Fiction
"The End of the Thing"
Anthony Malone

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"The Memory of Laughter"
Paulina Shur
"Waiting For The Train"
Howard Waldman

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Xenia Hanna

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"Walk Out" Eric G. Müller
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"Lola" Lisa Abellera
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John Sobieck

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anthony malone

The End of the Thing
Anthony Malone

The ring was wrong. It wasn't what she wanted. So, in love and embattled, Keira and I traipsed back to Hatton Garden and spent the best part of the morning debating the relative merits of platinum flat bands versus platinum court bands with or without invisibly set diamonds. Eventually—and I do mean eventually—she settled on one she liked and then my love flew to Cannes leaving me at home, bruised by her dismissal of my choice of sparkler and for the first time in our whirlwind romance wondering whether Keira and I were meant to be.

It wasn’t just that, of course. She had a Marmite personality. Oh, she was beautiful, intelligent, sexy, but that didn’t mean that behind the glamorous façade there wasn’t a real human being with all the doubts and insecurities and homicidal tendencies displayed whenever I stacked the dishwasher wrongly, or left the fridge door open in the middle of the night, or forgot to tape the Academy Awards. Dear, willowy, Keira gave the impression that while I made her hoot with laughter with hilarious tales of office life, I just couldn’t cut it compared to the suave high-achievers she was used to hanging around with on set and, worse, sometimes I could be an embarrassment.

All bollocks of course. Sure, she could have the pick of the male actors of her generation, but as her longest surviving boyfriend I felt I had shown her what love and loyalty really were, and bloody McAvoy could send all the Ferrero Rocher he wanted, he’d never do anything I hadn’t done first. Yet in the days and weeks that followed our trip to the jewellers, I could see nothing but the snaking fault lines in our relationship until, deep down, I realised I wanted more from life than chaste kisses, duty free, and a lurking sense of disapproval from a BAFTA award-winning millionaire. She wanted me for my ordinariness, which simultaneously appalled her. I’d flown in Lear jets and walked on the red carpet at Cannes with the most beautiful woman in the world, but all I could think about was escape. If we’d compared notes we might have laughed.

As our preposterous wedding day hurtled towards us I reached a decision. I would do it. I would finish with Keira, move back to Grimsby, and refuse all her calls. When she persisted I would be firm. “Keira, face it. It’s over. You’ve got to stop ringing me. Now please put the phone down, I’ve a cess pit to drain.” This seemed do-able at four o’clock in the morning, less so when she was framed in the window with sunlight streaming in behind her, or being interviewed about her two-fingered salute to the critics in Condonement, or Postponement, or whatever the hell it was called. In fact, every time I tried to discuss with her what marriage would mean, what plans she had for us, and whether a pre-nup gagging me for life was really necessary, she claimed she had a script to learn, or rehearsals to go to, or Johnny was going through one of his blue periods, and I would be left cross-legged in front of a muted flatscreen, fretting for my future and wishing more than anything else to return to the dear, sweet obscurity and penury I had so recklessly abandoned for this bottom lip-chewing, ear-nuzzling goddess from whom I needed so much but got so little.

As the day of our wedding dawned and I found myself suited and booted, chaining Marlboro Lights and agonising over whether to marry the hottest actress of the age. I hopped from foot to foot in the presbytery, trying to convince myself that I would forever have a nice roof over my head, never go hungry, have a hefty allowance, and get in to see the latest films for free, but God knows all is yellow to a jaundiced eye. I knew it would never make up for the epic lack of connection, our fundamental differences, our clashing opinions, but with the clock ticking what was I meant to do? Jump ship to Skiathos? No chance. As I shook hands with the guests and took my place in front of the altar, I nodded at our gormless priest and glumly waited for my future wife to arrive. I thought that love would last forever. I was wrong.

Bitch stood me up! Forty five minutes I stood there, cameras filming every bead of sweat and shade of rouge I turned, and when I finally managed to give my relatives the slip and bang on the door of what was once my home I found the weather had changed pretty quickly in Keira’s part of the world and I had been usurped by a stuntman from Rhyll. I was humiliated but relieved, furious but overjoyed, suicidal but euphoric; all of which made me seriously swear off love big time over the next few months, but after a cooling off period I think now I can look upon that whole mad period with a bit more perspective. Yes, it would have been great but, God, it would have been hell. We should have been friends rather than lovers. We could have met for dinner once in a blue moon, laughed our arses off at how mad the whole world was, and then left to get on with the rest of our lives. Still, I bear the girl no malice. I’ve even proudly told one or two subsequent dates that, honest, I used to go out with Keira. Both ended with me soon after that, actually—that Marmite personality, see? But all in all, while I did not choose the manner of my exit, I am grateful I didn’t end up in an unhappy marriage. Worst thing in the world, if you ask me. That first night of freedom, as I laid my head on a hotel pillow and drew the starchy, fraying sheets over me, I realised I was alone, single, unemployed and broke, and, reader, it was bliss.

About the author:
Anthony Malone’s fiction has been published in Lowestoft Chronicle, Murky Depths, The Delinquent, Wicked East Press anthologies, and many others. He has read at Short Fuse as part of the 2009 Coastal Currents Arts Festival, the London events writLOUD, Tales of the Decongested, Liars’ League, Storytails and One Eye Grey's “Spectres At The Feast” event, and recorded for London Link Radio. He lives in London.

 
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