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#FlashFictionFriday: Jayne Has the Final Word

answering machineJayne Knight entered her kitchen from the garage, taking her shoes off and placing them on the rack beside the back door, and setting her purse on the counter.

The red light on the old answering machine that her husband had never gotten rid of was still flashing, as it had been for days. She continued ignoring it. She no longer had any friends, no one who would call her so it was either a message for Cameron, one more thing he had left dangling, or it was a telemarketer’s robo-call.

The funeral had been lengthy, and as she was the grieving widow, she had felt obligated to stay for the entire reception afterward. She had shaken hands with everyone, answered greetings, and thanked people for their condolences, but other than the employees she had met that week, she had recognized no one at the service. They were all people Cameron knew through his business or the Rotary—two aspects of his life she had been excluded from. Still, she had done her duty.

She had always been a quiet, somewhat naïve woman, even at thirty-two when she met Cameron. She had applied for a job at his firm, and gotten it. At the interview, she had met a large, handsome, charismatic man who gave the impression he was a secret romantic. He had seemed kind.

Despite having fallen for him at first sight, she had refused to date him for more than a year. Eventually, she had succumbed to his charm and agreed to have dinner with him. They were married two months later.

His death had happened so suddenly. One minute she was cleaning the attic, and the next minute she was answering the door, talking to two policemen who told her that her husband had been killed in a terrible accident on the expressway.

She had thanked them for letting her know what had happened.

They had been concerned about her and asked if she had any relatives or close friends to come and stay with her. She didn’t, but had lied, saying she would call a friend. The truth was, she had no one to celebrate with, so she had called a cab and went to the mall. She bought a smart new wardrobe, all in celebratory black, picked up a new laptop computer, and then bought a cell phone and an iPad.

Cameron had taken away her cell phone, saying it was too expensive, and she didn’t need one. It was the same reason he’d given for taking away her car. The only computer she had had the use of was the old one that was hers when they were married, and it was barely functional.

When she arrived home that night, she had a few moments of panic that he would find out she had spent the money, but soon her common sense reasserted itself. She was still a licensed CPA and would need all those things if she was going to get a job.

Cameron had cut her off from her friends and taken the joy of living from her, and no matter what she did to try to please him it wasn’t enough.

From the instant she had signed the marriage certificate, his sole purpose in life had been to control her every waking moment. He had never physically abused her, but he seized every opportunity to drive home how dependent on him she was, how she was nothing, without him.

And no matter what, Cameron always had to have the last, triumphant word.

For the last five years, she had wished him gone. Never dead, but just…not there. And now he was gone.

Not just gone, but dead.

After her first rush of euphoria, Jayne had put away her credit card, wondering how she would pay the bills as they never seemed to have any extra money. The first thing Cameron had made her give up was her job. He claimed he earned enough, and her working made him look bad. She hadn’t pursued it, as she had learned early on that no one ever got anywhere by disagreeing with him—Cameron always had the last word.

The next morning, Jayne went to the office at nine o’clock and introduced herself to the employees, none of whom had been there for more than a year. She explained what had happened, and asked them to continue working as if Cameron were there. She also said that the office would be closed for his funeral, which she thought would be on Friday.

They seemed stunned and offered her their sympathies. She sensed they hoped his demise meant they could look for work elsewhere, but were too polite to ask. After that, she made one more splurge and had her hair cut in an edgy new style at the shop next door to Knight Accounting.

Then she met with their attorney to make the funeral arrangements. That was when she discovered that Cameron had left her rather well off.

Rich, actually.

The lawyer had set her up with all the authorizations she needed to prove to the financial institutions that she was Cameron’s surviving spouse. As she didn’t actually know anything about their finances or how he managed them, she had then gone to the bank, getting printouts of all the monthly statements. That night she had made a detailed spreadsheet of who she owed money to, and how much.

During the next week, while the lawyer handled the details of her husband’s estate, Jayne immersed herself in Cameron’s financial life. The day after her visit to the lawyer she had purchased a modestly priced car and then returned downtown to the offices of Knight Accounting.

Ignoring the curiosity of the staff, she locked herself in Cameron’s office and methodically inspected his private files. It had been easy to log into his computer, as he used a ridiculously stupid login for everything—his birthday.

What she had discovered had given her pause.

Cameron had been systematically funneling money out of his own company and into offshore banks where he would owe no taxes. Not embezzling from the clients—thank god, not that.

It also appeared that he had lost many of his long-time customers, good clients who had left him for other, friendlier firms.

His funeral was finally over. All week long, she had been laying the groundwork for…what? She didn’t know, yet. But while she had sorted through everything and gathered information, she had deliberately put planning her future on hold until after his funeral.

And now that was done. She made herself a pot of tea.

Jayne had some crucial decisions to make. She could sell everything, sell the company and leave town. If she did that, she could start all over on a beach somewhere warm and sunny. She could live well, and would never have to worry.

But where was the challenge in that?

What she really should do, was sell the house and move into the rooms over Knight Accounting. If she worked at it, she could turn Knight into a respectable firm again. But she would change the name to Jayne Knight, Accounting.

She opened her iPad and began detailing a list of what she intended to do, starting on Monday when she would appear at Knight accounting and let them know her plans and that she was their new employer. The announcement of her changes would be followed by interviews with each employee and raises for those who chose to continue with her.

