Prompt from Monica Wood’s The Pocket Muse: Pick someone who is either 10 years older or younger than you. Finish this phrase: “The only thing I ever wanted was _________.”
Here is what spawned for me after writing uninterrupted for 15 minutes:
The only thing I ever wanted was a family. As an assassin, it’s hard to settle down. People are after you. You can’t have direct deposit. Retirement? You mean death. Bringing anyone else into the mix just put them at danger.
Last date I went on was with a woman named Josephine. She was gorgeous. Long, silky brunette hair– like milk chocolate. Her eyes beamed as she spoke of her charity work with sick children. The entire time she’s talking about raising millions of dollars for child cancer research, I’m trying to find a comfortable position to spread my legs under the table so the concealed revolver against my thigh wouldn’t 1. go off; 2. press into my groin. She asked me the fated question of all first dates:
“So, Linus, what do you do for a living?”
I’d been here a thousand times, knowing that this potential relationship was already doomed. So, I decided to have fun with it.
“I’m a freelancer. Kind of between jobs.”
She sipped her champagne. Her eyebrows leapt with a feigned spark of intrigue.
“Ugh. I wish I could create my own schedule,” Josephine said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love the kids. I just, I don’t know, wish I had more flexibility.”
“It’s no glamorous life by any means,” I said, breaking off a piece of a cooling baguette in the clothed basket between us.
My arm bumped the lit candlestick. The wax column leaned, falling toward the carpet. My reflexes, like a Venus fly trap’s hinge, snapped, and my hand caught the warm candle before it hit ground. Its flame still burned, sending beads of melted white to cool on the accented carpet lines.
“You should consider sports,” Josephine said. She nudged plates and silverware around to clear more space for fallen candlestick.
Her fingers massaged the pearls around her neck. Their milky surface reflected the dancing embers from all the tables in the room. I set the candlestick back. Laughed it off. Fixed the napkin tucked into my collar.
Josephine held her champagne glass up to me, preparing a toast.
“To good fortune,” she said, “in all your freelance endeavors.”
I raised my glass to hers.
She smiled. We nodded to each other, then raised our glasses to our mouths. As the bubbled champagne neared my lips, my eyes caught sight of a small tablet dissolving in the bottom of the glass. A sliver of white pill oxidized by bubbles. I paused. Josephine sipped slowly.
I carefully scanned the surrounding restaurant. Couples and esteemed businessmen were immersed in their own private conversations. Servers carried heavy trays of fine china and seared prime ribs garnished with lemon-herb asparagus and mashed cauliflower with lavender-fused gravy. Mine and Josephine’s table nestled against a wall. No one had passed by.
“Don’t waste a toast to health,” she said.
Her striking eyes flashed from fueled by seduction to a dark watch.