Authors: Kimberly Stedronsky
Below Unforgiven by Kimberly Stedronsky
Text Copyright © 2013 by Kimberly Stedronsky
Editing and Interior Design by
Drive Around Publishing
Cover Design by
Najla Qamber Designs
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
First Electronic Edition: December 2013
First Paperback Edition: December 2013
Below Unforgiven is a satire by Kimberly Stedronsky, and is not intended maliciously. Kimberly Stedronsky has invented all names and situations in her stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody.
Nine ½ Weeks
“I’m so cute. Matthew, look at me,” I turned in the mirror, grinning, running my fingers over my protruding stomach. My skin was stretched, taut, and my belly button poked out like a tiny, nautical knot.
“I can’t look anywhere else,” he smiled, slipping in behind me and wrapping his arms around my middle. I sighed and fell back against his chest. He gathered my long, dark hair to one side, dropping a kiss to the crown of my head. The strands were almost black in the winter months, but lightened to more of an auburn brown in the sunshine.
“How was class today?”
He smirked into my hair. “Fun. I did a pull-up contest in the doorway with one of my students.”
Laughing, I rolled my eyes. “And?”
He grinned. “She beat me.”
“Beat by a third grade girl,” I tsked, pinching his strong upper arms. He winced, and I delivered a playful punch. “I’ll bet the other teachers were excited to see that.”
“I let her win.” He cupped my chin in his hand, tilting my face up for a kiss. “How’s the headache, beauty?”
I stiffened. “Hurts. But I’m so freaking gorgeous, staring at my own reflection helps distract me.”
“You are freaking gorgeous. And I’m taking you to the doctor tomorrow.”
“Vivian, please don’t argue.”
“That’s just going to be another
. Another hundred bucks to check my blood pressure and watch me stand on a scale. I’m fine. Pregnant women get headaches. Google it.”
“I did Google it. And you’re only nineteen.”
“I’m almost twenty. And shush.” I tapped his lips with my finger before turning, making my inelegant way down the wooden staircase of his small bungalow. I knew that he was right behind me, ready to catch me if I started to fall.
“Your mom called again. I saw her missed call on your phone downstairs.”
“Probably giving me last minute numbers for clinics that do third trimester abortions.”
“Ah, Viv. Stop it. Give her a break, she regrets trying to push you.”
I cringed at a low pain in my abdomen, and though I tried to hide it, Matthew noticed immediately. He wrapped his arm around me, leading me to the couch.
“Your hands are swollen.” He sat next to me, curling his fingers in mine. “I saw your ring by the sink.”
“A diamond like that doesn’t belong on Vienna sausage fingers.”
“Ten seconds ago you were gorgeous,” he chided.
“Hi, I’m your fiancé, Vivian. You must not have met me, I’m an overly-dramatic actress,” I murmured, sarcastic. “Hand me my phone, please.”
He did, and I listened to my mother’s bossy voicemail as he scanned the muted television channels. As my mother’s voice serrated my ears, I almost wished that I’d never started speaking to her again.
“What’s going on?”
“She wants me to go to a bridal show next weekend. Does she forget that I’m about to pop her out a grandson in about five minutes?”
He chuckled. “You still have nine-and a half-weeks to go. She wants you married before our baby’s here. You know that. Put your feet up.” He patted his thighs, and I moved awkwardly to the end of the couch to prop my ankles on his jeans.
As his hands worked over the arches of my bare feet, I sighed, watching him watch the baseball game. He was tall and lean, nearly 6’2”, and between his broad shoulders and his black geek glasses, I was a goner.
I remembered watching him enter the Cleveland Playhouse for the first time. He led a class of third graders in the door of the Allen Theater, ushering them to their seats. As Belle in our production of
Beauty and the Beast
, I’d been asked to greet the children at the matinee and hand them their programs.
“You can’t be
. You have
eyes. Belle has
I managed a tight grin at the obnoxious little girl, trying to ascertain more decorum than a nine-year-old. “Aren’t you adorable?” I crooned, a little too enthusiastically.
Beauty?” The girl complained, taking her seat with a pout. She turned away, and I fought a losing battle with my maturity, making a face at the back of her pig-tailed head and sticking my tongue out at her.
“I only see one beauty here,” his voice replied, and I broke into immediate hives as I realized the teacher had seen my deplorable reaction. He turned to me, his caramel eyes sweeping over me from head to toe from behind black glasses.
When I performed, I could feel his gaze on me throughout the entire show. At the end of the musical, he approached the stage, and I widened my eyes at the rose in his hands. The thin, silken fabric petals lit up with the help of a AAA battery. I knew the novelty roses were sold in the gift shop. “You were wonderful.” He smiled, his eyes crinkling behind those glasses. I just stared, speechless. He glanced at his class and the two overwhelmed, chaperoning parents. “Thank you. It was a pleasure, Miss Hale.”
He turned, and I stared down at the cheap flower, grinning. “Wait…,” I rushed over to him, unable to stop my unabashed smile. “What’s your name?”
His own smile turned almost shy. “Matthew Fowler.”
“Would you like to go out with me, Matthew?” I asked, unflinchingly, because that’s how I rolled.
He was obviously taken aback, and his grin radiated boyish charm. “I really would.”
“Well, hurry up and give me your number, then,” I ordered. He smirked, reaching into the pocket of his shirt, right next to his tie. Between the glasses and the pen in his front pocket, I decided that this GQ nerd was
“I just had a program,” he searched the seats, and I turned my palm upward, directly in his line of vision.
“Write it on my hand.”
He locked eyes with me for a long moment, and I felt my heart ricochet inside of my chest. “I’d love to,” his husky voice replied, and as I felt the BIC moving against my palm…
I was done feeling anything except for Matthew from that moment on.
Those days were just a succession of words, dates, food, and other nonsense time-killers until we were back in each other’s arms. The first time that he made love to me, I told him that I loved him, and he echoed my words. He was
first-and my only-and the drama that followed was just a page in our happily-ever-after screenplay.
Interior, parent’s house, Thanksgiving.
My parents hate him because he is nine years older than me.
Interior, Matthew’s bungalow, the couch, the kitchen table, the couch again, against the living room wall, his bedroom, a blanket in the back yard under the stars (montage)
I get pregnant.
(He is overjoyed, I am appropriately terrified, and we are hopelessly devoted to the idea of a life together.)
Seedy downtown clinic, in my mom’s car, two days after Christmas
My mom tries to drive me to get an abortion; I stop speaking to her for two months.
On stage, at the theater, New Year’s Eve. Perfection.
Matthew proposes; I accept.
Theater restroom, Wal-Mart restroom, McDonald’s restroom, campus bathroom, corridor in the mall leading to the restroom, Matthew’s bathroom, Matthew’s bedroom, kitchen sink, bushes next to the front door, neighbor’s driveway.