First Prize, Fiction (18 and under)
Sivan Basha Piatigorsky-Roth
When Eric and Vivian leave for their honeymoon in Jamaica, they have been married for precisely nine hours, twenty-three minutes and twelve seconds. Eric is already considering filing for divorce. The taxi speeds down the highway and Vivian plays with his hair and recounts various moments of the reception (although Eric was there to witness them). Vivian’s sister had gone home with the best man and Uncle Laurence left an hour early to catch the season finale of Breaking Amish. Vivian finds this far more hilarious than Eric. Eric hates Uncle Laurence.
If Eric were the type of man who valued honesty he would admit that he never truly wanted to marry Vivian. It was a spur of the moment decision. The proposal, that is. January was so bleak and the sky was so whitewashed it looked like bone; and so Eric bought an engagement ring. It was a good alternative to flinging himself into oncoming traffic. The ring is a classic silver one with a large diamond from Tiffany&Co. because Vivian is not the type to appreciate the more adventurous bits of life.
On the plane Vivian tells Eric how nice her new lingerie is. She had lost seven pounds before the wedding. Seven. Eric says she looks more beautiful than ever but her hips had been slender enough before and her wrists had been too bony to begin with. With his head pressed against the window he watches Vivian read. Where her fingers turn the pages he can almost feel them himself, all soft and pink and gentle. He asks the flight attendant for a glass of water and takes a Tylenol.
Vivian is shortish and paleish and has soft brown hair that she gets done every other Tuesday. She is an active book club participant, and amateur interior designer and has a very active pastry blog, which Eric doesn’t quite understand, but which apparently has a very large fan base, and even an award or two. Sometimes when she talks Eric feels a little bit unreal.
At the resort they change and shower and go downstairs for dinner.
“Look how beautiful the flowers are”
Her hand in Eric’s is waxy with lotion.
“Yes. Beautiful” Eric is not a hundred percent sure which flowers they are talking about. He doesn’t really care to ask.
When he has ingested enough wine to make his head feel floaty Eric decides to give Vivian another chance. She is really a very nice woman and has enough layers to avoid being completely dull. She reads a lot, for instance, and grows vegetables and wants to study design and architecture. Whenever Eric reaches a certain level of intoxication he decides to give Vivian another chance. It happens routinely. It’s the alcohol. It gets to his head and makes him forget that he is entirely unhappy in every conceivable way.
The problem with Vivian is not that he doesn’t like her. Eric gets a lot of joy, actually, from the act of hating people. In fact, when he is bored he practices pessimism and hasty judgment. He likes the way it feels in his stomach, the same warm fire-feel as whiskey. Vivian leaves him feeling indifferent. With her there’s not even the satisfaction of resentment.
After dinner they go upstairs and make love and talk about their new marital status. Vivian falls asleep, her face a rosy hue. He spends a while looking at her closely. Her eyebrows are a little bit over plucked, but her lips have a very nice shape, and her eyelashes make tiny flutters against her cheeks. The space between her eyes is exactly a half-inch. Eric is certain there is significance in this but he can’t think what it could be. Eric doesn’t fall asleep next to her, but he watches Netflix on his phone and pretends he’s having the most blissful honeymoon imaginable.
Eric has a headache in the morning, a side effect probably from the wine. They have room service and go down to the pool. Vivian minus seven pounds wears a strapless bathing suit. She can do that now, she says, because she cut out gluten. At the pool is another lady in a strapless bathing suit. She is heavier than both Vivian and Eric combined, and her stomach bulges out in lumps and valleys and pockets and she wears a bikini without any straps whatsoever.
The afternoon burns hot on their heads and Vivian retires to the room to take a nap before dinner. Eric sits in the lobby and reads a biography on Ulysses S. Grant. He sits next to a woman about Vivian’s age, but certainly not Vivian. She is shorter and rounder and has caramel colored skin and very short hair. She looks just as unreal as Vivian is. Her legs are tattooed and stick to the vinyl couch with a sweaty cling. Eric looks at her for a long time, letting his eyes focus and blur. Clear, cloudy, clear, cloudy. There is very little difference. She asks Eric whether he thinks Ulysses S. Grant was a good president. Eric says he is undecided, but he admires his facial hair. The tattooed girl nods sympathetically, her eyes wide and warm.
Eric is well aware of how his life would play out from here on forwards. The realization hits him suddenly, in the pool. There would be no surprises ever again. There would be a small, clean apartment, an elfin child in blue or pink, a daily commute to work and reruns of eighties films on the television. He pulls himself from the water and towels dry. Cautiously, he goes to the bar and makes a small list of his options:
1. Accept the situation and live in slight discomfort until death
2. File for divorce and live in slight discomfort until death
All options are equally perverse. Eric crumples the list up, tosses it into the garbage, and goes upstairs to get dressed for dinner
While Vivian browses the gift shops, Eric sits with the tattooed woman in the lobby. He tells her he believes Ulysses S. Grant handled the Congressional Reconstruction very well. The tattooed woman peels and unpeels her legs from the couch and jiggles her feet. She stretches and yawns and puts her hand on Eric’s thigh. While Vivian buys Time magazine and a tuna sandwich Eric and the tattooed woman make love in the men’s bathroom and then part without a word.
Aside from a mildly sleazy feeling in his stomach, Eric feels no different than before. He and Vivian fold their clothes into leather suitcases and kiss each other on their pink cheeks and run their fingers along each other’s sunburns.
“Look at how beautiful the trees are, Eric” Vivian says, rubbing her husbands hands between her waxy ones as they pack their suitcases to go home.
“Yes. Beautiful” says Eric.
Sivan Basha Piatigorsky-Roth is a 15 year old student from Toronto, Ontario. She writes a little, reads a little, and draws a little. Her work can be found at http://sivs-sketchbook.tumblr.com/