Flash Fiction Friday: Puppy Love

Puppy Love

by Kelly F. Barr

Janie rode her bike home from school, but stopped outside the pet shop display window. In the window was a litter of eight puppies – some were black and white, some brown with white spots. Janie put her hand on the window and a black and white puppy waddled over and pressed his nose against the window across from the same spot. Janie squatted down, put her face near the window, and said, “Hi there. You are so cute!”

She parked her bike where it wouldn’t block sidewalk traffic and raced into the pet shop.

“Well, Janie. What brings you into my shop this sunny afternoon?”

“Hi Mr. Walters. I was looking at the puppies in the front window. Could I hold one of them?”

Mr. Walters smiled at her. “One of them caught your attention, huh?”

Janie bobbed her head up and down. “A little black and white one. It came right up to my hand at the window.”

Mr. Walters walked to the front window, Janie on his heels. He opened a panel and let Janie look in and point out the puppy that had caught her eye. Then he reached in, brought the pup out, and handed him to Janie.

The little ball of fluff nestled into her neck and put it’s head up and licked her chin. Janie giggled. “See, Mr. Walters, he likes me!”

“Yes he does. But Janie, a dog needs to be well taken care of. He needs to be fed twice a day. He’ll need to be trained to go to the bathroom outside. You’ll need to take him outside quite frequently until he gets bigger. And he’ll need to be taken for walks. He’ll need annual checkups at the veterinarian’s clinic too. It’s a big job to take care of a puppy.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. I can do it because he’s so cute, and he’ll be my best friend.” Janie paused and wrinkled her brow.

“What is it Janie?”

“Well … first I have to buy him. How much is he?”

“He’s $200.”

Janie frowned. “That’s a lot of money.”

“Yes it is, but it’s not as much as a purebred puppy would cost.”

Janie looked up at Mr. Walters. “What kind of puppy is he?”

“He’s called a Borgi. He’s a mix between a Border Collie and a Welsh Corgi.”

“Mr. Walters, could you promise not to sell him until I can talk to my parents and, maybe, bring them to see him?”

Mr. Walters looked at the puppy, now asleep in Janie’s arms. He rubbed his chin with an index finger. “Well, usually, puppies are sold on a first come, first served basis.”

Janie’s lower lip quivered, and Mr. Walters said, “I suppose … well, you are the first one to ask about him. So, I guess I can wait until … Friday?”

A wide grin spread across Janie’s lips. “Two days? Do you mean it?”

Mr. Walters nodded. “Parents take their time to make such decisions, so, yes. But you have to give me an answer after school on Friday, okay?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Walters. Thanks!” Janie handed the puppy back to the pet shop owner, rushed out to her bike, and pedaled home.

She raced into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam behind her.

“Janie! Where’s the fire?” Her mom placed two chocolate chip cookies on a plate, then poured a glass of milk.

Janie dropped her backpack on a kitchen chair and plopped down in the chair beside it. Her mom placed the plate in front of her on the table.

“I don’t know anything about a fire, but guess what I saw at Mr. Walters’ pet shop?”

Her mother smiled. “I don’t know. What did you see?”

“Puppies! Mr. Walters has eight puppies in the front window. I stopped and put my hand on the window and one of the puppies came right up to my hand. I went in and talked to Mr. Walters. He let me hold the puppy. Do you think Dad will let me get him? Mr. Walters said he’ll hold the puppy for me until Friday.”

“Oh Janie, I don’t know. Taking care of a puppy is a big responsibility, and it costs money. Not just to buy the puppy but to feed it and buy some items you’ll need to care for it. Then there’s the annual veterinarian costs.”

“Mom, I really want this puppy. I promise I’ll take good care of him.”

“We’ll see what your father says. Now eat your cookies and drink your milk, then get that backpack up to your room.”

“Yes, Mom.”

That evening, when her father came home, Janie was setting the table for dinner. She put the stack of plates on the table and ran to greet him. She threw her arms around his waist and squeezed.

“Well, what a nice greeting.” Her dad squatted down to her level and gave her a proper hug. “It’s good to be home.”

“Did you have a good day?”

“It was okay. Why do you ask?”

“I just want to know if you’re in a good mood.”

“Uh-oh. Sounds like you’re up to something. What is it?”

“We-ll.” She told her dad about the puppy. “So, can I have him?”

“Janie…”

“I know. It’s a big responsibility. But I can do it. I promise.”

“I’ll talk to your mom about it after you’re in bed, and we’ll let you know tomorrow at dinner, okay?”

Janie nodded.

“You may have to do more chores around here too, if we decide to let you have the puppy.”

“Because it’s expensive?”

“Yes, because it’s expensive.” Her dad kissed her on the forehead.

* * * * *

The next day, Janie stopped to tell Mr. Walters she’d have an answer for him the next day.

When she got home from school, she went straight to her room to do her homework.

After a while, she heard her mother call, “Janie, please come down and set the table. Your dad will be home soon.”

Janie pounded down the stairs and hurried into the kitchen. She finished setting the table just as her father stepped through the door.

“Hi Daddy.”

“Hello pumpkin.” He bent down and kissed her cheek.

He was in a good mood. She hoped that meant she could have the puppy. She wanted to ask, but knew she needed to wait. Her parents would tell her when they were ready.

Janie pushed her food around on her plate. She couldn’t get food past the butterflies in her stomach. If her parents would just tell her, maybe she could eat her dinner.

“Janie, is something wrong with your food?”

“No mom.” Janie speared a piece of chicken and forked it into her mouth.

Her father grinned and looked at her mother. “I guess we shouldn’t hold her in suspense any longer.”

Her mother smiled and nodded.

“Janie, I’ll be leaving work early tomorrow, and your mother and I will pick you up from school. Then we’ll go to Mr. Walter’s pet shop.”

Janie’s fork clattered as it dropped onto her plate. “You mean…?”

“This puppy is going to be your responsibility, along with extra chores, which we’ll talk about later. As long as you are responsible and work hard, the puppy is yours.”

Janie got out of her chair and ran around the table to give her father a big hug. “Oh, thank you!” Then she moved to hug her mother. “Thank you!”

Janie returned to her seat and finished her dinner.

* * * * *

Friday, Janie struggled to keep her mind on her classes. She kept clock watching, wishing the hours would pass faster.

