Regretfully Decline (Flash Fiction)

“Well?” Susanne asked. “You have to say something, Brian.”

Although Brian didn’t look her in the eye, he could feel her stare. He could see that look on her face, the one that demanded an answer before her voice got louder. “I’m not going,” he said.

Susanne’s eyes went cold and the kitchen fell silent. Outside, through the closed window, the trees swayed in a silent breeze. Susanne walked around the island and sat directly in front of Brian. Brian looked away. “He’s your brother,” she said. Her voice was flat. Brian could tell she was seething. She leaned in the direction of his stare, and he looked further away. “He’s your brother you fucking asshole!”

“I know who he is,” Brian said. “And I know what he is.” Susanne was silent with shock. Brian looked up and watched the trees swim in the warm, summer breeze. “I have no respect for him,” he said.

“You still don’t forgive him, do you?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Enough!” she said, throwing a dish towel at him. “You know exactly what I mean, Brian, you prick. He stole your precious Catherine and you ended up with me.” She stood and threw her chair down on its side.

“Really, Susanne? This again?”

“You know, she chose him too.” Susanne opened the utensil drawer and pulled out a long, serrated knife. “When the fuck are you going to understand that, Brian? She chose him just as much as he stole her from you.”

“The pregnancy didn’t help much,” Brian muttered.

“What? What did you say!?” Susanne pointed the knife at him from across the counter.

“I can’t believe you, Susanne. You were there over Labor Day.” Brian watched the waving knife with growing interest. “He beat the shit out of her. Not once did she take off her sunglasses.”

Susanne opened the bread maker in the corner and began slicing pieces. “I don’t condone how they handled their problems, and don’t change the fucking subject.”

Brian watched closely as the uneven slices of bread fell on their side. “I’m not going to the funeral, Susanne. Being a man’s brother doesn’t earn special privilege.”

Susanne’s eyes narrowed. She squeezed the knife handle until her knuckles went white. Then she screamed, stabbed the half-cut loaf of bread, shoved the cutting board at her husband and stormed out of the room. Brian sat alone in his kitchen, watching the trees twist and turn in the warm breeze, trying to think of what to say to Catherine.

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