Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Alchera Project: Dan's Departure

This month's entry in The Alchera Project has the following guidelines:

"Write a scene from the point of view of a character being left by another character. If possible, avoid all clichés of soap operas and televisions and bad books and movies. Unfortunately, that doesn't give you much room to work. It seems everything on this topic has been said to death. You'll need to reach down into your characters to find something fresh, something particular to them. If you want, keep dialogue to a minimum. Work with action and gesture." --The Writer's Idea Book, Jack Heffron

Follow the above guidelines, using the scene in a piece of fiction.
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Dan's Departure

Carrie’s first thought as she awoke, as it was every morning, was to silence the awful bleating. She never intended to actually wake up when the alarm sounded and many mornings she succeeded, triumphantly rolling over and slipping back to sleep in blissful silence. This morning the memory that Dan had an early meeting bubbled into consciousness and sent her eyelids sliding to half-mast.

"Dan… " she mumbled into her pillow. "Dan," she said more insistently, pushing at his shoulder, "you’ve got that thing today, that thing with those guys for the funding."

"Mmmph."

"You have to get up, get dressed, shave, make your presentation."

"Mmmph. Five minutes."

Carrie knew after two years together that five minutes would lead to five more minutes and then five more. Finally, with only twenty minutes to go from zero to out the door, Dan would get himself up. Today was too important for that.

"Oh, no!" she laughed, rolling over and straddling him in one fluid motion. "You," she punctuated each syllable with kisses landing on a different part of his face, "need… to… get… rea… dy."

Carrie sighed. Dan really did need to get up and start his day but he was so warm and sleepy and snuggly and fit so well underneath her… Shaking herself mentally, Carrie eased off the bed, marched over to the window, and threw the curtains open.

Sunlight flowed from the window, drenching the bed and engulfing Dan as he squinted into the brightness. Scratching his head and looking none to steady on his feet, Dan wandered to the bathroom and soon Carrie heard the toilet flush followed by the concentrated rain of the shower. She fell back against the pillows and smiled at the sparkling slice of blue sky captured in the window. For no reason she could quite pin down, the day seemed full of promise. Maybe she would get up early for a change and enjoy some time to herself before all the errands clamoring for her attention on her day off.

Deciding to get up was one thing, but getting space at the sink and mirror were another. Carrie ducked under Dan’s arm as he traced his razor up his neck, grabbed the little bag she kept stocked with travel sized shampoo and conditioner, and darted into the shower. When she emerged from the bathroom, towel wrapped securely around her, she found Dan half-dressed, filling his briefcase with files from his desk. Looking down at the pale skinny legs sticking out from beneath his shirttails like two toothpicks stuck into pimento-red socks, she advised, "You might need some pants before you head out into the big, bad, breezy world."

Grinning his patented hint-of-wolf grin, his eyes raked over her wet skin. "Really?" he asked, "‘Cause I’m starting to see good points about an entirely pantsless day."

Laughing and holding her towel with one hand, she reached out and hugged him with her free arm. She breathed in the mingled scents of soap, shaving cream, and Dan. Her eyes drifted closed as her head tipped back, but the kiss never arrived.

Carrie’s confused eyes met Dan’s for the first time that morning and she felt herself go cold.

She stepped back from him instinctively, scanning his face, his posture for the thing that was different. The elements of him looked the same as she watched him return his attention to his files, from the vein that snaked a blue line up the back of his knee to the cowlick that never quite lay flat at the back of his head. The pieces of Dan were all there, but they no longer added up to her Dan. It was, Carrie decided, the air itself that had transformed someone she knew into someone she once knew. She held the towel tightly to her breastbone, walked back to the bathroom, and closed the door with a soft click. Wave after wave of questions buffeted her as she braced herself on the edge of the tub. When had he been planning to tell her it was over? Had he been her Dan yesterday at the restaurant? Last night when they returned to his place? Not that it mattered, she knew from long experience. He had already left her and clearing her few things out of his place today would leave no trace that she had ever been there.

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