Cut Apart

A 1,200 Words Short Story

Miranda was in bed after her last day of work, and it wasn’t voluntary. She was fired for unnamed reasons. People were uncomfortable with the way she acted, warm one minute and cold another. It was frustrating that people couldn’t connect with her unscrupulous personality. Her extreme emotions were unfathomable. That should’ve been okay. Maybe she had to change — go on mood stabilizers, and get therapy. Her warm comforter didn’t care about her mood swings. It cared about nothing, because it didn’t have feelings. That made Miranda a little sad.

She didn’t care what other people thought. Making herself accountable to them terrified her. It was too much pressure.

The door opened. April’s footsteps drummed through the hallway, matching Miranda’s beating heart. The motivation to get up from bed appeared out of thin air. She put on some clothes, looking at the empty bed she wanted someone to fill. April was the one she wanted.

Miranda walked into their living room and sat down with a bowl of cereal in her lap. She munched away, thinking about the day she moved in with a stranger. She was in love with that stranger now, April. There were questions asked, answers given by text, and meetings over coffee. Dragging her luggage up a flight and across the threshold she would share with April.

And April was there that day in a long pleated skirt with a blue t-shirt. That’s when it happened. Miranda tried to fight the images flooding her brain, but after a while, she didn’t want to anymore. Her fantasies were too much to ignore try as she might. Miranda wanted to feel the touch of those pretty red lips against her skin — against her own. She wanted to kiss April against a wall until she couldn’t breathe — until she didn’t feel alone anymore — until she didn’t feel bad anymore.

April was in a towel, still pearly with moisture, standing in the hallway before her. She wanted April more than anything, and nothing else was left in her life.

“Hey, Miranda.”

“Hey.”

“Going out tonight?”

“I could be convinced.”

April took Miranda’s hand and pulled her up.

Those hints, signs that all hope wasn’t lost kept Miranda trying. Those little moments of connection were enough.

April flashed her brilliant smile. “I need a night out in the stars. Music would be nice.”

“You mean that club down the block?” They lived in a loft somewhere in the warehouse district. Clubs were all around. They just had to pick.


The black silk was smooth and cool against Miranda’s skin. Music raged through the room and people danced in frenzy. The room was warm — the air electric. There they were, dancing the lonely night away. The music drove a relentless beat to escape the confines of mundanity. To forget everything wrong with the world and live free.

The fierce thrumming waxed and waned from this track to the next. They were up against the bar for drinks. April looked pretty, her green dress playing off her blonde strands.

In the colored lights, Miranda was interested in the love, the beauty that evaded her. And there it was. The chance she’d wanted. Drinks and drinks numbed her fears, and her loathsome worries dissipated for just long enough. They’d been talking about work, the trouble with guys, the politics of ignorance — of the familiar, and the impermanence of it all.

Miranda used the desire, the locked away need. She took April around the waist away from the crowded bar. They walked to an empty spot along the wall. The music rocked them back and forth. April turned Miranda’s head. The music was too loud to speak, so just April’s lips moved to words. Miranda swore that the words were obvious and true. April leaned in. Miranda couldn’t believe it was going to happen. After all these months waiting, they were going to kiss. Miranda leaned in and found April’s soft lips teasing of cream and strawberry.

Miranda saw shock in April’s eyes. Then a hint of sadness flowed over, turning them dark. It was obvious to Miranda. April didn’t feel the same way, and things would never be the same again. There’d always be the frustrating question between them. You like me? Can I like you? There’d always be awkwardness between them — something ephemeral — something visible in the distance but blurry, indecipherable.

Miranda ran through the pressing crowd. She stood in line hurting and paralyzed into avoidance. Rejection stung, but it wasn’t minor. Her whole world was imploding in on itself. There was nothing she could do, except stand there and watch it happen. The gaping hole at her center grew and grew. She wanted it to stop. She wanted it to end.

Or she didn’t want to feel it happen. Her throat cried out for tears. She was gasping with the pain at her heart. They had names for that. It was sadness but for her, grief of a loved one lost. The possibility of loving April was dead. She mourned in line outside the bathroom, wanting an anesthetic to wipe away her woes and diminish her hurt. It was minutes away at the end of a razor.

