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Prelude to a Slap

by Hermine Robinson

“I'm not putting up with any of Lisa's crap tonight,” said Madi. She glanced up from applying rose
coloured lip gloss to gauge Eric's reaction. Behind her, Eric paused in towel drying his hair.

“Say what?”

Madi sucked in her lips to spread the gloss evenly and used her pinkie finger to clean up the
smudge at the corner of her mouth. She smiled at Eric's reflection in the bathroom mirror. “You
heard me. I'm in no mood for Lisa's bullshit. Not tonight.”

Eric reached around Madi for one of her eye shadows, a smokey blue-grey. “Well in that case,
let me colour in the black eye right now.”

“I'm not kidding, Eric.” Madi snatched her eye shadow from him as he pressed his nakedness
against her back. “Stop it.” She glared at Eric's grin as his hands slid forward, his thumbs stroking
down her neck on the way to the top of her blouse. “We're going to be late,” said Madi. Eric gave
her shoulders a quick squeeze and turned away, giving up too easily. Madi applied a quick
dusting of blush and followed him to the bedroom where she had  laid out his suit and a freshly
ironed shirt.

“You okay?” she asked, as he buttoned up the shirt twice before getting it right.

“Yep.” He flipped up his shirt collar and held out a tie. “String me up, babe.”

Madi tied an expert half-Windsor and stretched up for a kiss. Eric responded with a light peck.
She sighed and tucked a loose wisp of dark blonde hair behind her ear. “Ted and Lisa are going
to know something is up,” she said. “You wearing a suit. Me wearing make up.”

Eric shrugged into his suit jacket and adjusted his tie. “Ted knew something was up as soon as I
invited him and Lisa out for steak dinner at The Keg instead of the usual.”

The 'usual' meant taking a six-pack over Ted and Lisa's double-wide on Saturday night and
ordering in pizza – meat-lover's with extra cheese – because Lisa always voted with the guys.

Madi took a slice to be polite and slid it back into the box when no one was looking. Tonight she
looked forward to having something other than greasy, over-loaded pizza. “What time is our

Eric checked his watch. “Seven o'clock, we better hustle.”

“Wait,” said Madi. “Forget the suit jacket and wear your leather coat instead, it'll be warmer.”

They planned to walk the five blocks to the restaurant so Madi could celebrate without having to
worry about being the designated driver. For once Lisa would not be able to taunt her about
being a teetotaller.

“Can I lose the noose too?” asked Eric. Madi smiled as he tossed aside the tie and undid the top
button of his collar. Dressing down gave him the casual, yet sophisticated look she had fallen in
love with when they first met at University three years ago. “Have you got everything?” Eric
asked as he helped Madi on with her coat.

“Everything that matters,” she said, holding up her left hand. The gold band was too large and the
engagement ring felt strange and uncertain on her finger, but she had decided to hold off  getting
it sized until after the weekend. She twisted the diamond around to catch the light and the sight of
it brought a lump to her throat. “I still can't believe it's real.”

“It's real,” said Eric. “The guy on the corner assured me it was absolutely, 100% genuine.” He
liked to joke, but Madi knew he had saved up all summer since graduation so he could propose
on the third anniversary of their first date. She thumbed the diamond inward and clenched her fist
to keep the ring safe for the brisk walk to the restaurant.

“It looks like they got here early,” said Eric when he spotted Ted's Crown Victoria in The Keg
parking lot. Madi had laughed the first time she saw Ted's car, and asked Eric if his best friend
was eighty years old and wore a tweed Fedora. Eric pointed to the faded outline of police decals
on the doors and explained that Ted had bought the car at a city auction. “He thinks it's bad-ass
and keeps it running with cheap parts from work.”

Ted managed the service department at his father-in-law's auto dealership and Madi resisted the
urge to cough the word 'nepotism' into her hand whenever Lisa bragged about Ted's latest raise
or bonus. Whenever Lisa talked about money, Eric hugged Madi afterwards and whispered
someday. Meanwhile, they scraped by on Eric's student loans and Madi's cashier job.

