My very first entry in the Furious Fiction competition run monthly by the Australian Writers Centre! I had a lot of fun putting this together on a Saturday morning and sending it off for consideration. What a fantastic way to exercise our creative muscle in a bite-sized way. Reading back on it now… I should have let it sit overnight to give it some fresh eyes. But no regrets, the process itself was the reward.
The story prompts for this particular month were;
The story must take place at a party
Use of a ‘button’ in the story
Use of the phrase ‘The air was thick with…’
It was the kind of party one could expect when gathered around the tea room table underneath humming fluorescent lights. Today was the long-anticipated farewell party for Rhonda. Long largely because I had been counting down the days until I could finally be rid of her.
I smiled at Neville who proffered a small plastic plate topped with a square slice of mud cake, a fork and napkin tucked underneath. There were always small victories, I supposed. My mouth was watering as I carved a manageable chunk from my plate and gave over to a mid-afternoon sugar rush.
Rhonda was moving up in the world, on to new and better things. She had made a submission to the grants office to lead a new project and had been gloating for weeks after it had been approved. It would no doubt make a great impact on the local community and gain further accolades for her shining career. I had considered putting an application in at the time, but had fretted over the guidelines. My finger had hovered over the send button before I chickened out, there was always next year.
The next forkful of cake was suspended halfway to my mouth when horror dawned. My manager had requested the final revisions for the arts project, I had assured him it would be on his desk before lunch. I lurched across the kitchenette and sat my plate down next to cellophane-wrapped parting gifts and scurried out to my desk.
Bent over my desk, I hit print on the document which was already open and thankfully complete. The reminders flashing in the corner of the screen made me cringe. I strode over to the copy room and tapped a finger on top of the machine as paper spat out underneath, slowed only a fraction by the double-sided print.
I don’t know why I turned after collecting the pages together and was heading back out to the floor. The familiar sound of an original having been left on the exposure glass.
As I opened the lid to slide the a4 out I frowned before turning it over. It was addressed to the grants office, Rhonda’s cover letter for the submission. I scanned cursory eyes over the text and snapped back to the title of the project. That was my title. That was my project.
Seething, I marched back toward the tea room, the page rumpling in my vice-like grip. I stood in the doorway, glaring at her as she laughed with Nancy and opened her gifts.
She looked up and her eyes met mine. Our colleagues had stopped to witness our standoff and the air was thick with tension. I held up the crumpled page in my fist.
“This is my project,” I said between clenched teeth.
Rhonda thrust her chin in the air, a smug smile on her face. “That was your project.”