Miranda pushed the heavy door out of the way. Flickering light filled the room as the door slipped shut. Inked lines plastered the walls. Water dripped from the faucet, and everything was pale in the yellow light. Down her purse went. Out her razor blade came and everything else she needed. She never left home without.

Sitting on the counter, her hands shook from the pain of rejection. Miranda uncovered her thigh hidden under her skirt. There in the web of scars, she needed to cut, somewhere no one could see or question her. The razor felt warm against her skin as she pressed. The blade slid through her scarred skin. Pain wasn’t on her mind. The slicing blade silenced her mind, cut off her emotions.

Pounding went around the room. “People need to pee out here too.”

The door jumped in the frame, and Miranda’s razor went a little too deep. She pulled the razor. Blood spurted out of her inner thigh. Miranda clamped a hand over her gushing leg, but blood drained down between her fingers. She wrapped her oozing leg in gauze and walked out the door with a limp.

Walking through the party, she felt cold seeping down her leg. It was too dark to notice. It was like a heavy period, right? She wobbled down the street and across to their apartment — get away. She couldn’t risk another cut or running into April.

She sat in their apartment, a belt cinching her thigh. Pressure applied didn’t stop the bleed. Her body was burning, head spinning, and heart pounding. Black came in around her vision. Miranda got her phone. 9–1–1 was across her phone screen. She tried to call, and the phone clattered to the floor.

Miranda opened her eyes to the light flicking on. April screamed and ran to her. The nightmare wasn’t over yet. April panicked. Miranda bent in half and made the call. Her voice was weak. “I need help. I’m bleeding out.”

Lights and sirens, rough hands covered in latex, stitches and a needle in her arm, happy nurses and sad doctors, therapy and medication. That was what she needed — a break from reality.

A cut too deep was what she needed to find a new way forward.

Finding a way to recovery is like seeing a map. There’s no way to know if Miranda could walk the path she discovered. Only time would tell.

GK

Brass Tacks

A 1,300 word short story.

Private First Class Greg “Sully” O’Sullivan was before a screen in the cool communications room, cordoned off with a woman on the screen half a world away. They weren’t strangers but the closest two people could be. Wetness pooled in his eyes. They weren’t talking as if thousands of miles were between them.

“Kate, I can’t think of anything else. I want to be back with you.”

“Sully get your head on straight. Stay safe out there, baby.”

“What’s the matter Kate? You look different.”

“Took you that long to notice, huh?”

“Umm.”

“It’s nothing. I’m pregnant that’s all.” Kate was cool. She didn’t care half the time, and people couldn’t tell when she did.

He knew enough to guess. How they’d been getting baby clothes in the mail. The way Kate was around kids. He knew, but her words wouldn’t be enough. Nothing would be until they were together again.


PFC Sully walked to the humvees they were taking out for a drive across the scorching desert of a newly liberated Iraq. The city portion would be downright deadly. Sully was shaking with nerves, and that was status quo. It was enough that nothing had happened, yet. No one knew, but Sully didn’t show it either. He belonged there, and no one could say otherwise.

The Staff Sergeant commanding the Unit, “Rough Neck” Cochran patted Sully on the back. “Mounting up on the 50 cal. today, Sully?”

Sully didn’t have to think. In a mere matter of months, he would have a little person in his arms. And it felt alone as hell up there. A massive barrel in your hands and a tiny piece of armor around you — a target and unprotected at the same time. And the desolate streets had threats in every direction. Sully wasn’t the arrogant risk taker he once was as a young Marine.

“Not me today, Rough Neck. Give Keller the hot seat.”

“Your loss bud. Your loss.”


Sully was in the back across from the sweaty Private Vandorne. She was the only woman in the Unit. Sully was chatting it up with Rough Neck, shooting shit against a stiff breeze. The Privates weren’t buying their bullshit. The other members of their Unit followed behind in two humvees. That’s when it happened.