When the final bell rang, she forced herself to fast walk out of the building, but she really wanted to run. Once outside, she raced down the steps and out the walkway to her dad’s Ford F-150.

Her father drove to the pet shop, and the three of them walked in together.

Mr. Walters looked up and smiled. “Well, Janie. I’m guessing, by the smile on your face, you’re here to take home a certain little puppy.”

“I sure am, Mr. Walters.”

Mr. Walters retrieved the puppy from the front window and placed it in Janie’s arms. Then he helped them pick out the items she would need to begin life with a puppy.

“So, what are you going to name him, Janie?”

Janie looked at the puppy, then looked up at Mr. Walters. “His name is Jasper.”

Flash Fiction Friday: Love and Chocolate Part 2

Every once in a while, one of my flash fiction stories just seems to need a little more, so I hope you will enjoy the second part of Love and Chocolate.

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Photo by Thalia Ruiz on Unsplash

Love and Chocolate Part 2

Sonnet’s cell phone rang as she slid into the driver’s seat of her car. She didn’t recognize the number and decided to let it go to voice mail. She buckled her seat belt, then started the engine just as her phone rang again – same number. She tapped to answer. “Hello?”

“Sonnet. This is Armand, from The Everything Chocolate Café and Bakery.”

Oh, yes. Armand, hi.”

Hi. We are going to have live music this Friday night at the café/bakery. A female duo, one plays cello and one plays the flute and the violin. They’re mostly instrumental, but also sing a few songs. They call themselves ‘Class Act’. They’ll be performing from seven to nine. I get off at eight and thought I could join you for the last hour.”

Sonnet smiled. “That sounds great. I’ll see you Friday.”

She hung up the phone, still smiling. She pictured Armand in her mind – his chocolate brown work t-shirt revealing his firm pectoral muscles, his biceps straining the sleeve openings, wavy hair the color of caramel, and those slate-gray eyes. She sighed and shoved her phone into her purse, then pulled her car out of its space, and headed for the parking garage exit.

Friday, Sonnet, distracted at work, watched the clock, waiting for quitting time. At three o’clock, Marcy, her secretary, buzzed over the intercom. “Ms. Warren, Brindenburg’s mayor is on line one.”

The mayor? Sonnet lifted the receiver, held it to her ear, and hit the button for line one. “Good afternoon, Mayor. What can I do for you?”

I know this is short notice as Christmas is just over two months away, but Brindenburg’s Christmas sales were down last year. I would like you to plan a couple events that will bring in some tourists and boost our shops’ sales.”

I’m sure I can come up with some ideas. Let me brainstorm with my assistant, and I’ll get back to you Monday. Does that work for you?”

That will be fine. Thank you.”

Sonnet grabbed a pen and tablet and rushed over to Chad’s office. She told him about the phone call and they began sharing ideas, Sonnet writing down the best ones.

She didn’t notice when five o’clock arrived, but glanced at the clock at five fifteen. “Oh, I’ve gotta run. Let’s meet early Monday – seven a.m.? That will give us an hour or two to come up with more before I call the mayor.”

A short time later, Sonnet walked into The Everything Chocolate Café and Bakery. She stepped to the counter.

Armand looked up and smiled. “Good evening, Sonnet. What can I get for you?”

I’d like a white hot chocolate, please.”

You got it. I’ll bring it to your table in just a couple minutes.”

Sonnet sat at a table for two along the wall where she had a good view of Class Act setting up their equipment.

Armand brought her cup of hot chocolate and a plate with a cupcake on it. He placed both in front of her.

She looked up at him. “I didn’t order a cupcake.”

I know. It’s a bittersweet chocolate cupcake with cherry fruit filling and white chocolate frosting.” He winked at her.

You are going to spoil me.”

That’s part of my plan.” He grinned. “I’ll join you soon.”

She smiled as she watched him walk back behind the counter. She savored the cupcake, one bite at a time, and sipped her white hot chocolate while enjoying Class Act’s music. Soon Armand moved the other chair beside her, giving him a better view of Class Act, as they stopped for a ten minute break.

So, how was the cupcake?”

It was delicious, and so is this white hot chocolate.”

I’m glad you liked them. How did you get the name Sonnet?”

My mother loves Shakespeare, especially his sonnets, and she and dad wanted an unusual and artsy name for me.”

I see. I like it. It’s very unique, and it fits you well.” He smiled.

Would you like to know my full name?”

He nodded.

Sonnet Monet Warren. My father is a painter, and Monet is his favorite watercolor painter.”

Wow.”

Sonnet quirked an eyebrow at him. “Wow, what?”

Wow, what a great name. Just like I said before, a beautiful name for a beautiful lady.”

Sonnet’s cheeks grew warm and she covered them with her hands, hoping Armand wouldn’t see her blush.

Class Act returned and resumed their performance, so their conversation stopped. About halfway through this set, Armand reached over and took Sonnet’s hand in his. She liked the way her hand fit in his and how he held hers in a firm but gentle grip. A couple times he caressed the back of her hand with his thumb.

When the performance ended, Armand locked eyes with Sonnet. “I don’t have to work tomorrow. How would you like to visit our arts district with me?”

I’d love to.”

He smiled, they rose, and he walked her to her car. “May I pick you up at ten in the morning?”

She turned to face him, her back to her car. “That would be fine. I’m four blocks down, left on Duncan Street, number 312. The front of the house is yellow with sky blue shutters.”

They stood looking at each other a moment, and just as the silence between them started to become uncomfortable, Armand leaned toward her and lowered his head. He pressed his lips to hers and gave her a soft, brief kiss. As he began to pull back, she leaned toward him, reached up and, with a gentle pull, brought his head down so that their lips met again. This time the kiss lingered, lips pressing more firmly before parting.

I’ll see you tomorrow,” she spoke in a near whisper.

I look forward to it.” He reached and opened the car door for her.

As she drove away, she kept her eyes on him, in her rearview mirror, until he faded into the darkness.

Flash Fiction Friday: Love and Chocolate

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Photo by Thalia Ruiz on Unsplash

Love and Chocolate
by Kelly F. Barr

After a week of unpacking and organizing, Sonnet was finally settled into her new home and ready to explore Brindenburg. She grabbed her purse and stepped out the door. Just a block from town, she decided to walk on this beautiful breezy autumn day. As she strolled down the sidewalk, she paused to look into the shop windows. She passed a bakery, a jewelry store, an antique shop, and a candy store.

