Friday, October 17, 2014

Retreat to Paradise - A Short Story

Have you ever written something and then completely forgot about it? I'm guilty of this myself. I found a short story recently and had to chuckle a bit. I remember writing it for Writer's Digest as one of the "Your Story" entries, where you come up with flash fiction piece based on a one-sentence prompt. I can't remember exactly what the prompt was now, but it had something to do with "seven people go out on a chartered boat and only six return." From there, I came up with the story below. I never heard anything back from Writer's Digest, and I did submit it to another flash fiction contest where it made the first round and then languished. Since then, it's just been sitting on my computer. I thought I'd share it here for fun--clearly I was reading a lot of chick lit back then.

Retreat to Paradise

Samantha leaned over the side of the boat and stared into the crystal blue water. She was thinking about him . . . again. At 32 years old, she hadn’t expected her life to turn out this way when she left him seven years ago. They met on a whim while she had been on vacation with a few friends trying to clear her head before figuring out what she wanted to do with her life. He struck up a conversation with her and three days later her friends had left without her.

At first, working side-by-side with him was a welcome distraction from the real world, and lying in his embrace at night under the midnight blue sky dotted with stars, she could lose herself in his tanned skin and warm brown eyes. But eventually, Samantha had tired of the isolation and began to long for the fast pace and endless possibilities of the city. He had tried to talk her out of leaving, but she had made up her mind and left before he could convince her she was making a mistake. She was certain moving back to the city, renting a loft apartment and taking on a “normal” job would all lead her down the yellow brick road to happiness, marriage, and children.

Now, she tried to ignore the sound of her colleagues talking about — what else? — executive presentations, the common ground that brought the seven of them to the resort in the first place. There was Richard, the undereducated and overpaid senior vice president and his twenty something assistant Phoebe, who didn’t even try to hide the fact that she had been sleeping with Richard since her first week on the job. Tom was a 55-year-old workaholic who had been stumbling around the conference in a fog since his wife had finally walked out on him the week before. Chantal, the stereotypical career woman who was more interested in climbing the corporate ladder than raising a family had brought her dowdy husband along on the retreat, but no one bothered to remember his name. And then there was Jay, whose silky voice and confident demeanor made him a no-brainer at leading sales conferences, but whose not-so-subtle gropes Samantha had grown tired of fending off. Today, they were taking the morning off to tour some of the local islands on a chartered boat, but that hadn’t stopped the conversation from turning back to brand management and corporate communications.

But she was still thinking about him. The memories often flashed through her mind as she worked overtime polishing the images of an impressive client list and eating Chinese take-out every other night with no Mr. Right on the horizon. She still lived in the cramped loft apartment. She did work for a great company with a competitive salary and benefits, and conferences to tropical destinations were definitely perks envied by many of her friends, but what else? She brushed away Jay’s hand as it ran up the side of her shorts again and looked at him sternly over the top of her sunglasses.

The boat docked and she stepped out on the sandy white beach, her eyes instantly drawn to the tiki hut at the water’s edge. A gaggle of bikini-clad women were crowded around the bar, sipping fruity frozen drinks. Seven years ago she had been one of them. His head was lowered, but she instantly recognized the hair she had run her fingers through so many times. He looked up, and his eyes met hers and he began to smile as the group walked toward the hut.

“What’s good here?” asked Richard, as Chantal gave a bored sigh and Tom attempted to wipe some of the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.

“There’s a drink, the ‘Slammin’ Sam,’ that's pretty good,” her former love replied. “I'll make up a batch for your group. Miss, would you like to help me out?”

He held out his hand to Samantha over the bar. She hesitated for a split second, thought of her lonely apartment back home and catalogued file of take-out restaurants and gave him a slow smile in return.

“Why not?” she asked, as she helped her climb over the bar, and much to her delight, Jay’s jaw dropped to the ground.

Four hours later, after many rounds of ‘Slammin Sam’s’ and general sun-drenched relaxation, the group boarded the boat to head back to the hotel.

But this time, only six returned.

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