Flash Fiction Friday: A Heart’s Longing Fulfilled

brooke-winters-4-Frj4OcWZ8-unsplashPhoto by Brooke Winters on Unsplash

I stood by my car in my parents’ driveway. I’d just returned from my final year at college. That’s when I saw her. A gorgeous blonde walking toward me on the sidewalk. She turned to follow the path to the house next door. I watched as she opened the door and walked in without pausing or ringing the doorbell.

Mom hadn’t said anything about the Stewarts moving. I searched my memory. The Stewarts had had a daughter … Audrey, Abigail, … Allison, that’s what it was, Allison. But she was a gangly, freckle-faced girl with braces last I’d seen her. That blonde couldn’t be Allison.

I grabbed my suitcase and backpack and strode into the house. “Hey everyone, I’m home!”

Mom came from the kitchen, Dad from the living room, and my younger brother, Tim, bounded down the stairs. I got hugs from everyone and after taking my bags to my room upstairs, Tim helped me bring the rest of the stuff from the car.

“So, little brother, I come home and you’ll soon be leaving for college. You got some big dreams?”

Tim smiled. “Doesn’t everyone have big dreams? I’m headed to the same college you just came from, but I’ll be studying computer technology. I plan to create the best social media ever.”

“Social media? Don’t we have enough of that?” I poked him in the side with my elbow.

“Not like what I’ll create. You just wait and see.”

“Will your social media be able to hook me up with the gorgeous blonde I saw walk into the house next door?”

Tim’s gaze dropped to his feet. “You won’t need any help.”

“Whoa, did I say something wrong? Who is that girl?”

“That’s Allison Stewart, don’t you remember her? And, no you didn’t say anything wrong.” Every word came out monotone.

“That’s really Allison? How did that transformation happen? Whoa, is she your girl?”

“Huh, I wish! She doesn’t have the time of day for me, and yeah, she grew up and the freckles disappeared. The braces came off to reveal a dazzling smile, and she filled out well, didn’t she?”

I grinned and tousled his hair. “Okay, Tim, I’ll stay out of your way. I can see you’re interested in her.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“Does she have a boyfriend?”

“Not right now. She doesn’t keep a boyfriend long.” Tim looked at me but didn’t say more.

I got settled in my room and enjoyed Mom’s cooking and dinner with the family. It felt good to be home again but I didn’t plan to stay long. With the job I had lined up, I should be able to move out of here for good after the holidays. Maybe not out of the area, just out of my parents’ house.

The following Friday I rang the Stewart’s doorbell. Mrs. Stewart answered.

“Is Allison here?”

“No, she isn’t. She should be back in about an hour. Is there something I can do for you?”

“No. I’m Chad Waters from next door, just returned from college. I saw Allison the day I arrived, and thought I’d stop by and say hi.”

Mrs. Stewart looked me up and down, then closed the door. Had I offended her somehow?

As the time drew nearer for Allison’s return, I went over and sat down in their driveway in front of her dad’s Range Rover. I bet no guy had ever waited for her like this before.

I didn’t have to wait long. I saw Allison coming down the sidewalk, wearing a pair of jeans and an orange t-shirt, her hair, pulled into a ponytail. I could tell the moment she spotted me. Her pace slowed and before getting too close, she called out, “Who are you and what are you doing sitting in our driveway?”

I stood up and smiled at her. “Allison, it’s me, Chad, from next door. I thought I’d see how you’re doing and maybe take you out for a soda or pizza or something.”

She came and stood about three feet away from me. “Chad, is it really you?”

I nodded. She stepped closer then reached out and touched my arm, sending an electrical current up to my shoulder. Then she stepped even closer and put her hand on the side of my face and my heart skipped a beat.

“You’re more handsome than I remember. This must be a dream.”

“I know what you mean. You’re so beautiful … not at all like I remembered you.”

She laughed out loud—a sound like tinkling bells.

Her eyes glistened with unshed tears, and she whispered, “I’ve always dreamed of being your girl.”

Then I kissed her.

 

Flash Fiction Friday: The Soulmate Statue

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Photo by Discovering Film on Unsplash

Hunter and Emma strolled hand-in-hand through the city of Raeledo. Hunter planned to kill a Catoblepas over the weekend to prove he was capable of protecting and providing for a wife. Hunter pulled Emma closer and wrapped his arm around her lower back. Emma smiled up at him. He lowered his head and kissed her lips, soft and slow. Then his lips traveled down her jawline and neck. When his lips brushed the hollow of her collarbone, she pushed away.

