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?”

Tea and Poetry Tuesday

Today’s Tea Tidbit:

“I like the pause that tea allows.” — Waris Ahluwalia

Blackberrying

 by SYLVIA PLATH

Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.
Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks—
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.
The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal

The Gold Son by Carrie Anne Noble

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I was so excited when I met Carrie Anne Noble at the Realm Makers book stand at our local homeschool convention this year, especially when I found out that she’s written a book about Leprechauns! I have not heard of any other authors writing fiction fantasy stories about Leprechauns, so I knew I had to buy this book. I also bought Ms. Noble’s first book, which I will read and do a review on at a later date.

SUMMARY OF THE BOOK, BASED ON BACK COVER BLURB:

The Gold Son is about a human boy named Tommin. He is an ordinary sixteen-year-old who wants to make beautiful shoes and take care of his granny. The thing about Tommin that is not ordinary is his insatiable need to steal. He’s driven by a curse that demands more and more gold.

One day the mysterious Lorcan Reilly comes to town with his “niece”, Eve. Tommin believes Lorcan wants to help him, but instead Lorcan whisks him off to the underground realm of the Leprechauns, where he and Eve are forced to prepare to become one of them.

Eventually, Tommin and Eve find themselves falling in love with one another, and they begin to plan their escape. However, things don’t go according to plan, and Tommin’s humanity is slipping away. If Eve can’t find the remedy in time, Tommin will be destined to become a thieving trickster for all eternity.

MY REVIEW:

I have to say that I had trouble getting hooked into the story. I felt that the beginning seemed a little slow and repetitive.

In chapter three when Lorcan Reilly and Eve came on the scene, things began to pick up, but I didn’t really get caught up in the story until they were in the underground realm of Leprechauns. There things became interesting as other characters were introduced and Tommin’s struggles began — struggles of missing his Granny and wanting to return home; struggles as his urges to steal gold became almost unbearable and affected his health. As his feelings for Eve strengthened and problems continued to keep them apart, I couldn’t stop turning pages to see if they would overcome the issues and finally be together.

An unexpected twist made me gasp and nearly broke my heart, but I kept turning pages. Now I had to know how this book would end.

In the end, I enjoyed the book and its characters. Ms. Noble’s portrayal of the Leprechauns and their realm was very interesting. I had never researched much about Leprechauns. What I thought was that they guarded the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and that they wore green clothing and shamrocks. Ms. Noble showed me new things about Leprechauns that I didn’t know and I found it all very fascinating.

I do think the book is geared more for middle grade readers, which is not my normal reading material, but I enjoyed The Gold Son and look forward to reading Ms. Noble’s first book, The Mermaid’s Sister in the near future.

 

Flash Fiction Friday: An Unexpected Blind Date

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Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Nervous tension filled me as I waited for my date to arrive. When he showed up on a motorcycle I thought I would faint. Did he really expect me to climb onto the back of a motorcycle with a complete stranger? I must’ve been crazy to allow Charissa to talk me into signing up with this dating service.

However, when he took his helmet off, my heart did a flip. His hair hung in dark waves just over his shirt collar. Then he turned those baby blues on me, and I was a goner.

He swung off the motorcycle and stood before me—head and shoulders taller than me, and my heart started break-dancing in my chest while butterflies filled my stomach.

“You must be Callie. I’m Wade Carson.”

His oh-so-smooth voice rolled over me like a refreshing summer rain. “Uh, yeah, I’m Callie.”

“I hope you don’t mind riding on my bike?” He quirked an eyebrow at me.

I looked at the motorcycle then back to him and cleared my throat. “No, that’s fine. I mean, you just rode it, how far to get here, and you arrived safely.” I released a nervous giggle.

He chuckled. “It was a forty-five minute drive, and don’t worry, I’m a careful driver. I have an extra helmet.” He moved back to the bike, lifted a helmet from the far side, and held it out to me.

I moved closer, took the helmet and inspected the bike. I didn’t see any handholds for the passenger. I looked into his blue eyes. “What am I supposed to hold onto?”

“Me.” He winked and grinned, displaying two deep dimples.

I forced myself not to fan my hand in front of me, but this was so not what I expected from a dating service. I thought only desperate losers resorted to sign up with dating services. “Okay.”

He helped me strap the helmet under my chin, then swung his arm in an arc, inviting me to get on the motorcycle. When I was seated, he swung his leg over and took his position in front of me.

“When we go around a turn, the bike will lean. Lean into the turn, otherwise we may tip over.”

I nodded.

He started the bike, pulled out of the driveway and onto the road, and I placed my hands on his sides.

We attended a matinee showing of the movie “Mask” that starred Cher, and if I’d known it was going to make me cry, I would’ve suggested something else. I tried to keep my sniffling to a minimum, but Wade reached over, took my hand in his, and rubbed the back of it with his thumb.

After the movie, we went for pizza.

“So if you read my profile, I guess you know I work in construction. Job foreman, actually. And you write for a magazine?”

“Yeah. I’m one of the feature writers. I pretty much get to pick and choose what stories I want to write.” My curiosity getting the better of me, had me blurting out the question I’d been dying to know the answer to. “So why did you sign up with the dating service?”

“I was having trouble meeting women who were more than just a pretty package.”

So does that mean I’m more than a pretty package or something other than a pretty package?

“Have you gone out with many women through the dating service?”

“A few.” His eyes bored into mine.

I became uncomfortable under his scrutiny and was the first to look away.

We left the pizza shop and he took me home. He walked me to the door, stood close, and looked down at me.

When he bent closer, I took a step back and put a hand on his chest. “I don’t kiss on the first date.”

He put one hand on my hand on his chest, and took my other hand in his but never broke eye contact. “When can I see you again?”

“I’m available next Saturday.”

He dropped one of my hands, grasping the one on his chest in both of his and raised it to his lips. He kissed each finger, then the back of my hand. “I’ll see you next Saturday.”

I walked into my apartment, leaned against the door, and sighed certain that Wade Carson with his dimples and baby blues would be first and foremost in my mind the entire week.