It’s Fiction Friday! I am still writing fiction. If I torture you for an entire year (or two) I might end up with a book. That’s how it works, right? Write here, write there, write everywhere and then smoosh it all together and spend another decade or so editing it. Then! Then you claim it’s a “book” and that you are the next Faulkner or Fitzgerald or maybe the next Jane Austen. Then you beg Oprah to start reviewing books again so you can go on her channel and become famous and so rich you can finally afford 1000 thread count sheets. Hey, if I am going to dream, it’s going to be big.
Here goes installment #3. One day those 1000 thread count sheets will be mine! ALL MINE!
Alicia leaned forward towards her computer. It was Jacob again. He sent another message. He never was very good at taking no for an answer. She clicked it open and read the following as she held her breath:
Alicia, I understand that you aren’t ready to reconnect. The truth is, this isn’t really a social call. I’ve been looking for you for about a week now. Remember Jonathon, my friend from college? He’s the one that introduced you to that friend of his? The one that ended up publishing your collection of short stories? Well, I ran into him the other day. He said there has been some rumblings in the publishing world. People are accusing you of plagiarizing one of the stories. Nothing formal has come out about it yet, but apparently people are looking into it. I just wanted to give you a heads up before news got out. Nobody can keep a secret like that for very long. Anyway, I hope you can clear your name in all of this. I know you would never plagiarise someone elses work. These accusations are ridiculous. If you want me to put you in touch with Jonathon let me know. If not, I won’t contact you again. I wish you well.
Alicia felt faint. Her head was throbbing and hot. She couldn’t breath. Slow down, she thought. Slow down. She bent over and put her head between her legs. Damn it. She hated the way her body went into a panic every time she got some bad news. It was almost like there were two people inside of her. Like she could see herself from the outside. There was the calm above the panic, but part of her brain was racing. So was her heart. Her eyes were blurry. Was she crying or was she just dizzy?
What if they discovered her story didn’t belong to her? What if she was exposed as a liar and a cheat. It had only been that one story. It wasn’t even the entire story, it was just that one part. The ending. She’d needed one more story to meet her deadline. She just couldn’t end that stupid story so she’d borrowed a few passages, from some no name author, in a novel she had found under her roommates bed. It was one of those summer, beach novels. Fluff. She never thought anyone would connect the dots. She never thought the same person would ever read that novel and her short stories. They were from such different worlds. She was an academic. She was smart. She wrote literature, not summer garbage that people don’t even remember to bring home with them. Still, here she was. A liar and a cheat. Her career was over.
She’d never been good at the endings. She hated the endings. Why had she borrowed that passage? Why didn’t she just fight through the block like she usually did? She’d never told anyone, not even Jacob. Not even Jacob. They were about to get married. She had wanted to finish the stories so she could focus on the wedding. It was all so long ago. She remembered being under so much stress and so much pressure at the time. Still, she knew better. She was supposed to be above this sort of thing. Still, here she was. About to have a panic attack.
Just then her husband opened the door, “What are you doing in here? You never went to bed?”
Alicia jumped what felt like three feet in the air and scrambled to close the open tab on her computer screen. Brian looked at her and frowned. “What’s going on? Are you OK?” he asked.
“It’s just been a really long night,” Alicia said. Brian brought her some coffee and set it on her desk. “I’ve been a little worried about you lately. You’ve been spending a lot of time in this room. You’re not sleeping. Is there something you want to talk about?”
“Not really. It’s just all of these deadlines. I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately.” Alicia moved her bangs out of her eyes and picked up the coffee. She sipped it. She was always under a lot of pressure it seemed. She silently prayed that Brian would just leave and go to work. She needed time and space to think. She needed a plan. How was she going to deal with this when the truth came out? What would Brian think of her? He’d be so disappointed. Again.
“Look, Alicia, I know things have been strained between us lately. I think maybe we should go see a marriage counselor. I looked a few people up in the phone book.” He flopped a piece of yellow legal paper in front of her.
Alicia swallowed the coffee. It burned her throat going down. She looked up at Brian. “OK,” she said. She’d agree to just about anything right now just to get him out of the room. At the same time, she wanted him to stay. She felt so alone. She was so alone. She was in trouble.
“Great. I’ll call a few today and see when we can get an appointment,” he said as he walked over and pulled her head into his chest. He leaned down and kissed the top of her head absent mindedly running his fingers through her hair. “Oh, I almost forgot. There was a message on the voice mail for you. Two actually. One was from someone named Jacob and another was from a reporter that wanted to ask you a few questions. Something about some stories you wrote in college? I saved the messages so you could listen to them.”
Brian felt Alicia stiffen up. She leaned forward and started crying. It was out then. Everyone would know. Everyone already knew. I’m finished, she thought. It’s over. It’s all over. I’m going to lose everything.
“Alicia? What’s wrong? Who is this Jacob guy? Is he upsetting you? I thought you’d be happy a reporter was interested in interviewing you about your work.” Alicia just kept her face buried in her hands. She sobbed. Jacob rubbed her back, “Alicia? Alicia, tell me what is going on. I feel so helpless. What is wrong? Alicia? Please….”
The Prompt was: