photo prompt by Ashwin Rao

The Quarrel

She threw a plate that Mike dodged; Jessie always did throw like a girl. The china shattered against the wall and clattered on the kitchen tile like shrapnel. He grasped her wrist, but she twisted free like a cat in a bath and slapped his cheek. Mike spun, tears in his eyes. When she rushed for the door, he let her go, unable to change her mind.

Lying awake, Mike watched his alarm clock digitally tick the minutes he was alone. Three a.m. Still not home. He sat, reaching for his phone. Maybe he should call the police. He never should have let her go when she was that upset. Never. He texted again and heard a familiar ringtone from the living room.

Tossing off covers, he rushed in striped boxers to find her asleep on the sofa, a meager shawl for a blanket. He dropped to his knees and slung his arm around her bare shoulders. “Jessie,” he breathed at her ear. “I’m sorry about what I said. If you want the surgery, I understand. We’ll make ends meet.”

Groggy, she rolled to face him. “Your cheek is red.”

Mike brushed snarled bangs from her eyes. “You throw a mean punch.”

“I shouldn’t have.”

“You were angry. With good reason. I don’t have a right to tell you what to do with your own body. The money belongs to both of us.”

“That’s no excuse for hurting you.”

“The only thing that hurts is when you leave me. Don’t walk out, Jessie. I need you.”

“Then you’re really okay with the procedure?”

“I’ll be with you the whole way.”

“Can I show you the clinic brochure?”

“Now? It’s three in the morning.”


Mike breathed for the first time in twelve hours. “Sure. I’ll make coffee.”

Jessie found her purse and smiled when she saw his text on her phone. Baby, come home. I love you. She tapped the lamp and spread the brochure diagramming the last step on her long journey to being whole, the reassignment surgery.

The Angry Hourglass flash frenzy, 360 words in 36 hours