trash can. She looked down, running the tip of her middle finger along the edge of the stand encasing the trash before moving her hand to the door and pushing it open.
It was a short walk back to Tyler’s place. It wasn’t a walk she wanted to embark on, but rather one she had to. She figured it would be better with a fresh wound than a scar.
She cut through the woods, eager to get the epilogue of a failed relationship over and done with. Some people might linger, savoring the taste of romance until it becomes too bitter to swallow. I’ve spat out plenty of sour fruit though and want to do Penelope the kindness of avoiding such pain, so I’ll say that she’s always been a doer more than a thinker about being a doer. Besides, the romance between her and Tyler had been decimated long before Angharad’s straw drifted on its back. The dying trees surrounding her shortcut were the first step in rebirth.
Penelope lifted her hand to knock on the door, but stopped herself. Angharad hadn’t knocked. Why should she? Her hand trembled as it reached for the knob, but pushed forward with the tenacity to twist it. The door popped open, leading to a dark flat. She turned around, noticing that Tyler’s car had left its usual spot. Penny turned back, closing the door behind her and gathering the few things she had here in the dark. She was familiar enough with the place not to even think about the lights. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she noticed more bites taken off of her pancakes than she had chewed off that morning. She cut herself off a slice drenched in the syrup she always left in the bottle, and acquiesced to the odd craving her mouth begged for. A tooth ached in the presence of the sugar, reminding her why she wasn’t much for sweets in the first place. She put down the fork, helped herself to a glass of water, and left the place.
She stared out into the back of the parking lot which housed her car. The walk to it would be long, and the drive back home even longer.
She sighed, drawing a finger up to her chin. “How did she come back from the dead?” Penny asked before realizing what I’ve been trying to tell her all along.
This isn’t Angharad’s story.
Ashley T. K. has been described as many things, but the most accurate one was probably “Ashley T. K.” He specializes in comedy and metafiction, but has dabbled in drama, horror, and that one niche genre you think you invented (you didn’t – he did). He has been published in Chariot Press (as Ash Kennedy) and now Esoterica Magazine, upgrading him from “wannabe musician” to “kind of a writer.” When he’s not forcing fictional constructs to endure his biggest fears, he acts as an active member of the IWW, Food Not Bombs, and his band Attack The Hideous Idiots.