“Hunter, we’re in the middle of the street.”

“So what? You know you like when I kiss that spot.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

She giggled, took his hand in hers once again, and leaned against him. “Come on. I want to see the statue in the middle of the square.”

“You really believe the legend surrounding that old statue?”

She took a deep breath and released it slowly. “I don’t know, but it’s a wonderfully romantic idea.”

“Don’t you think if the legend was real, something would’ve happened by now?”

Emma shrugged and they kept walking.

They entered the square at twilight, the sky alight with brilliant pinks, purples, and a bit of red. Emma’s eyes fell on the statue. “I didn’t know it would be so beautiful. The rose color enfolding it gives her a lifelike blushed skin tone.”

Hunter raised his eyes from Emma to the four hundred year old statue. It was in mint condition. The Harlequin Transdocrocite the artist had sculpted it from was pristine yellow, and the pink light shining on her face certainly made her appear lifelike. His eyes slid over the contour of her jawline to her full lips, then continued down her slender neck and well-rounded body, down her shapely legs to her bare arched feet. The artist had sculpted her dress to look as though it were being blown backward by a strong wind, causing it to cling and reveal the front of her body. The long pin-curls streamed toward the back of her head, and she reached out with her right hand.

“She’s amazing. It’s so sad. She’s been here lonely and waiting all these years. Hunter … Hunter?”

He jerked his head from the statue. He blinked to clear his vision and found it difficult not to return his gaze to the statue. “What is it Em?”

She pulled her phone cam-puter out of her back pocket. “You’ve got to hold her hand and let me take your picture.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Hunter shook his head.

“Why not? Are you afraid you might be her soulmate?”

Hunter emitted a nervous laugh. “Of course not … but what happens to us, if I am?” His eyes locked with Emma’s.

After a minute, Emma slapped him on the arm. “Of all the men that must’ve touched her hand over the past four hundred years, you think you’re the one? Now come                          on, take her hand.”

Hunter looked at the statue again. The pink no longer blushed her cheeks. He slid his sweaty palms down his pants, cleared his throat, and touched his fingertips to the statue’s.

Emma dropped her phone cam-puter and her lower jaw went slack.

Hunter turned to look at the statue. The podium was empty. A shadow fell over him. He looked up just in time to stretch out his arms. Oomph! A woman landed in his arms causing him to bend in half. He managed not to drop her then straighten into an upright position again. He looked into the eyes that had belonged to a statue just moments ago—eyes, confused and startled. Hunter helped her to stand, but she clung to his arm. Her soft touch on his arm caused an electrical current to jolt up his arm and down his back. His heart rate rose. He turned toward the woman and raised his free hand to cup her face.

“The legend is real.” He whispered.

She turned her face into his hand and kissed his palm, then her eyes met his. “I’ve waited such a long time for you.” Her voice fluctuated in pitch and she spoke with a rhythm. It was like a song.

“What’s your name?”

“Donatella. And you are?”

“Hunter … you’re soulmate.” He drew her into a tight embrace, a feeling he’d never known flowing through him; an insatiable craving for this woman and a fierce protectiveness toward her.

The moment was broken by a guttural, ear-splitting sob that came from the depths of the soul. Emma’s soul.

Hunter looked over the shoulder of the woman in his arms. Emma was on her knees, wailing, with tears coursing down her cheeks. He caught her gaze.

He mouthed, “I’m sorry.” Then he lifted Donatella in his arms again and walked away.

Flash Fiction Friday: Esi’s New Home

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Esi walked down an unknown road in the gray shadows of twilight. Were was she? How had she gotten here? As soon as she’d put on this soft, comfortable blue dress and soft leather shoes she’d been cast from her previous home.

She hadn’t wanted to leave, but Esi knew the homeowners were tired of finding broken dishes three times a week. She hadn’t broken the dishes on purpose. They just seemed to slip from her fingers.

Where was she? She’d never seen a road like this before. It was hard and dark in color. A rumbling noise caused a knot to form in her stomach. Then the ground vibrated beneath her feet. What was happening?

The rumbling noise grew louder and came from behind her. She turned and two lights, bright as the sun, struck her eyes. She shielded her eyes with her arm and screamed as the large rumbling thing with two lights, like eyes, nearly ran over her. Just before reaching her, the thing screamed, louder than she, as it whizzed by her, the force of it knocking her into a ditch.

