#ShortFictionSunday Entitled “Chips”
“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11 KJV
Cleveland, Ohio, 1966
This was it. The second hand on the clock with the broken face could tick itself into into infinity for all she cared. The silence spoke volumes on a subject she didn’t want to hear. For the last two weeks, what normally resembled the offices of the Plain Dealer, mice in a lab maze in an experiment gone horribly wrong. Mandy Miselli had watched and listened for the last fourteen days and counting, as the voice of the editorials, Rhys Shilley, had absolutely nothing to say. Known for their impeccable teamwork, Mandy knew what Rhys meant when he said, “Hey Mand, take a look at this.” One single phone call had sparked the whole hiatus. Mandy looked up from her desk every time Rhys stopped typing, watching him glare at the blank page, expecting him to rip the page from his machine and crush it into a tight misshapen sphere in his large white hand. Instead, he would sigh, remove his eyeglasses, and pinch the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.
That day, Rhys stared blankly out the window.
Mandy picked up a memo pad, stroking the edges of the pages in an impatient manner, as the act had calmed her nerves so many times before.
Then she heard him sigh.
“How was your date last night?”
She stared at her painted red fingernails, the stroking cycle of the pages coming to a halt. “What’s that?” She had heard every word.
“How was your date?”
Her eyes darted up from her desk. He sat leaned back in his chair picking feverishly at a hangnail.
“That was a date?”
He glanced over at her, tipping his eye glasses so he looked over them at her. “A guy buys a girl dinner – I think that is usually called a date.”
It was her turn to sigh. The gesture usually made her roar with laughter, but her nerves would not allow it. She picked up a pen, taping it on the pad in front of her. “You know, it is really endearing that you’re taking such an interest in my love life, but I wish you wouldn’t.” She jammed her pen into her makeshift pen cup fashioned from a tea tin. Feeling accomplished in doing so, she felt like a judge banging a gavel in a courtroom.
“Come on now, you have to understand,” he stood, putting one hand in his pocket as he strolled over to her desk. “I’m not trying to ruin your life, I swear. I just can’t understand why a girl like you is still single.” He stood opposite of her, his eyes searching hers.
A cadence of embarrassed laughter escaped from her lips. “A girl like me? That’s pretty obvious, Rhys -” The rest of her sentence evaporated, leaving her with the strong sense of discontentment.
“Now don’t take it that way,”
“Negative.” He said. “That’s not what I meant.”
She felt something flicker in her heart, like her spirit ignited again. “Then what did you mean?”
He looked at her with an unreadable emotion painted in his features – sadness? Longing? Annoyance? His blue eyes darted to his shoes and he bumped her desk with his foot. “Forget it.”
She folded her arms. No really, what did you mean?” She stood. “I’d rather hear the truth then a well crafted lie.”
He looked up from his shoes. “You’re giving me lectures about honesty? I’d love to know what you’re not telling me.”
She looked him in the eye. “You think I have something to say to you?”
“Yeah, you need to speak your mind.”
“You want me to speak my mind?”
“Yes, please!” He signed leaning against the wall.
She looked at him, knowing she had been beaten, knowing – as much as she didn’t want to admit it – he was right. Mandy looked at her own shoes. She hesitated. Was this thing, this feeling, this confession worth it? She looked up at Rhys, standing as straight as she could he was still a good six inches taller than her. “Rhys, can I ask you just one crazy question?”
“Have you ever wanted to tell someone how you feel about them, but were afraid of what might happen after you do?”
A weak rumble of laughter escaped from his lips. “Yep, I’m having a problem with that myself, though I don’t think I have a chance.”
“You can’t think like that. There’s always a chance right? But how do you play those odds?”
Rhys examined his shoes again. “Well, what could happen?”
“Rejection, ridicule, it could also ruin everything, or he could accept me.”
“What are you most afraid of?”
She swallowed. “All of them.”
“How do you feel about him?”
Mandy sighed, gathering her words. “Like he’s the only one who ever saw something in me, and never gave up.”
“Does he feel the same?”
She turned away. “I can’t be sure.”
“Then you need to tell him.”
She looked uncomfortably around the empty office, arms folded, turning slowly to face him.
The silence spoke the answer so clearly, Rhys knew exactly what she would say. She didn’t have to say a word, and yet she spoke.
“I just did.”
He stared dumbfounded, and then a hopeful smile formed on his face. He took her hand, laughing. “Well, Mandy, then let the chips fall where they may.”