When she came upon a tea shop, she stepped inside. The aromas of peppermint, cinnamon, and raspberry greeted her. Three shelves of glass jars holding a variety of loose leaf teas beckoned her to come closer.

As Sonnet stepped farther into the shop, the lady behind the counter looked up. “Hello. May I help you?”

Sonnet smiled. “I just moved to town and I’m exploring the shops today. I love tea.”

“Well, welcome to Brindenburg and my tea shop. I have green teas and black teas. I have fruity, spicy, classic, and a few exotic teas. If you can’t find something you’re looking for, just let me know. Feel free to open the small jars to sample the scent of the tea.”

Sonnet sniffed six different types of tea and decided to purchase three ounces each of four of them. The woman bagged Sonnet’s selections, placed the bags in a small, decorative shopping bag, and handed them to Sonnet.

“I hope you enjoy your selections. My name is Tara. Please come again.”

Sonnet smiled and stepped back out onto the sidewalk, where she crossed the street and started back toward her apartment, while peeking into the shop windows on the other side of the street. She passed a women’s clothing store, a Chinese restaurant, a women’s accessories store, and a pizza shop.

She paused as a couple stepped out of a shop in front of her. She caught a whiff of chocolate and looked up at the shop’s sign, “The Everything Chocolate Café and Bakery”. Her mouth began to water and her stomach rumbled. When the couple passed, she stepped into the café/bakery.

She let her eyes wander over the chocolate candies, chocolate coated items, and baked goods in the glass display case.

Just as she moved her eyes to the large black chalkboard that listed drinks, sandwiches, salads, and chili, a smooth male voice asked, “What can I get for you today?”

Still studying the board, she said, “Um…”

This is your first time here, isn’t it?”

She moved her gaze from the chalkboard, and her eyes locked with slate gray ones in the most handsome face she’d ever seen. “Um, yes. I … um … I’m new in town.” She mentally kicked herself for stumbling over her words.

Well, in that case, let me introduce myself and tell you a bit about our options.” He smiled at her and her heart skipped a beat. “I’m Armand, and everything we sell is either chocolate coated or has chocolate syrup or cocoa as an ingredient. Our coated items come coated in white, milk, semisweet, or dark chocolate, and many of our baked goods come with those choices of frostings. So, what will it be?”

Um … do you have any suggestions? Something that won’t keep me from one of these delicious looking desserts?”

How about one of our sandwiches? We have ham or turkey with white American, cheddar, or swiss cheese with our hazelnut chocolate spread on our homemade chocolate bread.”

That sounds good. I’ll take the ham and American, please.”

And to drink?” He winked at her and added, “I recommend the chocolate strawberry lemonade.”

She nodded.

First name for the order?”

Sonnet.”

He looked at her, one eyebrow raised. “Sonnet? Like the poem?”

Yes.”

He stared at her a moment, then said, “You can have a seat and I’ll bring that out to you shortly.”

Just ten minutes later, Armand delivered her food and drink to her table. “May I inquire as to your favorite chocolate dessert?”

Chocolate cake.”

How would you like a piece of moist dark chocolate cake with a white chocolate cream filling and semisweet chocolate and caramel frosting?”

That sounds divine.”

Sonnet swallowed the last bite of her sandwich and sipped the last of her lemonade.

Armand returned to her table and placed a small plate and fork before her. On the plate was a rectangular piece of the cake he had suggested. 

As Armand walked away, she stabbed the fork into the cake, lifted a piece to her mouth, and released a quiet moan of pleasure as the flavors delighted her taste buds. She took her time savoring the cake, then moved to the counter to pay her bill.

Armand rang it up. “That will be $18.55 please.”

She handed him a twenty dollar bill and a five dollar bill. “Keep the change.” She turned to go.

Sonnet.”

She turned back to him.

Don’t forget this.” He held up a white bag.

I didn’t order anything to go.”

Consider it a welcome to the neighborhood gift.” He held the bag out to her and she took it. “I hope I’ll see you in our café/bakery frequently.”

She chuckled. “I’m afraid that wouldn’t be good for my waistline.”

Well then, maybe I could show you more of Brindenberg? I have a feeling you’d enjoy our arts district – unique things to see or shop for, as well as upscale dining.”

She smiled. “I think I’d like that. I, uh, could give you my number.”

He grabbed pen and paper and wrote as she spoke.

When she exited the café/bakery and was certain she was past its windows, she lifted the bag to peek inside. But before opening it, she saw, written on the outside of the bag: Sonnet – a beautiful name for a beautiful lady. Heat raced up her neck and into her cheeks. She opened the bag. Inside was another piece of that wonderful cake and two white chocolate covered strawberries.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Wedding Secret

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Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

The Wedding Secret
by Kelly F. Barr

Kalliope smoothed the front of her white lace wedding dress and reached for her bouquet of lavender roses and white carnations with shaking hands.

She placed a hand on her stomach and looked at Riah, her bridesmaid. “I don’t know if I can go through with this.”

Riah stepped toward her and took her free hand. “You do love him, don’t you?”

Kalliope nodded. “Of course I do, but what will happen if his family finds out? I feel like we should have told them.”

“You know what would’ve happened if they knew, right?”

“They would’ve found a way to prevent us from marrying.” Tears welled in Kalliope’s eyes.

“Don’t let those tears fall. You’ll ruin your makeup.” Riah smiled. “You’re doing the right thing. You and Jerry belong together. You can’t let someone else’s prejudices prevent that.” She squeezed Kalliope’s hand.

“But they’re his family.”

“And he made his choice and his decision. This way, if they find out, it will be too late, and the two of you will deal with it together.”

Organ music drifted into the room. Riah gathered the train of Kalliope’s dress and pointed to the door. “It’s time to go.”

Kalliope gave Riah a wobbly smile and moved to the door. Riah arranged Kalliope’s train then stepped around Kalliope with care. They watched Gretchen, Kalliope’s sister, walk down the aisle, then Riah gave Kalliope a thumbs-up before walking down the aisle.