What was that? Esi obviously wasn’t in Schroomville any longer. She stood, brushed herself off, and continued down the road, trying to find a house that might welcome her. She hoped she’d find a house before the darkness fell like a blanket over the land. She didn’t want to encounter any more monsters like the one that had passed her.

The moon peeked over the horizon and revealed a dirt road on Esi’s right. A wooden fence surrounded a meadow on the right side of the dirt road. Surely, this must lead to a nice house. Esi pulled her shoulders back and marched up the path—the kind of road she was used to. The dirt road was longer than Esi anticipated. Weary from walking, her pace slowed. But there, on her left, stood a little brown house, a stream of smoke billowing from the chimney. A small red barn sat next to it.

Esi stepped onto the wooden porch, careful not to make any noise with her new shoes. She tiptoed to a window and peeked inside. Relief flooded her chest as she saw a woman scooping soup into bowls and placing them on the table before eight small children. The woman brushed a strand of hair from her face with the back of one hand.

A large man with brown hair and beard stepped into the room. Esi shrank from the window, but after a minute or two, she, once again, touched her nose to the windowpane. The man had kind eyes, and he scooped soup into a bowl in front of the woman, who now sat with the children.

Then he scooped soup into one last bowl, kissed the woman on the top of the head, and left the room, returning a moment later to take his own place at the table. The family bowed their heads and the big man’s lips moved. When his lips stopped moving, everyone raised their heads and began to eat.

Delight filled Esi’s heart. These people needed her. The woman needed her.

She sat on the porch floor, her back against the house, and waited for the house to grow still. Then she rose and tested the doorknob—unlocked. Esi opened the door, willing it not to squeak. She tiptoed inside and flinched at a growling sound.

Her heart skipped a beat. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness, and she noted the large bed beyond the kitchen. She stifled a giggle. It wasn’t a growl, but a snore she had heard, coming from the large man.

Esi moved through the doorway the man had gone through earlier. Just as she’d expected—the dirty dishes were piled on the counter. Esi found a bucket and stepped out the back door. There she found the pump and pumped water into the bucket.

Back in the house, she heated water on the stove, then washed all the dirty items, dried them, and put them in the cupboards, without breaking a single item. She found a basket of mending next to a rocking chair near the woodstove, along with needles and several colors of threads. She set to work and by sunrise, the mending was complete. Esi folded the items and placed them neatly in the basket, then rose from the rocking chair and hurried out to the barn where she climbed the ladder to the loft and fell asleep in the hay.

The next night she entered the house to look for more chores to do. She found a bowl of cream on the table. Esi smiled and savored the delightful treat. This may not be Schroomville, but she was going to like it here.

Can you guess: what is the monster that almost ran Esi down?
What is Esi?
Leave your guesses in the comments.

Flash Fiction Friday: Rodeo Love

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Photo by Jordan Heinrichs on Unsplash

Rodeo Love
by Kelly F. Barr

Lily Stanton passed through the gate with her friends. A large oval-shaped arena sat before them. On the far left were chutes, cattle, horses, and cowboys.

They passed a large group of cowboys. Her friends flirted. Lily tried to pass unnoticed but a cowboy on her right tipped his hat and smiled at her. She offered a small, tight smile and a slight nod of her head.

The heat of his gaze on her back followed her until she turned the next curve.

Lily and her friends sat on the middle level of the bleachers. She watched the chute area, busy with cowboys preparing for events. There he was—the cowboy who’d tipped his hat to her, straddling the top fence rail, searching the crowd. His eyes met hers. She couldn’t look away. He was strikingly handsome—tanned, weather-worn skin and dark waves of hair peeked from beneath his hat.

During the rodeo Lily was on the edge of her seat every time that cowboy was in the arena. She gasped and put a hand over her mouth each time he fell from an animal, and she whispered a prayer for his safety.

He won first place in bull riding and calf roping and second place in the bucking bronco competition and in steer wrestling.

She and her friends rose from the bleachers and headed toward the exit. As they drew near the cowboys, the same one stopped Lily. “I hope you enjoyed the rodeo, miss.”

“It was very exciting. Congratulations on your winnings. You’re quite talented.” Lily smiled and turned to walk away.

“Would you like to go grab something to eat?”

