Broken Script

Broken Script

A Story by Shannon

When leaving and staying both hurt. Language warning!


Kate looks Joe dead in the eye.

"You lied to me", her voice is steady, "we are done".

Joe has no reason to believe she means it.  And many reasons to think that this time will be like before.  He needs her; she will take him back.

Joe continues to apologize, “Katie, I’m sorry.  You know I love you.”

Kate walks away, where in the past she has fought - fought for him, fought with him.  The tears that squeeze past her resolve shatter like glass on her cheeks.

Joe hasn't done anything he hasn't done before, really.   Another promise to stop getting high and drinking. But this time was different.  He had hurt her body.  It changed things for her.  I thought it changed things for him too.  He lasted ten days.

The phone startles her out of sleep, setting off familiar warning bells. Kate knows what will happen when she answers, but she picks it up anyway.

"I need you back," Joe slurs.  Alcohol tonight.

"I can't.” Kate hears the truth in her words, the steel in her resolve.  He does not.

"I love you,  I can't live without you". The same words they exchange every time; a script learned by rote, “I will change.  I know I’m a terrible person, but without you, I am nothing.”

She knows her next line: I’m sorry,  I love you too.  Yes, I’ll be yours again,  but refuses to say it.

Instead she says, “I can’t.  I love you, but I can't keep doing this.”

"I'll kill myself; I can't live without you.  I will die if you don’t forgive me," Joe whispers before starting to cry.

This scene, newly added to the old script, is disorienting, frightening.

“I can forgive you, but we can’t get back together,” Kate feels the steel crack, but refuses to let it fracture, “Please don't hurt yourself Joe.”

“I need you.” His voice breaks. Her heart tries to as well. “I can do better, change,” he promises, “I just need someone to do it for.  I can't do it without you, Katie.”

“You need to move on, for yourself, I’m not enough,” she says.

“I’m not enough, I don’t deserve to live. Not after I hurt you. You’re all I have,” Joe is yelling now, a tone Kate knows well.

He’s angry at himself more than me. “Yes you do deserve to live. I love you, but I can't be with you,” Kate says, resolve firm again.

They talk for hours. Around and around, the same topic, the same words, the same conclusion.  A new script begins to take shape. Joe passes out; the phone call ends.

Kate finds herself precariously balanced, torn.

Talking to Joe. Not taking him back. Still loving him, as she refuses to be with him. She feels brittle, cracking, nearly breaking.

Kate thinks about the times Joe came to the cafe where she waitresses on weekends.

“Hey, Baby, it’s really dead in here,” he said taking note of the single patron, reading a free newspaper on the far side of the room, before leaning in to steal a kiss. “I know, not at work, but no one saw and I missed you so much,” Joe grinned at Kate, who returned his smile.

“I gotta get the cleaning and restocking done,” Kate told him.

“Let me help, no one will know. Besides you work too hard.”

Kate had shown him how to empty and wipe down the vessels on each table for sugar packets before adding more to ensure they are full. They worked at parallel tables, back to back.

Joe talked most of the time, telling her about his day, “I registered for school. Going to do it this time.”

Kate remembers her delight. She put her arms around him, despite the single coffee drinking in the corner.

Joe had sat at the table beside the work station where she had more work to do for the rest of the evening.  They had planned going to school together, even though they will be in different programs. She was happy with him.

Then there were the tiny gifts.

“I made this for you, while I waited,” Joe said, handing her a paper rose with a flourish, as she was leaving her last class of the day. He pulled her into a long kiss, despite being in her school hallway. It had made her laugh and push him playfully away, as he had grabbed her hand, leading her from the building.

The memory makes Kate smile, until she remembers later that night. The drunken accusations, followed by the cheating.  The hurts that couldn't be seen, eventually followed by one that could be, if you knew how to look.

Her best friend,  'Bo, accuses her of abandoning them all when she broke up with Joe.

“You didn’t break up with all of us,” ‘Bo says.

“I miss you guys, it’s just hard…” she doesn't finish her sentence out loud Joe’s always there too and it hurts to see him.

“It’s my birthday next weekend,” ‘Bo begins.