When Riah reached the front of the church auditorium, the organist began the “Wedding March”. Kalliope took a deep breath, released it, and gained some courage as her father smiled at her and she took his arm.

As she and her father walked down the aisle, Kalliope looked around at all the faces. They were all smiling at her. She wondered how many on Jerry’s side would be smiling if they knew. Then she fixed her eyes on Jerry, who was standing at the front, his eyes glued to her, a smile on his face. She found strength in his presence and her doubts melted away at the love she saw shining through his eyes.

Her eyes locked with Jerry’s when her father placed her hand in Jerry’s. The two of them turned to face the pastor. The ceremony moved along smoothly until the pastor asked if there was anyone present who could give reason that this man and woman should not be joined together.

Kalliope’s heart thudded and every muscle in her body grew tense as she held her breath silently urging the pastor to continue. Someone cleared their throat and the lights flickered three times before blinking off completely.

It took a couple minutes for everyone’s eyes to adjust to the pale light that peeked through the draped windows. Then the organ began playing and the organist stood up and backed away from the instrument. The organist’s eyes and mouth opened wide as the organ played without anyone touching it. Several gasps came from the right side of the room, the side where Jerry’s friends and family sat.

Kalliope looked at Jerry, who quirked an eyebrow at her. She shrugged her shoulders as she tried to quell her elevated emotions. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and released the breath through slow puffs of air. The organ music stopped, and when Kalliope opened her eyes, the lights had come back on and the pastor finished the ceremonial words before anyone else could find their voice, further easing Kalliope’s emotions.

When the pastor told Jerry to kiss his bride, he took her in his arms, dipped her as if they were dancing the tango, kissed her passionately, and as he returned her to her feet, whispered in her ear, “The lights and organ … that was you, wasn’t it?”

“I still struggle to control my magic abilities when my emotions are running high.”

Jerry grinned at her. “Marriage to you will certainly not be dull.”

As Kalliope savored the wedding meal, enjoyed cutting the cake and feeding a bit to Jerry and him feeding her, she began to relax. The dancing began and she took her place in Jerry’s arms.

He looked into her eyes. “You are beautiful and I am the luckiest man alive.”

She couldn’t help but wonder if he would still feel that way when his parents discovered her secret. His family wanted nothing to do with those who practiced magic—they said they were the reason the world was filled with hate, but Kalliope didn’t know any people with magic abilities that hated those who had none. It was always those without abilities spewing hate and being cruel toward those with magic abilities.

The dancing ended and Jerry’s parents loaded the gifts into their van to take to Jerry and Kalliope’s house while the newlyweds drove to the airport to fly to Missouri where they would spend their two week honeymoon in the Ozarks.

When they were seated on the plane, Jerry took her hand in his and rubbed his thumb over the back of it. Then he leaned over and spoke to Kalliope just above a whisper. “I’m looking forward to seeing what magic might happen tonight on our wedding night.” He winked at her and chuckled.

Kalliope’s face warmed and she knew she was blushing.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Real Love Challenge

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Photo by Марьян Блан | @marjanblan on Unsplash

Aiden watched a beautiful brunette pick four red tomatoes and place them in her shopping cart. She walked, her shoulders pulled back, eyes straight ahead, exuding self-confidence. He followed her down the aisle. When she stopped to choose a bunch of bananas, he passed her and searched her left hand—no ring.

He moved toward the checkout, waiting for her to approach a register. As she exited the aisle and approached, he feigned interest in a magazine and rolled his cart forward so that it collided with hers.

He looked up. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going. Are you okay?”

She looked at him, the corners of her mouth twitching. “I’m fine. Now, if you’d be so kind as to move your cart, I’ll pay for my items and be on my way.”

“Oh yes, of course.” He pulled his cart back, allowed her to enter the checkout lane, then pushed his cart in behind hers. “My name’s Aiden Berkley. And you are?”

“Not interested.” She pinched her lips into a flat line.

“I’d really like to treat you to coffee … to make up for crashing into your cart.”

When her eyes met his, he smiled. “There’s a coffee shop right around the corner.”

“I don’t think so.” She paid for her items, grabbed her bag, and pushed her cart toward the cart return area.

Aiden tried not to drum his fingers or tap his foot while waiting for the cashier to ring up his few items. When the cashier finally bagged his last item and said, “That’ll be $12.50,” he handed her a ten and a five.

“Keep the change.” He grabbed his two bags, returned his cart, and rushed out the door, scanning the parking lot for the brunette.

He spotted her just as she was ready to climb into the passenger side of a sky blue Lexus sedan. His lower jaw dropped. Maybe she was way out of his league. He shook his head and ran toward the car.

He reached it just before she shut the door. He leaned down to look in at her. “If you’re busy today, how about lunch tomorrow?”

She sighed and rolled her eyes.

He remained standing hunched over, smiling at her.

“Look, Aiden Berkley, isn’t it?” She waited for his nod. “I’m really not interested. Now, if you’ll allow me to close my door…”

“Wait, please. Is it that you’re not interested in men, or not interested in me?”

“I’m not interested in either.”

“Well, I’m not like other men.” This earned him another eye roll.

“Of course you’re not, until I go out with you.” She grabbed her door handle and tried to pull it shut.

He moved out of the way. He wanted to take her out, but if he didn’t let her go, she’d think he was just another jerk.

He watched as she backed out of the parking space and drove down the lane.

“Man, do you know who you were just tryin’ to hit on?”

Aiden turned in the direction the voice had come from. “Kahlil! You know her?”

“Not personally, but I know who she is.”

“Well, who is she?” Aiden rubbed the back of his neck.

“That’s Samantha Rivers. She’s the editor in chief of Hot Topics Magazine.”

“Are you serious? The Hot Topics Magazine—the magazine that dishes the good and the bad on who’s who in the whole country, ‘anybody who’s somebody’?”

Kahlil nodded. “That’s the one.”

“Maybe I am outta her league, but I ain’t giving up.”

Kahlil raised an eyebrow. “You know she could have any man she wants, right?”

Aiden grinned. “Yeah, but I just gotta make her want me.”

* * * * *

The next week, Aiden went to the same grocery store at the same time, and there she was – Samantha Rivers – in the produce aisle.

