Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Null and Void

Today's muse: Three Word Wednesday

Today's Words: affinity, fidget, mention.

Some stories need to be told. Miranda's begins here.

And now, it continues...

* * *

Null and Void

The one-bedroom apartment wasn’t large, particularly when you compared it to the sprawling four-bedroom house she had with Gregg. But the cozy unit was hers.

Hers and Pedro’s.

As Miranda sat at the kitchen table, piecing together a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, Pedro wound his lean body around her legs, pawing at her knee on every third rotation.

“You want to come up, don’t you?”

As though he understood, Pedro plopped his bottom down and sat very proper, raising one paw in a gesture of friendship. Or perhaps it was pleading.

“Now how can I resist that?”

Miranda picked up the grey tabby and set him on her lap. He immediately settled in, resting a paw on the table. Pedro moved his head back and forth, analyzing the puzzle, assessing all the pieces. After a moment, he reached up and swatted at a piece.

“This one?” Miranda picked up the piece, squinted at the grey, red and purple kaleidoscope of colour stamped on it. She looked over at the box cover, her eyes scanning the picture—a country cottage front porch, with wicker chairs, baskets of flowers and a tea set.

The tea set. It had a floral pattern on it and—would you look at that—Pedro’s piece fit.

“Good eye, buddy. Why don’t you stay up here and help me.”

The shrill cry of the portable phone sent Pedro leaping from her lap. Miranda was smiling as she answered.

Her lips turned down a moment later.

“This is Anna Giuseppe from the Archdiocese. I have an application for marital annulment from your husband, Gregg.”

Miranda fidgeted on the padded dining room chair that had suddenly become as unforgiving as a church pew. “And what do you want from me?”

“The Archdiocese wants to hear your side.”

“I see.”

“You were married on…” Miranda heard pages flipping. “Oh my. Less than a year.”


Miranda heard the challenge in her own voice, but couldn’t stop it. Anna Giuseppe could be as smug as she wanted, but that shrivelled up old bat had no idea the difference a marriage certificate made, how much that flimsy piece of paper had changed everything. Miranda’s signature had barely dried before Gregg’s affinity for psychological torture rose to the surface like foul pond scum.

Anna gave a small, fake cough. “Your husband has cited grounds for the request.”

Miranda hated that Gregg was still called her husband. He wasn’t her husband anymore. Was he ever? Did a ten-month marriage even qualify him for that title?

“And what are the grounds?” It surprised her that he’d confessed. Then again, she imagined he’d be quite proud at how he’d tamed the little missus, beating her into submission with demeaning words.

“It says here…” more flipping of pages “…that you were emotionally unprepared for marriage.”

“Excuse me?” Not his abuse, she realized, but rather her own tormented life was grounds for pardon by the church.

“Your husband stated that due to childhood trauma, you were unprepared for a marital commitment.”

Miranda fought against the ringing in her ears, the pressure in her lungs. That fucking asshole had taken her words of confession, words that tore her soul apart, and hurled them back at her like daggers.

“Did he describe my childhood?”

“He did.” Anna Giuseppe flipped more pages and read, her voice cold and mechanical. “Incest. Rape. Abuse.” Her voice was so matter-of-fact that Miranda was surprised she didn’t end the list with ‘blah, blah, blah’.

With an odd feeling of calm, Miranda leaned back against the wooden chair, her eyes wandering over the half-made puzzle. “It sounds like you have all the evidence you need. Why are you calling me?”

“The Archdiocese would like confirmation of these allegations.”

Miranda was willing to bet the old crone only wanted some juicy gossip to share with her friends over coffee.

“Will the annulment be completed without my testimony?”

“Yes it will. But the Archdiocese still needs…”

“I don’t think the Archdiocese needs anything from me.” Miranda leaned forward as she spied a puzzle piece she’d been searching for. She picked it up and set it in place with a few taps. She’d been looking for that one for a while.

“You and I both know,” Miranda continued, “that the Archdiocese has already determined who is at fault in this matter and since it’s an old boys’ club, I’m guessing it’s me.”

“Well,” sputtered Anna, “I don’t know that…”

“That’s just it, isn’t it, Mrs. Giuseppe? You don’t know. And if you’re lucky, you never will. When you gossip about this to all your friends after Mass on Sunday, be sure to tell them how lucky they are as well.”

Anna Giuseppe had the grace to sound chastised. “The Church can help you, Miranda.”

“The Church’s meddling is why we’re having this conversation, Mrs. Giuseppe. You have already pointed out that the annulment will be processed without my testimony. Gregg can have the Church’s blessing. He doesn’t need mine.”

“In order for you to marry in the Catholic Church again, you must consent to the annulment.”

Miranda laughed at that. Laughed until she cried. “I can assure you, Mrs. Giuseppe, that I won’t be getting married in the Catholic Church again.”

There was an audible gasp on the other end of the line. “Well, then, I thank you for your time.”

At the sound of the dial tone, Miranda pressed the end-of-call button.

“Don’t mention it.”

* * *

Miranda's story continues...


oldegg said...

What a stunning piece of writing. I enjoyed every word. It read so true and I just hope that you never experienced that pain yourself. Well done indeed.

Deborah said...

You write brilliantly! ... hurry up and finish your novel so I can buy it :o)

Old Altonian said...

That was totally brilliant! I, too, want the rest of the story - what, where, when, why, who?

jaerose said...

Animals always help you solve the puzzles in life..much more than people..I admire your telling of Miranda's story..the honesty..and yet also the sense that instead of 'failing' she is figuring things out..finding her own way through..Jae ;)

glnroz said...

once more I find I must "gush" with appreciation for your writing,,,

Monica Manning said...

@oldegg: Thanks for that, OE. It's not an easy series to write, but as I say, the story needs to be told for all the Mirandas out there.

@Deborah: I say those same words every day. Hurry up, indeed!

@Old Altonian: I have a few more chapters in mind. Miranda's journey will never really end, though, will it?

@jaerose: The unconditional love of a pet is second to none. I, too, hope that Miranda finds her way.

Monica Manning said...

@glnroz: Thanks, Glenn. I appreciate your gushing.

VL Sheridan said...

Brilliant! Beautiful! There are tears in my eyes. I'm so proud of Miranda. Well done!

Monica Manning said...

@VL Sheridan: I'm pretty proud of her, too! She's one tough broad.

ameliacambiasamcspeak said...

A beautifully written character strong and brave.I loved this piece.

ThomG said...

simply stunning. Tense, taut and the dialogue is spot-on.

Monica Manning said...

@Amelia: Thanks! It's her bravery that makes her strong.

@ThomG: Thanks, Thom. I'm counting on TWW to help me finish the series. No pressure, of course. ;O)

Dee Martin said...

I see from the prior comments that this is more than just a piece of flash fiction. The writing is superb - I love the writing and am in awe of your ability to tell this story so well.