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Fiction Friday/Story a Day: Day 11 – “Ruin It”

Today’s Story a Day prompt was about using the Cinderella structure for a story.

Write a story in which your hero wants something, tries and fails to get it, and eventually has their life-changing moment at the end of the story.

I also combined this with the dialogue prompt of: “That’s the problem! You don’t think you deserve something so you ruin it.”

I have more of Jeff’s POV here for this one. Some context: Earlier in the series, Jeff was in a motorcycle accident, leaving him with an incomplete spinal injury. He’s still dealing with the physical and emotional effects of that.


Jeff threw the ball against his bedroom wall and caught it as it came back toward him. His parents had griped about the noise it made until his physical therapist mentioned it could actually help him. Then, they were all for it. Anything that would speed up his recovery and get him out of their house.
He shook his head and took a moment to try to work through that thought. He was getting better at recognizing what were his own thoughts he projected on other people. It still didn’t come naturally, though. It was easier to assume other people thought poorly of him than to admit he hated himself.
“Dinner’s ready,” his mother called from out in the hallway just as he’d let the ball fly again.
He didn’t react quickly enough, and the ball smacked him in the shoulder. “Damn it.”
“What was that?” his mom asked from the doorway.
“Nothing, Mom,” he said. The ball had fallen to his bed, so he just left it there as he slid to the edge of the mattress. He reached for the walker but remembered his physical therapist had told him to try at least getting to his feet without aid.
So, he did. His legs trembled, though, and he weaved in place. His mother looked like she was about to dart to his side. But, he needed to do this on his own.
He’d like to at least walk to the door on his own, too, but he was sure that wasn’t going to happen. So, he did grab onto the walker now. His mom’s shoulders relaxed slightly. They both knew a fall could set his progress back, and that was the last thing he wanted.
What he did want was for his family to stop looking at him with that wariness in their eyes. Like he was going to go out and screw everything up again. And, oh joy, everyone was here for dinner tonight. He’d expected at least Jarrett, since it was spring break for him. And his twin brother didn’t have a life.
But, then Susan had to be here with her girlfriend, too. Even here, they couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other. Kendall was leaning into his sister, whispering something as Susan put a hand on the other woman’s knee. Jeff looked away from them.
Unfortunately that had him looking right at his older brother. His hand was wrapped around his girlfriend’s, too. But Jeff still saw the ring on her finger. Not just a girlfriend anymore apparently. “When were you going to tell us about that?” he asked.
But, no one else looked surprised as he glanced around at them. So, he was the only one who hadn’t been told. “I see,” he said. “I’m the only one not important enough to get the news. Why am I not surprised?”
“Jeff, that’s not…” Doren started to say, but he didn’t even bother to finish the lie.
“Whatever,” Jeff said, but he couldn’t bring himself to sit at the table with all of them. “You know what, I’m not even hungry.”
He headed toward the living room where his chair was. “Where are you going?” his father called as he switched to the chair and started wheeling himself toward the front door.
“Out,” he called back. “Not like any of you even care.”
Jeff didn’t want to get out of bed. He’d stayed out the night before until it was getting dark. Which hadn’t been all that long after he’d left the house. He just hadn’t been able to bring himself to go back and face his family.
It had only taken a few minutes of rolling out in the chill air to realize he’d overreacted. So what if his brother hadn’t told him about his engagement yet. Maybe he’d planned to do it at dinner tonight. But, the hurt had been crushing. Hadn’t he been trying to prove himself to his family since he got out of the hospital?
And yes, he knew he kept screwing it up. Losing it on Susan when she’d come out to the whole family. That had taken a lot of guts. Something Jeff didn’t seem to have any of. He could barely even admit his attractions to himself, let alone anyone else.
And he kept lashing out at his parents, when they were just trying to help him. He’d made it seem like he blamed Doren for the accident, even knowing the whole time all the fault laid on himself. He was the only one who had screwed his life up. But, he was making his family pay for it, too.
He was going to try to do better. He had to.
The knock on his doorframe had him twisting his head, but that was the only part of his body he moved. His father hovered in the doorway. “Your mom said to get you. Breakfast is getting cold, and it’s time for your pills.”
Jeff groaned and just turned his head back toward the wall. He hated taking the pills. But, he couldn’t deal with how bad the pain got when he didn’t take them.
He thought his dad would just leave, but he could feel his presence near the bed now. “What’s wrong?” he demanded harshly. “Do we need to take you to the doctor?”
Jeff almost thought there was a crack in his father’s voice at that. But, that couldn’t be right. It used to be Doren their dad visibly disapproved of, but he’d now transferred that to Jeff. All it seemed to take was wrecking your life. Except it turned out Doren actually hadn’t been responsible for that, either.
“I’m fine, Dad,” he said.
“Good. Then, come out and eat your breakfast, so your mother stops worrying. Then, you can come out and help me in the workshop.”
He must have imagined that quiver in his father’s voice. It certainly wasn’t there any longer.
Jeff waited until he heard his father’s step cross the room and head down the hallway before he forced himself to roll over. And held back a cry at the pain that shot through his lower body. He took a few more minutes before he finished the process of getting out of bed.
Thank goodness the walker was right next to his bed. There wasn’t going to be any getting up on his own right now. Not when pain was stabbing through him with every moment. He barely kept himself from collapsing into the chair when he finally reached the table.
His father didn’t look up from the newspaper at his appearance. “Must be a fascinating story,” Jeff muttered.