“Oh, I know, Happy Birthday!” Kate lights up.

“Come to the party? We can have a good time, like we used to.”

Kate agrees to go to the party.

'Bo greets her with a hug and a drink.

"It's been a long time", he pulls her close and talks into her ear directly,  "Joe brought someone with him" *relief* "so maybe you can be with me tonight." He pulls her into a whisky-soaked kiss.

Pushing him away,  sadness floods her - a tidal wave. Hard. Not my best friend after all?

Three years of friendship crumble like ash after a fire. Kate has another drink and another.  That burn soothes the pain.

Kate wakes up next to Joe, gets dressed, and walks home as dawn colours the sky.

Joe meets her at the end of her work day, in the parking lot, where he is having a smoke. He throws his arm around her shoulder.

"What’re we doing tonight, Katie?" he says with a grin.

Can I do this to him?  Kate moves away from Joe, steeling herself, and takes a deep breath. This time she can't meet his gaze.

"Joe, I’m still not your girlfriend. I'm sorry."

Joe stares at her for a long moment.  The muscles in his jaw clench. Anger and pain mix in his eyes,  before he turns and walks away.

The phone rings.

"I hate you! F*****g b***h. You ruined my life." Meth probably.

“I’m sorry Joe, I never meant to hurt you,” Kate says, she means it.

“But you did hurt me!”

“I know, we aren’t good together,” Kate tries to explain.

“Because you won't f*****g forgive me!”

“Forgiving is not the same as getting back together,” Kate tried again.

“Then you played this game with me.  Just f*****g me for fun. Is that what you do now? Just f**k whoever?”

“I’m sorry, that was a mistake-” Kate’s voice gets louder, defending herself, resolve fortified.


She hangs up. Tears streaming down face fall on the phone. Guilt.

Not every night, but some nights, he calls. Kate answers. She doesn't know what will happen if she breaks, but she feels fissures forming.

“Hey Katie, baby, how’s it goin’?”  Ritalin maybe? Or E?

“I’m doing okay,” she answers. Where’s this going? She hears a giggle.

“Joey, get off the phone… I’m wa-aiting,” a voice behind him coes.

“Just wait,” Joe’s voice is muffled as he talks to his companion. “Katie, I miss you,” he says returning the the phone call.

“Seems like you got company,” Kate snaps. Am I jealous? I want him to move on. Right?

“Katie, say the word.  I’ll leave here, come to you.  You’re all I want.”

“No you’ve got what you want.”

“Just tell me what to do, I’ll do it.  I love you.  I miss you.  I need you. Anything. I swear.” Joe’s words are getting faster and faster.

“We can’t get back together, you know that,” Kate reminds him. He’s high again. I can’t take him back.

“But Katie, you’re the only thing that matters, I love you.”

“I know you do. Good night, Joe. Be safe.” Kate’s hand shakes as she puts down the phone. Anger and hurt fill the fissures in her resolve and she is surprised to find her face wet with tears.

Some nights he can't live without her, others she is a b***h or a w***e. The calls start to merge; love, need, threats and venom fuse into a single phone call. A new script being written.

Her phone is ringing. Kate does not answer. It rings again.  And again. Kate silences the ringer. The light continues to indicate incoming calls.  She does not pick up. The tears that fall are intermingled with relief. She lets her heart break.

© 2017 Shannon

Author's Note

Trying third person this time. Any suggestions for improvement?
I am aware that these situations tend to be much more complex than this story explores. The intense focus helped me tell a story of a reasonable length. Also, it's not that I think Kate should have waited for things to escalate, as indicated, before leaving, but I am aware that a catalyst might be needed to spur a change like the one she experiences.

My Review

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Featured Review

Hi S. Mi, Sorry for being away for so long -- no good excuse, yes, the usual busyness, but c'est la vie. Anyway, to your story. I like the concept of the story, but it feels more like an outline for a story because so much of it is summarizing, rather than showing. At points, it comes alive with the dialogue but then the dialogue is truncated and I'm left with feeling, "Oh, I wish I could continue to hear what they said to each other." If you flesh this out -- with details, textures, sounds, smells, a dramatic process will become dynamic and the important message inherent in this situation will achieve a greater impact. I'd love to see you work a bit more on this piece -- it will no doubt wind up being longer but that's ok.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


3 Years Ago

Thank you for the feedback Taylor. And good to see you. I was worried I had honed it down to far... read more


"Broken Script'
Good writing and the personal character building helped make the inner workings of this relational scenario very real. I read it through and then just had a hard time knowing what to say. A lot of pain in this story which is seen all to often.

