A Gem of a Friend

Hello readers. This is a continuation of last week’s story (which can be found in the calender on the right), though you don’t need to read that one to get this one. I promise.


Donald Conrad

A Gem of a Friend


Ann couldn’t believe how easy it was to get away with killing Chet. A week after he went ‘missing’, a small plane went down off the Bermuda coast during a storm. That’s when Ann made her report and requested information about the flight manifest. No one could say whether he was on the plane or not.

There’s a fine line between insanity and genius. Ann was playing hopscotch back and forth along it.

Cynthia, as a friend, had offered to have Ann sleep over so she wouldn’t have to endure the loss of her husband alone. The offer was accepted and they shared a bottled of wine and a veggie pizza together. Later in the evening, Ann crossed the hall from the bathroom to the guest bedroom where Cynthia had turned down the bed.

“Wow, staying here is like staying at a four star hotel.”

“Only a four star?”

Ann looked past Cynthia and said, “No pillow mints.”

They each suppressed a laugh and Cynthia said, “I take a sleep aid, so you’ll have to make enough noise to wake the dead before it gets to me. How about you? Would you like an Ambien?”

“No. I’ll be fine. Knowing that you’re just a room away is comforting. Thanks Cynthia. Chet would be happy to know I have a friend like you around in times like these.”

To her credit, Cynthia kept a poker face. “Anything for you Ann. I’m sure we’ll hear something about Chet by tomorrow. So get some rest and I’ll see you in the morning.”

As Cynthia was leaving, Ann smiled with mixed emotions. She knew that no one would ever hear from Chet again. Parts of his cremains were at Gemstars being pressed into a keepsake gemstone. The rest were on the unclaimed shelf at the family funeral home. Ann sat on the bed, waiting for Cynthia’s sleep aid to kick in.

That Cynthia extended this courtesy to Ann surprised her because she and Chet were sneaking around behind Ann’s back. Ann flipped Chet’s cellphone open and reviewed the missed call log again.

Cynthia had tried to call him yesterday. She showed up as Sinthia—interesting spelling.

Two other names showed up as well: GymJane and Loosy. Chet was a busy guy. “Lots to do,” she said as she snapped the phone shut.

“Don’t do it Ann.”

Ann looked around the room and then down to the phone in her hand. The voice sounded like Chet’s. She stood and turned to face the room. It was deadly quiet and she was alone. Still, she felt a presence. A small shadow darted in her peripheral vision, moving faster as she tried to look at it. She remained hyper alert and still.

Her eyes scanned the room erratically. As the seconds ticked away she considered things: She found Cynthia’s name in the Muller Funeral Home records and was initially surprised. That Chet could mess around with Cynthia and sell her an arrangement spoke volumes. Chet had set up a package for her and got her to pay in advance.

Ann considered this and decided that all she had to do was orchestrate some method of Cynthia’s demise and she would be delivered to the Muller Funeral Home. Nice and neat.

Like dominos, Ann only had to tip the first and watch the action. She dismissed the voice that sounded like Chet and the fleeting glimpse. It was time for action.

Quietly, she made her way along the darkened hallway to Cynthia’s room. No light came from under the door so she pressed an ear to it. Slowly, she turned the knob and peered in. Cynthia was on her side and breathing softly. Ann watched from the doorway for ten minutes or more.

Everything seemed…okay.

Ann tip toed over to the bed and watched as Cynthia slept. She looked so peaceful in the blue glow of the nightstand clock.

Ann’s scalp felt charged with static. She ran her hand over the stubble growing on her head. The short hair made her feel vibrant and alive. Ann gently grabbed the end of the pillow that Cynthia was lying on and raised it to cover her nose and mouth.

At first she barely moved.

Ann raised a leg over Cynthia and straddled her as she came out of her Ambien haze, holding her arms pinned to her side. The more Cynthia struggled, the more weight Ann put on her. Soon she was fully on top of Cynthia, who was still on her side.

Cynthia thrashed her head from side to side, but Ann maintained pressure on the pillow. Cynthia began to buck, and the more she exerted herself the more air she needed. By the time Cynthia was in full panic mode, she was starved for air and fading fast.

