Secondhand Cindy

This is a sample of the short story, "Secondhand Cindy" by author, William F. Powers.

One Evening

There was another one. And another. Quickly the droplets of rain were falling steadily, soaking their way into the parched, wooden boardwalk.

Cindy stood in the doorway of the boardinghouse, becoming annoyed. She did not like rain and was sure she could do without it. She had not thought through the ramification of such an existence; she just did not like rain. In fact, there were many things she did not like, but rain was certainly on that list. Now, with the unexpected downpour, she was going to be late. Moreover, when she did arrive she would be soaked, and her hair would be a mess.

She had not thought to bring her bonnet because her parasol was good for keeping the sun off her fair complexion. Now as evening fell, the parasol was mostly just part of her ensemble. It may also have helped with a few drops of rain, but Cindy had hesitated, hoping for a break in the drizzle; however, now it was pouring.

The sky had grown very dark as she waited, but shortly, the rain let up a little. “Oh well,” she muttered under her breath. “Better late than never, as they say.” Hooking her handbag over one arm and using her parasol for as much protection as it might be worth, she used her other hand to gather her flowing skirt so it would not drag in the mud of the unpaved street. Quickly she bounded off the boardwalk and began racing up the street toward Bakersfield Inn, the finest dining establishment in the town of Gregory. However, she had no sooner started out than the downpour began again.

Only one carriage was caught in the storm; its horse had become skittish. Just as Cindy came near the animal, a streak of lightning shot across the sky accompanied by a simultaneous clap of thunder. The huge beast bolted, knocking Cindy off her feet and face forward into the mud. At that precise moment, the carriage driver was looking away, so he did not see Cindy or his horse’s contact with her. Startled by the steed’s action, he was doing all he could to bring the animal under control. Within several hundred feet, he succeeded and then proceeded on his way.

For a stunned moment, Cindy lay in the mud. When she came to herself, her prior annoyance had become a seething anger with no one nearby on which to vent itself. In a state somewhere between rage and utter despair, she pushed herself up out of the mud and recovered her standing. Her clothes were completely drenched now, making them heavy and cumbersome. Everything, all the way to her skin, was laden with water. The front of everything, including her white gloves, also had a layer of mud. As soon as she had regained her balance, she began to drag herself back to the boardinghouse from where she had come.

Needless-to-say, the dinner engagement was off!

The shank of her parasol had broken when she fell. Adding insult to injury, the hem of her skirt snagged and tore on something when she stepped up onto the boardwalk. She was afraid to look up and see who noticed her condition when she walked into the small lobby of the boardinghouse. She just focused on the stairs at the far side and dragged a trail of mud and water across the wooden floor.

Once in her room, she shed her drenched clothing and left them in a heap on the floor. She dried off, brushed the mud out of her hair as best she could, and donned a flannel nightgown.

All things considered, the rain had been her friend in one way tonight. With the drenching she had received, no one could tell whether the water on her face was rain or tears. Actually, it was both and though she toweled one from her face, her eyes constantly renewed the other.
Angrily, she threw the towel onto the floor and sank into bed. She pulled the covers over her head and cried herself to sleep.

There was a gentle knock on the door. No answer. Another gentle knock. Still nothing.

The knock became a little louder. It was still gentle, but this time accompanied by a soft voice. “Cynthia?”

“Who is it?”

He could tell she had been asleep. “It’s Christopher.”

“Go away!”

After a moment, “I just wanted to see if you’re all right. I waited for you at the inn. When you didn’t come, I thought I should check on you.”

“I’m fine. Now go away!”

“As you wish, my love. I hope you have a pleasant sleep. I will see you again tomorrow.”

“NO!” she screamed. “I don’t want to see you anymore! Now please just go away!”

After a brief pause, he said, “I love you, Cynthia.”

Christopher waited a few seconds. He heard quiet sobs, as if muffled by a pillow. However, good to his word, he turned softly and withdrew down the hall. Descending the stairs, he crossed the lobby and went out into the evening.

{End of Sample}

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