One. Two. Three. Six of clovers. One. Two. Three. Ten of hearts. She’s already flipped through the deck twice, hoping the cards would reshuffle themselves magically. This is the third straight game she’s lost; resigned, she lets the cards slide off her hand.

She leans back in the creaky straw chair, blowing the hair off her face, crossing and uncrossing her legs in discomfort. He was never on time, but worse, he wasn’t reliably late either. Five, ten minutes. An hour or three. Once, two days—that time she’d gotten angry, which resulted in a new pair of sunglasses and her choice of concessions at the movie theater. Otherwise she always let it go. He was late; it was a fact of life.

The itchy straw and the creaks and groans of the battered chair get on her nerves eventually. She carefully puts the cards away and eyes the front gate. She can’t help but expect his silver pickup truck to squeal to a stop any minute now. She hates herself for it. Toward the rest of the world she is hard, unforgiving, even cynical, but he always managed to smile, hug, and charm his way past that. She lets him get away with murder and he knows it as well as she does.

She fumbles through her purse for her cell phone—no calls. Maybe she should call him. No, he either wouldn’t pick up or give her some flimsy excuse. Hearing the squeal of tires she leans forward on the front gate, looking toward the end of the block, anxiously. Nope. Only a couple of kids in an old Chevy, driving too fast.

She distracts herself for a few moments, letting her sandals slide off her feet and picking them up again. She’s thirsty but she doesn’t want to go back in the house, only to have her mom look at her with eyes full of itoldyouso.

Ants diligently march down the crevices of the paved walkway toward the front gate. She stares at them, following their path with her eyes. She envies their single mindedness. Ants are never late; they’re never early either. They are either somewhere or they’re not. They don’t clock in or work overtime or have arguments with their mates about working late.

She glances at her cell phone again. It’s only been ten minutes. She might give up soon—go back to her room and waste some time on the computer. She considers calling him again. Not worth it.

She heads back toward the porch, taking a seat again. She spills the cards on the dinner tray, shuffles them again, and arranges them in the familiar pattern. One. Two. Three. Ace of Spades. That’s a good start.

This is a short story I wrote a few years ago. I recently filmed a short film very loosely based on it. You can watch it below: