What Carters Do.

My friend and I used a prompt generator because we both want to write my short stories. We decided to take a month to write the short story on the prompt we like and at the end of the month – share our work. Of course, I waited until the last day of the month to write this.

To be honest, I kind of like this story and maybe one day I’ll lengthen it into a novel, to see what happens to our MC.

The prompt for this month was ‘A long standing feud erupts during a wedding/funeral’.

Here’s what I’ve got. Hope you like it! Let me know what you think!

Best, Catie.

What Carters Do, By: Catherine Kos

I can’t believe I have to do this.

Stupid family obligations.

For most people, if they don’t want to go to a wedding, they put an X next to ‘no’ on the invitation and send it back. But no, when you’re a Carter, you show up. It doesn’t matter that the sisters talk crap about each other and their children. It doesn’t matter that the grandchildren can’t even stand being around each other, because they’re family. Family

My grandmother and grandfather, the King and Queen of our large family rule over all of us and our opinions and decisions. Grandfather sticks to the boys, teaching them to run the companies and what to do in the Carter name. Grandmother sticks to the girls priming us and teaching us how to be the perfect docile daughter and wife, bossing us around, ordering us to do whatever it is that she wants. And what Grandmother wants, Grandmother gets. 

You want to wear a black dress to prom? No, darling, black is the color of death, and Carters don’t do death. 

Seriously? Does she mean that Carters don’t die? ‘Cause say that to Great-Aunt Helen who died when I was twelve. Guess she didn’t get the memo. 

You want to be a writer instead of going to business school and wasting thousands of dollars on an education you don’t want? No, darling, Carters go to college. They make something of themselves.

Again, get with the times Grandmother, there are lots of successful authors out there. 

And I know how this sounds – spoiled rich girl. But it’s not my fault I was born into a family with money.

You don’t want to go to your rival cousin’s wedding because she’s marrying your ex-boyfriend who got her pregnant one drunken night? 

No, darling, you must go because she’s family. 

It doesn’t matter that Chloe and I were once best friends until Grandmother had taken a liking to me, and paid me more attention. Before that, Grandmother didn’t pay attention to her grandchildren. She didn’t like children. But then I aced all of my classes in middle school, and got into a very prestigious high school, and finally Grandmother liked me.

Mind you, it’s not the kind of attention that I want. Grandmother is trying to prime me into someone like her, someone right for the Carter name, but none of them realize I don’t want it. After Grandmother made it clear who she liked better, everything was a challenge for me and Chloe. Who would get into a better high school? Would Chloe get into the private school I got into? Who would get better grades on the SAT and ACT? Who would get into the better college? I didn’t want to play the game and I tried not to. I even told Chloe that I didn’t want to, but she made it so I did. She made it her mission to beat me even though she couldn’t. I had a 4.0 gpa. She had a 3.6. She got into Stanford, while I got into Harvard. Both good schools, but in according to the Carter family, Harvard is preferred.

When I was in high school I met Jack. He quickly became the love of my life, and I fell head over heels, which I know is ridiculous for a seventeen-year-old to say, but at the time I thought I was. We dated until the end of summer before freshman year. I was pressured into going to college, even though I didn’t want to, and Jack was going to Princeton. We broke up because we didn’t want to do long distance, but we swore that at the end of the four years, if we hadn’t found someone else that we loved more, we would come back to each other. Because I had loved him. If I’m being honest, I still might love him, too.

It didn’t even occur to me that Chloe would hit on Jack, because despite the rivalries, and the jealousy, we were still family. 

Until I came home for Christmas break. We had a big party at our Grandparents, and color me surprised when I walked in the door and saw Jack sitting on the couch next to Chloe. He looked guilty, but didn’t shy away from her. She was latched onto him like a manacle. And then at dinner they announced that they were pregnant and getting married in the Spring. 

Shotgun wedding if I’d ever heard of one, but Carters don’t have babies before marriage. At least with a Spring wedding, if she was showing, they could find a dress to cover it. 

And I wasn’t going to go. I didn’t want to go. I had cried and cried over Jack, over the betrayal of Chloe. I couldn’t stand the thought of going and seeing them pledge their love for each other. I couldn’t stomach the idea of my family pretending that this is okay.

Grandmother had come over last night, sat me down and said, “You and Chloe are so alike and yet so different. You’re made of iron and she is made of wood. She burns you and you grow brighter, stronger. You burn her and eventually she breaks.”