Ann stayed in position for a couple of minutes after Cynthia stopped moving, just to be sure of success. Then she straightened up around the apartment, removed traces of her visit, and left.

She locked the door behind her.

As she walked to her car, she considered the evening’s events; replaying the whole thing while checking for loose ends. Each finger on her left hand touched her thumb in turn; finger exercises she did while deep in thought. When she realized she was doing it, she stopped.

All she could hope for now was that someone would find Cynthia before she got too ripe.

Back at the funeral home, she took Chet’s box of ashes off the shelf and opened it. Running her fingers through them she said, “What color diamond should we make her? Huh, Chet? You seemed to like red.”

She sifted the grainy cremains through her fingers and a light dust rose from it.

“Red it is.” Ann’s eyes searched the quiet of the basement as a twitchy smile worked on her face. “She was a gem of a friend.”

So readers, could this story stand alone? Or do I have to admit to serialization?


12 thoughts on “A Gem of a Friend

  1. Marisa Birns

    I think that if I had come across this story without having read the first part, I would understand it quite well. So, it can be a stand alone.

    Though if you want to continue with Ann’s revenge with the other names she found on phone, then no reason not to combine all.

    Enjoyed this second part as much as the first. Will Ann’s luck hold out? Guess I’ll have to stay tuned, eh?

  2. Jared

    I have a somewhat ongoing serialization about a detective named McGuffin (google it if you don’t know what it means). It, like this, has no problem in standing alone. I didn’t read last week’s but I had no problem following this story. It would be good as a serial or part of a larger work, but it seems that the attention span of most internet readers is much smaller than that.

    1. donaldconrad Post author

      I think you’re correct about the attention span of internet readers (myself included).
      I’ve dabbled with pieces that were longer than flash and found that readership goes down in direct proportion to an increase in word count. That’s why I’ve stayed away from serial stories in the past. This is sort of an experiment for me. Thanks for the comments; they are invaluable.

  3. mazzz_in_Leeds

    I read the first one, so I could be completely off the mark here, but I think you’d need a little more clarity about what Gemstars and cremains are in the beginning to make it stand truly on its own.

    Ann is quite the cool cookie, remind me not to cross her…

  4. Heidi Conrad

    I got this story in my emails and it’s the first of many I will read. Too bad you didn’t get an earlier start on writing.

  5. Linda

    I missed the first story, so dipped back and read — this could stand alone, but I think the two together work better.

    I agree — as a reader, I prefer short, punchy pieces to serials, UNLESS each installment can stand on its own. Though I am guilty — I’m focusing on writing my second novel and revising my first, so folks get to plough through longish scenes from those. I’m too low on energy to think up, much less write, new flashes.

    Liked the voice here — a lot. peace, Linda

  6. peggy

    I did not read the first. The first time I read “cremains” I thought it was a typo. The 2nd time I got it. By the end of the story and before I read commments, I got the Gem Stars too. So, yes, it stands alone, BUT…

    I got a little confused between the women and who’s husband Chet was, and I think that has to do with the wording in that paragraph. There was a reference to Chet possibly being a ghost, which the story never followed through on. I assumed the plane crash reference would have been more believable as an excuse if I’d read the first.

    Since you asked, I purposely didn’t read the first to see which parts of the story stand out for me. So, it is the a)plane crash–why is that believable? b) Chet as a ghost c) the other girls in his phone d) why is Cynthia not surprised at Ann’s lack of sorrow/mourning? She smiles and jokes and laughs too easily, but knowing Cynthia’s secret, maybe this isn’t a point to take to seriously.

    I enjoyed the read, despite the detailed comments.

    1. donaldconrad Post author

      Peggy, I want to thank you for your critical commentary. You put a lot of thought into it.
      I worry that I’ve bitten off more than can be chewed in a thousand words or less with this one (or actually, with these). The idea with this group of stories is to try making them stand alone while allowing them to tell a larger story. Ambiguity in each is the result.
      Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. Do come back again. Ann’s tale has only just begun.


Tell me what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s