I had only fifteen minutes to do something that wasn’t packing shelves. No one else in the break room had claimed the remote. I sat down and flipped through channels. How was there nothing on a Saturday night?
Todd was last in. He made a tall paper cup of tea and slumped down in the next chair over. “Should get everything done tonight, at least.”
“Think I’ve got two pallets left,” I said.
Todd cradled his tea, blowing away the steam.
I dropped the remote. “This’ll have to do.”
It was the new Cinderella that Disney put out a couple years back, with all the other live actions. Rob Stark had just announced that he’ll only become king after marrying the mysterious model, Lily James, he’d met the night before, holding up her stiletto as covenant. I hadn’t seen the whole thing, but we all know how it goes.
“Hey, Todd, you ever been married?”
“Yeah, just the once.”
I nodded, trying not to smile. I know too much of his personal life. He’s got three kids, different mums each. “So, which one?”
“None of them, actually. Between number 2 and the last, I was with somebody else. I was living out near Townsville at the time. That’s where we met, where I think she still is.”
Evil Cate Blanchett plotted with some kind of duke for her new character arc. They toasted to their success. Cue montage of girls trying on the stiletto to no avail.
Lily James was locked in the attic by her evil stepmother because jealousy. Royal delegates rode towards the Blanchett manor, and Cate greeted them with her two developmentally arrested daughters.
We all know how it goes.
“So, what happened?” I asked.
Todd went on about how he’d only known that girl for six months when they got engaged but everything had been so good, everything was great, felt really great. Without much money between them, six months after that they went into whatever local office and got married because when you feel that good about someone, and you’re already engaged, you might just as well get it done, you know? Her family held a small party for them in their backyard.
With the help of her animal friends, Lily James sang herself to freedom. Rob Stark’s right-hand man insisted she try on the shoe, but Cate Blanchett shattered it into tiny pieces for her stepdaughter to clean up.
Todd took another drink and said that not long after getting married, his new wife started acting really moody, real angry, and he didn’t know why, though, he smiled to himself, that wasn’t anything special, not on his part. But she wouldn’t tell him why. She moved back in with her family and it was crying over the phone because he found out she was pregnant. But it couldn’t be his, he’d been very certain this time to always use protection and she said she knew it wasn’t his, it was her brother’s, and that was a real deal-breaker for him, so it was part of the reason why he’d come back to Brisbane and why he’d taken so long to file the divorce papers, even though she wouldn’t stop calling him about them.
In a sudden plottwist, a disguised Rob Stark swept off his horse and declared that Lily James was the model he met the other night, that true love-
“Sorry,” I said. “What was that last part again?”
“I kept putting off the divorce to spite her.”
“No, no, before that.”
My eyes were off the grand finale; Todd’s were still stuck to the tv.
“Oh, she and her brother were sleeping together, since before we’d met. Had been the whole time.”
“And you only found out because she got pregnant, with her brother?”
Todd sipped his tea. “Their dad didn’t know, but their mum did.”
“She was sleeping with her brother? Was he older, younger? Wait, what- what am I saying? That doesn’t fucking matter.”
Todd shrugged, but had this wry look to him because he knew he had me at the punchline. “Funny thing was, he had the same name as me.”
I gave up, felt the grin split my face, put a hand to my temple and groaned. “Guess that made it easier in bed.”
Credits rolled as the fairy tale ended.
Todd got up, poured the last of his tea down the breakroom sink, said “Well, back to work,” and walked out.
I turned off the tv.
The room was silent.
Everyone was staring at me. Everyone else on shift had heard it all. Brows were furrowed, deeply. Someone’s mouth hung open. I glanced up at the ceiling, trying to straighten my face before I said anything more.
I don’t think that worked.
I said aloud for the room to hear: “How was I supposed to know?”
Rory is a second-year Creative Writing student who swears he likes fiction more than non-fic, it’s just far easier to write about the weird people he already has to deal existing with. Find his works of prose and poetry in ScratchThat’s 2021 issues, online with Glass Magazine and much, much more through his Instagram: @rory_writes_sometimes.