July flash fiction: Independence Day

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Let's hope I practice what I preach.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted some real writing. I wrote this last week based entirely on the phrase “my cappuccino is a choppy sea” which came to me randomly. Maybe I should make it an InMon prompt.

We sit in the very center of the café, swaddled by the muted bustle of coffee mug chit chat. I’m staring down at a froth-topped cappuccino. Giant bowl. Tiny handle. I don’t think my fingers are that strong.

“We’re just not the same people we used to be,” he says. He is half apologizing to me, half justifying himself. He hopes I will look up. I take the spoon and swirl the foam into my coffee.

“We want different things now.”

But he doesn’t want something different. He just wants out. My cappuccino is a choppy sea, swishing and swirling and slapping up in waves against the sides of the cup.

“I just don’t think I can make you happy.”

But I am happy. At least, I was until he bought me this cappuccino, this wretched ugly storm I hold in my hands. For a moment, I feel like I’m drowning. Then I remember to swallow.

“I feel like I’m holding you back.”

What does he even mean? Nothing. Nothing at all. Just sounds to fill the vacuum as I mop up a caramel-colored drip from the table with my sleeve. Now my sleeve is sticky. Stupid, stupid. Where are the napkins? He disappears for a moment and returns with a stack. But what thin paper handkerchief could soak up this ocean?

Why can’t he just ask me to look at him? Why can’t he have the guts to make me face him? Because he’s nicer than he is good. If he had been good, he would never have chased after me, or begged for my phone number, or paid for my dinner, or made me addicted to his smile. He would have known that he would get bored with me, and he would have left me alone. Because he wants excitement and flirtation and impassioned wrestling bouts. But I want a hand to hold, and a soul to talk to, and a band on my finger.

No, he is only nice. Guilt is his only motivation to be good. And he is not what I wanted. I wish that made it easier. I wish it meant I could flash him a smile and walk out with my chin up. But my heart is stronger than my pride. One little crack, and everything else stops working. It’s raining on my cappuccino sea, now.

 “You’ll be so much better off without me,” his voice is gentler, but only because it makes him uncomfortable to see me cry.

“What you mean,” I croak out after another swallow and a few clearings of the throat. “Is that you will be better off without me.”

He makes an objection, but it is weak, and empty.

“But that’s alright,” I still can’t look at him. “You can have your life. I don’t think I want it any more. Buy me another coffee?”

He blinks and stares and eventually stutters, “uh, sure.”

“Make it to go.”

About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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22 Comments

  1. You need to post more of your writing. This was a treat. I love the present tense, I love what happens with her cappuccino, it speaks volumes. I love “addicted to his smile”. I read that line several times. It captures that feeling so well.

    • Thank you! That means a lot coming from you. : )
      Yeah, for some reason I write most of my short stories in present tense. Not on purpose, it just happens that way. I guess it makes everything seem more…immediate? Anyway, thanks for reading!

  2. Awesome! I’m so glad she pulls it together. It make me feel empowered. I love how the mood is reflected in the cappuccino, and that she gets him to buy her one to go!

    • Thanks! I didn’t really know where I was going with it as I was writing it. I didn’t want it to end badly, but I didn’t want a “happy” ending to seem forced. The “to go” line just seemed like the perfect fit. Thanks again for reading. : )

  3. You DO need to write more of these. :) I really liked the ending, “Make it to go.” I could hear Dirty Harry snarling that :)

  4. I agree with the others – you need to post more of your writing – this was great.
    I thought the way you used her coffee to illustrate her feelings was very clever and I loved the last line – short, sweet and to the point.

  5. Very nice piece! I really liked it, it was a lot of fun to read.

  6. Fantastic… I’ve been thinking about what to say. I like to give critical input, but the only thing that stuck out at me was in the very beginning: “swaddled.” It is a great word, and an unusual one, but I had a hard time pairing it with the “muted bustle of… chitchat.” It conjures an image of the coffee house unable to move, which seems to contradict “bustle.”

    Apart from that, I enjoyed this, despite the painful theme. The contrast drawn between what the narrator wants, and what the narrator thinks the man/boy is powerful. The storm-cappuccino raging through the piece is very effective.

    • Edit: “The contrast drawn between what the narrator wants, and what the narrator thinks the man/boy wants is powerful.”

      I hate it when I drop words. I imagine the words don’t like being dropped either. Ouch.

    • I was sort of going for that hemmed-in-by-the-crowd feeling, but in the quieter, almost comfortable way that goes with coffee shops. The atmosphere, which includes the bustle of the other people, is thick enough to wrap around them and rub at their skin.

      • Depends on the word, I imagine. Now I am going to be thinking about words I use”what sound would that make if I dropped it?”

        Hmm… maybe the image doesn’t “read” for me because I never feel that way in coffee shops. The only one where I feel comfortable, is a very quiet place with couches so comfortable that they steal all one’s volition.

  7. Yes, yes indeed. I think I will go make some coffee in a french press and sit on a couch…

  8. Just found your blog the other day so I’m playing a bit of catch up. Favorite line in the whole piece… “my heart is stronger than my pride.” So much truth in that!!!

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