Flash fiction by Tina Konstant

“I think you should give him a shot.” Muriel wiped dew off the G&T she’d half drained in the sixty seconds since she’d ordered it. God, is this what she was reduced to? She felt like her mother.

“I don’t know, I mean…” Isabella frowned at her friend. Always so confident. So certain and decisive. I take an hour to decide what knickers to wear.

“You hardly get to know someone over coffee.”

“But he just doesn’t feel right.”

“You mean he doesn’t feel like Paul.”

Isabella paused and nudged her wine glass away from her. She really needed to cut back. All she’d had was a shot and two sips of house white and it felt like she was going to throw up and pass out. Drunk or not, Muriel was right. No one felt like Paul. But Paul was gone. He’d dumped her. He’d moved on. He’d left town, for God’s sake. She still fretted over whether to send him a Christmas card. He didn’t think about that, even when they were together.

No, Alan wasn’t Paul. Alan called because he thought she seemed a little down. “He asked if I was okay.” She glanced up at Muriel who just took another sip and raised her eyebrows. “He said he thought I seemed quiet and was concerned.”

“And you said?”

“Fine! I said I was fine.”

Muriel ran her finger along the edge of the glass but her eyes didn’t leave Isabella’s face.

“No, of course I’m not fine!” Isabella hated how Muriel got her to talk even though she just wanted to get quietly drunk and fall asleep somewhere. “Relationships are hard. How do you know when someone’s right? I hate all those women who are married for twenty or thirty years. They have no clue. No clue. They don’t have to think about what a guy really wants. They don’t have to wonder whether the coffee is just a patient bit of foreplay leading to sex that’ll end too fast, be too messy and leave me feeling…” Isabella searched for the word: crap; used; exhausted. “Ugly,” she finally said. “Because men and women are different.” She kept going before Muriel could say anything. “For a woman, sex is the first step to a committed relationship. We’re saying yes, I’m with you. I’ll commit. For a man, sex is still part of the interview. If you’re any good in the sack, he’s saying, I’ll stick around for breakfast, otherwise, I’ve got someone else I want to try.” Isabelle shoved her wine away. God, is that what she was reduced to? She sounded like her mother. “I just want a real relationship. You know what I mean?”

“Then lighten up. Take the initiative, screw him and take it from there. He’s only using you if it was his idea.”

Isabella giggled. Really? Just like that? God, she was drunk.

Muriel smiled. “Just jump in. If it doesn’t work, then you’ve had a bit of fun, you’ll know for sure it’s not right, and you can move on. All this angst is tying you in knots.” Muriel pushed Isabella’s wine back towards her. “He’s a nice guy, Issi. He calls every day, texts practically every hour, you’ve done coffee and hill walks to death. If you really want a relationship, you need to take the next step.”

“Maybe.” Isabella emptied her glass and covered her face with her hands. Tired. She was so tired of everything. Searching, dressing up, taking calls from freaks, wondering, doubting, sleeping alone, needing. She hated needing most. But she had to be sure. She was getting too old to play games. She hated games. She hated games more than she hated needing.

God, she was tired. Isabella squeezed her eyes shut. How much have I had to drink? Just a wine and a shot of what was that? Youll like it. Muriel had said Id like it.

She let her chin drop to her chest. So tired of everything.

“So?” Alan ambled over from the bar and studied Isabella’s sleeping face. He tapped her cheek.

Muriel drained her G&T. “She wasn’t coming round. I told you the charm offensive on this sort wouldn’t work.”

Alan shrugged. “Fair enough. Thought it’d be fun to try.”

“Well, fun for you isn’t that much fun for me. Women trust women more easily than they trust men. I’ll get the next one.”

Three days later a kid found Isabella’s body in a canal. Ashley Cooper, Trainee Pathologist, sipped a margarita and put her glass on the table in front of her. “She’d been raped, beaten and tortured, then finally strangled.” Ashely looked up at her new friend. They hadn’t known each other long, but she felt she could trust her. God, why couldn’t guys be more like girls. At least you know where you stand with women. “No defensive wounds,” she carried on. She knew she shouldn’t talk about work, but Muriel was interested, so why not? “None at all. There weren’t even bruises from restraints. Like she slept through it all. Thank God for that at least, right?”

Muriel nodded and swirled the ice in her G&T. “Thank God for that at least.” She pushed Ashely’s margarita towards her.