Neither of his parents said anything. His father turned to the next page of the paper. His mother set a plate of pancakes and sausage in front of him as well as a glass of orange juice and three pills. He eyed the last distastefully, and decided to ignore them until the last possible moment. But, he could feel his mother’s gaze on him as he ate his breakfast. So after he’d swept the last bite of sausage through his leftover syrup, he popped each pill into his mouth and swallowed.
His father pushed out from the table as soon as Jeff had finished them. “Come on,” he said. “We have things to do.”
He just wanted to go back to bed. But, he knew if he said that, his parents would get that concerned look again. He didn’t care what the therapist said. He wasn’t depressed. He just didn’t see the point. But, he knew he’d upset his mother enough the night before. He didn’t want to give her more reason to worry. So, he shuffled along behind his dad with the walker.
His father didn’t say a word as he unlocked the workshop door. It wasn’t really more than a shed. And half of it contained the debris of Jarrett’s various art projects he’d started. The other half had his dad’s work bench and tools. He didn’t know why his father had brought him out here. Other than to give him a lecture for his attitude the night before. But he still hadn’t spoken a word since they’d left the house.
“What exactly do you want me to do?” Jeff asked as his father settled into a chair in front of the workbench. Jeff found a stool and rested on it.
“You could try to fix that that little cupboard. Your mom’s been on me about it. It just needs new brackets for the shelf.”
“Then, why haven’t you done it?”
“Watch your tone, Jeff. Your mother lets you use your pain as an excuse, but the rest of us are getting tired of it.”
“Join the club. I’m tired of it, too.” He picked up a small hammer and the brackets for the cupboard.
“Then, stop using the rest of us as your emotional punching bag. I’m not going to let that continue.”
“When?” He couldn’t look up. So, he started tapping in the first nail.
“What?” His father asked.
Jeff flicked his gaze up through the hair hanging in his face and saw his father staring back at him, his eyes wide. “When are you kicking me out?”
His father just shook his head and looked back at the bench. “I’m not kicking you out. Where would you go?”
Jeff felt his face flood with heat, and he looked away. His father swore. “I didn’t mean it like that, Jeff. We’re your family. Family helps out when you need it.”
“So, I’m a burden. Just what I’ve always wanted to be.”
“Damn it. Do you have to twist everything anyone has to say to you?”
A silence fell over the workshop after that. How was Jeff even supposed to answer the question. The only noise was Jeff tapping the nails in for the brackets, and the scratching of his father’s pencil. “What are you designing?” he finally asked.
“Dollhouse,” his father responded without looking at him. “For the kid Susan and Ken are going to be fostering and possibly adopting.”
“What?” Jeff asked, turning to look at his father. “Is this something else I wasn’t going to be told?”
“Well, if you hadn’t stomped out of the house like a tantrum-throwing toddler last night, you would have heard the news at the same time as us.”
Jeff felt like the anger was choking him. Anger at himself. Anger at his family. Anger at this whole situation. Before he realized what he was doing, he let the hammer fly at the wall. Cold shame flushed out the heat of anger instantly. What was he doing?
His father swore, but Jeff was already shuffling out of the workshop. He couldn’t stay in there. Couldn’t stay here. How was he ever going to prove that they could put their trust in him if he kept losing it?
Maybe they were all right about him after all.
Jeff sat at a table in the corner of the diner. He knew he should just go back home. His mother would be worried. But, by now, she likely knew where he was. And he hadn’t been able to walk around town any longer, so he’d come in here and sat down. Anna had brought him a hot chocolate without him even ordering it.
He hadn’t planned on going anywhere, so he didn’t even have his wallet with him. How was he supposed to pay for this?
Someone dropped into the seat across from him, and he jerked his head up. “What are you doing here?” he asked Erik. That should be obvious, though, since he had an apron on over his clothes.
“I was back in the kitchen. Anna mentioned you were out here, looking upset. What’s wrong?”
“Not a thing,” Jeff said.
“Come on, man, I know you better than that. Something’s eating away at you. Why don’t you tell me what it is?”
Because he was part of it. Why couldn’t he see that? “I said I’m fine. I don’t need you of all people to be coming down on me.” He almost expected Erik to make some innuendo-laced joke. He usually did.
Instead the other man’s face paled, and he pushed up from his chair. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll just leave you here to wallow in whatever misery’s coating you. Have fun with it.”
“Shit,” Jeff said when Erik had returned to the kitchen. “What is wrong with me?”
“The fact you think there’s something wrong with you.”
Jeff glanced up and saw his twin brother had taken Erik’s place. “What do you want?”
“Mom sent me to see if you were ready to come home yet. She’s worried about you. Dad said you were quite upset.”
“Yeah,” Jeff scoffed. “I’m sure that’s what he said. Probably more like Jeff went and screwed up again. Big surprise.”
“Stop that,” Jarrett said sharply. “He doesn’t think that. None of us do. But you can’t keep getting angry when all we do is try to help.”
Jeff let out a huff of air. “Maybe I don’t deserve your help.”
“That’s the problem!” Jarrett said, his voice rising. “You don’t think you deserve something, so you ruin it. Just like you did to Erik before I got here.”
Jeff went cold. “What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything.”
“You think I don’t know? Twenty years as your twin, and you think I don’t know you. I don’t know why you think you have to deny it, but you don’t with me. You can try to ruin us, too, but I’m not going to let it happen. You’re my brother, and nothing will ever change that. No matter how you try to sabotage things. Do you get that?”
Jeff just stared at his brother. He couldn’t remember ever hearing him be so forceful about anything. “Yeah,” he finally managed to choke out. “I get it.”
“Good. Let’s go home then.”


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