This time, when she approached the checkout, Aiden moved with precision so that she saw his approach. Then he swung his arm in an arc and gave a slight bow. “After you, m’lady.”

She looked at him and laughed out loud. Then she raised her hands. “Okay … one coffee … around the corner. Half an hour, then I’m gone.”

Aiden grinned. “I’ll take it.”

They put their grocery bags in their respective cars, then walked around the corner to The Mug and Cup. She ordered a mocha latte with double chocolate. Aiden ordered a butterscotch hazelnut coffee and picked up the tab for both.

They sat at a table for two near one of the large windows.

“So, why are you so interested in me? Looking for sex or money?”

Aiden nearly spit out his sip of coffee, but swallowed quickly and began to cough.

Samantha sat smiling while he recovered.

“Well, you come right to the point, don’t you?” He sat up and leaned his forearms on the table. “What if I said I’m looking to build a relationship?”

She searched his eyes for a minute, then said, “Money it is.”

“Wait … what? Is that what you saw in my eyes? Really?”

“I couldn’t tell, but I know men.”

“Well, you don’t know me. Do you know that last week when I tried to hit on you, I didn’t even know who you were?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

Aiden shook his head and frowned.

Samantha raised an eyebrow.

“Some guy really did a number on you, huh?” Aiden paused, but she didn’t respond or meet his gaze. “Don’t let him ruin a chance at real love for you.”

It was her turn to swallow and cough, but not to the degree Aiden had. “That’s what you want to offer me? Real love?” She chuckled. “What if I said I don’t believe in real love.”

“I’ll take that as a challenge, and I’ll meet you here at this same coffee shop same time next week.”

She met and held his gaze a few moments. “You’re on.”

Flash Fiction Friday: The Secret Admirer

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Photo by Allie on Unsplash

“Junk mail, bill, junk mail, bill, bill. Wait, what’s this? A letter? Who writes letters nowadays?”

Reina grabbed her letter opener off the counter and opened the envelope. She pulled out a single sheet of high quality stationery that resembled ancient parchment paper. She unfolded it and read:

My dearest Reina,
Your beauty captivates me. Your smile bedazzles me. The thought of talking to you leaves me tongue-tied, so I decided to write instead. I get queasy in my stomach every time I see you. I want to speak to you, but I’m afraid of making a fool of myself. I long to find out what things we have in common. I hope to gather enough courage to speak to you soon.
Your Secret Admirer

Reina picked up the envelope, examined the front of it—no return address—local postmark. Who could have sent this—a coworker, regular customer? Was it some kind of joke? What if it was a stalker? Whoever it was knew her home address.

The next day Reina analyzed every interaction with the waiters and her regular male customers. Every smile and big tip had her wondering, ‘could he be the one’. When Craig, who came in twice a week, winked at her, she nearly spilled a cup of coffee.

She checked her mail right after work, sorted through it, searching for another letter, but found none.

Two days later, another letter arrived.

My dearest Reina,
Your smile lights up a room. Your laughter is like the Pied Piper’s music to my heart. You hold me spellbound.
In my next letter I will name a time and place for us to meet. Please give me a chance.
Your Secret Admirer

When the next letter arrived, Reina hesitated to open it. Was she ready to meet this guy?

My dearest Reina,
Though I remain nervous, I am determined to meet you face to face.I hope you will come to Pascal’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Tell the maitre d’ to show you to the table of the rose. I will be waiting for you.
Your Secret Admirer

Friday, Reina searched her closet and decided on a simple blue dress that complimented her figure. She wore matching blue sandals, grabbed her formal handbag and keys, and went to her car.

As she drove, her stomach filled with butterflies. At Pascal’s, a valet parked her car, and she walked into the restaurant, the butterflies performing ballet inside her.

The maitre d’ greeted her and asked about her reservation.”

“I’m meeting someone. Could you please show me to the table of the rose?”

“Ah yes, right this way.”

He led her to a table next to a large window with a fantastic view of the city lights. A gentleman rose from his seat at the table.

Reina gasped. He was incredibly handsome with brown hair and eyes the color of caramel. He looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t quite place him.

He held a deep red rose out to her. “For you m’lady.” He smiled and Reina’s heart melted at the sight of the dimples that indented his cheeks.

She took the rose, and he came and held her chair for her to be seated.

When they were seated, she couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. “Have we met before?”

“No. I moved into the apartment building across the street from yours three months ago. I’ve seen you coming and going. I had lunch at Mickey’s a couple times but was never lucky enough to be seated in your section. I asked my waitress your name.”

“You mailed letters to me from across the street?” She quirked an eyebrow.

He grinned. “I’m afraid I prefer old fashioned romance.”

“You still haven’t told me your name.”

“Oh, do forgive my thoughtlessness. I am Griffin Wallace.”

“Well Griffin Wallace, you certainly do know how to grab a lady’s attention.”

“I hope I will be as good at holding your attention.”

The intensity in his eyes set the butterflies dancing once again. “Your first note mentioned getting to know what we have in common, and it looks like the first thing would be an appreciation for good food. Though I have only been here once before, I do love the food here. Not to mention the fact that you obviously enjoy Mickey’s. I hope you won’t be too uncomfortable ordering for me?”

“You do know how to set a man’s nerves on edge. Having only just met, I have no idea what foods you like and dislike. At least tell me, do you have any food allergies?”

“Good question. No, I don’t, and I’m not a picky eater.” She smiled and noticed his shoulders relax.

When the waiter came to take their order, Griffin ordered duck with pears for him and beef fillet filled with kale, almonds, feta, and parmesan for her, both with a side of baked butternut squash with pomegranate seeds.

The food arrived a short while later and they began to eat. After a few bites, Griffin watched Reina.

“Do I have food on my face or something?”

He smiled. “No. I was just wondering if I had chosen well for you?”

“Very well.” She raised a forkful of beef fillet and slipped it into her mouth.

After dinner, they exited the restaurant together, and the valets brought their cars. Griffin escorted Reina to hers.

“Do you like the theater?”

“Movies or live productions?”

Griffin grinned. “Either.”

“Yes to both.”

“Would you like to accompany me to see “Hamilton” at the Dunkirk Theater next Saturday afternoon with dinner after?”

“I’d love to.” She slid into the driver’s seat of her car.

