Sometimes, Quitting Is Winning
Alan and Sophie sit at a corner booth at the White Pony. Alan leans toward Sophie, hand cupping the flame which flickers brightly, warm and golden within its shelter.
Sophie reaches out with elegant fingers, the tip of her cigarette accepting the offering, momentarily flaring a bright cherry red.
The glow warms her features. The diamond on her left hand catches the fleeting light.
Alan’s eyes search Sophie’s. “How about Guatemala? There are ruins. Tikal. I’ve always wanted to go.”
Considering, she peers at him, gray eyes obscured by heavy bangs. Freshly glossed lips puckered, she exhales. The hazy, pungent smoke surrounds him. He coughs, turns his head away.
Sophie’s eyes narrow. Her lips pull into a thin, tight line. “Guatemala? Isn’t it dangerous? I was thinking of some place tropical. Hawaii. A place with palm trees and coconuts. A spa.”
“Guatemala has palm trees. And coconuts. Let’s have a real adventure. Maybe we can sneak off in the ruins.” Eyes shining, he raises his eyebrows, Groucho Marx style.
Sophie turns away, stares into the distance, her gaze cold and hard as sleet.
The ash at the tip of Sophie’s cigarette has built up, is starting to tip toward the starched white tablecloth beneath. Alan pushes an ashtray toward her. Carelessly, she flicks the ash, which lands instead on Alan’s hand.
Alan draws back, stares at the small burn. Massages it with his thumb. The skin there, once soft and pliable, has calloused, hardened by the years. The hardness begins to spread now, radiates out. To Alan’s head. To Alan’s heart.
Their eyes lock.
Sophie finishes her cigarette in silence, stubs it out, smashing the smoldering butt into the tablecloth. A charred hole appears. The smell of singed cloth rises, seeping into Alan’s nostrils. Into the folds of his skin.
Sophie draws another cigarette from the cold, slim silver case she carries in her purse.
“Light?’ She watches Alan, eyebrows raised.
He picks up the lighter, hesitates, twirls it momentarily between his fingers. Then, carefully, deliberately, puts it in his pocket.
“Time to quit.” he says.
Kelli Short Borges writes, “A former reading specialist and forever reading enthusiast, I enjoy hiking the Arizona foothills, photography, and traveling the world in search of adventure. My work has been recently published or is forthcoming at Across the Margin, WOW! Women on Writing, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, and Drunk Monkeys, amongst other journals.”