Writing Challenge — “Partridge Falls”

Because I’m bad at consistently motivating myself to put pen to paper, I’ve decided to challenge myself to set aside a half hour or so every day I can to write as much as I can, then set it aside and not touch it again.

I’m learning to live with imperfection because, by definition, creativity is imperfect.

written at the end of June 2020

“Partridge falls”

Leon Thyme owned a five-table joint in the one-horse town of Partridge Falls.

Once a sawmill, the building’s creaking wooden wheel stopped spinning years ago, about the time Thyme’s husband left him for a traveling soap salesman, as if some sort of sign from the cosmos. The lights of the Old Sawmill seemed dimmer and dimmer, through Thyme’s flings and one-night stands.

Then, on a seemingly random Tuesday night, the Sawmill’s regulars noticed the lights were brighter, the glasses cleaner, and, incredibly, the wheel in motion.

An hour after opening, Thyme clinked a glass and stood on a stool in front of the dozen startled drinkers to announce his engagement to Theodore Partridge, great-great-great-etc. grandson of the town’s founder and noted player in Torus, an international crime syndicate.

The bewildered guests of the impromptu engagement party accepted the free rounds of drinks and finger sandwiches, which clashed terribly with the rustic –a kinder way to say ‘filthy’ and ‘rat-infested’– décor.

The figure in the corner turned down the drinks, realizing their arrival was not out of pure chance. They’d been set up.

As the crowd grew and the congratulations, some more forced than others, followed, the figure sidled to the bar.

“Hey, sailor.”

The groom-to-be turned, the smile dying on his face. “C-Calvin, what are you doing here?”

“What are you doing marrying Teddy Two-Timer?”

“He prefers Theodore.”

“He prefers rich dumbos with perky asses and heroin to sell to his network of dealers. How’d you get mixed up in all this?”

“Theodore loves me.” Leon tried to turn away, only to find Calvin’s hand on his shoulder, holding him in place.

“Leon, you don’t really believe-”

“What are you doing here, Calvin? I told you never to show your face in my bar again.”

“Heard my favorite old squeeze was getting engaged. I couldn’t miss it.”

“How’d you-we only just announced it.”

 “People talk. ‘Specially when Teddy Partridge makes moves in his hometown. Our hometown—Leon, how could you go with him? You know what he’s capable of.”

“I know what he used to do. He’s changed.”

“Leon, baby-”

“Don’t call me that. Not here, not after…Just leave.”

“Leon-”

“Go!”

Calvin held up his hands. “Alright, I retreat. You know where to find me if you…want to talk.”

“How dare you-”

“I said talk, just talk.” Calvin’s face hardened, his amicable front dropping. “I’m not your rebound booty call anymore, baby. I just came here to tell you you’re making a mistake rubbing shoulders with Teddy Partridge. Though I’m sure that’s not all you’re rubbing.”

He disappeared into the crowd.

Leon pressed against the bar, rubbing his forehead. The bartender –once a regular drinker, now a 14-months-on-the-wagon drink pourer– raised her eyebrows.

“So, Calvin’s back.”

He cast her a sour look.

“You don’t seem to be taking it too well.”

“That obvious?”

She glanced down at the cocktail napkin he was shredding. “Lucky guess.”

“God, Lucia, what am I going to do?”

“Do?” she echoed. “About what?”

“About him.”

“Well, he’s probably staying at Wright’s Inn, like usual. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out what room he’s in.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Lucia?”

“About hooking up, what are you talking about?”

“I don’t want to hook up with-” Leon flinched backwards, “You know what he did to me. I wouldn’t—I don’t want-”

“Mm-hmm.” Her eyes flicked down, and he blushed, pressing against the bar once more.

“Oh god, do I-do I really still have feelings for Calvin? I can’t!”

“You’ve always had low standards.”

His jaw fell open, then snapped shut with a click.

“Well, it’s not like Calvin is Mr. Wonderful or anything. You know who and what he was when you two bunked up.”

“Are you saying it’s my fault he left?”

Lucia raised her eyebrows and said nothing.

“Oh my god, are you serious?”

“He wanted something more, you wanted a fling. He told you as much.”

“How could you say something like that?”

“You hired me because I always tell you the truth.”

“I hired you because you’re good at slinging drinks.” Leon grabbed his own glass and drained it. “And that’s not the truth. I wanted more, I loved him.”

“You only wanted more when you realized you were going to lose him.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“What are you two talking about?” Theodore Partridge, standing out from the crowd in his sleek burgundy suit, sidled up to the bar.

“Nothing, Theodore,” Leon said, far too quickly, “Just the crowd, I wasn’t expecting so many people.”

“My engagement was bound to be the talk of the town.” Partridge said, eyes like flint as he scanned the crowd. Abruptly, he turned, “I mean, our engagement.” He pressed close to Leon, hand slipping down his fiancé’s back. “And I can’t wait for all of them to leave so we can celebrate.”

Leon swallowed, hesitating for a moment before pulling away. He cleared his throat and removed Theodore’s hand from his ass, clasping it tightly on the bar.

“Honey, did you invite all these people, or did they just show up?”

“I invited a few. I suppose word just spread around and the rest came, hoping for some free drinks. Think of the publicity this will get us, will get the Sawmill!”

“And Calvin Monk?”

“Monk?” Theodore said sharply, drawing back to look Leon in the eyes. “What about Monk?”

“I suppose it was you who invited him here?”

“I wouldn’t invite him anywhere, let alone back into my town. What the hell is he doing here? Have you spoken to him?”

“We…spoke, yes. He said he heard about the engagement, said people were talking.”

“What people?”

“I don’t know, he didn’t say.” The glare seemed to cut straight through him, and Leon flinched. “Why is it such a big deal?”

“Do you want him here?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Good, because he’s not welcome here. I’ll have my security find him and tell him he’s got ten minutes to clear out.”

Leon’s brow furrowed as Partridge spoke to his security guard, face clearing –not quickly enough– as his fiancé turned back around. Theodore’s jaw tightened, almost imperceptibly.

“What did he say to you?”

“What?”

“Monk—what did he say to you?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“Good. I don’t want him anywhere near you. I know you two used to…” his eyes narrowed, “know each other. I’d hate for some mistake from your past to hurt you now.” His hand slipped down Leon’s back once more, “Now you’re about to be mine.”

Lucia pretended not to watch the exchange as she mixed a whiskey sour. Handing it off to the drinker and accepting the wad of dollars with a smile, she caught sight of Calvin Monk slipping out the door into the night.

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