The Incident

The Incident

A Story by Shawn Pfister

Bette looked at Ellen timidly. She had decided that today would be the day she'd have the talk with her and Matt. She had been putting it off for far too long, but she just really didn't want to upset everybody.

On top of that it was starting to feel as though she had waited too long to say anything. It had, after all, been over three months since the incident. It almost felt silly to talk about it now.

She quietly took her place at the table and waited for them to sit and join her.

Ellen glanced at her with more than obvious contempt. "Would you at least stay out of the way?" Ellen asked as she tried to set the bowl of peas in front of Bette.

Bette looked around. The table was empty except for the three place settings. Ellen was in one of her moods again. Maybe tonight wasn't the right night. Maybe tomorrow would be better.

"Sorry," she whispered ducking out of Ellen's way.

"Sorry," Ellen muttered as she walked away to get another dish. "Useless is more like it."

Bette bit her tongue. It was not the time to bring up the incident. Not like this anyway. Not with Ellen in a mood. She would wait another day. Ellen knew about Bette's limitations since the incident, but some days things just got to her. Bette understood.

Bette started playing in the dust on her place mat, but quit instantly when she realized that it would just upset Ellen even more.

Matt came in and sat down. He looked at Bette and smiled a quick hello before turning and fiddling with his napkin. He had been like that since the incident, unable to look her in the eye.

Bette smiled her brightest at him. She was sure that in time he'd treat her like he used to. "How was your day?" She asked him.

"Good," he mumbled.

She leaned over towards him and pretended not to notice his flinch. "Ellen's in one of her moods again," she whispered before righting herself.

He glanced shyly in her direction, looking at her knee. He smiled and quietly added, "Thanks."

"No problem," she replied jovially, but quietly. She didn't want Ellen to overhear. "We gotta stick together."

He smiled, but didn't look at her.

Ellen returned and dropped the platter of pork chops and bowl of mashed potatoes unceremoniously on the table. She sat and glanced at the two. "What have you guys been talking about?" She asked.

"Nothing," Matt said, his eyes on his plate. "We were just saying hi."

Bette's smile faded. She knew this was the wrong thing to say.

"So which is it?" Ellen asked. "Nothing or saying hi?"

"We just said hi," he said. "It's nothing worth mentioning."

"Then why are you mentioning it?" Ellen asked as she grabbed a pork chop with her fork and dragged it onto her plate.

"You asked," he replied. He put some mashed potatoes on his plate and offered the platter to Ellen. "Would you like some?"

"No," she said coldly. "I slaved over dinner all day because I don't want to eat any."

He put a large scoop on her plate as she looked at Bette. "Would you pass the peas?"

Bette started to reach for them and stopped. "I can't," she whispered sadly, disappointment evident in her voice.

"God. Do I have to do everything myself?" Ellen reached over to grab the peas. "Pardon my reach," she snapped, "but it's not like you can do anything."

"Ellen," Matt chastised her. "It's not her fault. She can't do anything since, you know." He leaned forward and whispered, "The incident."

"You would bring that up," Ellen shouted. "How many times do I have to tell you that's not my fault."

"Nobody has ever accused you of anything," Bette told her. "We know it's not your fault."

"Don't patronize me," Ellen shouted as she stood. "You can't do anything. You can't even leave. You think that's easy on us?"

Bette started to tear up.

"Ellen, that's too far." Matt replied loudly, boldly. He turned to Bette. "You are welcome to stay as long as you need." He reached out to touch her hand, but changed his mind halfway through. "Sorry," he whispered hoarsely. "It's hard to get used to."

"It's all right," Bette said, brushing away the tears.

"How touching," Ellen hissed. "Are you two finally getting reaquainted?"

"Ellen, we have to make the best with the cards we were dealt," Matt told her. "It's not easy on any of us."

"Matt," Ellen began, turning to face him, "Do you really want to bring up the skeleton in the closet?"

His face paled and he turned back to his plate. “No.”

Unable to control herself, Bette said, "I do." Her voice was dripping in enthusiasm. Maybe they could discuss the incident today after all.

"Shut up," Ellen hissed at her. "This doesn't even concern you."

Riding on her new found bravery, Bette stood to face Ellen as she said, "I think it does concern me. After all, it is my skeleton."

© 2011 Shawn Pfister

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Added on June 17, 2011
Last Updated on June 20, 2011


Shawn Pfister
Shawn Pfister

Sault Ste. Marie, Northern Ontario, Canada

I am a writer living in Sault Ste. Marie, ON. I have had short stories and poems published in Vicious Bites and Vicious Spirits, both available on Amazon and will have another short story published.. more..