Flash Fiction Friday: “Trusting Hunter”


Photo by Patrik Chiminec on Unsplash

Trusting Hunter
by Kelly F. Barr


Maddie walked along the riverfront, alone again, story of her life. She couldn’t figure out if there was something wrong with all the men in the world or if it was her. She veered off and entered the park, but it wasn’t long until she was wishing she hadn’t as she saw couples holding hands, talking, and laughing. They all looked so happy and comfortable.

It must be her—with all her fears and insecurities—who could ever earn her trust? Maddie cursed all those who had hurt her in the past. It had begun with her parents, then boys in high school, and finally grown men. Maybe she was better off alone. But how could she convince her heart?

She sat on a park bench and sighed. Maddie didn’t believe in “happily ever after”. She’d seen too much real life for that. Relationships took work—real work, and if both people didn’t put in their share of the work, the relationship would fall apart. She just wanted to find someone willing to work with her, to treat her like she was the most important person in their life. Was that too much to ask?

“Do you mind if I sit here?”

A gravelly male voice startled her. Maddie turned to find a man in faded blue jeans and a black t-shirt with disheveled dark brown hair standing at the other end of the bench. She shook her head and the gentleman sat down.

“Are you okay?” He reached into his right jeans pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief. “You can use this. I promise it’s clean.”

Maddie wrinkled her brow, then lifted her left hand and placed her fingers on her cheek. It was wet. She hadn’t even realized she was crying. She swiped the tears away. “No, thank you.” A white handkerchief. He really has a clean, white handkerchief. She didn’t think any men carried hankies anymore.

“Let me guess … relationship problems or one recently ended.”

Maddie raised an eyebrow and frowned.

“I’m sorry. It’s just so common anymore. The dating pool lacks good character. People are too self-absorbed in today’s world. It’s tough to find someone who cares about the wants and needs of another.”

Where had this man come from? Maddie remained silent.

He smiled at her. “I’m Hunter Winters. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee? There’s a nice café just a block from here. If you need someone to talk to, I’m a good listener.”

Maddie was taken aback. Should she even consider a man with the name “Hunter”? Why would he want to listen to the sob story of a total stranger? Yet, something about his offer was very appealing, and he didn’t seem threatening at all. She continued to consider him.

He stood up and reached out his hand. “Come on, what d’ya say? Maybe you’ll feel better after a good latte and a listening, nonjudgmental ear from someone who’s been where you are.”

Maddie smiled, took his hand, and stood. If Hunter was feeding her a line, it was definitely the most unique one she’d ever heard. “That’s the best offer I’ve had in a long time.”

Hunter smiled and, still holding her hand, led the way out of the park.

Flash Fiction Friday: Making a Better Match

gray computer monitor

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Making a Better Match

by Kelly F. Barr

Sandy, the barista at the Coffee Bean Café, watched as the mismatched couple came in for their weekly coffee date. The girl, Tara, was always dressed in the latest fashions, her perfectly coiffed golden hair never had a single strand out of place, and her manicured nails always appeared freshly painted. She took a seat at a table for two by the window, while the guy, Blaze, came to the counter to order their drinks.

Blaze, the complete opposite of Tara, always wore jeans—well worn and with holes in the thigh areas. His black t-shirts often boasted “Harley Davidson” or some rock band. His hair was brown, thick, and hung to his shoulders, and often showed signs of his fingers having run through it. His chocolate brown eyes and slightly crooked smile made Sandy’s heart flip.

“Good afternoon, Blaze. What can I get for you today?” Sandy greeted him.

“Uh, a butterscotch cappuccino made with almond milk and a Hazelnut coffee, black.”

“Coming right up.” As Sandy made the drinks, she couldn’t help but wonder how these two got together.

She returned to the counter and handed the drinks to Blaze. “Have a nice day.” She smiled, and he flashed one of his crooked smiles at her, causing her heart to skip a beat. She glanced at the table, where Tara awaited Blaze’s return.

Tara was fully engrossed in her smart phone, her fingers flying on its keyboard. When Blaze reached the table and set her cappuccino before her, she didn’t even acknowledge him. Sandy sighed. If Blaze was her boyfriend, she’d never ignore him.

A couple weeks later, Sandy couldn’t wait for Blaze and Tara’s arrival. There was going to be a biker show in town on Saturday, featuring lots of motorcycles. She was sure Blaze would know about it, and she was determined to mention it in conversation.

Each time the café door opened, Sandy’s gaze moved in that direction. Finally, Blaze and Tara entered. Tara, as usual, plopped into a chair by the window, and Blaze approached the counter.

