Calli punched in the security code to lock the door, and flung herself on the bed knowing she’d have at least fifteen minutes of time alone in the room before Ursula came down from the dining room. Longer if Ursula stopped off for a drink in the staff quarters. Her head and feet were pounding, and she felt raw… the acerbic looks of the other staff having stripped away the last of her dignity. She rubbed at her eyes with the heels of her palms and felt the eye-liner and mascara smudge. Three more days. Just three more days and she’d never have to set foot on another trans-galactic cruise ship. Never had to look at Sadé again.

Staring down at her feet, Calli didn’t care if she still wore her filthy shoes on top of the cashmere blanket. Beneath the torturous leather, the strapping tape which kept some skin on her heels and toes was stained and frayed, and in desperate need of changing. Sweating the small stuff made little sense now. Sadé had seen to that.

The knock came as Calli was kicking her shoes off and contemplating the pain of removing the tape.

“Go away,” she called.

“Let me in Calli.” Dianna’s voice penetrated the metal door without the aid of the intercom, which squealed in protest at the velocity of the voice projection.

“I’m in no mood.”

The door slid open and Calli’s face flooded with indignant colour.

“Ursula gave me the code.”

Calli shook her head and gave up on the strapping tape, turning to lie face down on the bed.

“Are you going to hide down here forever.”

Callie turned her head to the side. “We dock at Europa in three days and my roster will be over. So – just three days. It’s bad enough having to go up to work.”

Dianna eased herself down on the side of the bed.

“Aren’t you blowing this all out of proportion.”


Dianna fidgeted with the corner of her white shirt, crumpled and untucked now she was officially off-duty.

“Sadé made you a bread and butter pudding. Why don’t you go up and get some.”


“But you love his bread and butter pudding.”

“I used to love his bread and butter pudding.”

“He made is specially for you. Blow torched the sugar on the top and all of that.”

“What a stupid waste of bread, eggs and cream. I hope his supervisor finds out.”

“How many times does he have to say he’s sorry.”

“Just once.”

“You’re being too hard.”

“Making me a bread and butter pudding is not a declaration of sorry. Nor are the flowers or any of the other stuff he’s tried. I wish he’d knock on my door instead of you and just say, ‘I’m sorry Calliste’.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”

“No they don’t.” Calli wigged off her stomach and turned to face the wall,  smothering the sobs in pillow she’d taken with her. “And I thought he’d change. I thought he was the one.”

“He promised, I know, but sometimes people just slip up.”

“He promised he’d never do it again. A promise is a promise.”

Dianna put her hand on the shoulder of her friend.

“C’mon Calli, please. Don’t let this ruin things between the two of you. You’ve forgiven him once, you can forgive him again.”

“No. If it were anything, anything, else I could. But not this.” Calli said, her words soaking into the pillow with her tears.

Dianna sat there, stroking Calli’s short black hair and waiting for the crying to finish.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Dianna said when Calli finally sat up, her face a mess of watery, black gashes on livid red flesh.

“Everyone’s talking about it.” Calli wiped away the tears with the backs of her hands.

“No they aren’t.”

“Of course they are. I see the way everyone looks at me now. The way they mutter when I walk past. There goes Sadé’s girlfriend. Can you imagine?”

“I think you’re making all this up.” Dianna reached out and took her friend’s hand. “Sadé’s up there in the kitchen cooking up a storm like nothing happened.”

“Of course he is. It doesn’t bother him.”

“Then why let is bother you.”

“Because it’s… wrong. And up here no one ever forgets anything. Remember Eric, Maddie and Sophia.” Dianna shuddered. “You know exactly what I’m talking about. Minds atrophy in the great expanse of space.”

“He loves you though. He’d do nothing to hurt you.”

“But he did.”

“Oh pah-lease, Calli.” Dianna threw down her friend’s hand and stood up. “If you carry on like this someone other woman onboard is going to snap him up while you’re planetside. It’s a lonely life up here.”

“Good for them… I’m getting off in three days and starting a life where no one knows I was Sadé’s girlfriend.” Callie squared her shoulders and swept her spiky fringe to one side. “You can have him if you want.”

Dianna blanched.

