Best Served Cold

By Marianne H. Donley

Previously published in Charmed Writers Presents: Flash Fiction 2019 Stories That Take a Minute to Read

The Wilkinses blasted into our neighborhood community like a shooting star. Alita, a former model, willow thin; yards of hair, striking, tawny eyes. Harte, a football superstar, blond and dimples, Greek god shoulders.

Wives ignored Alita. Husbands and wives buzzed around Harte like bees around the only flower in a field. Soon we realized Harte was a player and a flirt.  When I found my wife up against the fence with her skirt around her neck and Harte with his pants around his ankles, both breathing hot and heavy, my marriage was the first to implode.

Harte got a feature news story. Alita got a wide diamond bracelet and a brittle smile that didn’t reach her striking eyes. I got the kids, the dogs, and the house. My wife got the cats and a permanent rage from my refusal to forgive her.

Their marriage survived.

Neither Alita nor I received much sympathy from our friends. Harte continued to invite me to his backyard barbecues. “Come on, Perry,” he would shout, “Come have a beer. It’ll be fun.” I continued to decline but couldn’t help sneaking a peak from my upstairs bedroom window. Alita bustled about as if she were a hired caterer. Harte acted as host, surrounded by a mob of admirers.

Erstwhile friends apprised me of Harte’s continued philandering.

Alita ignored each infidelity. She managed her family with the same invisible efficiency that she catered Harte’s parties. We shared an accountant, a doctor, a dog groomer. When I asked if Harte might attend any task, she smiled her sharp smile saying, “Harte is incapable of mundane chores.”

Our kids went off to college. Harte met Faith Rayburn, a hot, blue-eyed, blonde; twenty-five but determined. She demanded a stunning engagement ring, marriage, and a generous prenup.

Alita managed their divorce details. She told me it was simple. “The kids have graduated. I don’t need support or the house.”

She helped Faith plan the wedding, which shocked everyone but Harte.

On the wedding day, hundreds of guests overran Harte’s house. Cars and cops blocked the street. Alita hired five different caterers, five different florists, five different bands, but paid only the deposits. Tempers frayed. Soon service people argued with the guests, who argued with the cops. Broken wedding cakes, crushed bouquets, and bills trashed the front lawn. Faith left in a huff, taking her diamond ring and the singer from one of the bands.

Harte yelled for Alita, but she had vanished with his savings account, his retirement account, and all the jewelry he had given her over the years.

His parties and crowds fizzled away. His kids don’t even visit. His house is in foreclosure.

Alita video called me yesterday, from a beach in Montenegro, which she said has no extradition treaty with the U.S. Her smile reached her stunning tawny eyes. She suggested I look her up if I were in the area. I laughed.


I always wanted to see Montenegro, and I would love to send Harte a joint postcard.

Marianne Donley

Marianne H. Donley writes fiction from short stories to funny romances and quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Tennessee with her husband, son, and a new puppy. Marianne blogs at A Slice of Orange. She’s also a member Romance Writers of America and Music City Romance Writers. You can follow her on Twitter @A_SliceofOrange and Facebook @AnOrangeSlice.

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