Fiction: The Ugly Truth


The Three Word Wednesday prompt this week seemed dark: brutal, sullen, trust. Or maybe despite the fact that things feel like they’re in an upswing (may it last!), there’s still a lot of darkness I’m facing.

Regardless, this piece bothers me because it’s teetering on the edge of cliche and I’m not quite sure how to pull it back. While I think, read and leave me a comment. I love comments, and there’s no telling what you may say that’ll show me what I’m seeking.

It was scenes like this, brutal, ugly, and oh-so-honest, that tore me apart. The ones where we bared our souls to each other and somehow, despite everything, came out okay, our trust intact, our relationship more solid than ever.

But, oh, how it hurt while we were doing it. We cried, our hands occasionally touching as we would pull tissue after tissue out of the box. Our noses honked, we sniffed like there wasn’t going to be a tomorrow, and the tissues made a rose garden of sorts on the bed around us. Who needed rose petals when there was white, unscented goodness all crumpled up and mixed so perfectly with our snot?

Yes, we’d make love after the tears stopped, the sullen looks started to be replaced by cautious smiles, and those glancing touches turned into a fresh exploration of each other’s bodies, fingertips buzzing with excitement at the feel of each other’s flesh.

It was an ideal. I don’t know if he knew it, but I sure did. It couldn’t last, no matter how hard I hoped that it would. I even prayed, but I guess my prayers fell on deaf ears. Don’t they always?

“I’ve heard this a million times already,” he said. Even that phrase was a million-times uttered.

“If you’d listen,” I said as quietly and calmly as I could, “not just hear, we’d be able to get past it.”

You’d think I’d slapped him. His jaw went slack, his eyes flung open, and he turned red in the face.

And then he did what he’d never done. He turned away, turned his back on me. He bowed his head and stayed silent for a long time. Too long; while he was like that, I sat, a tissue crumpled in my fist, my eyes fixed on the piece of white that stuck out the back of my fist like it was a paper towel in one of those dispensers that throttles the paper towel and you have to yank it to one side to get it free, and then you have to, while your hands leave wet spots all over it, unwrap it. All before you can use it.

“Yeah,” he said and I let the rest of my breath out. I’d been holding as much of it as I could without passing out or turning purple, neither of which would let me see what was about to happen. “But hearing you makes me ache for you.”

“I ache, too,” I said, still quiet, still staring at my tissue. “I wish it would stop.”

He smiled, a rueful one. “I can understand that. How…” He took a deep breath. “How do we make that happen?”

I shook my head and opened my fist. The tissue, wet with my sweat, stuck to my skin. I peeled the tissue away, then rubbed at the stubborn stuff.

He took my hand and, with his thumb, gently rubbed the dredges of tissue away. I watched his thumb go up and down, back and forth over my palm. “Casey,” he said, “we can do this. Get through this. Whatever it is.”

“You know what it is,” I said.

“I think I know what it is,” he said. “But if we get too close to it, it might change and turn into something else.”

I swallowed hard, hearing the truth. I hadn’t wanted to go here, hadn’t wanted any of this to come out. In all our time together, I’d only held this one thing back from him, afraid it was too big, too ugly. What we had was too special for me to let this in. Once it was there, it would ruin us, ruin these nights when we could talk it out and trust each other ever deeper.

It was the beginning of the end. “Are you sure?” I asked him. “What if it’s something horrible. Like… I had a baby before we met, who died. Or I’m not who you think I am.”

“No one’s who we think they are,” he said with a medium-sized smile. “That’s why you and I have these talks. To learn who each other is.”

I wanted to point out we’d been together eight years. Two people who tried could get to know each other pretty well in eight years. But I was afraid that if I said anything about how long we’d been together, he would accuse me – rightly! – of having held back for eight years. Of giving this monster time to grow until it was what it had become, poised and ready to destroy what we had.

I shook my head.

He put his index finger under my chin and lifted. I tried not to meet his eyes, but he moved his head around, his smile getting bigger with each of my dodges. “There you are,” he said when I let my gaze meet his at last. His confidence tore me apart. “I don’t care if you murdered that little girl,” he said. “We’ve come this far. We’ll get the rest of the way.”

“What if the rest of the way comes to an end tomorrow?”

“Then we did it together.”

I knew. Right then, I knew. I’d have to tell him. I’d have to find a doctor, a therapist, who would listen and get it. And then I’d have to bring him in and, while the doctor watched and kept me from chickening out, I’d have to tell him.

It would kill him.

But it might also salvage what we had.



  1. Alice Audrey

    January 12, 2012 10:25 am

    Aw come on! Tell us what “it” is. I can’t even begin to see where this is going without it.

  2. ThomG

    January 12, 2012 11:53 am

    I don’t see this as cliche. I think it’s a fairly taut piece. And I like that we don’t know what “it” is. But I’m a tease like that, too.

  3. Sheilagh Lee

    January 12, 2012 12:10 pm

    this is a great piece of writing.You just want to know what she’s hiding.

  4. Ann (bunnygirl)

    January 12, 2012 1:09 pm

    I like the tension and mystery very much. As someone who doesn’t believe every secret must be told, however, I’m a little puzzled as to what is so big that the relationship can’t go on unless she reveals it. Do you know, or is it a mystery to you too? I love how characters will sometimes hide things from their authors. It’s their way of keeping a little bit of control. 😉

  5. Peter Newman

    January 12, 2012 4:11 pm

    I think if this is the first part of a serial or two parter then cool. I’ll be back for part two!

    If not then this is a bit too mysterious for me…

    I’m with the people above who want to know what ‘it’ is.

  6. Sonia Lal

    January 12, 2012 7:40 pm

    What is it? What could kill him and salvage what they have?

  7. MaryA

    January 13, 2012 3:21 pm

    I don’t mind that I don’t know where you are going so much. It does make me curious however, that you have used so many words that are hard and soft. Sometimes I think they interrupt the mood of this piece..for example nose that “honked” felted jarring when it turned up and out of sorts with the mood.

  8. Old Egg

    January 13, 2012 5:06 pm

    Okay the frustration of not knowing what, is tempered somewhat by own own imagination as we read it. Your fellow authors will be putting their thoughts in this to determine what past event is so big as to get to this near breaking point. Your detailed description are superb and her hesitance to reveal enlarges the event to a unbearable proportions. There is disappointment that there is no relief for the reader who at the end could accept almost any solution. Please don’t tell; that was what was so beautiful about this piece.

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