Not in Play

“I’ll never understand why a beautiful girl would tear her nails apart,” her mother shook her head looking at her ragged cuticles and peeled nails.  She pulled her hands off the booth table and tucked them under her slender thighs.

She was more than beautiful.  Both men and women stole glances at her on the subway, street or bus.  It didn’t matter if she was in baggy jeans and a sweater, like she wore today, or in the skin tight black mini she had to wear serving cocktails in Soho. She was breathtaking.  Her auburn hair, now in a messy bun, when let loose framed her green eyes, high cheekbones and fell to the top of her ample bust.  The copper tendrils, teasing as they swayed over her cleavage, helped with tips.  She put the hair up when tips weren’t in play.

“Thanks again for coming.  I know it’s a pain,” she said after taking a bite of her sandwich.

“At least it’s Saturday.  Only took us an hour. On a weekday, Christ, we’d be driving for an hour more,” her father wiped clean his chin of hamburger grease.  “You living in Jersey City’s a whole lot easier than when you were over there in Queens. Cheaper, too, right?”

She nodded, taking a sip of water. “But not cheap enough for you to afford your own medicine,” her mother harped.

“Mom, I go off your insurance in just a few months.  You can get my inhaler for like what? Twenty dollars?  I really need it now. The fall kills me.” She sat back on the bench seat.

“Like it would kill you to come to the shore every once in a while,” her mother stabbed at her salad.

“You know I can’t get down to see you.  I work, like all the time.  I’ve got two jobs now plus going to auditions.” She dug in her purse. “How much for the inhaler?”

Her father reached over, holding her hand still in her bag.  “Hey, we can cover your medicine. Don’t sweat it, doll.”

“Save your worry for your student loans,” her mother stabbed again.  “Four years at some fancy school, and you’re what? A fancy waitress.  Hell, why not get a job at this diner.  Save you subway fare.”

She pushed her half sandwich to the side, biting her lip.  “I don’t think the tips are so great here.”

“Pete, time to go.  I want to make the four o’clock mass.  I guess we’ll see you next time you need something,” a final stab as she scooted out of the booth.  Her father paid the check at the cashier then came back to tuck some singles under his saucer for their waitress.

“Here’s your inhalers. I had them fill the max, so there’s three.” he kissed her forehead and handed her a plastic bag as he turned to leave. She wrapped her leftover sandwich, opening the bag to take it home. Inside, a wad of twenties from Dad.

6 thoughts on “Not in Play

  1. The contrast in her parents is startling. With a mother like that, it’s a good thing she had good old Dad to lighten the load, or she might not have made it at all. I found myself hoping this girl could really make it one day – if only to rub it in her mother’s face. Great story!


  2. Wow, what an unexpected take on the prompt, haha. This was incredibly engaging for a piece of flash; I felt invested in this woman.
    (As an aside, though, I mentally stumbled when you wrote “she” or “her” sometimes. I had to go back to double check if it was referring to the protagonist or her mother. Just so you know [if you ever want to go back to this piece]! ❤ )


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