She turned and met his gaze. “Thank you, but I don’t think so.” She turned and walked away.

Lily waited at the car for her friends. She knew the cowboy would be gone in a couple days, otherwise she’d be tempted to fall in love with him, but she didn’t want to start something he couldn’t finish, leaving her with a broken heart. Those old “love ’em and leave ’em” country songs had some truth to them. He’d probably left a girl with a broken heart in every town. She wasn’t going to be one of them. She wanted a love that would last forever.

When her friends arrived at the car, Lily stood alone in a nearly empty parking lot. Her friends

told her they’d talked with several cowboys and would be meeting them later.

They stopped for a bite to eat at a large restaurant with a western motif. A waitress took their drink orders and returned a few minutes later with their drinks.

A large group of cowboys entered the restaurant, and the waitress became distracted and left without getting their food orders.

The cowboys were led to a long table in the center of the room.

Lily’s heart skipped a beat at the sight of the cowboy she’d spoken to. His eyes met hers and he smiled.

The waitress finally returned for their food orders, and as she left their table, Lily noticed the cowboy rise and stride to the left side of the room where there was a jukebox and a dance floor. He put money in the jukebox and pushed some buttons. A western song began to play, and the cowboy approached her table. He stopped next to her chair and looked down at her. “May I have this dance?”

Her breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t speak, but she took his hand, rose from her seat, and he led her to the dance floor.

After the first song, a slower song began, and the cowboy pulled her into his arms.

“You live around here?” His gritty voice caused goose-flesh to prickle her skin.

“Yes … but you don’t.”

“No, I’m from Wyoming. “What’s your name?”

“Lily Stanton, and you’re Jack Dawson.”

He grinned. “I reckon it was announced often today.”

She smiled. “How long will you be in town?”

“We pull out early Monday morning.”

The music and dance stopped, but Jack didn’t release her. “The rodeo season ends at the end of October. Can I come back and see you then?”

“That’s four and a half months from now.”

He nodded. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. There’s something about you—drawing me to you. I don’t know what it is, but I’d like time to get to know you and find out.”

“I don’t have any plans to leave Ohio, but you’re a rodeo cowboy. You never stay in one place for long … and I … don’t want my heart broken.”

“I don’t plan on breaking your heart. You know, rodeo cowboys wear out and have to quit the circuit eventually.”

She searched his face. “You’re young. You have lots of rodeo years left.”

He looked into her eyes. “There are some things more important than the rodeo.”

“Rodeo is in your blood, isn’t it?”

“Maybe, but you could be in my heart.” He took her hand and placed it on his chest.

Lily felt his heart beat beneath her fingers. Could he be her “forever love”?

“Will you give me your number and address … Lily?” With each word, he lowered his head

closer to hers until their lips were nearly touching.

His breath caressed her lips. Her heart pounded in her chest. She was certain he could hear it.

“Yes.” She whispered.

His lips pressed against hers. His soft kiss grew firmer. He tasted of tobacco and peppermint. Lily’s senses were reeling. She slid her hands down his arms—arms that bulged and curved beneath her fingers. She took a step backward. Jack, still clasping her hand escorted her back to her table.

Lily picked up her purse, pulled out a notepad and pen, and wrote her address and phone number. She folded the paper in half and slipped it into his hand.

“Spend time with me after the rodeo tomorrow and Sunday.”

After a brief pause, Lily said, “I’d love to.”

Flash Fiction Friday: A Reluctant Beginning

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Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

 

A Reluctant Beginning

by Kelly F. Barr

Marion’s shoulders sagged and she sighed as she lowered herself onto the seat in her daughter’s car. She looked at her house and kept her gaze upon it until it slipped out of sight and a tear trickled down her cheek. She would miss that home and all the wonderful memories it held. She would no longer feel close to Harold, the husband she had shared forty years with in that house.

Marion turned her eyes to the road before them. Susan, her daughter, reached over and patted her arm. “You’ll be fine, Mom. You won’t be alone anymore and there are daily activities to keep your mind and body active. You’ll make friends quickly. You’ve always been good at that.”

Marion didn’t respond. She didn’t want to live in an old folks home. She didn’t want to have to make new friends and start a new life. She liked the life she had, and what about her children and grandchildren? Would they make time to visit her or would she be abandoned like so many others whose families placed them in a nursing facility, then went about their busy lives forgetting the aged family member?

