ARDOR Literary Magazine

ARDOR Issue Four - Winter, 2014

Issue One, Published January 2013

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Page 7 of 73

4 ● ARDOR Fiction ● Campbell Home to Laughter Douglas Campbell Laura, my ex-wife, pulled out of the driveway ahead of me, on her way to begin her new life. But with Hurricane Ike heading straight for Galveston, I was evacuating and making the first leg of the journey with her. We were headed for a motel room well north of Galveston that Laura, with her usual foresight, had booked for us. I lost her in the slow, heavy traffic of the evacuation. When I reached the motel she was already there, reclining on one of the queen beds, reading Pride and Prejudice. She gave me a wistful smile when I came in. "You okay?" I asked. "I'm okay." But the words came out in a sigh. "Sad?" Her long black hair, so thick and soft, lay spread across her back and caught the glow of the table lamp beside her. Some of it slipped off her shoulder and down her chest when she nodded. "Sad. Excited too, though. A jumble." I'd promised Laura that if she ever found someone who thrilled her more than me, who seemed to offer her a more fulfilling life than I could, I'd let her go. I'd said that during one of those conversations people falling in love inevitably have, during which they at last reveal themselves as honestly as they dare, admitting their flaws without dwelling on them, while perhaps slightly overselling their virtues. But when I made that promise I'd meant every word, had felt the justice and love in it, never dreaming my better nature would ever be tested. In the absence of adversity, promises come easily. We're all heroes behind the front lines. Nine years later, at a personnel management conference in Chicago, Laura met that special someone. Keeping my promise had proven far more difficult than uttering it. But we'd struggled through – through accusations and sarcasm, times when we couldn't stand to be in the same room. Through tears, apologies, regrets. Through the divorce, the lawyers, the negotiations. Somehow, after all that, we'd moved on into a sometimes painful but still affectionate aftermath. "It's harder," I said, "with me tagging along." Flash Fiction Contest Winner

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