I knew she said it to get me to go to the wedding, but still I let the words fall over me. Even though they were a manipulation tactic, I still believe them. If Chloe were in my place she would crumble. But not me. No. Jack knew who Chloe was, knew she was my cousin. If he could do this, then he really didn’t love me at all. And in the end I feel bad for both of them. Stuck together because of a child. It’s a shame, really. 

And that’s how I ended up here. I nearly vomited during the actual wedding, watching Chloe walk down the aisle. The worst part was that Jack kept trying to catch my eye while he was standing up. AT THE ALTAR. But, I wouldn’t look at him. I wouldn’t give him or her the satisfaction of throwing a tantrum, so I smiled and clapped when they kissed and walked back down the aisle together. But now it’s the reception, and there’s alcohol.

I make sure to keep my belly full with liquor and beer while I keep my eyes on my phone, not wanting to start a conversation with any living soul at this function.

I’m playing a very intense round of Candy Crush when I feel someone sit in the empty seat next to me. I don’t look up.

“Surprised you made it here,” Chloe says, her voice full of faux surprise and care.

“I think we both know I had to come,” I reply without looking at her.

“Still it must have been hard. But it was a nice wedding don’t you think? Jack made sure I had everything that I wanted. It’s so sweet.”

Gritting my teeth, I try not to reach over and strangle her.

“I’m so glad you got everything that I wanted,” I tell her, finally smiling up at her, forcing a grin on my face.

She frowns just slightly. “This isn’t about you. This is my dream,” she insists.

“Marrying my sloppy seconds? Sure, I bet it is. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m in need of more alcohol.”

I stand from the table, pushing past her to the bartender. He eyes me for a moment, and I worry he’s going to cut me off, but he doesn’t. Instead, he slides my now full glass of Jack and Coke, over to me. I take it, lifting it to my lips, while I walk back over to the buffet table. I mull over the options of food, trying to figure out what would go best with my buzzed mood.

“Wasn’t it a lovely service?” a woman asks from beside me. 

Blame it on the agitation that Chloe just stirred up in me, or the alcohol filling me up, but I can’t seem to help myself as I swing my head to look at her, a chuckle spilling from my lips. “Oh sure, and you could hardly even see the baby bump.”

The woman frowns at me and skirts away.

“Delia,” A voice warns and I turn to see Grandmother standing a foot away.

“What? She asked,” I shrug. 

“She did not,” Grandmother scowls. “And you know that’s a family secret.”

“A secret?” I ask, laughing. I can’t help the words falling from my mouth. “And what do you think is going to happen in four months when she pops out a healthy, full grown baby? You think people aren’t going to figure out that she was pregnant before this sham of a marriage?” 

Grandmother’s features tighten and her eyes narrow. 

“Cordelia,” she starts but I shake my head. 

“No,” I tell her simply. “I’m done with the secrets and the backstabbing all in the name of family.”

By now, I’ve caught the attention of others, and soon everyone in the room is looking at me. Grandmother tries to shush me, even grab me but I step out of her reach, holding a chair between us. 

I look to the man sitting at the table nearest to me. The man who looks just like me, and was once my grandmother’s pride and joy until he married my mother.

“Dad, Grandmother hates Mom. All I hear her say is how grateful she is that at least one good thing came from my mother. It’s a backhanded compliment if I’d ever heard one. She hates that you married her, that you had children with her even though it’s this family that drove her away. It’s this family that made us turn our back on Cody.”

My eldest brother Cody didn’t want to do the whole “Carter” thing of going to college. He wanted to be an artist and the family cut him off. I cut him off. And I haven’t spoken to him in a year.

Dad’s face falls, but I look to the next person. “Aunt Lucille talks about her sister behind their backs and how wretched their children are. I’m the only one she likes because I’ve never asked her for money.”

I turned to the forever loving couple in the center of the room, both looking at me with wide eyes. 

“And Jack, I wish you good luck, ’cause one thing about us Carters – we don’t divorce. With the exception of my parents but look how that turned out. So even if you hate Chloe one day which you probably will, you’re stuck with her and that baby of yours. Oh, did you guys not know about that?” I ask, motioning to Jack’s family on the other side of the room. “Yeah, this was a shotgun wedding. Congratulations!”

I look back to Grandmother who looks like she’s going to pop a vessil, she’s glaring so hard. 