Susan pulled to a stop in front of one of the new facilities forty-five minutes later. It was an attractive building on the outside. Susan disappeared through the entrance but returned just minutes later with a pretty raven-haired woman whose emerald eyes  sparkled as she smiled and took Marion’s hand.

“Mrs. Randolph, it’s so nice to meet you and welcome you to your new home. My name is Rhonda, and I’m going to help you get settled in.”

Marion tried to smile, but just couldn’t get her mouth to cooperate. Settled in. She used to have a whole house that was hers. Now, she’d only have a room. She’d had to leave so many things behind. Her lips trembled as tears threatened, but she pulled her shoulders back and drew in a deep breath then released it slowly.

A young man had come out the door behind Rhonda pushing a cart and was now helping Susan with Marion’s bags and the few other things she was able to bring to her “new home”.

The quartet walked through the entryway into a large lobby with lots of plump-cushioned chairs, well-polished, dark wooden tables and large green plants. They entered a short hallway where they entered an elevator large enough for the four of them and the young man’s wheeled cart, as well as Marion’s large suitcase on wheels, which Susan pulled.

They rode the elevator to the third floor, entered a long hallway with doorways on either side. They walked about halfway down the corridor and Rhonda stopped to open a door on their right. There was already a small plaque outside the door that held the name “Marion Randolph”.

Marion stepped into the room and tears began to stream down her cheeks. The room was actually a small apartment. Upon entering, she stood in a sitting room—her favorite Oriental rug on the floor, her favorite rocking chair and wing-back chair on the far two corners, her lampstand between them. Her Longaberger Magazine Basket was next to her rocking chair and her oak table with the little drawer was between her two favorite chairs in front of the lampstand. There was also a sofa along the wall and her coffee table was a couple feet in front of it. Her favorite photo of Harold hung on the wall above the sofa, as did a new photo—one of all her children and grandchildren.

“Mom, what do you think?” Susan put an arm around Marion’s shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze.

Marion sniffled, then offered her first smile that day. “Oh dear, I had no idea. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Then it wouldn’t have been surprise. Let me show you your bedroom with its beautiful view.”

Keeping her arm around Marion’s shoulders, Susan led her to the next room.

There stood her bed covered with her favorite quilt, her nightstand, and her small, tan, plush chair. Her nightstand held a phone and her favorite photo of her and Harold on their wedding day sixty-two years ago. The back wall held a large bay window with a wide windowsill where pots of her favorite plants sat, and before one end of the bay was her small desk and chair. Along the other wall were three bookcases holding her books.

As she stood before the window with Susan, the view that met her eyes was very inviting. Below was a large courtyard with a small vegetable garden, rose bushes, and a beautiful flower garden with a path and several benches. There were several trees offering shade from the sun during the hottest part of the day as well.

“You still haven’t told me what you think.”

Marion looked at Susan, then kissed her cheek. “It’s much better than I expected.”

“Good. I’m glad you like it, and I’m sure you’ll like it even more as you get to know the other residents. Stan and I will bring the kids to visit as much as we can. Now I’ll leave you to settle in and start exploring and meeting people. I love you, Mom.” Susan kissed her cheek and walked out the door.

Marion’s heart sank once again, wondering how long it would be before she saw Susan and her family again. They lived the closest and had always spent so much time with Marion since Harold had passed away three years ago.

“If you’re all right, I’ll let you rest as well. But if you need anything, just pick up the phone by your bed and punch the number five. Someone will answer and be able to help you with anything you need. Oh, and that little door off from your bedroom, is your private bathroom. There is a medicine cabinet in there with your personal care items. I’ll be back to take you down to the dining room on the main floor. You’ll be able to meet lots of other residents during dinner.” Rhonda smiled one last time, then pulled the door shut behind her.

* * * * *

At dinner that evening, Marion was introduced to Trudy Jamison, Carol Wright, Betty Stewart, Artie Martin, and Elmer Baker. They all sat at a large round table together. Elmer greeted Marion with a dimpled smile and sparkling blue eyes. He had a full head of snow white hair and was quite handsome.

“I hear you’ve got one of the apartments on the third floor with a view of the courtyard. You know those are the most sought after and expensive rooms in this place.” Trudy met Marion’s eyes with a challenging gaze.

“I had no idea. My daughter made all the arrangements. She even surprised me by having all of my most treasured possessions already moved in before I arrived.”

