This piece of flash fiction was written for Writer’s Digest’s 2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge Day 12. I spent two hours on this story; this is the third draft. The prompt: “Write about a food you (or your character) hate.”
Bad Memory Spaghetti
Monique trudged up the last flight of stairs to the tenth-floor apartment she shared with Olivia. Fishing the keys from her bag, she said, “Why’d I get into the IT industry?” Just like the last twelve weeks, this week had been hell, and next week looked like it was going to be more of the same.
“I’m not working another weekend,” she declared with little enthusiasm as she unlocked the door and stepped into the apartment. “Hey sweetie, I’m ho—”
The aroma of freshly made spaghetti smacked her in the face, immediately followed by overwhelming nausea that nearly caused her to collapse. An old memory battered against the barred door that kept it at bay.
Somehow the soft wafting through the apartment jazz broke through the dense fog of nausea. The lights were off. Instead, dozens of large white candles burned with tiny flickering orange flames. Olivia shuffled out of the kitchen wearing a very sexy black dress.
“Hey, love,” Olivia said, brushing her hands down the dress. “I thought I’d surprise you with a—Monique? Are you okay?”
Swallowing hard, Monique asked, “Is that spaghetti?” It was a stupid question. Only spaghetti made her sick feel this way.
“Yes,” Olivia said, stopping next to her. “I thought it would go good with the red wine your mom gave us at Thanksgiving and be a nice romantic meal for a date night. Is that—Monique?”
Monique pushed past her girlfriend, dropping her bag and rushing for the bathroom. She couldn’t hold it back any longer. Their apartment was tiny—a good thing for once—and so she made it to the land of the porcelain gods quickly. She threw herself to the floor, lifted the lid, and vomited.
The memory from so long ago broke free. She heard Olivia’s voice, but it sounded far off and fading. A soft touch pressed against her back, but it was feather light, almost like it wasn’t there there at all.
The memory overwhelmed her.
Monique loved spaghetti.
Spaghetti was the greatest food in the world. Nothing tasted better. Tonight’s batch was especially good. And Dad had made so much of it. Monique was on her fourth bowl! Normally Mom and Dad wouldn’t let her have so many helpings, but tonight they did. She didn’t even have to eat any vegetables beforehand.
After finishing her bowl, Monique patted her tummy with small, black hands whose nails sported purple polish. She and Mom had had a Girl’s Day, and Mom painted her nails for the first time.
It had been such an awesome day.
And then both her parents looked at her strangely. They looked sad, but also worried, and they were fake smiling. Their bowls of spaghetti were half finished but long forgotten.
Something was wrong.
“Monique,” Mom said. “We need to tell you something.”
Dad nodded, avoiding eye contact with Monique.
Monique’s spaghetti-filled stomach suddenly didn’t feel so good.
“What is it?” Monique whispered.
Mom looked at Dad and Dad sighed.
“Your mother and I, well, you see . . . it’s complicated. We are, that is, what I mean is-Christ! I don’t know how to say this.”
Mom glared at Dad before turning back to Monique. “Your father and I are getting a divorce.”
Monique’s stomach roiled. “But you and dad love each other. You can’t be divorced.”
“We do love each other . . . just, not like before,” Dad said, as if that somehow magically explained everything to a seven-year-old.
Monique shook her head. It was too much. It didn’t make sense. Her stomach rose and the taste of regurgitated spaghetti sauce swelled in her mouth. She pushed away from the table, tumbled out of the chair, and scrambled to the bathroom. She threw herself to the floor and vomited in the toilet.
That terrible day faded.
Monique still leaned over the toilet, the coagulated contents of her lunch floating in the water. A loving hand rubbed slow circles on her back.
“I’m sorry,” Monique said, her voice hoarse.
“What for?” Olivia asked. “For being sick? You don’t have to apologize for that.”
Monique shook her head. She should have explained it. It was simple enough. Instead, she growled, “I hate spaghetti.”
The hand rubbing circled stopped briefly before continuing. “Oh . . .”
The bathroom fell silent.
After a few minutes, Monique flushed the toilet, rose to the sink, and washed her mouth out with water. She could see Olivia standing in the mirror. She looked confused, concerned, and a little hurt.
“I didn’t know. I’m sorry,” Olivia said, staring at Monique’s back.
Monique’s chest tightened and shame replaced the nausea in her stomach. She turned and took Olivia’s hands. She kissed them.
Then she took a deep breath.
“We had spaghetti the night my parents told me about their divorce,” Monique said. “I got sick that night too. Every time I smell spaghetti, I get nauseous. You didn’t know about it because I don’t like to talk about it, my parents, their divorce. It . . . was a bad time.”
Olivia nodded. The hurt was gone, replaced with understanding and sympathy. Though there was still a little confusion. Monique had a feeling what that was about.
She kissed Olivia’s hands again. “I should have told you, though. We’re partners. I’m sorry.”
Olivia nodded again, her red curls bouncing. “Apology accepted.”
“I stopped by Carmen’s on the way home,” Monique said after a moment of silence.
Olivia’s eyebrow rose.
“Picked up your favorite chocolate brownies,” Monique said, smiling. “Those should go good with the wine, yeah?”
Olivia’s eyes lit up, and she laughed. “They will. But first, let’s get rid of the spaghetti. It is officially banished from our home.”
Image from Wikimedia Commons