Short Stories

Heartbroke

Josephine sat on the edge of the fountain. Water tumbled into the wading pool, and shade from an overhanging tree kept her in the shadows. Her best friend and boyfriend stood arm-in-arm in front of her.

Larry spoke softly, “I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Josephine looked up. Her eyes glared between the strands of blond hair that hung in front of her face. “Didn’t mean? Are you serious? We were engaged. We committed, at least I did.”

Marguerite spoke softly, “It wasn’t like we planned this. It just happened.”

Josephine scowled at Marguerite, “You were my best friend. We survived high school and college together. We work for the same company! You were my maid of honor, how could you?”

Josephine burst into tears and buried her face in her hands.  Marguerite and Larry held each other tighter and looked down at her.

Larry asked softly, “What can we do to make things right?”

Josephine answered, “How about driving off a cliff?”

Marguerite spoke softly, “No, we’re serious.”

Josephine looked up and glared at them. “So am I. Just leave. I never want to see you two again.”

The pair stood for a few moments and then skulked away. Josephine wept silently into her hands and prayed that God would take away her broken heart. Something touched her shoulder, and she jumped.

A man looked at her with sad, dark eyes. His thick black hair blew gently in the breeze.

He said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Josephine wiped the tears from her cheeks, and the man offered her a handkerchief. “I’m so embarrassed. I know I look horrible.”

“Not at all.” He pointed to a nearby bench, “I was sitting over there reading and heard what was going on. My name is Jeff. I doubt you remember seeing me before.”

Josephine handed back the wet handkerchief, “Yes, I do. You work in the same building as me.”

Jeff tilted his head slightly, “We also went to the same college. I dated Marguerite for a few months.”

“She never mentioned anyone named Jeff.”

“Your friend sort of went through the boys. I learned that the hard way. It turned out she was dating two other guys at the time. There was a David and a Hank.”

Josephine fixed her ponytail while she spoke, “Oh, I remember Hank. Wait, you mean she was seeing you and David at the same time?”

“It appears she hasn’t changed much. Well, other than going after her friends’ guys now.”

Josephine frowned, “She did me a favor. Larry’s a creep. What kind of guy leaves his fiancée for her best friend?”

Josephine took the three-quarter carat diamond ring off her finger and watched it sparkle even in the shadows, “At least I’ll get some money for my heartache.”

“I’ve done better than that,” offered Jeff.

Josephine cocked her head, and her bright blue eyes sparkled, “What do you mean?”

“Did you mean what you said about them driving off a cliff?”

Josephine sat silent for a moment, shrugged, and then looked up at the overhanging tree as she spoke, “I don’t know. I suppose if karma were to find them, I wouldn’t shed any tears.”

Jeff held up his index finger and then reached down into a small bag Josephine had not noticed between his feet. He pulled out a small piece of gray, braided cable.

Josephine asked, “What’s that?”

Jeff smiled, “Karma. Well, you can call it that I consider this justice.”

Josephine’s brow creased, “I don’t understand.”

“Marguerite broke my heart in school. I tried to forget about her. I moved on, dated other women, but none of them were like her. When I saw her in the elevator for the first time, I was excited. I said good morning and waited to see her eyes light up, but she looked right passed me like I didn’t even exist.

“A couple of weeks later, I saw you and Larry together. You two looked so happy. I really envied that. Then, one day I saw Marguerite meet Larry at a local bar. I guess you were working late or something.”

Josephine nodded, “Yea, I got put on a big project. I barely had time to sleep and forget time off. I think we worked the first month straight through.”

“I figured it was something like that. Marguerite made her move. She’d show up for drinks in a short red dress that highlighted her black hair that she’d have hanging over her chest. She spent the entire conversation partly bent over in his direction. Subtlety has never been Marguerite’s strong suite.”

A tear trickled down Josephine’s cheek, “Why didn’t he just leave?”

“I don’t know. Guys like a pretty woman paying attention to them, but he was playing with fire, and by their third meet up for drinks, she had him. I watched the two of them leave in his car. I thought about telling you, but you don’t know me. Why would you believe a stranger that’s been watching your fiancée and best friend? That’s creepy.”

Josephine’s eyes widened, “That is creepy. Why did you?”

Jeff looked up at the tree, “I don’t know. I suppose I was hoping Larry would throw her over, and I could swoop in. I know it’s foolish.”

“No more foolish than I’ve been.”

“Maybe,” responded Jeff. “Anyway, I decided to do something about it and followed them here. After seeing the two of them break your heart, any guilt I felt washed away.”

“Guilt, over what?”

Larry lifted the cable up between them. “You know those stories about the brake line getting cut?”

Josephine’s eyes widened again, and she gave a slow nod.

“Well, those writers always forget one important detail. Cutting the brake line doesn’t really do anything unless you cut the emergency brake cable as well.”

He slipped the cable back in the bag.

Josephine gasped, “You killed them.”

Jeff shook his head, “Oh, not me. I mean, it isn’t like we live in the mountains or anything. If Larry is a good driver, they will probably come out of it with a few bruises.”

Josephine grabbed Jeff’s wrist, “But Larry’s a horrible driver. I always drove because he scared me.”

A smile crept across Jeff’s face, “I guess Marguerite likes his driving.”

Josephine gasped, stood, and walked away as she dug through her purse for her phone. Jeff’s grip on her forearm was strong.

“Let go of me.”

“I can’t let you warn them.”

Josephine jerked her arm away. “Who do you think you are? You’re not God. You don’t decide who lives and dies.”

Jeff scowled, “I thought you’d be happy.”

“Happy? You’re trying to murder them.”

“She’s no good, and neither is your ex. You said so yourself.”

Josephine pulled out her phone and held it to her chest. “So, he doesn’t deserve to die. I’ll find the right man, or maybe I won’t. It’s his loss, not mine.”

Jeff looked stunned.

Josephine continued, “You have to let this go. It’s been what, six years?”

“Seven.”

“Seven years you’ve wasted, and for what. To go to prison for murder?”

Jeff’s face turned pale, “What will you tell them?”

“I don’t know. I’ll tell them I saw a pool of oil as they drove away. That’ll get him off the road, at least.”

“Okay.”

Josephine dialed Larry’s number, but nobody picked up. Next, she tried Marguerite’s phone, but nobody answered. She looked up, and Jeff was gone. In the distance, the faint wail of sirens faded in and out with the breeze.

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