SHOW ME BRAVE • by Kevin Shamel

“Someone has taken our table.” She spoke through me, as if to a ghost of herself standing behind me.

Her eyes hardened under a glacial frost — gritty, grating winter. Her lips pressed whitely together, crinkling the edges of her mouth into mean postures of offense. Over the sounds of the cantina I heard the growling near-words in her throat.

“Amanda,” I started, but stopped with her icy-hot glare.

Then, like lightning, she returned her gaze across the room. The men seated at the table tried not to notice the palpable wrath growing with each moment, but I saw them straighten in their chairs, and brush down hairs standing on their necks.

Again she said, “They’ve taken our table.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t have shrugged. It brought the weight of her storm on me. Her arm slipped from mine. I could feel her heating up.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care — for it was “our” table. But I knew nothing could be done about it. I knew the men were locals — farmers, or cowboys, or bandits or something. It was our table one night, four years before. It seemed certainly possible that the men sat there every other night.

Sitting at that table was far less important than the reason for our return. Any table in the cantina would serve. Any shadow, candle, or drink.

“Coward,” she hissed.

“Amanda.” We stood at the entrance. People at nearby tables flicked eyes toward us, and pricked their ears. Tension, like a tightening coil of snaky smoke, wound its way through the dark cantina. Eyes shone in candlelight. “Finding another table to call ‘ours’ will be easy. All we have to do is sit down at one. Let’s call someone else’s table ‘ours’ and be done with it.”

She stood looking at me for a moment with defrosting eyes. I dismissed the ease at which she warmed as dawning sentiment. She allowed my lead, weaving between tables, past hushed conversations — cantina patrons letting go of what could have been a scene.

Halfway across the room, she slipped her hand around and grabbed the lapel of my jacket. She spun me to face her. My eyes stumbled around the room as interest in our entrance began anew. She pulled me down to her, and placed her whispery, ballerina lips against my ear.

Her words came like buzzing knives, tossed into the crowd, but aimed at me. “But that is our table.” We stood before it, and she pointed.

The men seated there, the pirates at our table, bristled.

She waited for me to look into her eyes. Snow and ice had bled away to reveal their steel cores. The room melted into darkness, the spotlight widened around the two of us, and the table with its surly, restless men.

She’d put me on the spot again — and so easily. She’d poked at me and then swung open the door to my cage. Just like our marriage. Just like Amanda. She wanted to get me killed. It would make the future easier for her. No awkward accidental reunions, no festering feelings or phone calls in five years. She could just be done with me, forget, move on, be herself again.

I’d trapped her as much as she’d caged me — four years before, at that table by the window overlooking the sea. Two paths became one, and the path became a rut, and the rut a one way track leading to frustration, hopelessness, and want.

But hadn’t it once been a winding walkway through a mysterious garden? Hadn’t we shared the same destination? Hadn’t she at one time admired me? And hadn’t I loved her for it?

I’d been over what went wrong before. Why she’d stopped loving me. I’d given it thought. But I’d never come to an answer. Hadn’t I told her I loved her every day?

I stood in the light, all eyes on my next move. I remembered that we hadn’t needed to explain our mutual love to each other the night the table became ours — we basked in it like the soft light of the candle on the table. We knew. I didn’t say a word as I slipped the ring on her finger. I didn’t have to. She never said yes. Her pale gray eyes told me everything.

As the room faded away, and there were only us, and the men, and our table, I knew. I knew that Love had us, and had never let us go. I knew hearts don’t use words. That no matter how many words I used to tell her I loved her, she was not going to believe me. I’d withered since that night four years ago, worried, and wondered, and wasted our time together. I’d run from her, and lied about it — to both of us.

Wisdom spread itself out in the textures of the shadowy cantina. Our reason for standing in that spot stretched before me, obvious and perfect. The moment sang of fate, and destiny, and within each of those inevitabilities, the fractal patterns of free-will.

“Perdoneme,” I said to the men in halting, passionate Spanish, “pero eso es nuestra mesa.” Our table.

The man across the table looked up at me through shaggy eyebrows and smiled. He picked up his glass. The other men pushed back their chairs.

In a hearty toast, the man said, “To Love — it makes us all fools. And then it makes us brave.”

They drank.

The men left the table, holding my wife’s chair for her while she sat.

Her eyes reflected the fire of the candle.


When Kevin Shamel asked his wife to read this, he asked with a disclaimer: “This is not about me, you, us, or anyone we know.”


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 average 4 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • rumjhum

    Good story! Great style!:-)

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    Good story, nice pace, I lost the thread at the end – I don’t speak spanish – ah me!

  • Good story. Romantic…but not. Kinda. I don’t know, I just knows I liked it.

  • Good story, unexpected ending.

  • M.Sherlock

    This was definatly an enjoyable little story…his girl sounds scary as hell though.

