'The Text Message' by Ian Sutherland
My phone beeped and I jumped.
It was the sound of a text arriving. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to read it, but I gave it a go.
It’s amazing how much you can fit into a few key seconds.
I checked to see who had sent it. Ah, Eileen. What incredibly bad timing. Why not a few minutes earlier? I thought of our earlier conversation.
“Mark, I slept with Phil,” she had said matter-of-factly. She lay naked next to me in the bed, staring up at the ceiling, a sheet pulled across her. We had just finished lovemaking.
“When?” I asked, absently staring at the faint scars on my wrists. I realised that when was the least important question. I needed to know why? Why did she choose Phil, my older brother. Why after all these years? Why, just a week before our wedding? Just why?
“Last week when you were away. Mark, I’m so sorry.”
A hundred images flashed through my head. Sordid snapshots of Phil and Eileen, his greedy eyes absorbing her beauty, a smug smile fixed to his face. I squinted my eyes tightly to halt my imagination. But memories surfaced instead. Of Phil and Jane. Phil and Melanie. Phil and Julia. Phil and every one of my previous girlfriends. He had slept with them all.
When we were kids, Phil took my things. He took my toys, my comics and my video games. The day after my thirteenth birthday he even took my shiny new BMX bicycle. His racer had suddenly been stolen and so he borrowed mine. I never rode my BMX again.
All through our childhood, Phil coveted everything I had and invented ingenious ways to take them from me. He was subtle at first.
“Can I just borrow this for a few minutes?”
Then he became bolder.
“You don’t need this anymore, do you?”
And eventually he was honest about it.
“That’s mine now.”
Phil was Mum’s favourite. He knew it and I knew it. She always backed him and chastised me for not sharing.
When we grew up, the objects of his desire changed and his methods matured. But the outcome was the same. Phil took everything important in my life.
I thought Eileen would be the one thing I had that he never would. She’d always ignored his incessant flirting. Treated him with disdain. Pushed me to stand up to his bullying. But Phil always got what he wanted and he always wanted what I had. And now he'd had Eileen.
Well, it didn’t matter now.
I read the text.
I didn’t sleep with Phil. He talked me into it as a joke. I only agreed to get a reaction. You’re always so calm, so unemotional. I needed to know you love me. I’m so sorry. Please come home. Can you forgive me?
Yes, I could forgive her. But she was too late.
The phone had beeped with her message. But I had already jumped.
Gravity had me now.
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