A IED on the street exploded. Debris flew everywhere. It was a tank shell that blew a hole in the ground. The entire block was on fire. There was no way through. The line of humvees backed up on Rough Neck’s orders. Another explosion cut off the way back. They were stuck.

Bullets flew through the air and in through the windows. The glass nicked and shattered under the barrage. They were in the crossfire from either side.

Vandorne groaned.

Rough Neck ordered everyone out.

Vandorne was hit.

Sully pulled her out through the door. Cover fire went up. Sully scanned the buildings. An empty courtyard was behind them. He dragged the injured Vandorne across the pale sand, leaving droplets of red in their wake.

Vandorne was gasping for breath. Sully pulled off her helmet. He had to do a double take. Sure, his wife had brown hair. And sure they both had pale, translucent skin. They looked a little alike. Sully’s heart stirred at the similarities between the two women.

The resemblance added panic to his actions. She was shot in the shoulder. There was a pool of blood growing on the ground. Sully pulled the coagulation powder and sprinkled it down. He pressed a compression wrap on the hole in Vandorne. She cried out in agony despite fast intakes of breath. Sully saw the life drain from her eyes. The hint of light became dull and disappeared.

Sully’s throat went hard.

Rough Neck was on the radio. “Positions go.”

Their Unit was all over the block. Sully chimed in.

“Sully, you’re the closest bud.”

“Copy that.”

“Get up those stairs and show the motherfuckers the force of nature that is a United States Marine. Nail those fuckers into the ground. We’re getting hammered on the south face of this godforsaken block. Everyone over there converge on Sully.”

“Vandorne’s KIA”

Everyone was quite for a moment.

“Get up those stairs, Marine.”

Sully had a moment of seeing his flag draped coffin. His wife crying. Their child wailing. Then it was gone.

Anger took its place. Nothing would keep him from seeing his family again. A few things needed to happen. And they would happen. Anything standing in the way would burn up faced down with Sully’s sheer determination. Fancy words held no consolation for Sully. Action was the only thing that mattered.

Sully stepped away from Vandorne’s body, saying a prayer. He set his helmet straight and cocked his gun. He walked with the weight of his mission to see his wife again. His mind was clear. Action, consequence. Vindication was coming on the back of Sully. He would show everyone that his name meant something. That there was justice in the world.

He kicked down the door. Walking the building, he threw open each door and swept the rooms clean with his gun sight. He went up another flight of stairs and combed the dusty rooms. No one was there. He went up the stairs.

One room was up there. Sounds wafted through the thin door. Hushed voices and gunfire. That was the place. Sully felt the aggression building in his body like an electric charge ready to break free — the clouds before lightening struck. His muscles were strung out, ready to snap into action. His grip tightened.

Sully burst through the door. Four people were inside. The person facing him opened fire. Sully dropped his weight to the floor. As Sully opened fire, the other people turned to face him. Shots echoed around the room. The wall behind him was blasted white. A few bullets went past him, and a few went through his legs. Until the bullets stopped flying, the pain was minuscule.

Rough Neck was trying to get through. “All wrapped up. How are things on your end Sully?”

“Sully?”

The sound of boots filled Sully’s head. The cavalry was there. The medic got to him. Medicine was injected through his veins. They took him down the stairs in a litter. The fire had gone out. They loaded up Sully in the back seat. A bottle of fluids hung above his head. Sully didn’t remember much from the blood loss. He was in and out for days.

Sully woke up in a military hospital somewhere in Germany. The room was empty and stark white. The sun came in through slits in the blinds and fell across the floor.

Nothing happened for what seemed like hours. Then his wife came in, filling the room with her cool smelling perfume. Sully was the happiest person in the world for a minute there.

“Sully.”

“Where have they been hiding you away?”

“That’s what you’re going to say?”

“Get over here.”

“I was so scared, Sully.”

“It was nothing Kate.”

“There you go again.”

“This will be the last time I ever leave you.”

“Bet on it, Mister. We need you.”

The experience could’ve taken Sully away from his wife forever. In the end, it brought them together again in a tiny hospital room somewhere in Germany.

GK