“One more thing, Reina. Do you think next Saturday we could go together in the same car?” His eyes sparkled.

“I wouldn’t want to impose on you and make you travel so far out of your way to pick me up.” She let out a little giggle.

Griffin grinned and watched her leave before climbing into his own car.

Flash Fiction Friday: Love and English Class

Wuthering Heights by [Emily Bronte]

Jenna Rogers walked down the high school hallway, head lowered, long, wavy locks of jet black hair falling forward, hiding most of her face. She stepped into the English classroom and paused. A guy she hadn’t seen around school before was in her seat.

She stood to the right of the doorway waiting to see if he’d move. Miss Conrad, the English teacher, entered the room and caught Jenna’s gaze.

“Is something wrong Jenna?”

“Someone’s in my seat.” Jenna’s gaze returned to the boy in her seat.

Miss Conrad walked to her desk and picked up a piece of paper. She read it, then turned and approached the young man.

“You must be the new student, Ted Masterson.”

The young man looked up at Miss Conrad. “Yes, I am.”

“Welcome to my English class. The seat you are in has already been assigned. You will have to move to that desk.” Miss Conrad pointed to the desk diagonally to the right and back a row.

Ted picked up his backpack and moved to the desk Miss Conrad had indicated.

As Jenna moved to her seat, her eyes met Ted’s for just a moment before she lowered them and took her seat.

A week later, Ted followed Jenna out into the hall after class.

“Hey Jenna, would you be willing to help me with this English assignment? English isn’t exactly my strongest subject, and I really don’t understand ‘Wuthering Heights’. You seem to get it. I mean, you answer a lot of the questions in class.”

Jenna looked into Ted’s chocolate brown eyes and her pulse pounded in her ears.

“Uh, yeah, I guess so. If we have a study hall together, we could meet in the school library.”

“I thought we could go to the Eighty’s Café after school, grab a bite, and study there.”

Jenna wrinkled her brow. “I don’t think a café that plays lots of music is very conducive to concentration.”

“Oh, yeah. You have a point. Do you want to come over to my house after school?”

“Why don’t we meet at Charlie’s instead? It’s quiet. We can get ice cream or pastries and coffee or tea while we study.”

“Can we do it today?”

“How about tomorrow? I need to let my mom know I won’t be home right after school.”

“Okay. I really appreciate this Jenna. As a matter of fact, consider your order at Charlie’s on me.”

He smiled and Jenna’s heart skipped a beat.

The next day Jenna didn’t volunteer to answer any questions in English class, and when Miss Conrad called on her, Jenna needed her to repeat her question.

After class Ted caught her in the hallway. “So are we on for Charlie’s after school today?”

“Yes.”

“Great! I’ll meet you in front of the school after the last bell.”

“Okay.”

Jenna continued to struggle with her concentration through her last two classes. It wasn’t like her to be so distracted. After the final bell rang, and she headed toward the front entrance, butterflies took up residence in her stomach. When Ted grinned at her as she descended the cement stairs, the butterflies fluttered to the point of causing a wave of nausea.

“So Jenna, do you normally walk home from school?”

“Yes.”

“Which direction?”

“The same way we’re going. I pass Charlie’s every day. Sometimes I stop there to study on my way home from school.”

Ted looked at her with wide eyes. “You stop to study alone?”

“Yeah. I like their chai lattes.” She smiled.

They entered Charlie’s and Jenna led the way to her favorite table. They put their backpacks down and walked to the counter to place their orders then settled in their chairs.

As soon as they pulled their books and notebooks from their backpacks Ted said, “So what exactly is ‘Wuthering Heights’ about? It seems like all the characters hate each other. I find it depressing.”

“Yes, it is a rather tumultuous story, especially for the time period it was written in. Did you know that Emily and her sister, Anne, paid 50 pounds to publish ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Agnes Gray’ together in a single volume because they couldn’t find a publisher who would publish it? Also, they used male pen names because back then women were not accepted as authors.”

“Really?”

“Yes. And, though ‘Wuthering Heights has been hailed as one of the greatest love stories of all time, it’s really more of a Gothic novel. After all, only the first half is about Heathcliff and Catherine. The second half is about things that happen after Cathy’s death. The story is full of physical and emotional abuse. Heathcliff was quite abusive, and he was completely obsessed with Cathy.”

“You’re really into this stuff, aren’t you?”

“English and literature are my favorite subjects. I read a lot of books.”

“Have you written any stories?”

Jenna met Ted’s gaze. “Uh, yeah. I’ve written a couple short stories.”

“I’d like to read them sometime.”

“I thought you don’t like to read.”

“I never said that. I just don’t like to read stuff that I don’t understand.”

Jenna grinned.

“You know, you have a pretty smile.” Ted reached over and pushed the strands along either side of Jenna’s face back. “And you should keep your hair behind your ears or tie it back so people can see your eyes. They’re beautiful—the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Sometimes the way the light hits them, they almost look purple.”

Jenna’s face grew warm and she knew she was blushing. She leaned away from Ted’s touch. “Well, we should get back to ‘Wuthering Heights’.”

Three days later, Jenna found a small teddy bear in her locker with a note that read: When I was younger, my mom called me “Teddy” and gave me a special teddy bear. I hope this bear will make you think of me every time you look at it, and I hope we can be more than friends someday.”

Flash Fiction Friday: The Woman in the Strappy, Green Heels

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Miles Bradford, oldest son of the Duke of Chellingham, straightened his tie and put on his suit coat. Satisfied with his appearance, he stepped into the hallway and moved to the top of the stairs. He paused and pulled the slip of paper from his pocket once more. He read the intriguing message again, Avoid the woman in the strappy, green heels at all costs. There was no signature on the note and he didn’t recognize the handwriting.

His curiosity piqued, he determined to find the woman with the strappy, green heels. At the bottom of the stairs, he strode down the polished floor to the large double doors that now stood open. He stepped through the doorway into a large room filled with aristocrats dressed in their finest for tonight’s festivities – a coming out party for his sister and his cousin. There were to be some other very eligible young ladies present as well, and he would be looking for one he found pleasant company.

His mother had just quieted the room and all eyes were on her as she announced, “Welcome to our home for tonight’s ball. Please do enjoy yourselves. Let the first dance begin.”