  • Cool. It’s as if I really know this couple. Although the husband moans a bit, he’s really happy to have crazy Amamda, I suspect 🙂

  • Rob

    Well done. Sometimes they love us to distraction, sometimes they seem to be trying to get us killed, sometimes relationships just–are.
    A good story about the pain and problems of love without getting all soapy.

    -from someone married 29 years-

  • Judy Caldwell

    Oh, the complexities of relationships! I wanted to slap Amanda and tell her to get over herself. These lines are so beautiful:

    Wisdom spread itself out in the textures of the shadowy cantina. Our reason for standing in that spot stretched before me, obvious and perfect. The moment sang of fate, and destiny, and within each of those inevitabilities, the fractal patterns of free-will.

    The ending was perfect. Even the men at “our” table understood the complexity of the situation and yielded to it.

    Personally, I don’t think I would have let her have her way, but love is blind, as they say.

    I loved your story, Kevin.

  • Nice story and great ending!

  • Wow, thanks everyone!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. (And for leaving such nice comments!)

    This is a different sort of story for me. It’s good to see that you’re liking it.

    Thank you.

  • Love it! Some beautiful images — “her whispery, ballerina lips against my ear” — and the ending was perfect.

  • GMoney

    Scary woman! Good tension, like a bar scene in a western. Beautiful writing as per usual.

  • Great story, Kevin. I enjoyed the toast at the end and the imagery throughout.

  • Thank you, everyone. It’s been a fantastic day of comments and compliments. I truly appreciate everyone taking the time to do so.

    I’m very happy that this story was well-received.

  • Just to let you know, Kevin, my girlfriend Alicia (who is VERY picky) absolutely loved this story!

  • Excellent, Jordan!

    Please tell Alicia that I thank her very, very much.

  • Gerard Demayne

    Excellent.

  • Celeste Goschen

    Vivid description and a sense of place. Beautifully written.

  • Julie

    I really liked this one. I got lost in the story. I felt like I was at the resturant watching this all happen

  • Thank you, you three Monday commenters! Thanks for taking the time, and I’m glad you like the story.

  • mom

    Kev,

    This was definately a different type of writing for you. I thought it was very good. It was easy to imagine being in the story as I read it.
    You didn’t even have to explain it to me like you use to have to do with some of your early poems.
    I understood it all by myself (ha)
    Good job son.

  • Awww… Thanks Mom! (My mom, everyone.)

  • Beautiful, brought a lump to my throat, but it’s a fairy tale, isn’t it, Kevin? Do such things actually happen? Does wisdom and realisation spread itself out like that? Well, that’s why we have fiction, eh. Thanks for the lovely moments.

  • Patty

    I have deleted some stories lately before reading them all the way through, but not yours. I thought there were too many adjectives in the 2nd paragraph, but that didn’t stop me from HAVING TO read it in its entirety! Yes, I enjoyed the twist at the end. I “saw” him just finally giving it up right there instead of going on with the obvious charade of the relationship. Your ending gives the reader a tiny hope it will turn around during this anniversary dinner.

  • Thank you for commenting!

    Hasmita, I think that on rare occassions, people actually do have an epiphany. But certainly, the character in question did come to a rather quick realization about the truth. Perhaps if we open to the moment more often, stories like this won’t seem to be such a fairy tale.

    Patty, thank you for continuing! I’m glad it was worthwhile.

    Thanks to both of you.

  • jennifer walmsley

    An enthralling story. She scared me. I didn’t pause while reading it, wondering what would happen.

    Jennifer

  • Thank you, Jennifer!

  • Melissa

    Good story. Sad, almost. Crazy as this sounds, I can relate to Amanda. The ending was hopeful, although I think for him he was just having one last moment before “running”.

  • Ogunlade

    Two wise men, when I needed advise to deal with a woman that sounds a lot like Amanda, once told me:
    “Ultimately, the only thing a woman respects is Power”.

    Although women may define power each in their own way, this statement is so true. Love, no matter how deep, will eventually faulter if power is not maintained.

    Advise to Amanda’s husband: Focus on you, not her. Get your power back – your way!

    Great Story.

  • Enjoyable read, Kevin, you intrigued me just enough the whole way to keep on reading. I’m glad I did.

  • Thank you, Jason. I’m glad you did, too. Glad you liked it.

    And thanks to the two of you who commented a few days ago!

  • michelle

    kevin,
    i loved your story and thought amanda was a very dramatic character. poor hubby. but a brave dude. kudos

  • Thank you, Michelle. I’m glad you liked it.

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  • Michael Ehart

    Did I manage not to comment here? Kevin, my favorite EDF story.
    Love makes us do stupid things, indeed.

  • Thank you, Michael! Totally awesome to read that from you. We’ve traded favorites!

  • Darla

    Wow Kevin!

    You really hit the nail on the head, or put the nail in the coffin with this one!! After 23 years of mariage, my husband and I can relate. Sometimes it takes a rush of adrenaline to re-ignite the passion of weathered love.

    Great job!!

    Darla

  • Lela

    Very good work.Kevin .I liked it very much.