Someday finally arrived last spring when Eric graduated and landed a job with a tech firm, but that
had only been a few months ago. Madi still found it hard to break out of the mindset of being
perpetually broke. As they followed the hostess to their table Madi said, “Lisa's going to order the
most expensive thing on the menu because you're buying.”

“I've got it covered.”

Madi twisted her diamond solitaire inward and kept it hidden below the table when she slid into the
booth beside Lisa. She would wait for Eric to announce the news.

Ted was affable and loud. “Hey man, hope you don't mind that we started without you.”

Eric ordered beer for himself and another round of drinks for Ted and Lisa before turning to Madi.

“A white wine spritzer,” she said.

Lisa raised an eyebrow and glanced down at Madi's lap. “I knew it.” She grabbed Madi's left
hand and pulled it up to show Ted. “I told you he'd finally popped the question. Look at that ring.”
Madi wrestled her wrist out of Lisa's grip. Her hand shook as she adjusted the ring to show it off

“Congratulations,” said Ted.

“About time,” said Lisa. “It's been four years already.”

“Three,” corrected Madi. “Eric proposed on the third anniversary of our first date.”

“Seems like longer,” said Lisa.

Madi looked to Eric for help. He just shrugged and opened the menu. “We're celebrating, so order
what you like, I'm buying.”

Lisa switched to drinking highballs and ordered prime rib to make up for three years of paying for
pizza. After Eric picked up the dinner tab, Ted suggested they hit the lounge for a few more drinks.
Madi cringed.

“Maybe we should have a couple of beer at our place, instead.” said Eric. “It's close, we can walk.”

“Oh yeah, sure,” drawled Lisa. “Four years later and now we finally get an invite.”

“Three years,” said Madi.  She took Lisa by the arm and steered her in the right direction while
Eric and Ted brought up the rear. Ted and Lisa seldom came to Madi and Eric's place – their
belt-line apartment had hardwood floors and the building manager lived right below – it was a
terrible place to party. But tonight Madi decided a noise complaint was better than spending
more money at the bar. Ted slumped in a chair, his head lolled back. Lisa looked revived from
the walk and took a beer when Eric offered it. Madi shot him a glare.

“Relax,” he said. “We're celebrating.”

“Yes!” said Lisa, raising her bottle. “Four years! It's about time you made an honest woman of her,

Madi said, “Give it a rest Lisa, I've already told you; Eric and I have been dating three years, not
four.” She glanced over at Eric for back up, but he ignored her. Ted was passed out and snoring,
so no help there.

“Nope, I'm pretty sure it's been four.”

“No. Lisa. You're wrong.” Madi took Lisa's beer and set it on the table.

The slap came fast and hard. Madi touched her left cheek and stared at Lisa in disbelief. Lisa
raised her hand again, but Eric tackled her before she could land a second blow. Ted staggered
up from the chair in time to see the two of them grappling on the floor.  

Madi leaned down to get in Lisa's face. “I dare you to hit me again, bitch.”

“Shut up Madi! You're not helping,” yelled Eric.

Madi paced back and forth holding her cheek while Lisa kicked and screamed. Eric shoved some
bills in Ted's hand. “I'll call you a cab, take Lisa downstairs and wait in the lobby.” Eric threw the
deadbolt behind them and turned to Madi. “What was that about? Starting a fight? Tonight of all

“I did it so you and Ted could finally see Lisa for what kind of person she really is.”

“Unbelievable,” said Eric, brushing past Madi. “I have to call a cab.” He stopped and turned back.
“I guess you're right, I learned something tonight.”

Madi touched her cheek where it stung.
The End

Hermine Robinson lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta where winters are long and inspiration is
plentiful. She loves all things short fiction and refuses to be the place where perfectly good
characters and their stories come to die. Her work has appeared in numerous on-line and print
publications and she blogs irregularly at
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Prelude to a Slap
Fiction by Hermine Robinson
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