Flash Fiction Friday: Until Death Do We Part

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Photo by Mustapha Muhammed on Unsplash

Until Death Do We Part

by Kelly F. Barr

Jillian sat on the damp concrete surrounded by darkness and the musty odor of wet earth. Even without the blindfold, she could see nothing. She walked around, hands groping along the concrete walls in search of a door. She found one—cold steel and locked from the outside.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! Jillian knew better than to converse with strange men on social media, but she was so sick of being stuck in a marriage in name only. Oh, it hadn’t started out that way, but after the first five years, things changed. Her husband became harsh—demanding, critical of everything she did. She could never please him no matter how hard she tried. A few months ago, she’d grown tired of trying.

She had longed for someone to pay attention to her, treat her kindly, have conversations with her, and show her some affection. That’s how she’d fallen to temptation, and ultimately, into this basement … hole in the ground … whatever it was.

Conrad Brandt, if that was even his real name, seemed so sweet when he’d sent his first message through MyCorner, the latest popular social media site. She posted a couple pictures of herself on her MyCorner page.

Conrad’s first message: “Hello, beautiful lady.”

Jillian’s heart had skipped a beat as she read that line. His profile picture exhibited a handsome, aristocratic-looking gentleman with dark brown eyes and a cleft chin.

Jillian’s response: “Hello.”

Things went on from there: Conrad took an interest in Jillian’s work and things she liked to do for fun, and he continued to flatter her.

Then the conviction hit her. The Holy Spirit speaking to her heart. Jillian, you know this is wrong. You’re a married woman. You made a commitment—until death do you part.

But she liked how Conrad’s interest and flattering words made her feel, so she suppressed the conviction—ignored it. Now “until death do you part” was too close for comfort.

How had he found her? She’d never given Conrad her address or phone number. She’d kept everything limited to MyCorner’s messaging board. He must be some kind of computer hacker.

What was he going to do with her? To her? So far, he’d kidnapped her, blindfolded her, and dumped her in this cold, dark room. She knew it was him by the use of his pet name for her, “Beauty”.

A sudden pang of terror shot through her heart. “Beauty”. Did that make him “the Beast”? This didn’t feel like a “happily ever after” fairy tale. She trembled and her stomach groaned. How long had she been here? It was impossible to tell as no reprieve from the darkness came. There were no windows in this prison.

Had Lucas noticed she was gone? Did he care? Would he look for her? How long until he realized she might be in trouble? After all, none of her clothes were missing from the closet.

Metal clinked against metal and a key turned in the lock. Jillian rose to her feet and felt her way to the door. If she could get there and press herself against the wall, maybe she could slip out the door behind Conrad when he entered the room.

The door opened outward and a bright beam of light sliced through the darkness, scanning until it came to rest on Jillian, who used her arm to shield her eyes from the flashlight’s glare.

“Ah, there you are my beauty. I’m sorry these accommodations aren’t worthy of you, but it won’t be much longer. Then you will be surrounded by the luxury and comforts you deserve.”

“Wh … what are you g… going to do with me?”

“Beauty, you aren’t afraid of me, are you? Surely you know I mean you no harm. I have rescued you from the beast who held you.” He reached out and brushed a lock of her brown hair from her face.

“Here, I’ve brought you some food.” He handed her a bag—McDonald’s—not exactly a meal for a princess.

Footsteps sounded on wooden stairs and a beam of light shown from behind Conrad.

“Let the girl go.” A deep, commanding voice ordered.

Jillian spotted the red dot shining on Conrad’s chest, a split second before he grabbed her, pulled a knife from his back pocket, and held the blade to her throat.

“Let me out of here, or I’ll slit her throat wide open.”

Jillian could now see the man on the stairs—a S.W.A.T. officer. There were more officers above them. Apparently she’d been held in an underground bunker.

With eyes opened wide, she whimpered. Would this be her “’til death do we part”?

A shot sounded, the knife clattered from Conrad’s hand to the ground, and Jillian was jerked backward with Conrad’s falling body. Conrad hit the cement floor of the bunker and acted as a cushion for Jillian, except for her right elbow hitting the concrete.

“Jillian!”

That was Lucas’s voice, but she couldn’t see him. She couldn’t get out from under Conrad’s arm, and he wasn’t moving. She held her breath to see if she could sense his, but even his chest was still—no rise and fall.

“Sir, stay back. We’ll get her and bring her up to you.” The same deep, commanding voice instructed Lucas.

Then the man with the deep voice was kneeling next to her. “Ma’am, are you hurt?”

The tears started flowing down Jillian’s cheeks. “Just … just my right elbow.”

“Okay, well, I’m going to remove that arm from around you and help you up.”

