The challenge was to write a story using these five words: shower, chocolate, hat, naked, bunny.

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Still Friends

by Ermintrude

Amanda was getting ready for her SHOWER. It was the evening before Easter, and she wanted to make things quicker for the next morning. So she was going to shower tonight—and planned to ride herd on the boys and Joe the next morning.

She turned on the water. When steam was filling the small room, she turned back to remove her robe, opened the shower curtain and stepped NAKED into the shower. As she stepped in she stopped in shock and gave a small shriek. She wasn't alone! How had she not noticed!

There, in the center of the tub was a CHOCOLATE BUNNY, wearing a candy HAT. Of course, it wasn't in very good shape anymore as the hot water had melted the candy hat and streams of color were running down the drain.

She smiled and turned off the water. She picked up the sodden treat and shook her head.

'This is the last time I let Joe hide the Easter treats. He means well, but I don't think the bathtub is a good place for a chocolate bunny. I'm just glad it wasn't one of the boys' big Easter baskets. It's good having him home, but he just isn't used to living with all of us.'

She smiled sadly and wondered how many more years Joe would be around. The boys were 7 and 9—they wouldn't have many more years of Easter treats. Hopefully they would have some happy memories of their childhood. Joe was home for the first time in six months—he had even missed Christmas and Thanksgiving—and she knew it wouldn't be long before they agreed to separate, and then divorce. 'He acts like this is a stopover. The boys love having him home, but he's distracted, thinking about his job. He asked me again to have us all come live with him at his latest assignment. Estoccia. I've hardly even heard of the place. We checked it out in the atlas—but I don't want to sell the house, and pull up stakes with the boys. They're happy at school. They have friends. Their grandparents live here. How would they get schooling? Would it be safe? Joe said there's a famine in Estoccia—how could he think of bringing his sons into that sort of misery and possible danger?'

She thought back to the rousing argument they had after the boys had gone to bed. Joe had stormed out of the bedroom when they had reached a stalemate. 'I don't want our marriage to degenerate into a war. But he won't quit his job, and I won't move to God-knows-where with the boys. So what does that leave us? Not much of a life together. It seems the only option is divorce. Because I'm tired of having a non-marriage to a phantom living in far-flung disaster areas. And I won't bring the boys into that environment.'

Hot tears fell from her eyes. 'I love him—but I also love my boys and they need my attention more than Joe does. He can manage fine on his own—he has for the past six years. The boys need someone who is looking out for them. And that isn't Joe. He doesn't understand what the boys need is stability and a good safe loving home. All he can think of is the 'adventures' they can have with him. Except once he's in Estoccia he'll get involved in his job and he'll leave the boys to me. That was the pattern before he started this job with EAO—and I don't think he'll change.'

'The boys will be devastated if we divorce—but it's for the best. I have to think about them and we all need to be able to count on the people in our lives. And we can't count on Joe. He comes and goes on his own schedule. He only remembers birthdays and holidays if I remind him. We talked about having children before we got married, and he said he wanted them. And then I got pregnant right away. I guess he wasn't as prepared for fatherhood as he thought he was. I would like to have more children—it would be great to have a little girl—but I can't think of it as long as I'm married to Joe. That wouldn't be fair to him or me or the baby. A child deserves two parents—not a mother and someone who comes around at irregular intervals.'

'And I don't want to stay in a marriage that is either managing on my own, or fighting when he's at home on his stopovers. The boys are old enough to pick up on the tension. We don't even have sex anymore—that was never a big deal for either of us. Well—maybe it wasn't a big deal for Joe—I always treasured our intimate moments. Joe mostly seemed to be afraid I'd get pregnant again. I've been careful since Jamie. I was careful before. But I guess Joe doesn't trust me.'

She wiped her eyes. 'I don't want to be married to someone who doesn't trust me. We are supposed to be in this together—but it seems that one of us has forgotten that.'

She went back into the bathroom and turned the water back on. As she showered, she resolved to talk to Joe about separating. Maybe it wasn't what she wanted—but it was for the best. He would be free to come and go as he pleased and the boys would be spared a deteriorating relationship that could only get worse. Neither of them was going to change—so they should just go their separate ways. It was sad, but in the long run—it was better they part as friends. And they were still friends.

'Maybe if we take this calmly and rationally we can still preserve that. I guess Joe is a better friend than he is a husband or father. And a good friend is a valuable thing. So we'll talk tomorrow and maybe we can work something out that preserves something between all of us. I owe it to my boys to do the best thing for them.'

She finished her shower, and put on her nightgown. As she settled in to sleep she resolved to take action. 'Things will look better in the morning.' She fervently hoped it would be true.

End