Possible Epitaphs for ‘The Essential Guide to Polyamory’
[Based on Chuck Wendig’s latest Flash Fiction Challenge prompt, Ten Little Chapters.]
Liza leaned on the counter, sipping her cranberry daiquiri and staring. She was nervous. She had never been to this club before, and her friend Robert hadn’t been there six minutes since he left her to make out with an ex-boyfriend in the bathroom. She was wide-eyed and a little scared; eager to go home, hide under a warm blanket, and disappear into sleep.
She saw a young lady around her age turn to her from the other end of the bar and wave. She didn’t know the girl, but that didn’t stop the girl from walking up to Liza, grinning all the while. “Hey there,” she said. “I’m Alex.”
Alex yawned, stretched her arms out to the sun, and smiled at the lady on the other side of her bed. “You’re damn lovely, you know that?” she whispered.
Liza smiled to herself as she turned to face the girl. “I didn’t know that before. Thanks for telling me.”
Alex kissed her on the forehead and poked her in the side, prodding her to get ready. Liza had class, Alex a day job as a barista only a walk away from Liza’s campus.
This relationship could work out perfectly for them both.
Liza met Peter at a bookstore two months later. He gifted her with one of Mark Gatiss’ Lucifer Box novels, because she kept staring at it; “I’m the kind of boy,” he said, “that buys a book for someone I like instead of a drink.”
Liza noted her fortune - all the good ones seem to be coming up to her first.
He kissed the back of her hand, and slid a calling card between her fingers as he left. She blushed. It was a shame she couldn’t do anything about him.
Spontaneously, as she sat having coffee at Alex’s shop, Liza decided to ask -
"Hmm?" Alex herself was blowing on a cup of tea, looking over it at her.
"What do you think about… I dunno, sharing a partner?"
"You mean like a threesome?"
"… like polyamory." Liza blushed, looked away in embarrassment and fear.
"I didn’t know you were that kind of girl, too." Alex smiled. "Once we’re being open. If you’re seeing someone, just let me meet her."
"Him. And I’m not seeing him, I just…"
Alex put her hand on Liza’s shoulder. “I’m glad you told me, though. If you’re willing to put up with me… I want you to be you around me. Let me meet the guy.”
They met Peter in the bar where they first kissed. They had too much to drink, talked about nothing in particular, and then came back to Liza’s place. Just like that last night, the move from drunken but careful asking for permission to the wild discarding of their clothes was almost immediate; Liza was hungry for them both, and they both wanted nothing more than all of her.
Peter broke their bed’s headboard. He apologized profusely the next morning, volunteering to replace the whole bed.
"I’m usually not fond of dudes," Alex told Liza that morning, "but this one… he’s quite a boy, indeed…”
Peter was an online pop culture magazine journalist with a flexible office schedule, travelling for interviews notwithstanding; a good cook, a master of meals Liza couldn’t even pronounce the names of; a careful listener and wise counselor to both of the girls.
Alex was fierce, strong-willed, political; the more handy of the three, having learned how to make small repairs from her parents; and always knew how to cheer them up when they were down.
"All I know how to do," Liza said, "was paint, write, worry and fuck. And I’m probably only exceptional at worrying."
"Nah, you’re a damn fine fuck," the other two said in unison. They all laughed heartily afterward.
Peter was busy for most of August, but made time for them when something popped up - when Liza’s brother died early in the month, and when Alex’s sister remarried later.
"So, what do we tell people?" Peter asked them, on the day of the latter, outside the double doors of the church.
"Because no one needs to know," Liza added. They both turned to Alex.
"Don’t worry," Alex said. "I don’t have time for anyone who can’t handle it, anyway."
Except for one aunt who didn’t approve of Alex being queer either, everyone was more than happy. Liza caught the bouquet; Alex’s grandmother asked Peter for his beef bourguignon recipe and shared baby pictures with him in the kitchen.
There was a fight in December. Liza slapped Peter, he turned to Alex for comfort, Liza felt slighted and Alex felt trapped. They all slept at their own apartments that night, having left with barely a word again from anyone.
The next morning, Liza woke up, sat at her dining table, and cried in pain. She screwed up, she thought - was given this brilliant gift by the gods and dashed it to pieces with insecurity. She sent her two loves a text that afternoon:
'I have no excuse for my behaviour last night, just the truth - there isn't a manual for us, and sometimes I get really frightened that I'll break what we have. I ended up doing so. Forgive me. I love and miss you both.'
They returned to her apartment, wary and doubtful. A bottle of wine and lots of emotions later, they were back at the beginning.
Here, they don’t know what to write. It is May, and the chapter that would be here has yet to really start. Liza may be pregnant - Peter’s child - and they’re overjoyed, and she’s still afraid. This journal, Alex’s makeshift manual of their love, is trying to allay her fears. It’s not done yet, of course - still written by people who make this relationship badly, or break it even worse. But it’s working, for now. These can never be the chapters of their lives. Only their epitaphs.