“Hey Blaze, did you hear about the biker show that’s going to be in town this Saturday?”

His eyes lit up and he looked at her as if seeing her for the first time. “Yeah, it’s gonna be great! You into bikes?”

“I like to go for rides, but I don’t have one of my own … not sure I want my own.”

Blaze glanced over his shoulder toward the table where Tara sat. “Do you have to work Saturday?”

“No, I don’t usually work Saturdays because I’m here all day Monday through Friday.”

“Would you be interested in going to the show with me? And, maybe we can go for a ride after?”

Sandy glanced over at Tara, who remained oblivious to what was going on at the counter, still engaged in her phone. She looked back to Blaze. “Are you sure? I mean, what about Tara?”

Blaze leaned toward her and spoke in a low tone. “She’s not really into bikes … or anything else that I like for that matter.”

Sandy raised her eyebrows.

“I guess you’re wondering what I’m doing with her?”

“The thought had crossed my mind.”

She’s great looking and some of my friends dared me to ask her out, figuring I didn’t stand a chance. Apparently she likes what she calls “bad boys” and her parents don’t approve, which seems to make me more appealing to her.”

Sandy frowned. “That’s sad, but she doesn’t seem all that interested in you.”

“Yeah, well, I get that, and I’ve been thinking it’s time I moved on.”

Sandy smiled at him, then turned and prepared his drink order. She returned to the counter a few minutes later and handed him the drinks.

“I’ll see ya Saturday? Should I just meet you out front here?”

As he took the cups from her, his fingers brushed hers, and a jolt shot up her arm. “That would be great! I look forward to it.”

Sandy had such a good time Saturday. Blaze told her everything he knew about every motorcycle they admired at the bike show. After about an hour of walking around, he reached for her hand and held it in his until they finished exploring the exhibits. He bought her a burger, fries, and a Coke at the food stand and they found a picnic table in the park, where they sat to eat.

What do you like besides motorcycles?” Blaze asked between bites of his burger.

“I like some of the bands whose logos I’ve seen you wear on t-shirts.”

Blaze grinned. “Maybe we’ll have to attend a concert together. Your name, Sandy, reminds me of the beach. Do you like going to the beach?”


As they finished their meal, Blaze looked into Sandy’s eyes. “Are you ready to go for a ride?”

She grinned up at him. “Absolutely.”

Flash Fiction Friday: Until Death Do We Part


Photo by Mustapha Muhammed on Unsplash

Until Death Do We Part

by Kelly F. Barr

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jillian’s response: “Hello.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jillian!” Lucas rushed toward her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I understand.”

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

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

Jillian tried to rise. “You saw?”

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

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

Flash Fiction Friday: The Beautiful Bookworm


Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

The Beautiful Bookworm
by Kelly F. Barr

Jordan scanned the room. What a party—lots of food, drink, loud music, dancing, conversation, and pairing off—couples in corners, on sofas, and sneaking off to other rooms. What was he doing here? Sure, Brian was his friend, but Brian knew he wasn’t into this.

Then he saw the beer cans. No way am I hanging around. What if there’s a raid? I’m not getting busted for underage drinking.

Brian was dancing with a blonde in tight jeans and a low-cut red blouse. Jordan was about to interrupt, tell Brian he was leaving, when several dancing bodies parted, giving him a clear view of a girl with long waves of brown hair hanging around her face like a curtain. She was sitting on a large, square ottoman, elbows propped on knees, reading a book. How could she read with all this noise?

Why was she here? Curiosity adjusted his path, past Brian and the blonde, until he stood directly in front of the girl on the ottoman. She didn’t raise her head from the book, so he squatted down to her level. Still no response from the bookworm. He placed an index finger in the open spine of the book, applied a little pressure, and the book lowered, revealing the largest, greenest eyes he’d ever seen. It was like staring into two perfect emeralds, and his heart skipped a beat.

“Hi, I’m Jordan. I was just wondering how you could read with all this noise.”

“It’s a great book. Have you read it?” She lifted it so he could see the cover, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

“Uh, no, I haven’t. Listen, would you like to step outside—get some fresh air, talk where we don’t have to shout at one another?”

She shrugged, placed a bookmark between the pages, and stood up.

Jordan rose, turned, and led the way out the front door. The porch was empty. Jordan led the way to the swing.

When they were seated, Jordan, once again, peered into this girl’s emerald eyes. They enchanted him. “So, I take it, this isn’t your idea of a fun evening?” He smiled.

“Absolutely not.” She shook her head for emphasis. “Sabrina talked me into coming. She says I don’t get out enough.”

“Who’s Sabrina?”

