For Round 8 of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that begin with this sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door." Our winner was "Rainy Wedding."
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. At least she made it look that way, like it was her choice. She glanced at each of us from her wooden chair and may even have smiled slightly, as if we were three friends come to take her out to lunch.
Then she reached up and gathered her thick brown hair to put it in a ponytail, but because she had nothing to tie it with, she let it fall down her back.
"OK, then," she said, and stood, straighter than most.
We had talked about this day many times. She wanted to know all the details.
"How far?" she had asked.
"Not far," I said.
"How far?" she repeated, angry this time. I measured it for her. A hundred and twelve yards. Then we measured her stride. It worked out to 130 steps. "A hundred and thirty steps," she repeated.
More than once on rounds I heard her practicing. One-two-three-four turn.
"Who will be there?"
"It depends," I said. "Officials. A chaplain. Family and friends."
"So I should send invitations?" She looked at me sideways and grinned. I laughed a small laugh because I felt I should.
"Will I be able to see them?"
I was confused. "They'll be in another room..."
"But can I see them? Or is it one of those one-way mirrors?"
"No, you can see through it."
One day she asked, "Does it hurt?" When I hesitated, she said, "Never mind."
She was silent a while, looking down and rubbing her hands in her lap. Then she said, "Do people... lose control?"
"It can get emotional."
She shook her head. "No. I mean ... bladder, bowels."
Something tightened in my chest. I waited a long time, then said, "Some."
She got very quiet after this. When I came by the next day she said, "The last meal?" She made air quotes with her fingers. "I don't want it."
"It's a custom ..."
"I don't want it."
A week before, she said, "Can I have a book? Instead of the meal?"
"You have books," I said. She always had books, always read. She worked at the small library they had here.
"Not those," she said. "A new book. From a store. Will you get one for me? Soon?"
She had never asked me for anything before, and I was surprised that I blushed. I thought she'd want a classic, like Moby Dick. But she gave me the names of a few authors and said to get anything by any of them. They wrote romance novels — cheap, paperback romance novels.
"Did you do it?" I asked her once.
She looked at me a long time with her cool green eyes, then shrugged the slightest of shrugs, a shrug that took in the eight-by-10 cell with the bed and table and toilet, the 14 years, the two appeals, the scar on her cheek that had faded with time. A shrug that was equal parts "What do you think?" and "Apparently so." I never brought it up again.
She did great. It's weird to say that, but we do, and she did. Some don't. But when they do, we say they did great. She was one of the best.
After, I went to her cell and picked up the book, which fell open in my hands to the page she had dog-eared when she stopped.