The music began and gentlemen chose partners and moved to the center of the floor. Not knowing exactly what strappy, green heels were, Miles anticipated a challenge. However, with most of the ladies wearing long gowns, it could prove to be a bit complicated. He noted he’d caught the attention of several young ladies, and he moved to seek one as a dance partner.

As he danced with one woman after another, he looked down at their feet each time they took a step, in hopes of glimpsing their footwear.

“Is something wrong Miles?” Madeline Webster, daughter of a count, asked.

“No. Why do you ask?”

“You have yet to look upon my face. I had heard you were an accomplished dancer, yet you keep watching your feet.”

“I beg your forgiveness, Madeline. I’m just a bit distracted this evening.”

“Are you looking for someone in particular?”

“No. No. I am sorry. You shall have my full attention for the duration of this dance. By the way, did I tell you that you look lovely this evening?”

Madeline smiled. “I really didn’t think I was your type Miles.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Well, do you tell every lady you dance with that she looks lovely? My mother always says that’s a flirtatious line and I should expect to be called upon by a man who utters such a line.”

Heat crept into Miles’s face. “Well, I … I certainly didn’t mean to sound flirtatious. Again I must beg your forgiveness.” This dance seemed much longer than the previous ones.

Madeline chuckled. “I do believe I’ve unnerved you. Does that mean that I was right? I am not your type and you will not come to call?”

The music ended.

“I beg your pardon Madeline, but I’m afraid this conversation has me a bit befuddled. I was simply trying to make polite conversation. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

“Of course Miles. Think nothing of it. I won’t be offended when you don’t come to call. I simply enjoyed making you squirm a little.”

Miles strode toward the exterior doors to the ballroom, needing some fresh air. He stepped onto the veranda and inhaled deeply. He moved to the short wall of the porch and looked out on the garden.

He heard the sound of someone clearing their throat to his right. He turned his head and found a delicate-looking woman perched upon the veranda wall.

He looked toward her feet, and because of her position on the wall, he noticed a green shoe upon her delicate foot, held on by tiny straps, and the portion of the shoe beneath the heel of her foot was quite a bit longer than the rest of the sole of the shoe. Those must be strappy, green heels.

When Miles looked at the woman’s face, she was smiling at him.

“Clarice?”

“Hello Miles. Avoid the woman in the strappy, green heels at all costs.”

“But how did you…? Why did…?”

Clarice laughed out loud. “Why Miles, I’ve never seen you at a loss for words before.”

“My sister has something to do with this, doesn’t she?”

“When we talked about what we would wear tonight, it was her idea to write those words. I wrote the note, and Victoria made sure you’d find it.”

“But, why?”

Clarice quirked an eyebrow at him. She rose and moved closer to him. “Isn’t obvious? I’ve been trying to get your attention for years, but all you ever saw me as was your little sister’s best friend. You never took me seriously, and Victoria and I both knew if you were told to avoid someone, that would be whom you would seek.”

“What exactly are you saying?” Miles tugged at the tie around his neck.

“I’m saying that I want you to come to call on me. You could do much worse than the daughter of an earl. Have you ever taken notice of me?” She was standing right in front of him now.

Miles looked at her, and for the first time saw a grown woman instead of his little sister’s playmate. Clarice had emerald green eyes, greener than her shoes. The green of her gown made her eyes sparkle, and a green silk ribbon was woven in her long, wavy blonde hair, holding it up off her shoulders. He’d never noticed how beautiful she was until this moment.

“Miles?”

“No, I mean yes. Okay, no, I never noticed you as anything but my little sister’s playmate until this minute.”

“And now?”

“Your beauty is exquisite. I shall come to call. As you say, I could do much worse than the daughter of an earl.” He grinned and Clarice grinned back.

Flash Fiction Friday: A Life Fulfilled

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

A Life Fulfilled

by Kelly F. Barr

Sunlight prodded her eyelids, pleading with Clara to wake up. She groaned and pulled the blanket over her head. She moved her right hand to the other side of the bed. It was cold … empty, and suddenly the bed didn’t seem so comfortable. She pushed the blanket to her waist and sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bed, and slipped her feet into her pink fuzzy slippers. She grabbed the pink terrycloth robe from the foot of the bed, stood, and put it on.

Clara shuffled to the kitchen. She stopped in the doorway remembering breakfasts of pancakes and sausage or french toast and scrambled eggs. There wasn’t any point in making so much for herself. She tottered into the room and turned the burner on beneath the teapot, put two slices of bread into the toaster, then pulled the jar of peanut butter from the cupboard and withdrew a knife from the drawer. Clara put a scoop of her favorite loose-leaf tea into her tea strainer in her pretty teacup with sprigs of lavender painted upon it. When the toast popped, she placed it on a plate and covered each slice with the nutty spread. The teapot whistled and she poured hot water into her cup covering the strainer. She carried the plate of toast to the little table by the window.

As Clara stepped across the kitchen to the counter to retrieve her tea, the telephone rang.

“Hello.”

“Mom, how are you doing?”

The sound of her son’s voice brought a smile to her lips. They spoke a few minutes—she assuring him she was fine, and he tossing more questions at her until he was convinced. He promised that as soon as the boys’ baseball season ended, they would drive down for a visit, then they ended the call.

She turned on the old radio on the counter on the opposite side of the room, wobbled over and dumped some of the tea in the sink so she could add hot water from the pot and a teaspoon of sugar. She ate her toast while Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin took her back to a happier time.

After cleaning up the few kitchen items, she picked up the phone and made a call. The lawyer on the other end had handled things so well for her in the past. She sought his assurance that all was in order, and he assured her it was. She thanked him and hung up the phone.

She returned to her bedroom and put on her gardening clothes: a pair of green clam diggers a little worn in the knees and a faded pink blouse. She slipped on a pair of socks and her old brown penny loafers, grabbed her wide-brimmed straw hat and plopped it on her head. She stopped in the mudroom and grabbed a pair of garden gloves and the little plastic bucket with her spade and hand rake and stepped out the front door. She eased herself down the two steps, then onto her knees on the lawn in front of the flower bed and set herself to weeding.

The sun beat down on her. She wiped the back of a wrist across her sweaty brow and licked her parched lips. She finished the weeding and stood up slowly. She paused a moment, then carried the little bucket of tools back into the house, placed it on the shelf in the mudroom and shuffled to her bedroom.