She glanced up and saw the light on the answering machine, still flashing. Sighing, she crossed the kitchen and pressed the button, allowing the message to play.

She nearly dropped her tea when Cameron’s voice emerged from the tinny speaker. Jayne shook her head, thinking about the man she had never actually known until she was married to him. “Traffic is hell tonight. I’ll be late….” His voice broke off, drowned out by a horrible cacophony of grinding, crashing sounds.

“Yes, Cameron.” She pressed ‘delete message,’ denying him the last word. “Indeed, you are.”

Jayne Has the Final Word © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved


Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Literature, writing

#Flashfic: Metamorphosis

MetaMorphosis cover for WattPad copyYrena Rozhenko ran, not knowing if she was headed into something worse.  It didn’t matter—the transformation had begun and she couldn’t seem to halt it. One way or the other she had to get away from Benton.

The sounds of distant pursuit penetrated to her newly-altered hearing, spurring her on.

She took to the foliage. The shade and mottled light of the strange underbrush eased the pain in her eyes, dimming the glare. She raised her hand to her face, wondering why it felt so bruised. Hard nobs had begun to form above her eyebrows, turning them in ridges. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the scales forming on her hands and long, deadly-looking talons where neatly manicured fingernails once had been.

What’s happening to me? We ate nothing and drank no water from this world. We touched nothing ungloved. Could it be the air?

Their mission was over. In the UFA records, they would be officially listed as MIA, something that happened frequently on first exploration missions. Benton had murdered Jackson. Jenner was either dead or in hiding, and she…she was changing into some…thing.

Was she going to die next? Benton’s fear and loathing of anything different made him…the only word she could think of was evil.

Why had he not begun to change? The answer came from all around her, from the forest. I was waiting for you. He is not worthy.

She heard Benton softly call her name, a sing-song taunt. “Rozhenko…come out, come out, wherever you are….”

What could she do? With those talons on her hands she wouldn’t be able to return to the ship, even if she could make it to the lander. Besides, she couldn’t leave without knowing if Jenner was alive, and if he was, she wouldn’t leave him behind.

And even if she made to the ship, what then? She knew the change was happening to her on a genetic level, as if this planet had claimed her. Something told her it was irreversible.

Gods, her back ached.  Her shoulder blades, her tailbone were like points of…gah! Whatever. She had to ignore it and get deeper into the brush.

Jackson had begun to change the first night. By dawn he’d transitioned into something…else.

The others had discussed his condition, deciding to take him back to Lodestar Station where the medical team was, despite it being a ten-day journey and meaning the end of their mission. They would have to declare Sirius C a class N Biohazard planet, meaning the established ecology was too dangerous for human settlement.

Benton had been the lone holdout, shouting they had to destroy Jackson before he destroyed them. “He’s a killer. Look at those claws—he’s not human anymore!”

When Yrena and Jenner shouted him down, he had walked up behind Jackson and shot him in cold blood, with no further conversation or discussion, murdering the man who’d been their commander with no qualm or shame.

He’d been proud that he’d done so and now claimed Jackson’s position as expedition leader.

Jenner had begun to change right after Benton murdered their commander, but he’d vanished while Yrena was in the shuttle sending the message detailing the hazard and Benton’s mutiny.

Yrena feared that Benton had killed Jenner while she was busy, but if he had, the body was nowhere to be found.

Benton had shown his true colors. He’d always bragged that he had what it took to rise to the top. He was a capable enough navigator and a solid geologist, but he’d never understood finesse or compassion. How he’d been put on their team in the first place, she didn’t know, but he’d been nothing but a sour pain in the…ass.

She suppressed a groan. Even her ass ached. She was afraid to reach back there and see why.

Some new instinct told her to get off the ground, that safety was in the tree-tops. Yrena’s new talons made excellent assists for rapid tree climbing. Perched high in the canopy and hidden by the triangular, golden leaves, she watched as Benton combed the forest floor, not even thinking to look up.

She had burst out of her shipsuit, which was now nothing but shreds. Carefully she balled it up and hid it in the hollow of the tree. She could nest there if she had to.

What was she thinking? She had to get back to…what was that? A glint of gold caught her eye. A gold-mottled form was perched on a branch near her, one sharp-taloned finger held to his scaly lips for silence. Relief swept through her—Jenner had completed the transformation.

She was not alone.

Benton passed under their tree. Yrena clung tightly to the trunk, remaining perfectly still. She needed a few more hours to complete the transformation, but if he looked up, she would never know what she was transforming into, never again know love or laughter or….

A flash of golden wings…Benton’s sudden strangled cry….

Yrena looked down and saw Benton’s bloody form lying in several pieces.

Jenner flew back up to perch beside her.  She let go of the trunk and went to sit beside him, their arms going around each other.

They had been colleagues but she’d not really known him well. He was all she had now.

The setting sun cast a ray that glanced off the abandoned shuttle. Above the forest, stars began to come out and a tiny star passed overhead. Once it had been a research vessel, but now it was an abandoned hulk ending its days as a small star in a new sky.

Metamorphosis © Connie J. Jasperson 2015  All Rights Reserved

Metamorphosis was first published July 10, 2015 on Edgewise Words Inn under the title “Transfiguration”

It was republished on Oct. 18, 2015 on WattPad under the title “Metamorphosis”

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