Trudy sniffed. “I see. I haven’t seen any of my children in eight months. They usually only visit once a year.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. That is one of my worries about being here—that I’ll be … forgotten.”

“I know it won’t be the same, but you’ll soon have plenty of friends and activities to keep you busy here, as long as you don’t allow yourself to become a recluse in your apartment.” Elmer winked at Marion.

As dinner ended, Elmer rose and moved around the table to help Marion from her chair. As she rose, he offered her his arm. “Would you care to visit the courtyard before it gets dark?”

Marion, surprised at the flutter in her stomach, placed her hand on it. That was something she hadn’t felt in quite some time. She placed her other hand in the crook of Elmer’s elbow and a jolt shot through her fingers as she felt the warmth of his arm through his shirt. “That would be lovely.”

As they stopped to admire one of the rose bushes, Elmer pulled a pocketknife from his pants pocket, opened it, and cut off a rose, then gently placed it in Marion’s hair. “You’re a beautiful woman, Marion.”

Heat crept into Marion’s cheeks and she hoped he didn’t notice her blush. “I haven’t been told that in years, and I haven’t given love or romance a thought in many years. My Harold’s only been gone three years.”

“I think that’s long enough to at least consider the possibility of love and romance.” Elmer grinned.

Marion’s heart skipped a beat as his dimples deepened.

Elmer escorted Marion back to her apartment. “I’m glad you’re here Marion. I hope to get to know you much better, and even if your family doesn’t visit often … I won’t let you be lonely.” He patted her hand.

She smiled and her eyes filled with tears. “Thank you, Elmer. You’re very kind.”

Marion slipped inside her apartment, shut the door, and looked at Harold’s photo on the wall. “What would you think of Elmer? I never gave thought of another love after you, but maybe it is time. I do miss having the love of a good man.”

 

Flash Fiction Friday: A Personal Ad

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Photo by taha ajmi on Unsplash

A Personal Ad

by Kelly F. Barr

My wife and a group of her friends went out for “ladies night” – dinner and a movie. I can’t remember the last time she and I had dinner and a movie together. The kids are grown and on their own. I’m forty-five years old, and my wife and I have slipped away from one another. She has her friends and activities, and I have … not much.

Reading the local paper, I notice a new section of ads – personal ads. Apparently, single, lonely people run ads looking for dates. I suppose I’m not—technically—single, but I am lonely. My wife goes out with her friends more than I do. She goes once a week; me … once a month.

I miss the companionship, the passion, the softness of her skin under my touch, and her sweet kisses. I miss walks, holding hands, and long talks.

A notepad and pen lie within reach. I grab them and write:

If you like holding hands, walks in the rain,
dinner and dancing, cuddling by a fire in a

secluded cabin in the woods, long talks,
and moonlit walks on the beach, you’re the
lady I’m looking for.
Write to me and
take an adventure.

Reading over it, an old song came to mind – “The Piña Colada Song”. I chuckled. I tore the slip from the pad, folded it, and slipped it into my pocket.

In the morning, before leaving for work, I reached into my pocket, searching for my keys. I pulled out a folded up paper, realized what it was, and slipped it back into my pocket. I found my keys and headed out the door. On my way to work, I stopped by the local paper and took out a personal ad.

Three days later, I was reading the paper in bed. I saw this:

I like walks in the rain, swing dancing, and
Chinese food. Snuggling by a fire puts me
“in the mood”. Meet me tomorrow at noon
at Gilda’s Café and we’ll plan our adventure.

My stomach did a flip. Someone had answered my ad. Excitement at the possibility of an adventure with a beautiful young woman quickly waned when my wife rolled over and asked when I was going to turn off the light. Guilt washed over me as I folded the paper and turned off the lamp.

The next day I arrived at Gilda’s Café at 11:45 a.m. I took a seat at a table for two with a clear view of the door. My stomach was in knots as I waited. Then she walked in and I was again reminded of “The Piña Colada Song” – I was living it. I knew her smile in an instant and her confident gait. It was my own beautiful wife, and she said, Oh, it’s you.”

I said, “I never knew you like swing dancing and walks in the rain.”

She smiled and sat down. “I guess we’ve lost touch.”

I reached across the table and took her hand. I gazed into her eyes. “I’ve missed you.”

She leaned toward me. “Me too.”

I leaned in and kissed her sweet lips.

After lunch, we walked out of the café hand-in-hand.