She nodded as the tears broke into full-fledged sobs.

The S.W.A.T. officer helped her up, wrapped his arm around her back, and guided her up the steps. She was sobbing with full-blown hiccups when she stepped onto the ground above the bunker, the S.W.A.T. officer’s arm still supporting her.

“Jillian!” Lucas rushed toward her.

The officer raised his hand to stop Lucas. “Sir, she’s in shock. She needs medical attention. She needs a gentle touch.”

“Of course. I understand. She’s my wife!”

“I know, sir. That’s why I’ll help her over to the ambulance crew. You’re too emotional right now, sir. Take some time to calm down. She needs you to be strong for her.”

The officer led Jillian to the ambulance crew, Lucas trailing. A man in an ambulance uniform placed a blanket around Jillian’s shoulders and a woman helped her sit just inside the ambulance. The pair checked Jillian for injuries. When she flinched and cried out as they touched her right elbow, the woman gently probed it as Jillian gritted her teeth. Her sobs subsided to sniffles and an occasional hiccup. The woman said, “I don’t think your elbow is broken, just badly bruised. I’m going to put a sling on it, to cradle it in front of you, then I want you to lie down on the litter to rest for a while, okay?”

Jillian widened her eyes again, and Lucas stepped closer to the ambulance woman. “Would it be okay if I sat with her while she rests and, maybe, hold her hand? I’m her husband.”

The woman looked at Jillian who nodded, then turned to Lucas. “That would be fine, but we need to keep her warm and calm. That will help bring her out of the shock.”

“I understand.”

The woman helped Jillian into the back of the ambulance and onto the litter, then she climbed down, and Lucas moved to sit by Jillian’s side. He took her hand in his and stroked the back of it with his thumb. When he looked at her face, she offered a small smile.

“Jillian, I’m so sorry. I know I haven’t been the kind of husband I should be. When I saw that man stuff you in that van and drive off, I was terrified.”

Jillian tried to rise. “You saw?”

Lucas gently pressed her shoulder to keep her flat. “That’s how we found you. I called the police. I thought I’d lost you, and I realized how much you truly mean to me. I hope you can forgive me and give me another chance. I promise I’ll be a better, more attentive, loving husband.” A tear slipped down his cheek.

Jillian squeezed his hand and tears slid down her cheeks as well. Why did it sometimes take tragedy to bring about lasting change? She saw love and concern in Lucas’s eyes again, for the first time in thirty years. She offered a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, for protecting her, for bringing about Lucas’s transformation, for not allowing this to be their “until death do we part”.

Tea and Poetry Tuesday

Today’s Tea Tidbit: “You are less likely to get a caffeine crash” when you drink tea as opposed to soda and coffee, due to the high levels of antioxidants in tea, which slow the absorption of caffeine giving a gentler increase of caffeine in your system and a longer period of alertness, with no crash at the end.”

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Chemistry of a Kiss by Kimberly Krey

Chemistry of a Kiss: A Sweet YA Romance (Sweet Water High Book 5) by [Krey, Kimberly]

Chemistry of a Kiss by Kimberly Krey is part of Ms. Krey’s Sweet Water High YA clean romance series. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, and this was my very first read by Kimberly Krey.

Harper is dating TJ but his kisses don’t have the effect she is looking for. She likes TJ and wants to help him learn to make some better choices. Then she receives a partner and an assignment at school. One of her teachers pairs her with Jett and assigns them the project of researching and reporting on “The Chemistry of a Kiss”.

During their studies, Harper finds herself thinking about kissing Jett, but there is a bit of history behind them that causes her some embarrassment. Then there’s the complication of his ex-girlfriend, When Harper’s mother makes a rule that Harper can’t exclusively date one guy, she and TJ figure if Harper lets her mom think her studying on some evenings with Jett are actual dates, things will be okay. That doesn’t exactly work out as planned.

Things get more and more complicated as Harper falls for Jett but isn’t sure if Jett feels the same way or if he’s just trying to make his ex-girlfriend jealous so she’ll come crawling back. When a Sadie Hawkins dance is planned at school, things seem to fall apart around Harper, until another plan is put into action. What happens at the dance is quite a surprise as tensions mount and tempers flare.

This was a great story and an easy read. I enjoyed it from the first page to the last and read it in three nights. I loved the characters and the interactions and relationships Harper had with her grandparents and her mother and sister, not just the peer relationships among the teenage characters. The dialogue and the way Harper thinks are all very realistic and believable. I loved the sweet romance with its kisses. I grew nervous just before the Sadie Hawkins dance, but was thoroughly pleased with the ending as well. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys clean romance stories. I am older than a young adult, so you don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy this story.