“I wasn’t suggesting–”

“C’mon. He’s a hot guy. And he can control himself most of the time.”

“Callie, I wasn’t–”

“Yes, yes, you were – Miss Peace Envoy.”

“No, I –”

“Put yourself in my shoes and see how magnanimous you’d be.”

“You’ve got it all–”

“See how you’d feel if it was you sitting at the Captain’s table, employee of the month and your boyfriend reaches over between mains and desert to take the crocodile clutch bag of the Captain’s wife… and licks it… yeah… just as I thought.”

Authors Note: This story was born from the [Fiction] Friday prompt #159 “Include this in your story: “I wish he’d knock on my door instead…” from Write Anything. Compliments also of a small boy who was trying to smear birthday cake all over a beautiful leather bag of a school friend’s mother at my son’s 6th birthday… and an off handed comment about licking the bag later!

18 thoughts on “Clutch

    • Yes – a cruise ship of the interstellar variety. I worked on a cruise ship when I was younger and was thinking of setting it on a straight-laced current day cruise ship… but the allure of sci-fi is always too much.


  1. Pingback: Fiction Round Up XVI | Chinese Whisperings

  2. All the way through I was wondering what the cardinal sin had been, and if it was going to be revealed. And then, ta-da, comes the great sin of licking the captain’s wife’s handbag. Had to stop myself from laughing out loud (or it would wake the children). It reminded me a little of Red Dwarf and Rimmer’s faux pas of asking for his gazpacho soup to be heated up. Great dialogue.


    • Hi Adam… lovely to have you here again. I’m glad you got a snorting laugh out of it. While we have all of Red Dwarf here on DVD I haven’t seen the episode you’re talking about. Glad the kiddies stayed asleep.

      I love dialogue and to write a story which is basically all dialogue is always a treat.

      What other cardinal sin might have been fitting? I wanted to build up expectations and then shatter them.


  3. Oh, you wicked, wicked woman. With such a tense, fraught buildup, I was sure he’d… what? Hit her? Publicly degraded her somehow? Cheated on her? You racked up the tension past the point of solace by a creme brulee. What nastiness had been done here?

    Then came the punchline.

    Oh, you wicked, wicked woman!


    • If I write more of this will you call me wicked Tony… I love being called a “wicked woman.”

      Tell me though – would it have worked just as well if he’d hit her, cheated on her, publicaly degraded her (some might argue it is pretty degrading to have your boyfriend licking a bag in public!?) … or was the tricky ending a little “too clever?”

      I like to take reader’s expectations and use them as a whip!


    • Well considering it was a made up fetish – around 4:37pm on Thursday afternoon… I would hope I could catch you out.

      And all the FF readers and writers are just too smart. You know I was building up to something tricky… so glad I could still sort of catch you out Mazz.


  4. Great setting. It’s how you took the simple prompt and turned it into a drama with a sci-fi tweak. I especially liked the phrase: “Minds atrophy in the great expanse of space.”

    I also like the building suspense and the strange transgression. Now I’m just wondering what’s behind the licking of the crocodile clutch. Is this some strange faux pas? I’m curious to know the answer.


    • Laura: I think I was aiming for some terrible sort of fetish – the kind which may be “OK” when indulged in, in private, but the sort of fetish which would be horrible in public (then again what fetish is OK in public??)

      I think it ended up being a terrible social transgression because it was a high stress environment and the Captain’s wife whipped out her clutch bag and laid it on the table, and poor Sadé couldn’t help himself – despite knowing what the consequences could have been.

      I have to say – I had no idea if there are bag lickers out there. It came about after a friend’s son smeared birthday cake on another friend’s beautiful leather bag… and I made the off hand comment that she could always lick the bag at another time, if caught out waiting somewhere and she was hungry. This comment was obviously followed up with, “Oooo… I’ll have to make a character who licks bags.”


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  6. I found myself immersed in the story until the end. Your last paragraph completely went over my head. I went back and read it again thinking I missed something and was still confused.

    It wasn’t until I read Adam’s comment about a handbag that I understood what a crocodile clutch bag was. With the added effort of having to learn what the item was, the joke of Sadé going around licking hand bags was lost on me.

    Again, your story was excellent up until I got tripped up.
    Thanks for sharing


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