At home she called to reserve a cabin and I began to pack. She came into the bedroom to pack her bags while I took mine to the car. A few minutes later, she locked the house and handed her bags to me. I put them in the car and turned to find her still standing beside me. She moved in front of me and slid her hands up my arms. “I think this is going to be good for us.”

I put my arms around her, pulled her close against me, and gave her a lingering kiss. Then I whispered in her ear, “It’s a new beginning … a fresh start, and it’s going to be a-ma-zing.” I nuzzled her neck, then led her to the passenger door, opened it, and she stepped in.

I ran around to my side of the car, feeling like I did when I took her on our first date twenty-four years ago.

Four hours later, when we reached the cabin, the first thing I did was start a fire in the fireplace.

Flash Fiction Friday: A Second Chance

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Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Trish walked down the hallway, gripping her books to her chest, her lunch bag dangling from the fingertips of one hand, her head down, eyes on the floor. She felt the stares, heard the whispers and giggles, and saw the pointing fingers from the corners of her eyes.

At the end of the hall she bolted through the doors into the courtyard. She strode to a bench half-hidden by a couple large bushes and sat down. She placed her books on the bench beside her and sighed, then removed the baggie holding her peanut butter and jelly sandwich from her brown bag.

A shadow fell across her face and a hand set a can of Coke Zero on the bench next to her. Trish looked up into the face of an average-looking young man with light brow hair streaked with gold where the sun’s rays touched it—Brian Douglas, her church pastor’s son. He smiled at her.

“Coke Zero. Your drink of choice?”

She nodded. How did he know that?

“I noticed your brown bag and thought you might need something to wash your food down.”

“Thank you,” Trish mumbled between bites of her sandwich.

“Mind if I join you?”

Trish frowned. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Brian plopped down on the grass in front of the empty half of the bench. “Don’t worry, they won’t suspect anything with me talking to you. They all know where I stand on that subject.”

“That’s what I used to think.” Trish finished her sandwich and pulled out a baggie of celery and carrot sticks. She took one of each and offered the bag to Brian. It made her uncomfortable to eat in front of someone.

He took the baggie, helped himself to one of each, and passed it back to her. “So the rumors are true?”

She studied his face, his eyes, for any signs of judgment, but all she saw was compassion. She nodded as tears pooled in her eyes.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Trish popped open her Coke and took a long drink. What was up with this guy? He had always tried to talk with her at church, was always polite, but she hadn’t paid much attention to him. “Why do you care?”

There was a long pause as he looked at her. She shifted her position on the bench, his gaze making her uncomfortable.

Brian took a deep breath and released it slowly. “I’ve been interested in you for a long time. That’s why I always make an effort to talk to you at church.”

She quirked an eyebrow at him. “How come you’ve never made an effort here at school?”

“Well, you didn’t seem real interested when I approached you at church, and here, you’re part of a crowd that has no interest in me. I guess I thought I’d have a better chance getting through to you at church.”

Trish wrinkled her brow. Was he still interested in her after hearing the rumors? She’d just admitted the rumors are true. “What do you want from me?”

He leaned forward. “I’d like to be your friend, get to know you better, and see where that leads.”

“Did you miss my nod? The rumors are true. I … gave myself to Randall McQuade in the back seat of his car Friday night.” She choked back a sob.

“Trish, I understand you made a mistake and that Randall McQuade is the biggest jerk in the school to make such a fool of you.”

Tears spilled from Trish’s eyes and slipped down her cheeks. “My parents don’t know, but I’m sure it won’t be long. They’re going to be so disappointed in me. How can you, the pastor’s son, still have an interest in someone like me?”

Brian rose from the ground and sat on the bench next to her. “Trish, we all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a second chance. And you sure seem like you could use a friend right now.”

She sniffed and nodded. “Just so you know, he used protection, so there shouldn’t be any more … complications.” She hung her head.

Brian put an arm around her. “You’re going to be okay. And you should tell your parents. It’ll be better coming from you than if someone else tells them and adds to the story.”

“I know you’re right, but I’m scared.”

“Call me afterward.”

He stood to go.

“Brian, why are you so interested in me?”

“Because I think you’re smart and pretty, and you seem like someone I would enjoy spending time with.”

“I’m going to need some time. And when we start spending time together … we’re going to have to take it slow.”

“Not a problem.” He smiled. “I’m a patient man.”