…but for a moment, Laura thought she was actually heard. “Sorry, darling,” said her boyfriend, glancing through overgrown hair. “What were you just whispering?” He sat on the only grounded creature on the carousel: a sea dragon bench with its tail curled like a nautilus hemishell.
“I said, it’s happening again,” she sighed. The slender white goose she rode seemed so regrettably befitting—to him, she’d never been more than his silly goose. Its beak reminded her of the nose she resented so much, which wasn’t her only embarrassment. Far from it, she hated all those freckle-like scars on her face and breasts, and how her friends first described her to guys as having a fabulous rack.
“I must be missing something,” he said, watching the boardwalk beach. “What’s happening again?” The music box melody seemed to quicken. Her chest tightened. He’d mentioned how erratic she’d seemed recently, making him uncomfortable—as she watched herself rise and drop like the zebra and peacock beside her, she knew this steadiness was only temporary.
“You, me, this, us,” she said, gesturing all around her. “We’re repeating ourselves.”
“What’re you saying?” He looked sad, and then angry. “Have I done something wrong?”
Laura shook her head as her goose descended. “It’s not about right or wrong. Everything doesn’t always have to be about fault.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry.”
“And don’t keep saying you’re sorry. You’re not doing anything.”
“Fine, all right.” He stared at the sand. “I’m sorry.”
She kept her head low, wiping her eyes. Why did she always feel so terribly, terribly unhappy? Even though he tried his best to reassure her, it did no good—he could hold her for hours in silence, yet only sometimes did that bring her back.
“S-should we end this?” he asked abruptly. And as if to demonstrate her complete lack of control, the music box wound down as the carousel slowed to a halt.
She knew both of them should get up, but he turned away until it all restarted. Safely in motion, she admitted, “No, I don’t want that.” Beyond the algae and seaweed dangling from her lover’s dragon, the surrounding beach looked palmy yet vacant.
He nodded. All seemed well in their world of two.
Maybe she’d been wrong after all, and could finally set aside all these doubts that made her feel strange—on cue, her goose rose and hovered. Her heart fluttered, a flock of birds soaring inside her.
She waited until he noticed her. But her voice choked when she tried to speak.
“Really? Again?” he asked. “What did I do now?”
She went silent as the swan fell, flying without flapping. “Wow,” she whispered to herself, “it’s happening again.” Her words trembled past him—entranced by the carousel’s circularity, nothing else mattered as she started to plummet…
Note from Chris: this was my first realism flash fiction that I thought actually “worked,” as well as my first big pub (originally at Bartleby Snopes)