It’s that time of month again. Are you ready for another super short story?
The less than 800-word “Death of Honor” follows:
Honor died in spectacular fashion on the battlefield of love. Instead of epic warfare, this defeat came with a quiet glimpse during an unplanned encounter.
If only Rachel Forrester hadn’t forgotten her game shoes. Instead of sitting with her friends in their corner of the cafeteria, she drove three miles up the highway and pulled her third-hand car with oxidizing red paint into the empty driveway of her home.
A glance toward the church next door failed to warn her. In the parking lot, the silver SUV her father drove sat beside the white sedan belonging to the Director of Children’s Ministry.
Rachel left her car running. She didn’t sneak through the front door or call out expecting an answer. Her parents worked, and her younger brothers attended school.
A flowery scent assaulted her near the foot of the staircase leading to the floor of bedrooms above. She paused, sniffing. Lilac? Gardenia? It tasted familiar but she never could connect a flower with its aroma.
It didn’t belong here though. The underlying scent of roasting meat from whatever Mom tossed in the slow cooker and the faint taint of burnt toast were her daily welcome.
She ignored the faint warning sent by her jumping pulse. Someone wearing too much perfume must have stopped by earlier. Maybe a friend of her mother. Thursdays meant a short workday at the law office where Mom’s paralegal expertise aided people who couldn’t afford an expensive attorney.
Carpet muffled her footfalls. She knew exactly where she’d put the shoes after spraying anti-bacterial in them. The purple swoosh on gray leather uppers matched the school colors. Everyone on the volleyball squad had something similar.
Maybe she’d grab an extra pair of socks. A girl could never predict how much her feet might sweat, especially if the match stretched to five sets.
At the top of the stairs, she pivoted toward her closed bedroom door, shaking her head at the clutter in the room her brothers shared.
A soft sound interrupted the stillness.
Rachel paused, cocking her head toward the opposite end of the hallway. Beyond the laundry room and around a corner lay her parent’s bedroom. What had she heard?
Almost convinced she’d imagined it, Rachel stepped in the direction of her room and the shoes she needed.
A gasp echoed behind her. She swiveled, scanning the empty landing.
She opened her mouth to call out, but a strange anxiety closed her throat. Not daring to breathe, she stalked the few steps past the laundry room and paused.
“I don’t know,” a woman’s voice floated from the master bedroom.
Rachel stilled. It wasn’t her mother’s voice.
The flowery scent swirled around her again. She knew it didn’t belong here.
She stepped closer, angling her head to see through the ruler-sized gap between the double doors leading into her parents’ bedroom. Her mother hated having two doors and one of them stayed locked with a sliding mechanism through the top of the door frame.
“I respect you. Whatever you want.”
Her father’s voice, sultry and cajoling, raised the hairs on Rachel’s arms. A siren screamed inside her head but couldn’t drown the excited sigh from the room.
Rachel shuffled closer. A pastoral scene of a shepherd and sheep hung on the wall opposite the doors. Further in, the foot of her parents’ king-sized bed was visible.
Locked in an embrace beside the bed, her father and a woman who wore flowery perfume slid their hands beneath clothing or in hair.
Rachel’s brain spun out of control, the blaring horn of danger loud enough to cover sounds of intimacy. She couldn’t look away.
The pastor and the ministry leader stroked and kissed and broke their vows to spouse and congregation. It would have been cliché if someone other than her father played the role of adulterer.
Her father who taught her bedtime prayers and prayed over every family meal. Hands now committing treachery had pushed her on the swing and bumped a volleyball over the net to her.
On auto-pilot, Rachel slunk to her bedroom, careful to hold the handle and keep the door steady. She snatched the game shoes from the floor of her closet and fumbled a pair of no-show socks from the top of her dresser.
With stealth, she closed the door and skittered toward the stairs.
A throaty groan chased her down the stairs. She was out the front door before it occurred to her that what she’d witnessed had turned her into a sneak.
But if her father—her pastor—couldn’t act honorably, did it matter if she did?
Would it dishonor her mother if she kept this secret?
She put her car in gear and backed out of the driveway.
Love is a battlefield. And today Rachel lost.