“My older sister. She was thrilled that Brian invited her to this party. She thinks he’s hot. Mom and Dad will kill us if they find out we were here, not to mention what they’d think of Brian. I’m afraid Sabrina’s going to get in big trouble, but she won’t listen to me. She says I need to get my face out of a book and learn to live a little.”

“So, how old are you?”

“Sixteen. I’ll be seventeen in two weeks.” She fingered the book’s cover.

Jordan perched on the edge of the swing, ready to rise. “I’m sorry. I’m keeping you from your book.”

“Wait, please don’t go. I … I think you’re cute.”

She lowered her head, allowing her hair to hide her face, but not before Jordan had seen the blush creep into her cheeks. Was he the first guy she’d talked to?

He placed a finger under her chin and lifted so he could look at her face. For the first time, he forced himself to look at more than her eyes. Her creamy complexion was flawless and her pink lips formed a bow. He’d never beheld such beauty before.

He allowed his eyes to do a quick scan of the rest of her. She was wearing a white mid-calf length skirt and a mint green summer sweater.

“What’s your name?”


“How come I haven’t seen you around before?”

“My mom homeschools me. She tried homeschooling Sabrina, but Sabrina fought with her about it. Sabrina wants to be popular, and she’s boy crazy. My parents keep trying to encourage her to get to know the young people at our church, but Sabrina doesn’t want anything to do with church. I’m praying for her, and I talk to her. She listens to what I have to say, even if she doesn’t agree. I hope she at least thinks about it.”

Jordan raked a hand through his hair. “Do you have a boyfriend at your church?”

The corners of her mouth tipped a bit. “Not exactly, but there is someone interested in me.”

“Are you interested in him?” Jordan held his breath.

Abigail shrugged. “Maybe.”

“But you think I’m cute?” He quirked an eyebrow at her.

This time she didn’t lower her head, though the blush colored her cheeks again, and Jordan leaned toward her.

Abigail jumped up and Jordan nearly fell as the swing rocked.

“I’m sorry. I better find Sabrina and get home. It was nice meeting you, Jordan.” She turned to flee into the house.

Jordan moved to follow her. “Wait … Abby!”

She stopped at the front door, turned to look at him. “No one calls me that.”

“I’m sorry. Did I offend you?”

“Say it again.”


“Say it again … what you just called me.”

“Abby.” He noticed her slight shiver. He stepped closer. “Abby … Abby … Abby.”

Standing before her, he lifted a hand, cupped the side of her face.

Then she was gone, through the door, into the crowd.

Jordan leaned against the door jamb and sighed, his heart pounding like tribal drums in his chest.

Flash Fiction Friday: At Home in Your Arms


Photo by Ryan Young on Unsplash

At Home in Your Arms
by Kelly F. Barr

There was something about him. Something about the way he watched me.

I’d felt his eyes on me for several minutes and guarded my gaze by peeking through my lashes. He was breathtakingly handsome with cerulean eyes and a cleft chin, thick wavy blond hair that caused my fingertips to tingle with the desire to run through those waves. Muscles rippled down his golden tan arms and across his chest in his snug orange t-shirt. My heart pounded in my chest, but I couldn’t tell if he was interested in me, or if I should be concerned that he was some kind of creepy stalker guy.

I raised my head from the magazine I’d been reading and let my eyes meet his. He smiled at me, revealing bright white perfect teeth and deep dimples in his cheeks.

I smiled back. He rose to his feet and began closing the short distance between our tables. My heart pounded in my ears and drowned out the noise of the cappuccino machine behind the counter.

“May I buy you a coffee?” He towered above me.

I picked up my empty cup, gave it a little shake, and set it back down. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Well, in that case, may I join you?”


He pulled out the chair next to mine, closing the gap between us farther, sat down, and pulled himself up to the table. “Do you come here often?”

“Everyday. Can’t live without my coffee. How ‘bout you?”

“I just moved to town, so this is my first visit. I’m Randy McDaniels.”

“I’m Holly Applegate. I was born and raised here.” I retained eye contact with Randy. His eyes pulled me in like a couple magnets. “What brought you to town?”

“I got tired of the big city and the fast-paced lifestyle. I was raised on a farm and spent summers swimming in the creek.”

“Why did you go to the big city in the first place?”

“Oh you know, when you’re young you always think you’ll find something better, more exciting, than where you are.” He paused and stared into my eyes for a minute. “You have large eyes. They’re beautiful and I could look into them all day long.”

Heat crept into my cheeks and I shifted in my seat. “Um, thanks. So what are you plans for living in our small town?”

He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “Right now, I just want to get to know you better. Would you be able to spend the day with me tomorrow, show me around, and give me a taste of what it’s like to live in this quaint little town?”

