KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Flash Fiction: 868 words

Farewell to a Friend

by Craig Rondinone

The old Melanie slowly returned, rounding into form like a boxer shaking off ring rust. I still treaded on eggshells, though. I didn’t know which buttons might push her elevator down to a catastrophic floor. So I held back at some points, and she held back at some points. Our relationship wasn’t as free as it had been, but it wasn’t as guarded either.

“You ready for the limelight again?”

“Yeah, I’m ready to stick my chest out. B-cups and all.”

I escorted Mel to her first public appearance where a group of our friends would be present, a party thrown by her gal pal, Mikki. It was a nighttime affair: a casual attire, bring your own crap to drink, don’t worry about food because it will be supplied kind of shindig. Roughly 30 people were there, half of whom we knew or recognized as friends or acquaintances. R&B with pounding bass blared on the sound system. Guys toked on cigars outside on the porch. Women gossiped about fashion, while the men bantered about baseball trade rumors and which movie trailers looked the coolest. The vibe was solid. I thought this would be good for Mel.

She appeared to be having a grand time. At first she didn’t know what to expect, when in reality her friends didn’t know what to expect from her. What will she be like now? Will she act differently? Will she be less outspoken, humorous, or spontaneous? Will we love the “new Mel” as much as we loved the original version? I asked myself those questions when Mel rejoined our world, so I’m positive the rest of the lot asked themselves or each other the same things.

She was holding her own just fine. I stayed by her side for the first hour as we mingled as a platonic couple. Most of our friends beamed when they saw Mel. Many hugged and kissed her, and some teared up. I noticed some tension, but she was so awesome at breaking it with witty one-liners or self-deprecating potshots that it vanished seconds into any conversation. After the first hour, she felt so comfortable we decided to spread out for a spell. We broke off in different directions and joined separate cliques. Minutes sprinted by. Soon engrossed in a discussion about skyrocketing gas prices and its indirect effect on fast food, I lost track of Mel’s whereabouts.

“Can you excuse us? I need to talk to this one.”

Mikki corralled me by the elbow and whisked me away from the throng towards a barren corner of the room. Our frenzied pace spilled my drink over the rim of my glass.

“Whoa, horsey!” I commanded. “What the heck—”

“It’s Mel. Something’s wrong.”

We shot through groups of partygoers like pinballs, zig-zagging around rooms as if bouncing off bumpers. Mikki directed me towards the kitchen, but held me up just before we got there. We watched silently from the doorway as Mel stood ten feet from the kitchen table with her arms folded and stared at a plethora of hard liquor. Since the party was BYOC (Bring Your Own Crap), the table held more alcohol than you would find in a rock band’s dressing room. Mel wasn’t blinking. Almost starry-eyed, she focused on the liquor: vodka, tequila, peppermint schnapps, black sambuca, gin, whiskey, and hordes of other libations. Not to mention Ol’ Reliable.

I told Mikki with my eyes to leave us alone and she complied. I snuck up behind Mel. She didn’t notice me until I was close enough that she could feel and hear my breath.

“Getting reacquainted?” I asked.

“My best friend,” Mel softly replied. “He asked me where I’ve been. I told him ‘around.’ He didn’t believe me.”

“I’m sure he didn’t stay celibate while you were gone. He has many admirers, female and male. A real Lothario. Don’t feel sorry for him.”

“Are you saying he swings both ways?” she asked. “And all this time I thought he was straight. Huh, fooled again by a man.”

She stepped closer to her longtime companion. I wrapped my arms around her waist, but she ushered me off. “Mel—”

“Let me go!” she scolded before getting an up-close, personal look at her past lover. She picked up the unopened bottle of Colonel Johnson by the neck and brought it to eye level. If it had no label plastered on the front, you would mistake it for iced tea, but the texture was so much more sinister.

“Put it down, Mel.”

“I know what I’m doing.”

Mel brought the bottle to her face and tilted her head, rubbing the rum against the side of her cheek. She did this for a couple of seconds before turning her face to plant a lengthy, luscious kiss on the Colonel’s face. She replaced the bottle on the table with the other double-digit proofs, pushing it into the middle of the pack. And then she spoke to the rum one last time.

“I’ll always love you. You’ll always have a special place in my heart.”

Mel turned to face me. “You were much luckier,” she said. “You got a farewell fuck, not just a kiss.”

Craig Rondinone
Issue 3, Spring 2015

has written two books: a short-story collection, Ten Tales To Make Your Head Explode (PublishAmerica, 2004) and a children’s book, Jeepers (Richard C. Owens Publishers, 2006).

His short stories and poems have been published in various literary journals and anthologies such as The Timber Creek Review, Clever, Mobius, Writer’s Bloc, Third Wednesday, Cantaraville, Oracle, Storied Crossings, Snail Mail Review, Watching Time, The Rose and Thorn Journal, Evening Street Review, Muse, Cooweescoowee, Dream Quest One, Riverrun, The Broken Plate, San Francisco Peace and Hope, and The Pink Chameleon.

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