After returning the hat and shoes to the closet, she pulled out clean clothes and plodded to the bathroom. She turned on the shower and stood under the refreshing flow, then lathered up a washcloth and scrubbed herself clean. She stepped out of the shower, toweled herself off and dressed, then moved to the living room.

Clara sat in her favorite chair and pulled out the crochet project she’d been working on. She continued crocheting until the blanket was finished. She rose from her chair and wobbled to her bedroom, placed the blanket in a box and wrapped it. Then she wrote “Kendra” on a little tag and taped it to the top.

As she placed the box in her closet, her telephone rang. This time it was her daughter. They spoke for a few minutes, then her daughter let the three girls take turns talking to their grandmother. The girls told her about all the activities they were involved in. Clara grew weary just listening to it all. They were too busy to come for a visit.

Clara returned to the kitchen for another cup of tea. This time she took it to the living room, set it on the coffee table, and dropped onto the sofa. She withdrew a photo album from beneath the table next to her and paged through it. She was blessed with so many happy memories, but when she came upon a photo of Harold, she ran her fingers over it and a tear slipped from her eye. She closed the book, rose, and moved to look out the front window.

Jasmine’s car wasn’t in the driveway across the street. Clara frowned. That poor girl worked so hard for her babies.

Clara tottered to the kitchen. She busied herself making chicken noodle soup. As the soup simmered, she baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. When the food was ready, she peeked out the front window once again. Still no sign of Jasmine. She returned to the kitchen to take care of the clean up.

When the kitchen was restored to order, Jasmine’s car was finally home. Clara took the pot of soup and the plate of cookies and placed them in a box. She lifted the box carefully and padded over to Jasmine’s house. Jasmine opened the door looking quite tired. She smiled and showered Clara with thanks for her generosity and kindness.

The sun was setting in the sky but Clara had one more place to go. She walked the block and a half to the cemetery. She moved between the headstones until she came to the one most familiar to her. She stopped and looked at the stone. “Well Harold, I think I’ll be seeing you soon. I miss you so much since you’ve gone. The children are fine, busy with their own families, jobs, and activities. I am a little concerned about Jasmine, but I trust the good Lord to help her.” She kissed the tips of two of her fingers and touched the top of the stone, then turned and strolled back home.

She sat in her favorite chair, placed her glasses on her face and her Bible in her lap. She read her favorite scriptures until her eyes grew tired. She placed her glasses upon the little table next to her and rested her head back against the chair. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply … then she died.

Flash Fiction Friday: Broken Love

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Photo by Esther Tuttle on Unsplash

Broken Love
by Kelly F. Barr

 

Allison placed her empty coffee cup in the sink, the bitter coffee taste still on her tongue, and returned to pace across the gray carpet in her living room, waiting for Skylar to arrive. She chewed her lower lip. How could she have been so blind? Thank God she had discovered the truth before the wedding.

The doorbell rang as she paced away from it. She turned on her heel, stomped to the oak door, and paused with a hand on the brass doorknob. She took a deep breath and released it in slow puffs. Then she opened the door and Skylar smiled, his brown eyes sparkling, before leaning in to kiss her lips.

Allison turned her head and his kiss landed on her cheek. He pulled back and searched her eyes. “Is something wrong?”

“We need to talk.”

“Can’t we do that at the restaurant? I don’t want to be late for our reservation.”

“Maybe you should cancel the reservation. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have this conversation in a public setting. You should probably come inside.”

“Allison, what’s going on?” Sklyar followed when she turned and moved back into her apartment.

She turned to face him. “I know.”

“Know what?”

“I know that you’ve been seeing someone else behind my back.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb with me Skylar. Late last night I received a text message from someone named Vivian. The text came from your phone. She told me she was with you… in your bed … that you had fallen asleep so she had taken the opportunity to inform me she wouldn’t let you go without a fight.”

Skylar pulled his phone from the pocket of his tailor-made black pants.

“I wouldn’t expect to find the text there. She probably deleted it.” Allison picked her own phone up from the living room coffee table, pulled up the text, and handed the phone to Skylar.

Skylar read the text and the color drained from his face. He met Allison’s gaze. “Babe, listen, I can explain.”

Allison held up a hand to stop him. “Don’t bother. How could you? What did you do, drop me off at my door last night, leave me with a kiss goodnight, then go pick up … Vivian?” Allison spat the last word as though it tasted vile on her tongue.

“Allison … I’m sorry. She doesn’t mean anything to me. You’re the one I love … the one I want to marry and spend the rest of my life with.”

She shook her head, her thick chocolate tresses waving side to side. “How can you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Treat someone like unwanted baggage? How can you take her to your bed, then throw her away and say she means nothing?” She lowered herself onto the edge of the overstuffed burgundy sofa. “And if she doesn’t mean anything to you, what was she doing in your bed in the first place? How long have you been sleeping with her?”

Sklyar’s eyes flashed with anger. “What did you expect me to do? I am in love with you and we have been engaged for eight months, yet you refuse to come to my bed. You insist on waiting for the wedding night!”

Allison rose from the couch and pulled the ring from her finger. She held it out to him. “I think it best that you take this and leave.” She brushed past him and moved to the door.

“Wait, what are you doing?” Skylar turned and watched her retreat.

“I think it’s obvious. I can’t marry someone I cannot trust. Someone who cannot be faithful.” She opened her apartment door.

Skylar stood rooted to the spot. “Allison, we’ve been together for nearly two years. Surely we can work this out.” He walked over and stood in front of her. He cupped the right side of her face in his hand, his touch warm and soft. “Things between us have been good.”

Trying not to cave in to her attraction to him and the musky scent of his cologne, Allison reached her left hand up, took hold of his right and removed it from her face. “Apparently not good enough. I have no doubt you’ll get over me. I’m sure Vivian will be eager to offer you comfort.” She swung her arm in an arc toward the open doorway, suggesting he exit her apartment.

Skylar gave her one last pleading look, tears pooling in his eyes. When she didn’t move, didn’t speak, he stepped through the door and Allison quickly closed it behind him.

The moment the door closed, Allison’s resolve broke and she slid to the floor and sobbed.