My heart skipped a beat, and I cleared my throat. “Sure, I could do that. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I gathered my purse and my empty cup and rose from my seat. “I’ll meet you here at 8 a.m. You know, I gotta have my coffee.”

He grinned and nodded, and I made my exit.

The next day the sun was shining and a cool breeze teased some of the tendrils of my hair. I met Randy at the café. We grabbed coffee and a couple scones.

We visited all my favorite places in town and I introduced Randy to many of the locals. We ate lunch at Dee Dee’s Diner, laughing and talking between mouthfuls.

We went bowling, roller skating, and took in a movie. It was a romantic comedy that caused me to wonder what it would be like to hold his hand or have him put his arm around me.

I drove to the beach a half-hour outside of town. We had dinner at my favorite seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean.

After dinner, Randy looked at me as we stepped out of the restaurant. “Would you like to take a walk on the beach?”

I nodded. When my feet hit the sand, I paused and slipped my sandals off.

Randy took his socks and sneakers off, stuffed his socks into his shoes, tied the laces together, and hung them from one shoulder. Then he reached over and took my hand in his. It was a perfect fit.

We walked in silence for a while, then Randy stopped and turned toward me, letting his shoes fall to the sand. He lifted an arm, and with his fingers brushed hair back from one side of my face. Then he placed his hand on my cheek. “I had a great time today. You are fun to be with, and you are beautiful.”

He leaned toward me and I held my breath.

Then his lips were on mine. He tasted of butter and garlic, and I wrapped my arms around his neck and entangled my fingers in his hair. He encircled me in his arms and drew me closer. When the kiss ended, he continued to hold me and I put my head on his shoulder. I inhaled the scent of him—coconut and a touch of musk. His arms felt like home.

He pulled back just a bit and placed his forehead against mine. “This is what I came to this town for—the love of a good woman. You feel so right in my arms, and there seemed to be something between us as soon as our eyes met. Do you feel it?”

I nodded, raised up on tiptoes, and touched my lips to his.

When that kiss ended, he looked into my eyes. “I feel like I’m home.”

I smiled. “Me too.”

Flash Fiction Friday: Riley’s Hero

molly-belle-a-xEUwYSPLw-unsplashPhoto by Molly Belle on Unsplash

Riley’s Hero

by Kelly F. Barr

Tyler tilted Riley’s chin up to get a better look at her face and gritted his teeth at the evidence of a fight. Using his thumb, he delicately wiped away a streak of blood near her mouth, saying nothing as he examined her for a split lip or missing teeth.

After a brief pause, Riley’s heart skipped a nervous beat as Tyler looked directly into her eyes.

His voice, quiet and tense, his anger barely restrained. “Who did this to you?”

Riley turned away and hung her head. “It’s not your concern. I’m all right.”

“All right! Your lip is swollen and bleeding and you have the beginning of a black eye … and what do you mean … it’s not my concern?” He stepped around in front of her, waited until she met his gaze. Then he placed a hand on the side of her face. “I love you. It’s my job to protect you. Now tell me … who did this to you?”

“My dad came home drunk again last night. When he backhanded my mom so hard she flew across the room, I moved in and punched him in the jaw. I told him if he ever hit Mom again I’d kill him. That drew his anger toward me. He said I was too big for my britches and he’d show me I wasn’t so tough, but I showed him I’m resourceful. His first strike was a backhand to my mouth. When his fist connected with my eye, I landed on the floor. I spotted my old baseball bat within reach, so I grabbed it, got to my feet, and swung it. I hit him in the head … not hard enough to kill him … but it knocked him out cold. Then I got Mom out of that house … took her to a shelter.”

Tyler wrapped Riley in his embrace. “Do you think she’ll stay in the shelter … not go back to your dad?” He said the word as if the taste of it was vile in his mouth.

She shrugged. “I hope so. It really upset her to see him hit me. She’s always taken the hits before. I hope that’s enough to motivate her to make a change—to get away from him for good.”

Tyler held her tighter. “You’re not going back there … not ever again.”

Riley looked up at him.

“Marry me, Riley. Then you can live with me and I can always protect you. No woman deserves to be beaten like … this.” He ran a thumb over her swollen lip, so gentle.

The love she saw in his eyes enveloped her with warmth. “I know you love me and … I love you, but I still have two years of high school, and you’re supposed to go to college, get your degree.”

“Look, I already have my own apartment and a good job in the field I want to study anyway. I can talk to my boss … maybe the company will help with my degree … maybe online classes, and you can still finish high school.”

“I can’t marry without a parent’s consent and a judge’s approval. I’m underage.”

