UNWRAPPED • by Georgene Smith Goodin

Margie jabbed the button for the walk signal.  She thought of the filet she splurged on, wrapped tightly in white butcher’s paper.

She thought of the flourless chocolate cake and the candles shaped like a four and a zero.

She wondered where to find the perfect Bordeaux, not too expensive, to tie the meal together. She was not thinking of Volkswagens.  Or the color blue.

And she was definitely not thinking of Harold Gober III, whom she didn’t even know existed until his blue Volkswagen ran the light.

“What the hell?” she said, followed by, “My leg!”

For the first time, she thought of Harold Gober III; not particularly, with a name or a face, but generally, as in, “That fucker!”

Her leg throbbed; her forearm burned.  She saw blood and muscle smeared on the pavement and feared the worst until she glimpsed the shredded butcher’s paper.  She cursed her indulgence on such an expensive piece of meat.

Harold Gober III was a slender man, dressed in corduroys and a cashmere cardigan. He chattered in a high-pitched, nervous way that could have been caused by the accident but wasn’t. He alternated between his cell and Margie, repeatedly asking if he could call someone.

Finally, he understood her “no” was not a refusal of help, but a confession there was no one to call. She wanted to mention she was new in town and didn’t know her co-workers well enough to impose, but it sounded false, even in her thoughts. Back in Ohio, she’d have been hard-pressed to get someone to come, too. After all, isn’t that why she’d made this desperate jaunt across country, to reinvent herself as someone who could be loved?

The paramedics loaded her onto the gurney. She reached for the cake, but it was just out of grasp. No one heard when she asked for it. Perhaps that was best. Only last week the doctor said to cut back on sweets and lose fifty pounds.

The ER was crowded, but arriving with lights and sirens raised Margie’s status.

Her leg was broken, but her arm did not require stitches. As she was wheeled to her room, Harold Gober III trotted beside her, prattling apologies and carrying the largest bouquet she’d ever seen.

She didn’t understand the blooms were for her until he set them on her bed. She’d thought they were some prop he always carried, like a briefcase or a water bottle.

She’d never been given flowers before.

“Is there anything else I can do?” Harold asked, looping a curl around the arm of his glasses.

“I need chocolate cake,” she said. “The flourless kind.”

“Cake,” he said. “Um, let me see what I can do.”

As he slunk out of the room, she realized his question might not have been sincere.

Oh well. She’d gotten flowers, at least. That was something.

She fingered the velvety petals, bent one fragrant blossom to her nose and sang softly to herself.

Happy Birthday to me.

Georgene Smith Goodin’s work has appeared in “Alligator Juniper” and “Tryst Lit Magazine.” She recently won the Mash Stories quarterly flash fiction competition. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the cartoonist Robert Goodin, and their two dogs, Toaster and Idget. When not writing, she is remodeling their 1909 bungalow with obsessive attention to detail. If you would like to be vicariously covered in paint, check out her blog, Goodin’s Folly.

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Every Day Fiction