“I also just think you should know about this whole ‘What Carter’s do’ thing. No one listens. I could use ten hands to count how many of your grandchildren have done illegal things. One of your sons – that I know of – has a mistress. And Grandfather?” I call, turning to him. “It’s 2020 – it’s not only men that run companies anymore, and not all the men in this family want to do that. Also, I’m dropping out of college, and I’m going to be a writer. And if you or any of you don’t like that, I really don’t need to see you again. Remember that.”

I take one last look at my family before spinning on my heel, and exiting the room. No one follows me as I exit the building, except for Grandmother. I stay ahead of her, not listening when she calls my name. 

At the front of the building, I glance at the valet, not sure of where to go. I came with my parents and I don’t have a car.

“Need a ride?” A voice asks. 

Turning, I see Jason Aston off to the side, smoking a cigarette. Jack’s older brother.

“Heard what you said in there. That was a mighty speech,” he says.

“Needed to be done,” I say with a shrug. 

“That your grandmother coming after you?”

I nod. 

“She looks pissed.”

A car pulls up, a blue Jeep with the doors off. A guy wearing a red valet jacket climbs out and tosses the keys to Jason. 

“I’m getting out of here,” Jason says as he tosses his cigarette and grinds it into the ground with his heel. “Passenger seats free if you want it.”

I think about it as he rounds the car, and climbs into the driver’s seat. 

“Tick-tock, Cordy,” he says, looking meaningfully behind me. 

Grandmother’s coming through the front doors now and I know if she gets to me, she’d probably grab me by the hair since no one else is around. 

“Cordelia,” Grandmother shouts as I jog to the passenger seat.

I open the door, sticking one foot in before I look at her. 

“You shouldn’t have made me come,” I say. “You were right about being stronger. Because of that I can say I don’t want to be a Carter anymore. Consider me a Hasting’s from now on.”

My mothers maiden name was Hastings, and now it seems it’s mine as well.

Hoisting myself into the car, I close the door sealing me in. I meet Grandmother’s eyes – the rage in there sends a shiver through me.

“Go,” I say to Jason, not wanting to hear anything that she has to say.

He hits the gas, taking off and I look away from Grandmother. 

My phone rings at my side, but I silence it, not ready to hear from anyone.

“Where do you want to go?” Jason asks. 

I wrack my brain trying to figure out where to go.

“Can you take me to the corner of Martin and 73rd?” I ask. “Do you mind?”

Jason shakes his head but we don’t say anything after that. What is there to say? Sorry your brother got dragged into this family, therefore dragging you, too, in the vicinity of this crazy? Yeah, that just doesn’t sound right. 

Twenty minutes later, Jason is dropping me off on the corner in front of a large apartment building. 

“Need me to go up with you?” He asks.

I shake my head. “No. Thanks for the ride.”

He nods his head, and when I close the door, he’s off.

Turning, I spin and search for the name on the intercom. I buzz the button right next to it when I find the right one. 

To my surprise, a buzzing sound comes through the door  and I try the handle finding it open. I step inside, and go to the elevator. On the sixth floor, I get off and go down the hallway until I find apartment B. Raising my fist, I knock on the door.

“I got it!” a voice calls from inside. “It’s the pizza.”

The door opens, revealing a man not looking at me. He turns, almost in like slow motion, and I watch as he sees me, takes me in, and frowns.

“You’re not the pizza guy,” the guy says, when he sees I don’t have a pizza in my hands. 

“Nope,” I say with a shrug. “I’m, uh, actually – “

“Cody!” the guy calls over his shoulder. “Your sisters here.”

I frown. “How did you know?”

“Pictures,” he tells me like it’s obvious. 

“Oh,” I say, looking down at my hands. 

Footsteps sound on the other side of the door, getting closer. 

“My sister,” I hear Cody say in disbelief. “What – “

He steps in the doorway, his eyes wide, the shock clear.

“Cordelia. What are you doing here?” 

I let out a small chuckle. 

“Well, you see, it’s actually a funny story.”

The end.

3 Comments

  1. Darnell Cureton

    “Its a family thing” has the feel of an actual tale as told through the eyes of a twenty-year-old that doesn’t understand her family dynamics. The story has a slow build that explodes with a little alcohol.
    I felt Cordelia’s anger and cheered her on, but cringed as the wrath of grandma gave me goosebumps.

    This story is driving fast down a multi-lane highway. It can take the readers where ever you want. The characters and inciting events will keep us reading. Well done Catie.

    Liked by 1 person

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