“Then move in with my parents. They know I plan to marry you—that you’re the love of my life. I’m sure they’d be supportive.” He took her hand and stepped toward the door. “We can go talk to them now. I need to know you’ll never be near that monster again.”

“Tyler.” She reached up and placed the cool palm of her hand upon his cheek. “I don’t know what I ever did to deserve a hero like you, and words could never express how much I love you.” Then she stretched up on tiptoes and kissed his lips.

The kiss was light as a feather, but Tyler’s heart turned over in his chest and he drew Riley into his embrace once again. He’d do whatever it took … whatever it took to never let her go.

Flash Fiction Friday

What If?

by Kelly F. Barr

Was he making a mistake? They say you can’t go back in time. Thirty years had passed and he was pushing fifty. Could it just be a mid-life crisis?

She hadn’t crossed his mind in years. But then he’d found that old shoebox—the one he’d hidden way back in his closet, the one that held letters and photos faithfully sent to him during the four years he’d spent in the marines.

Maybe he’d started thinking about Carly again because he’d found the box or maybe he was lonelier than he wanted to admit. The kids were grown … had their own lives now, and it had been six years since his wife passed away.

He carried the shoebox to the living room, sat in his favorite chair, and removed the lid. He picked up the first envelope and carefully withdrew its contents. Two sheets of paper with cursive writing on every line. No one writes cursive anymore.

He read letter after letter, traveling back in time in his mind. Then he withdrew the contents of another envelope and found a picture of Carly standing near a tree smiling, strands of her long blonde hair blowing over the left side of her face and her blue-green eyes sparkling. She was a beauty. The letter accompanying the photo was the one—the one that made him a fool—the one where she had suggested they might spend some time together the next time he was home on leave.

That letter that had changed their relationship. Fresh out of high school and he’d enlisted in the marines. Carly promised to write to him the entire four years he would serve.

But when he’d received this letter, he wrote back, informing her he had a girlfriend.

Jenna had been that girlfriend, and Jenna was the girl he married upon his discharge.

Carly had been hurt. The cursive of her next letter had angry slants and dark punctuation marks. Her pen bled, How could you let me think you might be interested in me? How could you tell me how much my letters and photos meant to you—ask for more photos—when you have a girlfriend? What, are you … one of those men with a different woman in every port!

He hadn’t expected to ever hear from her again, but a month later another letter arrived, and her letters continued until his discharge. Carly had kept her promise despite the hurt he’d inflicted upon her.

What would happen if he found her … went to see her? Would she be happily married? Could there be anything between them? He wanted to try—needed to know.

A Google search found a Carly Nelson who was a songwriter. Could she be his Carly Nelson? He clicked a link and a photo popped up. A twenty-something woman with auburn hair and brown eyes.

Next he tried Facebook and found a Carly Nelson Winchester and clicked her profile photo to make it bigger. The photo filled his laptop screen. It was her—his Carly. She had a few more lines around her eyes, some silver streaks in her hair, but the smile was unmistakable. Another click and he read about her. She was still in Pennsylvania, married with four children. He searched her photos, but none of the recent photos showed a man with her.

He opened another tab, searched the airlines, and booked a ticket on the next flight to Pennsylvania. He packed a carry-on bag then lay on the bed to try to sleep but the butterflies in his stomach and the drum pounding a rhythm in his chest wouldn’t let him.

He closed his eyes and memories of working with Carly at the shoe store in the mall flowed through his mind like an old movie: Carly laughing at his corny jokes, teasing him about another female employee she knew had a crush on him, but never letting on she might be interested.

He rose from his bed, grabbed his carry-on, walked out the door of his apartment locking it behind him. Sitting behind the steering wheel of his red classic Ford Mustang, he placed his hands on the wheel, rested his head on them, and prayed this wasn’t a mistake. That Carly might be glad to see him … be willing to give him another chance.

At the Harrisburg Airport, he rented a car and drove into Lancaster … to the address the internet listed as hers. When he pulled up in front of the house, his palms grew sweaty and his throat dry because there she was … his Carly, sitting in a wooden rocking chair on the porch.

As he brought his rental car to a stop and shut off the engine, she rose to her feet and moved to the porch steps. He slid out of the car, walked around the back, and started a slow trek up the walkway. She moved a couple steps, then stopped, tears trickling down her cheeks—tears of joy or something else?

When he stood before her, she reached out a hand as if to touch his cheek, then stopped and let the hand drop. Her eyes searched his. “Keith … Keith Phillips?”

He offered a hesitant smile and nodded. Was that sadness in her eyes?

“It’s been such a long time. What are you doing here?”