I look forward to reading more books by Kimberly Krey.

Flash Fiction Friday: Love on Skates

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Love on Skates
by Kelly F. Barr

Melissa pulled into the driveway of Lainey’s parents’ home at 5:30 p.m.

“Melissa’s here. See you later.” Lainey called as she grabbed her jean jacket and headed out the door.

Melissa grinned as Lainey got in the car. “This is going to be so much fun!”

“I just hope I don’t fall more than skate. It’s been a few years since I’ve gone rollerskating.”

“Well, Scott’s going to be there, and maybe … you’ll meet someone special tonight.”

“Melissa, what have you done?”

“What do you mean?”

Lainey raised an eyebrow. “Please tell me you aren’t trying to set me up on another one of your blind dates. I told you after the last one, I’m never doing that again. That guy never said more than ‘hi’ to me all night.”

Melissa scowled. “As I recall, you didn’t make an effort to talk to him either.”

“The guy was a farmer. I don’t have anything against farmers, but I don’t know anything about farming. I had no idea what to talk about. It seemed all he and Scott wanted to talk about was tractors.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll admit, it wasn’t a good fit. But…”

“No! No buts. No more blind dates.”

“It won’t be a blind date. You’re going skating with me, and he’ll just happen to be there.” Melissa grinned at her again.

Lainey groaned.

At the skating rink, Lainey put on her skates. When she stood, her legs were about as stable as a newborn colt’s. She skated back and forth, outside the main rink, to try to gain her sea legs.

As her legs grew steadier, she entered the main circle, but stayed on the outer edge, away from the experienced, faster skaters.

Others, including Melissa, flew past her over and over. Melissa smiled and gave a little wave every time she passed, but Lainey focused on keeping her balance.

When the rink announcer called the first couples’ skate, Lainey aimed herself toward one of the main rink exits. As she rolled to the exit, she noticed a group of young men just on the other side. She had never learned how to stop properly using her skate stoppers, so she hoped she could just glide past them.

However, one of her wheels caught on the little lip that separated the two circles, and she lost her balance. As she fell forward, her blue-green eyes met the blue ones of a young, very good-looking blond male, and a spark of something other than fear and embarrassment shot through her as their gaze connected. She put her hands out to brace her fall, but the blond moved to catch her.

Her hands landed squarely on his firm pectoral muscles, and heat flooded her cheeks. She jerked her hands from his chest as if she’d been burned. “I’m so sorry.”

The handsome blond grinned. “Don’t be. I kind of like having a pretty girl fall for me.”

“I … I wasn’t… I didn’t mean to.”

“Would you like to join me on the main rink?” His hands were still on her hips. “I’ll keep hold of your hand. I won’t let you fall.”

Lainey placed her hands on his and removed them from her hips, released one, and held the other. “Okay. What’s your name?”

“Kaeden Phillips, and yours?”

“Lainey Price.”

“Ah, you’re the one I’ve been waiting to meet.”

“Wait … what?” She looked at him and blinked. “Wait, you know Melissa?”

“Hm-hm, indeed I do. I’m so glad you were able to come skating with her tonight.”

The music and couple’s skate ended. Kaeden brought her to a smooth stop at one of the main rink exits. “Would you like to go to the snack bar for something to drink?”

“Okay.”

Kaeden helped Lainey settle in a chair then went to the counter to order their drinks.

He returned, placed their drinks on the table, and took the seat across from her. “Are you planning on going away to college after graduation?”

“No, my folks can’t afford it. Are you going to college?”

“I’m twenty-one. I work at a lumber yard.”

Melissa skated to their table. “Lainey, it’s 9:15.”

“Oh no, we need to go.” She struggled to get up, but fell back into her chair.

Kaeden stood, moved to her side of the table, and helped her up. “Lainey, what’s wrong?”

“I’m supposed to be home by 9:30. My mom has trust issues. She’s afraid I’m going to make the same mistakes she made when she was my age. If I’m late, I’ll get a lecture, and I’ll be lucky if she doesn’t ground me.”

Kaeden led her to a bench and loosened her skate laces. After changing to her shoes, she grabbed her jean jacket, and headed for the door.

“Wait … Lainey.” Kaeden skated after her and grabbed her arm. “Can I see you again?”

Lainey paused. She placed her hand on the side of his face. “Call me. My number is 252-7785.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Melissa caught up to Lainey in the parking lot and grinned. “So, you like Kaeden?”

Lainey nodded.

“Does that mean I’m forgiven for the epic failed blind date?”

“Only if Kaeden actually calls me and takes me out.”

They grinned at each other, then Melissa pulled onto the road.