Spring, 2004
24-Hour Short Story Contest

2nd Place Winner!



She tipped the deliveryman, closed the door, and excitedly pulled the glittering ribbon from the gold box. Inside, she was puzzled to find four fortune cookies nestled in gold satin. She picked one up, cracked it open, and pulled out the white slip of paper. "What goes around comes around." She frowned and opened another one. "As you sow, so shall you reap." She started to tremble as she read the third. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." A bead of sweat trickled past her temple as she reached for the fourth...

By Mary Estrada, San Antonio, TX

My lover knows many ways to please me. Most of these I won't share. If you have a lover of your own, you may be familiar with them anyway. I will tell you this. When we sneak off to the movies he fills his pockets of his jacket with sugared almonds. We sit low in our seats, so no one will recognize us, and exchange marzipan kisses during the night scenes. His candied mouth delights me, and I scan the newspaper on my day off hoping for double matinees with vampires and werewolves, so we can spend a long, dark afternoon together.

When he began to court me, before he was sure what I liked, he filled my apartment with so many lilies that I was dizzy with the smell of them, and put them in buckets out on the fire escape. The neighbors stole them. Good flowers wasted. Since then he brings me candies, or sweet bread from the bakery on the corner. He sits at my kitchen table smoking a cigarette and watches me eat a cream bun, or a thick donut with red jelly oozing under the glaze. The look in his eyes makes me hungrier.

I've seen his wife. They often came into the restaurant where I work. She is as narrow as a shadow. They always sat in one of the booths along the side so that she could find her reflection in the mirrored wall. She ordered the special of the day, but never seemed to eat a bite. Stirred the gravy into her mashed potatoes, cut the meatloaf and arranged the pieces at the edge of her plate, then wrapped her thin red lips around a cigarette, smoked it down to the filter and put it out in the green beans. She never even touched the banana pie.

I felt sorry for him. He always looked famished. I know how it feels to be hungry. I served him thick clam chowder from the bottom of the pot, stirred extra sugar into his ice tea, and pressed mints into his slender hand when he paid the check.

One evening he came in alone. He sat in the corner, took a book out of his briefcase, drank coffee, read, smoked and made notes in the margins with a silver pen. I served my customers, wiped tables, pocketed my tips. Every time I looked at him, he was looking at me. With his eyes on me, I felt beautiful. When my shift was over, I let him walk me home. We held hands. His hand was restless in mine and he kept pressing his fingers into the fleshy pad at the base of my thumb. That touch made me shiver.

When we got to my apartment, I led him directly through the kitchen to my bed. I unwrapped him like a gift. Naked, he was all sharp elbows and knees. His hands and feet are small. I was afraid I'd break him with my tenderness, but he swarmed over me like bees. Melted all my soft curves into some honeyed confection for his nourishment. I could still feel his heart pounding fast in the bony cage of his ribs when he was dreaming in my arms.

That is how we began, with the passion of hummingbirds and the terrible sound of his keys jingling as he dressed in the dark to leave me.

We had six months together, dissolved and reformed as the object of each other's desire. After a time, I began to feel the heat of him inside me, fluttering, filling all the hollow spaces in my bones. When I told him, he wept.

That was three weeks ago. There is no trace of him at the apartment or at the restaurant. I move through my days. I wait on my customers, wipe tables, collect my tips. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror tiles. I am wide hipped. My apron rides up over my swelling belly. I am hungry all the time. I miss the eyes that saw me as beautiful.

On my days off, I pull the shades down and sleep all day, but this morning a boy woke me early. He delivered a golden box tied with glittering ribbon. Inside the box are four fortune cookies. The cookies smell like vanilla. My mouth begins to water. The fortunes are written in a familiar hand. I break and eat three. The fourth cookie rattles. Something is inside. What is it? A sugared almond, a key, a ring? It doesn't matter. My lover knows many ways to please me. Besides, he is knocking at the door and I'll have the answer soon enough.

What Mary won:

$250 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)


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