Posted 1 Year Ago

I very much like the broken script analogy. The script of their relationship is broken. Joe expects her to act a certain way, and he won't change. Terrible relationship that is all too frequent in the real world. I'm glad at the end she managed to break the script and leave the relationship.

Posted 2 Years Ago

The use of "script" in reference to this situation is both apt and real. Good job keeping the "script" theme throughout as well as the heart being of a metallic nature.

Only one thing pulled at my eye:

"The hurts that couldn't be seen, eventually followed by one that could be, if you knew how to look." Use of "seen" might lead to "if you knew where to look."

Very realistic section about the "best friend". You have captured a lot of elements that exist in these situations.

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

Thank you for the read and review. I appreciate you sharing what stood out for you, in constructive .. read more
abuse is so common these days i think most people know of someone or are someone who has suffered or is suffering in sucha relationship ..your sotry points out just how insane it is to be caught up in one ..i like how she pegs his "high" with the different calls ..she knows him so well ..the closing is superb ...finally resolution after going back and forth over and over ... the theme is an important one in my mind anyway ..the body reads a little sparse .. though the bones are there ..its the power an abusive person wants ..and control and the story touches on it but the emotions involved are deep rooted and always volatile ... i think some of that is missing ...thanks for the link and invite to read ..much appreciate it

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

Thank you for the feedback and the read.
I liked the interplay of emotion and need, of drugged desire and hangover. Katie is the young girl caught in a maelstrom of confusion, wanting to dare and regretting the outcomes, needing love yet finding herself abused.

The story unfolds with skillful use of dialogue and episodes, reflecting the whirl of events and the troubled nature of the relationship.

Slowly the elastic stretches to breaking point and Kate feels the relief of freedom.

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

Thank you for the read. I'm glad the events were laid out in a way that makes sense.
This felt authentic to me. Life is messy and I think you've captured the non-;inner aspect of how events unravel in the real world. I also really like the way you add Katie's assumptions to the end of Joe's dialogue ("I hate you! *** b***h. You ruined my life." Meth probably.). Jumping back in time throughout the story for some layering works well too I think.

Posted 3 Years Ago


3 Years Ago

Thank you. I appreciate the feedback. Few have read it since I added the flashback, actually, so gla.. read more
Katie is finally strong enough to "tear-up" the script. It's obvious that she really loves Joe, but she has at long last faced the reality that he will never change. His "script" is never to be edited..

I really like the way you deal with the conversations that take place between the two of them. I believe that Kate deserves much better than what Joe has to offer her.

Joe is super self-centered and it seems that he expects or expected Kate to continually give in to his stream of broken promises.

(By God - I pray that you weren't Kate, but if you were you survived.) Take care - Dave

Posted 3 Years Ago


3 Years Ago

Thank you Dave I think you got the scrip reference more fully than anyone else.

3 Years Ago

Thank you - for the compliment.
This was pretty intense for a short story, and obviously I felt pretty bad for Kate.. You're ability to write dialogue is amazing, I personally struggle making it flow and feel natural but I was able to read yours with ease. The only thing I noticed that was really "wrong" was the second to last paragraph. "Tears streaming down face fall on" sounds a little clunky and could use a small bit of a rewrite in that what section. :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


3 Years Ago

Thank you very much. Appreciate the compliments...and the feedback. Funny how you don't notice unt.. read more
Very nice story. I think there could have been more focus on the titular "broken script.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


3 Years Ago

I always appreciate feedback and a few others have felt this might be too brief.
About the ti.. read more

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21 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on June 18, 2016
Last Updated on October 25, 2017




I like to explore the world through the human experience, at once both varied and singular. Reading, writing and meeting people makes one's world larger. I enjoy connecting with people, learning.. more..

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